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September 1, 1992
Vol. 50
No. 1

Breaking Ground in Restructuring

Staff developers recall how a New York state school district built the foundations for site-based management.

The Greece Central School District had an excellent reputation for implementing innovative programs.
But in the early 1980s, conflict and a lack of trust developed. Problems among the administration, board of education, and the teachers' organization, plus extended and difficult salary negotiations, sent a clear message: It was time for change.
Administrators and teachers knew they needed to restructure their operations to promote cooperation, trusting relationships, and open communication. To truly get the job done for students, everyone would have to assume responsibility, share in decisions, and work as partners.
As staff development consultants during the first year-and-a-half of Greece's move to site-based management, we observed events and later conducted an evaluation of their efforts.
District leaders had a clear intent: They wanted to restructure in a way that would allow a school faculty to make good decisions about student learning. This site-based management was a significant change from past practices where, for the most part, decisions about outcomes rested in the central office. Greece's initial steps toward site-based management were a solid foundation for future success (see “Four Years Later—How Greece N.Y., Uses Site-Based Management,” p. 42). Much of what the district did to get started with a decentralized system and to promote a feeling of community could be done by any district with similar goals.

Establish a Council for Change

Greece is the seventh largest school district in New York state. This suburban district opened its 19th school in 1990. Greece students primarily come from middle class homes, and the district also serves a sizable number of minority and poor families.
To begin the move to site-based management, Greece administrators and the teachers' organization established a representative steering committee, called the Council for Change. The superintendent and the president of the Greece Teachers Association (GTA) each selected three others to serve on the eight-member council.
The Council for Change was responsible for coordinating and facilitating the move to decentralization and for monitoring progress during each step. A key part of its responsibility was development of a master plan for implementing shared decision making and creation of an effective management system for each building.

Prepare a Master Plan

The Council's master plan provided the overall structure, process, and guidelines for change to a decentralized system. The plan called for establishing ad hoc committees of teachers and administrators in each of the district's schools. These committees would provide leadership in the transition to site-based management, and each committee was specifically charged with defining a system for managing decisions for its school.
Once the management system was defined for the school, each ad hoc committee was asked to identify a decision-making group, to be called the Building Management Team. This group would ultimately manage the important decisions of the school. Further, the schools were given a list of outcomes for which each Building Management Team would be responsible. These outcomes, called Key Results, included instruction, student management, human resources, community support, facilities, material, food service, and budget.

Provide Training

With the assistance of district staff development personnel, the Council for Change provided training for the ad hoc committees to enable them to carry out their roles. The training sessions sharpened their skills in group process, team building and problem solving, the change process, site-based improvement, and decision making and addressed such topics as the roles of the Building Management Team and definitions of the outcome areas. In addition to the staff development activities, ad hoc committee members from various schools were provided time to share their successes and help one another solve problems. It wasn't surprising to learn that the more the ad hoc committees used the activities learned during inservice training, the greater the impact of their work.

Develop Management at Each Site

Over a period of 18 months, each ad hoc committee worked with its own faculty to conceptualize and develop a unique management system for the school. Schools were encouraged to design a management system that would be best suited to their vision of how they could maximize student learning.
The ad hoc committees were also responsible for helping teachers and administrators understand the concepts of school-based improvement, goal setting, shared decision making, school and team management, and the district's outcome areas. They used team-building activities to help teachers and the principals make decisions about their management plan and Building Management Team. In fact, each school faculty had an opportunity for input and involvement in the development of the school management plans. The faculties reviewed and reached consensus on their school management plans and were involved in defining the roles, responsibilities, membership, and selection of the Building Management Teams.
The process used to establish the Building Management Teams led to strong ownership of the plans that had been developed. The teams were organized to ensure that the needs of the students were addressed, to recognize the importance of teachers, and to support teachers and school administrators. Management teams ensured that important information was shared and that teachers' personal concerns and interests were considered.

What Was Learned

These basic organizational structures yielded much initial success for the district, and our evaluations identified several positive results of this process. Among the benefits were: (1) increased faculty understanding and ownership of the school-based management system in their school and district; (2) improved school climate; (3) increased commitment to shared decision making and school-based management; (4) increased teacher participation in decisions within their schools; and (5) improved relationships between teachers and administrators. Districts that find these outcomes similar to their goals might consider Greece's successful start-up process for their own move to site-based management.

Caldwell, S. D. and F. H. Wood. (October 1988). “School-Based Improvement—Are We Ready?” Educational Leadership 46, 2: 50–53.

Wood, F. H. (February 1990). The Results of the Site-Based Management Project in Greece Central Schools: An Evaluation of the First Eighteen Months. Norman: University of Oklahoma.

Sarah D. Caldwell has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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