Sandra was addressing educators in a leadership program her district had initiated for administrative candidates. Her presentation outlined the benefits of site-based decision-making in terms of its potential for allowing problems to be solved in creative ways. Sandra tells them about a time, when due to budget cuts, she would have to lose .5 certified staff. The four individuals who were on temporary contracts were very strong teachers with diverse talents that supported the school’s culture and outcomes. None could afford to work part-time. Who would she cut?
Ken was a physical education major (science-minor) who had wonderful rapport with kids. Sharon was a dedicated social studies teacher who also had musical talent and a special connection with at-risk kids. Kathy was a brilliant English and French teacher who had mounted a couple of impressive musical productions in collaboration with Sharon. Archie was a flexible teacher who could be assigned almost any grade level or subject area from kindergarten to grade 6. He was a keener in every way and had taken on developing a computer lab in the early days of technology in schools.
Although Sandra had spent evenings at school trying to reconcile the budget and keep all four teachers, it was in the shower (not the tub!) that Sandra had her eureka moment. All four teachers agreed to work .9 for the year. Together they worked on creating a timetable which would pair them as opposites for one day off every two weeks. This meant that they could, if they desired, work as subs on their day off. (In fact, it turned out that most of those sub days were taught at their home school where they knew the kids and the routines!) Once tax deductions were calculated their earnings were seen to be undiminished by this arrangement. The other .1 FTE salary cost was covered by minor cuts in other areas.
In a centralized decision-making model, the HR department would not have come up with this solution. The school program and culture were greatly enhanced by the continued participation of these individuals. Twenty years later they are all still employees of the district and have made significant contributions in many areas. Two are school principals collaborating in creative ways to make decisions now with their own staff members.