Does the Garretson School District Have Too Many Administrators?

We would like to thank everyone who came to the opt out information meeting held on Monday, February 27th.  There were many good questions asked, and we are hopeful that many people found answers to their questions.  There are a few questions and answers that require further explanation, as we needed to do some research to parse out the facts that we didn’t have on hand that evening.  

At one point, there was a comparison of our school with the Baltic School District and the Alcester-Hudson School District.  As the question was asked, the patron said he recalled that in 2016, the Garretson School District student count was within two students of both Baltic and Alcester-Hudson, but both of those schools employed fewer administrators than the Garretson School District.  At best, those statements are misleading, and at worst, an effort to pass along misinformation as fact.  The earliest data that is available from the Department of Education’s Statistical Digest is from the 16-17 school year.   In that year, the Garretson School District had a student count of 463, K-12.  The Alcester-Hudson district had a count of 299.52 and the Baltic School District had a count of 498.  While the district profiles do not include the number of administrators in each district, they do contain information regarding the amount that each district paid out for administrative services (the cost for all administrators).  That year, the Garretson School District paid $341,880 out of the General Fund.  While the Alcester-Hudson district had 163.48 fewer students, they paid $427,185 for administrative services, $85,305 more than the Garretson School District!  In comparison with the Baltic School District, at that time, they had 35 more students than our school, but the administrative costs in that district in the General Fund were $375,471, or $33,591 more than the Garretson School District.  When comparing the three districts, the Garretson School District is the most cost effective, by far!  The following table illustrates the differences.  For comparison, I also included data from 21-22.

2016-2017 Administrative Cost Comparison
DistrictState Aid Fall EnrollmentGeneral Fund Administrative ServicesDifference 
Alcester-Hudson299.52427,185$85,305 More Than Garretson
Baltic498375,471$33,591 More than Garretson
2021-2022 Administrative Cost Comparison
Alcester-Hudson336.5$406,718$15,302 Less than Garretson
Baltic561$482,929$60,909 More than Garretson
Source: Department of Education’s Statistical Digest

We have looked at our administrative costs as a District, and compared our costs to the next 10 smaller districts in the state and the next 10 larger districts in the state.  We believe that this comparison is a more accurate look at how we compare, as we are comparing similarly sized districts.  The data comes from the SD DOE State Profile for the 2021-2022 school year, the most up to date information that the state has collected.  The average of administrative costs (*General Fund) for these 21 school districts closest in size to the Garretson School District in the 2021-2022 school year was $486,076.  The Garretson School District’s expenditure in this area was $422,020, or $64,056 below the average. 

District NameK-12 Enrollment Fall 2021General Fund Administrative ExpendituresGeneral Fund Fiscal ExpendituresTotal Admin and Fiscal CostsDeviation from average
Deubrook Area School District 05-6391$249,946$100,249$350,195($276,961)
Gregory School District 26-4404$322,029$95,415$417,444($209,712)
Clark School District 12-2447$329,346$100,556$429,902($197,254)
Ipswich Public School District 22-6418$418,413$35,084$453,497($173,658)
Britton-Hecla School District 45-4452$378,015$133,445$511,461($115,695)
Webster Area School District 18-5530$415,989$109,106$525,095($102,060)
McCook Central School District 43-7395$414,920$120,966$535,886($91,269)
Redfield School District 56-4547$457,781$83,404$541,185($85,971)
Hill City School District 51-2502$390,311$161,736$552,047($75,109)
Garretson School District 49-4462$422,020$146,557$568,577($58,579)
Deuel School District 19-4529$407,174$170,827$578,001($49,155)
Miller School District 29-4447$489,933$108,834$598,767($28,389)
Platte-Geddes School District 11-5499$494,511$113,055$607,566($19,589)
Parker School District 60-4476$467,821$158,860$626,681($475)
Parkston School District 33-3524$529,041$129,643$658,684$31,529
Bon Homme School District 04-2540$551,563$113,697$665,261$38,105
Elkton School District 05-3413$569,579$105,000$674,579$47,423
Chester Area School District 39-1542$501,608$249,021$750,628$123,473
Stanley County School District 57-1413$550,163$270,355$820,517$193,362
Bennett County School District 03-1500$852,638$255,769$1,108,406$481,251
McLaughlin School District 15-2414$994,794$201,095$1,195,889$568,733

Source: SD DOE State Profile for the 2021-2022

As a school administrator, I know that much of the work we do is behind-the-scenes, so unless a person has actually done the job, it’s difficult to know what administrators do.  In fact, if we’re doing our jobs well, everything runs smoothly and the general public never knows the preparation, planning and administrative efforts that led to that positive experience for our staff, students and our public.  To name a few of those unseen tasks, any one of us on the team have worked through crisis moments  with students, families and staff, whether it is mental health, behavior, physical health or trauma-related, those situations can, at times, literally be life threatening crises.   Principals spend time in the classrooms, observing teachers, providing feedback and building their relationship with the students in their care.  Every week, each of us on the team spend time planning and preparing for the various events that come up, whether it is an IEP meeting for a student with disabilities, students support teams meetings, public meetings, co-curricular events, inservice for staff, staff meetings, read across America week, or any other special event that helps students and staff to learn and grow.  Not only do administrators plan those events, but we are active participants while the events are happening. We also need to spend time in communicating with students, staff, parents and members of the community.  Without the time spent on communication, even the most well-laid plans will be unsuccessful.  We make a plan for each and every day, of tasks we intend to get done, only to have that list disrupted by any number of urgent matters that may take minutes or hours – a discipline issue, a family in crisis, school safety issues, a parent or community member who is upset, staff needs or any number of other items that need attention in the moment.  Sometimes that “in the moment” looks like an administrator holding an out of control first grader, who has tipped over tables, thrown chairs, and tried to attack his or her teacher, all the while being hit, kicked, and cursed at, then finally carrying the child to the office.  Sometimes, we even find our selves on the roof, standing in ankle-deep slush, shoveling a path to the roof drains because the slush is causing water to run in through the ventilation system and flooding the kitchen.  We seek out opportunities for the district in the form of grants, professional development and opportunities for our students that move us in the direction of our mission.  We work to keep the district in compliance with all of the rules, laws, policies and directives of our school board and those required by federal and state law (Title IX, Office of Civil Rights regulations, Special education, Budgeting requirements, HR requirements, State accreditation, ADA, Section 504, staff evaluations, State testing, student internet safety, privacy, personnel law, and the list goes on).   We do these tasks and a thousand others when they need doing, all the while working to keep all of the children and staff in our care safe and helping our students to grow not only academically, but also socially and personally, protecting them from distractions and keeping all of us focused on the mission and motto, Growing our Future Every Child, Every day.  All of the members of the administrative team understand that our day to day changes with the situation, and that is part of the reason we like the work.  It’s different every day, and every day, we have the opportunity to learn something new and influence (although sometimes indirectly) the lives of every child in our care. 

The facts speak for themselves.  The Garretson School District spending on administrative services not only appears to be in line with districts our size, but is actually less than the average for those districts.