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Collaborative strategic decision making in school districts

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Purpose ‐ The dual purpose of this paper is to determine how superintendents in US school districts work with stakeholders in the decision-making process and to learn how different choices superintendents make affect decision outcomes. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This multiple case study of three school districts employs qualitative methodology to address specific research questions. Interview and observation data are analyzed using data codes applied to text through NVivo8. Findings ‐ The paper finds that superintendents respond to accountability pressure by working with committees in different ways, yet all three tend to achieve the strategic decision outcomes they favor. Despite superintendents' substantial efforts to engage in collaborative strategic decision making, collaboration virtually ends once the decision is made and these districts shift into implementation. Research limitations/implications ‐ The multiple case study approach employed here is useful for understanding the details of strategic decision making, but the results are specific to the school districts studied. Rather than generalizing from these school districts, researchers could generalize to them based on the degree to which they are typical. Practical implications ‐ Empirical results reported here fill in gaps in the education leadership literature regarding how decisions are made. The tendency of committees to engage in collaborative processes for their own decision making and to issue directives to the wider school district likely places implementation at risk. Originality/value ‐ Very few studies of decision making address the process from a real-time perspective, and the handful that do were not conducted in educational settings. This article examines school district decision making as it occurs.
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Keywords: Decision making; Leadership; Qualitative methods; Schools; Strategic planning; United States of America

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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