Register unveils plan to ‘outsource’ district staff into schools, add principal mentors

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 4:07pm

The Metro Nashville Public Schools’ plan to deliver on promises to decentralize management and hand more power to school leaders begins with staff changes and doubling the number of principals who mentor their peers.

That was the plan Director of Schools Jesse Register unveiled at the district’s central office Tuesday, adding he wants to reduce bureaucracy by “outsourcing” district staff into schools so far without layoffs.

“This will drive performance up across our district,” said Register. “It’s time to pick up speed.”

Register has promised changes to the school district for months, including the emergence of his “lead principals” program in August.

The changes are something of a melting pot of ideas the district has gotten from a report compiled by Tribal Group after working with dozens of the district’s struggling schools, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s annual report card and other practices used across the country, said Register.

Now, nine principals work double duty by managing their own school while working with and evaluating principals in a handful of schools either in their cluster, in their same grade range or in schools with similar challenges. Register also wants to double the number of lead principals to 18 for next school year, covering every high school.

All middle schools will be covered by the 2014 school year, and all elementary schools will be folded in by the 2015 school year with 30 total lead principals, according to Register’s plan.

The job includes no extra pay, according to Register, and guidelines on how to keep lead principals accountable for their progress are vague. He said all lead principals will be expected to keep their own schools improving or will no longer be a lead principal.

Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans was critical of the plan, saying she’s worried about how to keep lead principals accountable.

“If you are putting somebody in charge of something, you have to be able to tell them what you expect of them, you have to be able to measure what you expect of them and then you have to hold them accountable once they’ve performed. Either they did it or they didn’t do it,” she said. “And if you don’t have that, you don’t really have much because they won’t know what to do and you won’t know how to hold them responsible for what they’re doing.”

While Register said he will be asking principals with solid track records to apply for a lead principal role, he said tapping charter school principals to evaluate traditional school leaders may leave them judging different standards.

Register also announced a new leadership team that includes the creation of a chief academic officer, which will be filled by Jay Steele. Other appointments include Fred Carr as chief operating officer, Chris Henson as chief financial officer, Tony Majors as chief support services officer, Meredith Libbey as special assistant to the director for communications and Susan Thompson as chief human capital officer.

He added the overall size of central office staff would be reduced but said he would take the rest of the budget year to decide how to “deploy” those employees elsewhere into schools to help leaders on the ground.

16 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 1/24/13 at 5:28

Don't worry taxpayers, all these changes doesn't save any money, as all will be
reassigned with no loss of jobs. This does put all Principals in the position
of being ever more accountable task masters for their school personnel, and
hopeful improvement in teachers hired and their performance for students.
Casual hiring or a friend of a friend by any Principal would put his own job in
jeopardy if performance doesn't match up. Best wishes on these plans brought
from the Tribal Group.

By: aky on 1/24/13 at 8:52

I agree with Councilwoman Evans. In typical MNPS fashion, they have implemented a program with good intentions, but no clear and specific guidelines for these lead principals to follow or to be held accountable by. What is their definition of improvement? (Scores increasing? By how much?). MNPS must have clear specific benchmarks, so that improvement can be measured OBJECTIVELY rather than SUBJECTIVELY.

By: JohnGalt on 1/24/13 at 8:56

For some reason the phrase "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind.

By: Moonglow1 on 1/24/13 at 9:12

Moonglow1: Privatization increases expenses contrary to Repub propaganda. Privatization is Haslam's goal. Watch out Nashville-there goes our tax dollars. Again to enrich for-profit entities at the expense of govt workers. If Haslam hates govt so much why is he in government. Those of you who disagree wait & see. The results will prove me correct.

By: Left-of-Local on 1/24/13 at 9:21

I remain cynical, but I'll give him a chance. Now that's he's finally decided to crap or get off the pot.

By: pswindle on 1/24/13 at 9:44

Dr. Register needs to step down and we need to get someone in that position that can bring Metro Schools into competition with other school districts. We need someone to stand up to Haslam, Huffman, Rhee and others who know nothing about educating our children. The goal of the state people is to destroy public education and educate the few and not the masses. This will make us a third world country. By educating the masses has been the key of bringing and keeping America strong and the envy of the world. How many countries are held back because of their uneducated people?

By: JohnGalt on 1/24/13 at 9:55

Did we really pay $6.5 million to a consultant to provide the advice to implement these changes?

By: ancienthighway on 1/24/13 at 4:26

Two things are need to make this effort successful:

1. Incentives. Both the lead principals and the principals being helped need some kind of incentive to cooperate in this manner.

2. Goals. Without clear intermediate and final goals, the principals involved cannot be successful as "successful" isn't necessarily defined.

These can and should be tied together, a bonus for reaching an intermediate goal.

One thing that will guarantee a lack of progress: There is no hierarchy, i.e. boss, employee, relationship between the lead principals and the other principals. Even with incentives and goals, resentment from the principal receiving the unrequested help could sabotage any progress.

