PORTLAND – A plan to overhaul administration of the city’s public schools may include having City Hall supervise building maintenance and human resources, the superintendent told School Committee members Tuesday night.

Jim Morse said he also plans to create two new positions, a chief finance officer and a chief operations officer, to help increase accountability and productivity in nonacademic areas of the school district.

Last week, Morse announced plans to eliminate two assistant superintendent positions and the director of educational planning in the coming year. In their place, he plans to appoint a chief academic officer and two curriculum coordinators with an overall goal of improving students’ performance.

“This is an accountability model that says we have a job to do and we need to get it done,” Morse told committee members.

Morse said it’s unclear whether the district will continue to have a human resources director, a position that will become vacant at the end of the school year when Joline Hart retires. He’s talking with City Manager Joe Gray and other city officials about various collaborations.

Morse also said his reorganization plan wouldn’t increase administrative costs, a premise questioned by Gary Vines, chief negotiator for the teachers’ union.

“It doesn’t feel like streamlining,” Vines said. “You’re proposing more administrative positions, rather than less.”

Vines said the plan may be a hard sell for many teachers, especially when the district is considering significant layoffs because of a $6 million reduction in state and federal funding in the coming year. Morse is scheduled to present his 2010-11 budget at 7 tonight at Portland Arts and Technology High School.

Morse said it’s unclear whether the administrative reorganization would add positions. Current staff members may apply, and could be hired to fill the new positions, but they would have to be qualified for much more demanding job descriptions.

“We’re really upping the ante,” Morse said. “Central office has been diminished to the point that it can’t do the jobs it’s expected to do.”

Morse noted that School Committee members and others have a hard time getting accurate data from some administrators, and that the district must continue improving financial controls.

That’s why the chief finance officer would oversee human resources, completing the takeover of that division of central office since the business manager assumed oversight of payroll and benefits last fall. The chief operations officer would oversee maintenance, custodial services, transportation and food services.

“When I got here, there were very distinct barriers that you didn’t cross,” said Morse, who started in July. “We’re trying to break that down.”

Morse presented an expanded reorganization chart Tuesday that builds on proposed changes he announced last week. The School Committee will review the plan on March 10.

For that meeting, committee members asked to see a current organizational chart and job descriptions for all new positions. They also asked Morse to clarify the roles of the district’s two co-curricular directors, who oversee athletics and extracurricular activities at Portland and Deering high schools.

“We’re trying to create clarity and accountability and the opportunity for strong leadership,” said Ed Bryan, a committee member. “That doesn’t mean telling people what to do. That means you make sure you’re all moving in the same direction.”

 

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