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School management review

March 08, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

A team of business people will put the Washington County school system under a microscope this month, looking for ways to increase efficiency and save money.

The names of those who will serve on the Management Review Team were made public Tuesday. They will not be paid for their work.

The group will "look at the business side of our operations," said Doris Nipps, who will act as the School Board liaison.

The topics under review will be finance, transportation, human resources, facilities, technology, public information and food services.

"We will take a good look at ourselves," Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. "How can we do things better?"

Spence Perry, a former federal employee, will lead the review, with help from a steering committee.

About 35 to 40 business people are expected to take part, he said.

"I don't think there will be a lot of surprises," Perry said, noting that aspects of school operations have been scrutinized in several audits in the last eight years or so. "This is not new people coming in to look at unexplored territory."

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Morgan said the school system is efficient. "Folks on the outside will verify this and show how we can do better. ... Unlike Enron, we're not veiled in secrecy," she said.

Enron is the giant energy corporation accused of engaging in questionable accounting practices as it went bankrupt.

Nipps said the management review might have cost about $250,000 if the district had hired a consulting firm to do it.

The review team will spend the week of March 18 studying school system operations, and will prepare a preliminary report at the end of the week, Perry said.

A draft will be sent to the steering committee. The final report probably will be finished by the first week in May, he said.

The management review is part of the second phase of the school district's strategic plan.

Morgan said the first phase, which is completed, focused on curriculum and instruction, and led to several changes.

In the second phase, which is beginning now, business leaders will look at efficiency.

Also during the second phase, groups of teachers, staff members and parents will talk about innovative instructional ideas. Morgan said she has a few, including an International Baccalaureate program in which students learn a foreign language in elementary school and a second language in middle school.

Using a culinary metaphor, the first phase worked on the district's "meat and potatoes," while the aim of the next phase is "lobster and filet mignon," Morgan said.

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