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School District Eyes Structural Changes

The district considers a long menu of recommended improvements, from eliminating 'work silos' to making job descriptions easier to understand. The goal is to help a 'dispirited' work force.

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent John Stewart laid out administrative restructuring recommendations Monday to the district staff and school board. He described the recommendations as needed

“It’s difficult to hear some of these findings,” Stewart said. “(There is) a long list of pervasive issues. There are some issues that cannot and will not be resolved until we take the steps outlined in the report.”

The report and recommendations are from the organization and management study conducted by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

Common themes or district areas of concern in the study were:

  • Department silos where information and employee skills are not shared.
  • Communication gap between departments and from district offices to individual schools.
  • Confusion of job descriptions
  • District administrators should solely be focused on serving the schools, teachers and students.
  • Too focused on multiple/complex assessments rather than learning.

“The question we have to ask ourselves, knowing these issues exist, how do we create an action plan to overcome it,” Stewart told the board. “That’s how we find out how good we are going to be.

“I believe we can do it as a team. I said we were going to do his as a team. (There are) a lot of people in this room to help us get it done.  An action plan that will not return us to our glory days, but allow us to move beyond the shinning moments of the past and become better and stronger.” 

(Editor’s note: To read the entire list of concerns/recommendations you can view them online or click on the pdf at the top right of the page.) 

Snapshot of Study Recommendations

  • Cluster-related functions and departments, which would eliminate work silos
  • Work with municipalities for school officers instead of a district operated police force.
  • Remove assistant superintendents. “The excessive use of the title "assistant superintendent" decreases the impact that these positions should have,” the study said.
  • Give pilot programs and plans at least three years to see if they will succeed and review and assess after each year.
  • Develop an actionable strategic plan. 

“This is a good place to start,” said school board member Linda Lerner. “I’m so glad strategic planning is all through this. We haven’t had one (since) 2001.”

On Monday Stewart had board members and district staff anonymously write posts about the recommendations. The posts were then put under “agree”, “disagree” or “unclear” in relation to the study’s recommendations.

The four questions Stewart wanted the board to consider were: 

  1. How much of this report does the district want to embrace?
  2. How does the district want to view the recommendations; as items on a buffet or full-course meal?
  3. How many recommendations does the district want to implement for next fiscal year?
  4. What will be the district’s plan for implementation?

“Our workforce is dispirited and discouraged for a number of reasons,” Stewart said. “It is within our power to address many of their concerns, and I intend to do that based on the results of the study and with the support of our School Board.”

Unofficial results of anonymous written feedback to the study from those at the special workshop were overwhelmingly positive. A vast majority of the feedback was placed in the “agree” section.

“I truly appreciate Dr. Stewart, you committing to get this report done,” said school board member Robin Wikle. “Felt like the end of three or four years of the unknown.

“We can use the report two ways; as stepping-stone or a stumbling block,” Wikle said. “I think this board is ready to use it as a stepping stone.”

The biggest concerns from respondents were:

  • What the district will do with its police force
  • How will position/department changes affect salaries and morale
  • If the district would actually follow through with the recommendations

School board members also tackled the timeline for implementation. Stewart suggested, the board members agreed, that it is better to do a menu approach to implementation rather than an all-at-once, buffet approach.

“I’d like to see this as an 8-course meal where we know what’s coming next,” said school board member Carol Cook. “Piece by piece, entre by entre. Too overwhelming to do it all at once.”

Based on comments from the meeting and from district leadership Stewart said he would come back to the board March 13, or 20 with response results and a draft timeline for implementation.

K. T. Lane March 02, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Maybe the problem with Pinellas County Schools is that the administrators are trying so hard to sound “smart” that nobody knows what they are talking about. Cluster-related functions and eliminate work silos???? What does that even mean? Working in groups instead of working out alone on a farm? Try speaking in normal English and maybe people would start doing their job better because they finally understood what needs to be done.

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