One of former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s major accomplishments was supposed to have been the shrinking of the school system’s central bureaucracy. DCPS says that the number of central office employees has dropped from more than 900 in 2007 to about 350 today, a product of both firings and the transfer of some responsibilities --such as school transportation-- to OSSE. But Mary Levy, the longtime analyst of DCPS budgets, has a different set of numbers derived from payroll data that show the central office actually growing fatter on Rhee’s watch: from 626 to 775 FTEs (fulltime eqauivalent positions) since 2007 . She also reports that more than 100 central office staff make more than $100,000 a year. Given the FY 2010 budget cuts some schools are struggling with, Levy said, it might make sense to shrink the central office again.

“The current magnitude of central office staffing suggests that more funding could go to the schools to reduce their budget cuts,’ Levy said in testimony prepared for Monday night’s budget hearing at Eastern High School. “It is hard to believe that we need almost 800 full-time equivalents when about 500 used to suffice for a much larger enrollment.”

Peter Weber, deputy to DCPS chief of staff Lisa Ruda, said Levy and the school system seem to have definitional differences.

Weber said the agency defines central office employees as those who don’t work directly with students, teachers or principals. There are other people carried on the central office budget, but who spend most of their time in schools, Weber said. These include “master educators” who conduct classroom observations for IMPACT, Head Start staff and mentor teachers. Weber also said that the $100,000 employees cited by Levy actually make that amount in salary and benefits combined. There are 402 DCPS employees at that level, and that 80 percent of them work in the schools, he said.