CASE #2 Nancy Jefferson is the superintendent of a medium-sized public school district. Nancy is passionate about finding ways to better prepare her


Nancy Jefferson is the superintendent of a medium-sized public school district. Nancy is passionate about finding ways to better prepare her district’s students for life after high school graduation. While the district’s current teaching methods are in accordance with the state-mandated curriculum and her district’s students are testing comparable to those in other school districts within the state, many of the district’s graduates cannot find jobs or take the next step to begin their professional careers. After many conversations with local employers, Nancy has determined that the district’s schools do not have the curriculum or facilities to produce students with the types of skills needed by the region’s employers.

Economic prosperity within the region has made new financial resources available for the school district. There have been many conversations among school administrators and the school board regarding whether to use this extra funding to renovate school buildings or to build a new school. Nancy sees this as an opportune time for the district to use some of these resources to develop a new education model that will better prepare its students to meet the needs of local employers. For Nancy, the question is not “Which buildings need renovation?” but rather “How can we fund the development of a new, first-rate model of education and the facilities needed to house it?”

A local university has been gifted a parcel of land that is an ideal location for a new school within the district. Nancy and the university’s president have agreed that the university will give the land to the school district to build a new, unique school. In return, the university will use the new building during the evenings and weekends for classes. This is a win-win for both the university and the school district: The university needs more space but does not have the funding for a new building; the school district will save money by not having to buy land to build a new school.

Before any of these building plans can be put into effect, however, Nancy must gain approval from three key constituent groups to develop the new model of education:

The school board. The board’s support is necessary to formalize the agreement with the university and give approval to use the district’s increased financial resources for this purpose. The board members are elected and are all very sensitive to how they are perceived by the voting public. Nancy would describe this group as “very control-oriented”—they like to present ideas for any innovation and change in the district as their own rather than crediting the superintendent or other administrators. The school board will soon enter the “discovery phase” of considering the proposal, which includes community meetings to listen to all constituent groups. Nancy wants to make sure the board is firmly committed to the model before this occurs.

Teachers. The support of the district’s teachers is essential because they will be tapped to teach the modified curriculum at the new school. A group of senior teachers who are well respected within the district and influential with the less experienced teachers have expressed skepticism about the new curriculum, saying they do not fully understand the vision or how radically modifying the current curriculum will help students. Nancy suspects some of these teachers are afraid of the additional burdens learning a new curriculum and tasks will put upon them while others may fear radical changes to their teaching methods. Many of these teachers just like to come to work and do what they have always done.

District students and their parents. A sizable group of parents do not see the new school as a good fit for their children and are opposed to using the resources for a new school building. Many of these parents believe that the best future for their children is college, but the district has a 30% high school dropout rate. In addition, of the district’s graduates who go on to college, only 40% finish with a degree. The parents won’t like to hear it, but these statistics bear out that college isn’t the best option for a portion of the district’s students. Nancy also knows that when students who drop out of college return home, they are not prepared to work for local employers.

Nancy believes parents can be swayed if their children are motivated; however, only a small percentage of district students are supportive of the new school while many are simply indifferent. It is Nancy’s belief that part of their indifference may be lack of knowledge about the kind of jobs that could await them after high school. She thinks that forging internship and job-shadowing programs for students with local employers could create some excitement as well as new appreciation for companies.

If any of these key constituent groups does not support the concept, Nancy’s vision for an innovative new school will flounder. She knows one group can easily influence the others, so she must approach each constituency in a systematic way, appealing to what will motivate the group.

John Baker, Western Kentucky University


Review chapter 6 of the Northouse, Lee textbook, Leadership Case studies in Education. Read the entire case below: CASE 6.1 PRE-K–12 CONCENTRATION IMPLEMENTING A NEW MODEL FOR EDUCATION

Write Your Response to the Discussion Topic

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1. Leadership is about influencing people to reach a common goal.  What type of leadership approach would be most effective for Nancy to employ among the school board, teachers, and students in this case? Discuss how this leadership approach will assist with school goals.

2. In looking at the path Nancy must take to reach her goal, how would you go about motivating these groups? Feeling competent and valuing outcomes is an important part of what makes people feel motivated. How could Nancy help her followers feel competent and value their work? 

3. Describe a program that would prepare students for life after high school graduation. 
For example
a partnership between the local school, local businesses, and a college via an experiential learning program. Experiential learning is a pedagogy that promotes learning through direct experience and focuses on reflection.  This teaching model unfolds in stages: challenge, reflection, abstract thinking, and application to life (similar to internship). Be creative. Think about apprenticeships, vocational training, pre-college etc… 

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