New Norwalk schools chief proposing staff reorganization

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New Norwalk Superintendent Manuel Rivera has changes in mind. The creation of new positions high up on the Norwalk Public Schools ladder will be discussed at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Change is in the wind for the Norwalk Public Schools as new Superintendent Manuel Rivera begins to dig in and put his stamp on the operation.

Rivera has proposed a reorganization of the administrative team for this year that would represent a savings of $11,190 in the current budget.

The catch? The savings occur because some positions would not begin until Nov. 1, meaning the positions would receive only 75 percent of the set annual salary this year. The actual annual cost of the new structure would be $1,027,813, an increase of $97,350 over the current budget. That figure, and perhaps more, would have to be funded in the 2014-15 budget and beyond.

The figures include a $9,615 savings in Rivera’s salary because of his delayed start date made necessary by negotiations and teachers union rules.

According to documents included in the agenda packet for Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Rivera is recommending the following changes:

• Changing the title of the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction to either deputy superintendent or assistant superintendent for schools. This is Tony Daddona’s position, and the change would carry no salary increase. It would, however, more aptly describe his reconfigured position as he would assume many of the day-to-day administrative duties currently landing on the superintendent’s desk. Rivera said that, as he needs to devote the majority of his time to major changes in the system that include the Core Curriculum implementation, Daddona would be called upon to handle day-to-day tasks along with “other major responsibilities.”

• Convert the chief operating officer position to chief business officer to oversee facilities, finance and accounting (including chief finance officer Rich Rudl), budget, transportation and food services. Information and technology and human resources would become direct reports to Rivera. The CBO would begin Nov. 1. This position would pay $160,000, down from $173,222.

• The chief human resource officer would report to the superintendent instead of the COO. The position would be enhanced “in keeping with new developments (i.e., professional standards, performance appraisal systems and other duties).” Start date would be Nov. 1. Salary would be $155,000, up from $144,776.

• Convert the current IT director position to chief for technology, innovation and partnerships, a direct-report to the superintendent. This is another significantly enhanced role, Rivera said, with responsibilities including partnership building and management, strategic planning and systems development, driving technology related to innovations and other duties. Start date would be ASAP. Salary $175,000, up from $162,590.

• A communication officer: This new position would assume multiple duties ranging from increasing and improving the quality of internal and external communications, public relations and marketing to conducting research and assisting with planning, administrative follow-up and other duties. This position would begin Nov.1 and is based on an $87,938 annual salary.

• Standards, quality control and assessment: Rivera termed this a “placeholder” in the agenda document. It is a position he would like to fill in the near future or possibly next year and is envisioned, he said, as akin to a chief academic officer, a dedicated lead person to assure the curriculum is rolled out and implemented “with fidelity” and that “we begin to instill district-wide standards of excellence and greater quality control.” The position would oversee Common Core implementation, professional development, assessment and relate initiatives “that will require undivided time and attention.” Not budgeted at this time.

According to BOE Chairman Mike Lyons, the board was aware the proposed changes were in the works.

“Dr. Rivera has mentioned this before to the board and is aware that it could raise cost concerns in future budget years,” Lyons wrote in a late-night email in response to a NancyOnNorwalk question. “However, I think most of us realize that we need to beef up the central office somewhat to manage all the new initiatives (particularly Common Core and the new teacher and principal evaluation systems we’re piloting, as well as needed technology improvements).”

Lyons also put the cost into perspective as part of the overall expense of running the schools.

“Although $100,000 is real money,” he said, “in context it is only .00062 of the $162,000,000 budget (6/100ths of 1 percent). If that’s what it takes to properly manage the school system, it’s a pretty small percentage to pay to get there, from my point of view. Of course, there may be board members who disagree.”

The rest of the board will get a chance to weigh in Tuesday night when the BOE meets at 7:45 p.m. in room A300 on the third floor of City Hall.


