Supt. Randy Weseman is weary of assertions the Lawrence school district is top-heavy with administrative staff, and he has produced a report to refute such claims.
"I think we're getting more done now and spending less money," he said.
Weseman said his cumulative three-year target for administrative staffing cuts was $1.4 million.
He offers as evidence a summary of changes ordered in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 resulting in $633,000 in annual reductions.
He has on the table $760,000 in cuts for 2003-2004.
But administrative staffing remains a favorite punching bag for those who say the district wastes money.
"Most people believe the rhetoric they hear," Weseman said.
In human terms, the three years of adjustments would leave the district with two-dozen fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in administrative roles than when Weseman was hired to replace Kathleen Williams as superintendent.
Weseman said his staff was shrinking at the same time remaining employees absorbed an avalanche of new government paperwork mandates.
"They have to work harder and smarter," he said of his staff. "That's a sign of the times."
Foes of administrative spending in the Lawrence district say more might be done to divert resources from offices to classrooms.
Leonard Ortiz, who takes a seat on the school board in July, said he remained convinced a thorough review of administrative costs would be useful. During the campaign, Ortiz questioned administrative expenditures.
He would pour any savings into teacher salaries.
"That's where I see the money going," Ortiz said.
One possibility, he said, was a rollback of administrative salaries. For example, an across-the-board reduction of 5 percent might be possible.
Weseman said trimming paychecks of existing administrative staff would send an unsettling message to employees who have seen their duties expanded the past couple years. That extra work came at a price, he said.
"It gets harder for them to find the balance between work and home," he said.
In 2001-2002, Weseman reorganized to delete administrative positions tied to 10-month teacher contracts. The reasoning was twofold, he said.
l Those 10-month contact employees didn't work in the summer unless they were paid supplemental salaries.
l The 10-month contract system hid administrators within the ranks of teachers.
"In my model, if you're working in administration, you're working 12 months," Weseman said.
He also consolidated positions that first year.
The cumulative effect was elimination of 26 FTE positions with a combined annual salary of $1.7 million. He created 16.5 FTE positions with a price tag of $1.2 million. Net savings for the year: $453,000.
Weseman's further restructuring in 2002-2003 dropped seven FTE positions costing $481,000. He added five FTE slots at a cost of $301,000. Net savings: $180,000.
This year's cuts
Under consideration by the school board for 2003-2004 is the elimination of 13 FTE jobs with a combined salary of $760,000. The list includes directors of vocational education and of assessments, three elementary principals, as well as secretaries, facilitators and coordinators.
If these jobs were eliminated, as Weseman anticipates, savings during the three-year period would be $1.4 million.
"Those are not coming back ... unless the school board spares positions," he said.
Lawrence board member Sue Morgan said statistics about administrative budget-cutting were impressive.
"It clearly costs less," she said. "People have taken on more responsibilities. It's not that we have less to do."
Cindy Yulich, who joins the school board in July, said she was uncertain how the district could effectively manage with fewer people.
"If there is administrative fat, I don't see it," she said.
Yulich said the board should consider hiring an associate superintendent. It might not be politically popular, she said, but the work at that level of the administration would warrant it.
Regardless of what the public says about the district's administration, Weseman said he would stand by the team he has assembled to manage the 10,000-student district.
"I feel they have the work ethic and ability and training to meet the demands of the job," he said.