Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Lois Favre, EdD

Third Advisor

Raina Kor, EdD

Abstract

School Boards in the United States have existed for over 200 years. During this time, they have evolved into complex governing bodies that yield great fiscal power over school districts. Membership is comprised mostly of laypersons and requirements of membership continue to be minimal. While oversight and policy are key roles of Boards of Education, the relationship among School Board members, school superintendents, and various stakeholders is crucial to effective leadership and meeting district goals.

Utilizing a qualitative research approach, this phenomenological study explored School Board members’ motives for membership, eligibility requirements, and the perceptions of School Board members’ influence on education policy. A survey was sent to 5,000 New York State Board of Education (NYS BOE) members and 5,006 community members. Respondents included 60 NYS BOE members and 191 community members. Data were collected from the survey and served to inform and guide focus group discussions and interview questions. Additionally, a reflexive journal was kept to add qualitative validity.

All items were analyzed and coded by the researcher and subsequently, by outside, independent auditors. The triangulation of data sources was survey data, focus group information, and interview transcriptions.

Data analysis resulted in eight themes as it related to the study of BOE members’ motivation for membership, eligibility requirements, and perceptions of influence on education policy. Research indicated that BOE members recognized there was a level of power and influence to service in terms of decision-making. However, BOE members were largely motivated to have a positive impact on children and give back to their community by making positive changes on programs and policies for future generations.

These BOE members indicated that serving on the BOE is one of the purest forms of democracy in the United States. Respondents noted that BOE members are elected by their peers, are not affiliated with a political party, and membership criteria is minimal thus allowing a cross-representation of skills and backgrounds.

Data analysis also indicated there was a misperception why BOE members serve. This was in contrast to what BOE members indicated as their motives of why they serve. The study participants indicated that while they believed BOE members served for altruistic intentions of making a positive impact on children and giving back to their community, the perception by both BOE and community members of why they serve was in a more self-regarding manner.

The study found that there is frustration over the loss of local control with unfunded mandates by the federal government. Results further indicated that Boards of Education would be better served if their BOE were branded. Results suggested that BOE members use the school district’s mission or vision to brand themselves and then market this mission or vision to their community with consistent messages.

Finally, data suggested there was a negative stigma to serving on the BOE that correlates to the misperception of why BOE members serve. Study participants indicated that transparency and communication were crucial in creating positive change for school districts.

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