The little district that could: The process of building district-school trust

Vichet Chhuon, Elizabeth M. Gilkey, Margarita Gonzalez, Alan J. Daly, Janet H. Chrispeels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: This article describes how trust emerged as an issue in one school district and the processes by which central office administrators enhanced trust with its school site leaders. Method: This exploratory participant observer case study uses multiple sources of data including surveys, interviews, observations, and documents collected during a 4-year period from central office and school site leaders. Findings: The article illustrates how a university partner can play a critical role in surfacing and bringing forth action on an undiscussable issue-trust between the central office and its schools-and the actions taken by the central office to address specific facets of trust: openness, communication, risk, and integrity. The site administrators' response to these actions revealed that trust can be developed at both the relational and organizational leadership levels. Significance to the Field: The study is significant in illustrating that building trust between the central office and school sites can be an essential step in an underperforming district and can serve as a resource in achieving and sustaining school district reform. It also shows that attending to specific facets of trust can be useful when examining the development of trust between school sites and the district office.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-281
Number of pages55
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Central office relations
  • District reform
  • Leadership
  • School-university collaboration
  • Trust
  • equity and diversity


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