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Reducing school governance to three levels

By Art Trezise

The school governance bill, H.883, seems to recognize the need for fundamental change, hopefully aiming for these priorities: much better education of our children; more effective utilization of competent teachers; minimization of overhead expense; and the teaching potential via web-assisted programs.

Such objectives haven't a chance within Vermont's present fragmentation of authority and responsibility. Vermont needs a totally new organizational structure.

THE GOAL

Locally, the school director (principal) is the boss. She answers directly to the regional supervisor (one of five). The school director stimulates learning and is responsible for delivering Vermont's educational package to the children in her particular school. She (or he) also has the authority to hire the teaching and support staff, to nurture the team toward improved performance and (with the prior OK of the regional supervisor) to fire. There is no tenure for anyone.

Geographically, the regional supervisor (say: NW, NE, Central W, Central E and South) is manager of the area's schools with the objective of maximizing effectiveness with minimization of idle or under-used capacity – whether buildings or professional staff. Especially in areas of sparse population, analyzes road network and geographical obstacles so as to ensure availability of quality education. For required courses with scant enrollment or for elective courses, weighs the possibility of interactive or transmitted material via the web.

Centrally, in Montpelier, the state's secretary of education has the responsibility and the authority to make available to all pre-kindergarten-through-12th-grade students a "Scandinavian level" of education at reasonable cost.

The secretary approves the unified state curricula; defines the minimum daily hours of class and number of days per school year; establishes a statewide salary and benefit program (with any union negotiations centralized in the secretary's office); defines and enables online reporting from each school; creates a unified chart of accounts for all the public schools to use throughout the state; standardizes a zero-based budget preparation process starting with the individual school managers; provides links for centralized parent and teacher input; and centralizes leases and major purchases.

In addition to the five regional supervisors, the secretary would have – among others – at least these key posts occupied by professionals with functional connections to the school managers.

•  Methodology & Curricula

•  Finance & Control

• Family Ombudsperson

• Human Resources

• Buildings & Equipment

From top to bottom, the direct hierarchical chain of command is down to three levels.

Arthur Trezise lives in Fayston.

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