A school council's influence on community involvement in a Saskatchewan community
The purpose of this study was to explore the role a school council played in encouraging community involvement in a K to 12 school located within a bedroom community. This qualitative case study included data collected from 35 semi-structured individual interviews conducted with Sunshine’s School Community Council (SCC) members, teachers, and community members. Augmented data collection incorporated my attendance at three SCC meetings, 11 community and school visits, and the maintenance of a personal journal during the interview process. Data results were analyzed through Putnam’s concept of social capital theory. During the time of this study, the impact that Sunshine’s SCC had on community involvement in school was evolving. The SCC was new to the school community; Sunshine’s SCC members displayed nascent levels of trust between themselves and with community members. The SCC predominantly focused its attention on fulfilling the provincially-mandated requirement of contributing to the school’s Learning Improvement Plan. Since supporting the school’s centralized goals consumed much of the SCC’s time and attention, the association was less able to promote traditional forms of community involvement in school. Most participants perceived traditional forms of community involvement in school to positively impact the social cohesion of the school community. Parents believed there were multiple benefits associated with traditional forms of community involvement in school, including improved parent-to-parent relationships, improved school-home relationships, additional support for school curricula, and improved student performance in school. Based on social capital theory, socialization during community events generates social capital between community members, which encourages further community involvement in school. The forging of bonding, bridging, and linking social capital, through a variety of traditional means, was a fundamental component needed to create, complement, and sustain community involvement in the school. The majority of SCC participants perceived that the formal components of SCC policy were misaligned with their desire to promote traditional forms of community involvement. Most participants believed that bureaucratic aspects of the SCC policy (and similar organizations) negatively affect productivity. Social capital theory supported the idea that bureaucracy deters the establishment and utilization of trust and social capital. Sunshine was a bedroom community and the socialization tendencies of the community appeared to negatively influence community involvement. Convenient access to urban amenities, the influx of new community members, and a generational shift of values and lifestyles appeared to deter the creation and utilization of personal and professional stocks of social capital within the community. In contrast, the impact of child-focused events and sporting activities appeared to unite community members and positively influence the creation and utilization of social capital within the community. Implications arising from this study pinpoint the importance of fostering trusting relationships not only between SCCs members but between SCCs and their communities. In order to generate higher levels of trust, and thereby strengthen the potency of social capital, Sunshine’s SCC members need decentralized authority to self-create local goals. The procedure of annual SCC elections also needs reviewing as an annual influx of new members to the SCC negates the sustainability of high levels of trust. On a practical level, Sunshine’s SCC, the school administration, and the school division need to promote SCC communication with the school community.
School Community Council, community involvement, bedroom community
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)