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The District’s central office grew in 2012, budget documents show

By Paul Socolar on Apr 30, 2013 05:07 PM

For the last 18 months, District officials have frequently highlighted the steps they've taken to slash the central office bureaucracy as a way of dealing with an enormous budget gap that came to light in 2011.

They did not highlight their decision to change course and add some jobs back.

And so it was a surprise to many to discover -- on page 62 of the budget document released last week -- that the number of District administrative support positions on the books has grown by more than 100 compared to 2011-12, and that District spending is over budget in several administrative areas.

District Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski acknowledged that some jobs were added to the central office, but says most of the reductions in force still stand. About 100 of the 833 positions that are on the books are vacant as of March, he said.

And much of the spending increase has been funded by grants rather than by general operating funds. (Money from grants is typically restricted for designated purposes, whereas the bulk of the District spending is from unrestricted "operating funds.")

Stanski said that District officials had realized some of the initial budget cuts made in the fall of 2011 went too far and jeopardized the District's capacity to function.

“There was a risk with the amount of cuts we had made,” he said.

Central office expenditures and administrator salaries are a frequent target for critics of District spending practices. But District officials maintain that they’ve managed to keep administrative spending to an extremely low percentage of overall costs, while still maintaining a central office that can carry out essential tasks.

The latest budget documents provide a breakdown of the 833 full-time staff positions in nine administrative areas, covering districtwide functions from academics to finance to human resources. Last year at this time, the District was reporting there were 729 central office jobs.

However, Stanski said only 725 of the 833 approved positions were filled as of this March. That is a small uptick compared to 708 filled jobs in the same departments in December 2011. He said the District has frozen most hiring, and so there must be administrative approval for vacant positions to be filled.

In six central office categories where positions were added, the estimated spending for this year exceeds what was budgeted by more than $26 million, according to budget documents. However, about two-thirds of that excess is covered by grant funding that wasn’t anticipated in the budget.

“We get our Race to the Top in the middle of the year – $6 million,” Stanski said, pointing to the biggest example of a grant that wasn’t anticipated in the 2012-13 budget and was used to support central office functions.

The District’s fiscal year 2014 budget calls for 780 central office positions – still more than last year’s level. But Stanski noted that officials are preparing to make an additional $23 million in cuts to administrative support positions if the District’s requests for increased revenues do not come to fruition.

The decision of top District officials to add back central office staff positions has not been a regular part of the District’s public budget presentations. Officials have consistently highlighted the reductions in spending and staffing made since fall 2011.

In May 2012, interim District chief Thomas Knudsen told the School Reform Commission that “we cut $63 million from our central office, reducing staff by almost a third.” He spoke in support of a budget plan last spring that called for the central office to become even more “bare bones.”

This Monday in City Council testimony, Superintendent William Hite testified that “the central office budget over the last two years reduced full-time positions from approximately 800 to 400.”

The latter statement referred to positions in the operating budget only, Stanski explained. Of the 725 currently filled central office positions, 433 are funding by the operating budget and 292 are grant-funded. But counting unfilled positions, the current budget includes 504 positions funded by the operating budget and 329 grant-funded positions.

Officials maintain that the size of the central office is modest compared to other school districts. “We’re still at 3 percent of the operating budget,” Stanski said, referring to the percentage of total spending that is devoted to the central office.

District budget documents show that central office staffing peaked at about 1,000 positions in 2010, with nearly 800 of those jobs funded by the operating budget. In 2011 and early 2012, officials repeatedly promised to cut the size of the central office by half.

Looking at filled positions, the employee census has actually dropped by about 30 percent since 2011.

According to Stanski, Knudsen was an advocate internally for the restoration of some cuts he felt had made it impossible for certain departments to operate.

“The cuts were so severe that the recommendation was to put some resources back in,” Stanski said.

The District also was under scrutiny for inadequate compliance with grant requirements. Of the positions that were added, 54 were in funded from the grants budget, Stanski said. “The investment of grant dollars in those positions is worth it to manage the grants [in compliance with] federal and state guidelines.” He said District spending on grant compliance is still well below the level recommended by experts as best practice.

