Managing School Division Amalgamations: Process and Transitions
By Mary Reddyk, University of Saskatchewan
SSTA Research Report #01-05: 59 pages
Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: Setting the Stage

Part II: The Case Study Part III: Conclusions and Implications
  • Conclusions
  • Implications for Practice
  • Implications for Further Research
  • Implications for Theory
  • Epilogue

    References

    Appendicies

    List of Tables List of Figures
    Overview

    This report is a summary of a Doctoral Dissertation by Mary Reddyk, University of Saskatchewan.

    Fiscal constraints and declining enrollments are influencing school governance reform throughout Canada. While the amalgamation of school divisions is unique to each specific case, people become concerned with issues such as the education of their children, educational costs, community identity, and the way in which amalgamation occurs.  The willingness of individuals to support the effort is affected by factors such as community involvement, relationships, communication, planning strategies, and timing. In other words, aspects of restructuring that address the management of a merger process are key to its success. Amalgamating school divisions need to have a clear idea of the process to be followed. 

    The purpose of this study was to describe within the context of organizational theory, the process and management of school division amalgamations.  Part I of this report provides a review of the background to the study, its purpose, and the conceptual framework. Part II addresses and discusses the findings in relation to the literature review. Part III presents the conclusions of the study and implications for administrative and board action in relation to practice, further research and theory.

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    The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA
    officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


    Introduction

    Life in the 21st century is one of complex, continuous, and accelerating changes. Challenges resulting from scientific discoveries and global concerns, the demographic slump of  lower birth rates in developed countries and the changing workplace are external forces which both create a need and provide an impetus for internal change in individuals and organizations (Foot & Stoffman, 1999; Frye, 1991). Nowhere has change been more evident than in the recent restructuring of organizations in both the private and public sector. In the world of business, mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s) have used financial performance as the most common indicator of success.  However, the event itself is a “complex human as well as financial [and political] phenomena” (Cartwright & Cooper, 1994, p. 49).

    Amalgamation concerns have not bypassed educational structures. Primarily resulting from fiscal constraints and declining enrollments, school systems throughout Canada are experiencing governance reform through the consolidation of school divisions (Green & Pierce, 1997). While the amalgamation of school divisions is unique to each specific case (Monk & Haller, 1986), people become concerned with issues such as the education of their children, educational costs, community identity, and the way in which amalgamation occurs.  The willingness of individuals to support the effort is affected by factors such as community involvement, relationships, communication, planning strategies, and timing (Mitchell, 1994). In other words, aspects of restructuring that address the management of a merger process are key to its success. Amalgamating school divisions need to have a clear idea of the process to be followed, a process that must be responsive to the technical, the political, and the cultural aspects of an organization (Tichy, 1983). Insights and understandings of the management of an amalgamation process and the resolution of issues will serve to enhance change theory and be of value to subsequent amalgamation initiatives.


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    Part I: Setting the Stage

    Background to the Problem

    In Saskatchewan, efforts to systemize rural schools began even before the province achieved provincial status. As in earlier times, demands for increased efficiency and equity of opportunity have prompted the call for a further restructuring of the Saskatchewan educational system. Both the Langlois/Scharf Report (1991) and the Task Force of Educational Governance (SSTA, 1993) outlined reasons why changes in educational governance are occurring.  The provincial government is committed to amalgamation as a restructuring device to make the best possible use of resources, while, at the same time, recognizing pressures from issues such as global competitiveness; poverty and emotional distress; the changing demographics of our province; the demand for greater parental involvement in educational decision-making; and the need for increased integration of services to children in the areas of education, health, and social services. Today’s reality is that many school divisions no longer have sufficient numbers of pupils to support a full range of educational services. The need  for further readjustment is apparent, as shown by the continuing number of school divisions investigating or undertaking amalgamations.

    A renewed interest in school division consolidation in Saskatchewan has indicated a need for current information on amalgamation processes. The study should provide information to Boards of Education, administrators, and other decision makers on how to prepare for and manage an amalgamation/merger process. Although the scope of school division mergers or amalgamations may not be on the same scale as corporate mergers, numerous issues are common to both ventures. According to Marks and Mirvis (1992), mergers have occurred for two reasons, “to further strategic purpose and to achieve a global presence” (p. 18). If the strategic purpose of educational organizations is to give children the best possible education, there must be a synergy between the merging organizations so that the goal of providing an appropriate educational opportunity for all students can be realized. This means attending to intertwining two distinct operations and to keeping talented people loyal, motivated, and within the educational system. Meaningful change is time-consuming and requires the participation of people both within and without the educational organization. The renewed interest in school division consolidation in Saskatchewan has indicated a need for current information on amalgamation process management within a provincial context.


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    Purpose and Design of the Study

    The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze, within the context of organizational theory, the process and management of school division amalgamations. The primary question for investigation in the case study was: With attention to the technical, political and cultural aspects of change management, how did the process of amalgamation unfold and what  meaning was ascribed by the participants to the process?

    The study was delimited to two rural Saskatchewan school divisions which had undergone an amalgamation process. Conclusions reached were limited by the documentary data and the viewpoints of those interviewed and did not encompass the views of other interested groups or individuals. The findings of the study are limited to both time and place. As the study focused on one unique case of school division amalgamation, there were limitations on the extent to which generalizations could be drawn from the study. This case study did not address issues which could arise in other amalgamation initiatives.


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    Literature Review and Conceptual Framework

    While the dissertation provides a separate review of scholarly writing within the construct of organizational behaviour and the management of change, the literature review will, in this case, be presented within the conceptual framework, the findings and discussion, and conclusions and recommendations of the study. For individuals interested in a detailed discussion of the literature review, please refer to the dissertation available in the libraries of the University of Saskatchewan

    The conceptual framework was found to be of significant benefit to the analysis and reconstruction of the amalgamation process and its management. Adopting an organizational perspective of planned and managed second-order change, the conceptual framework drew upon Levy’s (1986) driving forces for change; House’s (1981) and Tichy’s (1983) conceptualization of change as occurring within and between technical, political, and cultural systems; and Bridges’ (1986, 1992) iterative phases of transition— a human perspective (see Figure 1).

    The conceptual framework which guided the study and the application that could be made from it to the amalgamation process and its management resulted in a model which depicts organizational perspectives of school division mergers as a planned second-order change. Influenced by both changing and stable contextual parameters within our environment, we find problem, policy and political streams (Kingdon, cited in Sabatier, 1991) which, at various points in time, intersect to open windows of opportunity for educational governance reform. Within these windows one can identify the driving forces for educational change (Levy, 1986). Consisting of permitting, enabling, precipitating and triggering forces, these forces combine in a dynamic mix, the result being an amalgamation of school divisions.

    The amalgamation of schools divisions can be compared to a horizontal merger (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978) and, as with any merger, one needs to address concerns with regard to both strategic and organizational fit (Buono & Bowditch, 1989). A horizontal merger is generally viewed as either a collaborative effort and/or an organizational rescue (Pritchett, 1985) which results in a changed organizational structure.

    During the merger process, the management of planned second-order change focuses on the technical, political, and cultural aspects of organizations (Tichy, 1983). Technical issues include the resolution of differences in employee benefits, policy, mill rates, and the division of assets as well as organizational design, costs of amalgamation, and technical resources. Political problems include the need for mechanisms to resolve disputes, conflicts arising from government policy and regulations, budget allocations, the distribution of power and influence, and accession decisions. Cultural aspects include individual and group transition management (Bridges, 1992) and the integration of cultures at both division and school levels (Marks & Mirvis, 1992).

    Collaboration and consultation are paramount to success when one is grappling with technical, political and cultural issues as well as with issues of human resource management. Additional important elements to merger management involve leadership, individual and group participation, a team approach to problem-solving, and both internal and external support. Throughout the management of a merger process and key to its success is the need for open, continuous and complete communication. At the end of the process is a renewed organization which is visionary, learning, and technically, politically, and culturally aligned.
     In addition, throughout the amalgamation, a process of transition is taking place among those involved in and affected by the change. Individuals are moving, in various stages and at their own pace, through the phases of organizational transition, namely— endings, regrouping and beginnings (Bridges, 1986).

    It is the researcher’s opinion that the conceptual framework which guided this study can stand on its own merit. However, having said that, the researcher proposes that the cultural aspect of planned strategic change and the iterative phases of transition be given a greater degree of prominence in the conceptualization of planned second-order change through the amalgamation of school divisions. Organizations are human constructs and, as such, should reflect the culture(s) of those who are part of the organization. Change and the ensuing transitions individuals experience as a result of change are constants in the evolution of organizations. Attention to the “human side of amalgamations” will result in new and renewed organizations which are visionary, learning, and aligned—culturally, technically, and politically.

    The importance of the conceptual framework is in the relationships that exist among the categories. The strength of the framework for this study was its usefulness in accounting for and describing the dynamics of school division amalgamations. In addition, the study represents a critical testing of existing theory, particularly in the area of organizational change, mergers and acquisitions, and the management of the process as well as demonstrating the merit of applying this body of knowledge to school division amalgamation.

    The study of organizational change in the form of school division amalgamation is, when all is said and done, a case study of how people come together, form communities, develop cultures and, in doing so, make meaning of their world. When their world is substantially altered, adjustments need to be made. Transition is a constant in the life of school divisions, communities, and individuals.


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    Methodology

    The method of choice in this study was the qualitative paradigm of disciplined inquiry. Going into the field with an open mind, the researcher, “operating like the natural historian,...observes, records, classifies, and concludes, seeking...to capture the reality of the subjects and not only her or his own reality” (Lancy, 1993, p. 9).

    The case study was conducted with participants from two rural Saskatchewan school divisions which were in the midst of amalgamation discussions (seeAppendix A). Through listening to their stories, the researcher came to understand and interpret how the participants, the individuals and groups who participated in or were affected by the amalgamation, viewed the process of amalgamation and its management. Twenty-three individuals and two focus groups which consisted of upper level high school students represented the major stakeholder groups participating in semi-structured interviews. In addition, the researcher attended amalgamation steering committee meetings, met with stakeholder groups and reviewed supporting documentation which primarily consisted of the amalgamation binders as compiled by the respective Directors. Using different lenses—those of the participants, to view the same phenomenon, the researcher, concerned primarily with process and interested in meaning, was able to reconstruct the amalgamation process through inductive data analysis (Merriam, 1998).


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    Part II: The Case Study

    Developing the Context

    Located in a region of grain and mixed farms and home to a culturally diverse people, the Turnhill and Beaver Flat School Divisions¹ have experienced, over time, both the ups and downs of Saskatchewan’s rural economy, the growth and recession of local communities, and improved public services at ever increasing costs. However, there are distinct dissimilarities between the two divisions. Municipalities in the Beaver Flat School Division continue to experience the decline in population common to most rural municipalities in Saskatchewan.

