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Published: 4/4/2013

Toledo Public Schools audit indentifies $100M in savings over 5 years

Report urges larger classes for special ed, cuts in staff

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A private consulting firm that conducted a performance audit of Toledo Public Schools recommends moves the firm says would save the district about $100 million over five years.

Evergreen Solutions presented its first draft of its performance audit to the Toledo Board of Education on Wednesday, offering 169 recommendations for changes in district practices.

District staff and board members have a week to request corrections in the report for factual errors. Evergreen then will return a final report in an additional week.

Linda Recio, Evergreen Solutions president, presented the report to the board and highlighted its recommendations. The report is more than 500 pages long.

“It’s our best shot, as an objective, third-party review of your school system,” she said.

Ms. Recio said the savings her firm found were on the high end for what it normally recommends for school districts.

Many of the large cumulative cuts would be in personnel.

The recommendation with the largest projected savings would be to negotiate larger special-education class sizes with the teachers’ union. Increasing the ratio of special-education students to staff could save the district about $15 million over five years, according to the report.

ONLINE: Full audit report presented to TPS

Other staff reductions recommended by Evergreen Solutions:

● 15 assistant principal positions over five years, saving $8.5 million;

● Clerical staff positions, saving about $5 million;

● Nine psychologists, saving about $4 million;

● More than 40 data support positions, for about $2.5 for about $2.5 million in savings.

Other big-ticket recommendations include $12.5 million in savings by decreasing TPS contributions into an employee health-care fund; $7.8 million by reducing supplemental pay; $7.5 million by eliminating dozens of buses; an energy management program to save more than $6 million; the sale of excess properties to save more than $3 million; textbook savings of about $5 million, and savings of about $4 million by consolidating K-8 buildings and vacating the district administrative headquarters on Manhattan Boulevard.

Board President Brenda Hill said members will have to digest the lengthy report. The big cost savings may not always turn out, she cautioned. “I've seen reports before, and a lot of times the numbers they project and the reality are not the same,” she said.

Beyond finances, the report recommends numerous structural changes. For instance, the audit recommends the school board improve its relationship with administrators to rebuild trust and stop micromanaging staff. It also recommends negotiating with the teachers’ union changes to its contract that would increase administrators’ instructional leadership roles.

Evergreen Solutions’ report included 50 commendations. Ms. Recio highlighted the district’s move to K-8 buildings, new program offerings, and several successful programs. She said the district seemed to have strong support.

“There clearly is support out there in the business community for what TPS is doing,” she said.

And in many cases, the performance audit recommends adding staff in areas where the company thought too much has been cut, or reorganizing departments where administrators have been given too varied of duties.

While there are recommendations for cuts, two presidents of TPS employee unions who were at the presentation didn’t immediately reject the report. Don Yates, president of the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, said he liked that the audit essentially created a five-year strategic plan. Though he questioned the formula used in the audit to determine the district has too many assistant principals, he said many of its recommendations were worth discussing, especially giving more authority to building principals.

“You have to have principals who have the authority to be instructional leaders in a building,” he said, “not just managers.”

Dave Blyth, Jr., an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representative, was happy the audit had frequent positive comments about the performance of the union’s members, though he also questioned some of the formulas used to determine proper staffing ratios.

John McAvoy, a board member with the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition that advocated for a performance audit, said so far he’s liked what he’s seen of the report. He said the next step is implementation.

“It’s not going to sit on the shelf,” he said. “I guarantee that.”

Ms. Hill said the board will create a committee to develop an implementation plan after the final report is complete.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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