DPS emergency manager announces restructuring of district central office operations centered on raising student achievement and supporting schools

1.-IMG_5346-1000x666New, more streamlined structure projected to save $10 million when fully implemented

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley today announced the restructuring of the district’s central office operations, creating a streamlined system that is “laser-focused” on supporting schools to strengthen and improve student achievement. The restructuring is a part of Earley’s 10-Point Management Plan which has been guiding the district’s transformation into a more efficient and effective educational service provider since it was released earlier this year.

“Since day one, I have been saying that in order for DPS to not only survive, but thrive, it could no longer operate like a school district from 50 or even 20 years ago,” said Earley. “DPS must completely restructure the way it does business, focusing all of its resources on where they will have the most impact – in the system’s school buildings and classrooms, and on giving increased autonomy and pushing resources down to building leadership.”

To achieve this critical outcome, district operations are being re-imagined around a set of four key principles: empowering school building leaders, shifting resources to schools, organizing support to schools around a network structure, and ensuring that the District as a whole is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“A key theory in the redesign of central office is providing defined autonomy to school-level leaders to make decisions based on the needs of their students,” said Earley. “To ensure this happens, in our new structure principals will have the authority to make decisions not only on individualized professional development and the support they need for their buildings, but also in the long-run on how their available budget dollars are spent based on what they know to be the needs of the students they are serving in their buildings. I am confident this will help these building leaders better address improving the academic achievement of their students.”

In order to better support school leaders in establishing a culture of defined autonomy and accountability, the district will develop a network structure to support schools. This will provide a central point-of-contact and a dedicated group of staff who will support schools instructionally and operationally to ensure that principals can focus on instruction at the school level. This change directly addresses concerns that have been voiced by DPS principals on what they need to help them improve academic outcomes in their buildings. Networks will be clusters of schools affiliated based on geographic, thematic and/or other groupings.

The new structure will consist of six networks, each comprised of a team of individuals whose objective is to improve overall academic achievement by providing more coordinated coaching and development for school leaders and teachers in the schools and reducing the administrative burden.

To further assist the District in operating more efficiently and effectively, the restructuring will streamline central office operations and reduce resources spent on activities that do not directly support increased student achievement and learning.

Moving forward, the District’s central office will be organized around a set of five core functions: academics and school support, strategy, talent management, finance and operations, and the Emergency Manager/Superintendent’s office.

Over the next six months, DPS’ central office will transform from a top-heavy 60 individual departments to five divisions (representing the core functions), which will be comprised of a total of 16 offices/departments. Except for the Emergency Manager/Superintendent’s office, which will continue to be led by Earley, each of the other four divisions will be led by a deputy superintendent. The 16 offices will be led by executive directors.

Recruiting for the four key deputy superintendent positions will begin immediately. A number of the executive director positions will be filled with existing staff, while others will be posted and applicants (both internal and external) will be reviewed for their qualifications and fit based on the newly designed job descriptions. There will also be a number of new positions created across the divisions that reflect the district’s new operating principles and structure. These new positions will be posted on an ongoing basis over the coming year, and the best and the brightest talent from inside and outside of the District will be encouraged to apply.

A significant structural change to point out within the new five core divisions is the transformation of the Human Resources Department into the Talent Division.

Within this division, there will be two offices – Talent and Human Resources. The Talent Office will focus on the recruitment for and staffing of schools, which will support increased autonomy at the school level and will work through the new network structure. The Human Resources Office will continue to provide employee relations, benefits and hiring service to staff the overall district. In addition, DPS will create an accountability function that will work to ensure that there is a performance management framework that drives decisions across the District.

“We have designed this new structure to ensure the sustainability of Detroit Public Schools,” said Earley. “My goal is to build a leadership team that will carry the long-term vision of the organization forward, and ensure that it will be around to serve and educate many generations of Detroit school children.”

When fully implemented, the restructuring is expected to save $10 million annually for the District. Savings for the first year (2015-16FY) are projected to be slightly less ($5-7 million) due to the phasing in of the implementation of some changes.

It is expected that the restructuring process will be complete by the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year (July 2016.)

The restructuring of the District will also include a continued review of DPS finances and expenditures. Over the next six months, there will be additional consideration of and potential changes to central office personnel.

Also critical to the restructuring process is a further redesign of the District’s healthcare plan, which will place an even stronger focus on wellness and health engagement, and introduces a consumerism approach, which advocates patients’ involvement in their own health care decisions and ensures that employees only pay for healthcare services they really use. Although employee healthcare contributions are not expected to increase, deductibles will be added to all plans.

Earley was assisted in the design of the District’s restructuring by a newly formed DPS Transformation Team, a group of 90-plus internal representatives and stakeholders who are participating in ongoing leadership training, being provided at no cost by the University of Michigan-Ross School of Business. The group, made up of teachers, principals, curriculum staff and District administrators, has already met for more than 75 hours over the last six weeks and provided invaluable insight that has helped shape the district’s plan for the future.

Since first being engaged during a two-and-a half day training off-site at the Michigan Ross School in April, the commitment of the Transformation Team has solidified and gotten stronger.

“The positivity surrounding the engagement of staff is really unprecedented,” said Alycia Meriwether, who is a member of the Strategy Team and the director of the DPS Office of Science. “A survey recently conducted of the Transformation Team shows that they truly feel that their input is visibly influencing the District’s restructuring and budget development. This builds employee morale and helps ensure that the changes being made will be sustainable.”

Earley is committed to maintaining the engagement of not only the Transformation Team, but the entire employee base of Detroit Public Schools.

“I am convinced now, even more than when I first began this journey six months ago, that DPS will be able to transform itself into a high-performing, efficient and effective education service provider in Detroit,” said Earley. “We have set a solid course for how DPS should look and how it can and will move forward. Failure is not an option. The future of Detroit’s children, and in turn the future of our city, state and region, is depending on us getting this done right.”


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