In the same week that LAUSD issued 11,500 pink slips to warn of potential layoffs to teachers and other staff members, the LA Daily News has discovered that the district has hired a social media “coordinator” to the tune of $93,000. The district was quick to point out that $87,000 comes from a foundation grant, but the issue persists: Why spend the money on this? Nearly 24 hours later, as a parent, I’m annoyed. If I were one of the pink-slipped employees, I’d be seething. Having been through more than a few budget cycles with LAUSD, $90K is about the line item of a teacher. Mind you, that’s not what they receive, rather it’s what the district charges from the top end of the pay scale with benefits. So while the salary for the social media coordinator was donated, it begged the question that if they could find a foundation to donate this money, why aren’t they looking for other donations that would provide teachers? And knowing the new budget for next school year doesn’t contain money for librarians or library aides, it just seems like having someone posting on Facebook all day is a way to either an indulgence or a slap in the face.
For about a week, the LAUSD Twitter and Facebook feeds have been buzzing with “feel good” stories about the district. I had wrongly assumed these stories had come at hand of some multimedia intern from one of the local community colleges trying to get on-the-job experience, or even one of the renowned magnet students earning class credit. Having interns would have cost the district nothing. Most companies have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Honestly I run a few for various organizations. The difference is most companies offer the social media up to their interns to post happy little blurbs about their products or events. I’d hazard to guess very, very few get paid nearly $100K to post on Facebook.
When the department of Media and Communications was created last year, I thought it was a great idea. Those of us who know about the “hidden gems” of LAUSD already shout them from the mountain tops to whomever might listen. We already share links on Facebook or on blogs like these to parents seeking information on schools. But once again, the district proves how out of touch they are with their biggest “fans” when they create a costly position while sending out RIF notices to thousands. Voters remember stories like this when they head to the polls for things like parcel taxes, I’m sure of it.
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