By: ConservativeSailor on 1/25/13 at 3:01

The word bafflegab comes to mind. Let's take the best Principals (judged as such in an undefined manner) and assign more work that will put them in schools other than their own, necessarily take attention away from their current job and likely result in degraded performance at the school they are responsible for. Oh, I forgot: let's do this additional work without additional pay. I'd sure jump right on that plan. Add a few hours to my day, a few miles to my daily drive, take time from my family. Yeah, no compensation for that ensures that only the very best will volunteer and that we'll probably have more mentors than mentorees.
Don't compare apples with oranges, either. No comparison between charter schools and the standard public schools. That way, we can only compare the folks with the highest dropout rates and lowest performance profiles with each other. That's fair.
George W. Bush called this "No Child Left Behind".
If you want high-tech businesses in this area, you'd better start measuring some teachers by how many of their students achieve grade level or better performance each year. Bad teachers need to be counseled on finding work they can do instead of producing graduates that can't read their own diplomas.
My opinion: Test all teachers using the test given to students before graduation. Fire those that flunk on the day they do so.
Incentive should be: Do your job well and you can keep it. Don't and you're fired. Refuse to take or cheat while taking your teacher annual qualification test and you lose your job and any vested benefits. Concequences make REALLY good incentives.
John Lowery

By: boyzmom on 1/25/13 at 9:06

This plan is doomed to fail. There are no clear guidelines for either regular or lead principals. How can they expect lead principals to take on this tremendous extra responsibility without extra compensation? What are the specific targets? How is progress being measured? Rewards / consequences for results? If this is the best Register can do, maybe it is time for him to step down. MNPS needs string leadership in order to survive take-down efforts of Rhee, Huffman, Haslam, and their ilk.

By: playthegame on 1/25/13 at 9:31

Sheeple,...the problem is that some of those principals were transferred a year ago to new schools. Check what they did at their previous schools! Does everyone in education need to be retrained when they hit the 80,000 dollar and up range?

Why didn't they just bring back some of the good principals that had retired and put them on a 120 day contract. Yes, it would cost a small amount of money, but then the principals could remain in their own schools and improve them.

"Ring around the rosie, anyone?"

By: Specter47 on 1/25/13 at 12:12

Will the school board and the adoring press admit that this is just a load of undisputable horse crap? Let's just shovel the muck around in the stall and it'll look different, but the smell will be the same. For the most part, the same faces will occupy offices in the Central Compound. Jay Steele. Fred Carr. Chris Henson. Tony Majors. Meredith Libbey. All of them have their lips pursed in perpetual obedience to their master Jesse. Some of the horse crap will go out amongst the great unwashed (outsourcing) like disciples and continue to ruin Metro Schools in the name of the Education Messiah Jesse Register. I'm done with this so-called "Leader", and I hope the school board will eventually wake up.

By: Ask01 on 1/26/13 at 8:38

I do so love the mental image of rearranging the Titanic deck chairs. That succinctly illustrates the state of American education.

We could throw unprecedented sums of money at education; all teachers could be accomplished educators with PhDs; facilities could be state of the art, and SAT scores could still be in the toilet, drop out rates holding steady, and students still dumber than a red brick when they are unleashed on an unsuspecting America.

Students must develop an interest in learning. Every parent needs to take an interest in, and place strong emphasis on, the importance of education. Only then will we see progress in the proper direction.

Making courses harder only encourages those lacking self motivation and parental guidance to drop out or just fail. Likewise, encouraging every student to take the SAT and ACT tests, even those who will never get into any college, only drives down the average.

Until we learn to tailor the system to address the different capabilities of students, and abandon the one size fits all method, we will be struggling.

Not everyone needs, or is capable of accomplishing college level work. Nor should we expect that from them. Some are better suited to the trades, those jobs which, while not requiring college level training, are vital for every day life. Plumbers, mechanics, electricians, cooks, bakers, the list is endless.

Our educational system needs a drastic overhaul to better address the needs of students. By the time they are in high school, we should have a good idea of who is best suited for college and degree requiring occupations, who is best for trade and technical skills, and those who destined for the unskilled labor pool.

It may sound harsh, but I believe this would be the best use of limited educational funding. People who wish to improve their lot could always work their way up the ladder, in an ideal world, but at least everyone should have the basic skills to survive in our society without becoming a drain on civilization.

We either spend the money up front, or spend much more later on when they become not only liabilities to society, but dangerous ones to boot.

By: boyzmom on 1/26/13 at 9:34

Ask01, you have said a lot and said it very well. The greatest problem with the education establishment in our country is that we cannot decide between two competing goals: educating our entire populace or having the best education system in the world. Until one or the other becomes the focus, the mess we presently have will not change.

By: Ask01 on 1/26/13 at 9:54

Thank you, boyzmom.

I think if we accomplished the goal of educating our entire populace, we would be well on our way to boasting the best education system in the world.

Our current leadership, both in the educational arena and public administration, need to unplug their heads and work on the problem.

Likewise, those who balk at funding public education need to accept the fact a better educated population benefits everyone. Those with better education tend to be more employable and stable, reducing the need for welfare and other public services. More employment means a reduction (not total elimination) in crime.

A win - win for eveyone.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you again.

By: pipecarver on 1/28/13 at 9:16

Children watch, learn and adapt to everything that goes on in their environment. If they see large amounts of money pouring into School Board Elections, they learn that money buys influence. Thus our children will grow up to believe that money solves all problems. When children see their parents, teachers and elected officials behaving poorly, they learn these behavior patterns are not only acceptable, but rational. Thus they grow up duplicating these same behaviors. The system will never change, the problems will never be fixed. Everyone fails to realize that WE are the problem, WE have failed them, and until WE CHANGE, they will never change.

Look at everything around you through a child's eyes. What do you think is going through their minds at this very moment?

How do we, as individuals, expect the attitudes of our children to change, when the attitudes of those they look up to fail to change?