    Although Saskatchewan’s population remained stable from 1991 to 1996 (Statistics Canada, 1998), urban centers and rural areas surrounding the urban centers continued to grow, while rural areas which were more distant from urban centers continued to experience a population decline. For example, all rural areas and towns in the Beaver Flat Division have experienced a decline in population, have lower percentages of school age children in both rural areas and towns, and have extremely low percentages of pre-school children.  Approximately half of the towns’ residents are 55 or over. In Beaver Flat’s rural areas, approximately 60 per cent of the labour force is engaged in farming, while the remainder of the rural labour force works off the farm in manufacturing, construction and service industries.

    On the other hand, all communities in the Turnhill Division are fairly close to a large urban center and this is reflected in the communities and towns which are experiencing steady growth. Nearly one-third of the population is of school-age, the percentage of pre-school children is considerably higher than in Beaver Flat, and the adult population is younger.

    Given the above, the Beaver Flat School Division, established in 1946, was faced with the acute problem of how to maintain educational services in the face of shrinking enrolments from approximately 1200 students in 1976 to 600 students in 1995, a  loss of eight teachers, and declining government grants and increasing costs. At the same time, the Beaver Flat Division was attempting to respond to the expectation of providing a high level of services without increases in taxation levels. By 1976 the enrollment had dropped to just over 1200 pupils. School closures and consolidations occurred, classroom space in the remaining schools was underutilized, and support services in areas such as curriculum development and counseling were no longer available. For the last few years, both the Director and Secretary-Treasurer were employed on a part-time .6 basis. Beaver Flat had become a school division comprised of three sub-divisions, each with a K-12 school and a Hutterite colony. Two First Nation Bands are located within the division.

    Although the communities within the Beaver Flat School Division describe themselves as “rural,” each has its own individual character. The town of Longford is an active and largely self-sufficient community providing a full range of services to the area— from banks, food outlets, automotive repair, and agricultural services to a hospital and a nursing home. Restaurant menus feature perogies and cabbage rolls. Community sports include hockey, curling, and baseball. Longford is rightfully proud of its Ukranian heritage and this is reflected in its annual New Year's Celebration and Ukranian Dance Festival. Approximately half of its residents identify Ukranian as the language first learned and still understood. Longford’s identity is tied closely to its K-12 school; the Ukranian culture is evident in numerous school activities. Longford School has a tradition of busing high school students to a rural community in the adjoining Ladybank School Division to receive industrial arts instruction and a number of Ladybank’s high school students who are in close proximity to Longford are bused to and attend the Longford high school on a full  time basis. The two schools travel back and forth for athletic competitions. In addition, a good number of Longford area residents access a major trading center in Ladybank to shop and seek employment; travel in the direction of Turnhill is more limited. These natural patterns of transportation and commerce influenced Longford’s decision to seek amalgamation with the Ladybank School Division.

    Centrally located within the division, Falkland also provides a full range of services to the town and surrounding area. Nearly half of its residents first learned and still understand a language other than English— namely, Ukranian, Russian/Doukhobor, or French. Recreational and cultural activities play an important role in the community and annual festivals reflect the Ukranian/Russian heritage. The K-12 school offers a full complement of subjects to its students. Students in the Falkland and Spence schools have traditionally traveled to schools within the Turnhill Division for sports activities. Area residents generally travel to the major trading center adjacent to the Turnhill School Division to avail themselves of the amenities offered by an urban center.

    The community of Spence provides a variety of services to its residents, albeit on a smaller scale. Its major business is farming, both mixed and grain—wheat, canola, lentils, and feed grains as well as hog and cattle operations. A variety of activities, both cultural and recreational, provide cohesion to the life of the town although some activities are struggling to continue. While English is by far the major language first learned and still understood, German, Hungarian, French and Mètis are also heard within the community and are a reflection of Spence’s cultural diversity. The school has a tuition agreement with First Nations Bands to provide grades 10, 11, and 12 to their children.

    What is common to the communities within the Beaver Flat School Division is the pioneer spirit and ethic of work which made survival possible during early settlement, the Depression years, and the ensuing years of economic growth and recession. Education has always been an important facet of their life and, as a result, the retention of schools within their respective communities and direct representation on Boards of Education has been a priority item. Schools are perceived as one of the lifelines of a community.

    In contrast, the Turnhill School Division was and continues to be one of the largest rural school divisions in Saskatchewan. Consisting of 16 schools in eight subdivisions plus Hutterite colonies and a First Nations reserve, Turnhill has the advantage of being in close proximity to a major trading center. As a result, Turnhill continues to attract a greater share of the rural population as well as industrial and business ventures. Several towns and villages in the area serve as bedroom communities to the major trading center. Employment is varied with opportunities in both the agriculture and business sectors; the taxation base is substantial. Although the division has experienced a decline in student enrolment in outlying areas, generally, enrollments have been stable or increasing. Serving a population of over 4,200 students, Turnhill continues to provide its clientele with a full range of support services.

    Cultural diversity abounds in the Turnhill School Division. The outlying areas are more “rural” in nature, while a number of its communities, serving as bedroom communities to the adjoining urban center, could be described to some extent as “cities in the country.” Several communities have a large Mennonite component and espouse the traditional values of their faith while other communities display a mixture of Catholic, Mennonite, Ukranian, French, and Mètis influences. The Turnhill Division has traditionally served tuition students from a First Nations Reserve and some school populations have a First Nations component which ranges from 20 to 70 per cent. However, this is likely to change as a result of First Nations’ initiatives to construct schools within their own communities. All communities provide a variety of cultural and recreational activities although residents of the bedroom communities are more likely to access activities in the urban center.


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    Aspects of Community

    Intrinsic to a rural life choice are five rural educational themes (AEL, 1996, p. 2). A sense of place concerns the relationship between local cultures and their environment, including curriculum and instruction that is based on community endeavors, teaching students the value of the community, and the educational contributions of diverse rural cultures. Unsettling pertains to the outmigration that has characterized recent rural experience and its implications on the future including school consolidation and reorganization; the social and economic effects of school closures on communities; the withdrawal of services and organizations such as hospitals and stores from rural areas; and the revitalization of rural institutions. Pathways to adulthood applies to the maturation of children and youth, which is affected by curriculum, vocational opportunities, development of a vibrant sense of community, and outmigration. Small-scale organization characterizes rural education, institutions, and businesses and relates to student performance and accomplishment, size and idea of community, various systems designed to respect people, helping small schools realize the advantages of “smallness,” and different ways of organizing school children. Finally, policy challenges may involve any of the above themes as they apply to the role of policy in facilitating or frustrating rural interests, regional policy variations, adopting a flexible curriculum which meets educational requirements, and rural public policy education.

    Because many community activities and functions revolve around schools and the children who attend these schools, schools are frequently viewed as the focal point of small communities. As a result, communities are concerned over the effects of school division amalgamation on the existence and continued viability of small communities and their schools. Direct representation on the Board of Education is often equated, in rural communities, to control over the education of their children and a preservation of the community’s identity. In rural communities, schools are everybody’s business. It is within this context of educational governance restructuring and rural change that the amalgamation process unfolded. Field research extended over a period of one year and participants welcomed the opportunity to give voice to their experiences. Their stories served to develop a vocal tapestry which described their journey of change.


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    Findings

    The findings and discussion are addressed through the questions which guided the case study. While the researcher cannot generalize the findings to other school division amalgamations, it is hoped that readers will be able to apply the findings to their own school division amalgamation, should it occur.

    Why did amalgamation become an issue in the school divisions?

    In Saskatchewan, educational governance reform is manifesting itself in the continued amalgamation of school divisions, the underlying assumption being that school divisions should be large enough with enough students and sufficient tax base to provide students and staff with a full range of services. Given that organizations such as school divisions are inherently self-perpetuating and resistant to change and that the people within these school divisions are emotionally as well as intellectually attached to their school division and have been for many years (Kuhn, 1970), acceptance of a contradictory framework, namely, the disestablishment of the Beaver Flat school division, the subsequent disjoining of their subdivisions, and amalgamation with adjoining school divisions was “inherently wrenching and difficult” (Nevis et al., 1996, p.11).

    An application of Levy’s (1986) categorization of permitting, enabling, precipitating, and triggering conditions as driving forces for educational governance restructuring can be made as to why amalgamation had become an issue to the Beaver Flat and Turnhill School Divisions (see Table 1).

    How did the process of amalgamation unfold?

    A brief summary of the process will be followed by comments on the document, Principles of Amalgamation, and a discussion of the process with reference to the literature on business M & A’s and educational governance restructuring.

    Numerous years of addressing educational challenges on a local level had, for Beaver Flat, resulted in the centralization of schools and administrative services, teacher, administration and service cutbacks, amalgamation explorations with adjacent school divisions, and a study of an amalgamation possibility. Consultation with their electorate through public meetings resulted in a consensus decision to further explore amalgamation possibilities. Information was collected from the surrounding school divisions and shared with the public. Having received general support to approach Turnhill regarding amalgamation, the Beaver Flat Board approached Turnhill and an amalgamation process was undertaken. A detailed chronology of the Turnhill/Beaver Flat Amalgamation Process is located in the original document. Key to the process was the formation of an interim transition team, the Amalgamation Steering Committee (ASC), with representation from stakeholder groups (see Appendix B). Aspects of collaborative problem-solving served to shape the direction and actions of the ASC and negotiations between the Boards and stakeholder groups as they addressed amalgamation issues (see Appendix C for a listing of identified issues). The development of the Principles of Amalgamation document (see Appendix D) served to give direction to the process. Both internal and external expertise provided support to the process, and upon resolution of the various issues, the amalgamation became a reality on January 1, 1997.

    The value of the document, Principles of Amalgamation, lay in the fact that it established the parameters within which the amalgamation process would transpire. The recognition that the central purpose of amalgamation was to provide the best educational services to all students became a pivotal theme around which all amalgamation decisions and actions revolved. The wording of the second principle, that the areas being amalgamated with the existing Turnhill School Division include the Falkland and Spence school districts from the existing Beaver Flat School Division, could be viewed as a clearly indicated value premise, namely, that the amalgamation was perceived as a take-over/ rescue operation. The Turnhill School division would continue to exist. The Beaver Flat Division would be disestablished and be incorporated into and swallowed  up by the Turnhill Division. The Turnhill Division was neither expecting or prepared to undergo any major disruption of their modus operandi.

