Last week, three board members (Alan Fernandes abstained and Bob Poppenga was not there) voted to give the upper administration a 3.5 percent ongoing pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2017. In addition, they will receive a one-time 2 percent lump sum payment. As DTA President Dianna Huculak pointed out last week at the meeting, this is in addition to the pay increase they already gave the superintendent back in December.
Board President Tom Adams said, “We were pleased earlier this year to reach a two year salary agreement providing increases for all employees as part of a parity approach to compensation.” He noted that the board is “committed to the approach to provide equitable salary increases for all our employees so that our employees in each classification are paid at or above the regional compensation level.”
But DTA President Dianna Huculak pushed back against the use of “equity” and “equality” in a situation where the leadership team is making in some cases over $200,000 and a beginning teacher is making less than $40,000 a year.
“To speak about pay equity compared to the superintendent who makes well over $200,000 a year, this isn’t an issue of parity or equity, this an issue of financial irresponsibility and disrespect for teachers,” she said. “Your equity issue is that your teachers are totally underpaid and can’t afford health care. I think that’s really the equity issue the board should be focusing on.”
As far as I am concerned, this was a baffling move. Why was this move necessary? The board couched this in some weird notion of pay equity, but Ms. Huculak is exactly right, there is no equity when you have on the one hand upper administrators making well over $200,000 and teachers who are living on food stamps and Medi-Cal.
Ms. Huculak, in her prepared comments from earlier in the evening, pointed out: “Admin, who already negotiated a multi-year 12 percent increase for themselves at the beginning of the school year, while the district told teachers that it could only afford 1 percent one time.”
She added, “I shouldn’t have to remind you that you have teachers who are on food stamps, who cannot afford health insurance to meet basic family needs.”
The optics are bad.
We have real needs in this school district. And frankly, Alan Fernandes was spot on earlier in the evening when he pointed out that we cannot realistically cut our way to closing the compensation gap without making this district unrecognizable in terms of cutbacks on programs and other things.
We have students going to school in 50-plus-year-old facilities built at a time when concepts like the internet were the subject of science fiction movies.
We have real challenges in closing the compensation gap.
And yet, the school board is apparently tone deaf to the optics of pay increases for people making $200,000 at a time when the district is reaching out its other hand to try to collect money.
There are weird things going on in this school district right now that is going to make it much harder to get to where we need to get in terms of funding for facilities and teacher pay.
Facilities are a huge need in the school district. As I mentioned, many of the core buildings were built in the 1960s. We need new and modern facilities to keep up with the demands of the 21st century world. And yet the board is allocating a sizable percentage of the initial facilities bond – if it passes – away from the classroom. Somewhere around $25 million of the $150 million would go to school safety (like fences) and pools.
I believe we need pools and other facilities of that sort, but should that be among the first priorities for the district?
Second, there are weird optics going around on teacher compensation issues. Alan Fernandes deserves credit for thinking outside of the box for teacher pay, but let’s be more realistic.
The polling on the parcel tax is not that bad. I think the board should put a regular two-thirds parcel tax on the ballot for about 50 different reasons, and they will have to put together a real campaign and pound the pavement.
There is a real reluctance to do that. Part of it is signals sent by the teachers that they are not going to hit the pavement to get such a tax approved. The message needs to be sent loud and clear to the teachers – we understand your being angry with the compensation gap and the feeling that your needs have been put on the back burner.
We agree – or many of us do – that there has been insufficient compensation for your services.
But you need to do your part to get this passed or quite frankly it won’t. And if the district puts a parcel tax on the ballot, if the teachers don’t support it, and it goes down to defeat, you have probably lost your moment to get teacher pay increases.
The community supports its teachers – certainly the parents who work with the teachers on a daily basis do. But not if weird stuff happens.
Finally, the school board needs to drop this pay equity nonsense. The teacher that makes $40,000 is getting a $1400 pay raise. The administrator who is getting $200,000 gets $7000 for the same 3.5 percent pay increase. The superintendent’s salary has in just two years gone from $215,000 to $228,000 at a time when the district is asking the voters for additional monies for teacher compensation and facilities.
I’m sorry, but there seems to be very little realistic need for that pay increase. Winfred Roberson in his last year made just $185,000, which means that is a $43,000 increase in salary for the superintendent position – higher than most teachers get in a year.
I completely support the district need for facilities and teacher compensation increase, but they are making that case so much harder with their fiscal irresponsibility on the top end.
—David M. Greenwald reporting