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Friday, January 14, 2011

A Very Different Model of Central

During the Board's budget planning work session, Director DeBell suggested that the Central Administration budget could be cut by about $12 million. Director Smith-Blum said that, nationally, central admin runs about 4-4.5% of district budgets. Don Kennedy, somewhat taken aback, said that such a cut would result in "a Very Different Model of central". Yep. That's the idea.

I advocate a "reset" for the central administration. I think it should be a whole lot leaner and more narrowly focused on just its core missions. I think that the central administration should do what we need it to do - and no more. I think we should rebuild it from the ground up and only put back those pieces that contribute directly to the central mission.

The Central Administration should only work on three things:
1) District Administration. Things like human resource, legal, and financial functions that need to be done centrally and shouldn't be done at the schools. There are other functions like facilities that, by virtue of their scope, need to be done at the District level.
2) Non-academic student services. Not only do these efforts benefit from economies of scale, schools shouldn't be spending their time and effort working on these tasks.
3) Academic support and review. The Central role in academics is two-fold. One is to provide support services, organization, and planning for disciplines and programs. The other is to fulfill a quality assurance role.

This can all be done and be done with a pretty flat structure. Here are all of the departments that occur to me off the top of my head:

1. Administration
A. Management
B. Budget and Finance
C. Human Resources
D. Legal
E. Communications
F. Facilities
G. Data management

2. Non-academic student services
A. Nutrition
B. Transportation
C. Discipline
D. Student Records
E. Enrollment
F. Student Health Services
G. Counseling

3. Academics
A. Math
B. Literacy
C. Science
D. Career & Tech Ed
E. P.E.
F. Music
G. Arts
H. World Languages
I. Library

4. Program Heads
A. Special Education
B. Bilingual Education
C. Advanced Learning
D. Safety Net Programs
E. International Education
F. Native American Education
G. Interventions
H. Homeschool Resource Center
I. Programs for other special populations (Campana Quetzal, South Pacific Islander program, homeless student program, MESA, etc.)
J. Miscellaneous (Traffic Education, Athletics, etc.)

I would be very surprised if this were a complete list. There must be some things that should be here that I've forgotten to include. There are, however, some things that are not listed here because they fall outside the proper mission of the central administration. For example, I can't see how Research, Evaluation and Assessment fits into this scheme.

The District could benefit tremendously from re-thinking the central office from the ground up. The rebuilding needs to be done with a narrow central office mission in mind. There's a lot of stuff that happens there that doesn't need to happen at all. There's a lot of work they do there that they shouldn't be doing. At the same time, there's a lot of work that they should be doing that isn't getting done.

The central office doesn't need a lot of folks for the academics, for example. What tasks are there for a cental math department other than serving as a clearinghouse for news and continuing education, doing a little professional development, working on curriculum maps, leading material adoptions, and organizing collaboration and sharing of best practices among schools. We don't need the central math department to script any lessons. There is some real question in my mind about the need for math coaches. Is that really a proper function of the central administration?

I don't know if this sort of a reset of the central office would result in more or fewer people working there. I suspect fewer. I think the cuts would mostly come in Learning and Teaching, Facilities (where more stuff could be outsourced), and I.T. (where some tasks could be dropped and some outsourced).

9 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, because of the discussion at Wednesday's budget work session, Don Kennedy made up a short handout for the A&F meeting on Thursday. The title is "School/Non-School Groupings" and I think it was to try to explain the "central adm" versus "central office".

Off to the left is one category: Schools:WSS

Then, to the right, are the following:

Schools: Centrally Budgeted (examples):
Nurses,
Bilingual IAs,
Special Ed 1 on 1s,
custodians

Central Admn (examples):
Superintendent's office
payroll,
Grants,
HR
Accounting

Instructional Supports (examples):
Bilingual Management
Special Ed
Instructional Services

Operational Supports (examples):
Transportation
Technology
Maintenance
Grounds

That was all.

What should have been also off by itself is Capital Management because it has its own money and budgets.

A&F was, again, interesting and frustrating. I'll try to get my notes out this weekend.

ParentofThree said...

I don't get the sense that Don Kennedy has a grasp on things.

dan dempsey said...

Grasp this .... please grasp this.

What are the core missions of the SPS?

HAS CENTRALIZED TOP DOWN ADMINISTRATION improved anything? As we begin year three with MGJ and her favorite "four directors", it should be apparent that there has been not much produced other than chaos.

The solution is to decentralize and draw lines through most of that crap that is completely ineffective. I thought that the $1122 spent per kid for Central Admin could be reduced to 35% of that.

So let's see $400 per kid not the likely fraudulently proposed $750.

Go Kay S-B

charlestontoseattle said...

Don Kennedy probably was hired in Seattle because of his loyalty, not his competence. He was part of Maria Goodloe-Johnson's staff back in Charleston:

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2007/sep/01/goodloe_johnson_again_raided_staff14702/

charlestontoseattle said...

Don Kennedy probably was hired in Seattle because of his loyalty, not his competence. He was part of Maria Goodloe-Johnson's staff back in Charleston:

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2007/sep/01/goodloe_johnson_again_raided_staff14702

Kathy said...

Will the board insist on a $10- $12M reduction in HQ?

Wow. That would be something.

I suspect directors will vary on the amount of dollars cut from HQ.

BTW, I heard DK put elementary counselors on the chopping block again, but I didn't see any documentation.

I'd say philanthropic organizations could pick up the tab for HQ spending, but philanthropics spend millions creating organizations to promote controversial and expensive ed. refrom...they want tax-payers to pay for it!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kathy, this is the big question.

I think what will happen is that the cuts, whatever their size, will have to balance out that there are more cuts at central than at schools. Given what I hear from directors, I think they will not budge on this. Now, it could end up be superficial (like $8M at Central and $7M for WSS) but I think the Board is not believing the famous 85 FTE cut claim by the administration AND they don't dare cut more at WSS (not if the 4 who are up for re-election in the fall want to keep their jobs). That's likely to be a deal-breaker for a lot of parents (especially coming off of school closure/reopening outcomes and the NSAP).

Sandy Blight said...

This is the uncomplicated way to help the District Cut 10 million.

Start by cutting the Central office non essential staff - in the Budget & Accounting, Human Resources the legal department. Budget & Accounting staff should reapply for their jobs and salary levels reduced to those of 1990.

Get rid of all those executive directors and get competent staff to handle important board questions.

Superintendents contract can be renegotiated to include incentives based on savings in the Central office.

In the schools, get rid of all non essential staff and get teachers to do own administrative work (improve communications with Central office to assist with teacher requirements). Slice out all that extra fat in the Research, Evaluation and Assessment (REA) and Information Technology department (OUTSOURCE!) and finally, get rid of all that fleet of useless vehicles.

Now, how difficult is that?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sandy, one thing that I heard (but need to check because I feel like I misheard it) was that the Transportation savings was mothballing 85 vehicles (per what you said). That seems like a lot so I wonder if I heard it right.

One interesting thing I left out - the budget survey was NEVER mentioned once by staff.