Cornwall County School System Narrative Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Harold Kirk, Board Member - Feels that they do not have the money to hire ServiceMaster, strongly opposed to hiring of outside contractors. Feels threatened by outside contractors, may have relatives who he has done favors for that may lose their job. Harold may have the ability to influence the rest of the board and sway their opinion through his strong opposition.

Other board members - Must decide whether hiring ServiceMaster is the correct or incorrect decision for building maintenance problems. Board members must decide whether to go with political ties, or financial concerns. Ultimately, the decision is in the hands of the Board, as a whole. They must decide what to do, after hearing the arguments of both sides. The other players can attempt to influence these players, but ultimately, it is their choice.

I- Central Problem

The central problem in this case is that old dysfunctional organizational must be changed to one that is efficient and that will take the organization into the future. Change management is never an easy task. There are many issues involved with this process. John Lowell is a newcomer to the system with new ideas, ones that challenge organizational culture. Custodial problems would appear to be the central issue, but they are only a symptom of the real underlying problems in the school district.

Organizational culture appears problematic at the very beginning of the case and continues to be an underlying theme throughout the case study. There is an underlying culture of fear in the school system. The entire community appears to be stuck in the past and afraid of change. The board members hold grudges against those that they did not vote for in the beginning. They are unable to let go of their losses and have a functional relationship. Busby states,

We've had a history of appointing principals and administrators in this county not necessarily on merit, or attitude, or performance ability, or on being pro-education, but on whom you knew, and on how well you were in cahoots with the superintendent and board members... It could be kinfolks, could be a political bloc of votes out there that several board members needed, or some big political muckety-muck in the county who wanted that particular person," (Cornwall Case, p. 4).

Later Busby states,

It was a dynasty that was set up, and you just didn't knock it....They could get on a telephone and run right back to that board member... The board member would either be so bold as to get up in board meetings and complain about it, or put someone's head on the chopping block because of it, or go to some office and take somebody down a notch or two: which is of course entirely wrong, but not uncommon."

These two statements summarize the prevalent culture of the school system. It is an authoritarian system, with a club of dictators at the top. Everyone else feels no choice, but to do as they are told, and not to raise a complaint. This group of self-serving individuals has no sense of team. The attitude is contagious and spreads throughout the rest of the school system. Lowell must develop a sense of teamwork among the board member, teachers and janitorial staff. He must find a way to get them going the same direction in order to make the improvements necessary in the school system. However, in order to do this, he must change the fundamental organizational culture to a more cooperative and functional one. This will not be an easy task.

Developing team-oriented culture within the school system will place the board in a problem-solution mode of thought, rather than a protectionist position, which presently characterizes the board. Developing a sense of team and commonality will allow the board to be proactive, instead of reactive. They will be able to develop solid long-term strategies, instead of reacting on an emotional level to a problem.

Core Concepts

Lowell realizes that one of the key difficulties that he faces with the board is political. He knows that his position as an outsider places him automatically at odds with key board members. However, rather than attempting to resolve the central problem, he charges into the custodial issue full force. His methods to gain board support are largely unsuccessful with the group. Up until this point, Lowell has focused on the maintenance issues, rather than working on changing the attitude of the board members to one of cooperation and solidarity. He should have recognized the problem as one with organizational culture, rather than the superficial symptoms associated with the maintenance department. If Lowell focuses on the core cultural issues within the school, many of the other problems will disappear.

The central problem in Cornwall County schools is that a culture exists, which separates and divides the staff and board members. Within this setting, there are a number of elements missing, which John Lowell needs to attend to before, he attempts to convince the board of changes that need to be made. For instance, the first missing element is that the school system lacks a cohesive vision.

Lowell needs to build culture from the ground up. The first step in uniting people towards a single cause is to present a unified vision. No mention was made of the vision or mission statement of the school in the case study. Considering the prevailing organizational culture, it is likely that one does not exist. Much of the theory regarding organizations and how to manage them effectively, stems from the corporate world. However, these concepts apply to any organization. A school is a corporation from a managerial standpoint. Therefore, strategic management theory applies the current case study.

Strategic management means planning for the future and building a firm base for the business to stand on. It means replacing outdated ideas and ways of doing things with ways that are fresh and will achieve group goals. (Cox & Hoover, 2002). The first stage in developing a cohesive organization is to set goals and make certain that everyone is working towards those group goals (Cox & Hoover, 2002).

The most apparent inadequacy in the Cornwall County School is that it lacks vision. Vision is the most important part of the strategic plan. One could argue that in a school system the ultimate goal is to educate the students. Although this unspoken goal must remain at the forefront of the educational system, other factors must be considered. Cornwall County schools have demonstrated that they need to be an asset to the community, not an eyesore. Although schools have an understood goal of educating students, once the vision is written down, it becomes tangible and small goals can be devised on the way to achieving the vision (Cox & Hoover, 2002).

Another characteristic of a successful organization is that there is a central focus, everyone is working towards the vision (Cox & Hoover, 2002). It is the role of the manager, in this case the superintendent, to make certain that the organization remains focused on the goals that need to be achieved (Cox & Hoover, 2002). Thus far, the Cornwall County School Board has no idea where they are going from one moment to the next. They react in ways that echo of a divide and conquer attitude. This will be one of the key difficulties for Lowell to overcome.

According to Locke & Latham (2002) goal setting has a motivational aspect. Lowell could use goals to set up a reward system in the schools and use goals as a means to motivate the janitorial staff. Goals also help self-regulation at work, leading to improved attendance and work performance (Locke & Latham, 2002).

Lowell is in the role of primary team motivator and builder. When he came to Cornwall County Schools, there was no sense of team. Lowell has the difficult task of building a team out of both the Board and the janitorial staff. According to Tuckman (1965), when teams first come together, they go through a series of stages. The first is the forming stage, where they come together in some form, this often causes conflict, as every member explores their boundaries. This is called the storming stage. After people have established their boundaries, the group normalizes and sinks into a set pattern of social interactions. Then the group begins to perform as a team to realize their objectives. The final stage of Tuckman's theory is that when the group changes for any reason, there is a period of mourning, and the team must reestablish group dynamics.

Section II - Identification of Case Issues and Application of Course Concepts to the Related Issues of the Case

When one examines the Cornwall County School Board, it is easy to see that the old board structure went through these stages. Even though the group is dysfunctional and the power structure is unbalanced, it still represents a normalized group. Lowell's entrance into the group caused a period of…

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