The Jackson Public School District will be reorganized into four regions in an effort to streamline efficiency, according to district officials.

The “Area Superintendent’s Organizational Chart” was approved at an April 18 Board of Trustees meeting. It will divide the district into four regions based on existing feeder patterns beginning in the 2017-18 school year this fall.

The new structure calls for assistant superintendents to oversee each of those regions and report to interim superintendent Freddrick Murray.

Adding four new administrators will not compromise or negatively affect the district’s budget, district spokesperson Sherwin Johnson said. To make room, the positions of deputy superintendent and chief academic officer will be eliminated and other administrative positions will be evaluated, he said.

The deputy superintendent position is not currently filled, but there are four chief academic officers who will lose their jobs. Johnson said those officials can apply for the assistant superintendent position or other vacancies within the district.

“The positions are open to qualified applicants, both internally and externally,” he said.

Murray stepped in as interim superintendent in November, after former schools chief Cedrick Gray resigned in the wake of a Mississippi Department of Education audit which found multiple accreditation violations and an ‘F’ rating on the district’s 2015-2016 accountability ratings.

“When Dr. Murray first began his tenure as superintendent, he recognized that there were gaps in the organizational structure that hindered the District from working efficiently,” Johnson said in his email. “The purpose in examining the organizational structure was an effort to identify ways to provide the necessary support for schools.”

At the school board meeting, Murray told members the district used assistant superintendents several years ago. The job description for the position, provided by the district, states the assistant superintendent “is directly responsible to the Superintendent to evaluate, supervise, and coordinate the total program of activities related to schools in the Jackson Public School District.”

Board president Beneta Burt said the reorganization is “a way to manage more effectively and efficiently.”

“Ever since we’ve had the corrective action plan, clearly we’ve been looking at ways to operate in a more efficient kind of way,” she said.

Johnson added that the new organizational structure will help the state’s second-largest school district dedicate support staff to meet the specialized needs students in each feeder pattern.

“Many of our feeder patterns are larger than many individual school districts with populations larger than several towns and cities across the state of Mississippi,” he said. “With the new organizational structure, we are putting resources in place that will allow us to better track the progress of our scholars as they matriculate through the feeder patterns.”

Johnson said the reorganization “will not detract from our continued efforts to search for and hire qualified teachers.” Officials have acknowledged the district struggles to recruit and hire qualified educators.

Akemi Stout is president of the Jackson Federation of Teachers and Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel, a union that serves educators and non-administrative employees in Rankin, Hinds and Madison counties.

Stout noted the district has used a similar organizational model in the past, but that her primary concern was that the district make use of qualified teachers.

“Can I say that it was more efficient? Don’t know,” Stout said of the previous organizational structure. “Leadership plays a huge role regardless of how the district splits up. If we’re not able to retain qualified teachers, it doesn’t matter how the district is split up. Because the key to any of that is making sure we have qualified people that love to do what they do.”

Stout said that while decisions made in central office are important, what matters most is that teachers have adequate access to professional development, school supplies for their students and parent support.

Stout, who is also a JPS parent, said she thinks the changes can work if parents, teachers, administrators and superintendents do exactly what they’re supposed to do. Until then, she and other JPS stakeholders will “wait to see how it pans out.”

“All of this stuff that we’re fussing and fighting about is supposedly for the betterment of the students,” Stout asked. “Everything we do, is it for the students?”

Area one: Forest High High School, Cardozo Middle School, Siwell Academy of Leadership Preparation, Bates Elementary School, Oak Forest Elementary School, Timberlawn Elementary School, Van Winkle Elementary School, Woodville Heights Elementary School

Area two: Wingfield High School, Provine Career Development Center, Peeples Middle School, Whitten Preparatory Middle School, Hardy Academy of Career Exploration, Key Elementary School, Lester Elementary School, Marshall Elementary School, Sykes Elementary School, Wilkins Elementary School, Clausell Elementary School, French Elementary School, Lake Elementary School, Pecan Park Elementary School, Raines Elementary School, Capital City Alternative School

Area three: Lanier High School, Murrah High School, Brinkley Middle School, Bailey APAC Middle School, Chastain Middle School, Brown Elementary School, Dawson Elementary School, Galloway Elementary School, Johnson Elementary School, Smith Elementary School, Walton Elementary School, Boyd Elementary School, Casey Elementary School, McLeod Elementary School, McWillie Elementary School, Power APAC Elementary School, Spann Elementary School

Area four: Callaway High School, Jim Hill High School, Kirksey Middle School, Northwest Jackson IB Middle School, Powell Academy of Military Science, Blackburn Laboratory Middle School, Davis IB Elementary School, Green Elementary School, John Hopkins Elementary School, North Jackson Elementary School, Watkins Elementary School, Baker Elementary School, Barr Elementary School, George Elementary School, Isable Elementary School, Lee Elementary School

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.