The AJC reports that Superintendent Davis issued a memo yesterday (see full text below) imposing a hiring freeze and a hold on procurement. Davis wrote that the measures were being put in place,
…to ensure the greatest flexibility for Dr. Carstarphen to make organizational changes as she assumes leadership of APS…
The hiring freeze,
…excludes hiring for positions that directly impact student engagement, i.e. teachers, principals and operational positions such as bus drivers, food service workers and custodians.
In addition, Davis announced a freeze on purchases and wrote,
I have also directed the Procurement Office to place a freeze on all new purchases of items over $1,000. Exempted from this directive are purchases with documented commitments [already in place]…
In the event that an exemption to either freeze noted above is necessary, it will require the personal approval of Mr. Davis.
Per the AJC article, Davis also wrote,
“I appreciate that the hiring freeze may pose a challenge for some departments; however, at this critical juncture, it is important that all employees understand that they will be expected to take on additional work assignments, if necessary, to compensate for unfilled positions,” Davis wrote. “while the situation is not ideal, it is necessary at this time.”
This is an excellent step that may help in getting the current budget proposal passed. Board members are concerned about the size of the $658 million expenditure request (the highest total ever); the use of $25 million in General Fund reserves to balance the budget; the failure of the administration to reallocate funds from administrative functions to the classroom; and the administration’s request for a maximum class size waiver that is consistent with last year (see more on this here). However, the administration has not been willing to make any expenditures concessions or been willing to reallocate any expenditures from administrative functions to the classroom.
This stance has led to a great deal of frustration for Board members and is a primary reason why the FY15 Budget was pulled from the Board of Education meeting agenda this past Monday.
The Budget Commission is meeting today at 3:30 p.m. to consider a number of issues associated with the FY15 budget and the imposed freezes should go far in allaying some of their concerns as the hiring and procurement freeze will provide Dr. Carstarphen a significant amount of flexibility in revamping the proposed budget in a way that is consistent with the Board’s policy directions.
Dr. Carstarphen has a demonstrated track record (both in Austin and St. Paul) of shaking up the administrative functions and placing more resources into the schools where they can have the most impact on educational outcomes. In a recent community meeting, she said,
… if you really want to know what is happening in your district, just follow the money. Don’t follow the legends and the myths – just get to the bottom of the money. And then you know what you really believe in and what you have been doing for years. If you can track down the money and the resources, you will see what you believe and then you have to say, “Is this what we want to continue to do? Are we OK with this? Or do we want to change our direction?”
My sense is that she will dig in to the details quickly and work with the Board to implement the desired changes and incorporate the Board’s policy directions.
Image of memo issued by Mr. Davis (click to enlarge):
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