The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved salary increases for teachers and management, capping off months of negotiations and tense public meetings in which principals and other upper-level employees spent hours justifying their positions.
The trustees also approved identical salary increases for Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez and the assistant superintendents, but that vote passed 6-1, with Trustee Daniel Dodge Jr. casting the lone dissenting vote.
In an email, he explained that many of his constituents felt this wasn’t the proper time to be giving cabinet pay increases while other school employees such as custodians, bus drivers, instructional aides, campus security and cafeteria workers struggle.
“I talked to many of my voting constituency throughout this whole process, and I stand 110% behind my no vote,” he wrote.
The agreements are good for three years.
Teachers—including early childhood, adult education, psychologists and nurses—will get a 10% increase for the 2022-23 school year, and a $2,000 one-time payment.
Teachers and psychologists will also receive a 5% increase for the 2023-24 school year, while early childhood education and adult school teachers get 3%.
Also under the agreement, fourth-grade classes will go from 34 to 32 students.
Trustee Kim De Serpa praised the result of the negotiations, which she called a “sometimes painful process.”
“We all want the best for the kids in the district, and that means having the best teachers and staff money can buy,” she said.
Just one public speaker signed up to address teacher raises.
That was not so for the following item. A total of 23 people addressed the trustees—all of them in favor of giving salary increases to certificated and classified management such as principals and department managers.
On the table were a 4.5% increase for the 2021-22 school year, and 10% for 2022-23.
“I have seen very closely the work that the management puts in every single day for the students,” said El Sistema Santa Cruz Executive Director Isabelle Tuncer.
The program brings music instruction to nine school sites.
“We wouldn’t be here without you, and the students wouldn’t be benefiting from this extra program in the afternoon and the morning if it wasn’t for the management,” Tuncer said.
The item passed with little discussion from the board.
“It’s my opinion that our district should pay classified teachers and administrators competitive wages, top to bottom,” said Trustee Adam Scow. “And I’d like to see more and more of our budget go to salaries.”
A similar discussion on April 5 drew 79 speakers.
At the time, some trustees balked at giving salary increases to upper-level administration before teachers got theirs.
When the time came to consider raises for cabinet employees, a total of 34 of people addressed the trustees, all of them in favor.
Cabinet includes Rodriguez, in addition to assistant superintendents Kasey Klappenback, who heads the Elementary Education department, Lisa Aguerria, who runs the Educational Services department and Alison Niizawa, who is in charge of Human Resources.
The positions also include Chief Business Officer Clint Rucker.
Jen Littleton Bruno, director of the Extended Learning Department, said she had her own questions for the superintendents when she was being considered for the job.
“I knew what it would take for our program to succeed, for our students to succeed,” she said. “And I wanted to be sure that I was going to be part of a team that wanted it as much as I did.”
Bruno said she has gotten support from all members of the cabinet.
“I cannot urge you enough to pass this,” she said. “If this does not pass, I cannot do my job without this support.”
District spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez, who has worked for the district for 22 years, said that Rodriguez turned down a higher salary offer from her previous district to stay with PVUSD.
“If this is about our students, you have to know that we are doing better than ever,” Jimenez said. “If this is about budget, you have to know if these people go where they are paid more, valued more, you will not pay less for anyone who replaces them. No one is going to come at a lower salary.”
De Serpa, who has been an ardent supporter of Rodriguez and the current administration, said the superintendent has brought a “new level of accountability” to the district since she was hired seven years ago.
“She has proceeded to be an excellent superintendent, and we are fortunate to have her here,” De Serpa said.
In the countries where educators are paid well, compensated for their supplies, and respected, students succeed. In our society, teachers and administrators are taken for granted in spite of the fact that most teachers and administrators put in a 10-12 hour day and often week-ends. I taught elementary school for years–the last year in front of a crackhouse. I was paid so little, I was eligible for welfare.
Why should educators even have to argue for pay increases? It’s an insult that they have to stand up and justify what they do. Some of these teachers are still paying off their student debts as well as trying to make ends meet. Come on, people, you get what you pay for (and pardon my dangling preposition). Julie Hanks, Ph.D
Eloquently said, Julie, and 100% agree. We as a society need to stop vilifying (yes, I needed auto-correct for that word) the use of tax dollars for the greater good (such as paying teachers more) and reframe that as an “investment” in the common good rather than think of it as ‘communism’.
The very people that cry out “communism” at the notion of healthcare for all are the very people who use medicare/medical, which is basically that. Sort of bonkers. Congrats educators, but be wary, with more pay comes greater scrutiny and there WILL be accountability.