Proposed compensation increases for Pleasanton Unified School District's administrative cabinet are raising eyebrows among rank-and-file staff members, who say the pay raises are unnecessary and should be used to boost the down trending salaries of other PUSD employees instead. The Board of Trustees will consider the salary increases during their regular meeting on Thursday, starting 7 p.m.
Five district cabinet members including Superintendent David Haglund are set to finalize new employment agreements with PUSD. The contracts stipulate a 3.5% increase in salary and fully covered health, vision and dental benefits for the employee as well as their spouse and dependents.
Along with extending his term for one additional year, thereby creating a new four year agreement, Haglund's base salary is set at $317,148. The agreement -- which takes effect July 1 and expires June 30, 2025 -- also "provides longevity benefits at the beginning of the 5th and 7th year of service" and keeps all existing contract provisions "in full force and effect."
Contracts for assistant superintendents Janelle Woodward, Julio Hernandez, Ed Diolazo, and Ahmad Sheikholeslami also stipulate similar dates, terms and conditions but extended their terms for a three-year agreement, instead of four, and will each receive a base salary of $222,252. The 3.5% compensation increase for all five cabinet members will extract about $54,143 from the district General Fund.
Classified staff members who contacted the Weekly expressing their disappointment with the contracts said they understand "the district has a contractual commitment to give the 3.5% increase, but the timing and optics of this could not be worse."
Noting that teachers and classified staff pay for their medical coverage and only receive a stipend "that covers just themselves for the lowest quality option," Vintage Hills Elementary School technology specialist Cheryl Vangundy said, "If anyone could afford to pay for their own medical benefits, it is these employees earning well over $200,000 per year."
"Classified staff are essential workers, and the majority have performed their duties in person during this difficult school year and they deserve a living wage," Vangundy said. "It is shameful that the district is even considering approving these administrative raises."
Vangundy said she and her colleagues are also frustrated by a district compensation analysis to be presented at Thursday's meeting, followed by a discussion. According to the presentation, New Haven Unified School District in Union City was ranked number one for teacher salaries among 15 school districts in Alameda and Contra Costa counties used as comparison groups, despite not having a parcel tax.
"PUSD often states that they have less funds than other districts because they don't have a parcel tax. Yet, New Haven figured out how to pay their teachers a top ranked salary," Vangundy said.
Last year 29 classifications were below the market mean, according to the compensation analysis, but Vangundy said those positions account for more than a third of classified staff, "nor does it state that PUSD has been below the 50th percentile in terms of compensation based on the local labor market rate for some time." A compensation study from last year left many employees without any pay raise.
On Thursday, the Board is also expected to announce several new public employee coordinator appointments, three of which are new job descriptions approved last month. Compensation for the positions range between $133,695 to $147,609, with part of the money for those salaries coming from the unrestricted General Fund.
Vangundy denounced the move and said, "The district is always crying about a lack of funds, yet they have the funds to hire these three new coordinators."
In other business
** Following on the heels of a special meeting last week to discuss the district's Equity Master Plan, the Board will receive a 30-minute report on Thursday about improving "the accuracy, bias-resistance, and motivation" of grading practices among PUSD secondary grades.
According to district officials, one of the presentation's key goals is to "strengthen the sense of urgency and importance of equitable grading to ensure grading practices are accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational."
An outside consultant will give an overview and also explain the theory and framework for equitable grading that evening, in addition to sharing a professional development plan for teachers during the 2021-22 school year.
The 24-page presentation by Oakland-based Crescendo Education Group includes the "Three Pillars of Equitable Grading", which declares equitable grades "are accurate reflections of a student's academic performance," as well as "bias-resistant," and "motivational."
By tying grades to academic performance only instead of factors like attendance or extra credit, the report said students are usually less stressed, "more motivated and have more hope in possibility of academic success," and "have more positive and stronger relationships with teachers."
Equitable grading practices are also shown to help reduce achievement disparities, grade inflation, grade deflation, and "statistically significant increase in correlation between grades and standardized exam scores."
PUSD is currently planning a series of Equity Learning Design workshops that will kick off in September. During that time, secondary teachers will participate in action research, with each educator selecting an equitable grading practice to try and then later share the results. Individual half-hour coaching sessions will also be offered for teachers, who will be partnered with a teacher of the same or similar subject already experienced in equitable grading, as well as support and feedback.
** Towards the start of Thursday's meeting, the Board is expected to approve the appointment of two new elementary school principals.
After six years, Elias Muniz is stepping down from his role as principal at Hearst Elementary to become Alisal Elementary's new leader, effective July 1. Muniz will replace outgoing principal Karen Johnson, who was recently promoted to the district's language acquisition coordinator position.
Muniz has been with PUSD his entire educational career, starting as a Spanish dual-immersion teacher and eventually serving as vice principal at several PUSD sites -- sometimes working at more than one school at a time. He was originally selected for the job of interim principal at Hearst, then officially appointed in 2014.
Mohr Elementary principal Julie Berglin is also moving to a different school in the 2021-22 school year. Berglin, who has been at PUSD for almost 25 years and principal at Mohr since 2013, will replace outgoing principal Chris Connor at Walnut Grove Elementary, effective July 1. The reason for Connor's departure is unknown at this time.