Check out this report from CrossRoads News on the bloat in the central office of the school system - then do a double-take at the date the article was written.
Downsizing necessary as school system grapples with revenue shortfalls
by Ernest Brown 07.23.08
Downsizing or rightsizing the labor force in an organization is a reality in today’s economic climate. It is not surprising that the DeKalb Board of Education requested that Superintendent Dr. Crawford Lewis review staffing levels at the Central Office.
There has always been a concern by many that our Central Office is top-heavy, hence part of the motivation for this request. Dr. Lewis unveiled his preliminary findings at a called Board meeting on June 30th.
The school interviewed several firms to help assess the staffing levels and overall performance. Evergreen Solutions LLC (www.consultevergreen.com/) was selected to perform this service. Dr. Linda Reico, president of Evergreen, co-presented their initial findings with Dr. Lewis.
Following are some of my recollections of major points discussed:
- There are approximately 1,300 employees in the Central Office. This represents approximately 10 percent of all DCSS employees.
- Salaries currently make up approximately 91 percent of the general budget. SACS suggests salaries should be between 87- 93 percent of the budget. The target set by DCSS is 86 percent.
- There is a hiring freeze for “non-essential” positions.
- Forty-two Central Office positions have been identified for possible elimination. This could result in an annual savings of $2.64 million.
- Considering an Early Retirement Incentive Option that could take effect July 1: Targeted employees would be those who have completed at least 30 years of service. It has been determined this would impact around 170 employees. If this program is approved, it could result in an annual savings of up to $2.3 million.
- Staffing levels should be further studied in the Transportation, Public Safety and Security, Public Relations, Plant Services, and Student Relations departments.
- The Athletics program is not “self-sustaining,” and an evaluation may be needed regarding the number of sports teams currently supported.
- Employee salaries and benefits need to be balanced with financial constraints. Dr. Reico mentioned that DCSS has been “generous” over the years with respect to annual increases and that may need to be reviewed.
- Determine where technology modernization and applications could reduce labor costs. Four-day work weeks should be considered during the summer months. There should be cross training of Service Center employees.
- A Compensation and Classification study is recommended. The last one was done in 2003 and these are typically valid for 5 years.
- After the presentation, board members asked questions to get a better understanding of the initial finding along with the costs for proceeding. One member noted that while staffing algorithms should help guide each school, common sense should be used based on the needs of that school.
- The number of assistant principals at each school seemed subjective to some. Another raised the question whether early retirement should be offered prior to the completion of the Performance and Management Audit.
Two studies proposed
Evergreen submitted a proposal of $475,000 for a Management and Performance Audit. It was estimated this could be completed in four to five months, hence delivered by Thanksgiving if begun during July. They also proposed a Compensation and Classification study for $350,000. This could start in December and would also last four to five months.
Both could be done for $775,000 if the Board used Evergreen, representing a savings of $50,000.
The Board was advised the Compensation and Classification study should be opened to other vendors for consideration before proceeding. Dr. Lewis committed to have a recommendation for a vendor by the August work session. The Board will vote on the Management and Performance Audit at the July 14th meeting.
Dr. Lewis began setting expectations with the Board that the entire process could take three to five years to reach the target of 86 percent. He requested consideration that the study be expanded to the entire school system, not just the Central office.
Dr. Lewis also indicated he would meet with CFO Marcus Turk regarding how the audits would be funded and would present that to the Board.
Hiring an outside firm to help with this process is the right thing to do because reduction-in-force efforts are occasionally met with some litigation. Having proper documentation along with making these decisions based on industry best practices and standards would reduce that likelihood.
With possible cuts to the labor force, expectations should be set with stakeholders that there could be cuts in service. If everyone understands and accepts this possibility, it should be easier to deal with the outcome of this process.
Ernest Brown lives in Lithonia. © crossroadsnews.com 2008