Metro Schools Begins Budget Analysis to Ensure Funding is Matched to Strategic Priorities

Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and the Metro Schools executive leadership team today announced the formation of an internal budget committee tasked with conducting a deep analysis of the district’s operating budget. In the first 100 day entry plan, Dr. Joseph included a thorough budget analysis as a key task. The process is aimed at looking for ways to align district spending with the administration’s new strategic priorities. 

The budget analysis will be led by Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson and his staff, with any changes to the current fiscal year’s budget proposed in time for a budget amendment before the Thanksgiving holidays. The work is also expected to lead to long-term changes in evaluating district initiatives for return on investment so future spending can be made based on data and measured for effectiveness.

“My first day in Metro Schools was also the first day of the fiscal year, and my team and I found ourselves in charge of a budget we didn’t design that was built around priorities we didn’t set,” said Dr. Joseph. “We have now been here for three full months, and we are starting to put our own programs and ideas into place. It’s time now to get our arms around some of the biggest line items in our current fiscal year budget and to decide if they are still part of our strategic vision or if that money needs to be realigned behind new ideas and priorities.”

Some of those new priorities for the district include stronger leadership development, professional learning to improve instruction, a widespread culture change and laying the foundation for execution of a new strategic plan. These were established by Dr. Joseph and his team based on experiences and observations since arriving in Nashville, as well as the vast amounts of input received from parents, employees and community members at the Listen and Learn sessions that took place this past summer. 

Looking to the future, Dr. Joseph plans to continue the city-wide conversation about priorities for public education in Nashville begun at the Listen and Learn sessions— particularly in regard to teacher and staff pay, as well as whether the current student-based budgeting formulas are properly resourcing schools and giving principals the tools they need to be successful.

The bulk of the budget analysis work will be done by an internal budget committee made up of employees from Metro Schools departments and Metro Government. Working with division and department heads, this committee will look at individual line items in the operating budget, large contracts already in place and evidence of effectiveness. The committee will meet with division chiefs and executive officers to thoroughly review their budgets and think about possible changes for the current year and next budget year. 

Changes will not affect individual school funding, nor will they affect student-based budgeting formulas for this year. 

Committee members come from the business, grants and research, assessment and evaluation offices. Representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Nashville Department of Finance will also participate. 

  • Brian Hull, Director of Resource Strategy
  • Glenda Gregory, Director of Budgeting and Financial Reporting
  • Gary Appenfelder, Director of Purchasing
  • John Henry Ford, Director of Financial Operations
  • Dr. Julie McCargar, Executive Director of Federal Programs and Grant Management
  • Dr. Merrie Clark, Director of Grants Development and Management
  • Clarissa Zellars, Director of School Improvement Strategy
  • Dr. Paul Changas, Executive Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation
  • Dr. Tina Stenson, Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation
  • Krista Davis, Program Evaluation Analyst
  • Jack Willis, Coordinator of Program Evaluation
  • Dr. Tony Majors, Executive Officer of Student Support Services
  • Laura Moore, Education Liaison for the Mayor’s Office
  • Metro Government Finance Staff

“The team Chris put together is comprised of the people with the most intimate knowledge of our budget and the people who know the most about our data and how to use it to evaluate programs,” said Dr. Joseph. “We need hands-on expertise in our finances and evaluation so we can make changes right away and do it correctly. The alternative is to wait a full budget year before making any changes, and that’s just not acceptable to me. We don’t have a dollar or a moment to waste.”

Dr. Joseph made the first move in adjusting district finances last week when he announced much greater scrutiny for all district travel, with allowances made only for travel that directly aligns to new district priorities, and will bring concrete improvements to serving Metro students and families.

Moving forward, the committee will develop processes and protocols for program evaluation that will lead to more data-driven budget decisions and greater communication with the Board of Education and community about successes and challenges. 

With Dr. Joseph’s transition team expected to turn in a final recommendation report this winter, the new strategic planning process will be underway in early 2017. This will help build the district’s budget request to the city in the spring.

A budget amendment that outlines new strategic planning for the current year is expected to come before the Board in November.