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LAUSD Officials Hired at Top Dollar Despite Deficit

Board clears the ways for a handful of six-figure hires

By Yvonne Beltzer
|  Tuesday, May 10, 2011  |  Updated 11:58 AM PDT
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LAUSD Officials Hired at Top Dollar Despite Deficit

LAUSD

John Deasy

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LA's top schools official is hiring nine new administrators -- each with a six-figure salary -- despite a $408 million deficit at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The LA School Board approved five appointments put foward by John Deasy, the new superintendent, at a closed-door hearing this week. Other positions have not yet been filled.

Word of the hires comes roughly a month after "reduction in staff" letters, commonly known as RIFs or pink skips, went out to 5,000 of the district's teachers.

The new hires will not drain the district's general fund because some of the positions will be paid for by grants from philanthropic organizations, Deasy told the school board.

About 20 senior jobs in the Deasy administration will be paid for by outside foundations such as those run by Eli Broad and Casey Wasserman.

But several of the unions that represent district employees are concerned that the district is accepting money from organizations that have supported independent public charter schools and anti-union initiatives in the past.

Connie Moreno, the labor representative of the district's classified employees, told NBC LA that she believes the new hires are part of a move "to give more LAUSD schools to charter organizations, despite recent failures of some of the inner city charters."

Judy Perez. who heads Associated Administrators of Los Angeles representing principals and mid-level administrators questioned where the loyalties of the new administrators lie.

Perez told NBC LA that her association has reached a tentative settlement with the school district in which members agreed to a 12 percent pay cut to save jobs of assistant principals, principals and other policy makers.

"It is of great concern to see senior staff hired at such high salaries when our members are sacrificing so much on behalf of the district," she said.

A.J Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, called the new hires "disconcerting."

The funding being used to pay for those positions could be far better spent "on lowering class sizes, a reform that has proven its merit over the last 10 years, and bringing back classroom teachers and other school site personnel who work directly with students every day," Duffy said.

The highest paid new administrator will be Jaime Aquino, the deputy superintendent of instruction, who will draw a $250,000 salary.

Another outside hire is Maria Casillas, who runs the non-profit "Families in Schools." She will be paid $170,000 as Deasy's top parent and community liaison.

Judy Elliott, who was the district's chief academic officer under former Superintendent Ramon Cortines, will now report to Deasy and net a $50,000 raise from her previous $200,000 salary.

Deasy also hired Tommy Chang, a former charter school administrator, to serve as his deputy chief of staff.

Moreno sees this as a sign the district wants to turn more high schools into charter schools adding, "LAUSD is jettisoning schools that are difficult to finance."

"The high schools are a big drain on the district," she said.

She noted she visits schools around the district and has found many are operating with skeletal staffs or are using school aides to fill unfilled office positions.

At least 20,000 classified school employees have lost their jobs statewide in the past three years, according to the California School Employees Association.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed strong backing for Deasy's hires, saying the superintendent has his confidence and full support.

School Board President Monica Garcia called for even more funding from outside philanthropic, business and civic organizations.

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