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Autor: Shaaronkay 21 May 2011
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Miami School District Negotiation
The Miami School District is in the unique position of re-drawing school boundaries because of an increase in enrollment. Experts will take on this assignment for the upcoming school year. As a result of this proposal the school board is receiving complaints from parents concerning the quality of education, an increase in travel time, the effects on property values, the possibility of crossing economic and cultural boundaries, and the social effects on their children. In the following plan the subjects to address are the stakeholders' concerns, including providing a definition of who the stakeholders are, the negotiation strategy used to address the concerns, and the effects of ethics and culture in making the decision.
Not only do the residents of a school district support the school with taxpayer dollars, they also support the school with donations of time and money. Changes in the individual school boundaries will affect all the stakeholders, who include the school board, the students and their families, the experts selected to provide the revised boundaries, and the community in which the school is located. In addition to the principal stakeholders there are various secondary stakeholders who can be affected by the boundary changes. These secondary stakeholders include outside vendors that supply the individual schools with supplies, from the cafeteria to the classroom.
In developing a plan to address all stakeholder concerns, the school board must decide which strategy will be most effective and provide a win-win situation. Integrative negotiation will likely provide the results necessary to gain a win-win for all parties involved. "The fundamental structure of an integrative negotiation situation is such that it allows both sides to achieve their objectives" (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2006, p. 71). Open discussion and exploration of all options will aid in ensuring that all involved will achieve a positive outcome.
Another option for the school board to consider would be distributive bargaining. "In a distributive bargaining situation, the goals of one party are usually in fundamental and direct conflict with the goals of the other party. Resources are fixed and limited, and both parties want to maximize their share" (Lewicki et al., 2006, p. 32). Unlike distributive bargaining the integrative negotiation style will support the school board's need to restructure its current boundaries as information will be freely shared in an effort to provide a strategic advantage to all parties involved rather than just to the school board. Integrative negotiation will work best with an integrating, collaborating, problem-solving negotiation style. Addressing the concerns of the stakeholders with this type of negotiation style will allow all parties to focus on the problem not on the people. In addition, all parties involved can propose options that will be beneficial to the most important aspect of the change, which are the children. Allowing experts to weigh in with objective criteria and options can help move all involved past emotional concerns and avoid disputes to obtain an agreement. This will also prevent personality issues from becoming a deterrent to a successful decision.
Negotiation is the process of communication between parties that results in a compromise or agreement to the satisfaction of all involved. Negotiation for stakeholders is examining the facts of changing school boundaries, exposing both the common and opposing interests, and bargaining to resolve issues between the two. The first step in integrative negotiating is to identify the interests of both parties. The benefits to both sides in the identification of interests are determining which are common to both and finding cooperative ways to work together. Brainstorming ideas and possibilities ensures that there is no lack of options with which to work. The ultimate goal of a win-win solution to the problem is achievable through addressing the concerns of the school board and the parents.
The second step is determining the possible agreements and finding alternatives to any disagreements that remain. Communication enables the school board to develop a relationship with parents and share information openly. When both parties understand what the other side wants and needs the negotiation can focus on solutions. A commitment is made to meet the needs of everyone involved in the dispute. Finally, the parties evaluate the proposed solutions and select the best option from all alternatives.
To address the parent's many concerns, the school board will have to offer the most optimal solutions in each area to ensure the possibility of a win-win situation and convince the parents to accept the plans of redrawing the existing boundaries. Regarding the quality of education, the school board can provide data on how the change will reduce the number of children per classroom, thus enabling teachers to spend more quality time with their students. The school must present a plan of action detailing strategies to maintain high quality in the classroom.
Similarly, the concern parents have regarding the increased travel time can be addressed by improving the existing transportation with new school buses. The school board can show parents that additional buses will reduce the current load on buses and students will reach their destinations faster than before with fewer stops. Regarding boundary changes affecting economic and cultural boundaries, the school would ensure parents that it will not place any burden on parents by increasing fees. No changes would be made to the current structure allowing the culture, philosophy, and vision of the schools to remain the same with the proposed redrawn boundaries.
To address the concern in property values, the school board would advise that no property purchases are proposed and that the schools within the district are staying the same. As the school board may have discussed changes with the city council, data may be presented to show what boundary changes will affect what areas of the district. Providing an open communication of this aspect of the negotiation to parents may alleviate this concern. Finally, addressing the concern of a negative social impact on children, the school board will advise each school will continue to provide the highest quality education to its students. A change in educational environment or social atmosphere will have no lasting negative effects; rather it may benefit many students by fostering a more diverse cultural background for all involved. The school board will have to ensure that plans are in place with school and transportation staff to ensure that the migration of students is handled in the smoothest manner possible.
Ethics and Culture in Decision Making
To maintain credibility and retain parental trust and respect, the school board must behave ethically at all times. Responsible decision-making involves taking all factors of the situation into consideration, including the positive and negative effects to the students, their parents, and the community. To preserve the effectiveness of the negotiation process, both the school board and the concerned parents must discuss the possible solutions and any alternatives while behaving competently and ethically. This behavior will ensure that the agreement reached is appropriate to the problem and that there has been no undue pressure or coercion by either party.
Quick decision-making can cause issues among different cultures. Talking to parties whose support is needed builds consensus within groups before final decisions are made. Explaining the proposal to change boundaries, addressing the stated concerns, and obtaining buy-in will build the support necessary to implement more quickly when final decisions are made. National or community culture may change how a proposal is made or what support is needed. The school board must know with which cultures they are dealing to ensure that all possible alternatives are researched. If the school board were to ignore culture in making plans the possible problems could become insurmountable.
The Miami School District's first concern should always be the welfare of its students. Ensuring decisions made preserve educational development of the highest caliber keeps the focus of the school board on students, thus the need to re-draw school boundaries with unexpected increase in enrollment. The school board could simply have made the planned changes and notified parents for the coming school year. Instead, the school board encouraged parental participation in the proposed changes to ensure that all stakeholders had the chance to be heard. Effort was made for all parties to create and implement a win-win solution for all stakeholders involved with the school district and its processes. Open communication, sharing interests and concerns, determining alternatives, and developing plans to move forward together will enable the Miami School District to retain or improve its quality of education, limit possible hardships to community families, and encourage the growth of its student's social environments.
Lewicki, R. J., Saunders, D. M., & Barry, B. (2006). Negotiation (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.
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