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School Board Disciplines Top Officers for Budget Deficit

March 4, 1992

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The school board, which laid off teachers to help cover a huge budget gap last year, has disciplined more than a dozen administrators for errors that contributed to a $130 million midyear deficit.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second- largest, gave letters of reprimand, suspensions without pay and other punishment to the administrators last month.

They have been notified they will be reprimanded and suspended for two to five days without pay, the Los Angeles Times said, quoting unidentified sources. Superintendent Bill Anton has pledged to share the blame by taking a five-day suspension himself.

″If there’s a responsibility, I ought to share part of it too,″ he said.

Those disciplined include chief financial officer Robert Booker, budget chief Henry Jones and accounting manager Olonzo Woodfin. All three are black, and a civil rights leader said the highest-ranking black administrators were being made scapegoats for inept board decisions.

A review released in January showed that spending ran $110 million over budget and that revenues were $20 million less than anticipated.

The shortfall prompted the board to further cut spending on school supplies and maintenance and to borrow from insurance funds and an emergency reserve.

Board members already had cut $275 million from the $3.9 billion budget last year by laying off teachers, cutting employee salaries and increasing class sizes. Nearly 630,000 students attend district schools.

An accounting firm attributed the midyear deficit to staff members’ failure to relay information and higher-than-expected medical benefits costs. It also concluded that more than $11 million of the deficit stemmed from school board decisions, including delays in carrying out cost-reduction measures.

The Black Leadership Coalition, which counts such groups as the Urban League as members, accused the board of unfairly punishing the district’s highest-ranking black administrators.

″We are not going to stand idly by while African-American administrators are made scapegoats by the board and the superintendent to placate their constituencies and excuse some of their own poor decision-making,″ said John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League.

Anton was scheduled to discuss the sanctions with coalition members on Thursday.

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