29 responses to “New Norwalk schools chief proposing staff reorganization”

  1. Piberman

    After release of the recent Arbitration Report’s findings that City school teachers were the 5th highest paid in the state and highest among the cities we expect an effort to reduce both teacher and administrator salaries to levels reflecting our City’s modest income levels. With 8% unemployment levels there should be no difficulty in reducing, not increasing school administrator salaries. Sadly past is prologue with administrator salaries – ever upward forever ! Here’s an opportunity for the BOE to demonstrate fiscal restraint unlike past excesses.

  2. marjoriem

    Just like he did in Rochester! No surprise.

  3. 2+2=5

    A request for a 10% increase is not just getting things off to a bad start. It is a slap in the face to taxpayers. Are we doomed, or what?

  4. 2+2=5

    In the real world, IT leads report to the CFO. You don’t need a Harvard MBA to figure this out and you don’t need to fly another PhD into town to figure out tech spending requirements. God help our children. Does anyone really care about their education, or is it all just a land grab?

  5. ricksly56

    Hopefully this is not at a cost of losing teachers in the buildings. One week before school starts and talk already of re organization in some of the schools and teacher’s being told they may not have jobs, really is not a good way to start out.

  6. norwalkresidentteacher

    Ok, so it begins without even allowing time to effectively determine if the proposed changes will work! Give the man a break and allow him to do his job. NPS is in desperate need of Central Office staff to manage all of the educational changes and challenges. Perhaps its all of the naysayers who are actually preventing Norwalk from attaining real progress. Change can be difficult, but the status quo doesn’t seem to working! Stay positive until you have proof of all of your complaining!

  7. Joe Norwalk

    Actually, in almost all leading-edge successful corporations, IT reports to the CEO, not the CFO. Companies that are successful at unlocking the value of technology in the workplace always have the direct support of the CEO. Putting it under the “bean counters” is always a mistake.
    The organization structure Dr. Rivera is proposing makes a lot of sense. Moving the Chief Human Resources Officer to report directly to him makes sense as well. His next move should be to move principals and assistant principals around between schools to shake up the little “fiefdoms”. None of the salaries seem particularly out of line to me compared to the corporate world. You pay for what you get and he is at least reducing the salary on the CBO position and the communications officer pay is low.

  8. 2+2=5

    @Joe Norwalk. By leading edge companies, I assume you mean tech related products and services. Companies who have a control over their finances because they, unlike NPS, do not have the luxury of just stealing money from the taxpayers when they decide it is convenient….
    Until NPS gains control over its financial information, the role should report into the CFO. That should be the first goal of the information system. Until that happens, we will continue to throw more good money after bad ideas without ever being able to track the effectiveness as it gets buried in a purposefully misleading financial information system.
    How many times do taxpayers have to get burned before we get control of our house here?

  9. 2+2=5

    @NorwalkResidentTeacher. Overheads need to be cut. You don’t need to hire more people to figure out we are spending way, way too much money outside of the classroom. The new Super has a TREMENDOUS budget, and if he is as smart as we were led to believe, he should be able to figure it out without having to hire more PERMANENT staff. This article doesn’t even mention the tens of millions of dollars that these staff will cost us over time in medical and retirement benefits. Who cares, the taxpayers will just have to eat it, right?

  10. David

    Joe Norwalk beat me to it:

    To Whom Do CIOs Actually Report?
    It’s about time we bring in some data to this discussion. So just who are CIOs reporting to today? According to “2010 State of the CIO” survey data, 43 percent of CIOs report to the CEO, and just 19 percent report to the CFO. In addition, 70 percent of the surveyed IT execs claim to have a seat on the business executive management committee.

    @piberman: The actual unemployment rate for Fairfield County is 7.3%. Nationally the rate is half that for people with college or advanced degrees, so let’s assume the same here in Fairfield county. 3.65% vs. 8% should change the tone of the “take a pay cut, or else..” conversation, I’m sure you’d agree.

