Making a Big School District Feel Small

Better Know DeKalb County Schools
How do you make a big school district feel small?
None of the state’s solutions will work county wide in DeKalb. A System of Charter Schools? There are too many schools to have a district of locally governed charters schools. A System of Clusters? Some communities in the county don’t have school councils much less have the capacity to govern an entire cluster.
NYC Public Schools
Superintendent Stephen Green worked at the New York City public school system, the largest in the world with more than 1.1 million students. NYC public schools is broken down into 32 Community School Districts where Dr. Green was the Superintendent of Community School District #28.
So, How do you make a big school district feel small?
DeKalb Schools already groups clusters into 5 regions with 5 Regional Superintendents. Dr. Green seems to be recreating the Community School Districts giving autonomy to a Micro Cabinet administration for each Regional Superintendent. How much autonomy? “Autonomy is earned”, says Dr. Green. The central office will hopefully move to a service model servicing the micro cabinets needs.
Division of Regional Superintendents

Micro Cabinet Teams
Position Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5
Regional Superintendent Sherry Johnson (Interim) Trenton Arnold Rachel Zeigler Triscilla Weaver Ralph Simpson
Coordinator Leadership Sherry Johnson Makeba West Tangela Kimber Linda Crowley Wilfred Johnson
Executive Assistant Lorraine Sanford Darla Gilstrap Elicia Moore Cheryl McEwen Sonya Taylor-Clunie
HR Manager Julie Fincher Antoinette Seabrook Jatisha Marsh Anglelica Collins Tracia Cloud
HR K-12 Secretary Cynthia McKenzie Ariel Baker Dijon DaCosta Kenyarda Berrian Dorothy Norton
Curriculum And Instruction Kristie Fountain, Andrea Wright, Dr. Darryl Felker, Jeffrey Dillard Annette Howell, John Hruby, Kismet Sims, Devetra Ushery Norrie Mills, Jamilla Williams, Lashawn White, Michelle Bateman Christine Morgan, Cathy Harris, Gary Jordan, TBD Dr. Latonya Brown, Maya Kirk, Monica Vestal-Mashburn, Dr. Michelle Thompson
Technology Laura Crate Reese Azar VACANT Terri Webb Angela Johnson
Maintenance Supervisor Winward Hines Arthur Kinder Stephen Boyd Christoper Young Fred Schoenfeld
Finance Deborah Burns Melissa Jefferson Vernon Crosby Chris Smith Cynthia Prather
Transportation Harold Lewis VACANT David Guillory Pam Sanders Kevin Phillips

Cabinet Position Descriptions
Regional Superintendent – Supervises and supports principals and communities in assigned region. Example: Evaluate principals and monitor instructional data.
Coordinator Leadership – Under the direction of the regional superintendent, serves as a resource to principals. Example: Serves as a representative for the regional superintendent; monitors field trip approvals.
Executive Assistant – Reporting to the regional superintendent provides clerical and administrative support to the regional superintendent. Example: Expense reports.
Human Capital Manager – Reporting to the regional superintendent, partners with principals to staff schools and work on employee concerns. Example: Recruiting job candidates.
Human Capital K-12 Secretary – Reporting to the Human Capital Manager, provides administrative support for the human capital function in the assigned region. Example: Scheduling new employees for orientation and onboarding.
Curriculum And Instruction – Serves as a liaison between the assigned region and the Division of Curriculum and Instruction. Also supports the Horizon and OSD schools in the assigned region. Example: Conducts professional learning at the schools.
Technology – Serves as a liaison between the Division of Technology and the assigned region. Facilitates the implementation of technology initiatives throughout the region. Example: Trains staff members on instructional technol-ogy programs and applications.
Maintenance Supervisor – Facilitates maintenance services to the schools. Example: Monitors responsiveness of maintenance requests. The school principal and council enter capital project needs into the “School Dude” maintenance system. The Regional Superintendent and Maintenance Supervisor prioritize and schedule regular maintenance and minor repairs. Major capital improvements like HVAC replacements will have to be approved by the Chief Operating Officer.
Finance – Assists with monitoring financial activity including utilization of school funds. Example: Ensures alignment of expenditures with instruction.
Regional Transportation Manager – Supervises, monitors and ensures an adequate supply of bus drivers for the assigned region. Example: Maintaining pupil transportation routes.

