School district reorganization a move toward cluster leadership

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education approved a reorganization of its central administration Tuesday in a series of votes aimed at saving about $2 million.

The new structure, which will go into effect in the 2010-11 school year, will add one deputy superintendent, replace school improvement officers with area superintendents and remove superfluous duties from the chief financial officer.

Replacing the school improvement officer positions both erases a remaining imprint of former Superintendent Terry Grier and satisfies the wishes of some board members to decentralize decision-making toward clusters — geographical groupings of elementary and middle schools that feed students into high schools in their areas.

The new structure will place La Jolla High and University City High under one area superintendent.

The new deputy superintendent will oversee business issues such as construction and human resources, and take over some of the CFO duties that currently include transportation, food services and physical plant operations.

James Masias was the CFO until he was placed on administrative leave last month and resigned last week. While there has been no official comment on the reason for his departure, board members and staff have said financial office employees have been overworked because of the district’s fiscal crisis.

Interim Superintendent William Kowba told board members he wanted the CFO to “focus on core missions” involving the district’s finances.

The reorganization consolidates what Kowba called an often “eclectic” group of district functions to more logical groupings.

For example, one new department will combine Advanced Placement, international baccalaureate and gifted and talented education programs under a newly created position of advanced studies director.

“This is an ongoing effort to bring some stability to this organization,” Kowba said.

School improvement officers are successful former principals who moved up the organizational ladder to mentor current principals. Grier last year left San Diego for Houston, where he implemented the concept last month.

What Kowba called “high-need clusters” led by San Diego and Crawford high schools will each be overseen by one area superintendent.

Morse and Lincoln high schools, also identified as high-need, were lumped together for what board member Shelia Jackson called a “team approach” and will be overseen by one area superintendent and one assistant.

Other groupings, to be overseen by one area superintendent each, will be Clairemont and Madison high schools; Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch high schools; La Jolla and University City high schools; Mission Bay and Point Loma high schools; Patrick Henry and Serra high schools; and Hoover and Kearny high schools.