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Sunday, February 18 Local

District reorganization approved

Darien Public Schools will lose an administrative position as new titles and responsibilities are doled out in the central office as part of interim Superintendent Lynne Pierson's restructuring, which was approved by the Board of Education Tuesday.

At Tuesday's meeting, Pierson said it was clear when she came to the district in November that the board had an interest in looking at how the district was organized.

"One of the greater concerns that came to me in my observations was that we need to improve and or develop systemic processes in order to accomplish the functions and tasks that are necessary to ensure that this organization runs smoothly," Pierson said.

As part of the new structure, titles and responsibilities will change. Pierson was uncertain when the structural and personnel changes would take effect.

"This isn't Hartford, this isn't Norwalk," Pierson said. "(Darien) isn't a large community that, in my opinion, wouldn't support an overabundance of management staff."

Pierson said the reorganization only deals with positions and functions; she is charged with tackling the personnel implications as a result of the approved structure change.

"It's a pretty basic structure that would cover the key areas including the heart and soul of any district," Pierson said.

The new structure will have:

The assistant superintendent of special education and student services -- a new title -- will oversee the program director of special education student services, the program director of early childhood SESS, the school-based SESS facilitators and the director of health services. This position was formerly the special education director.

The director of finance and operations -- a new title -- will oversee the assistant finance director, the director of facilities, information technology, accounts payable and receivable and the director of food services

The director of human resources -- a new position -- will coordinate personnel issues, including policies, contract negotiations and employee benefits, among others.

The assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for K-12 will oversee the curriculum coordinators, such as those for math, World Language, literacy, music and art, among others.

The elementary, middle school and high school principals now will report directly to the superintendent of schools. Formerly, they reported to either the assistant superintendent of elementary education or the assistant superintendent of secondary education. The assistant principals at the elementary and middle schools will continue to report to the building principals. At Darien High School, the assistant principals, director of guidance and athletic director will report to the principal.

During the 2014-15 budget-setting process, the hiring of a director of human resources was approved. Currently, Darien Public Schools has one full-time staff member in human resources.

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The greatest change with the reorganization is reducing the administrative staff from two assistant superintendents to one.

Pierson said an administrator to oversee curriculum is becoming more common with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which call for reading and math to be covered more deeply and in a different order than in the past.

Pierson also recommended the hiring of a technology director. There is currently a director of information technology and a technology coordinator. The board approved the hiring of a technology director as part of the structure overhaul.

"There was a fair amount of conversation and discussion not only at the board level but at other town levels for interest in and the need for more focused attention to be paid to the area of technology," Pierson said.

She said there are students entering the school system with a strong grasp of technology, which should be embraced.

"It's not just about the future, but also the present," Pierson said. "My very simple suggestion is that we have too few people that are focused in that particular area."

Pierson said the new organization is "budget neutral."

Vice Chairman Heather Shea thanked Pierson for proposing a new structure that allows the board to accomplish its goals and objectives, particularly for transitions to different grade levels.

Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross agreed.

"I think the things we have asked as a the board even before we have the special education issue come up has been addressed here to make this a stronger school district," Hagerty-Ross said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews