Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mr. Boesche Wants Your Ideas for Budget Cuts

At the PTSA Q&A event last night I spoke with the interim CFO, Robert Bousche, and he told me that he wanted folks to send him ideas for ways that the District could cut their budget.

Steve Sundquist told me that the Board generally relies on the staff to recommend changes but that they could put in ideas of their own or ideas that they get from the public.

So let's send Mr. Bousche and Mr. Sundquist some ideas.

I can't find an email address for Mr. Bousche, so until we can get it, let's just send the ideas to Communications and to the superintendent and ask them to forward the idea to Mr. Bousche.

Here are a couple ideas that I will be sending in today:

* Stop the spending on the web site upgrade project. Savings: at least $400,000.

* End the NTN contract with STEM a year early at one school (academy). Savings: $200,000.

55 comments:

Mona said...

Cut those communications people. Three at MOST should be a fine number for a lean business or organization.

KG said...

Cut Central admin. without re-naming their positions and assigning them to other line items.
Cut it to 6% or less of the budget.
It seems to me there is a general acceptance of this poor practice that hurts our most vulnerable students. All the community and employees ought to demand this be done ethically. Mr.Boesche should not be so enammered with Duggan Harman either as Duggan is part of the problem, protecting his little empire. Cutting central admin. would leeave a lot of money to help directly with the classroom.
This would be a good long term solution.

Rosie said...

I think it's incumbent on anyone who wants to cut to explain how things will get done once the cut is made. So Charlie, what's going to replace STEM at Cleveland? How much will it cost to design and implemnt whatever alternative you propose? Is there a cost to early termination of the STEM contract?

What's lost with abruptly ending the web redesign mid-stream, and how would that be overcome?

As to cutting communications -- might be a fine idea. What's the benchmark number of "communicators" for other, similarly-sized districts? How would the work of the folks let go be accomplished, or if that work is simply not going to get done, what will we be losing/missing?

In short, instead of just using this as another opportunity to dump on your favorite pet peeve programs, explain why the cut makes sense.

Salander said...

Evaluate each expenditure as to how it benefits students at this moment in time.

When the District is flush with money they can spend as lavishly as they want on upgrades and questioinable programs and oodles of administration.

If it does not benefit students and instead was part of MGJ's resume building -- get rid of it.

Cut Communications and HR.

KG said...

Central Admin. being the Beast that it is does not do one IOTA to help the classroom as the employees they are cutting do. There is plenty of evidence and benchmarks compared to all other Districts that make this needed cut obvious. The largest amount of money that would hurt less to the kids is here in Central Administration.

Anonymous said...

try rsboesche@seattleschools.org

Mr. Ed

Melissa Westbrook said...

By the way, it's "Boesche" and it's pronounced "Boo-shay."

I see Rosie's point and it would need to be evaluated about what would happen for any cut. But the district has put forth benchmarks that other districts have in many areas so they know.

Administration needs to go down to 6%. That is standard for most districts and would most protect the classrooms. How they do it is their problem (except for maintenance which has been whittled down to almost nothing already).

cascade said...

Buhbye to the data warehouse. At least for now. And ABSOLUTELY NOT to the network upgrade for MAP.

Slash personal services contracts.

Zero money to the Alliance.

10 percent cut to all senior level non-certificated managers.

Slash the number of people in HR. Rehire fewer, more senior (more highly paid but also more effective) personnel, for a net savings.

Cut one communications position.

10 percent cut in overall spending in IT (personal services and/or FTE).

Get rid of the 2nd director in special ed.

Get rid of a bunch of the "gatekeepers" to services in special ed.

Sublet a floor of JSCEE.

Zero travel. ZERO. This next year except for the superintendent. PERIOD.

There's a couple million to start.

cascade said...

Dora's comment on another thread reminds me: DeBarros out. She might be competent. She might be nice. She might even be needed. Tis no matter. That's a $80K-plus new salary that Goodloe-Johnson foisted on the district to fulfill her Broad Residency obligations. No more Goodloe-Johnson = no more Broad salaries.

