Study shows overwork 'laudable condition'

March 30, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Interviewing Washington County school administrators, Board of Education members and others in a recent organizational structure study, consultants from Harold Webb Associates Ltd. heard complaints that employees were overworked and overextended.

But that didn't lead the consulting group to recommend a mass hiring, according to a report presented to school board members at a work session Monday.

"We thought that was a laudable condition to have," consultant M. Donald Thomas said.

Organizations with excess people are generally much less effective than those with fewer people, Thomas said, because people who don't feel overburdened aren't as motivated to work at a higher level.

Compared to similar-sized U.S. school systems with the same demographics, Washington County has a good school system, said Kenneth E. Underwood, president of the Hedgesville, W.Va., consulting firm.


Its finance, operations, maintenance, food service and transportation departments are "as good as anywhere you'll go," Underwood said.

The area that needs improvement is instruction, consultants said.

To improve instruction, the consultants recommended adding one new administrator who would be responsible for staff development and report directly to the assistant superintendent for instruction.

Administrative downsizing in the past has resulted in unusual combinations of job responsibilities and in some job titles that don't reflect job responsibilities, Underwood said.

The current pool of administrators can help improve the school system by shifting some duties and responsibilities, making changes in oversight and spending more money for appropriate professional development, consultants said.

The firm was paid a little more than $9,000 to conduct the two-month study, a response to one of the issues brought up in the curriculum audit last fall, said Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

A dysfunctional organizational structure was among problems cited in the 177-page curriculum audit report, released Sept. 4, 1997.

The purpose of the organizational study was to come up with a cost-effective administrative structure and corresponding policies to make instruction as effective as possible and streamline school system operations.

Thomas, Underwood and consultant Houston Conley spent a little more than two hours Monday morning talking about study findings and answering questions posed by school board members.

Among the study recommendations were:

- Give the superintendent of schools as much authority as possible under state law.

- Consolidate technology responsibilities in one area.

- Invest 3 percent of the school system's budget - about $3.2. million - in staff development.

- Address grade inflation at some county schools.

- Audit new and existing programs annually for effectiveness through the statistical assessment and testing office.

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