Written by Jessica Pilkins
There’s good news for Sarasota County schools. A report completed in March by MGT America, a consulting firm, found that the Sarasota County School District is one to be proud of. This thorough review judged the effectiveness and efficiency of the district as well as what could be changed to make it even better.
The report stated that while there is room for improvement, the district is well managed, student achievement is high and community support is strong. The final report included recommendations for a number of things that MGT believes could be improved upon and suggestions to help save the district money. The research began in November so that the report could be completed in time for the recommendations with fiscal impact to be considered in the budget for the 2012-13 school year.
MGT America reviewed the Sarasota County School District and its operations. This process included interviews with employees and a survey of teachers and administrators. There was also an online survey available for parents and other community members to give their opinions. MGT also requested and studied information regarding district operations. The outcome of their study was a 400-page report that listed 73 commendations of the county’s best practices and 73 recommendations. The 73 commendations were the best practices followed by the district and this number is significantly larger than what MGT typically sees. The consulting firm commended the district’s quality of planning and community support. MGT America was very impressed with Sarasota County schools and its practices. The report’s conclusion stated, “The Sarasota County School District is one of the best-run systems that MGT has reviewed. Morale and performance, including innovative practices, are unusually high in SCS. MGT typically finds 50 fewer commendations, while SCS garnered 73.”
Recommendations for improvement included such categories as district organization, human resources, financial management, food services, facilities, transportation, technology and educational services. Sixteen of the 73 recommendations were identified as having fiscal impact; these are the ones the district is taking the most interest in at the moment. The study recommended that the district create an internal audit function to identify areas that could lead to significant savings over time. Some other fiscal recommendations included reducing the inventory of portable classrooms, conducting a comprehensive salary review, reducing the number of days teacher aides work and eliminating a position in the Finance Department that would result in $49,000 in savings.
“In terms of dollars, about a third of the budget reductions the school board has agreed to for our next fiscal year came from this study,” explained Scott Ferguson, communications specialist for Sarasota County schools. “We considered all of MGT’s recommendations, but we’re not acting on all of them right now. Other recommendations that the school board has agreed to in principle for next year will need to be negotiated with the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association, the union that bargains on behalf of the district’s instructional and support staff.”
MGT America is a consulting firm that provides organizations and programs information on ways to improve their operations by analyzing current procedures and finances. The firm was contracted through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation on behalf of a funding group of more than 60 local businesses, organizations and individual citizens. The funders were led by the group Citizens for Academic Success and Excellence (CASE). CASE is made up of business people, parents and educators who are interested in supporting innovation, accountability and ownership in Sarasota County schools. To learn more about MGT America and their services, visit www.mgtamer.com. For more information on the MGT report and Sarasota County schools, visit www.SarasotaCountySchools.net.