A reckless proposal
A central component of the restructuring plan now under consideration by the SRC is to further gut the District's already downsized central office and manage schools through a set of autonomous "achievement networks" – all somehow coordinated by a skeleton crew downtown.
No argument that the District needs to move away from a command-style structure. But this plan more or less gives up on the idea of a central office altogether.
Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen and his hired guns from the Boston Consulting Group propose replacing it with a system that has never been tried in any other urban district. New York City has tried matching schools with support organizations – but as a supplement to the central office, not a replacement.
This reorganization plan was cooked up in a few weeks, and it shows. Details on how these achievement networks would operate are scanty. Still, Knudsen is eager to issue a request for proposals to operate a pilot network.
It's fashionable to say that things are so bad that they couldn't get worse – so why not just blow up the central office and see if the consultants' ideas about networks are any better? But that is reckless thinking.
In fact, one of the vital roles of a central office is to ensure equity and accountability. We know that in other districts like New Orleans that have radically decentralized, the results for the most vulnerable, such as students with disabilities, have been disastrous. Why this proposed system would better address the needs of the hardest-to-serve students is unclear.
And the restructuring won't save money – it's not an answer to the current crisis. It appears to be driven by ideology, not practicalities. Why else would anyone think that a horrific budget deficit requiring 64 school closings is a good time to also take apart and redesign the District's entire organizational structure? Knudsen and his consultants should take this half-baked proposal off the table.