4.3 Organize the central office to serve a diverse set of schools


+ Executing on Sublevers 4.1 and 4.2 will result in schools doing some of the work that the central office has done in the past. This does not necessarily mean that central office is doing less. Instead, it means that the central office must do some things differently.

Think about a “new normal” for your district in which empowered school leaders are setting their budgets and schedules, conducting hiring, and picking their own programs. These are all things that the central office does in a traditional district.

The question is: what does the district do in this new normal?

+ The central office has resources, dedicated staff, and strategic “bird’s eye view” of the district. These are assets that can be deployed to support autonomous schools in an SGS district.

In a district of autonomous schools, the central office possesses unique assets that it can deploy to support schools.

The district has financial resources separate and apart from school budgets that can be used to support autonomous schools. Public and private dollars can be granted to schools pursuing innovative or successful programs. The district can also use these resources to bring in service providers to provide specific technical assistance.

The district has specific expertise on multiple fronts that can be deployed to support schools. Some examples of financial expertise such as how to deploy Federal Title resources efficiently or curriculum development specialists. It likely will not make sense for schools to carry staff with such specific expertise and, therefore, the district can make sure it has staff that can fill these gaps.

The central office also has time. Principals and teachers are rightly focused on the day to day activities of running a school. District staff can supplement school teams with extra capacity to work on longer-term projects.

Lastly, the district has a strategic perspective that individual schools don’t have. This means the district can take a long view on the overall needs of the school system and hire or contract accordingly to meet them. The district can also facilitate knowledge-sharing among schools.

+ Deploying these assets has implications for how your central office is organized. Consider how to structure the central office to provide high-quality, integrated support to schools while holding them accountable to results.

Many districts have implemented a network structure. Schools can opt-in to different networks based on the services they need. The central office is then organized to serve these networks with support teams representing different critical functions assigned to each network.

The benefit of these structures is that they provide a full set of integrated services and supports for schools. Instead of assigning a single point of contact for all schools in Academics, an academic staff member serves on a network support team with other functional area staff. These teams can then work together to coordinate support for the schools.

Lastly, it is likely that you will pursue a phased rollout of autonomy provisions. Consider dedicating a team to continuously evaluate the success of current autonomy provisions (and other devolution efforts) and work on a gradual devolution of other centrally held authority after you have built a foundation to support autonomous schools.