We are starting to see differentiation occurring among the school board members. It started with the June 4 vote on the AIM program, which was 4-1 with Madhavi Sunder in dissent. Then we had the 3-2 vote on the VSA (variable services agreement) for AIM Coordinator Deanne Quinn, with Ms. Sunder joined by Alan Fernandes.
The district was proposing a one-time 4% increase for 2014-15 and 1% increase for 2015-16. Then an ongoing 2.27% increase for 2015-16 and 2% increase for 2016-17. These were the same mix of one-time payments and salary increases given to other employees.
Ms. Sunder voted with the rest of her colleagues to support salary increases for principals and most other administrative staff, however, she broke ranks with her colleagues on the district’s four top administrators – Associate Superintendent Matt Best, Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant, Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby and Superintendent Winfred Roberson.
Ms. Sunder would explain her vote: “I do not believe it is reasonable to automatically increase administrator salary at the same rate we increase teacher salary.”
“I believe that highly paid administrators should be assessed on an individual basis, they’re on individual contracts,” she continued. “Today I’m not going to be voting against raises for our top administrators per se, but I am voting against a lock-step mirroring the raises offered to our teaching staff, who earn significantly less than the administrators.”
None of the other board members commented on the action.
Further Explanation of the VSA
Board member Madhavi Sunder raised some eyebrows with her comments on Thursday on Deanne Quinn’s VSA.
Calling in from North Carolina and participating via phone, she told the board, “I would like to remind the public that Ms. Deanne Quinn has been running the GATE, now AIM, program for 2 decades in our district. During that time, the school district’s program has been recognized as ‘exemplary’ by the state. Indeed, Davis is one of only three districts in the state to obtain that prestigious commendation.”
“I am very concerned that School Board Trustees have rejected the personnel recommendation of the administration, stepping directly into firing individual district employees against the advice of the administration. This is likely to provoke concern in the community and among our staff about the direction the Board is charting,” she continued.
Ms. Sunder stated, “We had an election in November. The candidates all explained their positions on this issue in writing at DavisVanguard.org. None of the candidates indicated that they wanted to essentially create a new GATE/AIM program, wholly unlike the program that has existed over the past few decades in this district.”
“They did not explain that they were going to fire an employee,” she said. “As I understand, none of the other Trustees have reviewed Ms. Quinn’s personnel file, and yet they are willing to fire an employee.”
She stated, “With Ms. Quinn’s consent, I have reviewed Ms. Quinn’s 20-year personnel file carefully, as I believe the Superintendent who recommended we rehire her has also done. That file demonstrates that Ms. Quinn is a valuable employee to the district. All of us can be better. But there is no cause here to deny us the benefit of her expert guidance in meeting the needs of a certain group of children.”
“It is indeed difficult to square this action, deposing the head of a program, with the claim that the program is not being radically altered,” she concluded.
That led to some wondering why Ms. Sunder would go to the trouble of preemptively pulling Ms. Quinn’s personnel file – did she know what her colleagues were going to do? And also how did she know she was the only board member to pull the file?
In a statement to the Vanguard, Madhavi Sunder explained, “I asked Ms. Quinn, the long-term coordinator of the AIM program, if I could review her personnel file because I was concerned that even though she was listed as an employee recommended to be continued by the District, that her name had been pulled from the consent calendar in the past, and might be pulled again in the future.”
“It is highly unusual for Board members to pull VSAs and vote no on individual employees against the Administration’s recommendation,” she said. “In the event Trustees were going to do that, I wanted to be prepared by knowing Ms. Quinn’s performance and evaluation history myself.”
Ms. Sunder added, “Ms. Quinn told me she did not share her personnel file with any other Trustee, and that I was the only one who asked for it.”
Three members of the school board – Barbara Archer, Susan Lovenburg, and Tom Adams – voted against a motion made by Board President Alan Fernandes to renew the VSA. They did so with minimal comment during the meeting.
On Friday, the Vanguard reached out to all three, asking for a comment on why the VSA was not renewed if no decision has been made on the AIM program yet.
The exchange with Susan Lovenburg is indicative of the response the Vanguard received. She said in a text: “I will not be commenting on this personnel issue.” The Vanguard received identical responses from Barbara Archer and Tom Adams. Ms. Lovenburg did not say that she has voted no on this particular VSA each time it has come to the board.
When the Vanguard pressed the issue: So you are telling me that the decision was based on personnel issues rather than policy?
Ms. Lovenburg responded, “I am telling you only that I will not comment on this personnel issue.”
Three members of the school board cited personnel reasons for not commenting on their decision, and yet none of the three chose to pull Ms. Quinn’s personnel file.
—David M. Greenwald reporting