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Changes don't change mission, says new "Chief Schools Officer"

In my post this morning, I reported that some people are worrying that the administrative reshuffling announced today could spell yet another dramatic twist in the way schools are managed and supported. Not so, according to Eric Nadelstern, whose new title under the reshuffling — don’t call it a reorganization! — is chief schools officer.

Unlike past administrative changes, this one is happening for the sake of cost-cutting and bureaucracy-slimming, not because of any departure in ideology. Nadelstern told me in a quick telephone call that the change is actually a “validation” of the Department of Education’s last reorganization, in the spring of 2007. That reorganization, the department’s third major overhaul under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, replaced traditional bureaucratic management layers like superintendents with a new nexus of “support” organizations that are supposed to be helpful rather than punitive. The support groups are also supposed to work like a marketplace, with schools being able to buy the services of any one of them, at prices the groups determine.

Nadelstern’s new job has him overseeing all these support groups, from the ones within the department (called LSO’s) to the private ones outside of it (PSO’s) to the Empowerment network he created, in a single office. Previously, the organizations had reported to different offices within the DOE. Here’s Nadelstern emphasizing that there’s no change in course:

“The commitment remains to diversity, and it remains to supporting outside organizations who provide this kind of service. The results last year were spectacular, and it’s kind of a validation of the idea that if you diversify support, and you make principals the CEO’s of their buildings, you make students more successful.”

David Cantor, a DOE spokesman, couldn’t immediately provide a dollar figure for the cost-savings the reshuffling will produce. But it has already eliminated one position: that of JoEllen Lynch, who ran the PSO’s office inside the department. Lynch receives a salary of $196,575, according to the new database of city salaries.

Lynch is going on to start a new consulting group of her own. Cantor said her group will specialize in “secondary reform, disconnected youth and youth development strategies.” He called her a “national figure on these issues and on using private organizations to drive youth development initiatives.”

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