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October 25, 2014

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School District’s budget woes prompt shuffling of administrators

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Steve Marcus

Diane Striegel, left, a Chaparral High School parent and staff member, pickets outside the Vegas Public Broadcasting Station where administrators were being trained Monday, June 14, 2010. Striegel said she was concerned about administrators losing their jobs even after union concessions and also about elementary school administration being moved into high school jobs.

Chaparral Pickets For Administrators

Alex Striegel-Robinson, a former secretary at from Chaparral High School, pickets outside the Vegas Public Broadcasting Station where administrators were being trained Monday, June 14, 2010. Protesters said they were concerned about administrators losing their jobs even after union concessions and about elementary school administration being moved into high school jobs. Launch slideshow »

With the Clark County School District eliminating nearly 90 assistant principal and dean positions to save money, employees will be reassigned to work with either elementary or high school students for the first time in their careers.

That doesn’t sit well with some district employees, including Diane Striegel, a secretary at Chaparral High School, which is losing one of its assistant principals and both of its deans to reassignment.

Although many school administrators want to move among elementary, middle and high school assignments, it’s typically a matter of personal choice rather than a side effect of a massive fiscal crisis.

“I have concerns about elementary school assistant principals suddenly being high school deans, especially when it’s not a choice they made on their own,” said Striegel, who organized a modest sidewalk protest Monday outside the district’s new technology campus on Flamingo Road. “It’s a whole different mentality working with older kids, and not everyone is cut out for it.”

Striegel said her concern goes beyond Chaparral, where she’s not only an employee but also a parent. Her three older children graduated from Chaparral, and the youngest will be a senior in the fall.

“The district is making these decisions based on seniority and not what’s best for the students — not just students at Chaparral, but at all the schools,” Striegel said. “There’s no logic to it.”

Striegel, accompanied by a small band of staff and students from Chaparral, gathered near the Vegas PBS building, waving handmade signs reading “Save our administration.” Inside, the reassigned employees were starting a three-day crash course designed to prepare them for their new assignments — whatever they may end up being.

As required by the district’s contract with the administrators union, the reassignments are based solely on seniority, and do not distinguish between elementary and secondary positions.

As a result of eliminating 89 school administrator positions, dozens of employees are being reshuffled.

The district is sending 46 deans and 43 assistant principals — two secondary and 41 elementary — back to classroom teaching positions. Additionally, 38 assistant principals will be moved to new administrative positions that are either in lower salary ranges or require shorter contracts.

From that group, nine secondary assistant principals will become elementary assistant principals and 18 elementary principals will become deans at either middle or high schools. There are also 11 secondary assistant principals who will become secondary deans.

The steepest learning curve will be for administrators moving from elementary to secondary campuses, and vice versa.

“They certainly will have some procedures and processes to brush up on, which is why we’re having the three days of training,” said Martha Tittle, the district’s chief human resources officer.

She acknowledged that the changes might be disruptive in the short term to campus life, but added she thinks the administrators would have the “confidence, knowledge and expertise” to do their new jobs.

“We have a lot of challenges, and one of the things that we have to learn to work through is changes we don’t necessarily have control over,” Tittle said. “But we learn to adapt, even though we might be disappointed.”

And some of that disappointment might well be short term. With other administrators expected to retire over the summer, it’s possible some who are being reassigned this week will end up back in their original job classifications when classes resume in August.

Tittle said she supports categorizing administrators as K-12 — as required by the state’s licensing procedures — rather than separating them by grade level. The broader definition gives employees the most opportunities for career advancement, as they can apply for a wider range of positions rather than being limited to elementary or secondary campuses, Tittle said.

Kevin McPartlin, principal of Chaparral, said he’s heard from dozens of students and staff concerned about the reassignment of his assistant principal and both deans, who represent 50 percent of his senior administrative team.

“This is going to impact the effectiveness of our school, especially in the fall,” McPartlin said. “There’s going to be a learning curve for whoever steps in.”

McPartlin said he doesn’t know who his new administrators will be, and he’s hopeful that as the dust settles over the summer he’ll be able to hold on to Ron Guerzon, his assistant principal.

But McPartlin, a member of the administrators union, said he is well aware of the contract’s specifics, and understands that the district’s decisions are driven by the fiscal crisis. “By contract, the union has to protect its membership,” McPartlin said. “Sometimes that means making the best of a bad decision.”

Click to enlarge photo

Students from Chaparral High School picket outside the Vegas Public Broadcasting Station where administrators were being trained Monday, June 14, 2010. Protesters said they were concerned about administrators losing their jobs even after union concessions and about elementary school administration being moved into high school jobs.

He also supports the independent decision by students and staff to demonstrate their dissatisfaction Monday.

“We encourage our students all the time to get more involved, and this seemed like a good opportunity for them to put some of that into practice,” McPartlin said. “The kids are trying to do something about the situation, and I think that’s outstanding.”

Ashley Trudell, who will be a junior at Chaparral in August, said she took part in the protest out of concern that the newly assigned administrators won’t have the necessary high school experience. Guerzon started at Chaparral as a teacher and worked his way up through the ranks, winning the respect of students along the way, Trudell said.

All three of the administrators being reassigned “have the desire to be at Chap — they have Cowboy pride,” Trudell said. “They want to work with high school kids and it shows in the way they interact with students.”

Administrators aren’t the only School District employees dealing with reassignment.

The district will increase class sizes in grades 1-3, eliminating the need for about 540 classroom teachers. As of this week, all but two of the affected teachers had been placed in alternate assignments.

At the secondary level, about 12 to 15 high school teachers remain unassigned, after budget cuts or expected declines in enrollment resulted in their positions being eliminated. The majority of those teachers have specialized business and industry licenses to teach career courses, which means they are only qualified for a limited number of positions. Among the support staff about 50 people — out of the more than 300 informed in May that their jobs had been cut — are still looking for new positions.

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