The addition of jobs came as the District had a little more breathing room in its current year’s budget than it did in 2011-12. Facing potential bankruptcy last summer, the District was able to defer a second round of deep cuts by issuing a one-time bond to raise $300 million, giving it adequate cash to operate. But it is now struggling to fill a gap of the same size for the coming year.

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Comments (38)

Submitted by Eddie (not verified) on April 30, 2013 5:56 pm
This is interesting news but what, really, will be done about it? Not a damn thing.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 30, 2013 7:04 pm
Eddie---The people have to stop it, otherwise, you are right. Folk have to be willing to get their hands dirty and raise holy hell en masse. I am. Jerry?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2013 6:44 pm
. . .and this is a surprise to who?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 30, 2013 6:00 pm
Yet 440 added 100 new positions. Priceless Please all you teachers remember this when they ask you to take a 15% cut to keep the Piggies at the top in slop. Remember to thank Hite for not taking more.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2013 7:04 pm
Why is the Accounting & Audit Coordination Department getting a 33% increase in staff from FY 12 through FY 14? Why doesn't anyone else in the administration that was cut by too much get more staffing too?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2013 9:52 pm
Hite should be made to sit there as long as it takes to answer this. THIS is what has to be shared all around!! I'm tired of hearing parents, kids, and counselors begging for things to be better. Stop begging and demand answers from this corrupt group.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2013 7:42 pm
I am sorry over 42% increase in staffing. (from 18 to 25.6)
Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on April 30, 2013 10:05 pm
"He said District spending on grant compliance is still well below the level recommended by experts as best practice." What part of the proposed budget represents adherence to best practices? I rather the District didn't pick and choose where to apply their justifications.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2013 10:09 pm
I guess I am missing something. Take for instance the "Chief Student Support Services" office. FY11 69 FTE (full time equivalent for those not in the 'know') FY12 100 FY13 53 What this is saying is that they hired 31 people for FY12, and then will have to lay off 47 in FY13? What type of planning is this? What business can operate this way? Why would you ramp up for a year, only to lay the people off? What has changed for FY12 that requires these people that will change the drastically in FY13? Among other things, what sort of severance is involved? Do the grants pay for these sorts of benefits? Don't forget the school district has a policy of paying out unused sick time (at least for teachers). How many days of 'work' did they actually get from these people? This brings up another question: What is an FTE for the school district? Is it based on 40 hours * 52 weeks (2080 hours or work), or is it hopefully something more realistic such as 40 hours * (52W - 4W vacation - 2W holiday (-sick time?)) = 1840 hours. The difference of those 200 hours could be 1/10 of a head, this adds up to more people/benefits if the higher amount is used. For instance, if an FTE = 2080 hours, but one person only works 1840 hours, then management has to hire an additional person to work those extra 240 hours! This leads to more people on the payroll. The kicker is that I am not sure that any sane person believes that the office would be run better if you had more people doing management (and not simply teaching). I am not saying it is done this way, but it could be. Simply showing the above table does not make much sense. I guess someone really needs to read the entire report and figure out what is going on. (Any volunteers?)
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 30, 2013 10:25 pm
What bothers me most about what I just read isn't the fact that there was an increase in central office spending. 3% is a very small amount of the total budget. What bothers me is the lack of transparency. Why hasn't Dr. Hite been more forthcoming about the increase in the spending on the central office and the reasons for the increase in spending? Another concern I have is the number of grant-funded positions. There are 292 grant-funded positions this year and there will be 329 grant-funded positions next year. From whom is this grant money coming? The School District of Philadelphia is a public entity. Often times, private funding comes with an agenda or strings attached. So many grant-funded positions make me suspicious. There needs to be transparency in order for there to be trust. Education Grad Student
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 30, 2013 10:07 pm
Paul, I have a question about the graphic. The graphic says that there has been a net decrease of 53.3% in central office expenditures. Yet the article says that there has been an increase in spending. I'm confused. Can you clarify what the graphic is saying with respect to the article? Thanks. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2013 6:05 am
Don't forget the new positions and promotions that were granted according to the email sent by Paul Khin two weeks ago. No one is taking a new position/promotion that includes additional responsibility without an increase in salary.
Submitted by Citizen (not verified) on May 1, 2013 6:40 am
Sample-Oats hit the mother load of a raise under Hite because of her "new responsibilities." Well, Dr. Hite / Mr, Kihn, teachers take on many new responsibilities. Will we be compensated? No, instead you want us not only to take deep cuts but you want us to pay more out of pocket. How much "out of pocket" has Ms. Sample-Oats paid this year? tissues? paper? Pencils? tokens? trade books? anything?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 6:12 pm
Citizen, EXACTLY!!! Raising class size or case load size means an increase in responsibility for teachers. Duh!!! Yet teachers do not receive a pay raise. The increase in pay for central office employees who move up or have more responsibilities makes no sense unless teachers are also compensated for additional responsibilities. EGS
Submitted by Citizen (not verified) on May 1, 2013 6:37 pm
It is potentially more than class size. Hite/Khin/SRC want to force teachers to take on duties (e.g. lunch, hall way, bus, etc.). They could make us do extra curricular without compensation. Without office staff, the principals could tell teachers to do numerous office duties. The list is endless.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 6:53 pm
Citizen, You are right. I was using class size as an example, but of course there are a myriad of other responsibilities that teachers will have to assume if the current proposals from the District come to fruition. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2013 7:05 am
EGS, The SRC has voted in recent meetings to accept grant proposals from the Philadelphia School Partnership. One gives them permission to begin recruiting and training "senior-level" staff. Another allows them to do the same for principals. The SRC has decided (how and where no one knows; these grants were never discussed at any SRC meeting) that a private organization--which holds no public meetings--should begin to take a leadership position in overseeing the hiring and firing of district leadership. Lisa Haver
Submitted by Citizen (not verified) on May 1, 2013 7:11 am
The PSP "leadership" will in turn be able to hire and fire District teachers is principals are given more power. There is no public accountability with the PSP. the PSP decides which schools expand, which schools are created, which schools close, etc. The PSP is a "shadow quasai governmental agency." Orwellian?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 1, 2013 8:53 am
Yes, you are exactly right. Gleason, Gordon and the Gates Compact Committee are purposefully setting themselves up as the decision-making body for what is being rolled out to the public by the SRC. It is an intentional and purposeful circumvention of the Sunshine Act and the democratic processes that it mandates. Gleason has no business being on that committee as he came to Philadelphia from North Jersey, and his organization PSP, was created to push the Privatization Agenda and vouchers. I have been calling them the "shadow people" and the "shadow governance body" of the school district for a while now. Helen Gym, in her perceptive critical analysis of the budget referred to the "shadow role" of PSP. Helen, may I borrow your term?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 5:41 pm
Rich, You mention Scott Gordon. Can you provide more details about his involvement with the PSP and Gates Compact Committee? Do you know more about Mr. Gordon's involvement than what is available through media outlets? In other words, do you have insider knowledge of Mr. Gordon's involvement that is not easily known to members of the public? EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 1, 2013 6:21 pm
EGS: I do believe both Mark Gleason and Scott Gordon are non voting members of the Gates Compact Committee. Just read between the lines and look at what is happening in the district. Read what Tom sends us and listen to Joe. This will explain a little more: http://thenotebook.org/blog/124438/shorr-chair-great-schools-compact-com... EGS, I have been around the block a few times in my 38 years since I was wet behind the ears with my first teaching job in the district. I've had my eyes open through all of those years. And wide open through the last decade. Really I have.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 6:53 pm
Rich, Both Mr. Gordon and Mr. Gleason are nonvoting members of the Great Schools Compact Committee. I don't know if this is the same thing as the Gates Compact Committee, but the point is still the same: Mr. Gordon and Mr. Gleason are party to and involved in all of the changes occurring in the upper rungs of the District's leadership and the growth of charter schools. I am well aware that wisdom comes with experience. A graduate degree and keeping up on current events cannot replicate wisdom and insider knowledge like what you and others have. This insider knowledge and experience often goes unreported in the news and is often known only to those who work for the District and have seen the changes firsthand. I totally believe what you, Lisa, Joe, Tom, and others are saying. These changes are so big, though, that it's hard to wrap my head around all of them and make sense of all of them. Connecting the dots can be difficult, especially when so much of this privatization is taking place behind the scenes. It's also hard for me to understand how people can be so greedy and show such a lack concern for democracy, but that's on me. I work in a District school and I see the lack of funding first hand, every day. EGS