And sorry Enfield. Routing for you doesn't equal another SE District Director. We don't need another chief in the midst of this crisis. If you've got the money to spend, which you don't, put it into 2 classroom teachers instead. Or even one outstanding principal.

Lori said...

I think it's incumbent on anyone who wants to cut to explain how things will get done once the cut is made.

Why should the stakeholders in public education be held to a higher standard than the district itself when it comes to cutting the budget?

No one from the district has explained who will do the work of the elementary school counselors once they are let go.

No one from the district has explained who is picking up the slack in library sciences now that most elementary librarians are only 0.5 FTE and have to spend a good chunk of that time administering MAP.

No one has provided or explained the resources that are available to K-2 teachers whose class sizes have skyrocketed from 22 kids to 28 kids in many places.

I'm sure others could add many more items to my list here. I sometimes wonder if people do not truly understand the draconian cuts that have to be made given the dire financial situation in our state. I know many people who work for non-profits, work in Olympia, lobby for worthy causes with our legislators, and most of them are absolutely appalled and terrified by the decisions that must be made in the days and months ahead about what we, the people of Washington, can afford to provide for our fellow citizens in the next biennium.

Quite frankly, now is not the time to continue nonessential projects like a web site update, or indeed, to be using district funds to provide food or coffee at any event. Some of these items are truly a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things, but every little bit matters and affects public perception about the district's priorities. Until those priorities are clearly demonstrated to be the students themselves and their educational needs, I think we the people have an obligation to point out the areas that demand further scrutiny for cutbacks.

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Anonymous said...

get rid of some principals. I see schools with 500 kids and 3 administrators. If you need that many people with that few students you are really doing something wrong in terms of school culture.

move to school-based staffing to take some pressure off HR, then cut it. HR is pretty ineffective as is, and don't get me started on payroll.

former teacher

Peon said...

I'd much rather see the money that would pay the salary of the second SE Ed director, go into direct support and intervention for struggling students.

TechyMom said...

1) Put off all textbook purchases for 1 year. We might have to make an exception for consumables, but we should be sure that we actually need to buy them. Can kids share and write the answers on (gasp!) paper?

2) Friday furloughs in the central office. I mean that the building is locked an no one who works there goes to work. Every Friday might be too much, but at least once a month. Also consider furloughing the central office during winter, mid-winter, spring break, or 1-2 weeks during the summer.

3) Central office hiring and salary increase freeze.

4) Reduce the number of coaches. Consider giving them super-seniority for open teaching positions.

5) Go back to having schools collect Pay4K money, and lay off whoever is supposed to have been doing it at the central office.

Anonymous said...

Agree that restructuring in HR needs to happen yesterday. Cut the deadwood. Again. Hire a couple of pros that will work their butts off. Save money.

Ann Chan has been here 6 months or something now. Is there a plan for restructuring? Has *anything* happened? And I sure hope we're not paying her a living expense salary stipend. Ditto for Enfield. If we are, cut em. And that goes for any other similar situation in JSIS if it exists. Commute from a different city. Fine. But not on the taxpayer's dime.

And I agree with Techy mom. New textbooks can wait a year. Stinks, yes. But times are tough.

-skeptical-

Peon said...

STEM has been interesting to follow.

Anonymous is right in that people thought that STEM would not serve the students of Cleveland, but rather it would attract higher achievers, and the Cleveland students would be pushed out.

That did not happen. Alot of Cleveland students stayed on.

SP just reported in a recent thread that "All algebra students and geometry have to take a double dose, meaning a 85 minute class for a full year to cover the same amount of material that other schools use 50 or 55 minutes per class for (all other classes just go for one semester). This was explained to us as necessary because "a lot of students come to us still struggling from poor math skills,"

So lets examine this. The school is serving the children of the SE, particularly the students who used to be at Cleveland. And, the school is offering intervention and support for struggling students, in that they are offering this "extra" math time to catch kids up.

Isn't this exactly what we have all been asking for?

I'm not so sure what the NTN contract does for STEM? And without knowing that I can't pass judgement, on whether I think we should continue or discontinue it. But I will say that if what is happening at Cleveland is working, and it seems like it is, then I think we should celebrate and support it, not think of ways to cut back.

