Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leaving in Droves?

A commenter recently suggested we might look into how many KDE employees are bailing out of the department. "In droves," it was suggested. "The new commish's leadership style seems to be the issue. The word is that KDE staffers, school district finance officers, and superintendents are about to revolt due to a major lack of support."

Aside from the obvious fact that too few people have too much work, I wasn't sure what to attribute any defections to. Given the budget cuts of recent years, hearing that employees are leaving the department is a bit like hearing there's speeding at Indy. It may well be true that some people are leaving KDE because the workload is overwhelming to them. There’s a great deal of pressure to produce, under the mandates of Senate Bill 1.

The chart above strips out the faculty of Kentucky School for the Deaf and Kentucky School for the Blind, leaving Frankfort-based staff alone. It presents downward trend data since 1998.

KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross told KSN&C,

"What I’ve observed in the past four or five years is that our workforce has gotten smaller. The primary reason for this is budget cuts – in 2008, an executive order from the Governor mandated that the state workforce be reduced, and that was to be done through attrition. What that means is when there are positions open, sometimes we can fill them, sometimes not. All positions must be heavily justified."

In 2006 and 2007, there were a large number of retirements due to the impending elimination of a retirement provision. So it benefited those who could retire to do so before the benefit expired. With those retirements, KDE lost a lot of institutional knowledge, which means there aren’t people who can serve as mentors.

Because of the impact of the school year on the department, KDE tends to have clusters of staff who leave at the same time, some with similar lengths of work experience.

As of August 31, KDE had 550 full-time employees, with 325 of those based in Frankfort.

From July 1 to August 31:
  • 13 appointments to positions were made.
  • One person transferred to another position.
  • One person was promoted to another position.
  • 25 people left KDE.

Only two positions were scheduled for interviews during that time. Drawn from 233 applicants, 22 candidates are vying for the positions.

Another issue that affects our staffing is the use of MOAs – individuals who work on contract with KDE for a period of time, usually a year or two, and then return to their school districts. In the past, MOA workers sometimes had their contracts extended indefinitely, but because of increased focus on personnel by the Governor’s Office and the Personnel Cabinet, we’ve had to tighten up our protocols for MOAs. This has led to some short-timers – people who may only be here for a year, then they’re replaced by other contract workers. This may be what a lot of school officials are seeing as turnover and “flight.”

Gross is reminded of "the time when KERA was passed, and all of our positions were abolished, with new positions re-established the next day. There were many comings and goings during that time, and it took a while for the dust to settle."

Gross kept detailed information about internal hirings and separations and finds that the numbers of people leaving in 2007 and 2008 overall, were about twice as many as in 2009 and 2010 overall.

She remembers when she first began working at KDE in 1986 and the department had about 800 employees.

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