    In the turbulent and complicated world we are a part of, organizational change continues to pose a challenge to educational governance reform. As described by Levy (1986), the decision to amalgamate was a deliberate, purposeful, and explicit decision, which involved both external guidance in the form of regional and provincial personnel from the Department of Education, as well as internal guidance from the respective directors, boards, secretary- treasurers, and other members of the ASC. The planned change (Bennis et al., 1969) involved a strategy of collaboration and power sharing as evidenced by the formation of the ASC, a committee representative of those with a stake in the amalgamation. There are elements of both first and second-order planned change to be found in the case study of school division amalgamation. Change occurs when something that used to happen in one way starts happening in another. This organizational change (Bridges, 1986, 1991), both structural and demographic, occurred at the time of amalgamation—January 1, 1997. Mechanical, situational, and occurring at a particular point in time, in order for the merger to take place the amalgamation process was managed on a rational model of what had to be done and when. According to Bennis et al., this would be classified as an organizational first-order change, a process of amalgamation, mandated by the school divisions. Writing in the area of organization theory, Skibbins (1974) described first-order change as a state in which managers, in this case directors and boards, operate with limited short-range goals and tend to run systems pretty much as they are.

    This change, the amalgamation of two school divisions, instigated additional change and, at every step, individuals involved in the amalgamation were plunged into transition. This transition constituted a second-order change, a psychological process extending over a period of time (Bridges 1986). The organizational transition process allowed individuals and groups involved in the amalgamation to reorient themselves so as to function and find meaning in the changed situation.

    Levy (1986) drew a distinction between second-order change and second-order planned change which can be applied to the research study. Viewed as second-order change, the amalgamation of the Turnhill and Beaver Flat school divisions was characterized by a decline in both student enrollment and funding, thus creating a crisis situation. In Beaver Flat, first-order changes such as the consolidation of schools, reduced services, and personnel cuts at both the administrative and school level had proved unsuccessful in terms of sustaining a full service school division. These continuing and accelerating realities led to the demise of the school division and necessitated a “reframing” of the organization (Levy). This reframing was undertaken through amalgamation. A new order is not rapidly established but takes time, energy and resources.

    One can identify, within the amalgamation process, Levy’s (1986) cycle of developmental stages in second-order change— decline, transformation, transition, and stabilization (see Table 2). The decline is evidenced by Beaver Flat’s inability to provide services to students and teachers and to remain fiscally solvent. The transformation occurred when Beaver Flat became part of another organizational structure. The transition process transpired as those individuals affected by the amalgamation moved through the iterative phases of endings, the neutral zone, and beginnings (Bridges, 1986). Stabilization occurred during the post amalgamation period; indeed, it is still taking place within the “new” division.

    One could also argue that, at the time of amalgamation, only those undergoing the transition from one division to another were experiencing a second-order change. In other words, the Beaver Flat School Division’s parents, students, teachers, Board of Education, school trustees, and others individuals involved in and affected by the amalgamation were in the midst of moving through the three iterative phases of transition (Bridges, 1986). Not everyone was at the same stage of the transition process; each person was experiencing the trauma of transition in his/her own time and place. On the other hand, at the time of amalgamation, those within the constituency of Turnhill were not involved in a second-order change; events and procedures within their division continued as usual. There was no substantial change in the Turnhill school system. However, it was during this time of transition for Beaver Flat and the stable situation in Turnhill that elements of transformation or the seeds of further second-order change originated. Subsequent to the amalgamation, the Turnhill Division began to experience change and transition in areas such as learning about and coming to a better understanding of the First Nations’ culture and perspective, as well as experiencing transition within the new and enlarged board of Education. Indeed, even today, several years into the amalgamation, the Turnhill School Division is still dealing with transitions and the integration of the various cultures within the two school divisions.

    Discussions of change in relation to school division amalgamation also raises a question: Does school division size affect the degree to which amalgamating divisions experience first and/or second-order change? In this instance of school division amalgamation, size did affect who experienced first and/or second-order change and to what degree. The smaller school division, Beaver Flat, had been taken in or annexed by the Turnhill Division and, so, for them, everything changed. It was only after the amalgamation, as the two divisions addressed the task of becoming a single entity, that the Turnhill Division entered into a their own journey of change and transformation, albeit at a more gradual and less traumatic pace.

    Parallels can also be drawn between corporate mergers and acquisitions, one of the more commonly recognized forms of “right-sizing” (Hitt et al., 1994), and the right-sizing of school divisions through amalgamation. Jemison and Sitkin (1996) identified the most commonly discussed categories of motives for business mergers as financial and managerial. One can identify, in the reasons for school division amalgamation in this case study, a financial motive of increasing synergies through economies of scale and the applying of skills and knowledge from one division to the other, as well as the managerial motive of decreasing uncertainty in Beaver Flat’s external environment (see Table 3).

    As indicated in the literature review, there is an abundance of classifications or typologies of mergers. Of these classifications, three typologies will be examined in relation to school division amalgamations: the degree of integration model, the strategic fit model, and the organizational fit/cultural model (see Table 4).

    Napier (1989) described a typology of mergers in terms of degree of integration—extension, collaborative or design. School division amalgamation can be viewed as a collaborative or synergy merger which results in the two divisions blending on major operational and managerial functions or in the exchange of knowledge, technology and other talents. Moreover, redesign mergers imply the adoption of the policies and practices of one division by another, which was essentially the case in the amalgamation of Turnhill and Beaver Flat. As suggested by Napier, collaborative mergers may extensive changes on human resource practices as new policies are collaboratively developed or changed. These changes were evident in the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation. In redesign mergers or amalgamations the impact on human resource practices is often dramatic. It is the perspective of numerous Beaver Flat participants that the impact on human resource practices was dramatic and that Beaver Flat has essentially been reshaped in the image of Turnhill.

    Buono and Bowditch (1989) described the strategic fit model as being either horizontal, vertical, product extension, market extension, or unrelated. In the case of Beaver Flat and Turnhill, the amalgamation can be viewed as a horizontal merger. Both divisions provide the same services to geographically adjacent markets. The rationale underlying this merger is the achievement of economies of scale and operating efficiencies.

    The merger was characterized by reductions in force— one director instead of two, as well as the integration of similar departments and functions— boards, support staff and local teacher organizations. The amalgamation of the two school divisions manifested horizontal merger characteristics such as the effect of the degree of friendliness between the two divisions on the negotiations. The amalgamation, viewed by some as an organizational rescue and by others, as was the case in the Longford subdivision, as a contested combination, entailed a collaborative approach which emphasized creating a fair deal for both divisions. Nevertheless, this “love and marriage” union  needed an integration strategy for the harmonizing of the two operations, a strategy which was time-consuming but effective. The integration strategy for the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation was addressed by such means as the formation of the ASC and its collaborative approach to problem-solving.

    Elements of Pritchett’s (1985) cooperative-adversarial continuum of organizational rescue, collaboration, contested combination, and raid situations can be identified in the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation. Characterized by one school division coming to the aid of another, the amalgamation can be viewed as an organizational rescue. Indeed, it was viewed as such by a number of the research participants. The ensuing rescue, as well as being a financial salvage operation, could be viewed as a friendly alternative to the government mandating an amalgamation. Through the establishment of the ASC and its collaborative format, negotiations were approached with a sense of goodwill and diplomacy, albeit with a degree of resistance by the Beaver Flat members to the cultures, operating systems and managerial orientations of the Turnhill School Division  (Buono & Bowditch, 1989). The Longford situation is reminiscent of contested combinations with Longford undertaking the role of the “reluctant bride.” The ensuing loss of pre-merger production, a decline in organizational momentum, and post-merger expressions of adversity were evident within the Longford subdivision (Lowrie, 1990).

    A final comparison can be made between the M & A organizational fit/cultural model and the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation. Within the literature review of this model,  there is an integrative theme of custom which concurs with Buono and Bowditch’s (1989, p. 137) position that organizational culture “holds an organization together through traditional ways of carrying out organizational responsibilities, unique patterns of beliefs and expectations that emerge over time, and the resultant shared understandings of reality at given points in time.”  For Beaver Flat, these cultural elements came to a sudden end with the disestablishment of their school division. Cultural is a powerful determinant of both individual and group behavior and, regardless of the degree of strategic fit between the two school divisions, a lack of organizational or cultural fit, or its development, continues to threaten successful integration of the two divisions (Bolman & Deal, 1997). Culture and cultural integration strategies will be further addressed in Question 4.

    Amalgamations are complex undertakings. In spite of concerted efforts by the leaders and/or managers to do all the right things in the right way, research participants identified several issues they perceived as being either  “unforeseen”—the splitting of the Beaver Flat School Division and the division of assets and liabilities, First Nations representation on the Board, the cost of transferring titles, issues of closure, time, orientation needs, rationalization of budgeting procedures, and increased workloads related to the amalgamation process, or “missed”—closure activities, pre-amalgamation teacher orientation, procedural changes, and student involvement. Also of concern were post-amalgamations issues—continued communication with regard to amalgamation, what was going on, and to services available to students; the building of trust; the need to continue to discuss ongoing amalgamation issues; working with a larger and more cumbersome board; elections and orientation of new board members as well as school trustees; and policy reviews. The above concerns serve to underline the importance of flexibility to both time and process to merger success.

    What were the critical incidents in the amalgamation process?

    What was perceived as a critical incident was colored by the perspective of individuals and/or interest groups, their role in the amalgamation process, and what was at stake for them. Regardless of whether the critical incidents were related to the process or the resolution of issues, there appears to be a constant juxtaposition of opinions— individuals were either happy or discontented with the process and the resolution of issues. Whether the process or resolution of issues was the “correct” one, is not within the scope of this case study. What is significant  is that these “critical incidents” point out the importance of being aware of and addressing these components during an amalgamation process (see Table 5).

    Process Issues

    Research participants identified the following as “critical process” incidents: the inclusion of all stakeholder groups through communication and consultation both before, throughout and after the amalgamation process; leadership; timing; personnel; external support; and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes. In the area of inclusion, communication needs were described as open, public, honest, accurate as to both information and the process/legalities of amalgamation, complete, timely, and continuous. Inclusion reflected the need for sharing information, talking, forums for open discussion through public meetings, as well as the presence of stakeholder groups on the ASC. Research participants generally indicated a high degree of satisfaction in the area of communication and inclusion. Two exceptions are noteworthy: a number of Beaver Flat School Division employees indicated a perceived lack of direct, on-going and up-to-date information with regard to amalgamation issues and the status of the amalgamation, whether or not it was an issue of direct concern to them. Secondly, Longford voiced concern over hearing information for the first time through media releases. Furthermore, Longford Board members, subsequent to the decision to join with the Ladybank Division, expressed feelings of marginalization during amalgamation discussions. It was their perception that, after the resolution of an issue between Turnhill and Beaver Flat, there was an unspoken response of, “Ladybank and Longford need to do this, too.” It does appear there is some validity to their perception of the amalgamation process. After Ladybank’s initial and positive response to Longford’s joining their school division, much of the discussion that followed was between the respective Directors and Boards. The perception of Longford was one of being cast adrift with no one at the helm of “their” amalgamation. That this occurred could well be attributed to the perceived lack of leadership by the provincial government.

