Non-teaching ranks swell despite enrollment

David Waterhouse sits in the history office second period, flipping through the pages of a 1981 Harvard high school yearbook.

“Here’s physical education,” he says, running a long finger across a page that contains pictures of several smiling coaches at their desks, including a young Lew Roberts, now a P.E. teacher at the Middle School. “The entire department was basically six guys.”

When Waterhouse, a history teacher, started at the school in March of that year, teachers vastly outnumbered non-teachers. There was only one person who dealt with college placement, one director of admissions and one development director. Today there are 12 people in the Advancement Office alone, which has its own building at the Middle School, while over the same period of time, the history department has only grown from nine to 11.

In the years since Harvard and Westlake schools merged, the school has increased the number of employees on the payroll by 66, and the majority of growth has been non-teachers in areas that benefit students only indirectly, such as security or computer services.

However, the growth may soon be at an end. Administrators from Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin to Head of Computer Services David Ruben are now taking a critical look at the positions held by many non-teachers.

“We don’t say, ‘Hey, let’s have a school so we can do some great accounting, or have the best HR and Faculty Support department,’” Levin said. “That’s not why schools exist.”

A major concern raised by the swelling ranks is the effect of all the new people on tuition growth. The amount families pay to attend the school has been steadily growing at a rate of four percent above inflation since the mid-1980s, Levin said. Recent efforts to build a large endowment may help slow tuition growth somewhat, but Levin believes it will be hard to bring it down appreciably without also trying to cap total employment.

“We’re trying to say, whatever we’re going to do, by gosh, we’re going to do it with roughly the 325 people we have,” Levin said.

The reasons for the rapid growth are varied. In certain areas, the growth reflects the school’s growing ambitions. The large advancement staff has helped the school become the first day school in the country to top $5 million in annual giving, Levin said.

In other areas, there is a perception that employee growth comes out of necessity. When there were only 60 computers on both campuses, it was easy for one man to handle all of Computer Services and still teach science classes, Ruben said. As the technology needed to run a school became much more sophisticated after the merger in 1992, however, the size of the Computer Services department increased dramatically, and now employs 12 people.

Many of the new employees were hired to run key services, such as e-mail, the powerful administrative tool Didax and other software developments, entirely in-house, something that sets the school apart from its local rivals.

But the department, like the rest of the school, is now engaged in efforts to keep employment from growing, Ruben said.

One labor-saving measure the department has enacted is to standardize all of the laptop and desktop computers on campus to streamline repairs.

“Personally, I just kind of feel like 12 people is a lot of people at a school, even for 1,600 kids,” Ruben said.  “It’s actually not a lot of people for what we do. Nevertheless, for every person that we hire in our department, theoretically tuition has to go up, but we haven’t added to teaching head count.”
Growth in Computer Services in light of new technology is paralleled by changes in the business office to reflect an increasingly complex legal framework.

New laws passed in the 1990s have mandated, among other things, hours of sexual harassment training for employees and more stringent safety standards.

Positions have also been added in personnel as the school started offering more benefits to attract better teachers, Head of Personnel Marty Greco said, although many of the changes occurred before the merger.

The 11-member business office also handles the school’s workers’ compensation and health insurance rather than send it to an outside company.

“Comparable to what we’re actually doing, we’re running thin,” Levin said. “In a lot of these areas you think, ‘What do they need all these people for?’ Then you figure out what they’re actually doing and you go, ‘Wow, they really could use some people.’”

The advent of global terrorism and a renewed national emphasis on security since 2001 likewise changed the way the school looks at security. Though only two security personnel at the Upper School are employed directly, contracting with the outside company CJL on both campuses brings security costs to nearly $1 million annually, Levin said.

“The more horrible stuff is on TV, the more people feel at risk, and the more the prevailing standard is you need to have all these security people,” Levin said. “We’re here to respond to what our families want. So, we used to have nothing and now we have quite a good program.”

The expectations of teachers have also changed over the years. In the 1980s, teachers were asked what sports they knew how to coach when they interviewed for a position, History Dept. Chair Katherine Holmes-Chuba said, and teachers who didn’t coach a sport were expected to head a club like Model UN.

As competitive high school sports made the transition from an informal extracurricular to a highly competitive venue for students to get into college, however, it became impossible for classroom teachers to handle a team schedule.

But even within athletics, there has been much more specialization. Twenty-five years ago, the athletic director was also the football coach and the golf coach. Today, there are four athletic directors and at least one professional coach for each sport.

Head Varsity Basketball Coach Greg Hilliard was hired in 1985 to replace history teacher Waterhouse after a 1-23 season. When he first came to the school, Hilliard also taught eight classes of physical education, swept and painted the gym and coached JV basketball.

“I can’t even imagine doing that now,” he said. “I have four assistants at the varsity level. All of them have roles that keep them busy all season long.”

Many other jobs that coaches once handled themselves have also been handed over to trained professionals due to changing expectations, Hilliard said. Before the two full-time trainers were hired, Hilliard also bandaged students’ legs when they were injured. In the past, coaches also conducted all of their own interviews with the media, something that is largely handled today by Terry Barnum, Athletic Director in charge of communications.

“I’m not qualified to do all that, because I’m not an expert in all those things,” Hilliard said. “They said, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if somebody who knows how to put up a backboard [in the gym] put up the backboard? What if it fell on someone and a kid got hurt?’”

Though growth has been the general trend, some jobs have recently been eliminated. When Betty Van Patten retired as Bookstore Director in December, existing employees took on her responsibilities, and the school only hired a temporary replacement for Coordinator of Student Programs Nairy Simonyan after she left the school last month.

And despite its high employment, the school prides itself on the number of administrators who teach, such as Levin, who teaches one section of AP Economics.

“The number of personnel involved in teaching far exceeds the number of personnel who are not,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said. “We run really leanly here, especially compared to public school.”

But in addition to rising tuition, another issue with rising total employment is it can cause some of the school’s resources to be siphoned away from academics in order to meet the needs of extra staff who rarely interact with students.

“First you hire folks to support the teachers,” Levin said. “Then, however, you realize that you must also provide benefits, support, counseling, etc. to all of the new supporters! We are aware of this peril.”
Ultimately, the school takes its goal of slowing tuition growth very seriously, Huybrechts said, and that means keeping budget increases to a minimum. Since 1997, about 83 percent of tuition revenues, minus financial aid discounts, has gone to paying salaries and benefits, Levin said.

“We have to figure out ways to do things more efficiently,” Huybrechts said. “That means making do with what we’ve got in terms of personnel.”