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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Designing Sustainable Schools The superintendent can utilize sensemaking to lead the group from a collection of individuals toward consensus. Sensemaking models such as these are especially vital to superintendents to better prepare them to address issues that endorse a common sense approach to social, fiscal, and environmental responsibility (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). Additionally, Weick et al. (2005) suggested that sensemaking lies within the broader institutional context that provides a framework for socially acceptable actions and behaviors. Holloman, Rouse and Farrington (2007) proposed a purpose-driven leadership model for school leaders that is clear about its purpose, maintains integrity, encourages character, prevents burnout, and sustains vitality. Although individuals constantly engage in the process of framing and making sense of their environment, studies indicated two prime occasions for sensemaking: change (Giola & Thomas, 1996; Isabella, 1992; Ogawa, 1991) and/or during times of crisis (Dutton & Dukerich, 1991; Kiesler & Sproull, 1982). Weick et al. (2005) offered: There are truths of the moment that change, develop, and take shape through time. It is these changes through time that progressively reveal that a seemingly correct action “back then” is becoming an incorrect action “now.” These changes also may signal a progression from worse to better. (p. 412-413) Change and crisis create ambiguity as well as the belief that the change or crisis will be of some consequence to persons or to the organization. Turnbull (2005) advocated participatory structures that distribute decision-making authority and ultimately improve the quality of decisions. The significance of the school leader as a sensemaker becomes more critical when considering that sociopolitical and sociocultural issues play out in schools (Anderson, 1996; Henderson & Tilbury, 2004; McLaren, 2003). According to Henderson and Tilbury (2004), most school leaders receive little or no training regarding sociopolitical or sociocultural matters; nor are they knowledgeable of their role and influence in shaping and defining meaning on social issues. Sensemaking, when coupled with a broad knowledge and commitment to sustainability will better prepare superintendents for challenges they will ultimately face in design decision- making within their school districts. Methodology Participants This case study was conducted over eight weeks (January-March, 2009) in six public school districts representing socioeconomically diverse communities in a Midwestern state. This purposeful case study sample included school districts engaged in a major building project within the last nine years. Three of these districts received LEED® certification for green building construction performance (U.S. Green Building Council, 2008). Interviews included superintendents, assistant superintendents, school administrators, facility managers, board of education members, LEED® commissioning agents, and architects. Data Collection Data sources included transcripts of audio recorded interviews of participants, field notes, and historical artifacts. In addition, descriptive data were derived from a pre-interview on-line survey (SurveyMonkey®) distributed to superintendents involved in this study (see Appendix A) December 2012 / ACEF 60


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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