Hanover Schools continue work on improving system efficiency

Hanover County Public Schools continues to implement recommendations issued through an efficiency review conducted two years ago.

December 2010, the school system began the Va. Department of Planning and Budget’s efficiency review process. This is a voluntary program, and Hanover had been on the waiting list for some time.

The state’s program was developed under the administration of Gov. Mark Warner in 2004. Hanover is the 37th Virginia school system to undergo the review to seek additional options for trimming costs.

Texas-based Gibson Consulting Group completed a review of Hanover Schools’ practices and compiled a report in May 2011.

The report was largely positive.

Greg Gibson of Gibson Consulting said in 2011, “My firm has been doing this for 20 years. We’ve been in six of the largest 12 school systems in the United States. I’ve been in over 250 school districts and divisions in the United States, and I have not seen a governance system this good. Don’t lose this.”

The report made 33 commendations, but also 48 recommendations to improve efficiency further.

A condition of the Department of Planning and Budget’s sponsorship was that Hanover must enact at least 50 percent of the recommendations within two years. The deadline is this summer.

Many of the recommendations require investments, for a total of $9.7 million to yield a net savings of $2.7 million in the first five-year period and ongoing savings from there.

The School Board heard an update on the implementation during its Jan. 24 work session.

Terry Stone, director of financial operations, said 23 of the 48 recommendations have been completed, and another eight are in process. The system is on-track to reach the 50 percent requirement.

Seventeen of the recommendations were considered and abandoned, primarily because of a lack of resources to implement them.

One abandoned recommendation suggested adding a dispatcher position to the transportation department, for example. The system is not currently poised to add jobs, so this item was not considered feasible.

Stone listed several recommendations that are underway or already completed.

An integrated student information system is being developed, which will help facilitate another recommendation to “re-engineer processes to take advantage of technology and to reduce demands on staff.”

“As we install or implement the new student information system, we will certainly look at all of our processes to determine: Does this new student information system allow us to do things differently?” Stone said.

The external reviewers observed that the position of assistant superintendent for instructional leadership has too large a span of control. Reduction of this scope is underway.

Another recommendation is to develop a site-based decision-making framework and commit to a formal document.

“We do that today, but they wanted us to sit down and create a document, a complete document of every possible decision that could be made and then determine at what level it should be made,” Stone explained.

To implement this, as specific issues arise, staff is making the determination and documenting it. At a later date, staff will draft that comprehensive document.

To address another recommendation, performance measures have been added to the budget document.

A new student assessment system was purchased in Fiscal Year 2012, and it will interface with the new student information system.

The use of the Aesop system has been expanded to encompass leave management. (Aesop is an automated substitute placement and absence management system utilized by school districts throughout the country.)

The transportation organizational structure has been revised, and Point of Service devices have been installed in all schools’ cafeterias.

The 2013-14 school year budget proposal incorporates two items from the efficiency review.

The proposed restructuring of the high school schedules into eight periods comes in response to the recommendation to “re-engineer activities associated with certain teach periods.”

Also, the proposed reduction of nine custodial staffing positions addresses another recommendation of the efficiency review.

Hanover staff will make a final report to the Department of Planning and Budget in June.

Not all efficiency review recommendations will be completed by that time, but the remainder will remain on the table as considerations for future years.

“We will take a look at them every year and determine: ‘Is there one that we can start progress on?’” Stone said.

Posted on Friday, February 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm