The AJC examined the oft-made charge that schools are not cutting many high-salaried central office while they slash and burn their way through the teacher ranks. Turns out it’s true.
The AJC analysis found that while metro school districts have laid off “central office staff,” most of those cuts are lower-salaried jobs, not high-paid administrators. (Many of these folks function as cabinets to the superintendents, and I think few leaders ever want to get rid of their personal posses.)
In the story, central office staffs are defended as behind-the-scenes lifelines, who help and support schools. But are these folks in “adviser” and “expert” roles any real help to teachers and students? Or do a lot of people at the top only put more pressure on the bottom?
According to the AJC analysis: (This is only an excerpt. Please, read the whole piece.)
More than 1,000 public school administrators in metro Atlanta earn more than $100,000 a year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of school salary data shows.
The review shows that Atlanta Public Schools, the smallest of metro Atlanta’s major school districts, has the highest administrative costs. Cobb County, while having the second-largest student population in the state, has one of the smallest central-office staffs and some of the lowest costs. DeKalb schools have more people making $100,000-plus a year than any district.
The AJC analysis comes as metro school districts are laying off more than 1,500 teachers, increasing class sizes and cutting budgets by tens of millions of dollars. While districts say they are also cutting “central office staff,” most of those cuts are lower-salaried jobs, not high-paid administrators.
Stuart Bennett, executive director of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, says central office pay is not out of line.
“I don’t think they’ve just pulled these salaries out of thin air,” he said. “A lot of districts have done salary studies with private industry. It looks like a lot of people are making those salaries, but we have a couple of districts whose budgets are around a billion dollars.”
On average in Georgia, the central office accounts for 5 percent of a district’s operating budget. In metro Atlanta, that average increases to 6 percent. But Atlanta Public Schools spends nearly 10 percent of its budget on administration.
The difference is even more pronounced by another measure: spending on central office per student. The metro average is $550 per student. Atlanta spends $1,392 per student.
APS spokesman Keith Bromery said accounting practices explain why the APS administrative costs appear higher.
“The differences in central office costs between APS and other local school districts reflect APS’ financial management practices that allocate costs where they are managed rather than where they occur,” he said in an e-mail to the AJC.
Central office cuts
This is a brief sketch of plans to cut central offices in selected metro school districts:
Fulton County: Fulton County schools, with 440 central office jobs, will cut 53 vacant positions and 10 that are staffed. Fulton is also eliminating three higher-ranking, $100K positions, such as an assistant superintendent for instructional services, a chief leadership development officer and a director, spokeswoman Allison Toller said. All of the cuts will total about $3.7 million.
Gwinnett County: With 489 central office positions costing $35.5 million, Gwinnett says it will freeze hiring for central office positions, except critical need, saving $8.5 million.
Clayton County: With 494 jobs in the central office, Clayton plans to cut three cabinet-level posts, three directors, one assistant director and 10 coordinators, all of which are higher-ranking jobs. It also plans to cut about 35 lower-ranking central office jobs, such as administrative assistants, for a savings of $5.3 million, district spokesman Charles White said.
Cobb County: Cobb plans to cut 45 of its 360 central office positions. It did not list the jobs except to say that it has eliminated an associate superintendent position. It’s cutting another 23 slots, but they are positions such as custodians, bus drivers and mechanics, according to an e-mail from the system’s chief financial officer. The cuts are projected to save about $4.9 million.