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More Job Cuts, Demotions Ordered in Ailing District : Education: Some employees call the state-appointed administrator's actions racist. A 10.5% salary reduction for teachers is also proposed.

August 12, 1993|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COMPTON — The shake-up in the Compton school district continued this week as a state-appointed administrator ordered 38 more layoffs, demoted several administrators, and proposed a 10.5% salary cut for teachers.

The actions at Tuesday's board meeting fueled charges of racism and confrontations involving residents, a board member and a state legislator.

The layoffs and demotions are the latest austerity measures imposed by interim State Administrator Stanley G. Oswalt. The Compton Unified School District needs to cut about $8 million to balance its $91.2-million budget, officials said. The district was placed under the control of a state-appointed administrator after accepting a $10.5-million emergency state loan.

All five financial managers and 33 instructional assistants will lose their jobs. Financial managers audited and managed school accounts such as student council funds. Those responsibilities will now fall to school principals.

The instructional assistants were part-time employees who assisted teachers. All instructional assistants will be eliminated from the middle and high schools except for those helping disabled students and limited-English speakers. Elementary school instructional aides are not affected, officials said.

Several employees and residents said the layoffs are racist because most of the employees who will lose their jobs are African-Americans. Critics also complained about the retention of teachers' aides who could speak Spanish. They said that Latino students are getting preferential treatment over African-Americans.

"Black children don't count," charged Maggie Trimble, whose grandchild attends a Compton school. "We don't never get justice."

Oswalt said that bilingual aides must be kept if possible because 38% of district students speak limited English, and the district's bilingual program is out of compliance with state law. If the program does not improve, the district could lose $28 million in funding, he said. African-American aides will be kept if they are bilingual, officials said.

Oswalt has proposed increasing the annual bonus paid to state-certified bilingual teachers from $1,000 to $2,750.

Such stipends must be negotiated with the teachers union, which was fuming over another element of Oswalt's proposal: a 10.5% pay cut for teachers that would take effect on Feb. 1, 1994.

"Teacher salaries in Compton are just below the county average already," said Margie Garrett, president of the teachers union. "To recruit and retain quality teachers, we must pay a comparable salary. I don't want any pay cuts, period. We didn't cause this mess."

A similar pay cut is also on the table for non-teaching employees. Ahrien Johnson, president of the union for non-teaching employees, said they have already suffered the brunt of layoffs and shortened work hours and should not be asked to accept a lower pay scale as well. Because of reduced working hours, some of these employees, who are typically among the lower paid in the district, will be looking at pay cuts of 25% to 40%, Johnson said.

Oswalt has already imposed a 7% pay cut on administrators, but numerous officials received more bad news Tuesday.

Deputy Supt. Thelma Moore, formerly the No. 2 administrator in the district, will be demoted director of alternative education and special projects. Moore will oversee the adult school, vocational education and such alternative programs as classes for pregnant teen-agers.

Teachers union leaders praised Moore and requested her reinstatement. Moore was promoted to the No. 2 district job only eight months ago after an earlier administrative shake-up.

Longtime administrator Naomi Ferns was demoted from central office administrator to kindergarten teacher, which upset a number of Ferns' friends and colleagues, who pleaded for Oswalt to reconsider.

In addition, Oswalt removed Asst. Supt. Clarence Hampton and Asst. Director Versie Burns, the two administrators who managed the personnel department. They have not yet been reassigned. Although Oswalt generally declined to comment on staff changes, he said that the personnel department was poorly run.

Oswalt also filled the two vacant principal positions at district high schools. Fred Easter will move down from assistant superintendent to the top job at Dominguez High School. Jesse Jones will move up from middle school principal to principal of Centennial High School.

In several cases, Oswalt kept administrators in the same position but changed their job titles so that he could cut their pay.

Oswalt characterized the moves as painful but necessary. In a prepared statement, he focused on changes he said would improve the district academically, including summer training sessions for hundreds of teachers and teacher aides.

But Oswalt's statement received little attention from the restless, often angry crowd of about 250. Board member Amen Rahh won applause when he resumed his blistering attack against both Oswalt's decisions and the state takeover of the school system.

In a letter to Rep. Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton) that he read aloud, Rahh called for a federal inquiry into an alleged conspiracy "to force Compton Unified School district to request a loan from the state of California for the primary purpose of raping the district of its monetary, property and related resources through the appointment and the use of a State Administrator."

Rahh also accused fellow blacks who supported the state takeover of being "Negroes" and "Judases." Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount), who is black and who authored the legislation for Compton's emergency loan, said the comment referred to him.

"Ask him who the Judas was," Murray challenged after the meeting while standing less than a foot from Rahh.

"I don't name names; that would be slanderous," Rahh responded. "So I speak in parables."

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