The incoming Los Angeles schools superintendent told the Board of Education on Saturday to withhold part of his $330,000 salary because of serious projected budget shortfalls.
In an email to his bosses, John Deasy said he had been meeting with employees to explain potential budget-cutting scenarios. Last month, the board approved sending preliminary layoff notices to almost 7,000 teachers.
"All of our work and plans for restoration are in serious peril," Deasy wrote. "This is remarkably painful and emotional. As such, given our current circumstances, at this time I respectfully will not accept the salary offered in your contract."
Deasy will not forgo his entire salary but will instead keep receiving the pay — $275,000 — he has been getting as deputy superintendent. The $55,000 difference represents a nearly 17% reduction.
"I will instruct payroll to hold the difference between my current salary as deputy superintendent and that of the superintendent," he wrote.
It does not appear that the board would have to approve the reduction.
A.J. Duffy, president of the teachers union and a frequent Los Angeles Unified School District critic, said: "Bravo, John, you did the right thing."
The board voted to name Deasy to the top job earlier this year, giving him a three-year contract and one of the highest salaries of any city official.
The superintendent of New York City public schools, the nation's largest district, makes $250,000. Los Angeles is the second-largest district.
Deasy said he would continue to abide by all the other terms of the contract, which does not include a buyout clause. His contract also includes a bonus if student test scores and graduation rates rise by a certain percentage.
"I'm very interested in achieving it and highly doubtful of taking it," Deasy said.
His email also said he would resume taking his full salary if the district's financial status changed, but he sounded pessimistic. He said L.A. Unified officials were working with Sacramento lawmakers and others to place a measure on the June ballot extending higher income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years but questioned whether it would make it to voters.
"Such a solution seems to be slipping away," he wrote.
Deasy said he hoped that labor groups, especially the teachers union, would negotiate with the district to save jobs and put in place an evaluation system that would "offer us and the membership ways to make decisions…. that are NOT quality blind. The last in; first out, way of doing business is a terrible, arcane solution."
The district settled a lawsuit last year brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel and other legal groups by agreeing to protect 45 schools from seniority-based layoffs and to more equitably cut staff so the newest teachers are not necessarily the first to be fired.
Deasy and United Teachers Los Angeles leaders agree that the current evaluation system, which depends almost entirely on subjective measures, needs to be overhauled. Deasy has said he favors using student test score data as one part of evaluations, something teachers union officials have opposed.
Duffy said redoing the "last in, first out" policy is a "non-starter" until the district develops a new evaluation system and trains administrators to use it.