Reorganization brings big changes to school district staff

eearl@bradenton.comJune 2, 2013 

0213_BRLO_superintendent_Mills

Rick Mills

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MANATEE -- Rick Mills, superintendent of Manatee County schools, said the school district is dysfunctional and in need of stronger executives, so he's making changes at the top.

Mills will unveil his reorganization plan on Monday. It includes seven new and several revamped leadership roles, including an executive director of human resources, a director of communications and family and community engagement, a budget director, executive director of curriculum and professional learning, director of research and assessment, director of school improvement, director of district support, chief information and technology officer, director of personnel, director of benefits and total compensation, director of risk management, a director of planning and performance management, a director of capital projects and a director of instruction services.

The district is also looking for an investigator in the office of professional standards, a position that has been vacant.

The reorganization comes as Mills has already brought in two new deputy superintendents, Diana Greene and Don Hall, and has eliminated 96 district staff positions, along with 182 teaching positions.

The Manatee County School Board is set to vote on Mills' reorganization plan at a special board meeting Monday. He will also release the findings of the transition team that came in last month to evaluate the district and make suggestions for fixing the district's financial problems.

Bill Vogel, who was appointed by Mills to oversee the transition team, said the district, overall, needs more focus and communication with schools.

Among the team's most significant recommendations were to create positions for the executive director of human resources and budget director.

"Human resources is a major function of the organization, and we felt that the position should have more significant responsibilities," Vogel said.

Mills said the department currently is not capable of performing across the "four core functions" of pay and compensation, talent management, labor relations and personnel.

"This is a necessary change to turn the district around," Mills said. "HR is broken, and we are understaffed and underled."

The new executive director of human resources, who is expected to direct all of the functions, will make between $86,239 and $124,426 a year.

"We are not going to attract the best talent with low-level pay and low-level positions," Mills said.

The transition team's recommendations are extensive and went further than

Mills' financial recovery plan, he said.

"This next week will be critical for the school board," Mills said.

Mills faces ending the school year with a $3 million to $5 million deficit and nothing in the district's financial reserves. He said he is waiting to get the final May expenditures before notifying the state that the district will have a deficit and offering the Florida Department of Education his financial recovery plan.

The 96 district employees that are being cut by the last day of June have already been notified. Mills said he believes he has the school board's support for his reorganization plan, including the new leadership positions.

The school board is in the interview process for the executive directors for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.

Mills plans to have the new directors in place by July 1. They will be charged with reorganizing and improving their departments, which may include some hiring in the coming year.

"We will work through this process together," said school board vice chairwoman Julie Aranibar.

Mills blames the district's woes on weak leadership and a lack of oversight.

"The district has been hiring from within for years and it's created the dysfunction we have here now," he said, adding that he's determined to attract "the best talent we can to turn this morass around."

To improve communications as well as community involvement, Mills is suggesting a director of communications and family and community engagement as part of his reorganization.

That position has a salary range of $72,064 to $104,248 a year, depending on the number of years of experience. The new leader will be encouraged to reorganize and add to the department, which currently has three employees.

Mills also plans to hire someone whose main responsibility is to keep a close eye on the budget.

"Every school district on the planet has a director of budget," said Mills.

The new budget director will report to Michael Boyer, the district's chief financial officer.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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