Employees Use Baldrige to Cut Red Tape

Several central offices of the Long Beach Unified School District are reducing paperwork and improving their service after months of intensive problem solving. The departments, including Human Resource Services, the Personnel Commission, Payroll and others have followed the rigorous Malcolm Baldrige continual improvement process used by companies recognized for superb customer service. With advice from The Boeing Co., and training funded by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, the district aims to serve its 96 schools and 97,000 students better and to improve achievement. Philanthropist-businessman Eli Broad established a foundation to help improve education in urban districts. "I can imagine no more important contribution to the nation's future than a long-term commitment to improving urban K-12 public schools," Broad said. Recent improvements in the LBUSD include better recruitment and processing of new employees. HRS last year received 6,853 job applications, up 88 percent over the previous year thanks to intensified recruitment and better use of technology. HRS revamped its website, which received more than 250,000 hits last year. In the district's quest to place a quality teacher in every classroom, HRS also has created semi-paperless, streamlined applications. Many job candidates now apply on-line. Their information goes directly into a data file. Traditional paper applications are scanned electronically for quick computer access later on. The Baldrige system helps keep meetings focused on common goals. Participants diagram current processes in detail, analyze customer and employee satisfaction through surveys and other means, and find ways to eliminate unnecessary steps. The system encourages interdepartmental teams, consisting of representatives from various offices who work together to solve problems. One team that included representatives from Budget, the Personnel Commission, HRS, Payroll and schools helped solve the long-standing challenge of maintaining a reliable pool of special education instructional aides. The team decided that a representative from the Special Education Office would work regularly at the Personnel Commission office, interviewing candidates and administering their screening tests, often in the same day. "Same-day processing was almost unthinkable a year ago," said Ramon Curiel, personnel administrator. "Back then, the school district often had 20 or 30 classes at a time that needed a special education assistant. Today, all the positions are filled." An interdepartmental team also tackled and solved a chronic payroll problem that had caused 500 employees to go unpaid for some hourly service for more than a year. The Baldrige effort in Long Beach started nearly two years ago and has grown to include Business Services, Special Education and International Student Registration. "The more efficient and streamlined our school system becomes, the more our students will reach high standards," said Superintendent Carl A. Cohn. "Baldrige helps us to do that. I'm proud that our employees, The Boeing Company and the Broad Foundation are working together to make this happen." As part of the Baldrige effort, the school district has tapped the expertise of executives at Boeing, a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winner. The award was created by Congress and named for Malcolm Baldrige, 1981-87 U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Organizations become eligible for the award only after extensive self-review and improvement. Only those with the finest customer service and steadily improving quality are considered for the award.