In Partnership with 74

115 administrators are reassigned, but LAUSD may not see much decrease in staffing levels next year

Mike Szymanski | June 5, 2017

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Superintendent Michelle King. (Courtesy LAUSD)

Of the 1,600 LA Unified administrators who were notified in March that they may lose their jobs, only 115 have been told their contracts will not be renewed, but all of them are being offered other positions in the district.

That could mean only a slight decrease in administration staffing levels next year despite a continuing loss of student enrollment. The district is waiting to iron out the budget and find out what the state funding will be, then other layoffs may be made by July 1.

Superintendent Michelle King has said decentralizing bureaucracy and right-sizing the district are priorities, so she said in February that she had to give administrators Reduction in Force, or RIF, notices in March. According to their contracts, most of the administrators will have a right to take a reassigned job, possibly a teaching position and at a reduced salary, somewhere else in the district.

King said she has been planning an administrative realignment since she took over the district’s leadership a year and a half ago.

“Staffing is not in alignment with enrollment,” King said at a meeting in February. “It is important to know we have got to make hard choices and decisions now in order to protect our fiscal stability in the future.”

King cited a report by an Independent Financial Review Panel as the reason for the administrative cuts. The panel stated that the district lost 100,000 students in six years but did not reduce administrative staff accordingly. “The district’s loss of 100,000 students would indicate that the district staff would need to be reduced by about 10,000 staff, including administrators, classified and certificated personnel, for a savings of about $500 million per year,” the report stated.

“Declining enrollment directly impacts our revenue,” King said in February. “It is important to note we must be fiscally responsible and the district is moving forward with the school site in the classroom as the priority.”

In fact, the number of administrators has grown. Some members of the school board were surprised last year to learn that over the same six years of the enrollment decline cited in the panel’s report, administrative positions increased 22 percent. In the district’s own Fingertip Facts that shows their latest official numbers, LA Unified shows an increase of administrator jobs from 2,456 in 2015-2016 to 2,501 in 2016-2017.

“At this time, 115 administrators have been released from their assignments,” the district communications office said in an email in response to a request for an update on the RIF notices. “They will be reassigned in 2017-18 to other positions to which they have return rights. If necessary, any layoffs would take place after June 30.”

The district is waiting to solidify a budget and see what money is coming from the state before deciding how many layoffs are needed, the district said. Last year, King sent out 1,700 similar RIF notices but no layoffs were made.

Without much comment, the school board approved the notices in February with board member Mónica García saying only: “Regretfully, consent.”

Principals, deans, counselors and assistant principals on school sites were not included in the March round of notices. It included “all non-school-based certificated administrators, confidential employees, and supervisory employees” and could also have included high-level certificated positions in the offices of general counsel, the financial officer, human resources, information officer, police department, facilities program, inspector general, and superintendent’s office. It is possible that those with expiring contracts may not have their contracts renewed, and those who are on probation may not be hired.

Last fall, King asked each of her departments at the Beaudry headquarters of the school district to show what it would look like if each department cut its budget by 30 percent.

Former school board member David Tokofsky, of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, told the school board in February that the notices to the administrators should be narrow in scope to avoid costly repercussions.

“A cut of 30 percent is demoralizing, and decentralizing will be more costly than judicious reorganizing,” Tokofsky said.

King said the idea is to “de-layer and decentralize” the administration and added, “We are focused and united on what we need to do to understand these complex dynamics and protect the classroom. That requires us to make some difficult decisions, and I am confident that collaboratively we can do that.”

Outgoing school board member Mónica Ratliff expressed concern at the February meeting that the upcoming budget from the state will be less money from the district.

“Getting less money will hurt the classroom and the district,” Ratliff said. “We can’t expect Michele King to do a miracle.”

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