pvusd trustees

WATSONVILLE—After Pajaro Valley Unified School District Chief Business Officer Clint Rucker gave the Board of Trustees a budget update Wednesday night showing a positive certification—an indication the District can pay its bills for the next three years—the Board found itself at odds, sparring over renewing Rucker’s contract and balking at approving raises for several managers and other positions.

The Board also approved a tentative agreement with California School Employees Association, the union that represents school workers.

Under that agreement, workers will get a retroactive 4.5% raise and a one-time $1,800 payment for the 2021/22 school year, a 10% retroactive raise for the 2022/23 school year, along with another $1,000 one-time payment.

While that vote passed 6-0, with Trustee Oscar Soto absent, the trustees were not in agreement in offering similar raises to two non-management confidential employees.

Those employees—executive assistants in the Human Resources and Superintendent’s office—were due for a retroactive 4.5% increase for the 2021/22 school year.

But Trustee Olivia Flores said she was concerned about offering increases while the district’s teachers are still negotiating for theirs.

“The impact of these types of salaries is great,” she said. “I expected to not see anything like this until PVFT was done.”

Trustee Georgia Acosta said she has received numerous phone calls from people who are discontent with the proposed contracts.

“My phone has been just ringing off the hook with a lot of people in the public,” she said. 

Acosta also pointed out that a 4.5% increase for a worker making close to minimum wage looks vastly different than that for higher-paid employees.

“The pay rate of these folks compared to a yard duty, it’s night-and-day difference,” she said.

Acosta said she would be willing to consider the item again after the District settles with PVFT.

The item failed 2-4, with trustees Adam Scow, Flores, Acosta and Daniel Dodge Jr. voting no, although they agreed to bring it back to a future meeting.

The Trustees also tabled a proposal to give raises to roughly 140 certificated and classified managers such as principals, program directors, maintenance directors and transportation supervisors.

While Flores agreed that all employees deserve a fair wage, she pointed to the district’s ongoing teacher shortage.

“I feel like as a district we need to focus on that right now, and make sure they are being taken care of and that we can stop what’s going on,” she said.

Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, who was also due for an increase to her $232,859 salary, said that management has not seen a raise since 2018/19.

“To say that management does not affect students, does not affect schools, is just inaccurate,” she said. “Because everyone out there will tell you that a bad principal can tank a school, and a good principal can do good things for a school. And it’s the same for the District Office.”

Rodriguez added that delaying a raise could make some managers leave the district.

Trustee Kim De Serpa agreed.

“If you want to destabilize our district and pull back all the progress that we’ve made in the last six or seven years, this is a way to do it,” she said.

De Serpa’s motion to approve the raises did not receive a second, and therefore died before it went to a vote.

Acosta called for a special meeting, during which the Board could conduct an in-depth study of the budget.

But De Serpa said she found the idea “offensive,” and said that most Board members should already understand the financial workings of the District. 

De Serpa questioned why Acosta “doesn’t understand the budget,” after being on the Board since 2016.

Acosta explained that none of her objections were aimed at any employee or their position. Rather, she said she wanted teachers’ contracts to be finalized first. She said she wants to look at each of the positions during the upcoming budget study session.

Acosta also made a motion to table a three-year contract extension for Rucker, whose current term ends in June.

Under the contract—which does not offer a raise—Rucker receives $168,145 annually.

But that drew a rebuke from Rodriguez, who praised Rucker’s performance, and said that not approving it would likely make him look for a job in another district, since most districts pay their business officers around $200,000. 

“You will not find a CBO that will come to the District for this amount,” she said. “You will not. We had to home-grow Clint because we could not find another CBO.”

De Serpa pointed out that Rucker’s assistant director is retiring soon, potentially leaving the district without a financial expert.

“We cannot run this District without a CBO,” she said. “This is an incredibly important position. I can’t even believe we’re having this discussion tonight. This contract needs to be renewed.”

Board President Jennifer Holm agreed. 

“Clint’s doing an amazing job,” she said. “Clint clearly and succinctly explains the budget. I fail to see any reason why we would not approve his contract.”

Acosta’s motion failed, and the contract extension passed 5-1, with Acosta dissenting.

She also voted no on a three-year contract extension for Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Alison Niizawa, who will receive $153,399 annually. That passed 5-1, with little discussion.

The Trustees agreed to a one-time payment for yard duty employees of $1,800 for the 2021/22 school year, and $1,500 for the 2022/23 school year. 

They also agreed to an increase for mental health clinicians and athletic trainers of 4.5% for the 2021/22 school year, and 10% for the 2022/23 school year. Those employees will also get one-time payments of $1,800 and $1,500, respectively.

It is not yet clear when the budget session will be held.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the non-management confidential employees are represented by CSEA.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


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