To provide school districts with valuable information and meet the recent uptick in requests for staffing benchmarks, we are releasing a five-part series on strategic staffing.
Personnel costs represent 80 to 85 percent of a school district budget, which means staffing strategically is important. In this article we address some key components to strategic staffing and will focus on central office professional positions in curriculum and instruction, business and finance, human resources, operations, and communications, as well as district non-campus clerical positions. The next four articles in this series will address staffing for teachers, auxiliary positions, special education, and educational aides and campus clerical.
Effective staffing in a school district is an art and a science. To successfully manage staffing, both knowledge and skill must be properly applied. The approach must be intentional, and data must be used to inform decisions. All staff positions must be identified for comparison to benchmark data, peer district data, or organizational standards.
Determining peer districts is key because it gives a district good perspective of how they compare to other districts. For staffing purposes, peer districts should be similar in enrollment, student demographics, academic performance, district type, and funding levels. Peer districts don’t need to be in proximity to a district and may be geographically located anywhere in the state.
The campus comparison report from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Texas Accountability Rating System produces a list of 40 campuses statewide that may serve as comparison districts. Another avenue for creating a list of peer districts is the use of TASB HRDataSource™. This tool contains annual salary survey data and staff full-time equivalent FTE) counts and can be accessed by HR Services members through myTASB.
Choosing an enrollment range (e.g., 1,000 below or 1,000 above your district) will generate a list of districts that participated in the TASB HR Services salary survey. Comparing this list to the campus comparison report from TEA can result in a practical peer grouping. Peer district student demographics (e.g., economically disadvantaged, bilingual, limited English proficient, gifted and talented, etc.) can be located on the most recent Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) for each district.
Central office comparison
Staffing assignments for central office positions vary among districts, even for those with similar enrollment. These standards are a local decision since they are not specifically mandated by the state. Some districts may use nonexempt staff for certain functions that other districts staff with exempt positions, while others may staff positions or assign at the campus level rather than the district level (e.g., testing coordinator).
The size of the district may impact the ability to match local titles with the available job titles in TASB HRDataSource. While actual job titles may vary from district to district, districts completing the TASB HR Services salary survey can use the system position description to match their specific job titles to those offered in the survey.
When using TASB HRDataSource it is helpful to pull data on all jobs in the related category to get a true picture of the department organizational structure for identified peer districts. An enrollment range can be used for selecting peer districts or you may select specific districts from the list of all districts who participated in the survey.
After logging into TASB HRDataSource, choose Salary Reports, then select Other School Benchmark Jobs. The report filters allow the selection of an enrollment range and positions in groups. Simply selecting the position area to be analyzed (e.g., Curriculum/Instruction, Business/Finance, Human Resources) will produce information for all the titles listed. For these three areas the additional step includes selecting the department leader from the District Leadership category.
The areas of operations and communications are not specific categories in TASB HRDataSource. A report of jobs that typically fall under these categories (see list below) can be generated by selecting individual positions.
- Chief Facilities and Operations Officer
- Director of Maintenance
- Maintenance Supervisor
- Energy Manager
- Construction Project Specialist
- Warehouse Supervisor
- Custodial Supervisor
- Director of Child Nutrition
- District Child Nutrition Supervisor
- Director of Transportation
- Transportation Supervisor
- Communications Officer
- Web Administrator
Once report filters are determined, follow the steps below:
- Select the Run Report button to generate the report. The initial page only includes median staff for each position.
- Next select the Export drop down menu button (floppy disk icon) to export the data into an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will have a tab for each position selected and includes a detailed FTE count for each peer district reporting the position.
Making the comparison
Comparisons can be made by individual positions or for the total category. A comparison can be made per 100 or 1,000 students, depending on the size of your district.
Below is an example of how data may be analyzed for comparison purposes in the human resources (HR) department.
In this illustration, the district employs 10.0 FTEs in its HR department compared to the peer district average of 8.5 positions. This results in 0.45 staff per 1,000 students compared to the peer district average of 0.38. Overall, the district is staffed above the peer district average by 1.5 FTEs. Looking at the data, the greatest variances occur for the HR specialist and the employee benefits specialist. The comparison of staff per 1,000 students indicates the district is staffed above all peer districts. Cost savings are available for the school district based on this analysis.
Non-campus clerical positions include secretaries, clerks, and specialists that support the central administration and other departments in the school district. Some of these positions are included in the categories discussed above. In TASB HRDataSource, central office receptionists and other secretarial positions (e.g., secretary to director, secretary to executive/chief, secretary to superintendent) are included in the Position Title category Central Office/Clerical.
A peer district analysis of these positions can be conducted using the steps provided above. Another way to evaluate this area is to use the benchmark HR Services consultants derived from state averages for these positions—4.0 non-campus clerical staff per 1,000 students for districts with less than 5,000 students and 3.0 FTEs for districts with an enrollment of 5,000 students or greater. As an example, for a district with an enrollment of 2,385 students the staffing based on the benchmark would be nine non-campus clerical positions (2,385/1,000 X 4 = 9.2).
Applying this benchmark to your student enrollment then analyzing your current staffing can reveal whether your district is staffed below, at, or above the benchmark. Adjustments can then be determined to better align staffing with the benchmark range and may result in costs or savings for the district.
Applying a strategic approach to the staffing process can ensure equitable distribution of resources, alignment with the district’s mission and vision, and an efficient process for making current and future adjustments. This process should be a collaboration between district leaders and provide transparency for all staff.
The financial futures of school districts are currently unknown due to the impact of COVID-19, the current legislative session, and other unforeseen factors. Regardless, school districts have an obligation to their communities and students to provide the best service to all students while remaining fiscally responsible with its resources. Strategic staffing can help entities accomplish this task.
The next article in this series will address staffing teachers at elementary and secondary campuses.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at email@example.com.
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