    Study participants addressed leadership on several levels ( Bolman & Deal, 1997; Gardner, 1990; Sackney & Dibski, 1994). The use of words such as collaborative, trustworthy, honest, open to ideas, caring, fair and not self-serving indicated the participants were, on the whole, satisfied with the degree and quality of leadership provided by both internal and external individuals. Internal leadership was provided by the Boards, Directors, local trustees, and representatives on the ASC. External leadership in the area of amalgamation procedures and in the resolution of issues such as Board representation, the splitting of the division, and teachers’ local agreements was provided by the Minister, Department officials and Regional Directors.

    At the same time, numerous participants expressed a need for increased provincial leadership in the area of educational governance restructuring through amalgamations. In their opinion, school divisions are looking for a specific game plan from the government, some explicit guidelines. Indeed, the widespread perception is that the government’s “knowing non-leadership” is viewed, at the very least, as a lack of being pro-active in resolving educational governance problems and, at the very most, as an abdication of their responsibility to provide leadership in the governance and direction of education to their electorate, the people in Saskatchewan. Leadership should be doing the right thing, not doing the thing right (Bennis & Nanus, 1985). As indicated by interview responses, decisions made with political expediency and re-election in mind may not be the responsible or ethical response.

    Timing is always an issue within any merger or amalgamation process (Mitchell, 1994; Monk & Haller, 1986). This was certainly the case for Beaver Flat and Turnhill; issues of time became evident on several fronts and, yet again, opinions varied as to how issues of time were expedited. These issues included: time to consider and weigh amalgamation alternatives, particularly for the Longford community; time to deal with amalgamation issues; time for Directors to deal with both amalgamation and division administration responsibilities; time to collect, organize, and disseminate information; time to adjust to change; time to adjust to new and different ways of doing things; the timing and pacing of the amalgamation process; time to involve people; time to bring schools and individuals on-line; and time to reflect and dream. Indeed, time and flexibility are crucial to school division amalgamation. Whereas time lines are important and the amalgamation process needs to maintain a momentum, common sense and flexibility are additional key elements to school division amalgamations which occur within a collaborative decision-making model.

    Mechanisms used for the resolution of disputes were generally satisfactory and can be attributed, in a great part, to the ASC—its composition and the effort of those individuals who were charged with the responsibility of liaising between the steering committee and the groups they represented. Admittedly, not all decisions were unanimous. Discussions within the respective boards were sometimes (often) heated and feelings of acrimony, rancor, and dissatisfaction were still evident at the time of the research study. This is a reality of mergers or amalgamations, regardless of what type (Buono & Bowditch, 1989).

    Resolution Issues

    Efforts to resolve issues included the solicitation of input from members of the ASC and those they represented. Charged with emotion, the resolution of issues resulted in varying degrees of satisfaction which were largely dependent on the perspectives of the individuals involved and affected by the issue. As identified by the participants, the major issues included: the Longford issue; the division of assets and liabilities, dealing with personnel; representation on the Board of Education; budgets, policy manuals, and boundary determination.

    Perhaps the most volatile and difficult of issues was dealing with Longford’s decision to disjoin from the Beaver Flat School Division and to seek amalgamation with a partner of their choice, a partner other than Turnhill. Reasons for the choice, the emotional responses of the three Beaver Flat subdivisions, and the resolution of the issue serve to point out the requirement for communication, consultation, and respect for individual or community decisions. The Longford issue serves as a reminder that the road to mergers or amalgamations is often rocky, potholes do exist, and communities may choose to travel a different road in order to achieve quality education for their children.

    Arising from the Longford decision to join the Ladybank School Division, the division of assets and liabilities was one of the last issues to be resolved in the amalgamation. Participants voiced varying degrees of satisfaction with both the process and the end results. While the determination of a 75/25 split, 75% of the assets and liabilities going to Turnhill and the remaining 25% to Ladybank, was easily reached, the actual division of  the assets and liabilities proved to be difficult. Perhaps one could apply the analogy of a divorce to this situation. The marriage of the Beaver Flat subdivisions was coming to an end and, as is often the case, the division of marital property became a heated issue, accusations of underhanded dealings were made and  the final solution was not completely satisfactory to either of the parties.

    Both the composition of and the collaborative problem-solving process of the ASC served to address personnel issues. Teachers and support staff were well represented on the ASC and the majority of employees believed they had adequate time to discuss issues with their colleagues and to come back to the ASC with recommendations and possible solutions. The one notable exception resulted in the considerable furor over the grandfathering of local teacher agreements and the amount of time allocated to the negotiation of a new local teacher’s agreement. Collaborative discussion over this issue collapsed with the passing of a motion by the Turnhill Board, a motion to set a date of January 1, 1998 with respect to the completion of negotiations for a new and joint local agreement. Subsequent legislation by the Department resolved this issue for other amalgamations, legislation which ensured the grandfathering of teacher agreements up to the time that a new agreement could be negotiated and agree upon. As reported in the research findings, teachers in both divisions expressed strong feelings of dismay with regard to the Board’s unilateral decision to limit the local agreement negotiation period. It may well be that this experience will have a negative impact on future negotiations between the Board and the Turnhill Teacher’s Association.

    In addition to welfare issues, teachers expressed concern over the possible effects of amalgamation on pupil teacher ratios, the level of central office support, curriculum support, the role of consultants, and support for students with special needs. Other concerns included central office response time to problems, the distance factor with regard to service and travel to meetings, the quality of teacher work life, increased demands on in-school administrators, and issues of transfer and professional development opportunities. These concerns were not without merit. In an effort toward parity, Beaver Flat’s pupil/teacher ratio had been increased previous to the amalgamation. Time and distance continue to be an issue. At the same time, in addition to their “regular” work, school administrators and teachers were in the midst of a transition process. Indeed, at the time of the interviews—six months into the amalgamation, the Beaver Flat teachers were exhibiting characteristics of what Marks and Mirvis (1986) identified as “merger syndrome,” a term synonymous to McManus and Hergert’s (1988) “survivor mentality,” Pritchett’s (1985) “post combination slump,” and Astrachan’s (1990) “separation anxiety.”  These terms, coined to describe the “post honeymoon period” of M & A’s, refer to the time during which employees begin to question their role in the new organization and is typically manifested in declines in employee performance (Pritchett). This post-combination slump may include manifestation of preoccupation, imagining the worst, tension, chaos, a combat mentality, constricted communications, and illusions of loss of control (Marks & Mirvis).

    Finally, resolution was required for issues in the areas of board representation, budgetary considerations, amalgamation costs, policy manuals, and boundary determination. In general, the formation of the ASC and its underlying approach of collaborative problem-solving worked well with regard to dealing with the “critical incidents.”

    It appears that, while each of these issues and their resolution were of vital importance to the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation process, the “what” of the resolution is an aside to participant perspectives on the “how” of the issue. In other words, much of the tension underlying the human side of the amalgamation process had a strong ethical component (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Buono & Bowditch, 1989). Buono and Bowditch identified several key concerns which can be applied to the case study. The reality that mergers such as school division amalgamations involve multiple parties, each with their own interests and needs, can lead to competing claims as to what was done and if it was done in the right way. The managed release of information in an open, honest and timely manner as opposed to the controlled release of information to distort the truth and manipulate people may raise ethical concerns of secrecy versus deception. The distinction between coercion and participation is important to stakeholder groups. This was particularly apparent in teacher comments with regard to the negotiation of local agreements; teachers questioned whether the ASC and its collaborative problem-solving approach was a true opportunity to take part in discussions and decisions. In a sense, teachers were questioning whether the collaboration was real or contrived and being used as a way of “reinscribing administrative control within persuasive and pervasive discourses of collaboration and partnership” (Hargreaves,1994, p. 17).

    As pointed out by Donaldson and Sheldrake (1990), the parameters of ethical decision-making in organizations are severely constrained by forces such as laws, cultural norms, labor relations, lack of ethical awareness, inflexibility, and the need to maintain expected efficiencies of operation. Efforts to address the ethical dimension of the amalgamation of Turnhill and Beaver Flat included openness in decision-making, valuing the opinion and input of stakeholder groups and their representative on the ASC, and the recognition that actions often require a balancing of principles that pull in different and often opposite directions. Certainly, the change process experienced through the amalgamation provided the management— the Boards and Directors, with the opportunity to illustrate for their employees the organization’s goals and priorities which, in turn, enabled teachers and support staff to “make meaning” of their new world. It is the researcher’s opinion that the above ethical dimensions of amalgamation are closely tied to an important dimension of change, the dimension of leadership.

    The literature review identified key attributes of leadership as principle-centered and displaying strength of character, integrity, honesty, loyalty, mental agility/quality of mind, courage, diplomacy, being supportive and sustaining, respectful, visionary and inspired (Hesellbein et al., 1996). As suggested by Sackney and Dibski (1994), these leadership characteristics are conducive to the development of collaborative organizational cultures. While distinctions are often made between the terms leadership and management, perhaps the two go hand-in-hand. There is no question that, in the amalgamation of the Turnhill/Beaver Flat School Divisions, the leaders were also the managers of the event. Leadership is key to the management of planned second- order change (Gardner, 1990). Leaders in the amalgamation process, as suggested by Bolman and Deal (1997), work within a variety of frames, depending upon circumstance, to manage the amalgamation process. Within the structural frame, leaders employ a process of analysis and design; within the human resource frame, leaders initiate a process of support and empowerment; within the political frame, leaders work toward advocracy and coalition building; and within the symbolic frame, leaders of the amalgamation process act as both prophet and poet providing inspiration and symbolically reframing experiences within the organization. It is unrealistic to expect those who were the leaders/managers of the amalgamation to carry the whole weight of the amalgamation process. Not withstanding the efforts of the Boards and Directors, members of the ASC also provided leadership during the transition process. Although the primary leadership focus in this dissertation has been on leaders in formal positions of authority; participants also recognized the role played by informal leaders and their influence, be it positive or negative, on the merger process.

    What attention was given to the technical, political, and cultural aspects of change?

    The conceptual framework of the study suggested that management of the merger process—the school division amalgamation, indicated the need for attention to the technical, political and cultural dimensions of organizational change. Writing in this area, Tichy (1983) addressed the strategic management of change through a focus on the political, technical and cultural problems of organizations. Whether we see an event through a particular screen or whether we view different scenes through different screens, whichever screen is used results in a way of dealing with change and the advocation of certain policies rather than others (House, 1981, p. 17).

    The technical path is one of systematic and rational processes (Tichy, 1982). Having determined that amalgamation was the best of solutions to the Beaver Flat dilemma, the Beaver Flat Division began an amalgamation process. Subsequent to an assessment of environmental threats and opportunities as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their educational program, technical interests focused on the amalgamation process itself (see Table 6a). Technical reasoning or rational decision-making assumes that everyone has a common interest in advancing the amalgamation and that there is a considerable consensus in both interests and values. Conflict is accepted as the price of progress (House, 1981). Having reached consensus on the “what” of the solution, Beaver Flat’s major problem then became one of finding the best means to the given end, amalgamation. Having determined their mission—to provide the best of educational opportunity to their children, and the strategy—amalgamation, both Beaver Flat and Turnhill next addressed the organizational structures needed for the change to take place.