Bird said...

Cut $50k off the Superintendent's salary.

Dorothy Neville said...

Kay SB told me that the Cleveland classes that are most successful are the Project Lead the Way classes and that the staff as a whole dislikes and is not using the NTN software for anything.

That warrants further investigation, of course, but it does support dumping NTN. Remember, NTN is not curriculum, it is a software package that is supposed to aid teachers to implement project based learning. It is an expensive piece of software with some significant questions. Any curriculum a teacher adds becomes the intellectual property of NTN. And how well were they trained and how useful is it? I have also heard that the laptops for all is a thing of the past. Doesn't NTN require each student to have a computer in each class?

Salander said...

Cut the number of principals with their 100K+ salaries. Sorry but the job of administering is not that difficult or time consuming.

Since there is not enough administering for principals to do they must spend an inordinate amount of time on "learning walks", district meetings and training staff to do what they themselves have no clue how to do.

Roosevelt HS used to have two assistant principals. Another was added to deal with the transition back and forth to Lincloln four years ago. That duty went away but the position stayed. DEAD WEIGHT.

I wonder what the FTE of non-teachers in this district (collecting salaries that could be used for hiring teachers)is to those who actually do something that promotes student learning, which is after all, what education is about.

Peon said...
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Peon said...

"I have also heard that the laptops for all is a thing of the past. "

Dorothy did you "hear" this from someone official? Or from an administrator at the school? If not, I wouldn't spread it around, as it could be very damaging if untrue.

As of today Cleveland is still proudly posting on their website that each 9th and 10th grade student receives their own laptop to keep for the year.

http://www.seattleschools.org/
schools/cleveland/laptops.html

Dorothy Neville said...

I heard it from Michael DeBell. It was at his coffee hour and others were present, they can chime in and correct me if I am wrong. I believe when talking about the budget, someone brought up the laptops at Cleveland as a huge expense and he said that wasn't going to continue. Perhaps he is an unreliable source. Perhaps I am an unreliable source. Perhaps the website is an unreliable source. Perhaps all are reliable but the nuances, the timing of the cut is uncertain and unknown.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael DeBell said at a community meeting that he didn't think the laptops for students was going to continue. I'll follow-up but he's pretty official.

followthatdog said...

I've been asking for information about the org chart of the district and have been emailed three separate documents for the central administration alone. This is the administration above the principal level. I was surprised. I then followed up and asked about teachers on special assignment to the central office. These are teachers who are not in the classroom but are working on projects at the central office. I'm hoping the number I was given is incorrect, because it is exceptionally high. I have requested more information to confirm this is the case.
At any rate, I'd say there is definite bloat at the central office level and each position should be reevaluated.

Meg said...

Going by the line item budget, it looks like Central Administration spends $3.7 million on contractual and hourly services. By way of comparison, more than enough to fully fund almost any elementary school in the district (with a counselor).

Another point of comparison would be to compare Central Administration contractual and hourly spending to Other Support. Other Support, in FY11, had a budget of $92M compared to Central Admin's $35M budget. Other Support had just shy of $2M in contract and hourly cost, for more comprehensible costs like hourly plumbers, custodians, roofers and the like.

It looks to me as if many of the contractual costs in Central Admin may be overlapping/duplicate costs. For instance, the CFO has over $80K budgeted for legislative relations. But SPS already has a General Counsel (who I thought, in addition to lawyerly advice, was also supposed to be up on policy and legislative issues) and a Director of Policy and Government Relations. Maybe these aren't overlapping costs, as they appear to be. But maybe they are.

And to answer Rosie's fair question of "what would be lost": I'm not sure. Possibly nothing, since it's not clear that this much contractual spending in administration does a damn thing for district students. But maybe some is important. Each innocuous little line item, though, in that area, needs to be scrutinized, because it adds up to a not-at-all innocuous amount.

Meg said...

