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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Three chiefs are better than one

At the Nov. 14, 2013, Falcon School District 49 Board of Education meeting, the directors approved the executive director of individualized education job description as reported in the December 2013 issue of The New Falcon Herald. Brett Ridgway, D 49 chief business officer, said the position is not a new one but rather a ìredefinitionî of the special education directorís position.Steve Axford, the districtís current special education director, is retiring at the end of the school year, said Tammy Harold, BOE president.Harold said a key motivating factor for the new job description is new legislation on the horizon requiring districts to provide individualized education plans for every student. ìThatís a big change, and thatís something that we have to do and we have to be prepared for it,î Harold said. ìWe need someone that can work on that and implement it. Since we need someone to be in charge of special education, too, why not get someone to do both jobs?îìWe want to have a higher level of resources for those students like the gifted and talented and English language learners,î Ridgway said. ìWe want to bring on someone that can be with all those communities. Over 11 percent of our student body receives some type of special education services.îSince the major reorganization of the district three years ago, Ridgway said the organizational chart in general has basically stayed the same, other than adding the chief operations and chief education officersí positions.ìAt the highest level is the three chief officer positions that combined make up the office of the superintendent,î he said. ìThe next level down in the organizational chart is where you would find this new redefined position, which is a direct report to the CEO.ìWe are always looking at the organization and moving and redefining roles to best serve the needs that we have, and weíve done that with the hope and the intention to maintain the number of positions and the total dollars that we are dedicating to it to better serve the students.îRidgway said with constant evaluation and redefinition the district is at a higher level of efficiency than other districts in the area. ìThat can be seen in the administration fee we charge to our charter schools,î he said. ìEvery district can do cost sharing with charter schools, but it canít be higher than 5 percent of the per-pupil rate. Ours hasnít been higher than 2 percent and usually itís between 1-and-one-half percent. Other districtsí administration costs are higher because they use a different design, and itís not as efficient as what weíre doing.îThe organizational style the district is currently using is called matrix management and allows people to play to their strengths, Ridgway said. ìWe do the tasks that we are best at and that we are assigned to cover and let each other handle their own tasks,î he said. ìWeíre working collaboratively because something that needs to get done can overlap sometimes two or all three chief positions to make the result effective.îìIn the superintendent model, the superintendent is in charge of everything; whereas, this (matrix management) model separates the three main responsibilities among three experts,î Harold said. ìWith us having a revolving door of superintendents, we realized that wasnít a good system for us. The stability of our three chiefs working together has been great for the district and the board and the staff.îSince D 49 is the first district in the state to change over to the matrix management model, Harold said she has had other board members from other districts ask how the model is being implemented and how well itís working for D 49. ìEducation is one of those industries that is very slow to make changes,î Harold said. ìIf itís working for other districts then they should keep it, but it wasnít working for our district.îThe reorganization has allowed the district to focus on a better finance model because the budget for the administrative end is relatively small. ìWe use a student-based finance model,î Ridgway said. ìUsually districts allocate 50 to 60 percent of their per-pupil revenue to school expenses. Weíre dedicating somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of our per-pupil revenue to school expenses.îHarold said that means about 70 to 80 percent of what the schools receive in funding is going to students. ìMany districts are looking at the goals weíve been able to achieve in this way,î she said.Ridgway said he feels the restructuring of the district has increased its stability.

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