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Organizational training and relationship building for increasing public participation in a public school district




Poynton, John, author
Venneberg, Donald, advisor
Makela, Carole, committee member
Wallner, Barbara, committee member
Carcasson, Martin, committee member

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From the early twentieth century to the present, citizen participation in U.S. public institutions--particularly schools--has continually decreased. The trend has been linked to the bureaucratization of public schools and their increasing reliance on expert knowledge for solutions to school- and education-related problems. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a parent training program designed to increase a school district's capacity for public participation. The program--known as Leadership St. Vrain--provided citizens knowledge about school district operations and management (know-how) and relationship-building opportunities with key decision makers (know-who). The mixed-methods study was designed to include two original survey instruments, follow-up interviews, and archival documents to evaluate the effect of the training on participants. Participants reported strong growth in domains for knowledge, relationship, willingness, efficacy, and action. Follow-up interviews with training participants and parents who served as school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) presidents, as well as an analysis of archival documents indicated a secondary ripple-effect among PTO members who did not take the training, as well as with other citizens and the larger community.


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civic engagement
parent engagement
public deliberation
public education
public participation
social capital


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