Birmingham Superintendent wants efficiency at central office

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  Birmingham City Schools' superintendent says his plan to streamline the system's central office could save a million dollars a year for the shrinking system.

Dr. Craig Witherspoon released his plan Tuesday to cut jobs and expenses at the central office in an effort to put more money in the classroom.

Dr. Witherspoon's plan would radically change the school system's central office.
Under the plan, most of the administration would report to 4 chief officers in charge of academics, human resources, finances, and operations.

But the biggest changes would come in the form of cutting jobs -- going from 4 assistant superintendents to 2, and not filling the chief of staff position while hiring an in-house attorney to handle most of the system's legal work, instead of using outside law firms on a contract basis.

Witherspoon says his goal was putting more of the system's shrinking funding into the classroom.
"How do we best serve the needs of schools?" Witherspoon asked. "And in streamlining, are we effective and efficient, do our various departments talk, collaborate with each other so that everyone's on the same page and we're able to deliver that service."

The plan appears to have support among a majority of board members and the teachers union.

"I have a few questions with how that trickles down and the additional cuts will be made, but thus far I'm very pleased with the proposal as he presented it," said board member April Williams.

"We didn't have any choice but to re-organize," said board member Tyrone Belcher. "So we are re-organizing and I think it's for the good of the Birmingham Public School System, and I think it's gonna be pretty good. "
"We're finally glad to see a superintendent who's brave enough to come to Birmingham, and make these recommendations," said Lance Hyche of the local AEA chapter. "We say cut the administration at the central office, save millions of dollars, get rid of those overpaid lawyers. Put money in the classroom. Let's protect those employees. I'm glad to see he's doing that."
The school board will have to vote on this plan and all of its changes before any of it can take effect.

The system faces an end-of-May deadline to make any changes they want to make sure whatever new system takes shape is in place before next school year.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.