School board OKs plan

Administrative overhaul under way in Balto. County

Jobs could be in jeopardy

Move concentrates power in hands of superintendent

April 26, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Board of Education has approved a major administrative overhaul of the public school system that shuffles 24 top posts and concentrates power in the hands of Superintendent Joe A. Hairston.

The superintendent, who proposed the changes, met with more than 100 principals yesterday, telling them that "there will be no trauma." Still, many district employees, especially those who work in five area offices where staffing will be significantly reduced, could find their jobs in jeopardy.

"Obviously, change of this magnitude makes people nervous," said Carol T. Shaner, executive president of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees of Baltimore County Public Schools. "There is no question but that there will be people whose jobs will be eliminated."

Hairston, who has said repeatedly that he is not a "change agent," presented the plan to the school board two hours before the start of Tuesday night's meeting. The panel approved it, 8-0, without discussion. Board member John A. Hayden abstained.

Yesterday, board members defended the swiftness of their action.

"There is no person on the school board who doesn't feel that a reorganization is necessary and who doesn't feel that we need to do it quickly," said board member Michael P. Kennedy. "County officials have asked for years where the money goes. ... It was easy to see that [a restructuring] was the only way to go."

Hairston estimates that the restructuring could save the school system $1.5 million during the next year, and as much as $85 million over five years.

Board members approved a management structure that gives Hairston more direct, day-to-day control of the schools. He will work with two deputy superintendents and a chief of staff, who also will supervise the school system's director of communications and legal counsel.

Deputy Superintendent Christine M. Johns will continue to oversee curriculum, assessment and research.

J. Robert Haines, a former county attorney who spent a brief time in the facilities division, will serve as deputy superintendent of business services, a new post with oversight of the transportation and fiscal offices.

Streamlined staffs

Under the new structure, five executive directors, each responsible for a geographic area, will represent Hairston at the schools. They will monitor activities but not direct curriculum goals.

The executive directors will replace area superintendents, positions that held more power for hiring and classroom management. The board voted Tuesday to fill four of the five executive director positions with administrators who work for the system. One position has yet to be filled.

Each of the five executive directors will work with two employees - an assistant and a secretary. Area superintendents had staffs of about 10. Hairston wants the assistants to be rotating positions, filled each year by teachers who want to become principals. That way, he said, they will get a broad look at how schools function.

Administrators who staffed the five area offices - including curriculum experts and secretaries - will be transferred, said Charles A. Herndon, a school system spokesman. Where they will be assigned was unclear yesterday. Hairston is to present a second phase of staffing changes to the school board June 12.

Shaner, the head of the administrators union, and others, including parents, expressed support yesterday for Hairston's plan. During the 10 months he has headed the school system, Hairston has commissioned three management surveys, the most recent of which was released to the school board Tuesday. Consultants with MGT of America, of Tallahassee, Fla., made 200 recommendations for improvements.

Hairston said he could save the county $11.2 million if he were to implement all the MGT recommendations immediately. Instead, he has chosen a few of the suggestions and will implement them in four phases between now and August.

Deadline looming

School board members said they had to act quickly on the restructuring proposal. Under district policy, Hairston has until Tuesday to notify administrative employees if a job change will result in a salary reduction. Tuesday's meeting was the last meeting before the deadline.

"We needed to get that approved; otherwise, we weren't going to make that May 1 deadline, and we would have had to wait for another year," said school board President Donald L. Arnold.

Although parents said they support what they know of the redesign, many were upset that the changes were approved without public discussion.

"I think parents really want to support the school board, but when they pass a major thing like this without an opportunity for public comment, they make it very difficult because their silence is very hard to interpret," said Teresa K. LaMaster, chairwoman of the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Special Education.

The board spent more time talking about a new calendar for the 2002-2003 school year than the reorganization plan.

Hayden, the board member who abstained, said he would have preferred to allow more time for review and discussion.

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