Montgomery County School Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo last week proposed a major redesign of the school system's administrative operations. The plan, he said, is aimed at helping teachers do a better job.
Bernardo, superintendent of the Montgomery public schools for the past two years, called his new management plan "the single most important recommendation I've made since my tenure here." The new plan, Bernardo told the school board, will revamp the administration so that it "supports the teacher" better than it does now.
If adopted, the plan would take personnel out of the school system's central offices in Rockville and put them into individual schools to assist teachers in developing instructional plans. Bernardo called the central office "probably . . . the greatest single reservoir of professional educational talent available anywhere."
Bernardo proposed that teachers given more time to participate in area-wide planning programs and more help in the form of teacher's aids, prepackaged teaching materials and resource centers where they could learn from other "master teachers" about teaching styles.
Bernardo refused to discuss how much the new plan would save in money or personnel. He would only say that the plan would cost less than the current form of administration.
Under the plan, a central education accountability office would be set up to keep Bernardo more informed of school problems and teachers needs. Field professionals from that office would take information on those problems to the area superintendents, and keep them informed. The education accountability office would incorporate the functions of the present department of research and evaluation and the department of quality assurance.
Using the example of the countywide reading program, Bernardo explained how the new system might work. Professionals from the education accountability office would evaluate program needs and relay that information to the superintendent, who would then relay the needs to the board. The program development staff - which includes the budget office - would develop program options for the superintendent and/or the board to approve.
According to Bernardo, the program development staff and area administrators would develop a program. Then those offices would work with school principals to develop and implementation plan, tailored to the needs of the area.
In Bernardo's plan, local schools do much of the planning. "There are the doers, the soldiers in the trenches, as it were," he wrote in a memo to the board.
While the program is being implemented on the school level, the Education Accountability Office will be watching countywide to see if the program is working on schedule.
The education accountability office will also have the sizeable task of assessing countywide needs - "the gap between performance and expectations," Bernardo explained. At present, the school administration sets broad, sugested goals for each school area, Bernardo said. The new adminisration will set mandatory goals, and will have responsibility for monitoring them.
The superintendent said he hopes his new plan will reduce bureaucracy in the school system. "The school system tends to engage in too much memo-sending and too many meetings," he said.
After discussing his plan with the school board, Bernardo told a group of reporters he feared that county residents will not realize the full impact of his redesign.
"People often accuse me of being too theoretical," Bernardo explained."I think we're being very specific here. We're talking about books, papers, reducing class size, diagnosing kids."
The school board had requested a redesign of the administration last spring to deliver better instructional programs to the students and to make the administrative offices more responsive to school needs. They also requested that Bernardo's plan "reflect the urgency of the fiscal crisis."
I"ll give them (school board members) something with less dollars," Bernardo explained during his talk with reporters, "but I 'm an educator first, and I want them to look at the educational aims of this program first . . . . Then I must make it responsive to fiscal needs."
Bernardo invited staff members and citizens to submit written suggestions on the proposed redesign to him by Nov. 11. Copies of the proposal can be obtained at the Department of Information at the Montgomery County Educational Services building on Hungerford Drive in Rockville. Bernardo hopes to submit a final draft of the proposal to the school board by Nov. 22.