How Norwalk schools will revamp communications department

Photo of Emily Morgan
Under the new structure, the communications department for Norwalk Public Schools will report to the Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity and Inclusion Thomas McBryde Jr.

Under the new structure, the communications department for Norwalk Public Schools will report to the Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity and Inclusion Thomas McBryde Jr.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

NORWALK — Following a recent efficiency study, the Board of Education was presented plans that included title changes, salary reductions and new responsibilities for the school district’s communications department.

The board voted last week to approve a first round of recommendations made in the study conducted by Evergreen Solutions LLC. The recommendations focus on school administration and management, which included revising the structure of the communications department, improving the handling of Freedom of Information Act requests and developing a comprehensive administrative regulations manual.

Superintendent Alexandra Estrella said the district is already working to improve its response to FOIA requests and is working with Evergreen Solutions to identify consultants who can help to develop the administrative regulations manual. The goal for the manual is to help administration members better understand the policies and regulations of the district.

The recommendation for the communications department is to eliminate three positions — chief of staff and communications, communications manager and executive assistant — and reorganize the communication function under the Deputy Superintendent for Excellence, Equity and Innovation.

“A review of job descriptions and interviews indicates redundancies (functional similarities) between the positions” of the deputy superintendent and the chief of staff and communications, according to the study. Since the deputy already provides day-to-day leadership for the district, the study found the deputy “is in the unique position to speak and act on behalf of the superintendent.”

Evergreen Solutions recommended the district create a director of communications position along with two other communications specialists beneath the director. The reorganization would allow the department, under the deputy superintendent, “to focus on the priorities of the district and address the digital and social media needs” for the schools.

Under the proposed organizational structure, the director of communications would oversee a digital communications specialist and a specialist yet to be defined. In her presentation to the board on April 26, Estrella mistakenly presented the proposal organizational chart for the city’s communications department.

The superintendent expects to present the results of the audit to the board this month when they will have the opportunity “to see, critique and further engage with those findings.” The audit and board input will help the district better define the roles, which would be posted shortly after the May regular board meeting.

“Same amount of people, different titles, different salary and different responsibilities,” said Estrella, who added current employees would need to reapply for the new roles. “The efficiency study is making the recommendation to adjust to the times. Also, we’ll build efficiencies by reducing costs.”

The efficiency study estimated a savings of almost $150,000 if the district reorganized its communications function.

The starting salaries for each of the new roles was not discussed during the meeting, but Evergreen suggested a $150,000 salary for the communications director. The current salary for the chief of staff and communications is $218,000.

Under the current organization, the chief of staff and communications reports directly to the superintendent of schools. The chief works with a communications assistant and reporting to the chief is a communications manager and a digital communications specialist, although the latter position has been vacant.

The board plans to discuss the other recommendations made in the efficiency study regarding finance management, school operations, human resources, information technology, and educational operating efficiency at its board retreat in August.