School Division Amalgamation in Saskatchewan A summary of a thesis by Mary Reddyk SSTA Research Centre Report #96-03: 77 pages, $14.

The Challenge of School Governance Reform This thesis summary describes the perceptions of stakeholder groups with regard to school division amalgamation within two Saskatchewan school divisions. While there was general agreement that many school divisions are having difficulty in providing a full range of services to students and teachers, stakeholder groups expressed the need for adequate time to address and understand the complexity of amalgamation issues. Identified issues and concerns included the dissemination of accurate information and the need for a planned process as well as provincial governance, school administration, program and school organization, amalgamation processes, and personal concerns. The underlying concern is how best to realize efficiencies while improving educational opportunities and, at the same time, how to create a structure that is responsive to local needs and allows people to have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
Purpose and Significance of the Study
The Saskatchewan Story
The Canadian Scene
The Nature of Rural Schools
Amalgamation Issues
Case Studies of the School District Amalgamations
The Process of Amalgamation
The Framework for the Study
The Context of Amalgamation
Research Questions
Review of the Study Findings in Light of the Literature
Conclusions of the Study
Implications for Practice
Epilogue
References
A Pilot Proposal for School Division Amalgamation
Small Schools and School Effectiveness

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The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
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.


The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
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.


The Challenge of School Governance Reform

The commonly held educational beliefs of equal opportunity and equalities of benefit suggest that all children, regardless of age, gender, cultural background, and socioeconomic status have the right to an appropriate educational opportunity (Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, 1993). The task of providing children with a "good education" has had implications for the structure and governance of educational systems. Efforts to systemize rural schools began, in Saskatchewan, even before the province achieved provincial status. Although few, if any, communities willingly gave up their schools, the realities of rural life and the need for efficiency and effectiveness served to reduce the number of school jurisdictions. From a maximum of 4,522 school districts in 1921 (Funk, 1971) to the current level of 114 school divisions in 1993 (SSTA, 1993) the number of school districts in the province has decreased significantly.

Arguments over the wisdom of the amalgamation or consolidation of school divisions have continued through this century. Saskatchewan school divisions are confronting, once again, governance reform through consolidation. Declining enrollments and fiscal restraints are realities of the 90s. Furthermore, demands for increased efficiency and equity of opportunity have prompted the call for a further restructuring of the educational system (Langlois & Scharf, 1991; SSTA, 1993). However, whether efficiency or economies of scale result, the amalgamation of school divisions is unique to each specific case (Monk & Haller, 1986). When mergers are contemplated people become concerned with issues such as community identity, the education of their children, educational costs, and the way in which amalgamation occurs. The willingness of individuals to support the effort are affected by factors such as community involvement, relationships, communication, planning strategies, and timing (Mitchell, 1994).

Both the Langlois/Scharf Report (1991) and the Task Force of Educational Governance (1993) outlined reasons why changes in educational governance are occurring. The provincial government is committed to restructuring so as 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; as well as the need for increased integration of services to children in the areas of education, health, and social services.

These pressures have created major inconsistencies for education systems. Systems need to be both big and small: big to realize economies of scale and provide a full range of educational services, small to allow citizens to have a voice in the decisions that affect their children. Systems need to be centralized and decentralized: centralized to provide consistency and some efficiencies, decentralized to ensure community support and responsiveness to local needs. Finally, provincial education systems may desire to control all aspects of education although central control in all matters is inappropriate. Local communities need the autonomy to address local issues (SSTA, 1993, p. 8).

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Purpose and Significance of the Study

The purpose of this study was to gain insight into school division amalgamation, particularly in terms of concerns at the beginning of an amalgamation process. The primary question for investigation in the case study is: As two school divisions begin to consider amalgamation, what are the perceptions of stakeholders with regard to school division amalgamation within their school division? The study should provide information to Boards of Education, administrators, and other decision makers on how best to prepare for and support amalgamation efforts. Much of the literature on school division amalgamation comes to us from the U.S. and other areas of Canada. There are few, if any, recent case studies on school district amalgamation in Saskatchewan. The renewed interest in school division consolidation in Saskatchewan, a result of recent reports on educational governance, has indicated a need for current information on amalgamation issues.

Any meaningful insights into the perceptions of key stakeholder groups as school divisions begin to consider amalgamation could be of assistance to future efforts in this area. With information regarding the process and understanding of the issues, educational reform in the area of educational governance may ultimately result in the achievement of that somewhat elusive goal¾to provide the youth of Saskatchewan with the "best" education possible.

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The Saskatchewan Story

The process of modernization of Saskatchewan's rural community has been earmarked by the consolidation of farm units and the gradual erosion of traditional, rural values. Similarly, the history of education in Saskatchewan has been influenced by "an ongoing process of urbanization and, within the rural context, an equivalent process of centralization and consolidation¼[of] administrative structures" (Steeves, 1992, pp. 106-107). Also, contemporary policy issues, in particular school division amalgamation, are still influenced to a significant extent by the constitutional foundations of the province (Giles & Proudfoot, cited in Hall, 1984, p. 87). Given the above, a knowledge of the history of centralization becomes particularly relevant to the understanding of current educational reform.

In conclusion, Saskatchewan has had two main administrative units in its history: the local school district and the larger school unit or division. Although the local school district was the preferred unit of administration, it proved, almost from its inception, to be too small (Funk, 1971). Numerous organizational attempts such as consolidated school districts, secondary school districts, and union and municipal schools failed to overcome this problem. Since 1944, many of the local school districts in Saskatchewan have been replaced by the larger school unit or division. The comprehensive school movement further indicated that numerous school divisions were too small to offer a full range of educational services. Current recommendations for the further amalgamation of school divisions indicates the need for further readjustments.

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The Canadian Scene

The following synopsis of current school governance action throughout Canada was primarily summarized from the SSTA's (1994) paper Finance and Governance - An Update:

1. British Columbia: At present, there are 75 public school boards in British Columbia. As a result of the Korbin Commission in 1993, the government has established a Task Force on Efficiency and Effectiveness in School District Governance which was due at the end of 1995, one of its mandates being "to provide a detailed plan of action for amalgamation and sharing of services" (Carlson, 1995, p. 5).

2. Alberta: Legislation has reduced the number of school boards from 140 to 57, 16 of which are minority faith boards and 41 are urban or regional public boards. The amalgamations became operational in January, 1995.

3. Saskatchewan: The government is encouraging amalgamation pilot projects in response to the SSTA's Task Force on Educational Governance.

4. Manitoba: Manitoba is undergoing a comprehensive review of educational governance. There are 57 consolidated districts in the province: the further restructuring of urban and rural school divisions is anticipated.

5. Ontario: A Royal Commission is currently reviewing all aspects of education. The government has indicated plans to reduce the number of school boards from the present 71. Incentives are in place to promote the interdistrict sharing of services such as transportation, purchasing, and payroll and are meeting with considerable success. Some school districts are opting for cooperation rather than amalgamation.

6. Quebec: The primary issue in Quebec is government plans to restructure school boards along linguistic lines.

7. New Brunswick: In 1992, New Brunswick consolidated its 42 school boards into 18 (12 English and 6 French). Currently the major focus of change relates to curriculum and program.

8. Nova Scotia: The government is considering further reductions to the 21 remaining school boards. The present focus is on site based management.

9. Prince Edward Island: In April 1994 the government implemented a reduction in the number of school boards from five to three. Parental involvement in schools is being enhanced through the establishment of school councils.

10. Newfoundland/Labrador: Based on a 1992 Royal Commission report, the government, despite opposition from the churches, appears to be moving ahead with the establishment of 10 interdenominational boards to replace the current 27 denominational structures with particular attention to school-level decision making, church control over religious education, and fewer administrative boards.

Commenting on the recent changes in Canada, the SSTA (1994) report concluded:

The general trends in recent years have been to reduce the number of school boards, to enhance school-based governance, and to centralize financial controls. At the same time, provincial governments appear to support local lay control of education and the continuation of elected single-purpose school boards. Expenditures reduction, fiscal equity, and educational improvements are the primary reasons given for governance restructuring. (p. 4)

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The Nature of Rural Schools

Despite school division consolidation and school centralization, small schools continue to be a rural phenomenon. Literature on the problems and virtues of small rural schools identified a number of common themes. The problems of small rural schools:

1. Many problems derive from the economic conditions of the community. High levels of unemployment and marginally employed persons result in a scarcity of financial resources and widespread concern about the perceived high costs of education (Monk & Haller, 1986).

2. The scarcity of financial resources and concerns about the perceived high costs of providing education may cause communities and their school boards to take extremely conservative fiscal positions toward their schools, often reflected by low teacher salaries and the resulting problem of hiring and retaining quality teachers. While differences between teacher salaries in urban and rural areas is not the case in Saskatchewan, the hiring and retention of quality teachers is an ongoing concern to rural areas; small school communities are often vulnerable to personnel changes (Monk & Haller, 1986; Nachtigal, 1982).

3. Economic pressures may result in cost becoming the overriding consideration in educational decisions, with serious consequences for school facilities and programs (Dunne, 1977; Newton & Newton, 1993).

4. Most schools offer programs which meet state or provincial requirements but at a personal cost to their teachers who have too many preparations and often lack expertise in subjects taught, particularly in the areas of foreign languages, the sciences, and special education. Support personnel such as guidance counsellors and reading specialists may not be available to students and teachers (Dunne, 1977; Monk & Haller, 1986; Newton & Newton, 1993).

5. The quality of programs offered by small rural schools may have less to do with school size than with the quality of administration (Monk & Haller, 1986; Newton & Newton, 1993).