Coaches: SPS spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.6M on coaches and STAR mentors. Around $1million of those coaches appear to have a school assignment, about 9.7 FTEs in 22 or so schools. It's possible that more of the PD coaches are working in schools than that (a coach with multiple assignments might not have an assignment on the line item).

Does SPS need this much in the way of coaches, particularly those that are not working in schools? Does SPS need these coaches more than, say, elementary or college counselors? How much is required in the CBA? Title I requires that 10% of Title I money be spent on Professional Development. SPS spends comfortable more than that on just PD coaches.

I am not against coaches, per se. There is an argument - a good argument, even - for coaches, particularly coaches who are embedded as part of school faculties.

The bulk of SPS coaching expense appears to be outside of schools. It should be closely scrutinized to make sure that there is a clear benefit for SPS students to continue with this level of spending.

These expenses technically count as teaching expenses, since all professional development coaches were reclassified as teachers.

A downside to reducing the professional development coaching budget is the churn it would create in school faculties - since coaches are certificated teachers, coaches with seniority would be able to displace more junior teachers from schools. I don't think that's ideal, and shouldn't be minimized. Even so, I don't think that potential churn is a reason to not reduce that budget.

Kathy said...

Research and decrease funding: $4M in Personal Service Contracts, $200K expenditures to Alliance for Ed and $3M annual budget for Research,Evaluation & Assessment.

Restructure and eliminate HR positions, eliminate gas purchases for HQ employees, eliminate employee food purchases, eliminate travel, responsibly utilize TIF and eliminate academic data warehouse.

someone said...

HR - justify that huge bloat of staff or cut -

would love to see some kind of across the board salary cut for higher level admin positions - that's common in both private and public industries during times of hardship - even 1% across the board would be helpful, if the line item budget is any indication.

ditto personal service contracts - it was common at the State level to put a hold on those during budget crisis times - at very least review to see if they still have validity from a program basis

ditto travel - nonessential travel should be immediately cut

funny - word verifier is "charg" - is that Charge! as in "onward" or "charge" as in Visa ;o)

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would agree with the travel. When they said they froze travel, they didn't last time. When they said hiring freeze, they kept hiring. If it's a freeze, it all stops. At this point, I don't see the need to travel anywhere.

Bird said...

Why is there $200K in expenditures to Alliance for Ed?

I thought the whole point of the Alliance was that the money was to flow the other way?

Bird said...

Don't hire and pay the additional costs of Teach for America teachers.

another mom said...

The salaries of new hires,s/a the possibility of a new director to assit Michael Tolley, must be offset by the elimination of a similar (administrative) positions elsewhere. The salary of the new communications director should fall into this category.

In addition to paring the 9% down to 6% in CA consider a 10% decrease in salaries of all managers, directors, lawyers and central administrators, etc. The big money people. We all have to live on less these days.

Furloughs - a good idea but I would suggest rolling Friday furloughs. Not everyone all at once -not good from a customer service standpoint nor from a work management perspective. Although, it may be possible for places like HR to be entirely gone for one day per month, I don't see this working in each department but furloughs are doable and should be explored. Seattle Public Library does it.

Anonymous said...

Special education administration. We don't need or want 2 directors. 1 qualified director will do. Cut the huge and mostly useless administration which consists of supervisors (often supervising nobody), consulting teachers, and coaches. It would be one thing if these people were EVER helpful. In fact they are nearly always unhelpful, unresponsive (as in, won't answer phone or email) and cause tons of problems for families. We don't need an early retirement program for special educators. We need boots on the ground in the classroom. Better yet, running shoes. General education can do with school assignment with a couple people for 40,000 people. Special education requires 25 staff to assign 6,000 students, and most of them are supposed to be assigned using general education assignment.

--SPED parent

Syd said...

"Cut the number of principals with their 100K+ salaries. Sorry but the job of administering is not that difficult or time consuming."

I can't agree with this. Being the principal of a school is a lot of work. Mentoring and overseeing staff is a big job, not to mention budgeting, parent interaction, etc... Try being the boss of 20+ people.

KG said...

This employee will be taking no furlough especially when Central Admin. is not hardly being cut. and is srill way over the 6% it should be at. NO WAY. I am not giving one dime to those FAT adminocrats. Iwork where the rubber meets the ground and that is in the school building.

