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Jspr Vol 27-N2

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The Journal of School Public Relations is a quarterly publication providing research, analysis, case studies and descriptions of best practices in six critical areas of school administration: public relations, school and community relations, community education, communication, conflict management/resolution, and human resources management. Practitioners, policymakers, consultants and professors rely on the Journal for cutting-edge ideas and current knowledge. Articles are a blend of research and practice addressing contemporary issues ranging from passing bond referenda to building support for school programs to integrating modern information.

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Notes From the Guest Editor: The Experiences of Educational Conflict in Public Relations

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ANGELA SPAULDING

Conflict is an everyday experience in the life of educators, regardless of their work context. It is the experiences that educators have with conflict—and the way that they use it to redefine, restructure, and reinforce educational practice—that are portrayed in this theme issue. Real stories from the field, connected to theory and revealing new thoughts and insights about conflict resolution, are intended to assist you in your practice.

Conflict resolution in schools is, more often than not, a very public process. The manner in which it is conducted reveals much about the people involved and the organizations in which they work. As Napier and Gershenfeld (2004) have commented, understanding a group’s norms about conflict is like having an X-ray of the entire organization. This observation is certainly relevant with respect to the articles presented in this theme issue. For example, “Leadership in the Context of Conflict: A Response to Implied Allegations of Cheating,” by Rosemary Schultz, opens the door to a Blue Ribbon Title I elementary school and reveals conflict associated with high-stakes testing. The reader walks with Principal Schultz as she defends her school from implied allegations of cheating. The emotions are raw, and the lessons are powerful as Schultz deals with conflict on the external stage of print and media journalism and on the internal stage of her campus and district. Her article reminds us that leadership is not for the faint of heart, because it is often confronted and evaluated in the public arena. Value resonates in the lessons that Schultz learned and so openly shares.

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Leadership in the Context of Conflict: A Response to Implied Allegations of Cheating

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ROSEMARY SCHULTZ

ABSTRACT: In December 2004, the Amarillo Globe News reported on a Dallas Morning News story that analyzed state-mandated test scores from across Texas (Benton & Hacker, 2004; Wilson, 2004). According the Amarillo Globe News, the Dallas Morning News study implicated Sunrise Elementary School, in Amarillo, Texas, by labeling their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores as “unusual.” The Amarillo Globe News noted that Sunrise, a Title I elementary school, placed 6th of roughly 3,000 schools in the state on the fifth-grade math test. The study further implied that those scores were reflective of cheating. The current article is a reflection on the leadership response to the implied allegations. The district’s superintendent, Rod Schroder, investigated the allegations and then tenaciously defended his district, teachers, and students.

As a public school educator in the state of Texas for the past 25 years, I am highly aware of the public’s perception of schools based on the results from the TABS (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills), TEAMS (Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills), TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills), and TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests. Through the years, these are some of the acronyms for the different state-mandated tests developed, published, and scored under the auspices of the Texas Education Agency. Although the tests have come and gone and have been replaced, changed, and improved, one thing has remained the same: Private citizens, the general public, school boards, and the media regularly scrutinize the results of these tests. Localarea real estate agents deem schools and districts as “good” in their sales pitches based on these annual test results. Newspapers throughout the state, including my hometown paper, the Amarillo Globe News (AGN), have, for years, highlighted and published individual school scores for our district and for other districts in the panhandle region.

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Conflict in Staff Development Implementation: A Case Study

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JUDITH A. PONTICELL, JULIE A. THOMAS, AND SANDRA B. COOPER

ABSTRACT: Staff development is aimed at changing practice. Change creates conflict. Little work has been done to gain insight into the conflict that teachers experience in the implementation of staff development. This study examines conflict in a staff development project aimed at increasing teachers’ knowledge and implementation of problem-based integrated mathematics and science teaching in a context of high-stakes testing. Findings show that teachers experienced intrapersonal conflict due to perceived differences in values, functional conflicts over values, and environmental stress. Findings suggest several strategies that might be used in staff development to reduce intrapersonal conflict.

Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of organizations. Conflict occurs when interdependent people perceive barriers to the realization of their goals. The resulting anxiety, insecurity, or hostility is conflict (Putnam & Poole, 1987). When people think of conflict occurring in an organization, they generally think of the bad behaviors often associated with conflict (e.g., lying, being disrespectful, playing games, obstructing actions, or using covert and underhanded tactics to win).

