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What type of band is it?

Posted By: Doug Davis on October 21, 2004
I read this article from two personal professional perspectives. First as the coordinator of leadership preparation programs at Georgia State University and second as the Managing Editor of the Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education. Pitre and Smith may have created, or described, Bedard's "straw dog" but it is my experience that said dog has one heck of a bite. Simply, there are inherent and incompatible contradictions in how we prepare school administrators and how we expect school administrators to perform. On one hand we expect school leaders to know what and to know how to lead schools to improved student achievement. On the other hand, we expect leaders to facilitate strong organizational cultures through the practice of distributive leadership and democratic processes. School principals are the point of friction between two competing sets of political and economic agendas operating within the organizational structure of schools. The first is the democratic governance and public financing of schools institutionalized through school districts with their corresponding boards, superintendents, and school-site administrators. Second is the practice of professional education and the desire and need of teachers to achieve professional status and autonomy.

This tension is a good example of what Sergiovanni (2000) describes as the "systemsworld" and the "lifeworld" of schools. Another way to look at Sergiovanni's argument is to think about the formal organizational structures within a school and the culture within a school. Sergiovanni argues that one of these is generative of the other. Thus, either the culture of the school determines the characteristic of the structure, or the structure of the school determines the characteristics of the culture. It is a choice between form leading to function or function leading to form.

ISLLC Standard 1 on vision is a perfect example to illustrate this point. Vision is a description of culture. Vision is a representation of the shared values, norms, and beliefs in an organization. Vision is an articulation of the lifeworld. Regardless, we inform school leaders, through the ISLLC Standards, that they are responsible and accountable for the articulation and maintenance of the school's vision. Thus, the implementation of standards systemitizes values, norms, and beliefs. It is a perfect example of what Sergiovanni calls the "colonization of the systemsworld by the lifeworld" (7). The system is determining culture, function is determining form.

The contradictions school leaders face in daily practice are in many ways unavoidable. After all, we live in a postmodern culture. I would argue, and I think that Pitre and Smith argue, that standards do have an important role to play. Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon those who lead schools, and those of us who prepare school leaders, to acquire skills in understanding the complex and subtle meanings of broad standards institutionalized through structural organizational processes and practices. The authors should be commended for their contribution in this regard.

Sergiovanni, T. (2000), The lifeworld of leadership: Creating culture, community, and personal meaning in our schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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 What type of band is it? by Doug Davis on October 21, 2004
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