Education Matters: San Dieguito pay raises and more

Buried on page 1,366 of a monster 1,399-page April 19 board meeting agenda was a request for the San Dieguito Union High School District school board to approve pay raises for management and so-called “non-represented” employees.

This item was approved by a vote of 4-1. The raises are retroactive back to July 1, 2017 – retroactive raises being a rarity for most workers except those in the public sector.

It exempts Superintendent Eric Dill, who is paid $235,400, not including benefits. But all four of his associate superintendents received the raise, bringing their salaries up to $196,443 from $195,466, an annual increase of $977.

The pay increase is minimal – 0.05 percent – but nevertheless it’s a raise, even as the district poor-mouths repeatedly that it can’t afford much of what parents are asking for, leaving the schools’ foundations to beg for donations.

This raise comes on the heels of a 0.05-percent raise for all certificated employees, mainly teachers, approved by the board last December. That pay increase is also retroactive back to July 1, 2017.

Three board members who nearly always support Dill’s proposals – Joyce Dalessandro, Beth Hergesheimer and Amy Herman – voted for both raises, as usual. But what’s not usual is that traditionally conservative board member Mo Muir also voted to support both pay increases.

Only trustee John Salazar opposed both proposals.

Besides the four associate superintendents getting raises in this latest round were all principals, assistant principals, directors, other certificated and classified management in supervisory roles, and confidential employees which includes executive assistants.

According to Tina Douglas, the district’s associate superintendent of business services, the total cost of these new raises comes to about $44,700 and affects 72.4 full-time equivalent employees.

For the raises approved last December for certificated employees, Douglas said the total cost is $370,844 and benefits 588.74 FTE employees.

To justify these newest raises, Dill said that when one group of employees gets a pay increase, all other groups get it too. He had little to say when challenged by Salazar about the raises being retroactive.

Dill also said that he expects to close the school year with a deficit but recommended the salary increases nevertheless.

In these latest raises (more are expected to come), exempting the superintendent was a good first start but the exemption should also have included other positions.

Crying poor when there’s extra money for top management is an insult to parents who buy the claim that the district has no spare revenue for classroom programs, supplies and student extra-curricular activities.

New contract for teachers

On page 1,391 of the April 19 agenda was an item to open negotiations between the district and the San Dieguito Faculty Association, for a new three-year contract with teachers to begin July 1, 2018.

In the agenda, the district identified five “sunshine” statements that are so vague that no reasonable person could object. They are: to retain a qualified certificated staff, to be proactive and fiscally prudent, to ensure long-term budget stability, to support opportunities for academic innovation and reform, and to continue to strengthen the cooperative relationship between the district and the union.

Del Mar resident Michael Robertson called this “fraudulent sunshining” and challenged the district’s approach to contract negotiations by contacting California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to object.

The district is “required to make public proposed contracts so that the public has a chance to understand and comment,” Robertson wrote to PERB. “Instead of publishing any proposal, they publish five bullet points which mean nothing. This is not a proposal, but incomplete sentences with no specifics. They also used the same list in years prior.”

“I’d kindly ask that you not allow this corrupt process to happen again,” Robertson continued. “They are making a mockery of the rules and the public disclosure.”

It’s true that the district used similar pablum to “sunshine” the issues they wanted to address with the union two years ago when they sneaked through a 12.5 percent raise with less than 24 hours notice to the public of the real content of the offer.

The last three-year contract, and its highly criticized 12.5 percent raise for teachers, was also awarded to the rest of the district’s employees, including then superintendent Rick Schmitt.

This massive pay increase was recognized by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association with SDCTA’s Golden Fleece award, a dubious distinction.

Although this time it’s likely to be nowhere near the outrageous 12.5 percent pay increase, the sunshine statements are still deceptive and the antithesis of transparency. It’s impossible to know what the real objective is when the district uses this kind of insipid language.

Following that item, on page 1,393 of the April 19 agenda, are five sunshine statements the union wants to address on behalf of its members. These are to lower class sizes, decrease or eliminate unnecessary or non-instructional workload demands, support opportunities for academic innovation and reform, maintain the security and stability of financial compensation and health care, and continue the interest-based collaborative bargaining process between the union and the district.

Parents and students have been clamoring for lower class sizes for years. “Enough is enough,” Salazar said. However, that would mean hiring more teachers. Will the district pony up?

More pay increases

Following the pay raises approved for teachers last December was a Feb. 8 agenda item increasing pay for certificated employees who mentor or coach student extra-curricular activities.

What’s interesting about this isn’t so much the money but the rankings for coaches and advisers.

There are eight levels of importance, if the stipend amount is any indication:

- Class AA – athletics director, activities director

- Class A – head varsity football, high school drama

- Class I – all other head varsity coaches, high school music director, speech & debate, academic competitions, robotics, CCA conservatory coordinator, cheer, dance

- Class II – varsity assistant coaches, middle school activities director

- Class III – all other assistant athletic coaches, middle school yearbook without a regular class, high school yearbook without a regular class, cheer assistant

- Class IV – high school journalism, high school yearbook with a regular class

- Class V – speech & debate assistant, academic competitions assistant, high school non-athletic assistant, middle school drama, middle school yearbook with a regular class, middle school band

- Class VI – middle school non-athletic assistant, educational technology assistant

The stipend for one to four years of experience ranges from $4,654 to $1,628. For 20 or more years of experience, the range is $6,347 to $2,540.

I asked Dill how the priorities were decided and why some – like the football coach – were valued higher than others lower down on the scale, such as speech and debate, music, robotics and journalism.

“Ultimately, wages are subject to negotiations, so the structure that is in place has been mutually agreed upon between the district and the employee association,” he said. This goes back to the 1980s, he added.

Gun safety

At the March board meeting, trustee Dalessandro at the last minute offered an amendment to the school safety resolution that was proposed in response to the Parkland, Florida high school massacre in February.

Besides thorough background checks of purchases of all firearms and of gun-related items bought on the Internet and at gun shows, it added that strict controls should also include: “an outright ban on semi-automatic firearms, high-capacity magazines, armor-piercing ammunition, bump stocks, and any other equipment, alteration, or modification that would increase a firearm’s capacity for ammunition or rate of fire; an increase in the age to purchase a weapon from 18 to 21; as well as reasonable waiting periods and mandated training in the safe use of guns.”

The safety resolution with the amendment passed by a vote of 4-1.

Catching trustee Muir off-guard, the Republican voted to oppose this, even as she voted to support teacher raises.

While fellow board member and Republican Salazar opposed the employee raises, he readily joined with the board majority to approve the gun safety resolution with the amendment.

Just goes to show that people are not so easily categorized and you can’t judge a book by its cover.

-- Opinion columnist and Sr. Education Writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at: suttonmarsha@gmail.com.

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