School & District Management Opinion

Open Letter to UTLA President and LAUSD Superintendent

By Phylis Hoffman — March 31, 2015 2 min read
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Dear Mr. Caputo-Pearl and Superintendent Cortines,

In a recent letter to members, Mr. Caputo-Pearl suggested to Superintendent Cortines that his reorganization of our Educational Service Centers (ESC) should include directing the administrators housed in these centers to serve in our schools and help reduce class size.

The superintendent this week announced a plan to reorganize the District into six regions. UTLA’s president Alex Caputo-Pearl has a message for Cortines: as long as you are reorganizing the ESCs, you should re-organize District priorities by cutting administrative costs and placing ESC administrators into classrooms to reduce class size. (UTLA, News to Use 03-26-15)

I think this recommendation is on the right track for supporting schools and students. So many times in Los Angeles Unified School District we see everything “in all or nothing” terms: you are either in the classroom as a teacher or out of the classroom as a support provider (curriculum/intervention coordinator, CCSS facilitator, curriculum specialists, content experts, etc).

Why can’t we meet in the middle? Half-in, half-out?

Creating hybrid positions is a worthy goal for both our district and union. Hybrid roles allow us to expand the reach of great teachers and reduce class sizes overall, while also recognizing the needed role of administration to make our schools run smoothly and equitably.

Lots of school districts have hybrid positions where teachers or I should say, “teacher leaders” (some even call them “teacherpreneurs”), spend part of their day teaching and part of their day doing behind the scenes work like organizing, scheduling, and developing professional development opportunities for teachers, to ordering curricula, and investigating content based field trips, to applying for grants to support teachers. This behind the scenes work is definitely needed, but having these talented experts at our school sites teaching a period or two each day would benefit everyone: students, teachers, schools, and staff currently housed in the ESCs.

I spent almost 10 years in administrative roles out of the classroom and I know how easy and quick it is to loose touch with the day-to-day realities of classroom life when you aren’t in it for a few years. If personnel in the ESCs had to spend part of each school day teaching at a school site, they would be directly exposed to the need for better professional development opportunities, better pacing plans for curricula, better assessments, and being grounded in a teacher’s daily life. Schools and students would have access on a daily basis to experts in their respective fields.

I know this would only make a slight dent in the number of teachers needed to reduce class-sizes in middle schools and high schools but it would help. Given the added support and many aforementioned benefits, I think it’s something worth exploring. (If you would like to know more about what hybrid roles could look like in LAUSD and the potential positive impact on student achievement here’s a link to a white paper developed by a policy team I was a part of with Educators4Excellence.)

I assume that when you were talking about reducing administrative costs you probably weren’t thinking of these hybrid roles but our contract has long expired so I urge you to take advantage of this fact and start creating something new and different in LAUSD.


Phylis Hoffman

The opinions expressed in Teaching While Leading are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.