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LA Unified makes new hires — despite an on-going hiring freeze

Vanessa Romo | December 3, 2014

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LA Unified's Ruth Perez

LA Unified’s Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Ruth Perez

While LA Unified officials yesterday dealt with the FBI probe into the district’s controversial iPad program, the school board approved a wave of new instructional hires and promotions despite an on-going hiring freeze.

The personnel changes continue a shake-up at the highest levels of the organizational chart that began when Superintendent Ramon Cortines arrived just over a month ago.

Justo Avila, Chief of Human Resources, described it as a “realignment” of the instructional and curriculum arm of the district under the leadership of Ruth Perez, who was also recently hired. Her post sat vacant for more than seven months, following the abrupt resignation of Jaime Aquino.

“[Perez] is organizing her staff in accordance with a plan she has to deliver better instruction to the kids,” Avila told LA School Report.

In all, the board approved six changes, doling out raises ranging from $4,700 to nearly $25,000 annually — this, despite the hiring freeze announced by Cortines at the end of October.

At the time Cortines wrote in a memo, “Although initiating a more stringent hiring freeze is not something that I wish to do, I feel that it is not only necessary but a prudent approach to an inevitable reality.”

He cited a “significant deficit” as the reason for the freeze, which was set to begin Dec 1 and continue through Jan 30.

But when asked if the recent hires conflict with Cortines’s edict, district spokesman Thomas Waldman said no.

“These are not new hires, which is what Mr. Cortines addressed in his statement about a hiring freeze,” Waldman said.

Why? Because, “Every person is an existing employee.”

Most of the staff “confirmed by the Board will be taking on added duties and responsibilities,” Waldman said. “Others received title and/or salary adjustments to reflect what others within LAUSD are earning with the same scope of responsibilities.”

Additionally, the memo issued by Cortines says that a new “certificated” position – which these all are – can be created with the approval of a “freeze committee.”  But, Waldman says that may not have been necessary in this case since the request for promotions was presented to the board last week, before the freeze kicked in.

George Bartleson was promoted to Chief of School Choice from his previous post as Director of Intensive Support and Intervention. It is a new position which requires Bartleson to oversee all of the district’s Public School Choice campuses, charters, pilots, and magnet schools. It also includes a whopping 18 percent raise, earning Bartleson nearly $160,000 a year.

Gerardo Loera, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, was bumped up to another new job: Chief Academic Officer. The district provided no specifics about what it entails, but Avila said, “It’s a position we used to have, then it went away, and now it’s back.”  Loera’s take home pay will go up by 7 percent with an annual salary of $164,500.

Linda del Cueto, is an employee whose title has been expanded — now Chief of Professional Learning and Leadership Development — and with it her responsibilities. She will supervise all professional development training for administrators as well as teachers, and she’ll be in charge of Talent Management. Del Cueto’s paycheck will also get a hefty injection of cash, increasing by 14 percent.

Similarly, Angel Barrett, who will be taking over Loera’s former position, will continue to handle grants as well as Instructional technology.

But, Waldman says, “No one will fill her old position.” However, Barrett will see a 3 percent pay bump.

Hilda Maldonado will continue in her role as Executive Director of Multilingual and Multicultural Education with a 4 percent increase.

All personnel changes went into effect today, and contracts run through June 2016. The board voted 5-2 on every appointment with board members Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff as the outliers. Both board members are closely aligned with UTLA, the teachers union, which is currently in contract negotiations with the district.

Over several months of talks, the district has not budged from its initial offer of a one-time 2 percent bonus, a 2 percent raise over the next two years, and a 2.5 percent increase in year three. The union is seeking a one-year increase of 10 percent.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA, criticized district leadership and the board for its timing. “In this environment, it is ridiculous that LAUSD is considering giving raises to higher-ups,” he told LA School Report.

He continued, “Ramon Cortines has acknowledged that class sizes in LAUSD are ridiculously high. John Deasy‘s corporate reform led to the MISIS crisis, which is requiring fix-up monies. The District sticks on a Deasy and antiquated 2 percent pay offer that doesn’t help recruit and retain educators.”

The two sides are scheduled to resume contract negotiations tomorrow.

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