    Aligning the structure to the strategy entailed determining what needed to be done; who was responsible for what part of the process; and how to integrate the activities of the two divisions both as to process and, as much as possible, alignment of operations (Tichy, 1982). Human resources management, at this stage, focused on the establishment of the ASC, specifying criteria for the format of the steering committee and the establishment of processes to deal with the resolution of issues and the determination of the amalgamation path. Fundamental principles and assumptions of managing the amalgamation within the technological perspective also included the expectation of cooperation from both organizations and individuals and an assumption that actions taken would be efficient and accountable. The focal point was the amalgamation itself, how it was to be accomplished and its effects. It was assumed that, because the amalgamation was in the common interest of all, the amalgamation should be pursued aggressively (House, 1981). Amalgamation from this perspective became a relatively mechanistic process and social relationships were based on technological necessity. The image was production-oriented, an input/throughput/output process— put in two school divisions, deal with the process in a series of rational steps and, behold, a “new” amalgamated school division.

    The political aspect of a change process, according to Corbett and Rossman (1989), focuses on the interactions and interplay of the varying and divergent interests of those involved in a process (seeTable 6b). Conflicts over interests by stakeholders—the various communities, groups within the communities, parents, Boards of Education and employees in both school divisions, resulted in negotiations and compromise, generally within the venue of the ASC. Concepts such as power, authority and competing interests came into play. Questions of who would get to influence the amalgamation decision and process arose. A prime example was the public’s perception of expecting to vote on the issue only to discover that it was their duly elected Board of Education which had the legislated right, the power and authority to decide whether or not to amalgamate and with whom, what process would be followed, and how the process would be managed. Issues of power and authority came into play in a number of situations: the choice of an amalgamation partner; Longford, Falkland and Spence’s determination to retain direct representation on a Board of Education; the Longford decision to disjoin from the  Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation; the division of assets and liabilities; and local teacher agreements.

    Not withstanding that the final authority was vested within the Turnhill and Beaver Flat Boards of Education, the political perspective of amalgamation became one of how to manage coalitional behavior while making strategic decisions as to the amalgamation process and issues. Having decided that a steering committee was the managerial tool to best deal with organizational structure during the amalgamation, power was distributed and balanced through the formation and composition of the ASC and member roles both within the steering committee and the groups represented.

    Managing human resources within this context, negotiating as to who got what and how, and compromises both between the interests of the Turnhill and Beaver Flat divisions and the individual and combined stakeholder groups were important aspects of the strategic management of the amalgamation process (Tichy, 1982). Power struggles, particularly over issues of whether or not Longford could choose to secede and take their own path, the subsequent division of assets and liabilities, and teacher successor rights dominated much of the process.

    With regard to the resolution of teachers’ local agreements, conflicts over interests made cooperation problematic. While consensus is possible after a negotiation of interests, this was not the case in the Turnhill/Beaver Flat amalgamation. Ethics, from a political perspective, are contractual (House,1981). In this instance, teachers in both divisions expressed a strong belief.that the perceived contract of a collaborative problem-solving approach to the amalgamation process had been broken. This perception was a direct result of the Board’s unilateral decision to limit negotiations for a new local agreement to one year. Managing change strategically, from a political viewpoint, means looking at change within the context of amalgamation, a context which is conflict-oriented and within which the negotiation and compromise of differences does not necessarily result in the best interests of individuals or groups.

    The cultural perspective is one of context—how the amalgamation process was structured, how life was lived, and how the amalgamation was interpreted (see Table 6c). Meanings and values are the focal point (House, 1991) and participants in the amalgamation process are seen as cultures and subcultures. The different stakeholder groups—communities, school divisions, parents, students, teachers, trustees, and support staff are seen as distinct and separate; conflicts and misunderstandings are interpreted as conflicts in values (pp. 24-25). The amalgamation process required the interaction of these separate cultures and the effects were often diffuse and somewhat intangible. Cooperation between groups or cultures is enigmatic and changes resulting from the amalgamation have different meanings for different groups or individuals. Values are shared within small groups and these differing values may be in conflict. The amalgamation may have unanticipated consequences and throughout the process, cultural groups tend not to impose on other groups. The cultural image is meaning-oriented and one of community.

    The various communities engaged in the amalgamation of the Turnhill and Beaver Flat School Divisions, whether it was a community consisting of schools, towns and the surrounding rural area, parents, First Nations groups, teachers, students, or support staff can be defined as communities or cultures by virtue of shared meanings resting on shared values. Social relationships between the members are often traditional and a primary value is the integrity of their culture. The relationships within these cultures may be obligatory and binding while relationships across cultures are less enduring. Thus, strategic management within the cultural system implies managing the influence and philosophies of the divergent cultures or communities so there is an alignment with the mission and strategy of the amalgamation (Clemente & Greenspan, 1999; Tichy, 1982; Walker, 1998). In order to achieve this, there needs to be a structural integration of the Turnhill and Beaver Flat cultures and subcultures to create a “new” school division culture. Indeed, merger of the two disparate cultures may well be especially tricky, because the amalgamation interrupted two strong cultures. Efforts to this end included joint meetings of  the various stakeholder groups from each division. For example, both the support staff and teacher groups from each division met regularly throughout the amalgamation process to discuss common concerns and put forward recommendations. The 1996 joint fall orientation for all employees of both divisions and the inclusion of representatives from both divisions on teacher committees well in advance of the actual amalgamation date provided opportunities for socialization and the molding of a “new” organizational culture. Discussions with the First Nations groups was a step toward understanding their cultural values and the meanings they attribute to schooling. The comments of individuals with regard to “belonging,” and “us” rather than a “we” and “them,” indicated that much work remains to be done in this area.

    Tichy (1983) visualized the three environments—technical, political and cultural, as three intertwined strands of rope which are, in turn, each made up of many substrands. Just as ropes become unraveled and weaken, when an organization’s technical, political and cultural strands work at cross-purposes, the organization is devitalized. Tichy believed “strategic management is the process of keeping the rope together in the face of changing demands brought on by technical, political, and cultural changes in the environment” (p. 64). The amalgamation of school divisions is one example of the need for the strategic management of change so as to keep the “rope” together and through this action, reap the benefits of a revitalized organization.

    What approaches were used to address human resource concerns during the transition?

    Bridges (1991, pp. 3-4) defined change as situational and external and transition as psychological and internal, a personal reorientation of people as they move through and come to terms with change. In this instance, the change is the amalgamation of two school divisions. In order for the amalgamation to work, transition must occur. Managing the transition may prevent the change from becoming unmanageable.

    The need for transition management during times of organizational change is, to some extent, dependent on the magnitude of the change, the concerns of the individuals and the transition stage(s) of the individuals affected by the change. See Table 7 for a description of endings, regrouping and new beginnings as experienced during pre-amalgamation, amalgamation, and post-amalgamation times. While all individuals involved in the amalgamation underwent a transition process, the magnitude of the change was most apparent with regard to people in the Beaver Flat constituency. Furthermore, the change was singularly distressing for those directly involved in and affected by the change—teachers, board members, trustees and support staff. The disestablishment of the Beaver Flat School Division resulted in the loss of attachments, turf, a known structure and future, meaning, and control (Tichy, 1983). These feeling of loss resulted in disengagement— a separation from the subjective world Beaver Flat residents knew, disidentification— loss of a sense of their identity in a former situation, and disenchantment— a breakdown of their meaning-making capacity.

    Concerns over the amalgamation were most evident among the Beaver Flat teachers and included such items as job security; collective bargaining agreements; communication and trust building; board policies in the areas of seniority, redundancies, and transfers; the avoidance of turf protection, becoming an “us;” the effect of amalgamation on opportunities for students and the teaching/learning environment; working with consultants; and changes in procedure. Indeed, each of the various stakeholder groups had concerns specific to their role in the amalgamation process.

    Transition is a reality of life—whether it be from infancy to adulthood, from a single to marital status, job changes, divorce, or death within a family; how we deal with transitions is very much a reflection of past personal experiences. Such being the case, throughout the amalgamation individuals moved through the transition stages at their own pace  and time, regardless of the pace of the amalgamation process. Also, moving through the transition process was a reiterative experience for numerous individuals (Bridges, 1992). For example, a teacher could still be dealing with endings such as the loss of teaching colleagues and also be at the beginning stage of enjoying new opportunities for professional development. Whereas transition readiness is an individual condition, it is not unrealistic to ascertain that, even today, the transition process continues to take place within the “new” Turnhill  School Division.

    Although the focus of the amalgamation effort was perceived by many of the participants as dealing with the technical and political aspects of managing change, transition management was an underlying force throughout much of the process. Communication and giving people information and doing it again and again was identified as a key component of transition management, as was treating the past with respect and ensuring that what really mattered— a quality education for children, would continue. Expressions of empathy from their own community members and colleagues as well as from Turnhill supported the individuals moving through the transition. What did not happen, at least to a great degree, was an open acknowledgment of endings and losses by the people of Beaver Flat. Both they and the receiving Director and School Board were somewhat taken aback by the level of emotions experienced during the last months of life of the Beaver Flat School Division.

    Furthermore, the Beaver Flat School Division, as a whole, moved through the transition phases at a different pace and time than did the Turnhill School Division. For Beaver Flat individuals, transition began at the outset of amalgamation discussions and continued to occur with a continuous escalation of momentum, while the Turnhill transition experience occurred, to a considerable extent, only after the time of amalgamation. Longford School, on the other hand, was still moving through the initial transition phases only to find themselves embroiled in another major change/transition precipitated by Ladybank’s own amalgamation initiative.

    Bridges’ (1986) position that the Western mind has difficulty with acknowledging the second step in a transition process, that of crossing the neutral zone, as a meaningful and productive time was borne out by the research participants’ comments. Breaking away from the social forces of the old divisions, putting aside assumptions, and allowing themselves to find a new identity was, for all concerned, a time of disorientation and disintegration. This “muddle in the middle” was not uneventful and allowed time for individuals and organizations alike to go through “a kind of inner sorting” (p. 46).

    Efforts were made by both divisions and the ASC to normalize this neutral time. For example, efforts to strengthen intragroup connections included joint division meetings, inservice days, conventions and committee work. The ASC, a temporary structure, was instrumental in informing stakeholder groups as to what was happening and in presenting and dealing with both individual and group concerns. It would appear that for many of the individuals interviewed, their “neutral zone time” generally occurred within the six months both before and after the amalgamation date. What did not occur, in the researcher’s opinion, was an explicit and open acknowledgment of the neutral zone as a very real, turbulent and beneficial time. In fact, everyone was experiencing the neutral zone to some degree, but giving voice to the experience was frequently interpreted as a negative response to the amalgamation process. As a result, opportunities for creativity and doing things differently and better were not always taken advantage of as they might have been. The amalgamation process could have benefited from the presence of a “transition team,” as encouraged by Bridges (1992), either in the form of the ASC or an adjunct committee, to monitor and assist individuals in transition.