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 1, 2013 7:43 pm
Experience isn't the only teacher. You are doing Great with your own experience, knowledge and inquisitive nature. You make some pretty good inferences from what you see, too. Study and reading is also important. Contrary to what some people have said in relation to teacher salary increments for educational attainment, everyone is a better person for increasing their education in any area. It is a life long learning process. You also become a better, more rounded, and more able teacher. I learn the most from listening to others. There are many issues with the Gates Compact Committee and how it operates and who is on it. Some are conflict of interest issues. Whenever someone stands to benefit personally, especially monetary benefit, from being on a committee or board, it is a conflict of interest. It is not an ethical violation for a public representative to sit on a committee of the public body of which he is a member. But for example, the Senate Education Committee's meetings, as public committees, have meetings which are open to the public. I do believe the Gates Committee does not hold meetings which are open to the public. Neither does PSP. Not good for the "public trust."
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 5:03 pm
Rich, One more thing...I'm looking at the board for the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact and my gut feeling is that having SRC members on the board of the Compact could be a conflict of interest because the Compact could potentially interfere with the ability of SRC members to act in the best interest/carry out their fiduciary duty toward the School District of Philadelphia. What are your thoughts about there being a potential conflict of interest? EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on May 2, 2013 9:38 pm
Rich----I remember when Nixon's critics, called his administration," The Tricky Dick Shadow Government, the land of slash and grab where anything goes."
Submitted by Citizen (not verified) on May 2, 2013 10:04 pm
Hopefully, the Phila. School Partnership will meet the same fate as Nixon. A shadow school district is as antithetical to democratic leadership as Nixon and Reagan were to ethical government. Nixon and Reagan, like the Phila. School Partnership, are great at slash and burn. Unfortunately, until the Phila. School Partnership officially closes its doors (it already operates behind closed doors), many, many schools and families will be left in their poisonous dust. Meanwhile, so called progressives are lapping at the half empty bowl of the Partnership...
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on May 2, 2013 10:51 pm
Citizen-----If that's your real name !!! Even as a mere lad, I knew Nixon was bizarre. His mannerisms reminded me of Hitler's, quick, impulsive,,jerky and very uncomfortable looking. Those were the days !! As I recall, I felt the same way about priests !! Woody Allen said, "Nixon promised he'd end crime in the streets. He did. He brought it into The White House."
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 1, 2013 7:28 am
Glad to see you are back Lisa. Your insight was missed. Hope you had a Great vacation. I think most people missed the implications and seriousness of what you point out. That one resolution gives PSP "permission to begin recruiting and training senior-level staff." And that "a private organization -- which holds no public meetings -- should begin to take a leadership position in overseeing the hiring and firing of district leadership." Everybody's red flags should go up with that one. Now Mark Gleason, and PSP want to control who becomes principals in Philadelphia? Kinda like the Broad Superintendent's Academy only for principals. How far will PSP's ridiculousness go? Doesn't anyone see what is wrong with that scenario in a "democratic society?" Effective leadership Matters and so does "How we choose our leaders" Matters. It matters so much. The entire school community should be authentically and actively involved in choosing its own principals through what was once known as "the site selection process for principals."
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 5:22 pm
Lisa, I thought that the SRC had to put any approval of grants on the agenda at public SRC meetings. Was the approval of grant funds from the PSP ever put into a resolution for an SRC meeting or did the approval of funds from the PSP take place outside of a public SRC meeting? If the approval of such funds took place in a venue other than an SRC meeting, such a move is illegal, is it not? The fact that the SRC is enabling the PSP to usurp the SRC's authority as a public entity is of the highest concern. (We can debate the extent to which the SRCis truly a public entity, since SRC members are appointed, not elected, but that's another issue.) If the SRC is circumventing the process of approving grants at public SRC meetings, is this not grounds for legal action? EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2013 9:11 pm
EGS, The grants I referred to were resolutions voted on by the SRC at an Action Meeting. There was no discussion prior to either vote. SRC resolutions are not posted online until 2-3 days before each meeting. If you want to speak on a particular resolution, you must sign up 24 hours before. That's not much of a window; not surprisingly, most resolutions pass without comment. Obviously, decisions are not being made at public meetings. Lisa
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2013 9:16 am
They loaded up last year - they went from 708 to 833 to asking for 780 next year, still 72 more than 2 years ago......this is just shuffling the deck and trying to fool people like giving 25%+ raises to only certain people and then saving money by cutting 10% of their salary....they still come out on top
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2013 1:48 pm
Hi Rich, Are you talking about SACs having a part in choosing principals? There have been a number of problems with the Districts's compliance with the SAC regs this year. A number of schools have complained that outside management groups have usurped their power. (Can anyone from one of those schools talk about this?) We also have to speak out against the District's enacting full principal autonomy. Not every principal is a Torch or an Ellen Linky. Those of us who have had to work with incompetent and vindictive principals know this all too well. It makes no sense on so many levels. We are looking at a district which is going down, mostly because of a succession of bad administrators. Why would we want another top-down structure? It is a really dangerous idea. Lisa
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 1, 2013 2:25 pm
I am absolutely not talking about the SAC's choosing the principals, because as you say, there are games being played with the SAC's. I have interviewed before many site selection teams in my time both inside and outside the district. I was chosen as an AP by the site selection committee at Furness H.S. back in 2001. Most all of the site selection committees had teachers, other administrators, a parent or two, and in high schools, a student. I am well aware of the games people play with and on such advisory councils and school councils with actual power. You need to have well established, strict selection rules, and that includes strict and transparent rules for how one is chosen for the selection team. At the very least you should have open engagement with local school communities before any body, committee or person selects a principal. I assure you of one thing, I have seen the improprieties and failures of the principal and assistant principal selection processes which occur behind closed doors, and it in no way is fair, honest and works to select the best qualified and most able school leaders. Favoritism and petty power games are incubated and fester in principal selection processes which are decided behind closed doors and without transparent, inclusive, and ultimately democratic processes. The quality of principals, how they are selected, how long they are selected for, and how they are removed are issues which need to be addressed in a very well discussed, public manner. We all should be part of that discussion.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on May 1, 2013 5:57 pm
Where is Jerry Jordan on all this? Where are the courts on The Sunshine Law?
Submitted by Works with Kids (not verified) on May 2, 2013 9:47 am
Amen Rich! There has NOT been a consistent and transparent selection process for school administrators. Even as we speak, there are some clandestine meetings going on at 440 for the many principal vacancies anticipated for next school year. I am still baffled at that fact that there was a recent posting for the assistant principal position yet they have been "eliminated" from the school budget for next year. Hmmm...
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 2, 2013 10:45 am
The School District has been doing things so wrong for so long that they think wrong is right. The administrative culture and "ethos" of our district has become so unethical that it has become what I describe as an "unhealthy organization." They think they can do whatever they want, however they want, for whatever reason they want. They think they have can follow no rules and that they can circumvent whichever laws they please. The SRC just rubber stamps what the administration does with no real inquiry into what they do, and little if any understanding of the consequences of what the district's administrative staff does.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on May 2, 2013 9:56 pm
Rich--They ARE allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want etc. Is anybody stopping them? Are the courts challenging them? Really, they don't "think" they can do---They ARE doing what they want. There won't be a Public School System in Phila. in 5 years if this continues. There will be maybe 40 Public Schools left, housing all the kids charters don't want to deal with for various reasons.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 1, 2013 5:32 pm
Lisa, At a recent SRC meeting, Pastor Pamela Williams provided a first-hand account of collusion on the part of Mastery Charter Schools, Scholar Academies, and Frontline Solutions in order to influence Kenderton's SAC. Why hasn't there been more publicity about this. If a school community wants to remain as a District school, then the Renaissance charter process should not be forced upon the school. The process of selecting which Renaissance schools are become charters and which become Promise Academies is completely unknown to the public. EGS

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