Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Elinor A. Scheirer

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew Ohlson

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. F. Daniel Richard

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Renee Kilpatrick

Department Chair

Dr. Elizabeth Gregg

College Dean

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey



The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the decision-making processes of the school board of the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf as they worked to keep their school alive. Thus, the research question was “What decision-making processes did the school board of the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf adopt while redesigning and restructuring the school to be a viable educational option for Maine’s deaf and hard of hearing children?”

The review of the literature followed key elements of the theoretical framework. The theories that informed the present study were School Board Governance Theory, Institutional Theory, and Organizational Resilience Theory. The conceptual framework for the study reflects key points from the theoretical framework and from the research literature.

The research design included directed content analysis of school board minutes and related documents from the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf from January 2005 through May 2018. The data were analyzed using the process of educational criticism (Eisner, 1998) and Hatch’s (2002) typological analysis. Eisner’s description and interpretation dimensions within educational criticism involved six typologies: (a) attending to the centrality of language and communication; (b) building capacity; (c) navigating resources; (d) responding to stakeholders; and (e) envisioning opportunities.

The evaluation dimension of Eisner’s educational criticism focused on three values evident in the school board’s decision-making: allowing voices to be heard, anchoring decisions in the vision and mission, and developing policies to support the vision and mission. The strategic plan, aligned with the vision and mission, reflected the voices of the board members and stakeholders and identified the resources necessary to address these challenges.

Analysis of the data led to the development of three themes: (a) The school board focused on striving for legitimacy through adherence to its vision and mission; (b) The school board valued stakeholders; and (c) The school board valued the sharing of new programs and procedures with other schools and programs for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The following conclusions were derived from data analysis. The MECDHH/GBSD school board supported the importance of vision and mission through decision-making and policy development. Such decisions also adhered to the importance of language and culture of deaf and hard of hearing students. Further, the school board supported the role of stakeholders in providing appropriate and viable options for the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. The actions of the school board supported the view that the reciprocal sharing of educational knowledge matters because it benefits the profession in its service to deaf and hard of hearing students and because it promotes the learning of all. The school board also honored the school’s traditions and organizational memory in their decision-making.

Themes led to recommendations for school board practice. Boards should adhere to their vision and mission to guide decision-making. Additionally, they should value stakeholders’ input to ensure understanding the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. Finally, school boards should value the sharing of new programs and procedures with other schools and programs for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Recommendations for further study include analysis of other school board documents, such as social media accounts and videos. Additionally, researchers may consider interviewing school board members to understand their perceptions of school board decision-making. Further, survey research of board members’ perspectives and board members’ self-reports regarding board behavior could also shape research efforts.