Lewis did not go into much detail. He said he plans to give the board a more fleshed-out scheme with his budget proposal for next year, which should be ready by late August.
But he told board members that certain jobs at the central office will be eliminated over the next few months. He did not say how many, though he said in an interview earlier this week that he expects to cut between 20 and 25 positions out of a total of about 100.
At the same time, Lewis will advertise for four high-level “cabinet” positions to oversee four departments: the administrative office, finance office, portfolio office and network schools office.
He said the portfolio office essentially will be an expanded charter school office, with the added responsibility of long-term planning and shared services.
The term “network schools” refers to the last handful of traditional schools that still operate in a city now dominated by charters, which typically operate with a greater degree of autonomy and their own nonprofit boards.
Lewis, addressing board members during committee meetings Thursday, cast the plan as an effort to save money and modernize an agency that originally was designed to actively run schools and now mostly provides support and oversight.
He emphasized that cuts at the central office will mean more dollars can go to the schools themselves. “We want to make sure that if there are additional dollars, we’re able to push those dollars down to the schools,” Lewis said.
He brought up a conversation he had recently with one of his principals, Mary Haynes-Smith at Bethune Elementary, who told him that she has no librarian, no physical education instructor and no assistant principal.
School Board President Seth Bloom said he supports the idea of restructuring the district in a way that’s more in line with the reality of a charter-based school system.
The board lost most of its schools to the state-run Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina, and even if those schools come back under the OPSB, they almost certainly will remain autonomous.
“It’s naïve to have the same type of central office,” Bloom said. “We haven’t had a traditional district since 2004.”