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September 1, 1992
Vol. 50
No. 1

Four Years Later: How Greece, N.Y., Uses Site-Based Management

Instructional Strategies
  • Faculty members choose to create an interdisciplinary team to ease the transition to high school for 9th graders.
  • Several elementary schools decide to “blend” special education and regular classrooms so all students receive instruction together.
  • Teachers at various schools agree to use cooperative learning, integrated curriculum, multiage grouping, and remedial support in the classroom—whatever they feel is best for students.
These are some of the decisions that have resulted from site-based management in the Greece Central School District in Greece, New York.

School Management Teams

Four years of hard work and training have gone into creating the structures and processes of site-based management that support these and many other changes. Each of Greece's 19 schools has a management team. All schools are dedicated to meeting the district's mission and vision, organized around five “Key Results”: Instructional Management, Student Management, Partnership Management, Personnel Management, and Resource Management.
But that's where many similarities end.
“What” schools do must be congruent with district aims, but “how” schools do it is up to them, explains Karen Alexander, teacher and president of the Greece Teachers Association. Each school has pursued site-based management in a unique way.
Management team names and composition vary by school (though usually teachers, administrators, support staff, and, sometimes, parents are members). Few teams operate in the same way. As Ken Graham, director of school principals, describes it, some teams are simply vehicles to support collaboration in decision making; others act as representative forms of government. Two schools illustrate different points along the way to full site-based management.
At Athena Middle School, the school management team is composed of the principal, two vice principals, and two teachers, according to Dick Bennett, past president of the Greece Teachers Association and 8th grade social studies teacher at Athena. Support staff will be added next year, and the school is exploring how to include parents. Bennett says Athena's management team “facilitates” decisions. The management team reports to staff and other committees that are formed each year. At Athena, they're still working through the “what and how” of decision making.
But at West Ridge Elementary, site-based management has been taken further. Many decisions are made by consensus. Principal Debra Johnson says West Ridge has done away with the single school management team and organized five committees around the Key Results. Every staff member is on one of those committees, and some parents also serve.
Johnson says that day-to-day research and “gruntwork” is done in these committees. Their work is taken to the Partners in Education (PIE) meeting, which has replaced faculty meetings. In fact, PIE meetings include everyone with an interest in the school, from support staff and instructional aides to faculty and parents.
West Ridge has agreed that not all decisions must come to the PIE. Certain groups can be empowered to make decisions, depending on how the group has agreed a decision should be made. Educators in the district say this is an important point. Schools that have analyzed the types of decisions to be made, who will make them, and how they will be made are farther along the continuum toward site-based management than schools that are still exploring those issues.

Decentralized Dollars

When site-based management began, teachers made decisions about such “safe” items as school schedules and what color to paint classrooms, says Graham. He explains that the maturing point for the district came in 1989, when the responsibility for the staff development budget was decentralized to the schools. For the first time, schools were challenged to make substantive decisions about who would participate in staff development.
Now, except for the overall payroll, all budgetary decisions are the school's responsibility—for example, monies for facilities maintenance, textbook purchases, and other resources.
Personnel decisions are also made on-site. Though the district prepares a list of candidates, the schools handle the interviews and final selections.
Schools also continue to manage staff development. They are allotted a certain amount of money each year and must decide who will receive what kinds of staff development.

Progress

  • Time is an important element, educators agree. With site-based management, more time is needed for training, for meetings, and for working together at the school site.
  • Staff members can be fearful and hesitant to make decisions. Because approximately 60 percent of staff members had been in the district for more than 19 years, they found it hard to change, Bennett notes.
  • Communication is absolutely essential. Not everyone was involved in site-based management at the start—just teachers and district administrators, Alexander says. Thus, schools need a very systematic way to make sure all are trained in the underlying beliefs and values of site-based management.
  • Staff development is a key element in initial success, nearly everyone agrees. In Greece, staff members received training in organizational development issues like problem solving, group process, and conflict resolution, all areas necessary to make site-based management work. District facilitator Peter Schramm calls training “absolutely critical; without it, ships become rudderless.”

The Future

Greece continues its work on site-based management in an uncertain time. A new superintendent is expected, and staff members are uncertain how much support new board of education members will give site-based management.
Yet a new districtwide Steering Committee is being formed to facilitate and monitor site-based management. It will include representatives from all the bargaining groups in the district, parents, additional community members, high school students, the superintendent, and the president of the board of education. Schools are also looking for ways to provide staff development despite proposed cuts. And certain elements of site-based management have even been written into the collective bargaining agreement.
It's clear that whatever else happens in the district, educators no longer need to be convinced of the value of site-based management.

René M. Bahrenfuss has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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