New District 300 Superintendent Outlines Changes

Here’s the press release.  I’m not sure what the following means, but it jumped out at me:

“…the current design of our special education program is not conducive to student success…”

Superintendent Elect outlines Phase I of priority shift

Superintendent Elect Michael Bregy interacts with parents at a D300 PTO Council meeting

District 300 Superintendent Elect Michael Bregy met today (Thursday, Feb. 17) with administrators and support staff to outline Phase I of his plan to shift the district’s top priority to teaching and learning.

“Because our financial resources are increasingly limited, we must ensure that administration’s energy is focused on our core mission of teaching and learning,” Bregy said. “My plan will shift our top priority to this area, which our students need and deserve.”

His staff meetings today were also attended by ECRA, the Rosemont-based education research firm that conducted D300’s last Strategic Plan in 2006 and has facilitated annual surveys of D300 stakeholders.

Over the past few months, ECRA studied D300’s inner-workings, identifying areas for potential improvements to the administrative structure and culture. This process included several focus groups with Central Office and school staff, one-on-one interviews, analysis of job duties, comparison to similar districts, and data collection.

ECRA consultants presented today a summary of their findings, which are one factor in the priority shift. Some of their findings were as follows:

Major strengths of district administration include:

  • External communication with parents and the community
  • Fiscal operations and responsibility
  • Effectiveness of high school divisionals
  • Staff efficiency, as a whole
  • Employees’ heartfelt commitment to serving D300 students and schools

Areas for improvement in district administration include:

  • A priority shift toward the district’s core mission of teaching and learning
  • Curriculum coordination, especially at the elementary level
  • Internal communication with staff
  • Central Office support for and supervision of principals
  • Cooperation among Central Office departments

At the heart of the shift will be the elimination of some administrator positions and the creation of others, as follows:

Positions to be eliminated for the 2011-2012 school year:

  • Director of Assessment & Accountability, now held by Carole Cooper, who is retiring this summer
  • Director of Pupil Personnel Services, now held by Dr. Barbara Kelley, who is changing districts
  • Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction, now held by Tom Hay, who will be moved this summer into a new position (listed below)
  • Assistant Superintendent for Operations, now held by Sarah Kedroski, who will be promoted this summer to Associate Superintendent (a position that has existed for over 10 years), making her 2nd in command of the district
  • Assistant principal and/or dean positions, to be determined

Positions to be created for the 2011-2012 school year:

  • Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, which assumes some Assessment & Accountability responsibilities, as well as overseeing alternative education programs and summer school. Tom Hay will take this new position.
  • Four positions which are equals on the organizational chart, all reporting to the Superintendent and all with the title of Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning.

Three of these positions will be grade-specific: elementary (includes preschool), middle school, and high school. The fourth will cover “Education Services,” including special education, nursing, counselors, homeless, and other duties.

Bregy noted that this structure will allow D300 to better capitalize on being a unit district, meaning that all grade levels (preschool through 12th grade) are included. D300 senior leaders have the opportunity to concentrate on college/career readiness from the time children are very young. The Teaching & Learning Assistant Superintendents will serve as a team, ensuring that there are more consistent expectations and supports between grade levels across the district.

“Now is also a perfect time to shift our priorities to mirror the national shift toward Common Core State Standards,” he said. “Illinois’ newly adopted Common Core Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn in the areas of Language Arts and Math.” For more information about Common Core State Standards, please visit the national website or the state website.

He is in the process of determining what shifts, if any, he may make to the support staff structure. He does not anticipate numerous layoffs to office support staff in the schools or the Central Office, citing administration’s lean staffing structure relative to the size and scope of the district. However, he may decide to eliminate a few positions, and/or he may reassign job duties to support the priority shift.

Interviews for the new positions will be conducted this month and next. If any internal candidates are selected, interviews for their vacated positions will occur in March/April. Bregy plans to have his 2011-2012 administrative team in place (including any support staff changes) for a public announcement by May 2, 2011.

The May 2 announcement will officially introduce Phase II of the priority shift, which will also feature details of a comprehensive overhaul of the D300 Special Education program.

D300 leaders are now developing a long-range plan to reprioritize the district’s resources to better support special needs students, enhance the leadership and accountability of special education programming, and more effectively mainstream these students (when appropriate) into the general education setting. As part of this process, an outside firm, called the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, is currently finalizing an audit of D300 special education programming and staffing levels.

Last evening (Feb. 16), the D300 School Board informally expressed support for Administration’s proposal to reduce the special education budget by about $400,000, with the specifics to be determined after the audit is completed this spring.

Bregy cautioned parents against interpreting this cut as a negative.

“The special education program is not being reduced. Individualized Education Plans will not be negatively impacted,” he said.

“But the current design of our special education program is not conducive to student success, so we will be making significant changes with student achievement as our top priority.”

During the School Board work session last evening about 2011-2012 budget cuts, Board members spoke at length with Mr. Bregy and Dr. Kelley about restructuring special education.

Several special education parents in attendance benefitted from this enlightening conversation.

A recording of the meeting will be posted to in the near future; scroll down to the section called “Audio Recordings of Board Meetings.”

Over the years, fewer and fewer D300 students have IEPs, even as the district’s enrollment has grown by 350 to 550 students a year. This means that more students are being successfully served in a less restrictive environment among their regular education peers, as follows:

  • December 2007: 3,158 students with IEPs
  • December 2008: 3,150
  • December 2009: 3,093
  • February 2010: 3,029

“Even as the number of IEPs continues to decline, this segment of our student population remains as important to us as ever,” Bregy said. “But the decline does mean that the quantity and types of special education staff should be studied.”

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