School district budget crisis: Technical challenge as a springboard for adaptive change

Jay D Badams, University of Pennsylvania


This case study will document an effort to provide effective school district leadership during a period of severe financial instability and adversity. The leadership context that frames this study includes a major leadership transition as a new superintendent replaces a 17-year predecessor. In addition, the district's senior leadership team was relatively new and untested. On its face, the daunting fiscal problem presented what Heifetz and Linsky (2002) would identify as a "technical challenge" in that any number of logical approaches to institutional finance could be employed to manage the short term issue of balancing the budget. However, the complexity inherent in the transition from a long serving superintendent to a new administration created conditions that were favorable to what Heifetz and Linsky label "adaptive change" (p. 13). In this case, the adaptive change would entail the transformation of an intensely political school system with traditions of top-down management, departmental isolation, fiscal imprudence, lack of transparency, and absence of planning. This added complexity presented a high-stakes opportunity for the new leadership team to solve the technical problem and make progress on the adaptive challenge, or to fail miserably at both. ^

Subject Area

Education, Finance|Education, Leadership|Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Jay D Badams, "School district budget crisis: Technical challenge as a springboard for adaptive change" (January 1, 2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3510991.