Restructuring the Central Office
Completing a School System Budget is Hard. Some would even say it's impossible. It's been especially bad within the last 8 years because of the economic downturn. When school board's and superintendents are trying to put a budget together, what's the first thing to get cuts? The Central Office staff. Is this the right way to go? I think that depends on what you are cutting from the central office staff.
My district just went through the budget process, and the chief complaint was the size and increase in central office funding. Many parents and community members would be happy if the central office was cut to the bare bones, but in order to keep the school system running efficiently you would have to cut in the right places. Some places are just to important to cut, even though they are often the first on the budget chopping block
The first thing you have to make sure runs efficiently is human resources, and it can not be a place for cuts. Human resources in any business is one of the most important departments because it puts the right person in the position and works to keep the satisfied with their position through the benefits they receive. Without a good human resource department, the whole organization can be run into the ground. Human resources allows important positions to be filled efficiently, and if it does not it could causes chaos in any organization. Its especially prevalent in schools, because poor human resource departments mean quality teachers are not in the classroom. It's also very important for teacher moral. If human resources screws up a teachers benefits, do you think they will stay?
The second thing you can not cut is the technology department, but it is often the first thing cut. Technology is moving at an amazing rate, and schools need to keep up. Schools need technology leaders to help teachers adapt to this new environment, fix issues, and in general manage the infrastructure that is so important to schools running efficiently. In many ways, the technology support is more important then the academic support, and many teachers would rather have technology pd than other academic pd.
So where can we cut? I know in my own district the first thing I would cut is the amount of upper level leaders within the district. We have both Chief Officers, Executive Directors, and Directors in our District. You can only image how much each of these individuals are paid. Why can't we just have Chief Officers and the Directors under them that run each decision within a department? It also feels like we have a massive professional development department. To me this department needs to be limited. Schools need to use their greatest resource to do most professional development. What is it you ask? There teachers and administrators. You could pay teachers and administrators extra to do pd, which in the end would save you money on benefits and increase moral.
It makes me angry to see schools cut technology positions every year. Hopefully, schools will make realistic good decisions on what they do with their central office staff. If they feel like they need to cut, hopefully they will cut in the right places.
Microsoft Office came out for Ipad, and I don't care! 5 years ago that sentiment would have been much different. 5 years ago, I was a teacher who was almost completely dependent on Microsoft Power Point. In the 5 years since, I have completely bought into the Apple ecosystem. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers to me are just better. They are easier to manipulate, and frankly eliminate some of the most annoying features of Microsoft Office. Does this mean I can eliminate Microsoft Office completely from my life? Not a chance. It's the formula and preferred mode of communication for many schools and businesses, and no matter what position I take in the future, I am going to have to use it.
My journey with Keynote, Pages, and Numbers did not even start with my first Macbook Pro. When I purchased my first Macbook Pro, I was still so entrenched in Power Point that I spent the ridiculous amount of money (I think it was almost $300) to have Microsoft Office on my Macbook Pro. It was the conversion of my wife to the Apple world and the purchase of her Macbook that brought me to iWork. I thought, "Why not load it and give it a spin". If it was good enough for Steve Jobs presentations, it was good enough for me.
What I found was software that addressed everything that pissed me off about Microsoft Office. I had used Microsoft Word for years, and there were several things I really hated about it. First, manipulating tables was painful. It was painful to put in titles, to move tables in the document, and manipulate the size and scope of them. Pages went and answered all of those. It had pre-made titles spaces where all you had to do was type, it allowed you to move the the table like an image, and there were easy spaces to manipulate the size and scope. I also hated working with images in Microsoft Word, and ages fixed that by allowing me to move the image like it was a presentation. I found Keynote to be a sleek easy to use presentation software, that made presentations look more professional than Power Point. Excel had never been a program I used frequently, but I found numbers to be easier to manipulate in both titles, formulas, and adjusting the size of the tables
This brings me back to my opening statement. Office came out for Ipad, and I don't care. Pages and even Google Drive have been on Ipad for a number of years, and now Microsoft wants me to switch back. Well its a little late for that! Microsoft also wants me to pay monthly in order to edit these documents using their cloud service. That's just plain laughable.
Apple and Google have left Microsoft in their dust. The company continues to operate solely on the strength of their Xbox ecosystem and the corporations that still favor it. Office will never be my favorite mode of communication, but the need for it will remain for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, as the younger generation takes over, Microsoft will either innovate the product or put it out to pasture.