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MPS Chief Operating Officer
Subj:      Re: [Mpls] School District COO
Date:     12/13/2001 12:50:50 PM Central Standard Time
To:     mpls@mnforum.org

Why wasn't this job opening (school district Chief Operating Officer)
announced before it was filled?  Mr. Jennings has some experience as a highly
compensated executive, but how much as the chief operating officer of a
company?  I think it is possible to find a better qualified candidate for the
job who is willing to work for less. (I know someone with more than a decade
of experience as a corporate COO.)  

As the saying goes, what you know is less important than who you know.  I
very much doubt that Mr. Jennings is being hired for his COO-related
expertise.  There wasn't even the formal search process that was done for the
diversity director post, filled by Steve Belton, hubby of the mayor (now
ex-Mayor) of Minneapolis.  If job related qualifications were all important,
the job opening would have been advertised in order to create a large pool of
qualified candidates to chose from.  Of course, if that had been done, it
might have been tough to justify the hiring of Mr. Jennings over a number of
other qualified candidates, much tougher than was the case with Steve Belton.

In a message dated 12/12/2001 12:27:36 PM Central Standard Time,
doodle@mail.mtn.org [Audrey Johnson, Minneapolis BOE director) writes:
>
>  First, about the Chamber's role in the referendum, the Minneapolis Chamber
>  opposed the referendum in 92, was neutral in 96 and was a supporter in
>  2000.  Mr. Jennings was Exe. Director in 2000.  This year the state chamber
>  opposed the metro area referenda, not the Minneapolis Chamber.  Mr.
>  Jennings was personally involved with the Measuring Up report, and is very
>  serious about fiscal accountablitity of the district.
>
It seems to me that the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce is more supportive of
the MPS board and administration because the MPS board and administration are
trying harder to please the Chamber of Commerce.  The "measuring up" report
and the new accountability system are public relations gimmicks.  What else
can you call a school report card that says a school is a success story, yet
most of the kids in that school are not expected to pass the Minnesota Basic
Standards tests and complete their high school education?  

And if you believe that Dave Jennings was hired to help the district save
money as far away from the classroom as possible, there's a bridge on the
market that I want to tell you about.  

>  ...In the most recent audit received from
>  Deloitte Touche last night, MPS is running very lean on administration, the
>  district admin costs are at a little over 4% of expenses.  Deloitte Touche,
>  McKinsey Group and EDS are all outside business consultants, 2 of which
>  have provided analysis of finances for MPS pro bono (for free).  All 3
>  firms have stated emphatically that the district is running too lean in
>  this area.  Deloitte Touche has been saying this for at least 3 years prior
>  to this year as well.  Most non-profits run at about 9-15% in admin costs,
>  private schools run at about 8%.  

All of the business consultants say that the district is running too lean on
administration.  Is the hiring of Dave Jennings in line with a recommendation
to run less lean on administration, that is, to increase the district's
administrative costs?  Is the answer to the districts financial problems a
doubling of its administrative costs?

The Minneapolis School District may be running lean on administration by
comparison to the average business, but I doubt that it is running lean on
administration by comparison to the average school district.  According to
Berliner and Biddle, "In 1990-1991 the average salary paid to central-office
administrators and professional staff in the nation amounted to only 2.2% of
school district operating budgets [1995, Berliner, David C. & Biddle, Bruce
J.; The Manufactured Crisis, page 81 // Original source: 1992, Robinson, Glen
&  Brandon, David, Perceptions about American education: Are They based on
facts? p. 17].

>  The Mpls School District is in serious financial
>  trouble.
>  
>  This is true.  In this fiscal year, the district had a budget cut of $30
>  million.  Next year's budget is projected to be about another $30 million.
>  The school district is the 13th largest employer in the state with an over
>  all budget for this year @ $660,000,000.  I can think of no business this
>  large that operates without someone to oversee and have direct oversight of
>  all finances.  But the difference here is that in the private sector, the
>  COO of the CFO makes a lot more than $125,000.  
>  
The serious budget problems facing the Minneapolis Schools didn't come about
because the district didn't have a Chief Operating Officer to keep track of
the district's use of chalk and paper clips.

In a recent City Pages article by Britt Robson, the budget shortfall is
attributed to rising costs for health insurance premiums paid for by the
district and rising transportation costs.  

However, it seems unlikely that transportation costs would have gone up very
much because fuel costs have gone down quite a bit since last year.  Heating
fuel costs have also fallen off.

And even if all of the district's 8,000 employees are covered by health insurance
policies, and the district's share of the cost has increased by $1,000 per year
per employee, one is looking at a $8 million increase for health insurance.  
Where's the rest of the short fall coming from?

It should be noted that the overall budget of $660 million isn't smaller than
it was last year.  And there was a decline in student enrollment: per pupil
funding has increased in the past two years from about $13,000 per student to
nearly $14,000 per student.  Where does the money go?

How much money has been appropriated for "impact aid" to keep most of the
schools in SW Minneapolis under-enrolled since 1996-1997?

How much money is spent on compensatory (title 1) & special education
programs (including gifted programming) that could be reallocated to regular
school programs if all students were better served in the regular school
programs?  

How much does the district spend to maintain multiple curriculum tracks?  
Small schools sometimes opt for an academic / college preparatory curriculum
for all students because of the high overhead costs associated with
ability-grouping / curriculum tracking. Big schools can absorb those costs
better due to economies of scale. Could that possibly explain why small
schools tend to do better than big schools?

How much revenue is lost because the district is losing its "market share" of
the student population to private schools, home schoolers and public schools
in the suburbs?

- Doug Mann

Doug Mann for School Board
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