The advantages of small rural schools:

1. Small schools provide the opportunity for children from various backgrounds to come together to learn and to develop a mutual respect for one another (Barker & Gump, 1964; Dunne, 1977; Nachtigal, 1982).

2. Teachers get to know their pupils better and are able to provide for special needs and talents (Dunne, 1977; Nachtigal, 1982; Newton & Newton, 1993).

3. School community integration and close parent-community involvement are characteristics generally found in rural communities. Residents put great weight on the importance of a school to the continued viability and existence of their community (Dunne, 1977; Monk & Haller, 1986; > 


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3).

4. Students learn, on the average, as much as their counterparts in larger schools and generally perform as well as students from large schools in post-secondary institutions (Monk & Haller, 1986; Newton & Newton, 1993; Scharf, 1974; Walberg & Fowler, 1987).

Research has indicated that efforts to provide a quality education for small rural schools must take into account that rural communities and rural schools are different from their urban counterparts; rural communities differ from each other, these differences need to be recognized and respected; and rural schools and rural communities operate as a single integrated structure (Dunne, 1977; Nachtigal, 1982; Sutherland, 1989). Rural education requires the development of a public policy which "values and accommodates the uniqueness of rural culture and rural schools" (Sutherland, 1989, p. 2). The building of community spirit and the organization of schools in such a way that they are part of the community are solid aspects of rural society and culture. The conserving and nurturing aspects of rural life are caring values which need to be preserved and incorporated into today's society (Sharpe, 1989).

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Amalgamation Issues

Traditionally, the reason offered for district reorganization "rested on the idea that larger schools and school districts were more equitable and more efficient" (Haller & Monk, 1988, p. 473). Larger units were viewed as more equitable because they could provide a wider array of services and programs not offered by smaller units. In addition, larger units were believed to be more efficient because they could offer programs at a lower per-pupil expense and realize savings in areas such as personnel and purchasing (Ainsworth, 1993).

Both the equity and efficiency arguments are problematic. For the past two decades, accumulating research has suggested that making large rural schools from small rural schools does not guarantee either greater efficiency or equity (Haller & Monk, 1988; Sher & Tompkins, 1977). At the same time, other research suggested that small schools have important social and educational advantages not usually found in large schools (Barker & Gump, 1964; Lindsay, 1982; Newton & Newton, 1993; Schoenholtz, 1972).

Haller and Monk (1988) discussed the "hard" and "soft" sides of modern school reform (p. 471). The "hard" side of school reform tacitly supports the consolidation of small rural school districts by promoting the need for an enriched academic curriculum, increased cost effectiveness, and accountability. The "soft" side stresses student social development, the need for increased parental involvement, and the development of a cooperative caring climate. These characteristics are more likely to be present in small schools. Monk and Haller proposed that the inconsistencies between modern and traditional views of school size will likely dominate modern reform efforts in rural areas.

Hall (1994) identified two major themes in the issue of school district consolidation:

1. Constituencies tended to oppose mandated mergers, were unhappy with the decision-making process, and believed they had not been given an adequate voice in the decision-making process.

2. Rural communities feared that loss of control over the education of their children would result in a loss of identity.

Both Shepherd (1989) in Manitoba and Sharpe (1989) in Prince Edward Island identified similar themes with regard to school district amalgamation issues.

Size
Much of the research in the area of amalgamation of schools and school districts has been tied to a consideration of school or district size. This, in itself, is a problem for there is no universally accepted definition of what is "small". Although many researchers have attempted to define small in terms of numbers of pupils, an examination of the literature has revealed that whether a school is small or large is relative to time and place (Cutler, 1989). In Canada, 400 or 500 students is considered small by Ontario standards, while in Manitoba this is average to large (Marshall, 1988). Harrison and Downey (1965) defined small high schools in Alberta as those with 250 or fewer students in grades 10 through 12. In Saskatchewan, small high schools are defined for grant purposes as any school which has fewer than 20 students in any one grade (Ryan, Sackney, & Birnie, 1981). Perhaps, as suggested by Ryan et al. "each province defines 'small' in terms of the distribution of schools by size in its own jurisdiction" (p. 5). Therefore, in order to put size into perspective, researchers addressed the issues of equity and efficiency in schools and school districts.

Equity

The equity argument has centered on the idea of equal educational opportunity for all students and, more particularly, equality as related to the size of both individual schools and school districts in terms of student achievement, curriculum comprehensiveness, and student social development (Monk & Haller, 1986).

Student achievement. While Tweeten (1979) suggested that schooling in rural areas fell short of urban areas, other studies found no conclusive evidence that the students of small rural schools had received a lower quality of education than students attending larger, urban schools (Monk & Haller, 1986; Scharf, 1974; Sher & Tompkins, 1977).

Studies by Walberg and Fowler (1987) supported previous research which had been conducted primarily on elementary school students, finding that smaller districts and smaller secondary schools, regardless of socioeconomic status and grade level, may be more efficient at enhancing educational outcomes.

Curriculum comprehensiveness. Curriculum comprehensiveness, the ability of schools to provide a wide range of both academic and vocational subjects, has been found to be related to small size, particularly in districts that operated with fewer than 400 high school students (Lindsay, 1982; Monk & Haller, 1986; Scharf, 1974; Schoenholtz, 1972). In smaller schools, the curriculum tended to be academically oriented and there was less flexibility in scheduling (Monk & Haller, 1986).

Monk and Haller's (1986) study reported going from 100 to 200 in a high school's enrollment substantially increased the number of district core academic course offerings, while between 200 to 400 pupils, enrollment had little effect on the courses offered. A subsequent study on high school curriculum comprehensiveness by Monk and Haller (1993) indicated the role of school size as a predictor of high school course offerings varied depending on the subject area; the character of the course, remedial or advanced; and the setting in which the schools were located (p. 3), concluding that because the effect of school size on academic course offerings was highly differentiated, it was not advisable to make broad generalizations in this area.

Student social development. Research in the area of student social development and the effects of school size on co-curricular participation has consistently found that students in small schools become more actively involved in co-curricular activities than students in large schools (Barker & Gump, 1964; Cutler, 1989; Fowler & Walberg, 1991; Lindsay, 1982; Pittman & Haughwout, 1987).

In terms of availability of extracurricular activities, small schools are not significantly different from large schools (Barker & Gump, 1964). However, students in small schools were more likely to be involved in a wide range of activities, had more positions of responsibility, and seemed to gain more personal satisfaction from participation than did students in larger schools. Furthermore, students in small schools received more encouragement from both peers and teachers to participate, perhaps due to the fact that pupils in small schools are generally less expendable (Lindsay, 1982). The increased level of participation also resulted in the opportunity to develop leadership and social skills (Barker & Gump, 1964). In summary, there appears to be a strong negative relationship between school size and individual student participation in a variety of extracurricular activities.

Much of the reorganization of school divisions has taken place under the long-held belief that small size has been the cause of many, if not most, of the problems of rural school divisions. In considering the issue of equity, evidence regarding the achievement, attainment, and social development of students was examined. Little evidence was found to suggest that students would be better off were they to attend larger schools. Indeed, there are some good reasons to suspect students are better off in smaller schools, schools with enrollments of less than 400 students (Monk & Haller, 1986). However, almost no literature discusses the very small schools with enrollments of less than 100 students. While schools and school divisions are not all the same, the issue of size has relevance to the reorganization of school divisions. The creation of large divisions does not necessarily signal the need for larger schools.

Economies of Scale

Efficiency rests on the idea of economies of scale. The agreement in principle is simple: Larger schools can offer a given program at a lower expense per student than smaller schools. Accumulating research suggests while economies of scale are possible in education, diseconomies seem to be equally likely (Monk & Haller, 1986; Nachtigal, 1982; Sher & Tompkins, 1977). Efficiency and inefficiency are relative terms (Sher & Tompkins, 1977, p. 52). Spending less to keep the same level of service is efficient, while spending less to get less (i.e., less competent administration) leads to false efficiency.

Making large rural schools from small rural schools does not always result in greater efficiency (Monk & Haller, 1986; Sher & Tompkins, 1977) and cost savings associated with large size and school districts are at best uncertain. Savings accrued as a result of fewer administrative personnel and purchasing in quantity were likely to be offset by additional transportation costs (Guthrie, cited in Nachtigal, 1982; Sher & Tompkins, 1977; White & Tweeten, 1973).

Another possible diseconomy is increasing costs of administration. In Canada, from 1960-1989 costs of administration increased from 4.04% to 8.24% of total district operating costs. During the same time, teachers' salaries declined from 69.4% to 65.2% and busing costs increased from 2.0% to 5.9% (Economic Services Bulletin, 1994). In a recent report on public school finance in Saskatchewan, Hajnal (1994) reported expenditures in the area of administration increased 1.21% during the period 1989-1993. Over the same period of time, pupil transportation increased 3.7% (p. 12). In terms of actual expenditures in 1993, rural schools spent 12.2% on transportation costs (p. 13).

Another viewpoint is presented in a briefing paper released by the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) in 1993. The association compared the cost consequences of changing the pupil-teacher ratio with the cost consequences of amalgamating districts under a number of situations and concluded the case for amalgamation could not be made on financial grounds.

A contrasting picture is presented by the amalgamation of four small Saskatchewan school districts on January 1, 1994 (Scenic Valley School Division No. 117). Reasons for amalgamation were largely financial: reduced administration costs and reduced vulnerability to enrollment shifts. Mill rates in the four districts ranged from 65-70 mills. The 1994 mill rate of 68 mills balanced the budget for 1994 (p. 8). The amalgamation brought the total number of students served to just over 1,200 students. While the new district is still considered "small" in terms of recommendations on size by the SSTA Task Force, economies of scale were realized through a reorganized central office. Central office costs were reduced from $308 per pupil to $179 per pupil. The substantial savings, representing about 3.4 mills, were redistributed into program and school based personnel (p. 18).

