School District Reorganization in Iowa: Considerations for Administrators, School Boards, and Communities
Anderson, Christopher L.
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The problem. To consider reorganization of two or more Iowa school districts in light of declining enrollment, dwindling financial resources, the end of the state budget guarantee program and pressure to provide the most rigorous and relevant education possible to Iowa's students. Specifically, the problem is to determine what two or more school districts should do to facilitate the merging of their respective districts, once the decision to consolidate has been made. Procedures. Qualitative methodology was employed using semistructured interviews to gather information from nine superintendents and twelve school board members involved in six successful reorganizations. Interview candidates were selected using a table of random numbers. Flexibility was built into the interviews in order to permit subjects to expand their answers to open ended questions. Through interviews and document reviews the researcher determined activities school districts should undertake to ensure successful reorganization. Findings. Respondents reported reorganization was prompted by declining enrollment, state incentives, financial pressures, and the desire to increase opportunities for students. Respondents indicated that seeking stakeholder input, a history of sharing and cooperation between districts, strong leadership, the use of a consultant and making efforts to keep stakeholders informed regarding the process enhanced the reorganization. Lack of trust, rivalries, activities and transportation issues and concerns about identity loss led to negative feelings. Conclusions. A history of sharing and cooperation, strong leadership, and frequent communication with stakeholders appears to enhance the reorganization action, while a lack of trust coupled with fear of change is detrimental to the process. Recommendations. School districts pondering reorganization should consider enrollment trends, the financial state of their districts, the advantages to students of reorganizing, and consider program sharing before reorganization. Districts should explore state incentives to facilitate the process. Frequent stakeholder input should be solicited with plans and outcomes communicated often. Strong leadership from superintendents and boards is necessary for successful reorganization
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