News

Palo Alto school administrators' pay tops $200K

As district wrestles with budgeting error, automatic pay hikes give large increases to six top administrators, other managers

The six senior district administrators in the Palo Alto Unified School District are each now earning more than $200,000 a year due to "me too" clauses in their contracts that automatically pass along the increases granted to union employees to all non-union professionals, managers and administrators, according to district data provided to the Weekly.

The practice makes the compensation of all administrators, principals, assistant principals, deans, directors, coordinators and classified managers directly tied to whatever increases are negotiated with the employee unions, without regard to performance.

Mirroring the union employees, these six highest paid administrators, who report directly to Superintendent Max McGee (who is not subject to the "me too" provision), and the district's 125 other non-represented employees received in June a retroactive increase of 5 percent going back to July 2015 and a 4 percent increase that took effect on July 1.

McGee's compensation, including a $750-per-month auto allowance, is set in his contract at $316,000 for this school year, a 2 percent increase. This does not include retirement, health and statutory benefits, nor the $1.5 million interest-free loan the district gave him a year ago to purchase a home in Palo Alto.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers, who negotiates the union contracts on behalf of the district and is the second-highest paid district official, has seen his compensation increase from $198,000 in the 2014-15 school year to $219,000 in 2016-17. This includes a $450-per-month car allowance paid to all of the senior administrative team and extra pay for advanced degrees and longevity with the district, but it does not include retirement, health and other benefits.

Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak's 2016-17 compensation is now $217,000, while Associate Superintendent Markus Autrey, hired a year ago, is at $216,000. Both figures include the $450-per-month car allowance.

Holly Wade, promoted in 2015 from director of special education to chief student-services officer, will make $211,000 this school year, including the car allowance, almost 20 percent more than she was paid in 2014-15.

Barbara Harris, also promoted last June from the title of director of elementary education to chief academic officer for elementary education, will receive $209,000, including the car allowance, a 35 percent increase over 2014-15. Sharon Ofek, promoted in June from principal of JLS Middle School to chief academic officer for secondary education, will receive $204,000.

For all employees, direct insurance, retirement and statutory benefits add approximately 20 percent to the total cost to the district of employing the individual, according to district data provided to the Weekly. Senior administrators are contracted to work 224 days per year, while other non-union positions vary between 200 and 220 days.

The practice of the automatic "me too" raises surfaced when the school board discussed the proposed union contracts during its two May meetings. The board voted 4-1, with Ken Dauber dissenting, to approve both the union contracts and the identical increases for administrators and managers, but it agreed to discuss the "me too" practice further at its August retreat to be held this Thursday, Aug. 11. (No agenda is available yet for the retreat, which has been set for 8:30 a.m. at the district office.)

Since then, an erroneous estimate of property-tax revenues has created a $3.7 million deficit in the current year's budget and, likely, a much larger deficit for next year.

New property-tax estimates came in last month 3 percent lower than the district had budgeted for, resulting in a $5.2 million shortfall, $1.5 million of which was made up with the automatic elimination of 1 percent off-schedule bonuses for employees through a clause built into new union contracts.

The board will also discuss at the Aug. 11 retreat options for how to address the deficit. At least one board member, Dauber, has voiced support for eliminating administrator and managers' 4 percent "me too" raises for this year, saying doing so is preferable to cuts that would more directly affect students. He has raised concerns about the potential harm the budget deficit could have on the district's ability to mitigate growing class sizes at the high schools, which expect to see approximately 600 additional students over the next five years, according to a moderate projection in an April demographer's report. One preliminary proposal from Mak and McGee for how to address the budget deficit is to use $375,000 in the budget that had been reserved for the potential hiring of teachers to accommodate future enrollment growth. (The budget is based on projected enrollment, which came in this year at the elementary level lower than expected, leaving the leftover funds.)

"We really need to ask for each of the expenses we have -- is that expense more important than teachers in our classrooms, than preventing class-size increases?" he asked his colleagues at a special budget study session last week. "And if it's not, we need to be willing to bite the bullet in order to protect that."

