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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brake

The Paradox of School Stakeholders: When Vested Interests Diverge

Updated: Apr 3

Your school district’s stakeholders are individuals that have (or should have) a vested interest in your schools. They belong to stakeholder subgroups, with each subgroup sharing certain demographic, identity, and behavioral characteristics that shape their vested interest. Stakeholders include:


Parents & Guardians

Certified Staff (Teachers,

Counselors, etc.)

Non-certified Support Staff


Community Partners (Social Service Agencies, Local Businesses, etc.)

Tax-paying Residents of your school district

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a vested interest as:

A strong personal interest in something 

because you could get an advantage from it.

For each stakeholder subgroup listed above, ask yourself what advantages those in that group might be seeking.

Now, here are some words and phrases that school stakeholders have shared with the Grandview Group over the last couple of years when asked about their vested interest in their local school. See if you can guess which subgroup is most often connected to that word or phrase.

You can see how the vested interests of these subgroups can either be out of alignment or overlap. More alarming still, the vested interests of these subgroups can create a factionalized school community where people assign blame and pejorative motives to the other subgroups. When this happens, collaborative dialogue and viable solutions become very difficult. Whatever decisions and strategies school boards and administrators implement, there will be opposition from one or more of the stakeholder groups. For most school districts today, this is the prevailing atmosphere.

While there is no magic pill that will fix this situation overnight, there are ways to engage stakeholders in a healthier dialogue around a set of current realities that are accepted by the majority stakeholder subgroups. These current realities are verifiable facts associated with the problems that can drive stakeholders’ visceral reactions and further the factionalization of our school communities.

Some sample current realities might look like this:

Once stakeholders can validate a set of current realities, you can engage them in exploring solutions and discussing meaningful options. In the process of doing this, you are actually changing the culture of your school district. By focusing on the facts and authentically engaging your stakeholder subgroups, you are showing all stakeholders that you are committed to an inclusive, democratic, and transparent process where decisions and strategies are evidence-based and collaborative.

A culture of stakeholder engagement doesn’t happen in a single school year, and, of course, you will never get 100% of your stakeholders to agree. But through the process of listening, sharing, and tapping into the collective wisdom of your stakeholders, you will be in a position to elevate the impact your decisions and strategies have on your school ecosystem.

Finally, there is one subgroup of stakeholders that will gain more than any other subgroup: students. And isn’t the success of students one vested interest that every stakeholder should have in common?

I hope so.


David Brake is the founder and CEO of The Grandview Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations engage their stakeholders and elevate impact. We would love to talk with you about how your organization is engaging stakeholders and elevating impact.

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