KG said...

Meg,

The 35 million that the district says they are spending in the 2010-2011 school year is false as they have just changed position names and pu them in other budget lines.

Meg said...

KG - I agree that the $35M is a lowball number for Central Admin, largely gained by billing administrative expenses to other expense segments.

I stuck with the $35M because I don't have a strong enough +/- certainty of the financial neighborhood the re-allocated costs (consulting teachers, coaches, IT management and the like) may place Central Admin in.

KG said...

Meg,

Though you do agree that Central needs a large hacking as this pratice of deception by Duggan and the school board needs to stop.

I mean saying that they are cutting Central by 2.6 million by taking 30.5 maintenance positions and moving them to capital is a central cut seems bogus to me. They do not want to cut one another down at the Crystal Palace.

I thank you for your response and like the work you have done on the extra fat administration we have here in Seattle.

none1111 said...

Dorothy said (regarding NTN): Any curriculum a teacher adds becomes the intellectual property of NTN.

This has really, really irritated me since it was first exposed. There is a moment now toward "open source" (completely free!) curriculum, and it's not going to slow down. What NTN is doing is fully counter to this movement.

Check out: CK-12 Flexbooks. There are others, but this is STEM-oriented, so it fits right into this discussion. I haven't looked at a wide variety of books yet, but what I have looked at seemed solid. And if a teacher prefers a different style, pick another author - they're all free! If the homeschool crowd hasn't started using this stuff already, I'm sure they will be soon.

Math folks (Dan?), take a look, I'd love to hear some opinions on the basic high school algebra/geo books on ck12. In other words, the counterparts to the Discovering series. I just ran across ck12 the other day, but so far I like much of what I've seen. I'm also wondering if there are obvious coverage holes, and I'd love to hear from anyone with specific knowledge in the field.

With open source though, anyone can fill in the gaps without fear of copyright violations, and feed it back into the system to make it better!

none1111 said...

Oops. While the previous comment was based on part of Dorothy's comment, I guess this went a bit off-topic, sorry. Not sure where to put it though. Maybe Open Thread Friday (tomorrow!), or if there's enough interest perhaps it will be worth its own post?

I think it will be very, very interesting to see how much momentum Open Source curriculum gets over the next few years, especially with all the frustration with the reform textbooks.

wsnorth said...

I think we/you should back off the criticism of STEM and give it a chance.

Cleveland was a failing school by any and all measures. If we can bring one bright spot to the SE that is progress, even if the ROI is not the best.

Charlie Mas said...

wsnorth, I don't see criticism of STEM here so much as a belief that the school doesn't need (or possibly want) as much support from NTN as was originally planned.

In addition, STEM was supposed to raise private money for a significant part of its budget and has not done that. There is money they want from the District that wasn't supposed to come from the District.

Anonymous said...

I believe most of the suggestions made thus far have value. I wonder though whether people think about how to sequence things in order to achieve their suggestions. For example, I would guess that the reason coaches and addition building admistrators are needed is because we don't have an effective teacher evaluation. I would also guess that the reason Central Administration is bloated is because there is a lack of policies and procedures, lack of well designed and defined processes and an effective performance evaluation. I hear that many central office personnel have not received an evaluation for several years or it is merely a rubber stamp process. Look at the District Scorecard, only 50% are evaluated. If I didn't evaluate my staff at work, I would be fired!

Focus on fixing the root of the issue and the unnecessary costs will go away. Back to Basics SPS!

Call me an optimist.

A Friend to Seattle

Anonymous said...

No Friend,

There's NO real reason to hire the coaches. AND, there's no evaluation process for the coaches either. It's not like the coaches are some super teacher, with some special experience or qualification. There simply wasn't a problem needing solution when they were hired. The "problem" is teacher quality, and that won't be solved by coaches, if it exists at all. No teacher needing a coach, will want or listen to one. And how often do they show up anyway? Once a year? This is an expensive solution looking for a problem. More administrators hired isn't a result of some policy problem. The problem of central administration bloat is self-sustaining.

