The head of Metro Nashville Public Schools announced big changes within the district on Wednesday, including a plan to shrink the staff at the central office and another giving principals more power.
Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register mentioned a month ago that many of these changes would be coming and said the central office has become too bureaucratic and not focused enough on the needs of schools and students.
He said he hopes this re-organization will change that.
McGavock High School Principal Robbin Wall may know best what his school needs, and now he has the final say on key decisions like hiring and firing teachers and how to spend money.
"What does my building need for safety? What does my building need to keep the building clean? What does my building need as far as secretarial work? Do I really need the staff I have, or can I rearrange it somehow or influence academics in my building?" he said of the changes.
Wall is one of nine new "lead principals" in Metro Schools, and Register announced plans expand that role into all schools by 2015.
The goal is to give principals power to make moves best for their schools, eliminating middle management from the district's central office.
"We don't want somebody at Bransford Avenue telling people who they can hire or not hire. We don't want people at Bransford Avenue assigning teachers to schools," Register said.
The administrators will remain in charge of their own schools and be responsible for networking with five or six other lead principals with whom they'll evaluate and share best practices.
"I'm going to be working directly with the four feeder middle schools - students that come directly to my campus," Wall said.
As the number of lead principals increases, the central office staff with shrink, Register said.
At least 100 people currently in the central office will be reassigned, with many sent to work directly in schools.
Register has also cut his executive team in half, creating a new academic officer position and putting one person, Jay Steele, in charge of academics at elementary, middle and high schools.
"It will be a unified, K-12 set of plans and priorities," Register said. "What I expect to gain is a common vision, a common voice and a much higher level of coordination and collaboration as we move forward."
Most of the job changes at central office won't happen until July.
While many people will be reassigned, Register said he doesn't expect layoffs. Most of the changes come after recommendations from Tribal, the consulting group hired by the district to help lead reform.
Council Members Call For Change
City council members urged the director of schools Tuesday to make changes in the top ranks of the district.
"We are one of the worst school districts in one of the lowest performing states in the country, and that's not my opinion. That's a fact," said Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans. "I hope I won't see just a rearranging of deck chairs. I'd like to see real, true efforts at reforming the system."
Council members sent the letter to Register, offering their recommendations on how Metro Schools should be restructured and asking him to fill senior positions with qualified administrators who have a track record of improving ACT scores.
Tennessee ranked 49th this year in ACT score achievement, only ahead of Mississippi. Council members are also calling for a national search to fill those senior positions.
Mayor Karl Dean had some strong words Monday for the Nashville school system during a breakfast to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The truth is the progress we have made is too little and it is too slow, and I can't be satisfied with that," Dean said.
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