No certain improvements in efficiency result from school reorganization. While the literature review produced no compelling evidence to prove the consolidation of rural schools and school districts produced significant net economic advantages, the situation in each case is unique. In view of this fact, Monk and Haller (1986) suggested that highly sophisticated studies of each proposed amalgamation needs to be done to determine whether a consolidated district will be able to offer the same or better services at a lower cost.

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Case Studies of School District Amalgamations

Case studies of school district amalgamation, while not generalizable, serve to provide an understanding of the dynamics of district mergers. In 1983, Carol Weiss suggested "that the public policy positions taken by policy actors are the resultant of three sets of forces: their ideologies, their interests¼, and the information they have" (p. 221). The application of Weiss' interpretive theory of public policy making to an analysis of case studies of school district amalgamations (Canter, 1986; Scenic Valley, 1995; Ward & Rink, 1992; Woodward, 1986) indicated the following:

1. Ideologies, the beliefs of individuals or communities, included localism, a disdain for the morals, values, and lifestyles of those in adjoining communities, a strong belief in participatory democracy, values regarding frugality, the loss of community, community traditions, and fear of change.

2. Self-interests tended to dominate people's views of policy changes and reorganization and were expressed in terms of loss of authority and/or position, re-election, career advancement, finances, convenience, the quality of the education program, and power¾the loss of local decision making, representation on school boards, responsiveness to local concerns, and the location of new school board offices and schools.

3. Self-derived information from one's previous experiences with consolidation and historical information influenced individual positions regarding amalgamation.

All three factors¾ideologies, interests, and information¾were in constant interaction with each other throughout the consolidation process.

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The Process of Amalgamation

Attention to the process of amalgamation can assist in the resolution of merger issues. While community conflict is inevitable, the involvement of both the community and professional staff throughout the amalgamation discussions, an open policy on all negotiations, the sharing of information, and a receptiveness to public feedback can serve to develop a shared concern and support of amalgamation considerations by all concerned. Open, two-way communication and the consideration of all viewpoints should be welcomed. The development of a plan, both for the process and the actual amalgamation discussions, should ensure that adequate time is provided for a complete consideration of all amalgamation issues.

Ward and Rink (1992) offered some timely suggestions regarding the amalgamation of school districts:

1. Where information is useful, it needs to be viewed as accurate, reliable, and not blatantly self-serving;

2. Policies compatible with predominant ideologies are more likely to be acceptable to the community;

3. The history of a policy issue can greatly influence how a community deals with the issue in the future;

4. Knowledge of local culture is critical. Reform strategies are more successful if built on local tradition, values, and beliefs. Change can be encouraged through finding common cultural bonds; and

5. Differences inevitably exist, seeking ways of responding to them may best serve to provide equality of educational opportunity (p. 18).

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The Framework for the Study

An application of Weiss' (1983) writings on public policy decision making provided a conceptual framework for the thesis. Weiss developed the premise that three sets of forces influence the public policy position taken by individuals: their ideologies, their interests, and the information they have (p. 221). Democratic decision making attempts to accommodate the interests and beliefs represented in a society. Weiss (1983) proposed that negotiated decisions that are at least minimally satisfactory to the population are more important than a scientific "best" solution which may cause community "splits" (p. 222). It is the nature of the political beast that compromises and tradeoffs have to be arranged to avoid losing the support of influential groups and large segments of voters. In addition, interests¾primarily self-interests¾may, at times of widespread public dissatisfaction, be organized to make their voice heard. Furthermore, all stakeholder groups or individuals act on the information they possess. This information comes from many sources¾direct experience, craft lore, media news reports, information from their own organizations through both formal channels and informal interaction with colleagues, and unsolicited outside information as well as the ordinary knowledge, beliefs, and assumptions that people have as members of a society (Weiss, 1983).

Weiss (1983) proposed that the interaction between these three sets of forces¾ideologies, interests, and information¾is "constant and [ongoing], and policy makers work out¼their ideologies and interests in conjunction with their processing of information" (p. 229). Information, then, interacts with ideologies and interests in affecting the public policy decision taken by individuals or policy actors (see Figure 1, p. 21). 


Research Methodology

Using a combination of stratified purposeful and snowball sampling, 28 people representing the major stakeholder groups¾Boards of Education (n=4), school trustees (n=4), central office administration (n=2), ratepayers/parents (n=6), students (n=2), focus groups, support staff (n=3), teachers (n=7), and in-school administrators and teachers participated in semi-structured interviews. Participants were provided the opportunity to respond to their interview transcripts. Data gained from the interviews were analyzed through inductive reasoning to identify patterns, themes, and categories of analysis. Similarities and differences in the characteristic responses of stakeholder groups were identified and used to answer the research questions.

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The Beaver Flat and Turnhill School Divisions (pseudonyms for anonymity) could be found in almost any location in rural Saskatchewan. The area is comprised of rural communities scattered throughout the region. Over the years these rural communities have seen settlement and population growth, good and not-so-good economic times, and the changes in the prosperity of their villages and towns. The coming of the motor age and improved roads served to give access to more distant communities. More recently, the rural population has experienced a significant decline¾most families have fewer offspring; farms have increased in size. The agriculture-based economy has experienced both the escalation of equipment and production costs and the reduction of farm income. These developments have served to accelerate the migration of young adults to larger centers as they opt for careers other than agricultural.

The towns and villages located in the Beaver Flat and Turnhill School Divisions have always provided their respective communities with ready access to retail outlets, farm supplies, machinery repairs, banking, postal services, and schools. Earlier amalgamations of school districts into school divisions resulted in the closure of numerous small one room schools and the appearance of the familiar yellow school bus.

The economic base of the area is comprised of agricultural ventures such as mixed farming, grain farming, and ranching. Farmers have survived through diversification into specialty crops. Non-agricultural income is generated by oil exploration and production and the development of an extensive tourist industry, both of which have served to provide off-farm income to numerous farm families as well as attracting increased settlement in towns and villages.

Efforts to cope with declining enrollments, rising educational costs, and reductions in provincial funding in the area of education have prompted both divisions to streamline operations in an effort to continue to provide students with the quality and diversity of educational programs parents expect their children to receive. To that end, the two divisions have adopted somewhat different approaches to school division organization. Beaver Flat has consolidated their high schools into two locations; this means extensive travel time for many senior students. The remaining schools provide a K-8/9 program to students located in the various communities. Long range plans could involve the transportation of middle years students to the two larger centres with schools in each area continuing to provide the elementary program. In contrast, the Turnhill Division has closed smaller schools in order to retain a viable K-12 program in each of its remaining school locations. In both divisions, some schools are more distant from each other while other schools are located in towns only a few kilometres apart. Other differences are also evident. The Turnhill Division has contracted busing services while the Beaver Flat Division operates its own bus fleet and a garage for bus maintenance. Senior classes in Turnhill run throughout the year, while Beaver Flat has opted for a semester system. The Turnhill Division runs a band program; Beaver Flat offers advanced courses at a university level to grade 12 students.

The divisions are similar in the value placed on a rural way of life. Numerous people have chosen to live in rural communities rather than large urban centres, and it is this choice which strongly influences their respective viewpoints on school division amalgamation. Without exception, residents see the school as a vital component to the preservation of community life. In many instances, the loss of their school would be, from their perspective, a final and devastating blow to the continued viability of their community.

The Turnhill and Beaver Flat Divisions are faced with problems similar to those found in much of rural Saskatchewan. Faced with ever increasing economic and provincial pressure to centralize services, these communities are somewhat disillusioned by the politics of their elected governments. Increased feelings of alienation and the belief that the rural voice has largely become an unheard voice in the wilderness, along with recent unhappy experiences through the consolidation and reorganization of health regions and the frustration of limited and often distant health services, has resulted in deeply felt convictions and concerns regarding any further centralization of services. Local interests and concerns are still primarily focused on the reorganization of health services; these recent experiences will doubtless have a strong influence on how the rural communities react to a proposed amalgamation of the Turnhill and Beaver Flat School Divisions. It was within this social context that the researcher set out to gain a clearer understanding of the perceptions of stakeholder groups about school division amalgamation.

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Research Questions

What reasons prompted school divisions to consider amalgamation with another school division?

Reasons for amalgamation can be primarily described as efficiency or equity issues. When addressing this question, participants viewed reasons for amalgamation as similar to the benefits which would possibly result from an amalgamation of school divisions. The discussion also revealed the participants' perceptions of the causes of the amalgamation action. Generally, participants from all stakeholder groups defined amalgamation as the joining of two or more school divisions into one larger unit in order to achieve financial savings, to increase the ability of a division to delivery a quality educational program, and to use resources more effectively and efficiently. Without exception, stakeholder groups identified the need for increased financial efficiency as the major reason for considering amalgamation with another school division. These economies of scale would be achieved through a reduction in administration costs, particularly through the employment of a single Director and Secretary-Treasurer, as well as the operation of a single school division office. Stakeholder groups expressed the opinion that economies of scale should be used to maintain and improve the educational program. The second reason for considering amalgamation was the provision of a quality education to all students throughout the division¾equity in educational opportunities.

