The Wichita school district plans to create a new central office administrative position – a deputy superintendent, officials announced Wednesday.
In an e-mail to employees, superintendent Alicia Thompson said she authorized the district’s human resources department to post an opening for the new position, which it did last week.
“As part of my early work to evaluate the structure of the district, it is clear to me that in order to align the system and serve our buildings more effectively, this leadership position is a must in order to accomplish the results we need to achieve,” Thompson said in the e-mail.
“Additional organizational changes will occur as the work to align our system continues, but those decisions haven’t been made yet.”
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The deputy superintendent will be the district’s second-in-command, reporting directly to Thompson, according to the e-mail.
No salary has been set, said district spokeswoman Susan Arensman.
Officials with the local teachers union criticized the move, calling it “a blatant slap in the face to teachers and other employees.”
Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said district leaders should delay hiring any new administrators until a new teacher contract is settled.
“To consider this at a time when employees have carried the burden of cuts is unconscionable, inconceivable and completely unacceptable,” Wentz said in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page Wednesday.
“The district is hemorrhaging teachers and the response is to hire another doctor to give a second opinion?”
Wichita’s 4,200 teachers are working under the terms of last year’s contract, after the district and the teachers union recently declared an impasse on negotiations.
Wentz previously has urged school board members to consider trimming district-level administrators in order to increase teacher pay.
In her e-mail, Thompson said the new deputy superintendent “will be responsible for the direct administrative supervision of elementary and secondary schools, curriculum and instruction, special education, Title I and student support services.”
Currently there are 14 people on the Wichita district’s central-office leadership team, including four assistant superintendents. In addition, the district has an executive director of secondary schools and executive director of elementary schools.
The Wichita district last employed a deputy superintendent about 12 years ago, under former superintendent Winston Brooks. That deputy – Mark Evans – left the district in 2005 to become superintendent in Andover.
School board president Mike Rodee said board members had been considering adding the position since before John Allison resigned earlier this year. Thompson, like her predecessor, “has been doing two jobs” – superintendent and chief operating officer, Rodee said.
Denise Wren, the district’s former chief operating officer, left the district in 2012. After a brief search for a replacement, Allison decided to leave the position vacant, saying he couldn’t find a qualified candidate who would agree to the salary proposed. Wren’s salary was $135,700 a year.
Rodee said the deputy superintendent post would not require additional funding.
“We’ve been carrying over the cost for years, trying to decide if we would put it back in the budget or not. So it’s there,” he said. “It’s not something that we’re going to have to add money for.”
He said district-level administrators are crucial for keeping schools running smoothly.
“The superintendent needs to be able to focus on certain things and make sure we’re moving the district in the right direction. … This gives more opportunity to do that,” Rodee said.
“It also gives another person some responsibility … to make sure that everything’s getting done as required, so we’re not having any gaps.”
Board member Lynn Rogers said he also supports the move to add an administrator.
“We are spread very thin,” Rogers said. “No one likes to add administration, but the lack of administration can be very expensive, too.”
At this point, the deputy superintendent position is open only to internal candidates and requires a master’s degree, administrative certification and district leadership license.