Education Lab

Central Unified mulls adding administrator

Central Unified officials want to improve the district's academic performance and are recommending that trustees hire a $125,000-a-year assistant superintendent.

The move comes after Central was forced to reduce its budget this year because of state funding cuts. Some 26 teacher positions were eliminated and some class sizes increased.

However, Superintendent Michael Berg said the new hire would save money because Central no longer would need to employ a $225,000 consultant who has been needed for several years.

"We are going to save $100,000 a year," he said.

At one time, Central's staff included an associate superintendent, but in 2007 the job was merged into a single administrative position held by Laurel Ashlock under the title assistant superintendent, chief academic officer.

The new assistant superintendent would work with Ashlock and have responsibility over educational services, including new teacher training. "It's part of our guiding principles to improve academics," Berg said.

The new assistant superintendent would be responsible for working closely with county, state and federal education agencies and assisting school leadership with teacher training and support.

With budget cuts this year, Central cut 26 teaching positions -- some of them temporary employees.

However, Chris Williams, an assistant superintendent in charge of human resources, said the laid-off teachers have opportunities to substitute teach.

Originally, 86 teachers received layoff notices, but most of the jobs were spared. Nine nonteaching positions also were eliminated.

Some teachers have raised concerns about the new administrative position but declined to be quoted. Attempts on Friday to reach leaders with the Central Teachers Association were unsuccessful.

Berg said district administration took the brunt of cuts this year, when "18 different positions [were] reclassified or eliminated."

He said filling this new position is critically important because of the district's recent academic performance.

Eleven Central schools have been identified as program improvement schools -- a sort of academic probation for schools failing to meet federal growth targets. The designation requires schools and the district to demonstrate significant improvement in student learning, primarily among minority subgroups.

Berg said leadership already has been changed at several schools and the new assistant superintendent would help further the district's academic goals.

School board members have a few weeks to think about their decision. The board was slated to vote on the new position at Tuesday's meeting, but it is now being presented as an informational item. The decision has been pushed back to Oct. 12.

Trustee George Wilson Jr. said he needs more information before he can decide how he will vote. He said questions have been raised by constituents, but he would not elaborate. "We will have more discussion on this," he said.

Trustee Judith Geringer seemed to be leaning toward creating the new position, insisting that Central Unified is not top-heavy in administrators.

She said boosting academic performance is a priority for the district. Central's scores have improved, Geringer said: "But they could be better."

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