PORTLAND — The city’s top school administrator said Tuesday that he plans to eliminate the district’s two assistant superintendent positions and its director of educational planning in the coming year.

In their place, Superintendent Jim Morse plans to appoint a chief academic officer and two curriculum coordinators to increase staff accountability and student performance across the district.

The changes are part of a draft reorganization plan, unveiled by Morse on Monday night, that answers the School Committee’s call for stronger central oversight of the city’s public schools.

Morse, who started in July, said he also plans to overhaul special education administration following a recent critical review.

”My overall goal is to establish a real academic focus for a central office that supports and directs the building principals in their efforts to improve student performance,” said Morse, who oversees 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and four high schools.

Morse said he hopes to reduce administrative costs as he prepares to deliver a 2010-11 school budget on March 3 that’s expected to reflect a $6 million reduction in state and federal funding. However, he has yet to assign specific costs to each new position or to the overall administrative reorganization.

The reorganization aims to streamline school administration to make it more logical and effective, both for employees and for the community they serve, said Sarah Thompson, a School Committee member.

”It’s a chart that encourages system thinking and accountability,” said Thompson, the committee’s personnel chairwoman. ”We want to make sure the administrative organization is clear to us, to the district and to the community.”

Morse will present a new administrative chart for school finance and operations at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 321 at Portland Arts and Technology High School. The School Committee will review the overall reorganization at a March 10 workshop.

In cutting two assistant superintendent positions, no one will lose a job. One is filled by Jill Blackwood, who retires in June, and one has been vacant for several years.

The draft chart shows a new chief academic officer in the No. 2 position, reporting to the superintendent.

”The purpose of the (chief academic officer) is to be the visionary for the system’s needs related to academic performance, programming and professional development,” Morse wrote in a memo on the reorganization. ”The position is intended to have academic oversight of the K-12 program, federal and state programs and instructional technology.”

Reporting to the chief academic officer will be two new curriculum coordinators — one overseeing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the other overseeing literacy and the humanities, according to the draft organizational chart.

The curriculum coordinators will work directly with principals to provide support, data and direction to teachers in an effort to improve student performance and systemwide accountability, Morse said.

Also reporting to the chief academic officer will be the administrators in charge of multilingual services, instructional technology and federal and state programs. Grace Valenzuela, Joe Makley and Kate Therriault hold these positions.

Morse plans to do away with educational planning, a division of central office that costs $1.2 million per year and has eight employees, including two administrators, five teachers and a secretary.

In particular, Morse plans to eliminate the director of educational planning, a job held by Tom Lafavore. Morse said Lafavore has done a great job at educational planning and could apply for another position in the district.

Morse also plans to reorganize the administration of another division of the central office: student support services, which is better known as special education. Morse said he’s still working on that.

A recent consultants’ report concluded that Portland schools could save $2.5 million on special education by restructuring its administration, reducing its staff and adjusting programs to improve instruction. The report is highly critical of Barbara Dee, who has been the district’s special education director for nine years.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]