BATAVIA — A consultant who reviewed staffing at the Batavia City School District from an efficiency standpoint recommends a strategic plan.
Dr. Thomas Ramming of International Deliverables, LLC, gave a report to the Board of Education Monday night.
“There are many other lenses which you can use to examine staffing in a school district,” he said. “What does the community want? What are the specific needs of our students? What does the most recent data about student achievement or social-emotional wellness tell us about student needs? Those can impact staffing beyond what I looked at for this report.”
Ramming said he began by meeting, over two days, with Superintendent Jason Smith, central office administration and principals. He reviewed data and research in average class size, enrollment schedule, collective bargaining agreements and financial information.
“I’d like you to know … this was a fairly comprehensive — as a matter of fact, a very comprehensive review of staffing that went in-depth, looking at how your staffing is school by school, grade by grade, subject by subject and … in most cases, teacher to teacher,” he said. “One of the most important findings of the report — there seems to be a lack of a comprehensive and strategic staffing plan.” Ramming said the Batavia Teachers’ Association (BTA) contract is no different than contracts across the state.
“It contains language on the teacher’s work day which can restrict the administration’s discretion in terms of how it assigns teachers,” he said. “Some of the language in this contract is more restrictive than I, as a superintendent, would necessarily like to see. I just suggest that as you go forward, continue to examine the contract language. Those clauses, those paragraphs, those sections that result in inefficiencies, that are not good for kids, look at addressing those through the collective bargaining process. It’s not the end of the world, but there’s some things in there that you’ll probably want to continue to work on …”
Ramming said the report includes a table outlining how district revenue has gone up over the last five years.
“There’s been a fairly significant increase in state and federal revenue over the last five years, especially federal, with ARPA funds. Along with that, the district was able to add teaching positions,” he said. “Even though enrollment was going down, the number of teaching positions has gone up. That may be something you’re not able to sustain in the future. It’s not a bad thing now.”
Staffing seems to have been allocated on a building-by-building basis, he said.
“There is not necessarily a coordinated effort across the district to look at staffing through a district lens or to try to coordinate schedules across buildings to allow for sharing of staff,” Ramming said. “For example, it may be possible, with different schedules or more cooperation between the buildings, to share some special area teachers between the two elementary schools. At the Middle School and High School, there are a number of subjects where sharing of teachers might be possible if the schedules were more aligned.”
Most districts Batavia’s size, Ramming said, share more teachers between buildings than what he found at Batavia. Each building in the district has a school psychologist regardless of student population. Typically, school psychologists’ assignments are determined by population, not by school. This is something Batavia should look at, he said.
“Are there any needs in the High School that are not being met because you have one school psychologist, the same number as Jackson (Primary)?” he asked.
Ramming said the student-to-counselor ratio is “richer” than what most districts in Western New York have. It’s certainly richer than what the American School Counselors Association would suggest.
“That might be mitigated by the fact that you have very few social workers,” he said. “Typically, districts … if they have nine counselors, they might have three or four social workers. Your ratio is different. You have far fewer social workers than I might suggest, than I might have seen in other districts and a lot more counselors.”
Batavia City School District should look at whether that balance is what it wants it to be, he said.
“Are school counselors doing the work of social workers and we’re fine with the way it is?” Ramming said.
Ramming advised the district to add a five-year vision to its strategic plan — something student-centered, with specific, measurable goals. The goals would be based on data that is available, or will become available, through information sources such as standardized testing and Regents testing.
“Identify a single office administrator to develop and lead a strategic staffing process. The administrator would act in concert with the superintendent, other central office administrators, principals and the Board of Education to put a plan together that fairly, objectively and equitably aligns staffing across the district.”