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August 14, 2014

 

Interim superintendent outlines organizational changes, calls for unwavering focus on student learning

View the August 12 meeting presentation [PDF]

 

"We have to establish unequivocally that student learning is our focus."
                                                      - Interim Superintendent John Yagielski

 

At the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, August 12, Interim Superintendent John Yagielski outlined the framework for an organizational restructuring designed to unify all staff behind the singular goal of student learning, while strengthening leadership for student supports and services.
The presentation was part of a progress report on the three goals that Yagielski and the Board agreed to when he came to the district in April. Those three goals are: to rebuild community confidence in district leadership; address district finances; and set the stage for attracting highly qualified candidates for the superintendent position.

"The district has all of the key assets of an outstanding school district, including a broad range of instructional programs, capable and caring faculty and staff, active and supportive parents, and excellent facilities," Yagielski said. "However, we currently lack a clear and unified organizational focus. We need to establish unequivocally – and I can't think of a stronger word because it needs to be unequivocal – that student learning is our focus."

Yagielski said that the district's current organizational structure has scattered some key responsibilities for instruction and services, and does not allow for the kind of clear direction and expectations needed to keep the entire organization driving in one direction. The first phase of the organizational change restructures district level organization in the following ways:

  • Leadership for all areas of instruction would be consolidated within the Office of the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Lauren Gemmill. In the previous structure, the principals fall within the Superintendent's Office and the academic directors fall within the Office of Instruction. "We need to create an instructional leadership team," Yagielski said.
  • Leadership for student services and support would be strengthened with a District Level Director for Students and Staff, who would oversee student placements; critical services such as counseling, psychologists, social workers, health, support for English language learners, and speech; and student activities and athletics.
  • The balance of instructional support across all schools will be improved. Yagielski said the bulk of the focus of the academic directors has been at the high school, and called for a shift so that this leadership and support is balanced from K-12.

As the result of the restructuring, instead of two assistant superintendents, the district would have one assistant superintendent, for instruction, and two district-level director positions: a district director for finances and services and a district director for students and staff. Although many details still need to be worked out, Yagielski said the overall restructuring will be cost neutral. The district has reduced several administrative positions in recent years, including 3.5 as part of the 2014-15 budget process.

The district is currently accepting applications for the district director for finances and services position to replace Assistant Superintendent for Business Matt Bourgeois, who is leaving this fall for a position in Orange County. Candidates for the director for students and staff position will begin to be sought in the near future.

Yagielski's presentation focused extensively on the changes taking place in education in recent years including the Common Core standards. Taken together, they represent the most significant increase in expectations for students and teachers that the state has ever undertaken, he said, adding that the district, parents, and community rightly have high expectations as well.

The best way to meet them, Yagielski said, is to refocus time and attention on the most critical areas through the new structure and to engage teachers and staff in the work.

"We have to recognize and honor the reality that classroom teachers are the single most important key to improvements in student learning," Yagielski said. "We must have an organization that provides clear direction and solid support for classroom teachers, if we really believe in providing the kind of learning that our student really need. "

An immediate next step in implementing the organizational changes is for principals and directors begin to work with the district level leadership to redefine roles and responsibilities, with a focus on a cohesive team approach to instruction and providing a solid balance of instructional support K-12.

Yagielski will be scheduling meetings for staff, parents, and the community in order to build understanding and support for the changes. As meetings are scheduled, they will be posted on the district website.