A major influence on the consideration of amalgamation at this particular place in time was the desire to retain local control of both the choice of partners and the actual amalgamation process. Declining student population, reductions in provincial education funding, and government support of a further centralization of services were additional factors which prompted the decision to engage in amalgamation discussions. As a result, the Turnhill and Beaver Flat Divisions investigated the opportunity and applied to the provincial government to participate in a pilot amalgamation project.

What processes are being followed in a consideration of school division amalgamation?

Pre-amalgamation discussions in the divisions were initiated following a decision to share the services of a Director and Secretary-Treasurer. This shared services arrangement began in the fall of 1994. Over the course of the next three years, the two school divisions plan to examine their separate and collective operations in order to develop a process to enable the taxpayers to make an informed decision regarding the amalgamation. To this end, a joint Steering Committee which consists of three elected members of each board, the Director and the Secretary-Treasurer was established to guide the process. To date, the Steering Committee elected co-chairpersons, one from each Board of Education; established guiding principles to adhere to during the organizational review; and developed and distributed the pilot proposal to board members, school trustees, and school administration personnel. In addition, the Steering Committee entered into negotiations with the provincial government to participate in the provincial pilot project. The Steering Committee developed the terms of reference for the first two commissioned studies dealing with educational programming and finance. These studies have been completed and are now in the hands of the Steering Committee. Currently, the Steering Committee is in the process of forming sub-committees and developing further terms of reference for the respective committees (see Appendix A for the pilot project proposal).

The perceptions of the major stakeholder groups in regard to the amalgamation process focused on the involvement of all groups in the consultative process and the value placed on community input. Information, they believed, should be accurate and the communication of this information open and continuous. The use of multiple avenues to disseminate information was recommended and the timing of the amalgamation process were key concerns. Finally, the process should proceed according to a plan, a plan which included adequate time to address and understand the amalgamation issues.

What are, if any, areas of concern of major stakeholder groups when considering an amalgamation of school divisions?

Without a doubt, the major stakeholder groups¾Boards of Education, school trustees, central office administrators, ratepayers/parents, students, support staff, and professional staff¾have a multitude of concerns relating to school division amalgamation. While it is an impossible task to priorize the areas of concern, it is possible to identify areas of general concern:

1. Stakeholder groups indicated a concern about the quality and diversity of an educational program which would provide students with a "good" education and allow students to access further educational opportunities.

2. Stakeholders expressed a concern over the quality of leadership, service, and accessibility of the Director of Education and other administrative staff within a larger school division. Increased job responsibilities without an increase in time to deal with these responsibilities could possibly result in the loss of competent and conscientious administrators at both division and school levels.

3. Stakeholder groups voiced a concern over the effects of school division amalgamation on the existence and continued viability of small communities and their schools, and particularly with the possibility of further school closures.

4. The ratepayers/parents of all communities expressed a desire for direct representation on the Board of Education, although this would be an impossibility in an enlarged school division.

5. Parents are concerned with the anticipated loss of individual attention to students and a decrease in personal contact with their children's school and teachers.

6. Differences between the two divisions in the areas of mill rates, capital debts, busing arrangements, and the condition of school facilities concerned the stakeholder groups, as well as the location of the central office, should amalgamation occur.

7. Stakeholder groups questioned whether amalgamation would result in a better educational program and financial savings and if realized economies of scale would be achieved at the expense of efficiencies of operation and effective administration.

8. Employee groups expressed concerns with regard to leadership, cohesiveness, job security, transfers, and bargaining agreements.

9. Generally, all stakeholder groups expressed a concern over the provincial government's agenda on school division amalgamation and the government's support of amalgamation pilots. These concerns resulted in a hesitancy of people to expend further time and energy on amalgamation discussions without a clear indication of the provincial position on school division amalgamation.

What are the perceived immediate and long-term consequences of possible amalgamation efforts?

Stakeholders identified both positive and negative effects of an amalgamation of the two divisions. The positive viewpoint included the expectation that educational programs will be maintained, and/or improved, perhaps even expanded. Efficiencies of scale would be welcomed. However, these savings might well come at the expense of schools, job security, the survival of rural communities, efficient administration, the quality of leadership, and an increase in teacher workload and stress. The loss of direct representation on boards, the loss of personal contact with teachers, and increased distances to schools may open the door to more and more families opting for home or alternate schooling choices.

The research findings would be incomplete without addressing a theme which became evident throughout the interview process. People who live in rural areas, whether on farms or in towns and small communities, have made a conscious choice to live a rural lifestyle. The choice for a rural lifestyle is often equated to a choice for smallness. The personal touch, whether it involves local representation on boards, participation in school and community activities, an acquaintance with and understanding of neighbors, or the care and support people give to others in times of need, was the reason for choosing life in the country. The exposure of children to a caring, interactive community; rural work ethics; and the responsibility rural people feel towards their community and neighbors provide children with valued social learning and desired living behaviors. Although the participants of the research study were not asked to define "community", it appeared that "community" to many rural residents could be synonymous with "schools". Without schools, there are no children; without children, there are no families; and without families, there are no communities.

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Review of the Study Findings in Light of the Literature

What reasons prompted school divisions to consider amalgamation with another school division?

Stakeholder groups, without exception, identified the need for increased financial efficiency as the major reason for considering amalgamation with another school division. Economies of scale would be achieved through a reduction in administration costs, primarily through the employment of a single Director and Secretary-Treasurer as well as the operation of a single school division office. Furthermore, economies of scale should provide for the maintenance and improvement of the educational program. The second reason for considering amalgamation was the provision of a quality education to all students throughout the division¾equity in educational opportunities.

However, research suggests while economies of scale are possible in education, diseconomies seem equally likely (Monk & Haller, 1986; Nachtigal, 1982; Sher & Tompkins, 1977). The question is, are the social, managerial, and curricular tradeoffs worth the savings? Each division must answer this question based on the situation unique to their own district. As pointed out by Sher and Tompkins, spending less to attain the same level of importance is efficient, while spending less to attain less (i.e., less competent administration) leads to false efficiency.

The quality of education is not dependent on size, either of a school or of a division (Fowler & Walberg, 1991; Haller & Monk, 1988). Barker and Gump (1964) proposed the "inside-outside" paradox of large schools where large schools were seen as impressive from the outside but not as impressive when looked at from the inside. Literature on effective schools embraces traditional practices such as those often found in small rural schools, practices such as individualized instruction, cross-age or family grouping, and peer tutoring (Renihan & Renihan, 1991). However, one cannot say that small schools have only strengths; neither can one say that small is necessarily a rural characteristic. Therefore, perhaps it is best to say that small is neither intrinsically good or bad, but rather a unique educational setting. Equity in the delivery of a quality education can, for small schools, become a reality. This can occur only if administrators, boards, and other professionals develop a balanced view of smallness and build on its strengths while realistically recognizing and addressing the constraints to effectiveness found in small school settings (see Appendix B).

An additional major influence to the consideration of amalgamation at this particular place in time was the joint board's desire to retain local control of both the choice of partners and the amalgamation process. The retention of authority and power was identified by Weiss (1983) as a self-interest and, in this instance, was a key factor in influencing the decision to engage in amalgamation discussions.

What processes are being followed in a consideration of school division amalgamation?

The perceptions of the major stakeholder groups in regard to the amalgamation process focused on the involvement of all groups in the consultative process and the value placed on community input. Canter (1986), Monk and Haller (1986) and Mitchell (1994) supported the value of communication with the community. Information should be accurate and the communication of this information open and continuous. The use of multiple avenues to disseminate information was recommended by the participants. Furthermore, the timing of an amalgamation process was deemed important. The process should proceed according to a plan, a plan which includes adequate time to address and understand amalgamation issues.

The value of and need for community participation was recognized by the Steering Committee. The Committee planned to involve the stakeholder groups in a consultative process which would include representation on committees studying amalgamation issues and public information meetings. The necessity for community participation in amalgamation discussions is supported throughout the literature on school reorganization (Canter, 1986; Mitchell, 1994; Monk & Haller, 1986; Woodward, 1986). Local representation on strategic committees and in public hearings serves to increase the public's understanding of amalgamation issues. Input from a broad base of community members in the early stages of amalgamation is important to public acceptance and the credibility of an amalgamation process. Certainly, representation by people from all walks of life and with varied viewpoints will serve to give credibility to committee work. Committee members cannot be "hand-picked" on the basis of a pro-amalgamation viewpoint. In addition, the leader(s) of the amalgamation Steering Committee should not have a vested interest in amalgamation outcomes. The Woodward (1986) study identified similar concerns with the choice of leaders in an amalgamation process. Open communication throughout the process will reduce public suspicion of manipulation and hidden agendas. The involvement of the community members throughout the amalgamation pilot should serve to prevent an aftermath of antagonism between divisions. The Scenic Valley (1995) experience pointed out the importance of community involvement at all stages of an amalgamation process.

The value of open and honest communication cannot be understated. Committee reports should guard against overly optimistic claims of financial savings and tax breaks. Monk and Haller (1986) supported this viewpoint as well as stressing the value of accurate, well-researched information on the financial implications of a proposed merger. Emotional responses to amalgamation may result in communication breakdowns between community members, communities, committees, and school divisions. Therefore, it was hoped that public meetings would provide the opportunities for open communication, a realistic discussion of issues, and the opportunity to hear arguments both for and against amalgamation. The importance of open public meetings and a public sharing and discussion of concerns was evident in the Scenic Valley (1995) report.

In addition, timing is an important element of an amalgamation process. The pilot project in Turnhill/Beaver Flat will occur over three years, thus providing adequate time to deal with issues and consider the consequences of a merger. The public is generally satisfied with the proposed time frame, although some participants believed that a three-year process could prove to be too lengthy, resulting in a feeling of being "meetinged to death". The Canter (1986) and Ward and Rink (1992) studies found that timing issues were crucial to the ratepayers' degree of satisfaction with the process.

