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39 positions cut at state department of education

39 positions cut at state department of education
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MONTGOMERY — There are 39 fewer positions in the Alabama State Department of Education and a few employees are making less money.

The changes have been months in the making. Information about how much money will be saved wasn’t available Thursday from ALSDE staff.

The Alabama State Board of Education also moved Thursday to rescind a previous resolution that allowed the state superintendent to hire employees without the board’s approval. That resolution was a violation of state law, interim State Superintendent Ed Richardson said.

“The fact that that (law) was not followed by previous administrations – that created somewhat of a problem,” Richardson said about the staffing situation that caught the eye of some lawmakers.

“There was a real concern about the number of additional hires made in both the (Tommy) Bice and (Michael) Sentence eras, along with greatly enhanced compensation,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said Thursday about previous superintendents’ tenures. He’s chairman of the Senate education budget committee.

There are now 437 employees in the department. Some of the 39 eliminated positions were vacant, Richardson said.

“Some of those people have retired and left because of these changes, there were a couple (positions) that were not filled that we just wiped off the list,” Richardson said.

When the reorganization process started last fall, the department had 43 at-will employees whose employment fell outside the state’s normal salary structure.

“The standard for agencies our size was about five,” Richardson said. Now, there are 10.

Some were earning up to $35,000 more per year than the state salary structure recommended, Richardson said.

“We had to get them back in line,” he said.

Richardson said the changes shouldn’t have a noticeable impact on classrooms. But the reorganization should make the department more efficient.

“What you’re going to have, hopefully, a more service-oriented department that provides more targeted and accurate information. One of the criticisms we’ve had is that you called up here and asked two people (the same question), you got two different answers.”

Making the staffing changes now means the new state superintendent won’t have to address the issue. The board is expected today to select three finalists for the job to be interviewed April 20. A board vote is expected the same day.

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