Education

Chiefs in Okla., S.C. Pledge To Reorganize Departments

By Jonathan Weisman — February 20, 1991 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Citing top-heavy bureaucracies and duplicated responsibilities, the newly elected state superintendents of Oklahoma and South Carolina have pledged major reorganizations of their departments of education.

The Oklahoma state school board late last month unanimously approved a restructuring plan that will eliminate 64 positions, transfer 22 jobs to other state agencies, and dissolve 13 department sections over the next six months. The changes should save $1.5 million, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett in a news release last week.

In South Carolina, a 35-member task force of business leaders is scheduled this week to unveil its recommendations for streamlining the education department. Superintendent of Education Barbara Nielsen has promised to present her reorganization plan March 1.

Funds saved from both plans will be channeled to the classroom and increased teacher salaries, advo4cates say.

“We are moving from the basic-skills reform of ’83 and ’84 to a new phase of reform,” Ms. Nielsen said last week. “We’re now looking at reform to make sure our dollars get to the classroom level.”

With 1,107 employees, the South Carolina department is nearly one-third the size of the U.S. Department of Education, Ms. Nielsen said, adding, “We are definitely top-heavy.”

“We will be fair. We will be consistent. We will provide counseling,” she promised. “But we have to make serious changes.”

Observers say that emphasis on fairness has eased acceptance of the difficult changes being made. In South Carolina, educators noted that Ms. Nielsen has been consulting closely with teachers and employees and predicted that any cuts will be fair.

Although some of its members stand to lose jobs during a recession, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association has supported Ms. Garrett’s proposal.

“We’re really disappointed any time any state employees are going to lose their jobs,” said Pat Hall, the opea’s executive director. “But Sandy Garrett has put in the absolute fairest reduction-of-force plan we’ve ever seen.”

Most of the jobs to be cut in Oklahoma are at the upper level. The post of associate superintendent is to be abolished, with a net loss of three positions. One assistant superintendent’s position will be added to the existing four.

The largest division to be eliminated is the transportation section, with nine employees, whose work Ms. Garrett says duplicates that of the state department of public safety in inspecting school buses. The functions of the other 12 sections will be merged into the remaining 54 sections, said the department’s spokesman, Wendy Pratt.

Mr. Hall said Ms. Garrett formed a “crisis reduction-in-force committee” to help with relocation, health insurance, counseling, and unemployment compensation. He added that she implemented “down to the commas” a layoff plan drafted in part by his union.

Teachers’ organizations in both states have embraced the reforms. Barbara Smith, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, praised Ms. Garrett for her “courageous stand on restructuring.”

“I think the restructuring is long overdue,” she added. “It was wisely thought out and will be well implemented.”

Both programs are seen as representing the first phases of long-term state agency reform. In Oklahoma, state officials will begin studying the state’s Regional Education Service Centers and their 179 staff positions in August to see whether further cuts and changes should be made.

Following release of the South Carolina business committee’s report, Ms. Nielsen plans to name a 300-member task force of business leaders, educators, community activists, and politicians to draft recommendations for substantive changes in education in the state.

A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 1991 edition of Education Week as Chiefs in Okla., S.C. Pledge To Reorganize Departments

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education School Bus Driver Retires After 48 Years Behind Wheel
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick sat behind the wheel for the final time last week, wrapping up a 48-year career for the district.
3 min read
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick poses with one of her farewell signs. Flick has been driving for Charles City School District for 48 years.
Betty Flick quickly fell in love with the job and with the kids, which is what has had her stay in the district for this long.
Courtesy of Abby Koch/Globe Gazette
Education Briefly Stated: December 1, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read