A 2006 budget staffing discussion to come before the School Board tonight is about changes to administrative positions for next school year outlined in a memo to the School Board from the Superintendent. (Download memo on administrative changes for 2006-2007). The Superintendent is intending to save money through the elimination of several positions via resignations or retirements. I don’t remember seeing a dollar figure in the memo. However, I don’t feel this is an adequate administrative staffing reduction proposal at this time in the budget process.
What’s the big deal? If there are no other reductions made to the administrative budget prior to the end of this month, no additional reductions in administrative positions can be made due to requirements in the administrators’ contracts. This means that any and all other necessary reductions in staffing positions will have to come from those personnel who most likely work directly with students – teachers, SEAs, etc. I’m not proposing staffing cuts, but the School Board will be facing budget cuts this spring for next year.
To prevent this, the School Board might consider a minimum of a 20%+ reduction (vs. the proposed less than 5% reduction) in the administrative contract budget. Why? Later in the budget process, the School Board will be faced with cuts to custodians, teachers, etc. I believe the School Board could consider taking this action now to enable them to have the ability to make the best decisions on behalf of students when they have better information about what additional cuts will be proposed.
Last spring Lawrie Kobza made the following comment: “For the most part, our budget cuts are not based upon whether we are overstaffed in a particular area. I don’t feel that we cut teachers, or social workers, or custodians because we felt that we were overstaffed in those areas. We didn’t compare the District to benchmarks from other districts on custodial staffing levels to determine appropriate staffing levels for the District. We cut custodians because we had a budget that we had to meet.”
Cutting 20%+ of the administrative budget will give the School Board additional budget planning flexibility that is not available due to the current timing of contracts and the budget process. Will this be hard on administrative staff – certainly. However, I don’t think this will be any harder on them than it is on the thousands of teachers and other MMSD personnel who do not learn of their “fate” until late May (as the spouse of a teacher, I’m familiar with the stresses the uncertainty in the budget process brings). Some districts facing dire financial constraints have held off committing to their entire administrative staff. Some might find that approach to be extreme – others might say we are facing dire financial constraints that are destroying public education and these drastic decisions must be made.
Some people will ask – which positions? Won’t this encourage people to seek employment elsewhere? To the first question, I think the Superintendent is the appropriate manager to make these decisions (not the School Board). To the second question, there is that possibility but that possibility has to be weighed against what’s in the best interest of our children and the School District?
Lawrie Kobza made the following comment during a discussion of the Business Services Budget, “I believe that Roger has told us that staffing in Business Services is as thin as it can be if Business Services continues to perform the same functions it is currently performing. I believe that he also indicated that further staff cuts would mean that functions would have to be dropped. I accept that statement. But, what I would like to see from Business Services and Human Resources is a written report on what functions or services they would pull back from if their budgets had to be reduced by l0%, 20%, or 30% (or whatever percentages we ask about), and what it would mean to the District if those functions or services were reduced or eliminated. I believe that we should ask staff to prepare that written report for us. They have the most expertise on this, and undoubtedly they have given the issue of budget cuts in their departments a lot of thought.”