Too Many Chiefs?

The Wild Magnolias, Mardi Gras Indians. Click image for more information.

Professor Longhair – ” Big Chief 1 and 2″ (click to listen or download).

Just announced, special Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education meetings on Friday, July 27, Noon (Doyle Blg., rm 103), to create a new, one year Chief of Staff position at a cost of $170,000.  This has to be done via a budget amendment, so it will require five votes.  No public appearances;  in order to weigh in write the Board at

I am agnostic on the need for this position, but believe that if Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore believes there is a need, than a case should be made in a manner that allows for public scrutiny and input.  The agenda linked above provides no justification.  Hell, it doesn’t even have a job description.   There is no way for anyone to weigh the need vs the cost,  and lacking that there is no way to give meaningful public input, except to say, “slow down.”

I think some context is important.  In recent years,  early grade class sizes in our highest poverty schools have increased from 15 to 18 and other class sizes have likely also increased (neither the Board nor the public have been given  a clear picture of class size trends) .   A  Board Member amendment to guaranty adequate professional library staffing was defeated during the budget deliberations and an effort to increase the capacity for analysis and reporting was only minimally funded (on the need for the latter, see here).    Equity-based supplemental allocations are essentially dead.     These are four examples of places where decisions have been made to not spend money, where the desire to not tax and spend has triumphed over the desire for better education and a better district.  Add to these the fact that most staff are working under contracts that froze their pay and increased their benefit contributions.

All of the above (and more)  should be taken into consideration before voting on the creation of a Chief of Staff position.  Board members need to ask themselves if this position is more important than and more beneficial than other possible uses of the funds.

A little over two years ago the Board was told by Dan Nerad and (soon to be) Chief Learning Officer/Deputy Superintendent  Sue Abplanalp that there was no need for a Chief of Staff.  This was part of an ill-conceived and executed administrative reorganization done in 2010 (see here, here, here, and here).   At the meeting where Abplanalp’s job description was approved, there was discussion of the new position and clarification that duties which had previously been under the Chief of Staff would move to the new Chief Learning Officer portfolio.   Apparently that hasn’t worked out.

I’d be more inclined to support the new Chief of Staff position if it was tied to a cut in pay for the Deputy Superintendent/Chieif Learning Officer (and perhaps other positions impacted).  Those on the front lines in our district are continually being told to do more with less and more for less.  It doesn’t seem right for those at the top to be doing less for the same compensation.

Thomas J. Mertz


Filed under "education finance", Accountability, Best Practices, Budget, Contracts, education, Equity, finance, Gimme Some Truth, Local News, School Finance, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Too Many Chiefs?

  1. School districts are not the White House, and simply do not need “Chiefs of Staff.” Most in the U.S. Congress earn $174,000 per year. This public school administrator collecting $170,000 per year is a symptom of the real problem in education: too many overpaid administrators, many of whom abuse teachers, and thereby interfere with education. Please use Google to search for “education reform petition Congress cut administrators’ pay” — and, if you agree, sign this legislative proposal/petition, and then spread the word. It’s time to stop this problem of out-of-control administrators. They are destroying our nation’s schools.

  2. Good News/Bad News: MMSD Chief of Staff approved, funded via reallocations (the good news); no public discussion of the nature or need with this position (the bad news). I’m still agnostic because there still has been next to nothing said in public abut what this position will be and why it is needed. A private meeting with one Board Member (as was described at the meeting where the vote was taken) is not sufficient in my opinion.

  3. Turin Younger

    Check out MMSD’s Employment page and click on “EA” Unit;
    it appears “the Chiefs” are hiring the lowest paid “Indians” to do
    their work. Behavior Interventionists?
    -What is the job description?
    -What level of educational attainment is required for the job?
    -Will EA/Behaviorists undergo some sort of training for a
    consistent and comprehensive approach to discipline throughout
    the District?

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