  11. 2+2=5

    @David. In the end, I’m sure the entitlement crowd you side with will win behind the age old smoke screen of doing it for the children. Your data might be relevant, if the school system had an accurate and dependable financial system. But, it does not. The new Super is entitled to structure his org the way he sees fit, and I’ll reserve judgment for results. I just wish he would have started with ideas on how to save money right off the bat, instead of suggesting new ways to spend, spend, spend. It only looks like a $90k job now, but over 30 years it will end up costing the taxpayers over $5 million dollars. FOR A PUBLICSIST. HOW DOES THAT EDUCATE CHILDREN?

  12. 2+2=5

    @David, thanks for the link. Your article actually supports my position on page 1.
    “Why the CFO?
    The generally accepted account of why CFOs have been installed as IT’s de facto boss is this: IT was forged in finance departments to help with the digitization of accounting functions;”
    I think with the fiascos of the last few years and the board magically finding money at the end of this year clearly point to an out of control financial system. This basic evolution in enterprise management is something that has never happened within NPS. You can’t peel the IT function out of Finance into the operations side of things, until the house gets in order. It still is not.
    Fix this first, then worry about future nice to haves. Until you do this, the new money we spend is guaranteed to have lack of focus and measurement. Again, I’ll reserve full judgment for results. But, it isn’t off to a good start imo.

  13. David

    @2+2=5: First, you’re making assumptions when you don’t know anything about me. But while we’re at it, I do believe that education is an entitlement, even if it comes at the expense of the “get off my lawn” crowd. Or by “entitlement crowd” did you mean something else? Sorry, I don’t do good with dog whistles.
    Second, you made a statement about “the real world” which was statistically untrue. I corrected that. In the real world 19% of CIO’s report to the CFO. (at last count, at least).
    Third, I just don’t know where you’re coming up with your information. Where does $5 million come from? I’ve multiplied 90k time 30 years and I can’t make it work. Sorry.
    Regarding the “publicist” comment, I couldn’t find that term used in the article, and then it hit me, you’re talking about the communications role! So, I got to thinking, “yeah, what’s the difference between the two?” A cursory search yielded the following:
    “Communications officers are responsible for a company’s communication with different target audiences, including customers, journalists, investors, suppliers and the community. They advise other employees and managers on communication tasks, and use written and verbal skills to create a wide range of product and corporate communication material. By communicating effectively with their target audience, they help to build a positive reputation for the company.”
    “A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a public figure, especially a celebrity, a business, or for a work such as a book, film or album. Most top-level publicists work in private practice, handling multiple clients. ”
    Just an FYI, parents actually complain about communication, so Mr. Rivera has obviously seen a gap that needs to be filled.

  14. David

    No, that article doesn’t support your argument. That line discusses the historical context of IT. It was initially used on a broad scale to process financial information. Obviously, times have changed and so have the requirements of IT organizations.
    This change in reporting structure, by the way, does not change the fact that the IT director never reported to the CFO. As things stand currently, the IT director reports to the COO. (have they re-filled the IT role since?).

  15. 2+2=5

    By entitlement crowd, I mean the 30 years of job security and guaranteed lifetime benefits. $5 million is easy to reach when you factor in the fringe benefits not listed here. Also, when factoring in historical growth of education spending vs. inflation (4 vs 2) you get an annuity of 90k per year at a relative 2% growth rate, which is about $3.7 million without even adding a penny for fringe.
    And no, the article does support my point that the IT role needs to be aligned with Finance so that we can get accurate reporting of the spend. Something we do not have right now. What we get are million dollar surprises left and right, positive and negative. It is no way to run a $200MM enterprise. Moving the function to his direct report kind of indicates he thinks the financial systems are ok. They are not.

