Nashvillians were looking for change when they hired Director of Schools Jesse Register in January. In office for a little more than three months now, that change is here.
Much of the central office of Metro Nashville Public Schools is about to be fresh-started, with all employees in several large district departments – including some of the district’s highest-level officials in curriculum and instruction, human resources, finance, operations and student services – asked to reapply for their jobs. The positions will be open to outsiders, too.
“We want to give everybody the opportunity to apply for these positions,” Register told Board of Education members Tuesday. “This is not to imply that there will be a 100 percent turnover, … but there will be some changes.”
Register has been discussing his plans for the reorganization since February, and said Tuesday the changes will move about $15 million worth of resources and more than 200 positions out of the district’s central office and into individual schools.
All of this will come together quickly. All resumes and letters of intent must be submitted by May 5 by those applying for central office jobs, and Register will announce his decisions about top-tier district leaders May 12. Those district leaders will assist in subsequent hiring decisions, Register said.
While the restructuring will likely save the district money, Register emphasized that the changes are not associated with the budget cuts currently planned for the next school year. The reorganization won’t change salary levels, as positions within the district’s current salary structure correspond to the new levels of Register’s organizational chart.
The changes at the central office level are large-scale, and make some alterations from the Tennessee Department of Education’s central office restructuring of last summer. Register is creating separate positions for chief operating and chief financial officers, rather than having one person – currently Chris Henson, who served as interim director of schools last year – in charge of both areas. Register is also in the process of hiring a professional accounting firm to restructure district business practices.
Register praised Henson’s work, but said changes need to be made in district procedures and efficiency.
“We don’t do our business very well right now,” Register said.
In central offices associated with curriculum and instruction, big structural changes are due to take place. Register plans to preserve three upper-tier positions created by the DOE last summer – associate superintendents for elementary, middle school and high school education. But three positions created by the DOE – assistant associate superintendents in each of those areas – have been eliminated by Registe
Reporting to each associate superintendent will be several executive directors, who will form the administrative connection between individual schools and associate superintendents.
Register is also adding a position for an official at the same level of associate superintendents, the role of associate superintendent for instructional support. Reporting to that new leader will be the executive directors of federal programs, English Language Learning, special education, and accountability.
Interface between central office, schools changing
The biggest changes, Register said, are being made at the level that affects how schools work with the central office. The intent is to change the district’s accountability structure so that principals and as-yet-appointed school improvement teams have the authority and flexibility to use resources based on individual school needs, with the administration holding those school leaders “highly accountable” for the results, Register said.
“We have to embrace a concept of servant leadership, if you will,” Register said. “It is leadership that builds quality instruction. That’s what we’re about.”
Each school principal will be able to build a team to support classroom instruction drawing from some of the positions moved out of the central office. Principals can hire a consulting teacher, who coordinates professional development for the school. Model teachers – accomplished teachers who shift to a schedule of teaching half of each school day, and spending the other half helping other teachers – can also be hired. Literacy and numeracy coaches are options, as are academy heads for high schools.
These positions represent options for individual schools. Register said he would have liked to create identical slates of instructional supporters for schools, but there isn’t enough money in the budget to hire one of each for every school. Instead, principals will decide what positions fit their schools best and present their needs to the administration.
“Teachers and principals know best what they need to provide good service,” Register said.
Register’s changes also decentralize district psychologists and social workers. Twelve cluster-based support teams will be created, with social workers, parent liaisons and attendance coordinators dedicating their time to individual clusters.
The reorganization won’t include principals and assistant principals. Register said plenty of leaders in those capacities were shifted last summer by the DOE, and that he intends to move as few as possible. Register has publicly stated at town hall meetings across the district that MNPS needs more administrative stability at the level of individual schools.
Board praises changes
School board members left the reorganization up to Register – no vote was taken. But board members were supportive of the changes.
Board Chair David Fox said the changes give him confidence that Metro will have the right structural base for future reforms, and board member Ed Kindall said Register has corrected old problems of district employees being given notable positions without corresponding authority. Board member Alan Coverstone said the restructuring alleviates a top-down structural problem causing many urban school districts to struggle.
“This is a significant step forward for Nashville,” Coverstone said. “It’s easier to hold someone accountable when you give them the responsibility to do something.”
View a complete visual copy of MNPS’s newly announced organizational charts here, as well as a copy of Register’s presentation.