Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 14, 2012

PUSD promotes assistant superintendent, bringing salary to nearly $200,000

Move made to keep another district from headhunting her

by Glenn Wohltmann

On a split vote, the Pleasanton School Board decided to give a promotion to the district's assistant superintendent of business services to keep her from being hired away by another district.

Board members Valerie Arkin and Jamie Hintzke opposed the move to make Luz Cazares deputy superintendent of business and the district's second in command.

"I cannot support this. I think it sets a bad precedent," Arkin said. "We've cut so many programs in the last year."

She noted that members of the California School Employees Association, which includes office staff and custodians, have not had raises for the last five years.

"It kind of goes against what I'm hearing (from residents) in the district," she said.

Hinzke said she'd been contacted by "many, many" members of the community who asked her to oppose the promotion.

"It just feels like bad timing," she said, calling it "almost insulting to the sacrifices made in this community."

The two were outvoted by Jeff Bowser, in one of his first acts as board president, and board members Chris Grant and Joan Laursen.

"I asked, 'Can the district afford to let this employee go?' and she (Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi) said, 'No,'" Laursen said.

Cazares, who has been with PUSD for four years, was contacted by the San Ramon Valley Unified School District with a potential job offer as one of the top five candidates in the state.

"It's not a secret that Ms. Cazares didn't go looking for a job. She was actually sought out," Ahmadi said. "We knew it was important to keep her here. We have a team that works beautifully together."

Cazares was lauded both before and after the vote to promote her. Representatives from both CSEA and the Association of Pleasanton Teachers encouraged the board to support the promotion.

"Luz is an amazing individual who's brought so much to the district," said APT President Peggy Carpenter. "If you want quality, you have to pay for it sometimes."

Sean Kullman, a Pleasanton parent and short-lived school board candidate, interrupted his evening to come to speak as the board meeting was wrapping up.

"Districts crumble when they lose outstanding administrators," Kullman said. "I want you to know how fortunate we are to have you in this community."

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to restore the five furlough days for management that had been cut earlier during the budget process. That will cost $150,000.

With the furlough days eliminated, Cazares will be paid $191,375 a year. She will also receive a $1,300 master's degree stipend and a $4,000-a-year contribution to her retirement plan. As part of the deal, Cazares' $7,200 car allowance was made part of her salary.

Ahmadi said the $4,000 retirement contribution was the only raise in Cazares' pay although her contract allows for bonuses.

Cazares' contract includes a 220-day work year, 18 sick days, an additional 27 days of "non-duty days," and paid memberships in the Association of California School Administrators and the California Association of School Business Officials.

Under the new contract, the district will also pay for Cazares to enroll in the Curriculum and Instructional Leaders Academy, the Personnel Administrators Academy and Superintendents Academy.

On retirement, after at least seven years with the district, she and her spouse will be eligible for paid medical, dental and vision until she's 65. After that, she and her spouse will be allowed to pay their own premiums and remain part of the district's health care plan.

After 10 years with the district, management employees are also eligible for a "Golden Handshake" retirement bonus of at least $25,500. Those bonuses are indexed to pay, so as pay goes up, the bonus does as well.

Cazares received a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

Tuesday night was also the annual reorganization meeting for the school board. On unanimous votes with little discussion, Bowser was elected president and Arkin was elected vice president.

In other moves at the school board meeting:

Village High School's Assistant Principal Dana Chavez was selected as the school's new principal. Chavez will replace Greg Giglio, who is taking a post as in Cupertino. The district has not selected a replacement for Chavez.

The board also approved a new contract allowing the YMCA to use Lydiksen, Fairlands and Mohr elementary schools for child-care programs. The contract is for a year, but can be extended on an annual basis for four more.

Board members are also considering adding two new classes -- Honors Civics with an emphasis on "We the People," and Anatomy and Physiology for Health Care professionals -- at Amador Valley High. Those are modifications of similar courses and will use the same teachers and textbooks.

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