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Contributing Factors to Successfully Maintaining School Partnerships with External Partners Open Access

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Abstract of the DissertationContributing Factors to Successfully Maintaining School Partnerships with External PartnersHuman capital, financial support, and other resources are often provided to schools by private organizations such as corporations, community organizations, universities, and governments. There is a wealth of research on the benefits of public school-external partnerships (Barnett, Hall, Berg, & Macarena, 2010; Gardner, 2011; Norman, 2009, Semke & Sheridan, 2012), however, there is little information on the sustainability of public school’s external partnerships. Beabout (2010) argued that external relationships can be difficult for school leaders to establish and maintain. Since partnerships are essential to offset school shortage and provide opportunities for students, it is crucial to expand our understanding of how schools maintain their external partnerships. This qualitative study involving interviews of 23 partnership organizers examined how schools maintained their long-term partnerships. This study explored institutional theory as a theoretical framework to examine how schools and organizations function as institutions. Powell and DiMaggio (1991) and Selznick (1957) stated that as an organization is “institutionalized” it tends to take on a special character and to achieve a distinctive competence, in other words, a trained or built-in incapacity. The study drew on Bolman and Deal’s (2003) four frames for how people view the world: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. Partnership organizers described effective communication as an important factor in maintaining partnerships. Key factors in effective communication were establishing points of contact for both the school and the partner, understanding each other’s roles, and having clear expectations. Partnership organizers shared that collaboration that moves the partnerships forward were key. That kind of collaboration involved understanding and respecting the school culture and procedures as well as building buy-in for the school and the organization stakeholders and it offered real world experiences to students. Participants cited a commitment to working through barriers with a focus on commitment, flexibility, and dedication as key factor.Based on the partnership organizers experiences, this study offers a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to maintaining public school-external partnerships, with implications for existing and future school partnerships. This study also offers implications for policy on school partnerships.

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