By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Daily News/Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/fIKJmP
4/26/2011 07:37:31 PM PDT - Less than two weeks after taking the helm of Los Angeles Unified, Superintendent John Deasy is adding six-figure positions to his reorganized management team - a move he says will help the district meet his ambitious performance goals.
The nine administrative jobs are being added even as the district faces a $408 million budget deficit and 5,000 teacher layoffs next year.
But Deasy said the shake-up will not drain the district's general fund - in fact, it will save $25,000 - because it also involves eliminating some jobs and reassigning current personnel.
"These positions have a net positive impact on the district's budget," Deasy said. "These leaders that I've hired will all be on performance contracts ... and they will be a key part of helping us reach our performance targets.
Those goals include doubling the percentage of students who can read at grade level in third grade and raising high school graduation rates from 54 to 70 percent over the next three years.
At least two of the new jobs will be funded through grants from the nonprofit Wasserman Foundation, Deasy said. Others will be paid for using state grants that fund intervention and after-school enrichment programs.
Five of the positions were approved by the school board Tuesday: Jaime Aquino as deputy superintendent of instruction with a salary of $250,000; Maria Casillas, chief of school, family and parent community services, $170,000; Donna Muncey, chief of intensive support and intervention, $171,312; Tom Waldman, director of communications and media relations, $139,080; and Matt Hill, chief strategy officer, $196,352
The four other posts - including director of talent management, teaching and leadership development - are expected to be submitted later this year.
Some union leaders expressed concern that the district is adding well-paid administrators while struggling with a $408 million deficit.
"These hires come at a time when more than 5,000 teachers and health and human services professionals have been (notified of potential layoffs) and when teachers are being asked to give up furlough days," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
Union leaders also expressed concern over the district's increased reliance on outside funding.
Since 2009, the district has accepted millions in grant funding from philanthropic organizations to pay for executive positions.
Grants have included at least $4.4 million from The Wasserman Foundation, founded by entertainment mogul Lew Wasserman, and at least $1.2 million from the Walton Foundation, started by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen.
Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has also paid for the salaries of key district staff and he contributed $775,000 for Deasy's transition work, including $500,000 for an audit to find budget efficiencies at LAUSD.
All of those foundation grants require that the money be used for specific reform efforts or specific positions and cannot be used to pay for teacher salaries or to close the district's deficit.
Critics of these fundraising efforts, though, are concerned about the district accepting money from foundations that have supported independent public charter schools and anti-union initiatives in the past.
"When any individual is hired, I believe the person that cuts their check has a major voice in their work," said Judy Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.
"When LAUSD hires someone, their loyalty is to the district, but I wonder if the funding for their salary is coming from Broad, their loyalty is to Broad?"
School board President Monica Garcia said LAUSD is seeking more involvement from members of the philanthropic, business and civic communities.
"I think it's fantastic that the philanthropic community now wants to be our partner. ... We are trying to build a district of multiple stakeholders and we're looking to create the best team in the country at LAUSD," Garcia said.
"Perhaps those that are concerned are the ones that used to have a stranglehold on this place."
School board member Richard Vladovic also stressed that, despite the grim budget picture, it was important for Deasy to develop the team that would help him move the district forward.
"The world goes on," Vladovic said.
"And we need to have the infrastructure in place to meet all the challenges that lie ahead."