The Department of Education is discovering its warm and fuzzy side.
Chancellor Joel Klein has tapped a veteran deputy chancellor as the new "chief of community engagement" - an apparent response to critics who say the department ignores parents.
Santiago Taveras, who was the deputy chancellor of teaching, will continue to earn $199,000 a year in the new post.
Waves of angry parents have emerged in recent hearings about the city's plans to close schools and squeeze new ones into the same buildings as existing schools.
Last month, a judge upheld a suit that charged the city violated public notification procedures when it tried to shutter 19 poorly performing schools.
"It's an area we can do better in," department spokesman David Cantor said yesterday.
The job is part of a reshuffling of top DOE officials that will cost close to $500,000.
Sharon Greenberger leave her post as president of School Construction Authority to take over as COO. Her new salary has not been determined but will be at least $193,000.
Former principal Marc Sternberg is being hired at $192,000 as one of eight deputy chancellors, up from three.
Three of the other new deputies will get raises totaling $84,000 for their new titles.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew slammed the department for hiking costs. "The chancellor keeps talking about teacher layoffs as he's hiring more people," he said. "It just makes no sense."
Cantor replied, "This is not a cost-saving exercise, but we will definitely be looking for savings as we implement the changes."
Officials have not ruled out layoffs among lower-level administrative staffers.