ANTON OPTIMISTIC DESPITE TAXING FIRST YEAR AT TOP

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! After one year at the helm of the nation’s second-largest school district, Superintendent Bill Anton continues to battle multimillion-dollar budget problems, overcrowding and an influx of poor, minority students who speak limited English. In addition, he is gearing up for contract negotiations with teachers who are furious with his recommendation to cut their pay and benefits in order to help close a $241 million budget gap. Anton, who turns 67 on July 22, readily admits that his first year in office has been taxing, but he is cautiously optimistic about the new school year. When Anton was appointed superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District last year, he was seen by board members as a man who could bring much-needed stability to a system beset by financial woes, overcrowding and wobbly relations with the teachers union. He contends he has made progress on rebuilding deteriorating labor relations, boosted staff morale and established a rapport with community groups. “I feel very good about the year,” he said. “We were able to build good bridges with the business community and fairly good relationships with the unions.” A 39-year veteran of the district, Anton took over the top post last July after the surprise resignation of Leonard Britton. He will earn about $145,000 this school year as a result of a $16,000 voluntary pay cut he took because of the district’s deepening budget crisis. Anton began his career in the district as a teacher at Rowan Avenue Elementary School in 1952, and was deputy superintendent from 1982 until he was tapped to head up the district. He is the first Hispanic superintendent in the Los Angeles school system that is 62 percent Hispanic. During his first year, Anton introduced a plan to restructure the district and reassign top administrators to shift more decisions to the schools. He has cut 155 management and 127 secretarial staff positions this year. “Some of the administrators were bumped to principals or assistant principals and others were put back in the classroom,” he said. “Some had to hit the streets. It was tough. It’s not just a realignment, these are hard cut positions.” The goal of the reshuffling plan – the most wide-ranging in the district in 20 years – is to hold administrators directly responsible for the quality of education in the schools. The plan also is expected to save the financially strapped system an estimated $16 million, Anton said. Helen Bernstein, president of United-Teachers Los Angeles, said Anton’s restructuring plan lacked innovation, and she criticized him for not eliminating more positions from the central office. “I don’t think 280 people is enough to cut at all, not if the (budget) crisis is as serious as he says it is,” Bernstein said. “The bureaucracy is not effective or efficient, and unless he does something dramatic to turn it around, it’s not going to happen.” Bernstein also criticized Anton for recommending pay cuts for teachers and said he virtually ignored her suggestions of budget-cutting measures such as eliminating cars for administrators and shutting down the district-owned television station in order to balance this year’s budget. “I don’t particularly approve of the way he chose to balance the budget,” Bernstein said. School board member Roberta Weintraub defended Anton and said he has done a good job battling the fiscal crisis. “Nobody, but nobody could have done a better job than Bill,” said Weintraub, who represents the East San Fernando Valley. “He held it together under very difficult times. You can’t judge the superintendent in a year when you’ve cut $600 million from the district.” New school board president Warren Furutani agreed. “He really has a handle on what’s happening in the district, the budget office and the schools, compared to the other superintendent, who never really got his feet on the ground,” Furutani said. “Bill’s going to make his mark now because he knows exactly what battles we need to fight and implement.” Board member Julie Korenstein, who represents the West San Fernando Valley, praised Anton for his budget plans. The true test of his leadership abilities will come later this year, though, when teacher contract talks get under way and plans for a local bond measure to raise money for school construction and maintenance projects are brought before the board, she said. “I think he has to be far more creative and be willing to make changes,” said Korenstein, who voted against hiring Anton because she favored a nationwide search. “If we’re able to get the bond measure and increased funding for public education so we can begin to restore the programs and compensation, they I will say yes, he did a good job and was effective,” Korenstein said.last_img

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