Parent

Anonymous said...

That is to say, to root problem is the central administration itself. I second the idea of getting rid of half of them. If they can't figure out which ones to get rid of, use birthdays or a coin toss. With half the staff, they'd figure out how to operate with less.

Parent

dan dempsey said...

WS NORTH,

said "Cleveland was a failing school by any and all measures."

This is not true. The primary reason that Cleveland was identified as one of the 47 failing schools in the state came from WASL test scores over a three year period.

During the three year WASL score window of Spring 2007, 2008, 2009 used to identify failing schools, Cleveland High School Math scores were exceptionally low. A direct result of the three year school wide UW/NSF unmonitored Math experiment.

Cleveland was NOT failing by any and all measures. Take a look at the WASL performance at Cleveland in 2007, 2008, 2009 in Reading or Writing as opposed to Math.

===============
The Current interim Superintendent was the lead person in the creation of the highly flawed NTN action report revised on 2-2-10, which the Board used to approve the NTN contract that did not match the Action Report on 2-3-10.

The Current interim Superintendent was the lead person in the creation in the creation of the 3-12-10 NTN SBAR, which was based on the forged document. The NTN organization had a pathetic record in regard to math as well as several other areas.

Math was particularly troublesome as no one could respond to the data. Records from internal emails showed that both Principal Shareef and the math Department head were concerned about the data I set to the Board and wanted NTN to respond to it.

The data came from State Department of education records in North Carolina, California, Colorado, and Oregon. It was 100% rock solid. There never was any response from NTN.

Betty Patu examined the data and checked it. She voted NO along with DeBell and KSB. Sundquist and Maier and Martin-Morris and Carr avoided the data entirely ... Maier and M-M choose to do something rather than nothing at all .... Carr called vendors to make sure the vendors liked their product and called principals that had recently begun using the product. Sundquist told fairy-stories about what he observed and believed to be true..... he had the data that his stories was not true ... but he told the stories anyway.

NTN compounded a horrible math mess and a lot more. Project Based Learning as the primary instructional mode in every class, every day was a ridiculous idea from the outset and particularly so for struggling students.

S. Enfield continues the ridiculous SPS math approach and Sunquist is supportive of continuing this experimental folly.

Luckily the Appellate court has informed us that a School Board is not required to use any thought in making decisions ... so Sundquist is right on track.

Mathy parent said...

Thank you for the link to the *free* C-12 Flexbooks.

I'm not sure how they compare to some of the gold standard books out there, but looking at the pre-algebra as compared to CMP2, I can say they are vastly better at explaining the basic concepts. There are no graphs of happiness or drawings of WUMPS (thank goodness).

The chapter I scanned was written in a conversational way, and seems that it could be used in a self-teaching way.

One word of caution - I think I found an error in the first chapter I scanned. There is a table of divisibility rules that states a number is divisible by 3 if the sum of the last two digits is divisible by 3. It gives "112" as an example, but 3 is not a factor of 112. I believe the rule is that the sum of all digits is divisible by 3. For example, 312 is divisible by 3.

Even so, for those wanting to supplement the District's curriculum, I'd say these are a great option.

dan dempsey said...

Mathy parent,

You are correct it is the sum of all the digits divisible by three, to test for divisibility by three.

SC Parent said...

Here are my suggestions in case anyone wants to use them as a starting point (I don't expect anyone to agree with me entirely). I plagiarized heavily from previous posts.

