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School district plan deserves a chance

Medford's new schools superintendent is making his presence known in dramatic fashion seven months after taking the job. Brian Shumate's reshuffling of his administrative cabinet, he says, is necessary to improve efficiency and to reach his goal of an 80 percent graduation rate by 2017. We think the potential for a significant benefit is worth the investment.

The School Board unanimously approved the reorganization Tuesday night, but put off until later this month a decision on his proposed new salary schedule.

The new structure creates three new positions — chief academic officer, chief operations officer and director of athletics, staff and student safety. It eliminates the existing positions of chief financial officer and supervisor of curriculum and assessment. Three positions would be modified: director of secondary student achievement, director of elementary student achievement and director of special education. Those three would report to the new chief academic officer.

Shumate appears to have created a more hierarchical structure, with the two top administrators reporting to him — and able "to run the district if I get hit by a bus," in his words.

The School Board earlier budgeted $300,000 in additional funding to allow Shumate to implement his vision for the district, and he says the salary schedule he has proposed for the new administrative structure will fall within that amount.

The salaries will likely get most of the attention from district patrons who are critical of professional salaries for public employees, but the money is really a secondary issue to the future of Medford's public schools. It's a tiny fraction of the district's $113 million budget, and core administrators are not overpaid for the responsibility of managing a district with nearly 14,000 students and 1,000 employees.

Shumate says he wants the district to achieve an 80 percent graduation rate by 2017. That would be an increase of 13 percentage points in two years — an ambitious goal to say the least. Achieving it will require a relentless focus on keeping students in class.

The superintendent is fond of saying he wants to give every student a reason to come to school every day. If his new management structure will help accomplish that, it's worth implementing and keeping.

As School Board Chairman Jeff Thomas said, the board hired Shumate to make changes, and needs to support him if they expect to hold him accountable for the outcomes. We trust the board will do that.