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Dallas Schools Seek To Streamline Decisionmaking

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The superintendent of the Dallas public schools has unveiled a reorganization plan that would put more power in the hands of principals and teachers, eliminate 103 administrative positions, and save the district some $3.6 million a year.

Marvin E. Edwards, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, presented the plan at a school-board meeting last month. According to Mr. Edwards, the plan is designed to streamline decisionmaking and communication in the district and give more authority to individual schools.

Under the proposal, 20 schools will be invited to convert to site-based management next fall. By the 1994-95 school year, all of the district's nearly 200 schools would be expected to participate.

Mr. Edwards gave no details about how teachers, parents, and others would be involved in exercising power at each school or exactly what their responsibilities would be.

An internal team headed by Abelardo Ponce, the district's elementary-school executive director, has been studying how to apply site-based management to the Dallas8schools for more than a year. Its proposals will be presented to the school board later this month.

Although Mr. Edwards said he does not need the board's approval for most of the reorganization plan, he does expect it to vote on the specifics of site-based management.

The rest of the reorganization plan, which will take effect next fall, will eliminate two layers of administrative bureaucracy in the district, including two associate-superintendent positions and the current posts of assistant superintendents for elementary and secondary education.

In their place will be a single deputy superintendent, who will share responsibility with Mr. Edwards for day-to-day operations. In addition, the district's schools will be divided into eight K-12 zones, each of which will be supervised by an area director who reports directly to the superintendent. Separate units will be created to oversee the district's alternative and magnet schools and learning centers.

Under the proposal, each school will be expected to develop a school-improvement plan, including quantifiable measures for improving student achievement.

Schools that failed to meet their goals would have to write corrective-action plans and, eventually, could have their principals replaced if the plans did not produce results. The net effect, Mr. Edwards predicted, would be to make principals more accountable for their schools' performance.

"The Dallas Independent School District, as a result of this plan, is moving into the 21st century," he told the board, "from a school system to a system of schools."

Larry Ascough, a spokesman for Mr. Edwards, said the superintendent intends to hire administrators for the newly created positions as early as next month.--lo

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