(My usual disclaimer: A school district cannot be run just like a business. But there are important private sector business principles that can be applied to operating a school district.)

One of those is reducing the layers of management.

Smart, experienced, private sector executives know that layers of management cost more than money. These layers slow progress, delay communication, and increase the likelihood that politics will take precedence over achieving goals.

In this multi-layered world, people are far less likely to take risks or to assume responsibility when something goes wrong. Daily life becomes not one of advancing an agenda, but of staying below the radar and doing only what is necessary to collect a paycheck. Innovation gives way to invisibility.

In the public sector, in this case the N-MUSD, they’re not streamlining, they’re bulking up. In bureaucratic parlance, it’s called “realigning,” but it really means “insulating.” Consider these tidbits from N-MUSD announcements earlier this month:

  • The two new positions and one title change were created as part of the reorganization review process…
  • A new position was created – Senior Associate Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer. Susan Astarita was selected.
  • Reporting to Ms. Astarita will be two executive directors; one for secondary and one for elementary.
  • Additionally, a realignment of responsibilities and title change for the existing Director of Secondary to the Director of K-12 Curriculum and Staff Development.
  • Kurt Suhr is being recommended to serve as the Executive Director of Elementary Education.
  • Kirk Bauermeister is being recommended to serve as the Executive Director of Secondary Education.
  • A realignment of responsibilities and title change is being recommended for Dr. Steve McLaughlin, the current Director of Secondary Education.  In accordance with the reorganization, it is recommended that Dr. McLaughlin’s new title be Director of K-12 Curriculum and Staff Development.

Get all that?

It’s musical chairs, musical titles, and musical bureaucracy. There is no academic rationale provided, that is, no one is telling taxpayers how all of this realignment is going to improve academic performance because that’s not the goal. And besides, it’s tax dollars they’re spending so they don’t have to be accountable that way.

It would be nice if someone did that; if someone – the super comes to mind – told taxpayers how this is going to benefit students, but that won’t happen because we have a weak board that is either unable or unwilling to hold anyone in management accountable for anything.

So, the district skips along its merry way, operating in the red, adding new people and moving others around without any need to be accountable. But that’s how it is at the N-MUSD: When All Else Fails, Add More Management.

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