Mr. Bouche,
I appreciate your request for feedback from the community on suggested areas for budget savings. Below are some of my thoughts. In general, you will notice that my suggestions tend to focus on central administrative costs. This is because SPS’s central admin is so significantly higher than the 6%-of-budget regional average. Many of my suggestions are geared toward bringing SPS overhead in line with other school districts, as this appears to be low-hanging fruit with which to start balancing the budget.
1) Reduce the scope of MAP testing by not testing kindergartners. I believe the contract specifies paying based on the number of students tested in a given year. Reducing the frequency of the tests would not help the budget, but eliminating one grade from the testing would reduce the contract costs as well as providing more classroom time for learning and reducing demands on school resources for MAP proctors and computer time.
2) Terminate the academic coach positions that are not assigned to schools ($6M?). Whether or not they provide a valuable service, these are difficult budget times and these coaches do not have a direct influence on the classroom. In addition, the 6 Education Directors should be able to step into this role on a temporary basis if needed. We can bring back coaches when the budget situation improves.
3) Delay or cancel Teach for America. A time of budget cuts and teacher layoffs is no time to be paying more for inexperienced teachers. I understand a grant has been promised to pay the “finder’s fee” for TFA recruits, but even if that grant materializes there will be several other direct and indirect costs associated with the TFA program (mentors, observers, tracking, etc.) including documenting the Highly Qualified Teacher status. SPS does not have the luxury of extra resources to staff this program.
4) Terminate all personal service contracts except for legal services ($3.7M?). SPS could probably get by for at least one year without any personal service contracts. This would save valuable budget dollars as well as providing a “reset” to evaluate whether the contracts are actually necessary to SPS functioning. (If so, perhaps an internal position should be created.) Additionally, this could be helpful to provide some breathing room to develop appropriate control mechanisms in light of the Regional Small Business Development Program fisasco. Or, require CFO approval for all personal service or contract expenditures and set a goal to reduce those expenditures by a minimum of 50%.
5) Reduce salaries costs (directly or via furloughs – preferably directly) by 5% for employees with salaries greater than $90,000, by 10% for salaries greater than $120,000, and 15% for salaries greater than $170,000, and as allowed by union contracts. This is an important psychological and public relations step that SPS has avoided thus far. With such significant cuts to maintenance and schools, it is important that highly paid central admin personnel make it clear that they have skin in the game, too. I know 15% is a lot, but leadership needs to start at the top.
6) Delay purchasing new textbooks by one year. We have survived to this point, so I don’t think one additional year will harm the children.
7) Delay the curriculum alignment for two years. This is a non-essential process that can be tabled for the near term without affecting the existing level of education provided.
8) Scale back, delay, or eliminate the IT infrastructure upgrades. It’s nice to have reliable computers and faster connections, but this is another non-essential item that could be reduced to keep valuable dollars in the classroom.
...

SC Parent said...

9) Eliminate 2-3 secretary, office specialist, or administrative assistant positions from JSCEE. I must assume that critical functions will still be able to get done. It may cause some short-term pain, but this is a terrible budget situation.
10) Reduce Communications staffing by 2 FTE.
11) Eliminate all “summits” and other symposiums, workshops that are not directly related to achieving SPS educational goals or community involvement (see School Improvement Superstars Summit on 3/11/11). These may not cost much money, but if central admin gets cut to its absolute leanest, staff should not have the time to coordinate such events. Another non-essential activity.
12) Eliminate all purchases for food or coffee. This is a small dollar amount, but psychologically significant.
13) Reduce the travel budget by 20%. This will cause some angst, but the focus needs to be on core activities. If the budget can get stabilized, travel could be restored in 1-2 years. Funding travel at 80% will keep the wheels turning.
14) Eliminate 1 of the 2 special education directors. Or, reassign one of the directors to a classroom role and at a commensurate salary.
15) Reduce HR by 20%. HR seems outsized compared to the size of the district. Some of the workload associated with the reductions could be absorbed by schools assuming a larger role in the hiring/staffing process. I think the principals would welcome that extra work.
16) Do not create the second Southeast Education Director position. Instead, fund two positions directly supporting and intervening with struggling students in the Southeast area.
17) Shift collection of Pay-for-K fees (full-day kindergarten) to the schools. Eliminate the position at central administration, as it clearly has not worked to have this process centralized.
18) Eliminate first-line management positions that are supervising fewer than 6 personnel. Consolidate groups to obtain 6-20 personnel per first-line supervisor. Second-line supervisors should have at least 4 first-line managers working for them. The anticipated organization chart should help with this process.
19) Cancel the NTN contract with STEM at one school.
20) Reevaluate the Strategic Plan to identify all areas that can possibly be canceled or delayed to positively affect the budget.
21) Eliminate the $80k in the CFO’s budget for legislative relations. This work should be accomplished by the General Counsel and the Director of Policy and Government Relations within their existing budgets.
22) Reduce budget allowance for Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
23) Eliminate expenditures to education groups. They should be providing assistance to SPS, not receiving payments. Specifically, Alliance for Education received $200k.
24) After these changes are implemented, require that any hiring by a department within JSCEE be offset by a commensurate termination of a position at JSCEE.
25) For clarity, the maintenance positions that were “cut” from Central Admin by moving them to Capital should be moved back to Central Admin. Maintenance is not a capital expense.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide my thoughts on the SPS budget situation. I look forward to greater clarity in the SPS budget going forward, including a zero-based budget and organization chart with funding sources for each position. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding my suggestions.

