If the Natrona County School District seemed top heavy before, the latest state reports indicate it got heavier.
The district employed more than twice the number of district-level administrators and 150 percent more district-level secretarial and clerical employees than recommended by the state in 2009-10, according to the latest report on school resources from the Wyoming Department of Education.
Natrona County aligned with the general trend in the state — more central administration staff members, fewer elementary school teachers and larger class sizes than recommended.
The district employed 120 fewer teachers — 70 fewer at the elementary level — than the model recommends. Base salaries for teachers were above the model’s recommendation but lower than the state average. Additionally, district-level administrators were paid more than suggested while clerical staff were paid less — assistant superintendents earned $128,427 and clerical staff earned $31,735 on average in 2009-10.
The state’s numbers include positions that are paid by federal grants and should be excluded when reporting district spending of state money, said Joel Dvorak, district superintendent. Also, districts report district staff members by two categories — administrator and clerical staff — and positions such as “managers” and “coordinators” fall somewhere in between.
The district is preparing its own report to account for discrepancies in past numbers. Dvorak said the district will spend less than what was recommended in 2010-11. About 16 positions were eliminated or removed from central services, Dvorak said, amounting to a little more than $1 million in savings.
“In real time, this year, Natrona County is running its central office leaner than the model recommends,” Dvorak said.
The state report is the most accurate report to date, said Amy Copeland, supervisor of the school foundation program at the state Department of Education. Several changes were made to reporting methodology last year, which resulted in larger administration numbers in Natrona County than previously reported. Four department statisticians combed through the data while two department staff members worked solely on the data, Copeland said.
“It’s what we expected to see in the beginning — what the public’s been saying,” Copeland said.
Positions locked into a federal or state funding source were excluded. However, some federally-funded administrator positions could have been included because district-level assignments vary.
Better, more detailed reporting will be in place next year, Copeland said, which will generate reports to better inform the public and lawmakers examining school funding.
“We’ve been so compliance-oriented in data collection for a number of years that it’s exciting to turn it into information that can actually be used,” Copeland said.
Wyoming’s 48 school districts receive money from the state in block grants based on operational costs. The amount of the grant is determined according to student population. School districts do not have to spend according to how the grant is calculated, but the belief is that closely following the research-based model yields student improvement.
Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at 307-266-0593 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.