Standing the Test of Time: the Role of Teachers and Administration in the Sustenance of a School’s Culture

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O'Connor, Shannon
School Culture , Positive , Case Study , Appreciative Inquiry , Retrospective
Schools develop organizational cultures of their own; these cultures establish traditions and norms that guide everyday life in schools. The purpose of this case study was to examine teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of how a positive school culture has been shaped, maintained, and sustained over the past four decades at one midsized Catholic high school in Southeastern Ontario. The qualitative research design combined document analysis and qualitative interviewing with the aim to establish a greater understanding of the school’s history. The interviews were conducted with current and former teachers and administrators who have worked at the school between 1970 and 2013. By looking at this school as a case study, I have attempted to gain a deeper insight to the subjective experiences that different teachers and administrators have had with the school over the course of its recent history, and have thereby developed an understanding of the motivations and actions undertaken to both preserve and change the school’s normative structure over the course of time. The results of the study indicate that the school has been able to maintain and sustain a positive culture over the past forty years. The findings have determined the school’s cultural manifestations at each of the three levels of organizational culture, and recognize the fundamental importance of the role of selected stakeholders in projecting, and reflecting the existing culture in order to preserve core underlying assumptions in the process of adaptation to internal and external changes. The school’s long-standing history, tradition of excellence, and strong focus on Catholic education and “educating the whole person” have allowed for the establishment of a close community network within the school. From an ecological perspective (recognizing schools as living systems) these networks, supported by strong leadership, have served to sustain the healthy elements of the school’s culture allowing it to evolve over time.
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