LARGO — The Pinellas County School District's top-heavy administration has slimmed down. Kind of.
Pinellas ranked fourth among nine large school districts in Florida for its percentage of district administrators who are full-time employees, according to a new state report. This year, Pinellas was behind Duval, Lee and Orange counties.
That's an improvement — albeit a small one — for Pinellas, a school district that has been accused time and again of being bloated at the top. Last year, Pinellas ranked second on the list, behind Duval.
Pinellas now has 98 district-level administrators, compared with 166 last year, according to the state Department of Education. Most of the difference, however, comes from reclassifying positions, not from cuts to the administrative ranks.
Last week, district officials couldn't provide an accounting of the changes. Melanie Marquez Parra, a district spokeswoman, said it was difficult to give exact numbers because resignations and retirements cause them to be in flux.
She emphasized that the state's numbers were a "snapshot in time."
To get the numbers down, former superintendent John Stewart had proposed eliminating five or six top-level jobs and reclassifying about 48 others to the nonadministrative ranks. He had commissioned a sweeping study that found the district's too-large administration caused confusion and a culture of competition as people worked in silos and duplicated efforts.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, which conducted the study, recommended a massive reorganization, including the elimination of some positions such as deputy superintendent, and the renaming of others.
Stewart had said the goal wasn't to get rid of people, but to use them more effectively.
Some changes are apparent in the district's organizational charts. A staff attorney now reports directly to the superintendent. The deputy superintendent position has been eliminated. (Jim Madden, who held the position, retired last year.) There are fewer assistant superintendents; the title had been overused, the study concluded. Job descriptions also have been updated.
According to state data, 0.74 percent of full-time employees in Pinellas are district-level administrators, down from 1.24 percent last year.
Board member Robin Wikle said some changes, such as updating job descriptions, were long overdue. She said the School Board still needs to monitor the numbers to make sure that resources are going to the district's classrooms.
But overall, "I thought the news was encouraging," she said.
Despite the changes, Pinellas remains more top-heavy than several larger school districts. Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties each have a better balance of district administrators to employees.
Pinellas also has more administrators than Polk, the district with the most similar student population. Pinellas has 98 district-level administrators to Polk's 67. Pinellas has about 103,000 students, while Polk has about 96,000.
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8846. Follow @Fitz_ly on Twitter.