Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

William Price

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy

Committee Member

Theresa Saunders

Committee Member

Russell Olwell


The purpose of the study was to understand the lessons learned and policy considerations from the successful vote to consolidate the Ypsilanti Public and Willow Run Community Schools. In the past thirty years, only four consolidations have been approved by voters in Michigan; and at least nine consolidation proposals were rejected. Of the successful consolidation votes, three were small rural districts with student enrollments of less than 1,000 when the districts merged. The consolidation of Ypsilanti Public and Willow Run Community Schools represents a unique case. The combined student enrollment at the time of the consolidation vote was approximately 4,800 students. Each district was in deficit and struggling with achievement. The literature on consolidation of districts focuses primarily on small and rural schools. Arguments in support of consolidation typically address economic efficiencies or increased educational opportunities. This study contributes to the literature by investigating the consolidation of two urban, mid-sized districts as an attempt to address both financial and academic challenges. The research was conducted as a qualitative historical case study. Leaders in the process were interviewed, and the researcher analyzed the background conditions and historical context in order to understand why this consolidation effort was successful. The conceptual framework for evaluating the findings included three core concepts: transformational leadership, policy entrepreneur and the policy window, and the Greek concept of kairos. Key findings included the importance of understanding the historical context from a social, political, and economic perspective. These conditions were determined to be necessary for the successful consolidation vote but insufficient to explain

why the consolidation occurred at this time and not at another. In order to take advantage of the opportunity (kairos), transformational leadership was required, coupled with policy entrepreneurs who were able to address the key policy barriers. The convergence of the right time, transformational leaders, and policy entrepreneurs provided important insights with respect to why this effort was supported by 61% of voters in both communities. The lessons learned provide guidance to other districts contemplating consolidation as well as to policy makers attempting to promote additional consolidation of districts.