This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or Facebook.com/TheresaHarringtonBANG.

May 16

Dramatic changes are on the horizon in the Mt. Diablo school district's central office.

Superintendent Nellie Meyer, who came to the district from San Diego last September, unveiled a reorganization plan Wednesday that would abolish the current chief financial officer position, along with three assistant superintendent positions responsible for personnel, special education and student services, and Student Achievement and School Support, known as SASS.

Her report came two days after the board voted Monday in closed session not to renew contracts for the current administrators who hold those four positions: CFO Bryan Richards and assistant superintendents Julie Braun-Martin, Kerri Mills and Rose Lock.


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"It is really a product of the first six months of my going to many different schools and looking at the organization and going through and asking a lot of questions about how things work and how things are organized," Meyer said. "What I found, which is not atypical, is that after the series of years of budget cuts, there were gaps in the support. And then also there is the age-old perception or reality of central office versus site, which occurs often in very large districts."

Meyer's report cited "a strong perception of a disconnect between the students and schools, and the central office referred to as 'DENT.'" The district office's official name is the James W. Dent Education Center.

"It was unclear who really was in charge of certain departments," Meyer said. "It was unclear where a school might find support for different things."

Meyer's plan includes three new assistant superintendent positions: one each for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.

"This is the structure by which we will see direct, responsive, clear lines of authority and support," according to Meyer's report. "All structures rely on strong staff, and the development and training of staff to these new roles will be ongoing. Staff will be required to think creatively, to problem-solve and to focus on our like mission of serving students."

The assistant superintendents will be accountable for all academic and operational needs at the schools they oversee.

"This position is responsible for sharing and developing best practices, as well as ensuring equity of service," Meyer's report states. "In addition, they will be the point of contact to support the principal and community when resolving conflicts. As we continue to restore student supports, they will be responsible for a smooth implementation."

Meyer also proposed creating two executive directors -- one for operations and one for school support. Along with the general counsel, Meyer wants the executive directors and assistant superintendents to make up her "Cabinet." Now, the general counsel, chief financial officer and current assistant superintendents make up the superintendent's council.

In the proposal, 10 administrators would report directly to Meyer: three assistant superintendents, two executive directors and five directors -- one each for budget and fiscal services; human resources; Measure C bond construction projects; special projects; and college, career and adult school.

Meyer's report calls for several of these top administrators to "be responsible for ensuring prompt, responsive, direct service" to schools, employees, the community or all of them.

The complete proposal is at http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on May 14, then "Item 18.7 District Reorganization."

Although the board appeared receptive to the plan, a special education parent expressed concerns about the elimination of an assistant superintendent level administrator overseeing special education services. Under the reorganization, a director of special education would report to the executive director of instructional support.

Meyer told that parent she believes all directors should have direct access to the superintendent. She invited those with questions or concerns to e-mail her at meyern@mdusd.org.

The board expects to vote on the plan May 28.

Do you agree with the proposal?