NORWALK, Conn. – Proposed “major changes” in the Norwalk Public Schools central office infrastructure are up for a vote Tuesday as Superintendent Manny Rivera seeks to reorganize and improve the Special Education and Human Resources departments.
Rivera, in a letter to the Board of Education, said the changes in school leadership will advance the aggressive agenda for change he has laid out with the intention to close the achievement gap. The position changes are approved in the 2014-15 operating budget, according to Rivera and BoE Chairman Mike Lyons.
• Converting three full-time administrators of special education to four full-time positions with new titles, roles and responsibilities. These new special education instructional supervisors will have an enhanced role to provide direct classroom instructional support for staffing and will report directly to the Special Education director. They will also monitor and support the implementation of new standards and protocols for PPTs (Planning and Placement Teams) and Special Education Pre-K and help design new SPED programs to reduce out-of-district placements
• Recruiting and hiring a new K-5 literacy specialist
• Expansion of the After the Bell program coordinator’s role
• Elimination of two full-time HR positions (HR assistant and HR executive secretary) and the creation of three full-time HR specialists
• The transfer of one full-time position from the finance department to the HR department to serve as the benefits clerk
• Hiring a temporary project manager as a consultant to oversee the MUNIS software system and systems implementation, a position to last from 90 to 180 days
• The establishment of a 30-hour labor relations director
• The conversion of the chief operating officer role to a director of school operations
• Reassignment of clerical/support positions to provide enhanced support for the BoE and parent relations
• Changing Brenda Williams’ title from communications director to chief communications officer and executive assistant
• Changing Rich Rudl’s title from chief financial officer to chief business and financial officer and expanding his responsibilities to include business services
• Creating a new position, chief academic officer, to lead the instructional department and provide quality control
• Creating a research and accountability director as required by the Dalio Foundation. This will “give NPS one of the strongest research, data analysis, program evaluation and policy and practice-informing teams in the state,” Rivera wrote.
Rivera seeks authorization to implement these and other changes by Aug. 15.
“Manny is moving forward with major changes,” Lyons said in an email. “These departmental changes were in the strategic plan the Board approved and were also in the approved budget for ’14-’15, but this is the process of actually implementing the changes. We’re finally taking the organizational steps needed to address the longstanding issues in SPED identified in the two CREC (Capital Region Education Council) reports, and moving to fundamentally strengthen our HR functions, which should help with things as varied as improving evaluations of employees to doing a better job of hiring a diverse workforce (we’ve done well in that at the level of school administration but not so much at the teaching level; we want to address that).”
The changes to Rudl’s and Williams’ positions could be called promotions, Lyons said. “Manny is parceling out duties formally held by Elio Longo as COO to several individuals, increasing their job responsibilities. Rudl and Williams have proved their capabilities and these expanded responsibilities make sense,” Lyons wrote.
“Yes, we’ll be hiring people, but we’ve been hiring all year, creating a robust management team at central office,” Lyons wrote.
Rivera has spoken of the expense of sending Special Education students to other districts and of a desire to create programs for them in Norwalk. This is a long-term goal with a significant expense at the outset and savings over time, he has said.
This step will save some money, said Lyons.
“I don’t think we have hard numbers yet on reducing out-of-district costs, but that is part of the long-term plan,” Lyons wrote. “Of course, there are two primary objectives here — first, improve the quality of our SPED administration and programs; second, gradually implement long-term cost savings by reducing out-placements (the first necessarily precedes the second — reducing out-placements requires having a strong enough internal program to make out-placements less necessary).”