SC Parent said...

The previous post and this one contain my comments in case anyone wants to use them as a starting point (no one will agree with me entirely, though I plagiarized heavily from other posters).

Mr. Bouche,
I appreciate your request for feedback from the community on suggested areas for budget savings. Below are some of my thoughts. In general, you will notice that my suggestions tend to focus on central administrative costs. This is because SPS’s central admin is so significantly higher than the 6%-of-budget regional average. Many of my suggestions are geared toward bringing SPS overhead in line with other school districts, as this appears to be low-hanging fruit with which to start balancing the budget.
1) Reduce the scope of MAP testing by not testing kindergartners. I believe the contract specifies paying based on the number of students tested in a given year. Reducing the frequency of the tests would not help the budget, but eliminating one grade from the testing would reduce the contract costs as well as providing more classroom time for learning and reducing demands on school resources for MAP proctors and computer time.
2) Terminate the academic coach positions that are not assigned to schools ($6M?). Whether or not they provide a valuable service, these are difficult budget times and these coaches do not have a direct influence on the classroom. In addition, the 6 Education Directors should be able to step into this role on a temporary basis if needed. We can bring back coaches when the budget situation improves.
3) Delay or cancel Teach for America. A time of budget cuts and teacher layoffs is no time to be paying more for inexperienced teachers. I understand a grant has been promised to pay the “finder’s fee” for TFA recruits, but even if that grant materializes there will be several other direct and indirect costs associated with the TFA program (mentors, observers, tracking, etc.) including documenting the Highly Qualified Teacher status. SPS does not have the luxury of extra resources to staff this program.
4) Terminate all personal service contracts except for legal services ($3.7M?). SPS could probably get by for at least one year without any personal service contracts. This would save valuable budget dollars as well as providing a “reset” to evaluate whether the contracts are actually necessary to SPS functioning. (If so, perhaps an internal position should be created.) Additionally, this could be helpful to provide some breathing room to develop appropriate control mechanisms in light of the Regional Small Business Development Program fisasco. Or, require CFO approval for all personal service or contract expenditures and set a goal to reduce those expenditures by a minimum of 50%.
5) Reduce salaries costs (directly or via furloughs – preferably directly) by 5% for employees with salaries greater than $90,000, by 10% for salaries greater than $120,000, and 15% for salaries greater than $170,000, and as allowed by union contracts. This is an important psychological and public relations step that SPS has avoided thus far. With such significant cuts to maintenance and schools, it is important that highly paid central admin personnel make it clear that they have skin in the game, too. I know 15% is a lot, but leadership needs to start at the top.
6) Delay purchasing new textbooks by one year. We have survived to this point, so I don’t think one additional year will harm the children.
7) Delay the curriculum alignment for two years. This is a non-essential process that can be tabled for the near term without affecting the existing level of education provided.
8) Scale back, delay, or eliminate the IT infrastructure upgrades. It’s nice to have reliable computers and faster connections, but this is another non-essential item that could be reduced to keep valuable dollars in the classroom.

SC Parent said...

I did spell his name correctly on my email :)

Charlie Mas said...

Right around now, if Mr. Boesche has actually received a couple dozen emails with ideas for budget cutting, he might be wondering just who the hell I am. That tickles me.

Peon said...

Excellent list SC parent!