Secretaries at work: A study in decision-making among secretaries in Schools of the Holy Child

Cynthia Hope Vives, Fordham University


Issues of teacher empowerment and participation in organizational decision-making have been central to recent school reform literature. Three national commissions challenged school districts to consider this agenda as a critical future priority. This literature ignored, however, all other members of a school community. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the limited research on school secretaries, specifically those who serve as secretaries to the Heads of independent schools. The study explored secretarial opportunities far decision-making, how secretaries perceive themselves in relation to the total community, and how secretaries participate in delivering the school's mission and reflecting its culture. The study used the principles of qualitative research. In addition to observations during site visits, other data included results of multiple interviews and document analyses. Major findings revealed that secretaries: are highly confident about their skills and performance; do not consider themselves decision-makers; possess strong ties of loyalty to the school and its Head; reflect and deliver, with the Head, the school's philosophy, mission, and culture; and are marginal, invisible members of the community with no opportunities to be integrated as organizational "systems" players. The study recommended that administrators: learn how to use their personal leadership style in assessing, selecting, and nurturing the Head/secretary relationship; educate secretaries and others about their (secretaries') decision-making opportunities; and utilize existing organizational structures to maximize secretarial potential and redesign structures, where necessary, to become more inclusive. This study also recommends that future research on school reform include the roles and responsibilities of all personnel, correcting the serious omissions of the past which addressed solely the needs of teachers. Considering each school employee in the reform process will create a stronger educational climate and a sounder organizational structure more able to cope with an increasingly pluralistic society. Visionary educators must struggle to eradicate all practices and policies which do not develop and enhance the life of each individual who daily crosses a school's threshold. As a result of these initiatives and endeavors, schools will truly become life-long centers of learning.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Vives, Cynthia Hope, "Secretaries at work: A study in decision-making among secretaries in Schools of the Holy Child" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412153.