    As the amalgamated school division began to build upon the new orientation and identity that was emerging out of the neutral zone, the Turnhill Director was faced with the onerous and challenging task of mobilizing positive energy within the organization. Given that employees in most large organizations are “sensation types” (Jung, cited in Bridges, 1986) who deal with the details of the present, it was imperative to quickly and clearly establish Bridges’ four P’s—purpose, picture, plan, and part to play (Bridges, 1991, p. 52). Being consistent, ensuring quick success, symbolizing the new identity, and celebrating success was part of this process. That this had already begun was apparent in the interview transcripts. Stakeholder groups, particularly teachers, were appreciative of the increased support for students and teachers and opportunities for professional development from both a sharing and learning perspective.

    It is of interest to note that, although individuals have generally moved through the three transition stages and have started to make “new beginnings,” a number of pre-merger concerns continue as post-merger issues. Examples include issues of belonging, the perceived (or real) loss of benefits, and the effect of increased division size on the delivery and effectiveness of support services. While these experiences are illustrative of the reiterative element of transitions, they can also be explained through the concept of   merger syndrome (Marks & Mirvis, 1997). Although mergers have become more systematic and managers are smarter about doing deals and managing integration, post-merger integration continues to be the greatest challenge to merger success. The merger syndrome, first described by Marks and Mirvis over 10 years ago, “has actually become more prevalent....Enunciation of a clear strategic vision, good and open communication, and sensitization sessions are among the tools [organizations] can use to smooth the entry   of new people into a combined organization” (p. 10).

    Perhaps the establishment of Bridges’ (1991) four elements— purpose, picture, plan, and part to play, needs to occur during each stage of the amalgamation process, pre-amalgamation, amalgamation, and post-amalgamation. Acting as a trigger for second-order change, the reoccurrence of these four elements could serve to provide a focus for  the management of strategic change and to aspects of amalgamation and transition relevant to each of the respective amalgamation stages.

    Managing the transition aspect of planned second-order change is not an easy task. Closely tied to the cultural aspects of managing strategic change, transition is, however, an entity unto itself. Unfortunately, transition management approaches appear to be somewhat ambiguous and transition concerns are frequently found to be hovering around the periphery of whatever lens one is looking through, be it technical, political, or cultural. Understanding the stages of transition is the only the first step. It is the researcher’s opinion that all stages of the transition process need to recognized and celebrated. What we do with it is what counts. Attention to transition management in times of organizational change will only serve to enhance the process and increase the odds for organizational success.

    What has school division amalgamation come to mean to the stakeholders?

    Merriam (1998, p. 6) observed: “Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how  they make sense of their world and the experiences they have in the world.” With this in mind, it is not only myself who has been trying to discover and understand the phenomenon of school division amalgamation. It became apparent to me, as the research took shape, that the individuals directly  involved in and affected by the amalgamation of Turnhill/Beaver Flat and Ladybank/Beaver Flat were also working through their own processes of  “making meaning” of the amalgamation. This “making meaning” was being experienced within the context of their own and individual realities. Given that making meaning is a unique experience to each person, common themes can also be drawn from the data (see Table 8). It is important to note that the meanings attributed to the school division amalgamation as discussed are bounded as to the time and place of the case study.


    Table of Contents


    Part III: Conclusions and Implications

    Conclusions

    Some tentative conclusions can be inferred from the study but cannot be generalized beyond the amalgamation of the respective school divisions. However, the “thick” data provided by the study may make transferability judgements possible on the part of other school divisions engaged in an amalgamation process. The readers of this study are, therefore, the people who will determine if the findings in this particular amalgamation can be applied to another setting.

    1.   More emphasis needs to be paid to the cultural aspects of an amalgamation. Discovering and critically examining the cultural norms, beliefs, values, and assumptions of the respective school divisions is vital to the implementation of a cultural integration strategy. Although both of the amalgamating divisions encompass rural communities, within each school division there are numerous subcultures or communities and any one individual usually belongs to a number of communities—the community one lives in, a school community, a community of teachers with similar perspectives, and so on. Each community has its own norms, customs, roles, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols. Each division, school, and community brought their individual cultures to the amalgamation table. While the actual amalgamation or merger occurred within a relatively compressed period of time, the study indicates that cultural integration requires more time. Indeed, cultural integration continues to occur within the “new” division.

    During times of organizational change and transition, competing cultural traditions can threaten successful integration of the amalgamating divisions. In addition, when one school division is absorbed by another, a variety of these communities or cultures either cease to exist or are substantially changed. There is a need to fill the void left by the ending of an implied  psychological contract which existed between the disestablished school division and its public and employees. It is important that those who are managing the merger process remember “what people in an organization experience as the climate and believe is the culture, ultimately determines whether sustained change is accomplished” (Schneider, Brief, & Guzzo, 1996, p. 13).

    2.   During school division amalgamations, there is a need for increased attention to the iterative aspects of the transition process. Resistance to transition is a natural act of self-preservation in the face of multiple and diverse change. It is important that both mangers and those undergoing transition know about and understand the three iterative phases of the transition process—endings, the neutral zone, and new beginnings. Only then can the transition be facilitated through the development of strategies which enhance participation in the amalgamation process.

    3.   Organizations are continually undergoing shifts and changes and, in times of uncertainty such as school division amalgamations, it is important that an organization’s components of mission and strategy, structure, and human resources be aligned both within and between the technical, political, and cultural systems of an organization. Framing school division amalgamation within these three perspectives can provide school divisions with a guide to what is important and a guide to action.

    4.   Leadership is an important component of successful school division amalgamations, the management of planned second-order change, and merger success. Regardless of whether we are discussing educational governance restructuring through the amalgamation of school divisions in Saskatchewan and the leadership of the government in power or local leadership during the amalgamation event, leaders have a responsibility to do what is in the best educational interests of the children in our school systems. As amalgamations continue to occur in various parts of Saskatchewan, governance structures need to consider more closely what is happening— the “bigger picture” with regard to the redesigning or restructuring of provincial school division boundaries.

    Of the many attributes we expect leaders to have, suffice it to say the following:  Leadership is a key dimension of change (Fullan, 1991). Primary attributes of leadership discussed in the literature review are equally applicable to change in the form of school division amalgamations. These attributes can be summarized as principle-centered and displaying strength of character, integrity, honesty, loyalty, mental agility and quality of mind, courage, diplomacy, being supportive and sustaining, respectful, visionary, and inspired, all with an eye for change, a steadying hand, and a willingness to empower those within an organization. These leadership characteristics are conducive to the development of collaborative organizational cultures.
     

    5.   Literature on business M & A’s and organizational change can serve to enhance our understandings of the dynamics inherent in school division amalgamations, particularly in the areas of strategic, organizational and cultural fit. The congruency between school division amalgamations and horizontal mergers is evident in the strategic fit between amalgamating school divisions (Buono & Bowditch, 1989). School divisions provide their public with the same service—educating children. Given the fact school divisions are governed by the same legislative body and its mandates, school divisions are similar in organizational structure. The Turnhill and Beaver Flat school division amalgamation, a combination of organizational rescue—one school division coming to the aid of another and collaborative merger—in which negotiations are approached with a sense of good will and diplomacy (Pritchett, 1985), engaged in pre-merger bargaining with a focus on creating a fair deal for both constituencies. In addition, the Longford issue is somewhat representative of the contested combination in M & A’s. The Longford subdivision opposed the decision of the Beaver Flat Board to amalgamate with Turnhill, opting instead to amalgamate with Ladybank. It is important to note, however, that differences in structure and operations do exist between corporations and publicly funded institutions. In a business M & A there is little, if any, likelihood that a division of the corporation would be allowed to leave the corporate fold. In the case of public institutions which are largely funded through property taxation, school subdivisions do have input into and can influence amalgamation decisions.

    6.    Communication is a key component of human resources management. Maintaining the credibility of the amalgamation process is largely dependent upon keeping lines of communication open, the timely sharing of consistent and accurate information, and including all interested stakeholder groups through all stages of the merger. This cannot be stated too strongly.

     7.   As indicated in the case study, the amalgamation of school divisions will result in changing roles for central administrators, Boards of Education, trustees, principals, and teachers, as well as a possible redrawing of school attendance areas.

    8.    Multiple realities exist within school division amalgamations. The case study, in this instance, a study of one school division amalgamation process became, to some extent, three case studies which could each be viewed through their own particular sets of lenses. The first is the amalgamation story of the Beaver Flat subdivisions of Falkland and Spence, the second is the story of the Beaver Flat subdivision of Longford, and the third is the amalgamation story as understood by the Turnhill School Division. The Beaver Flat/Falkland/Spence story was primarily one of change and transition and its attending pain, frustration, stress, and anticipation of better things yet to come. The Beaver Flat/Longford/Ladybank story paralleled the Falkland/Spence experience with the added elements of “breaking free” and then being “cast adrift” without anyone at the helm to provide leadership and guide them through their transitions. Much of the Longford story and what happened to them subsequent to their decision to disjoin from Beaver Flat and amalgamate with the Ladybank School Division remains untold. The third story, that of the “new” Turnhill School Division, has just begun. The specific act of amalgamation brought about limited amounts of change within the division. However, since that time, the Turnhill Division has found itself caught within a spiral of accelerating change and, within that change, the experiences of multiple transitions for both individuals and groups. The integration of  these two disparate school division cultures and subcultures will continue to evolve.


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    Implications for Practice

    The results of this study have implications for provincial and local governing authorities, amalgamating school divisions and steering committees, and professional staff.

    1. Findings from this study indicate that school division amalgamations are complex undertakings. As such, individuals directly involved in the amalgamation process would benefit from a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of mergers and acquisitions. Recognition of what merger typology is taking place within the amalgamation will assist in the strategic management of change and efforts to address issues which may arise as a result of the type of merger.

    2. Most constituents of rural school divisions are well aware of the need to address the challenges facing rural education. Taking into account factors such as the numbers of students needed to provide a full service organization, the geographical and cultural nature of the region, the natural patterns of those living in that area, and continued economic decline, the restructuring of school division through amalgamation is a reasonable process to undertake. While completed amalgamations within the Province of Saskatchewan have to date been voluntary, it is to be hoped that not only do school divisions work with their partner(s) of choice, but that they also address the “bigger picture” and consider the circumstances of all adjacent school divisions.

    3. It is imperative that school divisions or subdivisions do not find themselves embroiled in one amalgamation after another; the stress on schools, communities, and individuals involved in an amalgamation and its aftermath is just too great. To this end, there is a continued need for direction and support and the development of a provincial plan to assist those divisions both considering and undergoing amalgamations. Indeed, the electorate expects provincial direction; the perceived lack of provincial leadership is often viewed as an abdication of responsibility.

