A history of the district superintendency and BOCES, 1910-1982

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph McGivney


New York

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education Administration


Statement of the problem. Since 1945, regional service agencies or intermediate school districts have increasingly emerged as important educational service delivery systems. Yet, their evolution has attracted scant scholarly interest. New York's Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) are nationally recognized as models of what intermediate units can accomplish. The primary purpose of this study was to describe the origin and development of BOCES from 1948 to 1982. This required investigation of subsidiary questions. What were the historical antecedents of BOCES? What demographic, economic, and political factors in the larger environment favored the creation of BOCES? Why were BOCES intended to serve as an interim measure pending the creation of intermediate school districts? Have BOCES become permanent units of educational governance?

Procedures followed. Data collection incorporated several complementary approaches: historiography, interviews, and participant-observation. Primary reliance was placed on historiography natural social research precepts. Participant observation enabled the researcher to draw upon his personal and professional experience (as a School Superintendent since 1978) to act as a primary source of information about BOCES.

Main results. New York State experimented with several intermediate units from 1795 to 1910, when the Office of District Superintendent of Schools in a supervisory district was created. The State Education Department (SED), Cornell's College of Agriculture, and the state's major farm organizations formed the Council on Rural Education (CORE) in 1943, and secured enactment of the Intermediate District Law, and BOCES as a temporary measure pending the creation of such districts, in 1948.

Since 1949, successive legislative amendments have applied the principles of the intermediate district to BOCES. The basic concepts underlying BOCES and the intermediate district were radically different, and have never been reconciled in practice.

Conclusions. In the 1950's, BOCES served essentially local purposes through a shared services mechanism that promoted cooperation between two or more districts.

In the 1960's BOCES service delivery shifted to meet the state's need to provide occupational education, to serve pupils with handicapped conditions, and BOCES were authorized to lease and own buildings.

In the 1970's, the SED created a multi-BOCES network, and BOCES increasingly took on the characteristics of regional service agencies.


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