Board President Heidi Emberling, however, in an interview with the Weekly asserted that rescinding administrator and manager raises will impact the classroom. High-quality principals create school climate, help the district retain teachers and improve student achievement, she said. And district administrators are the "leaders of the leaders," helping to drive and support schools toward district-wide goals, she said.

"I can't imagine that anyone wants to take away or not compensate our leadership," she said.

School-board candidate Todd Collins said that while revisiting administrator raises should be "high" on a list of potential expense cuts considered by the board, it's difficult to evaluate without information on the multi-year impact of the tax shortfall, which the district has yet to provide publicly. He also pointed to data collected by Bowers showing that many Santa Clara County school districts use the same "me too" system. Out of 18 districts that responded to his inquiry, only one negotiates with represented and non-represented groups separately. Four, however, are reviewing this practice.

"There is no reason that it should be that way other than that seems to be a norm in the market, and we have to decide whether it's valuable enough to us to break away from the norm," Collins said.

Jennifer DiBrienza, a former teacher who is running for the school board, said there is "some merit" to the automatic raises "in that our teachers are our biggest asset and the administrators are the instructional leaders in those schools that guide what's happening in the school, the tone of the school."

But in the current budget crisis, the district should be willing to consider all cost-saving options, including rolling back raises for senior administrators, she said.

"I think it would be irresponsible to not look at everything," she told the Weekly. "It doesn't mean that that it's not valued or that we cut it, but we need to look at everything because we don't want to make this a bigger problem next year."

The process through which the district's managers and other professional employees receive compensation increases is based on tradition, not board policy, and has rarely, if ever, received any attention or discussion.

Each year when the proposed union contracts with teachers and classified employees are presented for approval by the school board, companion agenda items seek approval of identical increases for two different groups: "Non-Represented Management Employees" and "Non-Represented Confidential/Supervisory Employees."

Together, these account for about 125 employees, including principals, deans, assistant principals, district office directors and coordinators and managers who oversee classified employees.

The school board routinely, and usually without any discussion, approves these increases, which are automatic and are based on achieving "satisfactory" performance. In recommending board approval of the identical raises given to the union employees, the May 10 staff recommendation stated: "In past years, the board has given consideration to settlements with other employee groups when determining compensation changes for non-represented employees."

Compensation increases for the top district administrators are never actually approved by the school board because they work under employment contracts that tie their annual compensation increases to whatever increase is given to the group of management employees.

According to Bowers, the "me too" approach to pay increases for non-union managers and supervisors has been a longtime practice in the district, but he is unsure when it was first implemented. In his 23 years as an administrator, the superintendent has always recommended and the board approved the same pay increase for administrators, as well as the confidential/supervisory staff, who also are not unionized, Bowers wrote in an email to the Weekly. Staff who have worked in the district longer than he has also could not "think of a time that this did not happen," he said.

"Why is this done -- to recognize the hard work of these two other groups of employees," Bowers continued. "The fact that they aren't unionized and don't bargain doesn't make them any less deserving of the raise that teachers and classified staff receive. I imagine we might have 4 unions to bargain with if this was not the practice."

Minutes from a board discussion on compensation changes for non-represented management employees in March 2009, the year that management employees formed the Palo Alto Management Association (PAMA) and negotiated a management salary schedule that is adjusted each year after the board approves the union contract, state that Bowers "mentioned the longstanding understanding with the unrepresented group that they will receive the same compensation increases as the two unions."

Related content:

Editorial: End 'me too' raises | Aug. 5, 2016

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Comments

104 people like this
Posted by Absurd
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 9:26 am

Absurd is a registered user.

Administrators are just glorified teachers who work fewer hours and get more perks. There are far too many of them, which is why they have SO little work to do.

Lay off HALF of them--which will force the remainder to earn their keep.

Also, Max McGee is way overpaid and overcompensated. He is too ineffectual for that pay rate.


