Administrator Roles Shift with the Times: In Addition to 2008-2009 Salary Survey Data from Educational Research Services, This Year DA Also Reports on New Specialized Administrative Positions

By Dessoff, Alan | District Administration, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Administrator Roles Shift with the Times: In Addition to 2008-2009 Salary Survey Data from Educational Research Services, This Year DA Also Reports on New Specialized Administrative Positions


Dessoff, Alan, District Administration


IT'S GETTING TO BE THAT you need a scorecard to identify district administrators by their titles. To keep up with changing needs, many districts are creating new management positions or adding new responsibilities to old ones and then coming up with titles that sometimes only hint at what they are about.

"Traditionally, if you looked at a district's table of organization, it was pretty standard," says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "You had a superintendent, and if the district was large enough, you maybe had an assistant superintendent for instruction and another one for business and that was pretty much it. Now you see greater numbers of people in district offices who are there to deal with specialized issues that are creating substantial changes in the way districts go about their business."

Executive Responsibilities

More districts appear to be giving administrators "executive" titles, using a word that traditionally connotes more authority in the workplace hierarchy. The Atlanta (Ga.) Public Schools hired an Atlanta-based search firm, the Royster Group, last spring to find candidates for executive director of instruction (for high schools), a new position. There already is an executive director of operations for high schools, and both positions report to Randy Bynum, associate superintendent of high schools. Bynum says the new position is part of a plan initiated in 2006 by Superintendent Beverly Hall to transform the district's high schools by creating small schools and learning centers in place of traditional larger high schools. "She wanted to build up the staff to make implementation of the transformation effective," says Bynum. Among other things, the transformation includes creating small schools, each with its own principal, on each high school's main campus.

In addition to a master's degree or higher in curriculum and instruction and at least five years of experience in an administrative or leadership capacity, the new executive must have knowledge or experience in developing instructional platforms for small schools or small learning communities, according to the job description. It says a compensation package for the position "will be developed for the suitable candidate."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Among other responsibilities listed in the job description, the executive director will provide "instructional guidance and feedback" to principals as well as teachers. Accordingly, Bynum says, the "executive director" title is appropriate instead of "director" because "on the hierarchal chain here, a director does not outrank a principal and an executive director does."

Other districts are making similar moves. The Board of Education in the San Juan (Calif.) Unified School District last winter approved the new position of executive director for high schools, with responsibilities including supervising and evaluating all high school principals. It was one of five proposed new management positions, while 16 others were designated for elimination in a district reorganization the board undertook in response to California's budget crisis and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts to public education. In addition, the Los Angeles Unified School District hired both a principal and executive director in May for a new arts high school scheduled to open this fall. While the principal will concentrate on academics, the executive director will focus on outside fund raising and outreach to local arts organizations.

Accountability Grows

Accountability has been a necessity for districts, and some have created positions to manage it. The St. Mary Parish (La.) School Board did so in 2001 after the Louisiana legislature gave the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education authority in 1997 to create a K12 school accountability system. "My position was created in response to that because the [St. …

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