Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley doesn’t think she made a mistake when she eliminated the district’s chief academic officer job two years ago, but she says that position is needed again.
She recommended and the county school board has approved re-creating the spot and promoting Lisa Herring into it. It’s been just two years since McGinley cut the job because she thought the district’s administrative structure wasn’t working.
“There is a lot of work to be done in this 84-school district, and there’s work that I know Dr. Herring can do so that I can be more strategic in other areas,” McGinley said.
The job is significant because it’s the one McGinley held before becoming superintendent. The chief academic officer oversees the district’s academic initiatives, such as expanding early childhood education and implementing the Common Core Standards. Herring has been the district’s associate superintendent for academic and student support.
This isn’t the first time McGinley has made a decision, then later changed her mind. That has been more likely to occur after community outcry, which wasn’t a factor in this situation.
McGinley said she has been handling both jobs, superintendent and chief academic officer, since 2011, although the district has changed. It has grown by more than 2,000 students and has new, aggressive student-achievement goals that are part of Vision 2016, she said.
“I need more help in this area, and I’m going to use this next year as an opportunity to get back into schools at the rate that I previously had,” she said. “We need more leadership.”
Her visibility and accessibility to teachers fell this year to a five-year low, according to a survey of more than 1,000 teachers by the Charleston Teacher Alliance, a teacher advocacy group. Fifty-eight percent said she was visible and accessible, and 30 percent disagreed.
McGinley has a goal of being in 1,000 classrooms in 2013-14, and doing that means having someone who can be at the central office doing the work, she said.
She didn’t pick Herring for the job because McGinley wants to leave or tap a successor, she said. She is developing talent and giving employees opportunities to assume more responsibilities, she said.
Herring said she’s not looking beyond the chief academic officer position, and her focus is on doing the best she can in this new role. Part of her job will be to develop new initiatives and strategies for district-wide projects, and some of her proposals will be forthcoming, she said.
“That’s part of the responsibility of being willing to take on this position,” she said.
Herring received a nearly $16,000 pay hike and will make $140,000. She will be the fifth highest-paid employee in the district.
Having a new chief academic officer isn’t the only change McGinley made. The district will have a chief information officer who will oversee the district’s technology support systems. John McCarron, who has been the district’s executive director of information technology for five years, was promoted into that position. He got a $10,000 raise to $115,000.
The district will hire a chief performance officer to oversee the district’s assessment and evaluation efforts.
Struggling schools also will have more help. A new middle school learning community will be led by Paul Padron, who has been executive director of access and opportunity. And the four schools that are the focus of the nonprofit Charleston Promise Neighborhood will report to LaTisha Vaughn-Brandon, a former county principal who splits her work time between the district and nonprofit.
“These are schools that need more support and more resources and more growth, and in order to do that, we can’t just maintain the status quo,” McGinley said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.