Norwalk BoE to vote on ambitious Rivera reorganization

Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera
Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera.

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.

They include:

• 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).”

BoE proposed reorg 061714009


9 responses to “Norwalk BoE to vote on ambitious Rivera reorganization”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    This management style is known as “microsofting”, this sometimes works in corporations where communication due to a far flung organization is in need of repair.

    The question for Mr. Rivera is this “what products will result out of this re-org”? I see nothing in this article that explains that.

    It’s one thing to shift responsibility, eliminate 1970’s style administration jobs for the more satellite like positions that Mr. Rivera is proposing, but the question is

    What does he expect as a result of these changes? I am not sure that’s clear, it just sounds like he is trying to restructure central office along the lines of a corporation.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Lifelong Teacher

    And who will be in these new positions. Especially in special ed. That will be interesting to watch.

  3. Yankee Clipper

    These initial comments are typical Norwalk …. negative negative negative. You two obviously haven’t bothered to follow what has been going on … and Norwalk Lifer needs to get a life and get up to speed on Rivera’s plan … which you obviously haven’t bothered to do.

  4. Norewalk Lifer

    @Yankee Clipper, no need for rudeness, I asked an open question, if you have the answer, supply it.

    Norwalk Lifer

  5. Lifer, read the linked document, which explains Dr. Rivera’s objectives.

  6. One and Done.

    Bottom line is the solution is always the same old solution.
    Growing management.
    What will the solution be after that fails?
    Hint: see solution #1.
    Six new headcount. Ridiculous.

  7. One and Done — six new headcount with no purpose would indeed be ridiculous. Six new headcount to address chronic problems with our school system which definitely have NOT been solved WITHOUT the headcount is different.

    If we leave Special Ed, HR, curriculum and other areas in chaos (as they have been in the recent past), we would be decried as indifferent to a ‘failing’ school system. If we address the problems by bringing in expertise that had been lacking, we are attacked for “ridiculous” headcount increases (even though our central office headcount is still well below where it was until a few years ago). BTW, these positions are in our budget and have been since it was proposed months ago.

    We made a similar “ridiculous” headcount increase in 2012 when, despite the budget crisis and many layoffs, we added the position of Chief Financial Officer, to get control of the schools’ budgets. The result? Smooth budgeting, enhancement of programs, budget surpluses, and the smallest percentage budget increases of any city department two years running. Thank goodness we chose to make that “ridiculous” headcount increase, and thereby save us (and the taxpayers) millions of dollars by straightening out our finances.

  8. One and Done.

    Sounds good Mike. Glad you have a plan. I just shudder at the thought of expanding headcount under the current model. There has to be some forecast ROI and/or savings in other areas. Maybe NON doesn’t have those details, but it would be nice to see financial analysis impact. Also what do these jobs to 10 years from now and 10 years after that? We have too much permanency baked into the system to ever feel good about expanding payroll, so for some of us we would feel better if those things could be explained.

  9. piberman

    Kudos to Dr Rivera and the BOE. Every new chief administrator of any real substances crafts the new organization to his/her liking. In contrast City Hall trundles along in unseemly mediocrity. Under Mike Lyons leadership the BOE is becoming widely recognized as the best managed and most effective elected City body in many decades. Imagine if we had a few more such admirably managed public bodies.

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