Shawnee Mission to reduce class sizes with money saved from cutting administrative positions

The Shawnee Mission district's Administration Center.
The new plan would have some administrative positions head back to the classroom.

By Dawn Bormann

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson unveiled a plan Monday to decrease administrative positions and use the money to reduce elementary class sizes.

“It does reduce our administrative footprint and it puts more resources in the classroom,” Hinson said at the school board meeting.

Class sizes and administrative costs have been two of the biggest criticisms from district patrons in recent years. “There’s been a resounding message from the community and from the school board as well to look at our administrative footprint and put more money into the classroom,” Hinson said.

The administrative changes would free up $1.5 million annually to lower class sizes.

Hinson would use the money to reduce the third grade classroom cap from 29 to 27 students. And fourth through sixth grade classroom caps would move from 30 to 27 students. The district has already reduced the cap to 24 students in kindergarten through second grades.

State funding could change the plan, Hinson told board members. “Because we’re reducing our administrative footprint we do have the resources in order to reduce our class sizes if we don’t lose millions of dollars this coming year from decisions that are made in Topeka,” he said.

The district is examining how to implement the changes in buildings where classroom space is limited.
Hinson released a new administrative organizational chart Monday plans and called it the first phase of an effort to put more money into Shawnee Mission classrooms. It means some employees serving in administrative roles will return to the classroom and other positions.

The change is possible, he said, because the recent retirement incentive allows the district to more easily restructure administrative positions.

“Because of that we have a multitude of positions open. So I have the ability to reorganize the district without people losing their job,” Hinson said. “We have a number of people that are serving in administrator level positions but they’re still on a teacher’s contract. But they don’t have student contact. So they’re going back to work with students.” Administrative functions will be consolidated in several cases.

Board Chair Deb Zila said, “efficiency and money to the classroom is something we hear a lot about.” Lowering the classroom cap and reducing administrative roles is an ideal way to achieve those goals, she said.

“We are very, very cognizant of that and that is our goal to get that money to our students for their absolute achievement,” she said.