Although a well designed amalgamation plan is required, the question is, "how much planning should be done before public involvement occurs?" In this case study a Steering Committee has been formed to guide the project and establish time lines. This plan will serve as a pilot project. However, plans will need to retain the flexibility to adjust to the future findings and recommendations of the various sub-committees.

What are, if any, areas of concern of major stakeholder groups when considering an amalgamation of school divisions?

Major stakeholder groups have many concerns relating to school division amalgamation:

1. Stakeholder groups are concerned with the provision of the quality and diversity of an educational program which would provide students with a "good" education and allow them to access further educational opportunities. Parent stakeholders were particularly concerned with this issue; difficult economic times in the agriculture sector have prompted numerous parents to encourage their children to choose nonagricultural occupations. However, this concept is in direct opposition to the stated wish of rural communities to sustain their viability and a rural lifestyle. Hathaway (1993) suggested that rural education programs do not prepare students to remain in their home communities if that is their choice. Those students that remain are often ill-prepared to contribute effectively in rural settings. Hathaway proposed that rural education needs "new educational programs that are designed to meet the educational needs of rural students and communities, support development of local resources and entrepreneurial opportunities, and reverse the present trend of exporting the best human resources" (p. 9). A conscious effort to meet the rural education needs of students as well as post-secondary requirements in the diversity of school programs may be worth consideration.

2. Stakeholders expressed a concern over the quality of leadership, service, and accessibility of the Director of Education and other administrative staff within a larger school division. As indicated in the literature, the quality of programs offered by small rural schools is often determined by the quality of administration (Monk & Haller, 1986; Newton & Newton, 1993). It is highly likely that increased job responsibilities without an increase in time to deal with these responsibilities could possibly result in the loss of competent and conscientious administrators at both division and school levels. Libler (1992) stated the evolving role of central office leadership that best supports an effective school is that of facilitator. Educators who are moving to a collaborative and shared leadership style will empower each individual in a school to become involved in school life. Relationship building is vital to effective leadership.

3. 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. In this study, stakeholder groups voiced a concern over the effects of school division amalgamation on the existence and continued viability of small communities and their schools, and particularly with regards to the possibility of further school closures. Dunne (1977), Monk and Haller (1986), Nachtigal (1982), and Newton and Newton (1993) had found similar concerns. The Ward and Rink (1992) study also supported this viewpoint: "Few public policy issues touch the heart of a community more than the loss of the local public school through reorganization or consolidation of school [divisions]" (p. 11). The question, "When do schools close?" is a difficult issue to address and unique to each situation. Factors to consider include student enrollment projections, program delivery, the school facility, busing considerations, geographical issues, and the advantages/disadvantages of the receiving facility. It would be wise for school divisions to develop a policy on school closure processes in advance of closure discussions.

4. The ratepayers/parents of all communities expressed a desire for direct representation on the Board of Education, although this would be an impossibility in an enlarged school division. Loss of control over the education of children was viewed as a loss of community identity.

5. Parents were concerned with the anticipated loss of individual attention to students and a decrease in personal contact with their children's school and teachers. Research has indicated teachers in small schools get to know their pupils better and are able to provide for special needs and talents (Dunne, 1977; Nachtigal, 1982; Newton & Newton, 1993). Furthermore, school-community integration and enhanced parent-community involvement are characteristics generally found in rural communities and small schools (Dunne, 1977; Monk & Haller, 1986; Newton & Newton, 1993). Throughout this case study, it was evident the proprietary feelings exhibited by community members toward the educational institutions were as strong today as they were in pioneer times.

6. Differences between the two divisions in the areas of mill rates, capital debts, busing arrangements, and the condition of school facilities concerned the stakeholder groups. As indicated in the Monk and Haller (1986) and Woodward (1986) studies, economic constraints could result in cost becoming the overriding consideration in educational decisions. It is evident that such an approach may have serious consequences for school facilities and programs. Prudent educational decision making should include a consideration of issues such as quality and identified student needs.

7. Stakeholder groups questioned whether amalgamation was the answer to the educational problems faced by school divisions. Two common questions were: Would amalgamation result in a better educational program and financial savings? Would any realized savings be achieved at the expense of efficient operation and effective administration?

8. Employee groups expressed concerns about leadership, cohesiveness, job security, transfers, and bargaining agreements. Similar concerns were consistently identified in the case studies reviewed (Canter, 1986; Monk & Haller, 1986; Ward & Rink, 1992; Woodward, 1986).

9. Generally, all stakeholder groups expressed a concern over the provincial government's agenda on school division amalgamation, their support of amalgamation pilot projects, and a hesitancy to expend further time and energy on amalgamation discussions without a clear indication of the provincial position on school division amalgamation.

10. Stakeholder groups questioned the size of schools and school divisions. Parents, in particular, expressed concern over an anticipated loss of individual student activities and a high level of participation in extracurricular activities. The literature review revealed a continued debate over this very issue; small school size is generally considered to be advantageous to students in the area of individual attention, the development of self-esteem, participation in co-curricular activities, and the development of leadership and social skills (Barker & Gump, 1964; Dunne, 1977; Nachtigal, 1982). Little evidence could be found to suggest that students would be better off were they to attend larger schools, schools with enrollments greater than 400 students.

Fowler and Walberg (1991) suggested that small school districts, regardless of socioeconomic status and grade level, may be more efficient at enhancing educational outcomes. Also, the size of a district needs to be large enough to offer a full range of services to its clientele. In British Columbia, 2,500 pupils are viewed as required to provide a basic K-12 program and 15,000 students to provide optimal educational services (Robinson, 1970). In Saskatchewan, recent recommendations by the Langlois/Scharf Report (1991) recommended enrollments of approximately 7,000 pupils; while the SSTA Task Force (1993) suggested enrollments of between 2,500 and 5,000 students. Current figures indicate that of the 114 school divisions in the province, 13 have enrollments which exceed 2,500 pupils, while only the four largest urban divisions exceed an enrollment figure of 7,000 students (SSTA, 1993).

What, then, is an optimal size for both schools and school divisions? While no absolute numbers can be given, school divisions need to be large enough to provide a full range of services to their pupils. In other words, the division must have the capability of self-sufficiency (SSTA, 1993). At the same time, the schools within such a division need to be small enough for students to enjoy the benefits of "smallness". While the benefits of "small" school size is applicable to both elementary and high schools, most Saskatchewan elementary programs are delivered in a smaller setting. School size appears to be more of an issue at the senior levels of schooling. Therefore, if the outcome of an amalgamation effort is to create "large" high schools, this is, perhaps, not a decision beneficial to increased learning outcomes. However, if an amalgamation results in a student base large enough to support the delivery of a full range of services while, at the same time, maintaining small school structures, amalgamation may be a viable and wise decision.

Finally, an examination of the interview data indicated the three factors identified by Weiss (1983)¾ideologies, interests, and information¾were in constant interaction with each other. These previously identified factors had a direct bearing on the perceptions of stakeholders on school division amalgamation issues.

What are the perceived immediate and long term consequences of possible amalgamation efforts?

The perceived immediate and long term consequences of school division amalgamation can be addressed from both positive and negative viewpoints. Boards of Education believed increased centralization and the possible reorganization of school services would enable school divisions, at the very least, to maintain present educational programs and viable schools while providing a levelling out of educational services. On the other hand, school trustees, ratepayers/parents, and support and professional staff tended to view the continuing trend to centralization from the perspective of possible school closures, loss of employment opportunities, and job relocations which, in turn, would result in the eventual death of small communities. Monk and Haller (1986) reported similar findings in their research on small rural school districts.

The immediate reduction of administrative staff and the operation of one central office would likely result in economies of scale which would then be directed to students and school programs. However, the increased job responsibilities of central office administration as well as increased distances and travel time would clearly result in a loss of direct communication with and accessibility to the Director. The role of the Director was expected to change and this, too, created a multiplicity of perceptions. The Director saw his new role as having an increased emphasis on board management and policy formation concomitant with a shift to increased site-based management. While in-school administration welcomed the opportunity for increased administrative responsibilities, principals recognized that the opportunity would put an almost unmanageable strain on their already busy and limited administrative time. Both teachers and principals believed amalgamation would result in a depersonalization of services and a fragmentation of the division's vision and school goals. Concerns of the depersonalization and fragmentation of consolidated districts was reported by Monk and Haller (1986). Ratepayers/parents feared the loss of a "hands-on" leadership style would eventually result in a reduction of educational quality. A reduced quality of education, the loss of personal contact with teachers and schools, and the loss of direct representation on the new Board of Education were consequences of amalgamation as envisioned by ratepayers and parents. In addition, increased distances to schools could cause people to consider schooling alternatives such as private schools, charter schools, and home-schooling ventures.

The study revealed interesting commonalities and differences between the identified stakeholder groups. All stakeholder groups stated that increased efficiency, program maintenance, and program improvement were perceived as possible benefits of school division amalgamation. Teachers viewed the possibility of shared expertise and professional development opportunities in a positive light. The shared services of the Director and Secretary-Treasurer and declining student population were cited as the two major factors influencing the initiation of amalgamation discussions. However, it is interesting to note that while the decline in student enrollments was identified as a contributing factor to amalgamation considerations, the implications of this decline on Foundation Grants received little, if any, public recognition.

