Finding money for time and staff

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Leading a good instructional program may require more time and staff than some schools have. Principals may need extra hands to help them with administrative duties, and teachers may need more time to learn new skills. Both cost money. The following are suggestions on where to get it.

Schools need to spend their discretionary dollars more wisely, says Philip Hansen, the school system’s chief accountability officer. Many schools have gone overboard in purchasing security equipment and personnel, he contends. “I have been in schools where more than one security person is stationed at each doorway. Sometimes there are two or three people there.”

The Columbine, Colo., shootings prompted some of this spending, he says. But Hansen also contends that schools spend more on security because “it’s easier to look at safety and security issues than to look at more difficult ones like instruction.”

Schools also tend to buy extra staff, such as teacher aides and coordinators or resource teachers, and fund them automatically each year without evaluating their impact on the school, he says. “If you’ve had a curriculum coordinator for four years and your scores haven’t significantly gone up, I think that would beg the question whether you need [one].”

Hansen acknowledges, however, that it’s difficult to close out the position of someone you’ve worked with and that principals tend to shy away from doing it. “That’s human nature,” he says.

Kymara Chase of DePaul University thinks that central office should do a similar evaluation of its own staff to see whether positions are needed. Some, she suspects, are redundant. For instance, staff from different departments inundate schools with requests for the same information, she observes. “If the schools were networked so that paperwork could be done on the Internet, a lot of these jobs could be eliminated.”

Barbara Radner of DePaul University says central office might take some money from its after-school programs to improve instruction during the school day. “If your day program works better, you should have less need for an after-school [program],” she notes.