Consortia: A comparative study of formal and informal governance for special programs in small school districts

Joseph J Cardella, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether small school districts with common needs should initiate the formation of a formal commission or an informal consortium to provide special education programs and related services to the children in their communities. Data were collected that pertained to the formal commissions' and informal cooperatives' methods of governance, the functions each performed, the types of roles played by the collaborative's participants, the perceptions of the people participating and receiving their services, and the demographics of those organizations. The data were gathered via interviews using a questionnaire, reviewing archival records, and conducting field observations, when it was possible. The research sample consisted of five legally functioning collaborative organizations in the State of New Jersey. The sample fell into two groups, those that were formally governed with legally recognized boards of education and informal cooperatives that functioned under the legal status of their participating districts. The administrators interviewed encompassed three categories: administrators of the cooperatives; participating school district administrators; one director representing an informal and formal cooperative; and a state supervisor for special education. The study revealed that a successful cooperative provided for the direct participation and involvement of its member school districts, restricted its membership to a manageable number (15 was suggested as maximum), and provided for meeting the participating district's needs, rather than creating self-initiated programs. The cooperative was also found to need a formal structure that permits it to function as a legal entity and provides for a sound financial basis for its operation. The successful cooperative was enhanced and strengthened by an administrator with good skills in interpersonal relationships and communications. Finally, the effective cooperative endorsed a basic philosophy that promoted the concept that the good of the collective group should be placed above the self-interest of the individual district.

Subject Area

School administration|Special education

Recommended Citation

Cardella, Joseph J, "Consortia: A comparative study of formal and informal governance for special programs in small school districts" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109249.