School council implementation : women principals' experiences with a policy for improving school leadership
Stead, Virginia Morse
Master of Education
SubjectSchool principals Ontario
Women school administrators Ontario
School management and organization Ontario
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The 1995 Ontario initiative that requires representatives of all school stakeholder groups to participate in the new forum of community governance known as school councils is based on the premise that decentralized school administration is an improvement over traditional principal-based management. This study addresses the experiences of seven elementary and secondary women principals immersed in the implementation of school councils. Grounded in a theoretical review of leadership, principalship, leadership by women principals, and site based management, this study examines how these school leaders exercise authority, communicate with school stakeholders, adapt to an evolving practice of decision making within the context of shared, school council directed administration, and to what extent the presence of school councils is improving school leadership. Not all early experiences are perceived as productive or even useful, and in many cases forced collaboration among historically antagonistic groups is counterproductive and demoralizing. Among the positive experiences reported by women principals are the collaborative spirit uniting stakeholders working toward a common goal, the opportunity for principals to "finally" share the heavy burden of school administration, and the creation of a leadership pool within which teachers, parents, students and administrators can review complementary perspectives and direct their various expertise toward the creation of a better learning environment. Principals report difficulties in setting council priorities, in the failure of orientation and training programs, in teachers' and principals' resentment over increasing exposure to "well intentioned " parents, and in being required to share school governance with uninformed, inexperienced, and unskilled colleagues. Although initial hardships appear to outweigh short run gains, metamorphosis of the principalship into a collaborative, facilitative nexus of power suggests that temporary disruptions to school routine and student learning will ultimately be superseded by highly successful councils capable of meeting the idiosyncratic needs of their student populations.
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