Academic journal article Rural Educator

Policies and Professional Development: An Oil Boom's Effect on Rural Schools and Teachers

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Policies and Professional Development: An Oil Boom's Effect on Rural Schools and Teachers

Article excerpt


Energy booms occur across the country (Lidji, 2012; Ragsdale, 2012), and can be polarizing to the community because of perceived risks and opportunities of the population growth that transform the local communities and customs (Schafft, Borlu, & Glenna, 2013). In these areas, schools are also affected as personnel attempt to keep up with the changes. However, the rapid population growth and school and community impacts are not limited to energy industries; similar social and economic effects have been noted in rapid growth caused by tourism, technology industries, casino gaming, agriculture, manufacturing, and other job-producing industries (e.g. Leistritz & Sell, 200; Wan, 2012). Nonetheless, teachers in rural boomtowns have been underrepresented in boomtown studies, which often focus on community disruptions, administrative policies, economics, and social outcomes. It is vital to understand needs of boomtown schools and teachers to inform policymakers in similar growth contexts how to prepare accordingly.

In 2008, economic conditions and technological advances led to the ideal setting for an oil boom in North Dakota. Communities that experience rapid growth as a result of job-creating industries are referred to as boomtowns because of the swift population surge (Olien & Olien, 1982). The Bakken Shale Formation ("the Bakken"), a resource-rich sedimentary deposit, lies up to two miles under North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Canada. It is estimated that there are nearly 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and 500 million barrels of natural gas liquids (Demás, 2013, paras. 1 & 7). Extracting oil from the Bakken created tens of thousands of jobs, many of which remained unfilled in North Dakota during the period of 2009-2014, and caused unpredictable growth in schools and communities (Mason, 2012). The region of North Dakota in which the Bakken is centralized is largely rural, isolated, and was not prepared for the sudden growth, which caused characteristic boomtown disruptions to regional infrastructure, housing, and economic resources (Fairen, 2014).

Two communities existed in the booming area of North Dakota, and were in the early stages of growth during the time of this study. It is clear that rapid growth in rural schools will have some affect on policies and teachers. The limited research on boomtown schools has shown that schools that do not adequately prepare for and respond to rapid growth are unlikely to grow effectively, and all stakeholders in the school and community may be at personal, social, and economic risk (Ross & Green, 1979). The purpose of this qualitative single-case study was to investigate the experiences of school staff in two rural schools within the North Dakota oil boom region.

Related Literature

During the 1970s and 1980s, researchers studied rapidly changing economies in rural areas resulting from energy resource extraction (Brookshire & D'Arge, 1980). Much of the research was devoted to social effects of the community change. Findings suggested that rural infrastructure is inadequate for boomtown growth, resources prove insufficient, criminal activity increases, and social structures within the community can become strained (Freudenburg, 1986; Ruddell et al., 2014). The Social Disruption Theory is often used as a framework for understanding these boomtown disruptions (England & Albrecht, 1984).

The Social Disruption Theory describes the effects of rapid growth on social structures (Kwan & Mccartney, 2005) and communities (Smith, Krannich, & Hunter, 2001). Social services (Weber, Geigle, & Barkdull, 2014) and emergency services (Jacquet, 2005) can become burdened in boomtowns. Rural infrastructure, including roads, hospitals, water, sewage, and electrical systems, are often insufficient for the new residents (Petersen-Klein & Borjon, 2011). There is nearly always a critical housing shortage because the supply of homes in rural areas is inadequate for the newcomer demands (Collins, Schecter, & Carroll, 2008). …

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