  16. David

    OK, so no, I’m not a part of the entitlement crowd.
    Aligned with finance or reporting to finance? A proper accounting system can measure the cost of IT in a heartbeat, the question is: Does the CFO set the strategic direction of IT?
    Clearly Mr. Rivera doesn’t want that, the evidence is in the change in job description: “partnership building and management, strategic planning and systems development, driving technology related to innovations”. Sorry, you’re not going to get that from a bean counter. The CFO would report to the current COO, to be renamed Chief Business Officer. Do you see a trend? It’s the same trend happening across corporate America – a concentration on value.
    Speaking of CIO’s, they’re in demand, particularly on corporate boards. The profile for these people is being elevated, not hidden under more layers. If the opposite were true, I’d expect to see more than 19% of CIO’s reporting to the CFO in corporate America. http://www3.cfo.com/article/2011/11/it-value_cios-on-corporate-boards

  17. 2+2=5

    @David. I won’t argue the trends or benefits. I agree. I do not agree that NPS is mature enough to venture out here. They need to clean up first and there is no evidence that anything meaningful has been done other than finding all these shortfalls and surpluses. In a well run system there wouldn’t be these surprises. Let’s fix the foundation before we try to build a new addition, please. That’s all I’m saying.

  18. David

    I understand what you’re saying – if I’m not mistaken, one of the takeaways from the shortfall discovered 2(?) years ago was that the accounting system was arcane. The position of the CFO was created to sort out the accounting system and create standard procedures.

  19. piberman

    Folks all that’s needed with the restructuring of the central office is a demonstration of frugality re administrator staffing salaries. Norwalk can never make any serious progress from a high cost provider of educational services (5th highest teacher salaries according to the Arbitration Report) to an affordable one without constraining administrator salaries.

    Those of us who have toiled at senior ITT and Finance positions in private industry have no difficulties with similarly titled government or educational jobs earning considerably less than the private sector for all the well known reasons. Giving out 150k administrator salaries like candy cherries doesn’t bring tangible results or set a good example of frugality to rank and file school teachers.

    In short here’s an opportunity for both Dr. Rivera and the BOE to demonstrate administrator salary frugality to both to taxpayer and the school unions that the old regime of excessive education administrator salaries in Norwalk (relative to our ability to pay) has been changed to a more frugal one. A BOE that successfully took the NFT to arbitration needs to remind the administrators and their union that frugality is the new watchword at the NPSS.

  20. Joe Espo

    So.. let the “Marks-ing” of Dr. Rivera begin. All we need is for Bruce Mellion to chime in and Dr. R will be packing his bags for the trip back Rochester in a Norwalk minute. That’s about a bit less than 3 years. Might as well re-start that nation-wide search again. Maybe we can get a two-fer by teaming up with NEON.

  21. norwalkresidentteacher

    @2+2=5 It’s pretty obvious you’ve not been in the classroom, otherwise you would understand the enormity of the job we have as educators. It’s easy to call the shots when you have only an outside perspective of what education entails today. While I can understand how a lay person might think that the education of a child is no more than opening a text book and reading from a script, therefore requiring less pay, but people connected to education today know that it is so much more than that. We certainly appreciate the value of a solid school system with properly managed curriculum, teachers, support staff and resources. All of this takes money, I’m afraid. I, too, pay Norwalk taxes and am willing to pay what’s needed to attract and retain quality employees that can bring our school system back to one that also attracts young families who will live among us and call Norwalk home. I am proud to live and teach in Norwalk and would like to continue to hold that pride. Our school system needs to be excellent, and a lot of rebuilding needs to be done in order to achieve that status. Highly qualified management personnel are needed to do that rebuilding.

  22. Bruce Kimmel

    Mr. Berman,
    I have a request: Please answer these three questions clearly, and please stay on point:
    1. Why do you continually say that the Arbitration Report discovered… when in fact it was Tom Hamilton (as you well konw), the city’s finance director, who provided the data that our teachers are fifth highest paid in the state?
    2. Why did you say in your first comment that the unemployment rate in Norwalk was 8%, when most folks know it is 6%? Surely you know that.
    You often describe Norwalk as a city made up of “modest” income families. What in fact do you think the median income of the city actually is? And do you truly consider that “modest?”