    4. Although amalgamating subdivisions continue to prefer direct representation on Boards of Education, in the interests of Board size and efficient operation, amalgamated school divisions may well need to consider a redrawing of subdivision boundaries. Board members will need to make a concentrated effort to address a greater diversity of interests and to keep in touch with their public. In addition, issues of equity such as the balanced distribution of resources and educational opportunity as provided to schools within a division need to be addressed.

    5. With regard to the process and management of school division amalgamations, the study supports what has been addressed in numerous writings on M & A’s and implementing change. Open consultation with stakeholder groups, including students, and the development of a clearly defined process which takes into account the identified concerns and findings is a necessity. Flexible time lines will allow for adequate time to investigate, assess, understand, and resolve amalgamation issues.

    6. In addition to an amalgamation steering committee, it is recommended the amalgamating divisions consider the formation of a transition team which specifically focuses on the human side of the merger (Birkinshaw, 1999). Knowing about and understanding the three iterative phases of transition will empower individuals to assess where they are in the transition process and allow for the development of both personal and organizational strategies to reorient themselves to their new situation. Transition management should continue after the completion of the amalgamation (Ireland & Hitt, 1998). This is particularly applicable to teacher groups, the Board of Education, students, and parents. During this time of organizational change and transition, the leaders and managers of the amalgamation process should address issues of culture and community.

    7. Understanding the importance and power of culture can help leaders attend to the needs that individuals in the merging school divisions are sure to have in times of rapid change. Rapid change evokes powerful psychological responses on the part of many people (Bolman & Deal, 1997). In addition to respecting the cultural values of individual communities or communities within these communities, efforts need to be made to develop a sense of the new community, the “new” school division. Concerted efforts must be made to this end.

    8. Finally, if trends of increasing decentralization continue, Directors may have to possess a new mixture of skills and responsibilities. As discussed by Conley (1997, pp. 77-84), these skills and responsibilities include being a visionary, planner, facilitator, boundary spanner, communicator, dispute resolver, efficiency enhancer, coordinator, and standard setter. Directors “stand challenged to adapt, to develop new abilities, and to change some of their conceptions of power and leadership” (p. 84). It may be a difficult challenge for those used to being in charge.


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    Implications for Further Research

    While the single case study approach proved to be particularly effective in studying the process and management of a school division amalgamation and allowed the researcher to adopt a holistic perspective of the phenomenon, multi-site studies should also be considered. Using a larger sample may provide a broader spectrum of concerns and strategies and, as a result, be more generalizable to other situations.

    1. A study of amalgamated school divisions within the province would serve to determine the effect of amalgamation on the quality and delivery of educational programs.

    2. An investigation into the effects of school division amalgamation on the changing roles and responsibilities of Boards of Education and local school trustees would assist school divisions in their own evolution of roles and responsibilities.

    3. Investigation into integration strategies with regard to community and culture would provide valuable information to those undertaking school division amalgamations.

    4. Research into school division amalgamation processes which took place under other circumstances—for example, research into the amalgamation of three or more divisions, would serve to identify issues which are specific to their own circumstance, issues which did not surface within the parameters of this study.

    5. Investigation into transition management in amalgamated school divisions could identify factors that favor such an approach as well as yield some insights into the relationship between transition management and integration success. This could be particularly useful to teachers involved in the complexities of an amalgamation process.

    6. A study of the effects of amalgamation on central office staff and the provision of services with specific attention to the Director’s changing role of leadership and the delivery of consultant support would provide some insight into the challenges of educational leadership and leadership strategies.

    7. Research into the effects of amalgamation on school administrators could serve to identify methods of support which would benefit principals and staff.

    8. A study of rural schools, their needs, and how schools and communities are crossing the traditional boundaries that have separated them could serve to identify ways to enhance the school/community connection.


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    Implications for Theory

    General acknowledgment that change is a process, not an event, has had a definite impact on how organizations approach change in the form of mergers and acquisitions or, as in this case, school division amalgamations. Change has traditionally been presented in terms of either a technical, political, or cultural approach (Tichy & Devanna, 1986). While the emphasis on the strategic management of change through attention to the three aspects remains, there has been a significant move to paying increased attention to the cultural perspective (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Bridges, 1992; Buono & Bowditch, 1989). This emerging view suggests that any theoretical consideration of organizational integration needs to be conceptualized within a holistic framework which acknowledges the complexity of the merger process. (see Figure 1)


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    Epilogue

    It is some time since the amalgamation of Turnhill and Beaver Flat. During this time I have communicated, on occasion, with various individuals who were part of the amalgamation process and opinions on the effects of amalgamation are still as varied as ever. This is not surprising, for each individual is looking at it through their own particular lenses, their own realities. The amalgamation was undertaken with a view to do what was “best for the kids” and the former students of Beaver Flat School Division are benefitting from the broader base of specialized support personnel and resources. In the words of one individual, “The easy part was the kids and staffs. Our teachers are professionals and they’ve gotten down to the job-at-hand and are working together.” Paradoxically, I’ve also had the comment, “There’s still a lot of work to be done to bring us together, we still feel like we’re not part of the group, it’s hard to break into established cliques.”

    Interestingly enough, making the transition has, perhaps, been most difficult for the eleven-member Board of Education. The Beaver Flat Board’s history is one of a “hands-on” approach, being directly involved in the affairs of their schools, and having a strong administrative culture. On the other hand, Turnhill’s approach is oriented toward the ideology of governance and policy-making. The harmonizing of the two disparate Board cultures continues to be a challenge. When all is said and done, the “highs and lows” of school division amalgamation, as experienced by the people of Turnhill and Beaver Flat, are truly indicative of how complex and changeable life in rural Saskatchewan has become.

    Andy Hargreaves, a contemporary educational thinker, wrote, “Every change involves a choice [of path and] which choices we make will ultimately depend on the depth of [our] understanding,...the creativity of our strategies, the courage of our convictions, and the direction of our values” (1994, p. 18). Understanding the context, process and consequences of change helps us to clarify and question our choices. It is my hope this study will, to some degree, result in an enhanced understanding of the complexities and dynamics inherent in school division amalgamations.

    Life doesn’t follow straight-line logic; it conforms to a kind of curved logic that changes the nature of things and often turns them into their opposites. Problems then, are not just hassles to be dealt with and set aside. Lurking inside each problem is a workshop on the nature of organizations and a vehicle for personal growth. This entails a shift; we need to value the process of finding the solution—juggling the inconsistencies that meaningful solutions entail.
    —Pascale, 1990, p.263

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    Appendices

    Appendix A: Research Participants
     
    Research Participants
    n
    N
    Boards of Education
    Chairpersons
    Board Members (1 First Nations)
    2
    4
    2
    14
    Directors
    2
    2
    Regional Director
    1
    2
    SK Teachers’ Federation Spokesperson
    1
    *
    School Trustees
    2
    75
    Secretary-Treasurers
    2
    2
    Student Focus Groups
    2
    **
    Support Staff
    1
    153***
    Educators****
    Association Presidents
    Principals
    Teachers
    2
    3
    3
    2
    20
    241
    Total Interviews
    25
    *****

    *A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.
    **Representing 602 Beaver Flat students; Focus Group A- 6 Grade 9/10 Longford students: Focus Group B- 8 Grade 10/11 Falkland students. Students were selected by the principals of their respective schools. Turnhill’s 4,250 students did not participate in the interview process.
    ***Representing secretaries, teacher’s assistants, custodians, and bus drivers.
    ****In total, 8/ 263 educators participated in the interview process.
    *****13/25 interview participants were members of the Amalgamation Steering Committee.

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    Appendix B: Amalgamation Steering Committee (ASC)
     

    Turnhill School Division
    Board Chairperson
    2 Board Representatives
    Director of Education
    Secretary-Treasurer
    First Nations Representative
    Principal Representative
    Turnhill Teachers’ Association President
    Teacher Representative
    Support Staff Representative
    Beaver Flat School Division
    Board Chairperson
    3 Board Representatives (1 First Nations)
    Director of Education
    Secretary-Treasurer
    Principal Representative
    Beaver Flat Teachers’ Association President
    Teacher Representative
    Support Staff Representative

    Regional Director

    Back to Findings


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    Appendix C: Amalgamation Issues

    Back to Findings


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    Appendix D: Principles of Amalgamation
     

    Back to Findings


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    List of Tables

    Table 1: Why Amalgamation Became an Issue
     
    REASONS:
    Beaver Flat S. D.
    LEVY’S DRIVING FORCES FOR EDUCATIONAL GOVERNANCE RESTRUCTURING REASONS:
    Turnhill S. D.
  • readiness/willingness reanxiety/uncertainty
  • resources: provincial personnel/some funding
  • declining enrolments: school closures; teacher   cuts; loss of support services; central office administrative cuts; escalation of education costs; cuts in provincial grants; First Nations building schools; maintaining quality of educational programs; years of uncertainty

  • PERMITTING CONDITIONS
  • capable of expanding the division: mobilizing energy and commitment to this vision
  • perceived threat to survival of school division
  • amalgamation would maintain schools, provide full range of services

  • ENABLING CONDITIONS
  • a degree of tolerance toward change
  • able to accommodate more students and staff
  • declines in student population
  • own selection of amalgamation partner, timing, process, retain direct representation
  • new, unmet needs: special needs students; inclusion; needed support
  • government pressure to amalgamate
  • pressures to retain the schools in the division

  • PRECIPITATING CONDITIONS
  • seen as complying with government directives re amalgamation
  • response to student needs on a provincial/global perspective
  • diminishing education grants
  • building of First Nations schools
  • decline in student numbers
  • diminishing farm income

  • TRIGGERING EVENTS
  • the request by Beaver Flat to entertain the concept of amalgamation
  • Back to Findings


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    Table 2: Levy’s (1986) Cycle of Developmental Stages in Second-order Change
     
    DECLINE
    TRANSFORMATION
    TRANSITION
    STABILIZATION
    Beaver Flat’s inability to provide services to students and teachers and to remain fiscally solvent The amalgamation- Beaver Flat disjoins and becomes part of two adjacent school divisions Individuals affected by the amalgamation move through the iterative phases of endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings (Bridges, 1986); still occurring on various fronts The post-amalgamation period; continuing to occur

    Back to Findings


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    Table 3: Motives of M & A’s and School Division Amalgamations
     
    Motives of M & A’s School Division Amalgamation
    Rightsizing(Hitt et al,1994) Large enough to provide a full range of services to students and teachers
    Financial Jemison & Sitkin, 1996) Increasing synergies through economies of scale and the applying of skills and knowledge from one division to the other
    Managerial(Jemison & Sitkin, 1996) Decreasing uncertainty in Beaver Flat’s external environment

    Back to Findings


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    Table 4: Typologies of M & A’s and School Division Amalgamations
     