All stakeholder groups stated their expectation for open communication and accurate information. Professional and support staff and ratepayers/ parents expressed a desire for immediate and concrete information, particularly information about the "other division's" schools, mill rates, debts, and program offerings. An unbiased, third party evaluation would also be an important element of the process; constituents are already skeptical about the choice of committee members, and their chances of being given a fair hearing and the subsequent sincere consideration of their suggestions. While all stakeholder groups were interested in the opportunity to participate in the discussions, professional staff members were particularly adamant about their expectation to be involved in all phases of the amalgamation project as well as an expectation to receive information before any dissemination of information to the general public.

Boards of Education and school trustees voiced concerns about the provincial funding of the pilot amalgamation project, perhaps due to the fact they were more aware of the issues than either the public or division employees. Trustees and ratepayers expressed a high degree of frustration and an increased sense of alienation from the provincial bureaucracy and its perceived lack of sensitivity to rural issues. While all groups had numerous concerns which directly related to amalgamation, the ratepayers/parents groups, in particularly, were concerned about the determination of board representation, the redrawing of school boundaries, and the loss of direct representation on the Board of Education.

Teachers communicated concerns about the effect of school division amalgamation on the quality of leadership and degree of service they would receive from the central office as well as concerns related to job security, teacher placement, and their work environment. The quality of educational programs concerned all groups, as did the issue of school and community stability. Furthermore, the specifics of school division amalgamation on issues such as mill rates, capital debts, facilities, and the location of the "new" central office generated great interest in all stakeholder groups.

When questioned about the consequences of school division amalgamation, invariably the first comment revealed the stakeholders' perception of the relationship between amalgamation, school reorganization, school closure, and the effect of school closure on towns and communities. Interview participants expressed their hope that an amalgamated school division would continue to provide students with a quality education program.

Ornstein (1993) examined two opposing administrative/policy trends that have simultaneously influenced the size and shape of school districts¾the consolidation of smaller districts and the decentralization of urban school districts. In view of the resurgence of interest in school division amalgamations/consolidations, both in Saskatchewan and the other Canadian provinces, it is timely to consider the questions Ornstein posed for school administrators and school board members to consider in the event they wish to amalgamate or decentralize (see Appendix C). Ornstein commented the issues of amalgamation/consolidation often become highly vocalized and "so-called solutions are often slogans rather than carefully worked-out concepts with consequences that are understood and resolved.¼Once plans are adopted district wide, they are difficult to rescind, especially if policies, money, or [ideologies] are mixed into the stew" (pp. 172-173). Therefore, enlightened school administrators and school board members, who are not promoting their own agendas, must be willing to ask questions before any plan is set in motion.

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Conclusions

Some tentative conclusions can be inferred from the study but cannot be generalized beyond the respective school divisions. However, the information may be applicable to other school divisions contemplating amalgamations. The readers of this study are, therefore, the people who will determine if the findings can be applied to their particular situation:

1. School division amalgamations are often initiated under the rationale that larger school divisions will be more efficient and equitable. Economies of scale are generally anticipated through a reduction in administration costs, primarily through the employment of a single Director and Secretary-Treasurer, as well as the operation of a single school division office. Amalgamation is also perceived as a means of providing a quality education throughout the division¾equity in educational opportunities.

2. Many school divisions in the province are having difficulty in providing a full range of services to students and professionals. This difficulty results from numerous factors such as a declining school population, reduced funding for education at provincial and federal levels, and economic constraints (SSTA, 1993). Although community members were concerned about grant reductions, increased educational costs, and declining enrollments, there was little concern about future finances. The public seemed to lack an understanding of the effect of declining enrollments on the provincial grant system. The grant system is based on student enrollment and, therefore, reduced enrollment will result in further reductions of actual grant recognitions. The reality of today is that boards must spend less or raise taxes, regardless of whether or not amalgamations of school divisions occur. As a case in point, based on enrollment statistics for the past four years, the Turnhill Division has experienced an average yearly enrollment drop of 2.2%. Over the same time period, Beaver Flat experienced an average yearly enrollment drop of 3.4%. Enrollment projections for the next five years indicate a steady decline in enrollments for each of the two divisions. The anticipated yearly decline in each division is estimated at 2.5%. While these yearly figures do not seem large, the cumulative effect of declining enrollments on the Foundation Grant structure is cause for concern. The total projected enrollment drop for 1995-2000 for the Turnhill Division is 11.97%, and for Beaver Flat 12.90%. These numbers are too significant to ignore.

Amalgamation implies the joining together of two separate entities into one unit. Within this context, school divisions take what they have and put it together with another school division with the objective of increasing the new division's ability to educate children better and save money. Although the need to consolidate school districts may be a necessary reality, the voluntary amalgamation of school divisions is, perhaps, not the road to successful educational reform. Before stepping headlong into the amalgamation of school divisions, governance structures will need to consider more closely the redesigning or restructuring of provincial school division boundaries. This view supports the recommendations proposed by both the Langlois/Scharf Report (1991) and the SSTA Task Force on Educational Governance (1992). If new boundaries are to be set up, governing bodies must be cognizant of the need to address a time frame of perhaps fifty years. Decisions made today will, it is to be hoped, serve future provincial needs.

Historical and economic trends indicate that a decline in rural population is likely to continue, particularly in already sparsely populated areas (Steeves, 1992). Regardless of the outcomes of population trends, rural residents need to become actively involved in a consultative process which will serve to increase their understanding of the issues as well as offering the opportunity to propose and review possible solutions to the problem.

3. The restructuring of school divisions is a reasonable process to undertake, taking into account factors such as the numbers of students needed to provide a full service organization, the geographical and cultural nature of a region, and the natural transportation patterns of residents in any given area. The current school division boundaries are outdated; the boundaries in use today were drawn up pre-1944 and no longer reflect changed patterns of commerce and communication. This conclusion supports the findings of the SSTA (1993) report.

4. The concerns of major stakeholder groups in regard to amalgamation issues are both numerous and diverse. The identified issues in the areas of provincial governance, school division administration, program and school organization, amalgamation processes, and personal concerns will need to be addressed through a consultative process which allows for the participation of all interested groups and individuals. This study indicated that community members are most concerned about the loss of control over the schooling of their children and a fear that decisions which affect their school and community will be made by someone who has no knowledge of their community and its needs, or the ambitions and hopes of its people.

5. The public's perception of the amalgamation process is crucial to the credibility of the process and to the acceptance of the outcomes of an amalgamation decision. With this in mind, the process needs to focus on community input, the dissemination of accurate information, open and continuous communication of information, as well as the development of a plan and attention to timing issues. Participants need adequate time to address and understand the complexity of amalgamation issues.

6. The formation of larger school divisions should not be a signal to consolidate schools. Regardless of division size, schools should be small enough for students to enjoy the benefits of smallness. This is not to say, however, that small school closures will not occur. At some point, individual schools may become too small to continue and, in that case, school divisions will need to consider alternatives to program delivery. The value of addressing the issue of school consolidation, if necessary, in a division prior to amalgamation discussions cannot be overlooked. Necessary school closure decisions, if considered prior to amalgamation discussions, would serve to separate the two different issues of school closure and school division amalgamation. The benefit of "having your own house in order" was pointed out in the Scenic Valley (1995) case study.

7. Parents and communities will continue to demand a greater involvement in educational decisions and programs. If the educational needs of children are not met, the public education system may be challenged by new school systems such as home schooling, charter, and private schools (Bashutski, 1990). Both Bashutski and the SSTA Report (1993) suggested similar future trends in education. These suggestions are particularly relevant to the future delivery of education in rural Saskatchewan. Rural education systems will need to become more innovative and imaginative as they seek to maintain and/or improve educational programs. Alternate forms of delivery, such as distance education opportunities, will need to be investigated and developed. Distance education may become more than a means of delivery for individual subjects such as senior mathematics courses. School divisions of the future may focus on the delivery of school curricula via computer networks and personal computers, to students in their homes.

8. The amalgamation or restructuring of school divisions will result in a natural evolution of changing roles for central office administrators, Boards of Education, local school trustees, principals, and teachers. If school divisions do not amalgamate or a restructuring of boundaries does not occur, positions such as that of the Director may become fractionalized. This is already evident in school divisions which have hired part-time Directors. At issue is the fact that administrators seeking full-time employment will seek work in another division and these part-time positions may then be filled by personnel who have already retired. Doubtless, these individuals will be highly qualified for the positions. However, the question can be raised if this trend will be of benefit to the systems involved and education as a whole. The development of an effective school system requires the development of a mission statement and subsequent long term planning with the goals of the system dictating the decisions the division makes. Short term employment may undermine these developments. Central office administrators may find an increased of responsibilities from dictating to facilitation and supporting the development of effective schools. In turn, school administrators may also find themselves in a changing administrative role. As principals exercise increased decision making at the school level, they will experience an increased expectation of accountability for the school's educational outcomes. In order to survive these added pressures, school principals will continue to move towards a collaborative joint decision-making model of in-school administration.

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Implications for Practice

The results of this study have implications for provincial and local governing authorities, central office administrators, amalgamation Steering Committees, and professional staff.

Because most constituents of rural school divisions are well aware of the need to address the challenges facing rural education, the duly elected governing authorities have a responsibility to provide leadership in addressing these issues, particularly in light of changes in community populations, reduced revenues, and increased expectations of meaningful participation in educational decisions. Although there are numerous advocates of voluntary school division amalgamation, one can recognize the need for a sensible approach to amalgamation/restructuring, an approach which requires the development of a provincial plan which will hopefully prevent the aftermath of inefficiencies and dissatisfaction that has been an outcome of the recent reorganization of health districts. To this end, consultation with stakeholder groups and the subsequent development of a clearly defined process which takes into account the identified concerns and findings is a necessity. This process should provide for open and ongoing communication between all groups as well as adequate time to investigate, assess, and understand amalgamation issues.

