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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Fiscal Year Brings Structural Change

by Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 35 - June 29, 1995

It's not easy downsizing. There are computer accounts and telephones to transfer; salary, wages, foundation, and overhead accounts to redistribute. There are coding changes for financial and personnel transactions, and signature cards to revalidate. There are offices to vacate, offices to clean, and addresses to update; letterhead, recruiting brochures, and other printed materials to change.

This spring, the College of Education got down to the business of consolidating four divisions into two departments, an interim structure that will give way in 1997 to a program-based structure, eliminating an entire administrative level. It is a restructuring move that will contribute substantially to the $1.6 million the College of Education must "pay back" to the university as part of its 20-percent budget cut.

"This is the real nuts and bolts of our restructuring," said interim Dean Wayne Worner. "It is one thing to propose a plan on paper, another thing entirely to set it in motion." Last January, just three months after the Board of Visitors voted to approve the restructuring plan, a team of nine College of Education staff members began to coordinate the transition. Primarily from the secretarial and fiscal staff, team members were long-time College of Education employees who know how the organization functions. Each had at least 10 years experience in the college.

Led by accountant Joy Thorn, the team met weekly to draw up plans, collect data, discuss logistics, and make sure that the smallest details did not escape attention. Certain aspects of the transition had to be set in motion before the rest could follow. The work was further complicated by timing. Each change had to coincide with the change in the fiscal year.

"I've been a fiscal technician and accountant with Tech for 26 years, " said Thorn, "and this is the most detail-oriented assignment I've had. Until you get into the actual paperwork you don't realize it's not cut and dried. We actually minimized the confusion by timing it to the start of the new fiscal year. We can, in effect, close the books on the old college and start fresh. It would have been impossible to do it at any other time. Still, there may be details that surface after the start of the fiscal year. We just won't know until they come up."

The team started its enormous task by setting up a day-long meeting with representatives of the university offices involved in the restructuring. A contact person was appointed in the Payroll and Personnel departments, the Budget and Controller's offices, the Virginia Tech Foundation, Purchasing, Property Control, Sponsored Programs, Communications Network Services, and Physical Plant. "This was a new experience for all of us. The university has been great to work with-they have bent over backwards to get us what we need," Thorn said. "Team members accomplished the fiscal restructuring in addition to their routine duties. We all worked very hard."

Part of the restructuring involved vacating 16 offices in Lane Hall, space now occupied by Arts and Sciences faculty members. To accommodate displaced Education faculty and staff members, the college gave up a conference room and a store room, combined secretaries' offices, and converted graduate-student offices. Thorn said it was difficult to arrange for moving, cleaning, storage, telephone transfers, and computer connections in a sequence that allowed people to continue to work.

As of July 1, the College of Education's original four divisions (Curriculum and Instruction, Vocational Technical Education, Administrative and Educational Services, and Health and Physical Education) no longer exist. They are replaced by two interim departments, one focusing on teaching and learning, the other on leadership development and policy studies. They are led by Jerry Niles and M. David Alexander, respectively.

This fall, the College of Education faculty, staff, and students will continue meeting in open forums to determine exactly how the new program-based structure will work. At a college-wide meeting in August, Worner will propose three variations of the structure for the College of Education to consider.