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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Duval County should follow Pinellas's lead and then some

From the Orlando Sentinel, by By Rebecca Catalanello

Pinellas County school superintendent John Stewart unveiled a plan this week to slim down the ratio of administrators to employees.

If he gets his way, the district could drop from 121 top-level administrators to 61, bringing the district from being the second most top-heavy among eight large Florida districts to the sixth.

That may sound like a huge difference, but much of the plan depends on changing job classifications.

Stewart said all this is part of a larger effort to make sure the district is operating not only more cost-effectively, but more efficiently.

"We must be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars," Stewart said during a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Wednesday. "And that doesn't always mean we're going to cut a lot of positions and save a lot of money. We're going to realign what we're doing and make things more productive."

Stewart began tackling a major reorganization at the top reaches of the school district in February following the release of an audit that found Pinellas schools are suffering under the weight of a bloated administration, poor communication and a culture of competition, confusion and conflict.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents report said that Pinellas has 112 more total administrators than Polk, the district with the most similar student population, and had a higher ratio of administrators to employees than five of seven comparative districts.

Under Stewart's plan, which he shared Tuesday with the School Board, he predicts lowering the ratio of district administrators from 1.27 percent to .45 percent by eliminating five or six top-level positions and reclassifying at least another 48 jobs.

Those 48 positions — which include 22 curriculum supervisors areas such as math, language and science — go from being called "administrators" to being called "professional/technical/supervisory" employees.

And Ron Ciranna, assistant superintendent of Human Resources, said these employees will move to a different pay scale. And though their reclassifications could result in a few employees seeing pay reductions, Ciranna said that would be rare.

Another half-dozen positions are still "in limbo," Ciranna said. According to a document shared with School Board members Tuesday, those six positions have been pulled from the organizational chart, but leaders haven't yet determined what should happen to their jobs. These include the middle school director position held by Stephanie Joyner, which some board members said they would not support eliminating.

Also in question is a controversial change in the district's legal department which would make one of three attorneys directly answerable to the superintendent. Stewart emphasized the plan is still "a work in progress," but he expects to bring his final recommendations to the board for an April 24 vote.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or

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