Commentary: Why is the Board Giving the Upper Administration Another Pay Increase?

John Bowes

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith O

    And you wonder why homeowners are getting tired of getting taxed when they read stories like this?

    Par for the course, nothing ever changes.

    Just put up another parcel tax and wax the homeowners.

    1. David Greenwald

      Stuff like this puts us in a bad spot – we need the funding, the actual budgetary impact of these pay increases are low, but the optics are horrible and it puts us all in a bad spot.

    1. Ken A

      When you abstain (and there are enough votes to get it to pass without your vote) you can have it both ways and still ask your administrator friends to take you out on the new boats they are buying with the pay increases and tell your taxpayer friends when running for re-election (or for city council or trying to get a new parcel tax to pass) that “you did not vote for the administrator pay increases” …

        1. David Greenwald

          His explanation was that he wasn’t opposed to the salary increase, but was going to hold off voting for it as he hoped to work with the teachers on a parcel tax.

    2. Jeff M

      In typical corporate rules/protocol, there should be a reason given for abstaining from a vote, and the reason should be recorded in the vote.  For example, a relative or personal acquaintance that would benefit from the action of the board.

  2. Jeff M

    Administration is where we see much of the hyper-inflationary cost increases for education at all levels.

    There are three reasons we see it.

    1. Conflict of interest with the elected officials that vote for the pay increases and the administrators that receive the pay increases.

    2. The great liberal society advance that layers on progressive do-good rules and creates more complexity in the administration of education… thereby resulting in a requirement of more and higher-cost human resources in the administrative function.

    3. Unions.  The complexity dealing with the teachers union also adds the need for more and higher-cost administrators.

      1. Keith O

        The difference is the homeowners of Davis don’t have a parcel tax initiative coming their way to help pay for private sector admin pay increases.

        1. Howard P

          You are correct… they pay in the costs/prices of goods and services…  ‘indirect taxation’ by “a thousand small cuts”, as it were…

          BTW, the admin increases are unjustified, and abhorrent…

          And will probably be used, by some, to bolster “pay equity” for teachers/others…

    1. Jim Frame

      There are three reasons we see it.

      Number 1 I get; numbers 2 and 3 are the result of the twistiest of pretzel logic in an attempt to shoehorn reality into your preferred worldview.

      1. Jeff M

        I sort of agree with you here, except I think there is more reality in that twisted pretzel logic than you would care to admit.  With all the programs and program reporting the schools have to do the administrative burden has increased.  And the job of human resource management when the human resources are members of a labor union is much more challenging and there are fewer administrators with that experience.  The admin bar has increased for that too.  And because of supply and demand rules the pay has to go up to attract the talent with the experience.

        Bureaucratic complexity is a money-making conflict of interest for bureaucrats when those that make the rules and those that have to comply with the rules are connected in some way.

  3. kristineg

    As depressing as it is, it doesn’t seem that we have any options that are going to raise the kind of money to pay the teachers, line staff, and site administrators competitively without another parcel tax. I don’t feel the Board has communicated the scenarios very clearly yet to the public, including the scenario of doing nothing; but they are just beginning their campaign.

    It’s a real shame this increase went through to the 4 top administrators at the same time; I agree the optics are terrible. I’ve already communicated this to several Board members directly, but I would urge the administrative team to refuse their raises as a gesture of good will and shared sacrifice; it’s the kind of shared sacrifice we’ve already demanded of our teachers who went years without raises during the recession.  It’s going to be very hard for the public to even consider voting for another parcel tax otherwise.

    1. Jim Hoch

      If you have been following DJU for awhile, and you don’t understand the central administration’s disdain for taxpayers and parents yet, then I have nothing to say.

      1. kristineg

        Actually Jim, I haven’t been following Davis goings-on closely until very recently, mostly because the dialogue is often so toxic. I think it’s a simple conversation with the administrators: you damaged your credibility; here’s a way to repair it; we’ll all vote accordingly.

    2. Howard P

      It’s not just the “optics” that are terrible… it is the “facts”… the decisions… only 2 of the 3 voting “for” are staying around… actually should have been a 2-0-2 vote, with one absent, one declaring departure (and abstaining),and the other abstention… that motion would have failed…

      1. David Greenwald

        The reason I used the term “optics” is that realistically speaking the amount of money spent here is not sufficient to make a difference either for teacher’s compensation or facilities (it can’t even be used on facilities). Everything you list are political considerations, and that’s fine, they are in ugly and problematic. But the use of the term optics was the correct word – it comes down to perception.

  4. Jim Frame

    I agree the optics are terrible. I’ve already communicated this to several Board members directly, but I would urge the administrative team to refuse their raises as a gesture of good will and shared sacrifice

    I predict the same response you’d get if you asked Mitch McConnell to wait until after the midterms before approving Justice Kennedy’s replacement:  a hearty laugh.


    1. kristineg

      Let’s see what happens. It’s in the administrators’ best interest to have a stable and experienced workforce, and they’re asking a lot of the taxpayers. Why not ask them to do the right thing?

    2. Jeff M

      Especially since Kennedy retired at this point in time specifically so his replacement would be vetted by a government controlled by reasonable and constitutionally-focused politicians and not the leftism activists that control the Democrat party today.

      Maybe we just need something similar to the Biden rule and Harry Reid’s nuclear rule to work for the community related to these decisions.  But then maybe we would live to regret those rules when the other side gets to use them too.

  5. H Jackson

    Where ‘optics’ get worse is noting that some classes have been cut for the sake of ‘staffing efficiency’ to help finance the new DTA contract.  JH choir (reductions from two to one class at two sites) and HS home economics (the classes and program staffed by recently retiring Ms. Pettigrew) are two that I am aware of.  I understand that there are other classes similarly affected.

    On the other hand I note that there are more administrative staff at the district office than I remember from ten years ago in the ‘great recession.’  Is there similar trimming going on at the district office to help finance administrative raises?  If so, I think the Davis public would appreciate an explanation of it.

  6. Tia Will

    The optics are bad.”

    It is not just the optics that are bad. The reality is bad. And it is not just the salary differential. It is programs as H Jackson pointed out. It is also classroom basics. While teachers have, as long as I can remember, paid for the “extras” such as classroom decorations out of their own pockets ( you know the $40,000/yr ones not the $200,000/yr) but they have also funded “extras” such as field trips through bake sales and parental donations. Now, it is common for teachers to be funding essentials such as books or lab materials from “go fund me”. I really cannot understand the rationale for this administrative raise at this time.


    1. Howard P

      I really cannot understand the rationale for this administrative raise at this time.

      Full agreement here… maybe the “Golden Rule”… those with the gold make the rules, or at least have great influence…

      Yet, this action (including a “lame duck” ‘Trustee’, with the deciding vote) makes me wonder if I should vote to pump more money into a “me too” organization… irrespective of “value added”… and supporting raises for union employees, whose unions have consistently opposed anything resembling “pay for performance”… or any accountability for “results”… they rely on “it’s for the kids!” as a dissembling argument…

      Am skeptical…


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