School Board Oks ‘Achievement’ Administrator

Budget woes complicate effort to hire person to boost student test scores

Payson Unified School District Office

Payson Unified School District Office Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The financially-pressed Payson School Board on Monday voted to add a director of student achievement to the staff, with a potential salary of $88,000.

Superintendent Ron Hitchcock recommended the extra administrator to help the district boost test scores in response to state and federal mandates that link those scores to both school funding and teacher job security.

“Somebody has to specifically own that (student achievement) process,” Hitchcock told the board members.

“This is a person that is going to be in charge of the principals,” said board member Shirley Dye. “We really need a person who can really coordinate ... to be consistent districtwide.”

“This is different from a curriculum director who was under the superintendent,” said James Quinlan. “We can go back directly and hold them accountable to answer to Ron and us.”

In the audience, Payson High School Principal Anna Van Zile had concerns about the new position.

“We need an assistant principal,” she said. “I put my faith in the board when I pitched it as a one-year deal.”

Last year, Van Zile proposed not filling the vice principal position to instead hire and athletic/activities director (AD). However, she warned the board she could only continue the double workload for a year.

Last May, Van Zile said she couldn’t meet looming state-mandated administrative duties without a vice principal. However, she lobbied hard for an AD to adequately support the athletic and activities program.

The AD spends a lot of time collecting grade data to determine if students are eligible to participate in games or performances as well as building community support, since donations support the sports and extracurricular activities.

The district faces continued financial problems due to falling enrollment and the likely loss of federal payments to compensate for the lack of private, property-tax-paying land in the district. The state has also added many new requirements without much new funding, which will make it hard to find money for additional administrators.

Afterward, Hitchcock said, “if you’re going to post the assistant vice principal position, we’re going to have to do away with ABC,” he said. “I’m not going to ask for more money ... (but) my assumption is yes, we will have an assistant vice principal at the high school.”

Hitchcock has told the board and public that he will approach the budget differently this year. He will prioritize spending instead of automatically funding everything at the same level.

Board president Barbara Underwood said the board will be intimately involved with this process. “He’s going to come back to us after making his recommendations and ask us, “Class sizes for K-2 — would you like to see them smaller? Is that a priority?’” said Underwood. The board will base funding decisions on the goals it has adopted, she said.

Hitchcock said he would focus on keeping staff.

“We intend to offer employment to everybody who wants to come back,” he said.

The district has had to resort to layoffs repeatedly to balance its budget.

Hitchcock said he envisions cutting things, not people. He also hopes to find grants and other supplemental funding.

Hitchcock said the board would have a “Budget 101” work session on April 6 run by district business manager Kathie Manning to learn about the budget and create the priorities.

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