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Schools can do better with less money

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The Monitor took a closer look at Miami-Dade's transformation – and three examples of individual schools' approaches – to glean creative ways education leaders have been directing dollars in the hope of bringing out better results for kids.

While his colleagues cite Carvalho's methodical common sense, they also note that what he does is not common at all.

Out of seven superintendents that chief budget officer Judith Marte has worked for, Carvalho is the only one who has probed the budget line by line and vetoed hotel expenses for professional development or BlackBerrys for employees who didn't need them.

Chief financial officer Richard Hinds, who came out of retirement to work with the new superintendent, offers another anecdote: When Carvalho saw movers this summer clearing furniture out of a central-office space slated to become a new school, he canceled the $12,000 contract and rounded up school custodians, already on the payroll, to do the job.

Last fall, the budget team started at the top, eliminating about 350 positions in the central office (a 20 percent cut), including the seven with salaries over $200,000. More than half were reassigned to teaching jobs or other open positions.

By looking at average costs and best practices in other large districts, they found they could save millions on food and transportation and could cut dozens of assistant principal jobs. They froze hiring and all purchases of nonessential supplies. They trimmed overtime spending by more than $15 million.

Overall, the district cut 27 percent of central-office costs. Miami-Dade now spends less per pupil on those costs than any other school district in Florida, while before it ranked 27th, according to the district's analysis.

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