Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; Edward De Roche, PhD; Robert L. Infantino, EdD


city commission, culture, Ethnography, Leadership studies, San Diego (California), school district


Ethnographic research methods were used to analyze the culture of a large city commission appointed to make recommendations for the future of the school district. The study focused on the year-long deliberations of a panel of 17 community leaders. The objectives of the study were to (1) describe the culture of the Commission, (2) analyze the action of Commission members, and (3) develop guidelines for conducting successful commission studies. Major research questions that were the focus of the study were inquiries about (a) the social and cultural organization of the Commission, (b) how the Commission developed and proceeded to do its work, (c) the theoretical concepts surrounding the marker events of the Commission proceedings, (d) the nature of the interactions among participants, (e) the role of leaders in the outcomes of the report, and (f) how this Commission operation differed from that of others. Analyses of the proceedings indicated that the Commission shared a similar process and format with most other commissions. The group evolved its own culture with working norms, roles, and values. Using major national studies as a base, Commission members examined aspects of the education system they felt were inadequate and made recommendations for change. As was true of other commissions, their recommendations provided broad policy direction rather than exact prescriptions. The commission process was propelled by strong leaders who coalesced their influence around a shared set of goals including political interests. The Commission study did not follow social science research methods, producing findings which can be held up for validity and reliability testing. The recommendations primarily represent the opinions of influential key leaders. Many of the recommendations draw upon business experiences and models. It will be important to evaluate how well these strategies work in school settings. The Commission served a symbolic purpose of bringing key issues to the policy agenda for education. This enlightenment was expected to motivate the public and educational system toward action. An additional feature of the study was the development of guidelines which can be used by other school districts and policy leaders in conducting a commission study. Results indicate that those planning commission studies must give proper consideration to commission membership, charge, meetings, and leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access