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Pursuing Collaborations to Combat Increasing Costs: An Opportunity for Efficiency with School Operations

Rajgopal, Hamsini (2021) Pursuing Collaborations to Combat Increasing Costs: An Opportunity for Efficiency with School Operations. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Financial challenges are a major concern for school leaders, a concern that was particularly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased academic expectations, insufficient funding, and rising mandated expenses in the face of declining enrollment constrain budgets and put pressure on student programming. In this environment, collaboration and resource sharing among school districts helps mitigate financial pressure.

In this Dissertation in Practice (DiP), I seek to mitigate the impacts of increased costs in School District #1 through resource sharing across district boundaries. In the private sector, collaborations across organizations “expand the pie of benefits” (Jap, 2018). With declining enrollments and escalating costs, School District #1 can improve operational efficiency by implementing a similar resource-sharing approach.

I surveyed school leaders associated with the Tri-State Area School Study Council in southwestern Pennsylvania, conducted interviews with seven superintendents about successes and obstacles with collaborations, and engaged in a shared collaboration with cooperatives. The survey questions were developed as a result of a literature review on topics including models of shared resources and collaborations across district boundaries, the ways shared resources and collaborations impact districts, and factors that influence the type and scope of potentially shared resources. Through this inquiry, I hypothesized that collaboration with other districts will help School District #1 achieve increased efficiency in school operations.

The survey and interviews with superintendents revealed successful working models of collaborations across districts with cost sharing of staff, professional development, student programs, and operations with shared transportation. Sharing staff across districts had the largest financial impact. Several obstacles to collaborations emerged, ranging from political forces to district culture. An unexpected finding was that leadership and relationship-building were vital to initiate and sustain collaborations.

Given the limited time and sample size of this study, School District #1 was unable to engage in a collaboration with another district nor review a cost analysis of districts that engaged in successful collaborations. However, School District #1 achieved efficiency with school operations by engaging with multiple state and nationwide cooperatives. While the district achieved minimal cost savings with expenditures over two months, it achieved operational efficiency with its purchasing function.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rajgopal, HamsiniHAR46@pitt.eduHAR46
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAkiva,
Committee MemberTananis,
Committee MemberDiNinno,
Date: 7 July 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 May 2021
Approval Date: 7 July 2021
Submission Date: 18 June 2021
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 123
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: collaboration costs efficiency
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2021 13:09
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2023 05:15


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