Schools See Need to Raise Teachers’ Salaries

Teacher compensation was at the forefront of discussion during a special meeting of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board on Monday.
The board gathered to review this forthcoming Local Control Accountability Plan, which establishes annual goals and specific actions required for funding approval from the county.
Those goals were presented Monday by Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and Chief Business and Operations Officer Mark Evans following meetings with an LCAP Oversight Committee that includes administrators, parents, teachers, students as well as support organizations and employee associations. They collectively identified goals and ranked them in importance, Sinnette explained.
The No. 1 priority this year, Evans reported, was to recruit and maintain highest quality teachers and staff: “Two significant goals: Make our salary competitive with our comparable [districts] and improve lifetime earnings.”
He explained that while LCUSD does “very well” in comparison with most other districts in Los Angeles County, ranking in the top quartile in certain areas, the district seeks to close the gap with other “elite comparable districts.”
“On that front,” he said, “we are behind and that’s where the retention problem comes into play.”
Throughout the ongoing bargaining sessions, teachers have advocated for bringing their long-term earnings more on-par with their counterparts in comparable districts such as San Marino Unified, where the top-earning teachers earn $100,423.26 annually, compared with the maximum $90,720 a year in LCUSD.
LCUSD’s nearly 200 teachers, as well as the district’s counselors, nurses, librarians, speech therapists and school psychologists are not scheduled to receive a pay increase in 2015-16.
Mandy Redfern, the La Cañada Teachers Association President and a teacher at La Cañada Elementary School, told board members that LCUSD teachers stand to lose a significant amount in lifetime earnings if the district doesn’t better compensate them.
“After working for 30 years and dedicating one’s entire career to La Cañada Unified School District, an employee can be expected to be thanked with approximately a quarter of a million dollars less of earned income,” Redfern said.
She said teachers with the same tenure and education in San Marino Unified can earn as much as $292,000 more than their counterparts in LCUSD. The difference is $258,000 when compared with South Pasadena, $247,000 when compared with Palos Verdes and $128,000 when compared with Manhattan Beach.
“This is leaving your educators feeling saddened and unappreciated,” Redfern said.
LCUSD employees received a 10% pay increase between 2012-13 and 2014-15, but so did those at other districts, Evans said.
“So we’re just treading water, we’re not closing the gap,” he said.
Redfern suggested potential cuts that could help bring LCUSD teachers closer to their colleagues in similar districts. Among them: ending the district’s commitment to the professional development organization Teachers Development Group, which she said would yield $350,000 over the next two years.
She said teachers also would like to see the elimination of the fund to cover the cost of potential interruptions to leases owned by the district as well as reducing the district’s reserves to the state-mandated 3% threshold instead of the 3.5% that it’s traditionally held.
Board members attempted to assure Redfern that they had considered those particular proposals, but that they didn’t find them viable.
Sinnette cautioned that a 3.5% reserve would only cover the district for about six weeks, and Evans said Tuesday that School Services of California had just released a statistic showing that the statewide average of reserves for unified districts has increased to about 13%.
“We’re looking for every nickle and dime under the sofa cushions,” board President David Sagal said. “We’re questioning assumptions that the board has been living with for decades. We’re looking very hard at finding creative ways to … find the money.”
“It’s not going to be done in one year,” board member Ellen Multari said. “It’s something we’re building toward, and we might not be able to achieve everybody’s best dreams today.”
Negotiations will continue, Evans said. He also acknowledged that pay increases have been offered retroactively in past years, though that won’t necessarily have bearing on the current dialogue.
The second-ranked priority in LCAP discussions this past year focused on reducing and maintaining small class sizes, Sinnette said. Other goals: continuing successful implementation of Common Core State Standards and an overhaul of the district’s technological infrastructure.

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