Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Policy and Leadership

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 274 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

K Schiller

Committee Members

P Strach, L Macon


Reorganization, Rural, School districts, Rural schools

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership


This study explores two rural school consolidation attempts in upstate New York during the “Great Recession” between 2008 and 2014. One consolidation received voter approval, the other was defeated. Case study research (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2018) formed the structure examine how the two attempts were alike and different. Official school documents, reports in local newspapers, and online discussion boards formed the source material used in this dissertation. Gee’s (2014) Discourse Analysis became the methodological framework used in analyzing source materials. As part of the analysis process, a hole in policy implementation literature became apparent, namely the lack of local voter agency. In order to begin to address this perceived hole, I describe a five phase framework to capture community and stakeholder sense-making of the school district consolidation process and give voice to local resident agency in the process. I examined how communities moved from Phase 1: Situational development into Phase 2: Local government board action, followed by Phase 3: Community sense making, and Phase 4 Community Agency. The fifth phase of this framework, Post Referendum, concludes the study. In my dissertation, I pay particularly close attention to the online discussions, which often serve as a counter point to the official narrative which arose in the documents and media. In many past studies on school district consolidation, the online or “hidden transcript,” which Scott (1990) defines as the narrative non-empowered members of society tell each other is missing from the analysis of why a consolidation was successfully undertaken or averted.