Critics of public organizations have charged them with rigidity, insensitivity to public needs, inefficiency, and other faults. The charges are not new, but the surge of urban political activism during the 1960s gave a sense of urgency to demands for organizational change. Marcus Foster and the Oakland Public Schools examines an urban political executive’s efforts to meet those demands.
In an attempt to reform education bureaucracy, Marcus Foster—former superintendent of schools in Oakland, California—introduced a three-part program of community participation, decentralization, and budgeting. Each component responded to a specific criticism of bureaucracies, and each was strongly supported by students of organizations.
The most successful changes were those for which the superintendent controlled the requisite resources, enabling Foster to initiate community involvement and determine its procedures. But where change required existing bureaucratic units to relinquish some of their resources, Foster’s success was more limited. It was not, however, the control of resources by others but the unbridgeable gap between theory and application that burdened efforts to reform budgeting.
Jesse J. McCorry shows how the common notion that organizational change is thwarted by bureaucratic recalcitrance and inertia is oversimplified. Broadening analytic perspectives reveals that some bureaucratic reforms, along with their objectives, are beyond the limits of what even the most effective leadership can achieve.
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1978.