Consultant urges changes in district administrationBy:
Scott Williams, [email protected]
Leader Photo by Scott Williams
Shawano School District administrators and board members prepare to meet Aug. 29 with consultants who have studied the district’s administrative organization.
Leader Photo by Scott Williams
The consulting firm Springsted Inc. compiled this 76-page report after examining ways to improve administration of the Shawano School District.
Administrative oversight in the Shawano School District would be reduced at the high school and boosted at the elementary school level under a consultant’s recommendations for organizational changes in the district.
The consulting firm found that inadequate staffing at Hillcrest Primary School and Olga Brener Intermediate School was forcing administrators to spend most of their time dealing with student behavior and disciplinary issues rather than providing leadership and guidance.
Hiring an assistant principal at each elementary school is among the options presented by the consulting firm Springsted Inc., which was paid more than $20,000 for its analysis.
Shawano School Board members, who are scheduled to consider the findings Monday, were complimentary of the consultant’s work following an Aug. 29 closed-door briefing on the study.
“It’s a good study and a good starting point,” board member Diane Hoffman said.
Board member Derek Johnson agreed that the study provided a thoughtful analysis, saying: “They were very thorough. It was definitely good information.”
Among other findings and recommendations in the consultant’s 76-page report:
- Most administrators in the district feel underpaid and receive salaries below what their counterparts get in comparable school districts.
- Many administrators and support staff are confused about their job duties, in some cases citing an uncertainty about “who does what.”
- The district’s administrative staff is too spread out and should be centralized, along with certain functions that include student registration.
-Bills within the school district are not paid in a timely manner, making it difficult for administrators to monitor their budgets.
School Superintendent Gary Cumberland declined to comment on the study.
The school board voted April 4 to hire Springsted Inc. to conduct a comprehensive examination of the district’s administrative structure, with an eye on assessing the effectiveness of the district’s management as a follow-up to previous organizational changes.
The consulting firm was not asked to evaluate teachers or any classroom issues — only administrative oversight and support.
The Minnesota-based firm surveyed school district administrators and support staff, conducted interviews with some staff, and compared Shawano with 15 comparable school districts that included Pulaski, New London, Hortonville, Bonduel, Clintonville and Ashwaubenon.
The report found that Shawano Community High School has higher-than-average administrative staffing, while Hillcrest Primary and Olga Brener both are understaffed when it comes to administration. The consultants recommend looking at trimming high school staff while bolstering the other two schools so that their principals can focus on more than behavior and discipline problems.
Referring to the two elementary schools, the consultant reported: “We heard from administrative support staff that the building managers are often not available to provide direction and respond to questions when needed during the school day because they have to spend so much time on student discipline.”
If the district does not want to hire an assistant principal at each elementary school, the report suggests hiring one assistant principal to share between the two schools, or hiring other staff to handle behavior and disciplinary issues for the principals.
On the issue of administrative salaries, the report found that while the superintendent and a few others are paid above average, most are underpaid compared with their counterparts elsewhere — some as much as 20 percent below average. A survey of Shawano school administrative staff found than 70 percent characterized their salary and benefits as the least satisfying part of their jobs.
Some staffers told the consulting firm they fear the district will lose administrators because of low salaries. The report quoted one staffer as saying, “We are very much needed, but evidently not worth much in return.”
The report recommends conducting a review of administrative salaries in the district.
The consulting firm also suggests hiring a full-time human resources coordinator, increasing employee job training and working to improve a sense of teamwork among administrators and support staff.
On the issue of late bill payments, the report recounts a previous decision to eliminate an accounts payable staff position, and recommends increasing staffing to correct the problem. The district has been slowed in meeting its obligations, including paying other school districts for fees associated with athletic competitions.
“A lack of timeliness in accounts payable and accounting services, is creating administrative inefficiencies across the district,” the report states.
Acknowledging that some proposed changes could cost money, the consulting firm points to opportunities to reduce costs elsewhere, such as eliminating a communications/public relations position in the district office.
The consultants also cautioned officials against making organizational decisions based solely on cost considerations.
“Cost savings are often a desired outcome,” the report said, “but experience has shown that this should not be the sole determinant or consideration.”
Shawano school administrators, shown with current annual salaries:
• Gary Cumberland, superintendent: $136,000
• Louise Fischer, business manager: $108,696
• Scott Zwirschitz, high school principal: $103,489
• Karen Smith, pupil services director: $95,000
• Troy Edwards, primary school principal: $94,387
• Kelley Swartz, curriculum director: $92,310
• Mary Kramer, middle school principal: $89,760
• Terri Schultz, intermediate school principal: $80,000
• Charmaine Schreiber, activities director: $78,066
• Stuart Russ, associate high school principal: $71,400
• Rod Watson, associate middle school principal: $71,400
• Jessie Hanssen, at-risk coordinator/charter school director: $70,000
Source: Shawano School District
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