Site-Based Decision-Making

Chapter 21 - Sharing the Load: Involving the Partners

Because the real payoff from site-based management is the extra energy that flows from commitment and involvement, it is important that the innovation be structured so as to maintain that involvement throughout implementation. The innovation will have the greatest chance of succeeding and surviving if all of the participants feel as if they are shareholders in the enterprise. Because absentee landlords make poor partners, the school council must make an extraordinary effort to keep all of the partners actively involved even after the initial invention stage has passed and implementation is proceeding.

One of the most dangerous patterns or scripts characteristic of schools is the tendency to lapse into WE-THEY characterizations. The school splits into factions and engages in finger-pointing. Instead of putting energy into forward progress, people devote themselves to attacks and complaints. Blame is the name of the game. Everybody else is at fault. Some teachers end up blaming the students and their parents for poor test results. Others may blame the administration or the school board. Parents may point the finger at teachers or the administration. Site-based management should eliminate these blame scripts and replace them with support scripts.

What are support scripts? They are patterns of behavior and communication which invite contributions, assistance and suggestions. They suggest shared ownership and responsibility. They make it difficult for anybody to resist participation. They embrace and include. Bailing out is not countenanced. Withholding is frowned upon. You are with us or against us!

This broad involvement does not mean an end to differing or the enforcement of ideology, but it does mean commitment to constructive action. How can we improve this enterprise? If you are unhappy with the results or the experience thus far, what could be done to address your concerns?

Recognizing that broad, positive involvement of parents represents a major shift in the scripts or long established patterns of most schools, a school council may not count on this occurring automatically. It is necessary to structure frequent opportunities for communication and involvement. To achieve this goal, the definition of schooling must be broadened and altered to be more embracing of adults. In Comer's successful efforts, the school became a community center which welcomed and involved adults well into most evenings.

Time becomes a critical factor in allowing support scripts. Unfortunately, schools have traditionally provided little opportunity for dialogue, exchange and sharing. Site-based management is usually characterized by participants as heavily time-consuming, often requiring many hours outside of the traditional school work day, either in the afternoon or evening. School councils must address this resource issue early in the innovation so as to identify new ways to permit and encourage support scripts.

Among other possibilities, the teacher's work day and work year may need to be changed to support site-based management. A truly inventive and inclusive program may not survive a tightly defined 8:00 to 3:30 work day. There must be more time for the sharing and consideration of ideas. Some of that time might be in evenings, some in the summer. Inventors require workshops and time to tinker. Community building requires times when all gather to raise a barn together.

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Copyrighted 1991 by Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.