10 responses to “Making a Big School District Feel Small

  1. This COULD be a positive thing, but is Dr. Green aware that, culturally, DCSD has *never* willingly given up any of its control? We shall see how it actually works now for CCHS and others who survived the great charter kill-off. His comment about autonomy being earned doesn’t feel like we’re forging ahead with new powers for the Regions… Regions will want to adjust to what their local concerns are, which will be different from what the overall system rule is – in that case, whose answer will be final?

  2. Don McChesney

    Hey Stan. Aren’t we just increasing the size of the already bloated central office by further subdividing the subdivisions? How about that for double-talk.

  3. Good question Don. Much like creating cities within the county, the micro cabinet (in theory) creates autonomous regions within the school district. The cities obviously have complete autonomy, so the devil will be in the details of how much autonomy the micro cabinet really has.
    To rephrase your original question, isn’t bigger going to be better because of “economies of scale”?
    As it turns out, there is ample evidence that there is an optimal size constraint for efficient (meaning lower costs) and effective (meaning better achievement) school districts. Multiple studies show that: (1) student achievement is maximized if school districts are within a certain (smaller) size, (2) minority and poor students do better in smaller school districts and (3) the lowest per pupil costs are in smaller districts.
    If DeKalb schools can be broken down into what is effectively 5 independent Community School Districts, in the way NYC schools does, then this will be the lowest per pupil cost for administration. If it ends up being another useless layer or buffer between the area where students are being educated and decisions are being made, then it is more bloat like you said.

  4. Stan,
    Do you know if these “micro cabinet” members are new-hires or were they transferred from the central office?
    Also, do you know anything about the new Interim Region 1 Superintendent? Is she a new-hire or was she transferred from somewhere else in AIC?
    Also, it will be interesting to see how “autonomy” is earned. What criteria are important? Who will get autonomy – the region or a school? Keep in mind that schools in each region may be close geographically but can be miles apart in terms of academic achievement or parent involvement or socioeconomic status.
    I am glad to see Dr. Green trying something new, and apparently basing the structure on a successful structure he was part of in the past. I only hope that he can work out the details so that DCSD will be successful. One potential pitfall is competition between the regions and the need to manage the school choice options, which currently cut across all regions, so that successful school choice options are not harmed.

  5. Anon has a great question I hope you will be able to answer: are these individuals new hires? If not, were they pulled from the central office depts which they now represent? If they were pulled, were positions posted to fill their previous positions? If Dr. Green would publicize an org chart with names, it would be easy to determine but after 13 months, there still isn’t a complete org chart. Do you anticipate one is forthcoming?

  6. Stan,
    How has this “small district” management worked in filling teacher vacancies ? These micro cabinets were running in May, so one can assume they had all summer to sort out HR needs (Is it Human Resources or Human Capital? The chart says one thing and the descriptions say something else). Are we seeing any difference or improvement?
    The AJC ran a story about the number of unfilled positions in the summer and you also shared a post about the number of vacancies. If these micro cabinets are supposed to improve schools, can you tell us what data the school district is using to evaluate the effectiveness of this new administrative structure and what you will be looking at as a board member to justify spending more money for these micro cabinets?

  7. AB and Anonymous,
    None of the regional superintendents are new hires. Johnson worked as Brictson’s coordinator when Brictson was a regional superintendent.
    Many of the coordinators worked for Dekalb as coordinators, which is a scary thought if anyone remembers how Ramsey ran the legal department with which the coordinators would have worked. The other coordinators were already working for Dekalb. The District website or Linkedin indicates their previous positions or how long they’ve been working for Dekalb or in what positions.

  8. DeKalb Schools Employment History – I put together a good employment history database here (it hasn’t been updated in a couple years.)
    You can also get all kinds of information like that at
    Region 1 Regional SuperintendentSherry Johnson has only been the interim regional superintendent for district 1 for a month or 2 now. She’s been the Coordinator Leadership person for a while. Dr. Green and Mr. Brown are still interviewing for a permanent person in that position.
    Human Capital – It’s Human Capital and not Human Resources. I’m working on mentally making that transition. Our new Human Capital senior officer, Leo Brown, just started this year. Finding teachers has been challenging and the reports on our status has been murky, so I’m not sure what to think about anything related to Human Capital right now.

  9. Thanks for the org chart. I guess I should have been more specific – there isn’t an org chart that has the names filled in. When that occurs, central office transparency will begin.

  10. Do we advertise via LinkedIn or other employment sites? I know that GCPS does this, as I constantly see job positions posted on my LinkedIn. Gwinnett doesn’t have the immense teacher shortage issues that we face (not that they don’t face them), so I was wondering if there is any way that we could incorporate this kind of practice into our Human Capital recruitment process?