Tight Budgets Put Some Superintendents on Part-Time Status by Christina A. Samuels

Superintendent Tim Foist made a pitch to his school board earlier this school year to reduce administrative costs—starting with himself.

Mr. Foist is the superintendent of the 1,200-student Mingus Union High School District in Cottonwood, Ariz., a single-school district 100 miles north of Phoenix. He argued that it makes financial sense for the district to make him a part-time superintendent, paying him for 145 days of work instead of 260.

It’s an arrangement that seems to be making sense to a growing number of other school districts as well.

As budgets grow tighter, districts that have always had their own top administrators are considering new leadership structures, including creating part-time superintendent positions, sharing superintendents with neighboring jurisdictions, and consolidating roles, such as having a superintendent also serve as a principal. These primarily small and rural districts hope to keep their identities and avoid consolidation while still realizing some savings.

In the Mingus Union district, the change will reduce Mr. Foist’s salary to $68,000 a year, from $98,000, starting in the 2012-13 school year. Mr. Foist, who had previous stints as a superintendent in Arizona’s 2,000-student Holbrook and 3,000-student Yuma Union High School districts, also receives a pension because he had retired before taking the job at Mingus four years ago.

Mr. Foist said that shifting to part-time status will save the district enough to stave off cuts to arts and music programs in its budget, which totaled about $6.8 million in fiscal 2012. “What I’m trying to do is allow people to see that in some small districts, if they’re managed properly, this can work,” he said.

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