Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Bold effort

February 14, 2001


Lawrence's school superintendent isn't taking a tentative approach to reorganizing the district's administration.

Whatever else they may say, Lawrence school district patrons can't say new Supt. Randy Weseman is trying to preserve the status quo.

His plan to shrink the district's administration and empower classroom teachers shows a willingness to shake things up and try to find new ways to deliver services to district students. It has earned praise both from school board members, who received the plan Monday, and from teachers. And taxpayers aren't likely to argue with a plan that cuts $434,000 in administrative costs and redirects it to classrooms.

The people most likely to complain, of course, are the ones whose jobs are on the chopping block. Weseman's plan eliminates or redefines 25 administrative jobs in the district. Some people currently holding those jobs probably will be hired to fill the new positions, but others may find themselves without a job in the Lawrence district or in a job that carries a lower salary.

Proposing and carrying out a reorganization of the Lawrence school administration, which he has been a part of for many years, can't be an easy job for Weseman. These people are his co-workers and, in many cases, his friends. It would be far easier to add positions or retain employees who aren't doing the job the district needs. That probably is the strategy in many districts and could be part of the reason so many districts are burdened with bloated administrative structures and budgets.

On the other hand, Weseman's long history with the district puts him in a unique position to evaluate what jobs are essential and which ones are expendable. Weseman has been part of the central office administration for a number of years, but before that he was a teacher and a principal in the Lawrence district. He values the job teachers do, and his desire to give teachers more power to determine what goes on in the classroom is at the center of his reorganization plan.

Weseman told the board Monday night that the district's administrative staff is hard-working but too removed from rank-and-file teachers. A Lawrence High School teacher told the board that "in the past, our system has been too top-down."

Weseman's plan addresses that problem by establishing a revolving "cadre" of teachers who will remain in the classroom and receive additional stipends to advise the district on special projects. On Weseman's organizational chart, the teacher cadre is located just below the superintendent and above all of the rest of the administration, except the principals.

Although you probably wouldn't see many school districts organized in such a way, it makes sense. School administration should support the mission of classroom teachers not the other way around.

Weseman has proposed a bold plan that could have a significant impact on the Lawrence district. His efforts to support teachers and streamline administration jobs and costs definitely are worth a try.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.