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New Jersey Education Department To Be Trimmed and Reorganized

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New Jersey Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman last week announced a major reorganization of the state's education department. It is designed to improve efficiency, focus more of the department's resources on curriculum development, and expand its role in public-policy development in the education field.

The plan, five months in the making, also calls for a 6-to-8 percent reduction in the size of the 1,500-employee agency and the creation of a strategic-planning office to study emerging social trends. The department administered about $2 billion in aid to the state's schools last year.

The reorganization was recommended by two independent consultants who were asked to evaluate the department by Mr. Cooperman when he took office last July. (See Education Week, Aug. 18, 1982.)

In their report, Robert Maher, manager of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company's "organization-effectiveness group," and Wayne Hoy, associate dean for academic affairs at Rutgers University's graduate school of education, said the department lacked a clearly defined sense of purpose, wasted resources through duplication of effort, and too often promoted personnel on the basis of politics instead of performance.

"A growing trend of internal and external conflict has produced cynicism, reactiveness, uncertainty, and a 'siege mentality' within the department," they wrote.

In the executive summary of the reorganization plan, Mr. Cooperman writes that these morale problems will be addressed in several ways. Job descriptions will be made clearer; employees will be told how their jobs fit "into the larger picture"; and the criteria that the department will use to evaluate job performance will be outlined in precise terms.

"Work responsibilities are fixed and individual staff members are provided with a clear understanding of the lines of authority," Mr. Cooperman writes. "By defining, grouping, and describing the way work should flow in the department, productivity and job satisfaction are improved."

Alluding to the new strategic-planning office, Mr. Cooperman said in the summary that "the most important long-range benefit of the reorganization will be [the] establishment of a department of education capable of initiating action toward development of public policy, rather than only of reacting to the actions of others."

Under the new plan, the department's 21 county offices will be grouped into three regions, with the three new regional offices focusing on curriculum-improvement projects.

Mr. Cooperman will begin appointing new leadership in the department in January. The reorganization plan is expected to be carried out by next spring.--tt

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