    Typology
    Reference
    Relation to S. D. Amalgamations/Implications
    Degree of Integration Model: extension, collaborative, or design Napier (1989) A collaborative or synergy merger: a blending of major operational functions/ the exchange of knowledge, technology, and other talents;
    Redesign: the adoption of policies and practices of one division by another (adoption of Turnhill’s by Beaver Flat); A dramatic impact on human resource practices: Beaver Flat reshaped in the image of Turnhill.
    Strategic Fit Model:
    horizontal, vertical, product or market extension, unrelated
    Buono & Bowditch (1989);
    Pritchett (1985); Lowrie (1990)
    Horizontal merger: provide the same services; governed by the same legislation; share the same   vision
    Rationale: economies of scale and operating efficiencies, reduction in force, integration of similar departments;Affected by the degree of friendliness - elements of organizational rescue/a financial salvage operation and contested combination;
    Collaborative approach: good will, diplomacy;
    Longford: elements of a “reluctant bride- loss of production, organizational momentum and post-merger adversity
    Organizational Fit/Cultural Model:
    integrative theme of custom; common concerns and similar committees
    Buono & Bowditch (1989);
    Bolman & Deal (1997)
    Culture: a powerful determinant of individual and group behavior;
    Lack of organizational or cultural fit continues to threaten successful integration of the two divisions; a need for increased integration strategies

    Back to Findings


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    Table 5: Critical Incidents
     
    Process Issues
    Issues Requiring Resolution
    Inclusion: 
    Communication and consultation before, throughout, and after amalgamation: open, public, honest, accurate, complete, timely, continuous. [Beaver Flat employees, Longford]
    The Longford Issue
    The decision to disjoin and amalgamate with the Ladybank S.D.; pointed out the need for communication, consultation, and respect for individual and community positions
    Leadership 
    Internal: collaborative, trustworthy, honest, open to ideas, caring, fair. 
    External: procedures and resolution of issues- Board representation, disjoining, local teachers’ agreements
    The Division of Assets and Liabilities
    A 75/25 split; the actual division resulted in varying degrees of satisfaction to both process and the end results.
    Timing
    To consider amalgamation alternatives, deal with issues, administrative duties, adjust to change, the process itself; reflection.
    Key: common sense and flexibility
    Personnel Issues
    Teachers and support staff well represented on the ASC; issues resolved through the collaborative problem-solving process with the exceptions of local teachers’ agreements; resulted in legislation re grandfathering of teachers’ agreements for subsequent amalgamations and in a strain on Board/teacher relationships.
    Teacher concerns regarding effect on level of services, the quality of teacher’s work life, transfers, professional development opportunities.
    Evidence of post-combination slump (merger syndrome, survivor mentality, separation anxiety)
    Personnel
    Adequate to deal with the amalgamation and regular administrative duties.
    Board Representation
    Enlarged Board, 11 members including a First Nations representative.
    External Support
    Provided by the Minister of Education and Department officials.
    Budgetary Considerations
    Different modes of operation need to be synchronized (busing to sports events)
    Mechanisms for the Resolution of Disputes
    Collaborative problem-solving within the ASC; generally satisfactory; exceptions- local teachers’ agreements; the Longford issue; the division of assets and liabilities
    Amalgamation Costs; Policy Manuals; Boundary Determination
    Resolved in a satisfactory manner; policies of Turnhill continued to be in effect, changes will occur in the course of regular policy review.

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    Table 6a: Strategic Tasks for the Successful Management of School Division Amalgamations: Technical System
     
    MANAGERIAL AREA 
    MANAGERIAL TOOLS
    Technical System
    Mission and Strategy
    Organizational Structure
    Human Resources Management
      Assessing environmental threats (declining enrolments, reduced funding, the threat of mandated amalgamation) and  environmental opportunities (choice of partner, control of process).

    Assessing organizational strengths (good programing, strong teaching staffs) and weaknesses (particularly in the area of special needs students, teacher support, counseling, curriculum support).

    Defining mission (to provide the best of educational opportunity) and selecting resources to accomplish it (the decision to amalgamate and the selection of a partner).

    Differentiating
    organizing work into roles ( the ASC, Boards, Directors, Secretary-Treasurers).

    Integration
    recombining roles into departments, divisions, regions, and so forth (integration of   support staff and teacher groups).

    Aligning structure to strategy (determining what needs to be done, by whom; to integrate activities of both divisions and alignment of operations - school years, mill rates, teacher committees).

    Fitting people to roles (the establishment of the ASC).

    Specifying performance criteria for roles (the mandate and responsibilities of ASC members, processes to deal with resolving issues).

    Staffing and developing to fill roles, present and future (aligning  pupil teacher ratios, accommodating transfer requests).

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    Table 6b: Strategic Tasks for the Successful Management of School Division Amalgamations: Political  System
     
    MANAGERIAL  AREA
     MANAGERIAL TOOLS
    Political System Mission and Strategy Organizational Structure Human Resources Management
      Who gets to influence the mission and strategy (Boards, Directors, ASC).

    Managing coalitional behavior around strategic decisions (conflicts over interests of communities, groups within communities,  parents, boards, employees).

    Distributing power across the role structure (within the ASC,  power, authority, competing interests, who gets to influence the amalgamation decision and process). 

    Who has power and authority to make final decisions re amalgamation decision, partner of choice, process and management of process- the Board(s) after consideration of recommendations by the ASC.

    Power issues: retaining direct representation for each community, the Longford decision to disjoin, the division of assets and liabilities,  local teachers’ agreements.

    Balancing power across groups of roles (between the Boards and Directors, within the ASC, at public meetings).

    Managing succession politics (who gets ahead, how they get ahead, compromises between interest of divisions, Boards, and various stakeholder groups and individuals).

    Designing and administrating reward system, who gets what and how (school  administrators, teaching assignments, pilot projects).

    Managing the politics of appraisal, who is appraised by whom and how ( the role of consultants).

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    Table 6c: Strategic Tasks for the Successful Management of School Division Amalgamations: Cultural System
     
    MANAGERIAL AREA 
    MANAGERIAL TOOLS
    Cultural System Mission and Strategy Organizational Structure Human Resources Management
      Managing influence of values and philosophy on mission and strategy: meanings and interpretations of the process by various stakeholder grous, communities, cultures and sub-cultures within both divisions.

    Developing culture aligned with mission and strategy: integration of two cultures as well as developing an understanding of First Nations culture.

    Developing managerial style aligned with technical and political structure: new and often expanded role for local trustees and school administrators.

    Developing subcultures to support roles.

    Integrating subcultures to create a company culture: the various teaching communities, teachers with similar interests and expertise, support staff group, ethnic groups.

    Selecting people to build or reinforce culture: in school, various committees.

    Developing (socialization) to mold organization culture: meeting as an entire group.

    Managing rewards to shape and reinforce the culture: recognition of expertise, sharing of knowledge, professional development opportunities.

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    Table 7: Amalgamation and Transition Management
     
    Phase
    Event
    Endings
    Regrouping 
    (neutral zone)
    Beginnings
    Pre-amalgamation Discussions Somewhat abstract.
    Beaver Flat: Anticipated end to school division and larger community, personal contacts, loss of what used to be and established procedures.
    Turnhill: Concerns over effects in terms of central office level of support.Empathy for individuals and colleagues in Beaver Flat.
    Acceptance of change.
    Recognition of loss.
    Recognizing the ending.
    Anticipation of new and increased support and opportunities.
    For some, only “another change.” 
    Individuals ready to meet new challenges, take advantage of available opportunities
    Joint planning by the two divisions.
    Limited socialization.
    Committees from both divisions begin to operate as one.
    Disestablishment of Beaver Flat S.D. Sharp sense of loss.
    Endings: ready or not.
    Disintegration
    Loss of established cultures, relationships, close contact with central office administration.
    Disorientation.
    Disintegration.
    Perceptions of “rescue,” teacher professional issues; “poor country cousins.”
    Thinking about perceived problems.
    Attempts to reduce complexities to key issues. Confusion: Why? How do we? 
    Anticipating opportunities, support.
    Symbolic recognition of endings.
    Adjusting to new procedures.
    Changing roles for Boards, local trustees, school administrators.
    Central office visits to new schools.
    Principals play key role in understanding, adjusting to procedural change.
    Life in the “new” Turnhill S.D. Continued struggles with change.
    Dissolution of the ASC.
    Transition processes continue to evolve

    Phases of transition begin for Turnhill School Division.   Individuals in both divisions continue to move through reiterative phases of transition, depending upon circumstance, issues, personal state of transition readiness.

    Revisiting of concerns.
    A move toward acceptance of the many changes.
    Continuation of activities initiated during regrouping.
    Expanded horizons.
    Adjusting to new procedures.
    A sharing of histories.
    Redefinition of various roles: Boards, trustees, principals.
    Enlarged Board struggles to integrate disparate cultures, modes of operation. 
    Efforts continue to integrate, understand cultures.
    Expressed needs for continued discussion of amalgamation issues and communication with public.

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    Table 8: The Meaning of School Division Amalgamation: Emerging Themes
     
    Rationalization of
    the Amalgamation
    If amalgamation is good for their child’s education, then it’s OK
    Advantages for students; a level playing field
    Provision of support to achieve a quality education
    Stability For schools, communities, individuals
    Continued operation of schools, educational programs
    Reduced threat of imminent school closure
    Reasonable mill rates
    Retaining a Sense
    of Identity
    Feelings of belonging, being valued
    Respect for individuals and communities
    Experiences during the process affected individual perceptions of identity
    True Participant Increases palatability of a change process
    If collaborative decision-making is the vehicle of choice, it must be honored
    Results of collaboration and cooperation are ownership and cultural integration
    Flexibility At all stages of the amalgamation process
    Provision of time to move through transition process, to make meaning of changed world
    Additional Descriptors Frustration; exhaustion; exhilaration
    Dealing with a larger, more cumbersome system
    Adjusting to new procedures, expanded services, changed roles/responsibilities
    Melding of the Board cultures, administrative vs policy roles
    Increased workloads for administration
    Satisfaction of providing improved services to students
    Longford- exercising right of choice, retention of “ruralness”
    Disjoining- adversity, rancor, pain, loss, dissatisfaction with process, division  of assets and liabilities
    Clarification of teacher successor rights
    Reinforcing opinions on the need for continued amalgamations
    Positive experience with the collaborative decision-making process
    Appreciative of participating in the amalgamation process

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    List of Figures

    Figure 1: Organizational Perspectives on School Division Mergers: Planned Second-Order Change

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    Footnotes
    _____________________
    ¹ In order to provide anonymity, the pseudonyms of Turnhill and Beaver Flat will be used to represent the two school divisions. This choice of names is of nostalgic significance to the researcher who, in childhood days, attended Turnhill School—a rural, multi-grade school in southern Saskatchewan. Beaver Flat was the name of a general store, post office and service center located in the same district. Additional pseudonyms will be added as required; in each case, the name used is that of a school no longer in existence.

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