Los Angeles Unified is temporarily reassigning staff to 420 vacant classrooms across the district.

The move comes as part of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s 100-day plan, which flagged the shortage of teachers as an issue he would address within the first few months as superintendent following his arrival in February.

LAUSD has successfully redeployed staff to half of the vacant positions flagged with the intention of finalizing all the reassignments by Friday, Carvalho said.

The staff will remain in those positions through the end of the school year, although Carvalho said there is still a possibility that the district will need to rely on temporary assignments for the beginning of the new school year.

LAUSD is redeploying staff who recently stepped outside the classroom, including interventionists, coaches and teachers on special assignments. The district has also frozen the movement of teachers into nonclassroom positions.

Carvalho said the district has tried as much as possible to avoid reassigning those who support the classroom environment, such as teachers from the literacy program Primary Promise, to avoid disrupting the full spectrum of teaching.

First priority for reassignment were those who recently vacated classroom positions but were still working at the same school, he said. Classrooms affected by the reassignments include both those with rotating and long-term substitutes.

“We needed to spring into action,” Carvalho told EdSource. “This was an issue that I had identified as a significant liability even before arriving in L.A. And it’s an issue we began working on early on. The solution to address a rather complex problem is rather simple. We began by looking inwardly, knowing that the job market right now is very tight.”

Districts across the country have struggled with a shortage of teachers that has only grown since the pandemic started in 2020, due in part to burnout. According to a report from nonprofit education research organization Learning Policy Institute, school districts across California have attempted to develop new hiring strategies, ease teacher workloads and increase teacher pay to navigate the shortage.

In LAUSD, the highest-need schools are impacted the most by the shortage, according to a report from the nonprofit Partnerships for Los Angeles Schools, which manages several schools in the district. The report recommended LAUSD limit hiring at low-need schools until highest-need schools are staffed as well as change working conditions and increase staffing support for highest-need schools. Carvalho acknowledged the need, saying the issue had to be approached from a lens of equity.

“The seriousness and the gravity of the problem is that vacancies across LAUSD are not equally distributed across all communities, all schools, all ZIP codes,” he said

Aside from the shortage in teachers, part of what’s led to the vacancies has been the creation of new positions meant to provide more support for students, which Carvalho said were filled at the expense of classroom positions. LAUSD opened 6,000 new positions last year, including positions for additional teachers, psychiatric social workers and school nurses, many of which remain unfilled. This summer, the district will aim to fill many of the vacant positions that resulted from the hiring spree.

“We will be backfilling these previously vacant positions with credentialed teachers to be able to release justifiable and absolutely necessary Primary Promise teachers, interventionists and other professionals,” Carvalho said. “What we will not go back to is credentialed teachers working as administrators in schools or being assigned to responsibilities that have, at best, an indirect impact on students.”

Sage Wells, a parent of a fifth grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Tujunga, said it’s been frustrating watching her son go through multiple substitute teachers since his original teacher left in October. She doesn’t know if his current substitute — his fourth teacher this year — will be replaced by a reassigned staff member. Though she understands the intention of the redeployments, Wells said she prefers they don’t happen considering how close it is to the end of the school year. She’d prefer stability.

“Honestly, they’re sad, they’re very sad,” Wells said. “Every time a teacher leaves, they get sad, and they cry. Psychologically, it’s devastating for them; they basically feel like nobody cares.”

United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz criticized the need for the redeployment in a statement, calling the situation proof that the district must do more for its teachers.

“The fact that LAUSD must resort to filling the vacancies in classrooms of teachers with district staff members only further underscores how critical it is that, after the toll of the pandemic, Superintendent Carvalho and LAUSD leaders do everything they can to attract and retain educators with better learning and teaching conditions,” she said. “We need to support our students with stability and investment.”

Because the redeployment is temporary, the district did not have to negotiate with its labor partners to go through with it.

As LAUSD looks to fill the currently vacant classroom positions, Carvalho said the district will ramp up and diversify recruitment both locally and nationally as well as focus on improving the workplace, evaluating compensation and providing more opportunities for professional development to improve retention. The district is also engaging with its higher education partners to understand their needs and build a stronger pipeline of teachers.

“The rate of loss of students has been more aggressive than the rate of loss of staff, proportionately speaking,” Carvalho said. “We have an opportunity to actually realign, to a certain extent, our human resources to the new enrollment reality — that’s important.”

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