The consolidation of Alleghany County and Clifton Forge City Schools: a case study

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

School division consolidation is a topic which elicits strong emotional responses about which there is considerable opinion but limited research data. The purpose of this study was to furnish data which would offer answers to specific questions concerning the merger of two school divisions. The context of the study was the merger which formed the Alleghany Highlands Public Schools, a rural division in Southwest Virginia. The research questions include the following: Did education improve following the merger? Were costs reduced? What happened to students in the process? How did teachers respond? How did patrons and the community interact?

The methodology applied in this study consisted of a variety of research techniques including archival materials, surveys, interviews about the merger--what led to it, how it was achieved, and whether it worked. The following key findings emerged: • students and teachers felt positive about the merger and their relation to it, • the community believed that the merger was a success, • the educational program was enhanced with the addition of numerous courses, the revitalization of standing courses, and the assignment of teachers to maximize the use of their expertise, and • the rate of increases in the expenditures of local dollars for education has probably been slower than it might have been for each governmental unit to support separate systems.

The study confirmed the problems inherent in evaluating school division consolidation. It also verified that merger can respond to concerns about economy and efficiency and the use of scare resources which must be exercised as schools attempt to meet student needs in a rapidly changing society. preparation to meet society's needs. Many of the problems, promises, and conditions following school division consolidation were revealed in the summaries of the interviews with the key actors.