In January, several Los Angeles Unified School Board members threw a pretty radical idea on the table, even if only as an exercise.
Their radical idea? Break up L.A. Unified’s central office — sell the headquarters building downtown and relocate workers to regional offices, school sites or unused space in district buildings.
The board members who called for the study, Mónica Ratliff and Ref Rodriguez, weren’t intent on ultimately selling “Beaudry” as the district’s headquarters at 333 S. Beaudry Ave. is known. Rather, they hoped that asking for a study of such a bold idea would spur creative thinking in L.A. Unified’s administrative ranks about how to send more money and staff closer to school sites.
“At no point was I like, ‘Sell the building! Immediately!’” Ratliff said. “But I think it’s important to ask the question: what would be the costs and benefits?”
On Tuesday, district staffers officially threw cold water on the idea, telling a school board committee that any move to sell the Beaudry building would likely be a money-loser for L.A. Unified. The district would have to pay more than $166 million in bond debt currently outstanding on the building.
Staff did identify around 1,350 of the 3,700 central office workers who could do their jobs from other locations. But the costs of moving all 1,350 workers would spiral quickly, so district staff recommended moving only employees "who could more effectively serve in Local District offices or school sites” outside of Beaudry.
The report from district staff arrives as top L.A. Unified leaders, including Superintendent Michelle King, are actively moving to grant more funding, staff and decision-making powers to the district’s regional offices and school sites.
As part of that effort, King and other L.A. Unified officials are moving ahead with plans to cut the size of the central office workforce in June.
District leaders have formally notified employees in more than 300 central office positions that their jobs may be eliminated at the end of the school year. The move could send more than 140 educators currently employed as administrators in central office back to local school sites where they have contractual rights to work as teachers or principals, a union official said.
L.A. Unified staff also described various efforts already underway to move decision-making powers closer to school sites, including giving regional offices control over more than $22 million in funds intended to help English learners.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Ratliff said district leaders must continue to study whether L.A. Unified needs even more cuts to its bureaucracy.
“I think,” she said, "it’s important to know: are we really a top-heavy organization in the sense of Beaudry? Or not?”