Big Mountain High School’s Leadership Issues

Case Summary

The case under consideration provides an outlook on some dilemmas faced by educational institutions regarding making decisions, developing the curriculum, and the roles of staff members in the process of change in an organization. The institution involved in the case is Big Mountain High School (BMHS), the only high school in the county and one of the biggest in the state (Smith and Louis). It serves over 1450 students from different backgrounds in grades 10-12. After graduation, 20% of students go to 2-year colleges, and 40% attend 4-year colleges, which are high rates for a rural school.

The case involves four major parties. The first one is BMHS principal Mr. Vogel, who has been in this position for 15 years already. Despite some drawbacks in his communication with the staff, he is a respected leader who follows a bottom-up style of managing the organization. The second part is the Superintendent of the district, Mr. Carpenter. Although he has been in this position for only four years, he has a reputation as a charismatic leader able to make decisions and act accordingly. He is open to communication with every staff member and is ready to listen about the issues that bother them. Another party involved is the departments at BMHS. They are autonomous and have total authority in distributing the workload, curriculum development, or budget planning. The heads of departments do not meet the principal often. The last group involved in the problem is the teachers. Although they are well-paid compared to teachers in other districts, they lack participation in the decision-making process about school affairs as well as discussions of teaching methods or the type of instruction applied at school. Therefore, many teachers are not satisfied with this state of things and would prefer being involved in discussions and decision-making.

Case Analysis

The situation described in the case resulted from the leadership types applied at this educational institution. While many teachers are happy with the way decisions are made and discussion is held, the majority of them would prefer more discussion among the teaching staff and more involvement in decision-making processes. One of their claims is that the culture of the school is too individualistic and impersonal. Moreover, they are not satisfied with the top-down management philosophy because they are more familiar with the bottom-up style. Still, one of the major concerns of the teaching staff is the curriculum. Teachers want to be involved in the process of curriculum development. Their desire is easy to understand because teachers and not the heads of committees provide a learning process. Therefore, teachers can have working ideas because they know the process of learning from the inside and are aware of the need of students. One of the problems of the current discussion is that the curriculum as a whole is discussed more than such significant detail as instruction.

The case under analysis touches on some leadership issues that create the problem. The primary issue implies the lack of effective leadership to lead the school through the necessary change process related to curriculum alteration. School leaders should select a frame that can have a positive impact on change implementation. Thus, to achieve greater staff satisfaction and involve teachers in the decision-making process, the human resource frame can be applied (Bolman and Deal 116). It is evident that the curriculum change is obligatory since it is initiated by the state. Nevertheless, the human resource frame can be a wise strategy to learn the ideas of the staff members and consider them in the curriculum project.

Another leadership issue at BMHS is related to the behavior of the heads of departments. People in these positions at BMHS are frequently authoritative and influential among the colleagues. Therefore, they develop images of decision-makers, which leads to a situation when other members of departments and faculties do not take part in the decision-making process. Moreover, the school lacks interdisciplinary cooperation. In fact, collaborative leadership is not applied in managing the educational institution, while it could have had many benefits for working environment organization as a whole and an increase of discussions’ efficiency in particular. In fact, the leadership style observed in the case can be compared to coercive and authoritative styles defined by Fullan (102). Therefore, this choice of leadership style by the principal, Mr. Vogel, can negatively impact professional relationships and later result in a performance decrease.

As contrasted to the school principal, a new head of the Language Arts Department, Mr. Gary seems to be open to communication. Still, he only selected the individuals who supported his views to become members of the committee and limited the participation of some teachers in the curriculum implementation. In that way, he violated two effective framework approaches suggested by Bolman and Deal, such as structural frame and human resource frame (4). Therefore, neither the principal nor the committee or the heads of departments are ready to apply effective leadership styles that can positively influence change.

Case Recommendations

However, the case can be successfully resolved if the involved leaders could agree on the change strategies. First of all, they should accept the necessity of change. In conditions of the rapidly changing world, changes in the educational system as a whole and the development of a new curriculum, in particular, are inevitable. Frequently, leaders are afraid of the messiness that I associated with change. Still, according to Fullan, messiness is an integral part of any transformation (65). Therefore, the BMHS should accept the necessity of change and make efforts to explain this necessity to the staff members. Moreover, the change plan can include the implementation of a human resource frame which, according to Bolman and Deal, is focused on the development of personal relationships that are necessary for the success of organizational change (115).

Moreover, it can be useful to adopt a different leadership style. Thus, a plan for providing a successful change can include the considerations of adopting a new leadership style such as affiliative, democratic, or coaching (Fullan 102). In fact, the principal has the potential to lead a change in case he follows some important tips. Thus, the principal should remember that change is a continuous process, and a contemporary school is inevitably involved in it (Whitehead et al. 157). Also, an innovative approach should be applied to the extent possible in conditions of a particular school. Moreover, it is important to involve staff in decision-making and consider their ideas even if they contradict the initial position of the principal. In fact, change can be integrated into school culture, which will contribute to a more successful change implementation in the future (“Five Strategies for Managing Change in Schools”). Finally, it is important to consider all the stakeholders, including not only teachers and administration, but students and their parents as well because they are also influenced by changes in curriculum.

Evaluation and Reflection

Every change process implies certain barriers. First of all, resistance to change is possible among the teaching staff, administrations, or students. Thus, the new curriculum can be rejected by teachers in case their ideas and demands are not included. Teachers are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of curriculums because they are the first to implement them in practice. Therefore, changes in the curriculum can be successful in case they include considerations of the teaching staff. Moreover, students can resist change as well. If their needs are not taken into account, and a new curriculum does not provide new opportunities, students might change school for the one providing broader educational opportunities.

Secondly, a new curriculum can be too complicated without clear instructions. According to Fullan (104), students are active participants in the educational process. Nevertheless, they need distinct guidance to be involved in learning at full. Therefore, it is important to focus not only on the content of the curriculum but also on the well-developed instructions. Finally, one more barrier to change implementation is the lack of funding. Considering the fact that contemporary change projects mainly deal with innovation, it is crucial to develop the curriculum in agreement with the opportunities of school. For example, the rural school from the case might not be equipped enough to implement an innovative technology-based curriculum.

On the whole, the process of change should be well-planned and prepared. Before its implementation, it is necessary to investigate the needs and considerations of the stakeholders and predict the possible barriers. This investigation will allow altering the change project before it is implemented. Finally, the assessment of the change project is necessary. It provides an opportunity to see if the change is effective and evaluate its impact on the school.

Works Cited

Bolman, Lee, and Terrence Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 6th ed. Jossey-Bass, 2017.

“Five Strategies for Managing Change in Schools.” TeachThought, Web.

Fullan, Michael. The New Meaning of Educational Change, 3rd ed. Teachers College Press, 2016.

Smith, Bets Ann, and Karen Seashore Louis. “Change at Big Mountain High School.” The Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, vol. 2, no. 1, 1999. Web.

Whitehead, Bruce, et al. The Principal: Leadership for a Global Society. SAGE Publications, 2013.