At a local level, the amalgamation Steering Committee must include all groups in the consultative process, advocating their representation on all school amalgamation committees. The representatives of stakeholder groups should be selected by the members of each respective group, not appointed by the Steering Committee. In addition, some voluntary positions should be open to other interested people. In order for the consultive process to have merit, parents and other stakeholder representatives must be able to play a vital role as empowered decision makers in amalgamation discussions. Furthermore, in order to develop an informed public, information of research on such issues as equity, efficiency, the effects of school and division size on learning outcomes, and effective school indicators should be available to committee members and the general public. A knowledge of educational research in the area of school effectiveness will serve to develop a balanced view, a view which recognizes "the constraints of smallness and, at the same time, permits people to make the most of the significant and existing opportunities which smallness presents for excellence" (Renihan & Renihan, 1991, p. 22).

Both Boards of Education and central office administrators will need to consider the impact of larger divisions on the provision of services and the support of in-school administration. School authorities may also need to address means of countering increased centralization through such avenues as increased control over local issues by stakeholder groups at the school level. A failure to address the need for local decision making and participation in schooling may result in increased parental and community alienation from the educational system, as well as future negative outcomes for students and school systems.

Implications for practice in the area of policy development are indicated by the need for developing or reviewing policies on school closure, processes, and teacher redundancy/seniority issues. Participants gave a clear indication of their desire to have a mechanism in place to deal with these issues, regardless of whether or not amalgamation occurred. In addition, collaboration between the new Board of Education and relevant stakeholder groups could prove useful in the development of a policy manual for the "new" school division.

The study also has implications for the increased involvement of parents in educational decision making and participation in school activities. In-school administration would be well advised to encourage the development of community schools which value the support and involvement of the community in educational matters. Furthermore, rural divisions could benefit from the formation of stronger provincial networks whose purposes are to address the challenges and suggest possible solutions to rural education issues.

A further implication of this study is the revamping of teacher education programs by universities so as to incorporate aspects of rural education into the training programs. Preparations for teaching in multi-graded classrooms and discussions of the realities of teaching in a rural setting will be of benefit to aspiring teachers. In addition, educational administration programs should provide school administrators with both the theoretical and practical aspects of rural administration.

A re-examination of the role of Boards of Education and local trustees will serve to clarify the unique and crucial role these boards play as a link between ratepayers/parents and professionals in the education system. Thought could also be given to the provision of further professional development programs which would assist trustees in the carrying out of their responsibilities.

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Epilogue

A review of the history of school division consolidation in Saskatchewan has, as Hall (1994) observed, revealed a repeated pattern: (a) recognition of a need to address governance issues, (b) initiation of a review process, and (c) a subsequent lack of significant legislative action being taken primarily due to forces which wished to preserve the status quo. Once again, the same pattern is being repeated and recommendations for the further amalgamation of school divisions in order to achieve self-sufficient, full service systems have been largely shelved. No decisive legislative action is being taken, although a few interested school divisions are beginning to work through a pilot amalgamation process.

Division organization and reorganization is a political problem which is never solved finally, for change is a reality of life. Obviously, the political agendas of those in a policy making position have an influence on policy decisions. Support of any political party, Board of Education members, or local district board members can be easily undermined if decision makers are viewed as autocratic and insensitive to both the interests and needs of people and their fear of a loss of influence in the education of their children. This being the case, the question becomes one of whether the decision to amalgamate school divisions will be made on the basis of protecting the self-interests of those in power, or, whether the decision will be made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the children of Saskatchewan and their educational needs. When government bureaucrats, special interest groups, and community groups address school division boundaries, is the discussion occurring under the banners of reform, efficiency, plain old politics, or as a means of providing children with equality in educational opportunity and benefit?

The school divisions which are currently investigating the possibility of amalgamation have chosen the division(s) which they feel would be an advantageous partner. If this process continues to occur throughout the province, there is a very real possibility that pockets of less "desirable" divisions may be left stranded. The selection of partners in this manner can be compared to the selection of team members for a classroom ball game. The "best" are chosen first, then those who are "okay", and, finally, the "undesirables" are selected. No one wants them but, because they must be included, the team captains reluctantly "divvy up" the stragglers, who are then delegated to relatively unimportant positions far out in the field. If school division amalgamation is allowed to occur in a haphazard, unplanned fashion, the reality of such an occurrence is not an impossibility.

While the analyses of data and conclusions drawn are based on the stories of the participants, perhaps a part of the story is what the participants did not say. Participants did not discuss a wholesale change or reorganization of the educational system. Generally satisfied with the status quo, residents were content with the current status of both the educational system and school division boundaries. Because the research study was driven by an exploration of the concerns and issues surrounding amalgamation, the participants were not specifically questioned regarding their opinions on school reorganization or other possible options such as an increased emphasis on shared services arrangements. Participants did not mention the importance or need for technical reports in areas such as communication and transportation patterns. Numerous concerns focused on the issue of harmony in areas such as busing and the organization of the school year rather than on issues of change.

Preserving the autonomy of local schools, in numerous instances, was deemed more important than addressing the challenges faced by today's educators. Although community differences might become an issue if school closures were imminent, little antagonism between communities was expressed. Also, little mention was made of reorganization with other government sectors such as rural municipalities or the development of a county system of governance. Self-preservation through a maintenance of the status quo was evident throughout the study. Rather than focusing on what changes could be implemented to meet the challenges of providing for educational needs of students, participants mentioned the possibility of "opting out" of the current educational system, particularly if schools were no longer providing a satisfactory education to their children.

The question we face is, "Do the people of Saskatchewan allow a natural course of events to take place and, over the course of the next twenty-five years, find that much of the proposed reorganization will have become a reality due to continued economic and demographic pressures within the province?" But at what cost? Decisive action, through the development of a comprehensive restructuring policy, can put us in control of our own destinies, rather than leaving change to chance and the hope that it will all "work out" in the end.

The decision to amalgamate or not to amalgamate is not an easy task. School divisions need to be large enough to realize efficiencies and provide a full range of services, yet small enough to allow citizens to have a voice in the decisions that affect their community. The involvement of people who have developed a sense of shared control over shared destinies is the heart and soul of educational change; this is where things get done. Many large school districts have ongoing organizational development programs directed toward personalizing management and increased responsiveness through parent advisory groups and citizen involvement (Palmer, 1978). These programs are already built into the territory of small schools.

Both questions, "if small is good, is small better?" or, "how small is small enough?" could be debated endlessly. Certainly, there are variables which affect an "ideal" unit size. The amalgamation of school divisions is unique to each specific case. Furthermore, the challenge of meeting the needs of the approaching century while, at the same time, valuing and accommodating the uniqueness of our rural culture is one worth undertaking. As Saskatchewan moves into the 21st century we need to consider the future of our rural areas and the role that we as individuals or organizations should take in shaping that future. We can allow our future to be shaped by outside forces or we can take the future into our own hands and plan, so that the future is created through thought and action. To that end, we need to develop an effective educational structure, a structure in which each level carries out the responsibilities and makes the decisions most appropriately carried out at that level, with the input and participation of parents and communities. We need a structure which will ensure the difficult responsibilities are addressed and the big, long-term questions are considered and answered. We need a structure which will make the most expedient and fairest decisions possible, one which accesses the best people available to govern and staff that structure (Fogarty, 1993, p. 10). While there are no easy answers to the question of educational governance reform, perhaps the question can be answered by ensuring that any action taken is done in the best interests of those who go to school, the children of Saskatchewan.

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Table of Contents


A PILOT PROPOSAL FOR SCHOOL DIVISION AMALGAMATION

1. PREAMBLE

1.1 Amalgamation is defined as the final act of two boards that have had an opportunity to examine, over a period of time, the implications of consolidation. The decision to amalgamate cannot and should not be made until the two partners have established a successful working relationship. We are proposing a pilot shared service model to determine the possibility of a full amalgamation.

1.2 The objective of the shared service (amalgamation of administrative service) will be to carefully examine the benefits that could result from a full amalgamation.

2. OUR PROPOSAL

2.1 Over the next three years, the two divisions will do the following:

A. Conduct a detailed examination of the advantages and disadvantages of sharing senior administrative staff. Currently, the boards are sharing the services of Director of Education and Secretary-Treasurer.

B. Examine contractual obligations with staff, suppliers, and other service providers to determine when and if benefits could be realized in an amalgamated school division.

C. Examine and specify the benefits that would accrue to an amalgamated board if financial affairs were consolidated with specific reference to existing assets and liabilities. A plan to harmonize the mill rate over time would also be clearly outlined.

D. Develop a plan to inform and involve the various publics of implications of the amalgamation, including a series of public meetings to discuss the issues related to the amalgamation.

E. Develop a set of proposals that would outline school board size and electoral representation. The Department of Education and governing bodies at the local level would be heavily involved in the development of various options for consideration.

F. Develop a decision-making model that would accommodate the needs of an amalgamated system. Those affected by the amalgamation would have to know how and who would be making decisions that would guide the unified division.

G. Examine educational programming and auxiliary services to determine what implications amalgamation would have upon them.

H. Develop a Transitional Governance plan.

I. Engage a third party evaluation for the project.

THE PLAN

THE GOAL: AMALGAMATION

Over the course of the next three years, the two school divisions will examine their separate and collective operations in order to develop a process to enable their electors to make an informed decision regarding the amalgamation.

