What’s Going On with the MMSD Administrative Reorganization?

Like most large organizations, the Madison school district seems subject to the iron law that everything always takes longer than you expect.  This certainly holds true for the ongoing reorganization of the district administration.

While Dan Nerad has been superintendent for two years, he does not yet have his own administrative team in place.  The changing of the guard has been a gradual process that started in earnest with the district’s strategic planning initiative.  Following the completion of the strategic plan last fall, Dan developed a re-organization plan, aligned to strategic plan goals, that was presented to the Board in February and March and subsequently approved.  The plan called for the elimination of a number of administrative positions and the creation of a few new ones.  Job postings for the new positions were developed, people applied, and we’re now moving toward selecting the best candidates for the new positions.  

One of the major changes is the replacement of the current Chief of Staff position (held for another couple of days by Steve Hartley) with a new position, Deputy Superintendent/Chief Learning Officer (DS/CLO).  The DS/CLO will be responsible for a large portfolio, including the development and implementation of all curriculum, instruction and assessment-related programs in the district.  The Assistant Superintendents for Elementary and Secondary Schools (Sue Abplanalp and Pam Nash) will report to the DS/CLO rather than directly to the Superintendent, as is the current arrangement.

The DS/CLO will be the second most powerful position in the District.  It is critically important that we hire someone for this position who is up to the task and who can bring a set of skills to the job that effectively complements the superintendent.   The application deadline for this position is now passed and a district committee will soon start interviewing the best-qualified candidates.

In order to enhance professional development, a new Professional Development Department is being split off from the Teaching and Learning Department.   The director of this department will report to the DS/CLO.  This position is also in the process of being filled, with candidate interviews coming up.

With the transfer of professional development responsibilities, the exclusive focus of the Teaching and Learning Department will become updating the district’s curriculum, ensuring greater consistency in curriculum across the district, and the implementation of a much better student assessment system.  Consistent with its revised mission, the department is to be renamed the Curriculum and Assessment Division.  The department will be headed up by Lisa Wachtel.  There will be two assistant directors, one responsible for curriculum and assessment and one responsible for equity and achievement gap issues as well as promoting parent involvement.  Tim Peterson, who had been Coordinator of Science and Environmental Education, will be the assistant director for curriculum and assessment.  The other assistant director position is not yet filled.

Student assessment responsibilities will be shifted from office of the Chief Information Officer, Kurt Kiefer, to the new Curriculum and Assessment Division, freeing up Kurt’s operation to focus on the implementation of better systems to evaluate district programs, the district’s data needs, and results-based accountability systems.  Plus, Kurt gets a longer job title.      

Talented and Gifted (TAG) responsibilities are being shifted out of Teaching and Learning and will be a shared responsibility of the Assistant Superintendents for Elementary and Secondary Schools.  The TAG Coordinator position is currently filled by Barbie Klawikowski on an interim basis; the process of hiring the permanent coordinator is ongoing.

An administrative position that has become unnecessary due to some of the organizational changes is being converted to new position – Director of Early and Extended Learning – responsible for early childhood and four-year-old kindergarten as well as after-school and summer-school programs.  This is another position that has not yet been filled. 

There are also a number of changes with respect to the administration of alternative programs, with Sally Schultz assuming new responsibilities as the Director of Innovative and Alternative Programs.  There are no important vacancies in this area at the moment, I don’t think.

The organizational structure of the public information office is also currently under review, as a result of Board directions emanating from the budget review process.   No specific changes have yet been announced.

With the resignation of Doug Pearson, we are also currently lacking a Director of Building Services, who reports to Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Erik Kass.

Finally, our general counsel, Dan Mallin, has resigned.  Dan has graciously agreed to continue serving into July, but we don’t have a replacement hired for him yet, either. 

All-in-all, there is a great deal of flux in our administrative organizational structure at the moment, both in terms of people and positions.  At least seven important administrative positions are in the process of being filled.  Our new structure seems to make a lot of sense and, if properly staffed, should enable those working at Doyle to serve the needs of our students and teachers better and more efficiently. 

But it has taken us a while to get to this point and it will still be awhile yet before all the new team is in place.   We’ll have some costs savings, as folks won’t yet be drawing salaries for several of these relatively highly-paid positions once our new fiscal year starts on Thursday.  However, the vacancies place additional stresses on our current staff, and (note to self:) should remind us Board members and others to exercise restraint in asking for information and otherwise placing demands on our administrators.

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One Response to What’s Going On with the MMSD Administrative Reorganization?

  1. Ed

    Who is on the Chief Learning Officer interview team? Will the Board be involved at any point again? Will candidates be made public and will there be an opportunity for public input as there was with the Superintendent hire?

    I agree that this could be a crucial position, that’s why I have all the questions.

    Two things I’d add to the larger picture. After a year as interim, John Harper was selected as head of Ed Services. The TAG position search was recently reopened (it has been filled by an interim for well over a year).

    Keep up the good work.


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