Manatee School Board OKs Mills' plan to fix schools

eearl@bradenton.comJune 4, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School Board unanimously approved Superintendent Rick Mills' reorganization plan Monday, including the addition of seven new jobs and revamping several job descriptions and titles.

"There is a lack of expertise in many job areas," said Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations. "People were not skilled for the jobs they were in."

Filling the new positions will cost the district $569,757 in salaries.

Hall said some job descriptions had become outdated, and the district lacked talent in the right positions.

New jobs include a director of communications and family and community engagement, a director of budget, a director of district support, an investigator for the Office of Professional Standards, a chief information and technology officer, an executive director of human resources and a director of school improvement.

Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction, said the director of school improvement will be paid for by Title I grant funds.

Several existing jobs are being altered. For example, the supervisor of research is being upgraded to director of research and assessment at a cost to the district of $15,891.

"We need someone to have a voice at the table at the state level," Greene said.

Greene said other job description changes will not cost the district because they are either a lateral move or a title change.

"They will not impact the general operating funds, but will have a great impact to schools," Greene said.

The director of curriculum will now be director of district support.

The district is changing the director of construction to director of capital projects and the director of human resources to director of personnel.

In addition, the district eliminated 96 district staff positions.

"These are the most challenging situations I have ever seen in a school district," Hall said.

The reorganization plan is based off recommendations made by the transition team. The most critical changes are in the human resources and financial departments, Mills said.

"We need the right folks in the right seats of the bus with the right skills to drive this district forward," Mills


One issue, particularly in human resources, was too many duties sometimes fell under the canopy of one job description, Mills said. The transition team recommended the district add some jobs and narrow the scope of others.

"They were splitting attention between five different areas," Hall said.

The transition team reports the district faced much financial turmoil from a lack of leadership in human resources and finance. The district only has one finance director, and lacks someone whose primary job is to make sure the budget is adhered to in all areas, Hall said.

"I have never been in an organization that did not have a budget director," Hall said.

Greene said other functions have to happen at the district level for schools to be successful.

The director of professional learning will now be the executive director of curriculum and professional development.

The Title I and English for Speakers of Other Languages and the career and applied technology positions will also be changed.

Exceptional Student Education and student services positions will now directly report to Greene.

Greene said the addition of the director of improvement is critical. Greene said that person will need experience working with diverse and at-risk student populations.

"That area is broken and needs to be fixed, or we will be facing fines and lawsuits for what we are doing for students with disabilities," Greene said.

Greene said the new director of district support will manage instructional material dollars for special programs. This is between $3 million to $4 million that needs to be aligned to a plan, Greene said.

Mills said the district is making a financial recovery plan based on transition team recommendations to save $21.9 million.

The goal is to recover the state-required fund balance of $10.3 million by the end of fiscal year 2014.

Mills is also aiming to set $2 million aside to ensure the district can hire teachers back in the fall, if need be, to meet state class-size mandates.

As a money-saving measure, the district cut more than 180 teaching positions in May.

"We will be able to bring back a large number of those teachers," Hall said. "We will know what vacancies become available later on. Some teachers do not decide to retire until August."

School board vice chairwoman Julie Aranibar said this is the first time in years she has been happy with the district's alignment of positions.

"There is no joy in this (transition team) report, but I am grateful for the opportunity of what we have in place for now," Aranibar said. "I know we are heading in the right direction."

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

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