  23. Piberman

    Dear Dr Kimmel

    It was the Arbitration Report that brought widespread attention to Norwalk’s peculiar position of 5th ranked teacher’s salaries in the state, highest than any other city. The Arbitrator’s gave authenticity to the data from the state education department summarized by Finance Head Tom Hamilton. Now everyone outside of City government considers such salaries excessive when our median household incomes rank only 17th in the state. And for Norwalk to be paying higher teacher salaries than our surrounding towns with incomes two to three times Norwalk’s is frankly scandalous. Both the BET and the BOE haven’t been looking out for taxpayer interests. I’ve yet to find any Norwalk citizen who isn’t deeply upset at such poor management of City financial affairs. The Artbitration Report also called attention to the enormous loss in property values from taxes required to fund our high cost education system.

    Second like most communities Norwalk seeks school administrators from the national job market – hence the 8 % figure. Rest assured there is no shortage of well qualified ITT and Finance administrators willing to work in the relaxed and uncompetitive atmosphere off public school systems with all their magnificent benefits. The real world is a harsh environment Dr Kimmel. I’m not aware personally of any school administrator (or college president) working their way back to the demanding and often harsh competitive world. Having worked world class financial organizations and having been a senior university administrator I have difficulty understanding paying high dollars to school administrators. So there’s an opportunity to find new talent at more affordable salaries. Dr Rivera is certainly worth his salary and then some. But he’s really not paid that much more than some of our administrators.

    Thirdly, the usual figures cited for our median household income (used by real estate firms) is about $72,000. The surrounding 5 towns each have median incomes two to three times greater with even sharper disparities in housing and financial assets or net worth. We use median figures because Norwalk does have several thousand households earning $200,000 and higher (mostly enjoy water views of LI Sound) and also several thousand on some form of public assistance. If you haven’t been in Darien, New Caanan, Wilton, Westport and Weston their shops are quite first rate as are the autos and the housing. Norwalk is indeed a modest income town but its officials have no problems paying its teachers more than any other city.

    Now that’s a long answer Dr Kimmel. But we have the stagnant property vales running now for three years to show for lack of fiscal discipline. Who’s at fault ? BOE’s and BET’s going back decades. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. But if we are not as a City much more vigorous in how we negotiate with our overpaid City union workers, especially the teachers, we have a bleak future. That’s what stagnant residential values, stagnant Grand List and an ample supply of unused or under used commercially zoned land is telling us. The smart money is betting our elected officials will not better manage our City’s finances. Our elected officials will claim our problems are caused by “outside forces beyond our control”. But 5th highest teacher salaries says it all.

    Good questions Dr Kimmel.

  24. Joe Norwalk

    OMG!! For once I agree with Joe Espo!

  25. jlightfield

    Rivera’s changes to central office are right on target. There is a huge difference in skillset between a director of IT and a CTO and I commend Rivera for recognizing what he needs to successfully integrate technology strategy within curriculum and administrative functions. in the 21st century, CTOs are the most important position within an organization.

  26. 2+2=5

    Lack of technology is certainly a component of poor financial management. Technology can and will facilitate education delivery, but until NPS has proper controls in place it will be a free for all on the taxpayers wallets. The last IT director figured out he could steal from the system and got a recommendation for it. How many thousands did he get in kick backs for over priced equipment we will probably never know. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Focus on putting a proper system of controls in place first, then let’s see your plans and vision. Spend now and asking questions later is how we got into this mess.

  27. marjoriem

    We have never had a good IT person in charge. I hope the credentials of the new appointee are outstanding. I am withholding my judgement regarding this change to see if the decisions that will be made are same old same old, or if things really change.

  28. Piberman

    Friends there’s every reason to expect the new Supt to hire competent new staff. The issue here is whether the new folks salaries will initiate another round of increases in our lofty administrator salaries and thereby embolden our teachers to strengthen their future salary demands. The Arbitration Report identified Norwalk as having the highest teacher salaries of any city in the state. It’s likely the same is true for our current school administrators. If the new Supt is conscious of the tax burden of excessive salaries he’ll be prudent. If not then its business as usual in Norwalk – high salaries, high property taxes and stagnant property values. So the salaries offered by the new Supt will be closely watched. It would be a cruel irony if the current BOE that won an impressive arbitration award against our high paid teachers sat idly by while the new Supt hired new administrators at even loftier salaries than currently enjoyed. Stay tuned.

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