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Strategic Relationship Management in School Public Relations

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MARY JOHN O’HAIR, H. DAN O’HAIR, RENEE LEE, AND RANDY AVERSO

ABSTRACT: Research supports the need for schools to operate as professional learning communities fueled by a supportive accurate understanding of collaborative relationships among school stakeholders. These relationships are necessary to build trust and foster discourse focused on improved teaching and learning practices and increased student achievement. This article posits the strategic relationship management process as a theoretical framework for the development, nurturing, and sustaining of meaningful relationships in learning organizations. Strategic relationship management process encompasses the development of a relationship portfolio strategy, partnering engagement process, and evidence-based ongoing assessments to quantify program outcomes and, ultimately, accelerate and sustain school organizational change toward learning communities.

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Communication, Systems, and Misconduct With Adolescent Students

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TERRY D. HARGRAVE AND ROBERT BRAMMER

ABSTRACT: This article examines communication and system issues in dealing with misconduct in adolescents. The initial focus is an analysis of the goals of misconduct, including attention, power, revenge, and display of inadequacy. The second focus encourages the school system to consider its own part in the problems of misconduct, by examining circular causality in the way that the system deals with the student. Cautions are given concerning triangulation, enmeshment, and disengagement. The final focus is to suggest alternatives strategies in dealing with misconduct, including relationship building, normalizing and reframing behavior, encouraging the student, and building identity.

Student misbehavior is often the most confounding feature of secondary school education. Inappropriately handling classroom behavior contributes to teacher dissatisfaction, poor teaching efficacy, teacher stress, and burnout (McCormack, 1997; Zeidner, 1988). In addition, misconduct is one of the contributing factors to students’ eventually dropping out of school or their underachieving (Buhrmester, 1990). The significance of these problems is not lost on new teachers, who are more likely to confront misbehavior directly (Fernandez-Balboa, 1991). But effective teachers learn to manage classroom conflicts consistently and gain specific strategies (O’Sullivan & Dyson, 1994; Siedentop & Tannehill, 1999). However, adolescent student misconduct is many times complicated by the school system’s communication and structure. These realities and others contribute to one of the primary issues in school and community relations and conflicts among teachers, students, parents, administrators, and, eventually, legislators. The purpose of this article is to discuss some common system perspectives that can enhance the function of school administrators, teachers, counselors, and policymakers around the area of misbehavior of adolescent students to effectively manage school–community relations and avoid unproductive conflicts.

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Managing and Resolving Organizational Conflict in School–University Partnerships Through Sound Planning and Design

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WILLIAM E. REAVES AND JEANETTE G. NARVAEZ

ABSTRACT: Partnerships and collaborative projects among public schools and universities have become increasingly prominent in the educational landscape. Properly structured and carefully managed school–university initiatives can enrich educational opportunities and contribute to simultaneous and continual quality improvement of the partnering entities. In this article, we provide 10 design principles intended to serve as a blueprint for organizational leaders engaged in formation of such school–university ventures. These principles attempt to minimize organizational conflict by ensuring that partnership leaders delineate joint work purposes and expectations, form collaborative work processes, clarify respective financial and logistical obligations, and specify decision responsibilities and job duties. These principles call for development of internal structures and processes that identify potential conflict points and establish measures for resolution when conflicts arise. We describe characteristics of school–university partnerships with discussion of the challenges and implications of implementing the principles to control interorganizational conflict.

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An Overview of the Effective Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Education

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GERARD A. FOWLER

ABSTRACT: This article presents a brief overview of the current forms of alternative dispute resolution available in educational settings, along with insight into their development and success. In this article, I assess the influence of early alternative dispute resolution procedures in terms of their relevance to the settlement of conflicts within schools and universities. I provide this assessment as an author who has served as an arbitrator/mediator for over 20 years and has served in over 1,000 cases. The article is intended as a primer for educators who wish to become familiar with the various forms of alternative dispute resolution and the part that they can play in reducing the financial, emotional, and time costs associated with conflict resolution processed through the courts.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has a rich and successful history in the United States. The history of ADR, from a global perspective, can be traced back to the time of King Solomon; however, the use of ADR in education in the United States is a comparatively new phenomenon and has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. When I speak of ADR, I am referring to arbitration and mediation. Arbitration is the process whereby a neutral person, chosen by the parties to a dispute or appointed by a court, hears evidence about the claim and renders a binding decision. Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third person assists parties in a controversy to reach an agreement. The advantages of arbitration are considered to be economy, expediency, and confidentiality. This article focuses on those ADR procedures most frequently used by educational institutions. These procedures apply to resolving commercial issues, labor and employment issues, special education issues, and disputes between students.

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