The high school as community: A case study of politics in a suburban high school

Philip Neil Edwards, Fordham University


In 1990 a dissertation was written entitled High School as Community: A Case Study of a Suburban High School. This study centered on the roles, feelings, and perceptions of the students viewing a restructured school whose vision was based primarily on the concept that a school is a community. Further investigation of the impact of the school as a community on students was called for. The researcher used the previous study as a basis for a follow-up 6 years after this study was originally completed. He expanded the scope of the original study to include the role and effect of politics on a high school community. The use of the Kohlberg School Climate Survey, student interviews, and focus groups assisted this researcher in understanding the status of school community at this research site. It also allowed a comparison of data from 1990 to 1996. The reduction of Eastwood High School's sense of community was clearly observed. Eastwood High School retains elements of the original community documented in 1990. However, there has been a systemic reduction of community and social capital. Community forms, and is maintained, when certain factors are present. These factors are trust, leadership, and the ability to promote and encourage change in a safe, nurturing environment. The core value of community has become institutionalized at Eastwood High School. It exists in spite of external and internal factors that affect the school culture. Using four crisis events that occurred in the Eastwood schools, the research documented how political events and crises related to those events reduced the high school's sense of community. This was substantiated through interviews with faculty, administrators, parents, community activists, union officials, and students. The role of leadership plays a significant role in the maintenance of a school's sense of community. The stronger, more humanistic the leader, the longer a school sense of community can be maintained. When boundaries of control within an organization, like a school, erode, access to power becomes attainable to all members of the community. Resentment occurs and social capital declines. Therefore, there is a reduction of a sense of community.

Subject Area

School administration|Educational sociology|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Edwards, Philip Neil, "The high school as community: A case study of politics in a suburban high school" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809001.