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L.A. Chief Overhauls Management, Plans School Clusters

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Responding to criticism that the Los Angeles school district is top-heavy, Superintendent Sid Thompson has announced a two-year plan to reorganize the administration and create 25 self-governing clusters of schools.

The superintendent also announced last month that four regional offices and three associate-superintendent positions will be eliminated, and that six top district officials will be reassigned and receive salary cuts totaling $50,000 a year.

In addition, the superintendents of the four regions will be reassigned and take 5 percent cuts from their $90,000 salaries, Mr. Thompson announced.

The new structure will have nine administrative departments, streamlining what critics have called a bloated bureaucracy.

To underscore his vision of the new system, Mr. Thompson in announcing the changes displayed a chart in which the schools were at the top rather than the bottom of the organization.

The 25 clusters, which the superintendent said will be in place by the 1994-95 school year, will be led by "cluster leaders'' earning the same as high school principals, or about $84,000 a year. The clusters will be made up of two or three high schools and the schools that feed students into them.

'Downward Spiral' Seen

The district has been under pressure to reorganize from the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now, whose calls for change were echoed in a report on the district's management released last month by Arthur Andersen & Company.

The auditing firm concluded that the district, which faces significant budget problems, was in "a downward spiral,'' with demoralized employees, minimal teamwork, and other problems.

The audit found that the organizational structure of the district was characterized by excessive layers of management, unclear lines of responsibility, and bureaucratic red tape.

Mr. Thompson has pledged to make both the LEARN group's recommendations--which call for schools to become more autonomous and for the central office to support them--and the management audits his "blueprints'' for restructuring the district.

The management audit found that the school system was lacking in "key management practices'' common to large organizations, including a management-information system to provide data for making decisions and accurate personnel counts.

The report called for the board of education to "empower'' the administration by delegating increased responsibility and holding the administration accountable for performance.

The changes announced last month include the consolidation of a number of business departments. They are expected to save the district $11 million during the next fiscal year.

Mr. Thompson also noted that only eight district employees, including himself, currently are earning more than $100,000 a year. In 1990, 34 employees drew six-figure salaries.

Next year, the superintendent vowed, only six people will earn that much.

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