Guest Opinion | Scott Phelps: The Size of Pasadena Unified’s Central Administrative Staff and How It Has Changed Over Last Few Years

Published : Wednesday, December 26, 2018 | 4:33 PM

One often hears criticism of the number of central administrative staff in the Pasadena Unified School District. I thought a review of the data might be in order.

In 2013-14, PUSD had 46 funded full-time central leadership positions. These included 1 superintendent, 3 chief officers (academics, business and human resources), 3 executive directors (special, elementary and secondary education), 11 directors (child welfare attendance and safety, college and career, student support programs, budget, maintenance and operations, procurement, food services, communications, human resources, personnel commission, and information and technology services), 18 coordinators (child development, curriculum instruction and professional development, health services, language acquisition and development (2), after-school programs, open enrollment and student records, magnet and special programs, special education (2), vocational education, arts, innovative programs, maintenance and operations, communications, telecommunications, beginning teacher support and IT operations), 3 program specialists (special education) and 7 teachers on special assignment (academics (2), elementary education (4) and energy efficiency).

In August of 2017, the board of education by unanimous formal resolution asked the superintendent to begin reducing central leadership staffing to align with declining enrollment in the PUSD because the approach of reducing staff only through attrition (retirements) had not lead to a decrease in staffing, as had been anticipated at the time of the settlement with the teachers union in the spring of 2016. In response, the superintendent and board approved a Fiscal Stabilization Plan in the spring of 2018 that reduced the level of staffing from 64 in 2017-18 to 56 in 2018-19. In 2018-19, PUSD has 56 funded full-time central leadership positions (covering similar duties as those listed above): 1 superintendent, 5 chief officers, 4 assistant superintendents, 12 directors, 16 coordinators and 18 teachers on special assignment.

During the 5 years from 13-14 to 18-19, 11 positions were eliminated and 21 were added for a net gain of 10 positions. The biggest change was that 10 new positions were added in 2017-2018 in special education following a board request that the superintendent improve those services. The superintendent added the additional staffing to better coordinate services and support special education teachers at school sites. Other significant changes were the establishment of a team of 4 curriculum coaches for math, science and English language arts and two technology coaches. Our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and our Chief Technology Officer and many others believe these coaches are essential for the implementation of curricula and the use of instructional technology by staff and students in the district.

Budget reductions just approved by the board in the fall of 2018 for the year that begins July 1, 2019 will reduce the total by another 12 full-time positions, back to below the level it was in 2013-2014. Five of these were from the 10 special education positions created in 2017-18 to better manage special education services.

Can further reductions be made?

One issue with making further reductions in the number of these positions is that not all of them would result in savings to the unrestricted fund that could be used for improving the budget situation (reducing deficit spending and building up a bigger reserve) or for sorely-needed salary raises for rank and file employees. We have over 11 positions—a chief of facilities, an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, a food services director, a college and careers coordinator, a Learns director, a coordinator of early childhood programs, a federal magnet grant coordinator, a wellness coordinator, two of the curriculum coaches, half of the coordinator of open enrollment and student records position and over half of the coordinator of student support programs position — that are all paid from restricted funds. Reducing those positions doesn’t help the budget at all, and the positions are all necessary for these programs to function.

Removing these 11 restricted funded positions from consideration leaves 33 centralized leadership positions funded by the unrestricted fund for the 2019-2020 school year. Five are special education staffing (coordinators or teachers on special assignment) created in 17-18 that are considered essential at the school sites and are really school site staffing. Four more are the 2 technology coaches and 2 of the curriculum coaches–in science and elementary English language arts–who are all providing direct services at the school sites.

That leaves 24. Who are these 24? One is of course the superintendent. Four are chief officers (academics, human resources, business and technology) who manage and supervise many staff and programs in their respective departments. Two are assistant superintendent level—(1) child welfare attendance and safety overseeing and including mental health, open enrollment, health programs and families in transition (homeless services) and (2) a new position, a school improvement officer overseeing schools and replacing the current two assistant superintendents. Seven are director level—(1) alternative and adult education who is also the principal of the Center for Independent Study adjacent to Pasadena HS, (2) special education, (3) health services, (4) language assessment and development (English language learner services), (5) budget, (6) telecommunications and (7) procurement. Five are central coordinator level—(1) special education, (2) English language learners, (3) child welfare and attendance, (4) Arts/GATE and (5) communications. That leaves 5 centralized coordinators and teacher on special assignment positions that are in special education that were already in existence in 13-14 that have many duties such as overseeing pre-school services, compliance issues districtwide, supervision of speech pathologists and psychologists, professional development and teacher support, assisted technology help for staff and parents, etc.

In summary, net reductions have been occurring over the last couple of years. The largest increase in such positions over the last 5 years has been in special education because the district has tried to improve services in this area, which is a very expensive area given (1) the large amounts of regulations that the law and state and federal governments place on school districts, (2) the fact that the level of services required by the law are increasing without any increased funding, (3) the parents’ and advocates’ desires for more children to be designated for services and for existing services to be increased, (4) the inflation in the costs of special education services charged by local agencies and licensed children’s institutions and (5) the exploitation of this law by lawyers who intentionally cause wasteful money to be spent on them through various unscrupulous tactics. Also, many staff are specially funded and cutting them wouldn’t help the budget. The district is a fairly large operation, and it takes people to manage and oversee the provision of all of these services. In my experience, families and advocates want all of the types of services managed by these positions and more, and when advocacy for services occurs, the staffing for and cost of providing those services increases.

Scott Phelps is a member of the Pasadena Board of Education. He is the elected representative for District 7 on the Board.







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