Seattle Public Schools has eliminated 16 central-office positions in a money-saving reorganization that included removing the director of...
Seattle Public Schools has eliminated 16 central-office positions in a money-saving reorganization that included removing the director of its controversial Office of Equity, Race and Learning Support.
The reorganization eliminated some high-salaried positions on the academic side and created some new jobs in their stead in response to a series of performance reviews completed in Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s first 10 months on the job.
Since taking the district’s top spot in July, Goodloe-Johnson has reviewed eight consultants’ reports about different aspects of the 46,000-student district. A ninth report about bilingual education is expected by the end of the school year. As Goodloe-Johnson begins shaping those results into her strategic plan this spring, she is also making some of her first big structural moves.
The reorganization will help close a $16 million budget gap for the 2008-09 school year, a district spokeswoman said, but precise cost savings are still being calculated. Over the past couple of weeks, the district eliminated 16 positions and added nine. More administrative jobs may be cut as the district reorganizes other departments.
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In some cases, jobs are being elevated. For example, the district removed a midlevel curriculum director but replaced that position with a curriculum executive director who will report directly to Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno. In other cases, the job shifts spread some responsibilities around: Caprice Hollins’ race-relations office is going away, for example, but her duties will be spread across several other positions.
Eliminating the Office of Equity, Race and Learning Support, district officials said, will send a message that cultural sensitivity is the job of everyone in the district.
Hollins’ department made national news several times since it was formed in 2004. Last fall, she was criticized for sending teachers a letter reminding them to be sensitive to Native American students’ feelings about Thanksgiving. And last school year, her Web site attracted attention when she defined “individualism” and a “future time orientation” as things valued and considered normal to white people but that “devalue, stereotype and label people of color.”
In 2006, in an attempt to address Muslim students’ interest in praying during the school day, Hollins’ office solicited volunteers for a Prayer in Schools Committee, a name she later conceded was “naive.” This week, the district released a review of its Human Resources, Finance and Information Technology departments. The report, by the Council of the Great City Schools, said all three departments lacked basic processes and struggled with high turnover.
Auditors recommended the district’s Human Resources Department undo a reorganization it recently completed. The department has had six directors in eight years and has “lost the trust and confidence of its customers,” the review found.
No one is keeping track of “the most basic personnel information,” such as job turnover and vacancy rates, and the department is prone to payroll errors. According to the report, the department’s procedures are so unclear that one manager described them as “folklore.”
The review was specifically critical of the district’s teacher-hiring practices. Teachers now apply to individual schools for jobs, rather than to the district. Auditors called the process “cumbersome, inefficient, [and] time-consuming.”
The review praised the district’s financial position but said the Finance Department lacks accountability and should have a tighter internal auditing system. Specifically, the district lacks data about grant-money spending and how closely it is following its budget throughout the year.
In a report to the School Board Wednesday night, district leaders said they have already begun to implement some of the latest audit’s recommendations.