Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Waiting for the Word

Things have been kind of antsy around the Miami-Dade County Public Schools administration offices the last couple of weeks. Rumors have been running rampant, and whenever people get together for a meeting, either formal or at the coffee maker, the first question is “What have you heard?”

The topic of all this intrigue is the reorganization plan being put together by Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew. Dr. Crew, who took over the country’s fourth-largest district on July 1, has been true to his word to shake things up to get the best performance out of the school system.

Up to 205 Miami-Dade County school employees could lose their jobs and hundreds more vacant positions could be eliminated under a streamlining proposal being unveiled today by Superintendent Rudy Crew, he told The Herald on Tuesday.

No teachers would be cut, but more than 50 of the district’s 140 career counselors are on the block, according to documents obtained under a public records request. About 80 more cuts apply to middle managers and clerical staff from the curriculum and instruction department.

All of the affected employees would be offered alternative jobs in the district, but most at lower rank and pay.

[…]

The cuts would save the district about $13 million a year in salaries and benefits, according to the documents, and purging 522 open positions would free up $23 million more. The vast majority of those open positions — more than 400 — are in business departments such as construction.

Crew wants to use the savings to give teachers raises, modify their pay scale to make it more competitive with other urban districts and boost the budget’s contingency fund. That fund’s shrinking balance was a major factor in Wall Street’s decision this year to worsen its outlook for School Board bonds, and improving that outlook is one of Crew’s priorities.

[…]

Creating the list was a massive administrative project that began last month when Crew asked his department heads to list the functions of their offices and ensure they aligned with his main goals: eliminating failing schools, improving education for all low-performing students and cleaning up the district’s beleaguered business operations.

He then asked the managers to show how each of their employees served those functions, and instructed them to make sure each position met at least one of three qualifications: it is required by law, enhances compliance with the law or is vital for good business practices.

Positions that failed to meet any of those descriptions were listed for possible elimination.

Crew said that department heads focused on the jobs — not the individuals who hold the jobs. “We didn’t see names,” he said, trying to stave off criticism that anyone was targeted for personal or political reasons.

District auditors reviewed the list last week, certifying that each department used the same standards, and it was passed to Crew on Friday. He studied it, made some changes and will begin publishing formal recommendations today.

In the future, he said he plans to make a similar review of all contract employees, who cost the district an unknown sum but are often invisible during cost-cutting plans.

I feel fairly secure in my position…but as my friend Bob is fond of saying, everything is theory until it happens. Stay tuned.