Plano begins to restructure school leadership | Effort to reduce costs, focus duties

In an era of global budget cutting and reorganization, the Mercer Island School District is right in step.

It began with an external review by the Puget Sound Educational Services District (PSESD), which found that the Mercer Island School District spends more per student on central administrative staff than other districts in the area, prompting a reorganization of administrative personnel to reduce costs.

On Feb. 12, the Mercer Island School Board approved Plano’s Management Review and Restructuring Plan, also known as Resolution #562, the culmination of a process that began in the fall of 2008 with an independent review conducted by the PSESD.

According to a press release from the district, the results of the review recommended that the superintendent trim central office costs and realign the centralized functions to more directly support the work of MISD schools and the district’s new 2020 Vision.

To do this, Plano eliminated both associate superintendent positions and created two new ones: Executive Director of Learning and Technology Services, and Executive Director of Human Resources and Business Services, which will be effective on July 1. Several existing positions are newly named with new job functions intended to support work in the schools.

According to the review, the PSESD found that there were four FTE (full-time equivalent) administrative staff members per 1,000 students, which is consistent with the comparison districts. However, the review found that the cost per student for administrative staff had increased by 26 percent over the past five years from $660 per student to $843 per student, making it the highest among the districts compared. On average, the district spent $213 more per student than comparison districts during a time when the district saw a 3.9 percent decrease in enrollment.

The comparison districts, chosen because they are similar to MISD, include: Vashon Island, Riverview, Tahoma, Snoqualmie, Bainbridge and University Place.

“This was a ‘brave exercise’ on the part of my entire staff to take a closer look at our work and see how we can do a better job of serving our students and teachers,” said Plano. “The current budget crisis requires that we have a plan to reduce costs, but it also presents opportunities to create a ‘new synergy’ of skills and talents to accomplish the 2020 Vision.”

The final report on potential cost savings will be presented to the School Board by July 1. The PSESD Management Review and Restructuring Plan and School Board Resolution #562 are posted on the district’s Web site:

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