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More on the growth in central office

By Paul Socolar on May 27, 2010 07:23 PM

Last week we reported on District budget data that appears to show substantial growth in spending for administrative support since 2008-09, including growth in the number of administrative staff positions.

The Notebook has received detailed explanations from Chief Business Officer Michael Masch for the increase in employee numbers, indicating that for the most part, the increase in number of administrative staff positions from 896 to 1135 reported in the budget book did not reflect the creation of new central office jobs.

The variation in part reflects a distinction between filled jobs and budgeted jobs and in part reflects existing District positions being recategorized as administrative support.

For starters, Masch explained, "You are comparing actual filled positions in December 2008 with the estimated position level in the Spring of 2009 and the number of positions budgeted for FY2010-11.  Therefore, much of what you are characterizing as a “huge increase” is simply the difference between budgeted and filled position levels, not an increase in budgeted positions."

Masch acknowledged two areas of administrative support staff growth: 20 new "Data Driven Instruction Specialists" in the Accountability office and 19 positions added in the new Charter/Partnership/New Schools office.

But much of the other apparent growth in positions is just recategorization of jobs, Masch said. For instance, 66 case manager and compliance positions in the Office of Specialized Services and 34 positions in the Office of Capital Programs have been recategorized as administrative.

This accounting of administrative positions would only partially explain why the total budget line for administrative support grew from $117 million in 2008-09 to $198 million in the current budget, a 70 percent increase. We await more information on that.

And Masch offered a clarifying note - the columns in the personnel chart on p 98 of the budget book are incorrectly labeled. They actually reference filled positions in Dec.2008, estimated positions in fiscal year 2010, and budgeted positions for the coming year.

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Comments (4)

Submitted by Budget geek (not verified) on May 28, 2010 12:02 am

Very glad you are staying on top of this. Why is a case manager position (or 66 of them) being recategorized as administrative?

Obviously there is some reason for it, and maybe it's just to align with federal guidelines or something so the school district doesn't get in trouble in a future audit. But it seems peculiar -- is this a quiet way of legitimizing non-student/family work that case managers are being asked to do? Is it a union issue with how jobs are defined? Would be good to know.

Submitted by nikki123 on May 28, 2010 5:11 am

Huh. I always thought case managers were adminstrative positions. Obviously I was wrong.

@Budget geek- What non-student/family work wwould a case manager do?

Submitted by Budget geek (not verified) on May 29, 2010 12:52 am

What non-student/family work wwould a case manager do?

Well, that's what I was wondering. In the social-services world, a case manager has a fairly well-defined set of duties. You're in charge of keeping track of a set number of individual children or families, and managing the many aspects of their social-service needs.

So there, you end up doing things like making sure the children have doctor's appointments, and that the doctor accepts Medicaid. Or helping them apply for low-income assistance for utility bills.

But in the school district, "case manager" may have a different meaning. I've heard the term "truancy case manger" tossed around, and it seems to mean something more like "person who keeps track of a list of truant kids and monitors/documents whether truant students are meeting legal requirements" rather than the social-work definition.

If that is the case, then a good argument could be made that these are indeed administrative positions -- meant to ensure that the district is living up to its legally mandated responsibilities to track and document, rather than its moral responsibility to figure out why kids are truant and bring them back into a learning community. (E.g., Are there kids who are truant because they ended up at a comprehensive high school when they really wanted to go to a magnet or special-admit? If you were 14 and felt your school was a violent and unwelcoming place, and your best shot at going elsewhere had been thwarted, might you decide to avoid school too?)

But this is ill-informed speculation. I honestly don't know what the district would say its truancy case managers do, and I don't know how many different kinds of case managers the district has, or what their duties are.

So I went looking in their budget, but unfortunately the full 431-page budget appears not to be searchable. The 14-page budget in brief makes general mention of case management services provided to students, but has few specifics.

I am sure there are people much better informed than I am about these issues, and perhaps one of them will weigh in.

Submitted by emmiles on May 29, 2010 9:52 am

The Office of Specialized Services has a number of case managers who oversee schools' handling of students' with IEPS. There are regional case managers who are assigned to check up on schools' special education files to make sure they are in compliance. If an IEP team wants to change a students' placement, the SEL would communicate with the case manager who will determine if the proposed change is appropriate. These case managers are also brought in when parents of students with special needs disagree with the IEP Team and threaten due process.

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