Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-2-1979


A case study of school board decision making was conducted in Pueblo, Colorado by the president of the school board. School board members kept a log of al 1 informal influence attempts for thirteen issues over the course· of a year. Data were generated on the position of all board members on all issues at three different points in time. The time span ran from issue initiation to the final vote. Other data collected between issue initiation and the final vote included informal influence attempts by: (1) community influ­entials; (2) advisory group members; (3) and "others" as well as characteristics of formal presentations at non-voting (preliminary) and voting board meetings. Community influentials were identified by a technique that involved ascertaining which individuals held leadership positions in multiple organizations within the community. Issues were characterized on two dimensions according to their budgetary implications (instrumentalness) and public visibility as represented by the amount of newspaper coverage (expressiveness). The tendency of board members to change position over time was analyzed with respect to the nature and sources of influence attempts and issue type. Subjective data generated by observational techniques supplemented the quantitative measures and were utilized in the interpretation of the results of the quantitative analysis.

This study found a high correlation between board members' positional status at issue initiation and administrative recommendations. Board members made up their minds early in the decision making process and maintained their initial position through the final vote. Thus, relatively little influence occurred between issue initiation and the final vote, especially on issues that had low expressive and instrumental values. On high expressive and instrumental issues, strong community opposition influenced the board to amend issues. While there were also changes in position between the first two points in time on unamended issues, this apparently reflected posturing by board members (rather than influence) since they inevitably reverted back to their original position at the voting stage.

Community influentials were highly activated for only one issue. They maintained a low profile, however, by contacting board members informally. Their support influenced the board to maintain its original decision in the face of strong community opposition. Otherwise· the board could have been expected to resort to the amendatory process. When community influentials had low activation levels, they were unable to influence. This suggests a threshold effect.

Virtually no influence occurred during the voting board meeting which suggests that such meetings functioned only as ceremonial ratifications.

Document Type


Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Stanley Pogrow

Second Committee Member

Paul Arnold Pohland

Third Committee Member

Richard Elmer Lawrence