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C H A P T E R 6 ————— It Takes an Excellent School System to Ensure Excellent Schools When stories of educational success are told, they typically focus on individual students, exceptional teachers, and exemplary schools. Behind these successful students, teachers, and schools, however, often stands a school system committed to supporting learning and teaching. Hoy and Sweetland (2001) remind us that bureaucracies can be enabling as well as constraining. Too often derided for red tape and regulations, a well-designed and capably staffed bureaucracy can secure the resources and marshal the expertise needed to tackle problems that would daunt individual educators and schools. Previous chapters described an array of major challenges that have confronted and continue to confront Fairfax schools. Without an effective central organization, it is doubtful that these schools could have handled dramatic population growth, rapidly increasing student diversity, intensified educational politics, persistent financial uncertainty, and steady external pressure for accountability while maintaining high levels of academic achievement. The present chapter takes a close look at the organizational structure of Fairfax County Public Schools. For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of a large school system, this chapter should foster some appreciation for the range of responsibilities required to operate a contemporary education empire. While critics often accuse educators of promoting and benefiting from “bloated” bureaucracies, the impetuses for the expansion of the Fairfax school system frequently have been external. If Fairfax County Public Schools is operated by a sizable corps of central office staff, it is probably due, as often as not, to legal requirements, government mandates, and pressures from local citizens and special interest groups for greater attention to the needs of particular groups of young people. 139 Chapter 6 opens with an overview of the organization of Fairfax County Public Schools in 1992. Subsequent organizational changes are described. Brief sketches then are provided of the various units that make up the central administration as of 2004, the stopping point for this organizational history. Particular attention is devoted to the school system’s efforts to provide ongoing staff development and ensure educational accountability. Organizing for Excellence The organization of a large school system—and The Washington Post considers Fairfax to be the nation’s largest suburban school system—is best regarded as a work in progress. School Boards and superintendents periodically tweak and tinker with organizational structure in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness , accommodate new needs and requirements, adjust to economic and political changes, and signify the commencement of a new regime. Figure 6.1 depicts the structure of FCPS in 1992. Reporting directly to Superintendent Spillane was an Associate Superintendent for Administration who oversaw planning, research, and evaluation; a Deputy Superintendent for School Operations who headed up the Area offices, Student Services and Special Education, Facilities Services, and General Services; and a Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Staff Development who directed Instructional Services, Vocational, Adult, and Community Education, and Communications. In addition, the offices of Community Relations; and Governmental, Business, and Industry Relations; Personnel Services; Financial Services; and Management Information Services also reported directly to the Superintendent. Persistent budget problems in the early ’90s compelled Bud Spillane to streamline his organization chart. The number of Area offices was reduced from 4 to 3, and 36 instructional positions in the Area offices were eliminated (Berry, Chamberlin, and Goodloe, 2001). Following the retirement of the school system’s 2 Deputy Superintendents, their positions were eliminated and a new Deputy Superintendent role was created. Under this arrangement, all units of FCPS reported to Spillane through Alan Leis, the new Deputy Superintendent. Leis approved all personnel appointments , reviewed all major budgetary decisions, worked directly with principal and teacher groups to address concerns, oversaw 140 Education Empire special projects, and coordinated the work of Area Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents. When Dan Domenech arrived, the organization of the school system consisted of the following units:1 Student Services and Special Education 24 centers 9,587 students 130 positions Communications 10 positions It Takes an Excellent School System 141 Figure 6.1 Organization Chart of Fairfax County Public Schools—1992 Associate Superintendent for Administration Facilities Services 478.1 positions Financial Services 76 positions Human Resources 106.7 positions General Services 203 positions Information Technology 238.5 positions Instructional Services 3 alternative high schools 127.5 positions (FY 1998 Approved Budget) Once at the helm, Domenech and his advisors began to rethink the organization of the school system. One of his first targets involved the relationships between individual schools and the...


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