THE PROCESS

The two school divisions have formed a joint Steering Committee to guide the process. They will establish the timelines for the entire project.

STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

The work of this committee will have direct impact on students, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, other employee groups, and other community members. It would be prudent and politically wise to consult, inform, and involve these groups on a regular basis. Sub-committees of the Steering Committee will be appointed from these various groups.

The Steering Committee consists of three elected members of each board along with the Director and Secretary-Treasurer. They will guide the entire process.

WORK OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE

The Steering Committee was established following the October 1994 elections. They shall:

1. Elect co-chairpersons, one from each Board of Education. (completed)

2. Establish guiding principles to adhere to during the organizational review. (completed)

3. Commission studies and terms of reference for sub-committees dealing with all aspects pertinent to the amalgamation.

4. Establish timelines for the reports of the sub-committees.

5. Review the findings of the sub-committee.

6. Establish a plan for public consultation.

7. Develop a plan for transitional governance.

8. Provide a democratic process to ratify the amalgamation prior to June 30, 1997.

DETAILS

The first two studies to be commissioned would be those dealing with educational programming and finance. The proposed terms of reference for these two sub-committees are outlined in detail.

TERMS OF REFERENCE: EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMING (report due February 1995)

This committee will consist of two principals, two teacher representatives (to be named by the local teacher associations), director, and assistant director. It is the task of this committee to consult with principals and teachers and to:

1. Review the existing K-12 program offerings and chart what is offered in the two systems separately.

2. Outline the advantages and disadvantages to both that may result if the two divisions were to become one, concentrating on:

A. Core program - those required by the Act
B. Options
C. Alternate Programs
D. Special Education
E. Extra Curricular
F. Computers in Education
G. Distance Education
H. Program Enhancements
I. Specialized Schools
J. Support Services

3. Outline advantages or disadvantages to the professional staff, concentrating on:
A. Professional Development Activities (Systemic)
B. Pre-Service Training (Internships)
C. Career Opportunities

4. Based on the evidence, make recommendations regarding programming for a new amalgamated division.

TERMS OF REFERENCE: FINANCIAL REVIEW (report due April 1995)

This committee will consist of the Secretary-Treasurer, the Director of Education, and one principal from each division. It is the task of this committee to review the business operations of the two school divisions to determine what advantages and disadvantages would occur if the operations were consolidated, concentrating on:
1. Budget analysis
2. Projection of future separate costs using the same criteria
3. Projection of amalgamated costs
4. Outline of perceived benefits and disadvantages
5. Recommendations
6. Uniform mill rate
7. Deficits/surpluses/cash reserves

MOTION OF STEERING COMMITTEE TO PROCEED (comes from local board forums on an annual basis)

Once the initial findings of the Program and Finance sub-committees have been reviewed by the Steering Committee, a decision and motion to continue with the process would be made by each Board of Education following consultation with their local boards (see Appendix). At the annual meeting of electors in each division, all findings will be presented for discussion and review. The following additional sub-committees will be appointed:
1. Administrative Policy
2. Personnel and Contracted Obligations
3. Governance
4. Public Consultation and Involvement
5. Transitional Governance

Each sub-committee's findings and recommendations will be dealt with in a manner similar to the Finance and Education Program sub-committees.

The final year of the project will be a year emphasizing consultation. Local board forums, public town meetings, and local government briefings, along with briefings to employee groups, will be completed that year. The Steering Committee will hold hearings for other interested parties and allow the submission of briefs regarding this matter in both jurisdictions prior to the annual meetings held in the spring of 1997.

The Steering Committee has agreed that the final decision to amalgamate will be determined by the duly elected school board officials in each school division. If a favorable response is received, a new school division will be established. Elections for the newly established school division will take place in the fall of 1997.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES THAT MUST BE ADHERED TO

1. Local governing bodies, student bodies, parent groups, employee groups, and other interested parties shall be involved in the whole process.

2. Savings that accrue to the boards by sharing of personnel should be directed towards enhancing the educational programs for students on a pro-rated basis during the project.

3. A duty of fairness and due process for employee groups must always be followed.

4. Evaluation of the project must be conducted by an independent third party and must reflect fact and not opinion regarding the merits of the process.

5. Third party evaluation reports of the process should be made at the annual meetings in each of the years 1996, 1997, and 1998.

6. At any time prior to the final decision to amalgamate in 1997, either division board would be able to withdraw from the process providing six months notice.

7. It should also be an operational principle that relevant background information (historical data regarding population trends and projections, financial forecasts) should be compiled and presented at all annual meetings.

8. Other government agencies, namely urban and rural municipalities, should be briefed on the findings and invited to participate in this amalgamation process and restructuring on an annual basis.

9. All financial records relating to this review must be kept as best as possible to determine an estimated cost for this process.

Hopefully this endeavour will provide those interested in the journey towards consolidation of jurisdictions a bench mark to reflect upon before and during their trip along this essential path.

PROPOSED TIMELINE

1.      November 1994   -       Motions to proceed (Steering Committee)

                                -       Submit detailed plan: application #2

                                -       Motions to commission reports on Education and Finance

                                -       Motion to employ third party evaluator



2.      December 1994   -       Third party hired

        January 1995            -       One computer system

                                -       Inter-agency meeting



3.      March 1995              -       Budget - plan to harmonize mill rate

                                -       Local board briefing

                                -       Employee briefing



4.      April-May 1995  -       Reports - Educational Program/Finance



5.      May-June 1995   -       Annual meeting

                                -       Local government briefing (RM's and towns)



6.      July-August 1995        -       Memberships and Terms of Reference of new committees



7.      September-December 1995 -       Historical data collection

                                -       Commission reports of new committees



8.      January-February 1996   -       Reports tabled

                                -       Local board and employee briefings



9.      March-April 1996        -       Budget - mill rate adjustment



10.     May-June 1996           -       Annual meetings

                                -       Local government briefings



11.     July-August 1996        -       Fact Pack completed



12.     September 1996  -       Public consultation phase

        February 1997           -       Press releases



13.     March 1997              -       Submission of briefs



14.     May-June 1997           -       Final decision



15.     July-October 1997       -       Transitional governance



16.     September-October 1997  -       Election



17.     November 1997   -       Organizational meeting



18.     December 1997           -       Begin work on new board

EVALUATION - PROCESS AND RESULTS

This is the responsibility of the third party evaluator:

1. Financial changes - efficiencies/inefficiencies resulting from amalgamation/sharing of services.

2. Educational benefits realized through amalgamation.

3. Program enhancements realized through amalgamation.

4. Perception of various publics of the process and the results.

FACT PACK: SUGGESTED CONTENTS

I.      Enrollment Statistics (1974 - 1998)

        A.      Birthrate forecasts



II.     Teaching Force Statistics (1974 - Present)

        A.      PTR from 1974 to present

        B.      Central Office Statistics (1974 - 1994)



III.    Budget Figures

        A.      1974 to present: Whole budget

        B.      1974 to present: Grant

        C.      1974 to present: Administration costs

        D.      1974 to present: Teacher costs

        E.      1974 to present: Maintenance

        F.      1974 to present: Transportation

                * each have trends graph to identify



IV.     Political Historical Background

        A.      Consolidation into larger school districts

        B.      Langlois/Scharf - 1991 report

        C.      SSTA Resolutions - 1993 budget

        D.      Pilot Project Announcement - 1994

        E.      Pilot Project Advisory Committee



V.      Maps

        A.      Divisions

        B.      Attendance areas - proposed

        C.      School locations

        D.      Proposed boundaries - wards



VI.     Data as Collected

        A.      Programs

        B.      Finance

        C.      Governance

        D.      Minutes of meetings and submissions from hearings

        E.      Draft proposals of new policies

        F.      Vote results

        G.      Evaluation information

School Effectiveness Constraints and Opportunities in Smallness

 

Leadership

CONSTRAINT - time for leadership responsibilities curtailed by assumption of teaching and other duties - fewer available sources for delegation OPPORTUNITY - ease of developing and tapping student leadership opportunities - ease of establishing visible presence in school and community - greater ease of developing "shared" leadership Climate CONSTRAINT - overload. The tasks of the organization fall on the few. Consequent damage to morale. OPPORTUNITY - ease of establishing school norms and agreed-upon ways of doing things - school rules, norms and safe, orderly climate, more easily established Academic Focus CONSTRAINT - limited academic program (particularly in high school grades) - professional academic counselling usually not available - reliance on generalists rather than specialists OPPORTUNITY - greater possibility for individual attention - attention to basic academic subjects, without "frills" - innovative teaching and working with groups across grade levels - proximity/contact make it more viable to clarify expectations for students, fellow teachers Participative Decision Making CONSTRAINT - limited alternative viewpoints on issues, opportunity - danger of "group think" - danger of participation "overload" - expectation that all be involved all of the time OPPORTUNITY - ease of access to available opinion - ease of promoting student involvement in the life of the school - greater participation in extra curricular activities Sense of Mission CONSTRAINT - integrity of mission not verifiable beyond small number of people OPPORTUNITY - ease of achieving consensus as to mission - staff can more easily function as a unit Positive Motivational Strategies Feedback CONSTRAINT - fewer opportunities for obtaining second opinion - personality/philosophical differences must be tolerated OPPORTUNITY - "success oriented" education more easily established and reinforced - more personal - greater chance of getting assignments back on time Parental Involvement CONSTRAINT - "fishbowl" syndrome. Teachers complain of being constantly under scrutiny of parents. OPPORTUNITY - obtaining parental feedback and assessment of school less unwieldy and less expensive - active involvement of parents more easily encouraged. Environment less threatening to parents

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