Thurgood Marshall High School Case (Harvard Business School case) presents an interesting “house system” concept. According to the case description, the Marshall High’s organization was broken down into four “houses”, each of each contained 300 students, a faculty of 18, and a housemaster. Each house was in a separate building and had its own entrance, classrooms, toilets, conference rooms, and housemaster’s office. The 4 houses were connected by an enclosed outside passageway and shared the connecting “core facilities” including the cafeteria, nurses’ room, guidance offices, gyms, offices, shops, and auditorium. The school teachers were also carefully selected from other Great Falls schools and some from out-of-state graduates with impressive education background from Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and several best Western schools. The students were also carefully balanced in racial mix with a third of student body each from African-American, whites, and Hispanics background (Gabarro, p.1). This house system theoretically was seen as an important breakthrough in inner-city education in Great Falls, Illinois. However, in practice, this system seems to originate many challenges and difficulties during implementation and use. In fact, after two years from opening, the school’s first principal, Dr. Louis Parker, resigned. Before becoming the principal, Dr. Parker had written a book on the house system concept and a second one on inner-city education. He indeed mastered the concept of the house system, but seemed to fail to implement and realistically realize it. Dr. Parker was seen as a broken man when he resigned. His disillusionment showed in his physical appearance from fatigue and strained look to permanent dark rings under eyes and finally a perpetual stoop. David Kane was transferred from outside to be the new principal of the Marshall High’s organization. Kane was carefully selected over several more senior candidates because of his proven record of being able to handle tough situations in education system environment. Kane, as the new principal, had to face and deal with the problems the organization was carrying. Some of the significant problems were seen as interpersonal and group conflicts, violence, and low and decreasing quality education. Problem analysis:
The house system with 4 houses running independently was to increase autonomy and promote healthy competition in education achievement between the houses. However, it also created great deal of conflicts. One conflict issue seen was between the housemasters and six subject area department heads. It originated from differences in interpretations of curriculum policy on required learning and course content. The housemasters had to convince the department heads to assign certain teachers to their houses while the department heads tried to encourage the housemasters to offer certain courses. One program from the C House appeared to be “the most innovative of all”, but it was also most frequently attacked by the department heads for “lacking substance and for not covering the requirements outlined in the system’s curriculum guide” (Gabarro, p.4). Second conflict was the resource allocation and selection of teachers. Each housemaster selects and requests certain teachers from each department. They all wanted the best fit teachers for their house. This created a lack of desired dedicated resource for each house, especially on the second school year when 8 teachers resigned but replacement was not possible due to budget cutbacks. A “flexible staffing” policy was implemented to allow sharing of teachers between the houses and cross-registration for students to take courses in other houses. Conflict between the housemasters actually occurred as the housemaster of C House – Wesley Chase – opposed the idea of “flexible staffing” and wanted his own staff. Two other housemasters didn’t agree with Chase and joined a group of faculty and department heads to...
References: 1. Gabarro, J (1993). Thurgood Marshall High School. The Harvard Business Review.
2. Ivancevich, J. M., Konopaske, R., & Matteson, M.T. (2011). Motivation. In Organizational Behavior and Management. (9th ed., pp.119-148) New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill.
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