Boston To Develop Plan To Decentralize District

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The superintendent of the Boston school district has launched an effort that is expected to result in a plan to decentralize the system next fall.

In naming five work groups to examine the areas of instruction and assessment, school leadership, readiness to learn, planning and budget, and communication, Superintendent Lois Harrison.Jones charged the committees with recommending how the system's central departments and zone offices should be revamped to support individual schools.

Over the summer, she is expected to use their suggestions to fashion a plan for the school system.

Ms. Harrison-Jones also has asked key administrators for their resumes as a prelude to making decisions about which administrators will hold any newly configured jobs.

The school system already has announced that it intends to reduce the number of zone offices that manage schools, from four to three.

In addition, zone superintendents will be put in charge of elementary, middle, and high schools, instead of the current system of one superintendent to oversee all the city's high schools and three others monitoring the elementary and middle schools in their geographic regions.

Joint Goals

Ms. Harrison.Jones, who has been superintendent since last summer, and the new Boston School Committee last month released a set of joint goals that will guide efforts to improve the city's schools.

By 1995, the goals state, the superintendent and school committee plan to improve student performance, build an exemplary vocational-technical system, revitalize school athletics, improve the services <&red to the system's diverse population, strengthen school-based management and accountability, restore fiscal accountability, and strengthen and better coordinate outside partnership.

However, any plans to change the system will have to take into account the district's tight budget.

"I know that a lot of things across the board that people have been talking about require funds to do," said Hatti Mckinnis, the executive director of the Citywide Parents Council, who headed the study group on school readiness,

"We're hurting now. It's kind of difficult to imagine how it's really I going to get done," she said.

In their joint goals report, the superintendent and school committee pledged to do their work within the constraints of the district's budget, which is allocated by the city.

The pledge marks a departure from the workings of the previous, elected school committee, which feuded constantly with city hall over the amount of money that would be spent on schools.

"We have made it clear from the beginning that this will not be a school committee and administration that constantly asks for more," the report says. "It will be one that continually demands better."

To balance its $378.5-million budget for next year, the school committee sent layoff notices this month to 171 members of the Boston Teachers Union, including I some tenured teachers.

The exact number of teachers who will lose their jobs will not be clear until the school system receives word of how many teachers plan to retire. The state legislature is considering offering early-retirement incentives to some employees, which also would affect how many teachers return to Boston's classrooms.

In drawing up that budget, the committee decided to place school nurses under the control of the city's health and hospitals department to save $1 million. Layoff notices went out to 86 school nurses, drawing the threat of legal action from the Boston Teachers Union.

Vol. 11, Issue 39, Page 12

Published in Print: June 17, 1992, as Boston To Develop Plan To Decentralize District
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