106 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 9:32 am

Unbelievable. Scott Bowers is the HR director and his justification for the salaries he oversees is "tradition". Put that next to Cathy Mak's mistake on the budget. Why has MCGee not fired these admins?

Heidi Emberling once again demonstrates that she doesn't get it.

Why is Ken Dauber the only board member who seems to ever make sense?


93 people like this
Posted by Unsatisfactory Performance
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 9:50 am

Behavior undeserving.

Given the debacles of the past few years, the pressure for Measure A and major blunder with the budget, rewarding these administrators feels like a direct insult to this taxpayer and community member. I expect better performance for this salary. AND for such a large increase. Disgusted.


99 people like this
Posted by Conflict of interest, anyone?
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 10:36 am

Let me get this straight. Step 1: Scott Bowers negotiates a 9% raise for teachers. Step 2: Managers get the same raise because of "me too". Step 3. Scott Bowers gets a 9% raise for himself because his contract says that he gets the same raise as managers.

Bowers is "negotiating" with the union for his own raise. Every 1% he agrees to is over $2,000 per year in his own pocket.

A great job if you can get it.


23 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 10:53 am

Editor, can you clarify:
"the district's 125 other non-represented employees received in June a retroactive increase of 5 percent going back to July 2015 and a 4 percent increase that took effect on July 1."
Can you clarify: if the pay increases are retroactive to 2015, does that mean the Administrators automatically received increases on their salary for the past year already worked? If that is so, does that mean in the case of Autrey, he was hired in at one salary, but it was retroactively raised so his actual salary for the past year was much higher? In the case of those promoted last year, such as Wade, does that mean she was promoted at one salary for last year, but her actual salary level for the past year was much higher?

-------------------

Editor's Note: Yes, you are correct about how the retroactive raises work for newly hired administrators. In Autrey's case, he was hired in July 2015 under a contract that spelled out his salary level and then received a retroactive 5% increase this June and has just received a 4% increase for the school year about to begin.




39 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:14 am

My recollection is that these salaries are not for a full year's work either - can the Weekly please report on whose salary is for a year and prorate the rest so we have a sense of the equivalence? At least in my experience, these people are mostly not around for the summer, or they take significant time off without hurting their oay.


40 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:17 am

"Senior administrators are contracted to work 224 days per year, while other non-union positions vary between 200 and 220 days."
A salary of 224 days worked a year at a salary of$219,000 - $211,000 = $977 - $941 a day worked.

Something to think about when you see all 6 of them are sitting at meetings and retreats.


41 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:24 am

224 Work Days a year at an average of 5 days a week is 44.8 weeks a year worked and about 7.2 weeks a year off work.


122 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Disgusting. Totally disgusting. Palo Alto is a city run amok across the board.


26 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 12:48 pm

I watched the June Board Meeting. I don't think the Board make it clear they were approving the raises for the 6 Administrators and making them retroactive because:

1) After the Board and senior administrators stressed some of the employees were paid under separate contract agreements, it was logical for the public to assume there would be a negotiation of those contracts before they received more raises. Certainly it wasn't made clear to the public they raises of contract covered employees would be retroactive to a year ago.

2) It wasn't clear this raise was being given to all 6 of these most senior Administrators. The Board said they were going to discuss management raises at the upcoming Retreats, and Administrators said they have a whole year to do it.

There may have been more public input if this were clearer at the time.


54 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2016 at 1:01 pm

All of this gets so bad that words finally fail me! Management in this city and school district are so out of control. Voters, we must figure out how to stop the madness.


34 people like this
Posted by Thank You
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 1:13 pm

@ PA Online. I'm grateful for this article. I've been a parent in the district for a long time and had no idea how insanely high the administrators salaries have become. Given their recent $5m budget shortfall failure, which you also thankfully wrote about, it's criminal what the Superintendent and Chief Business Officer make. In the real world, employees are fired for such errors.

@Clarify, thank you for digging deeper, asking the question about retroactive pay, running the numbers, and showing the absurdity of what these administrators make in cush jobs with almost 2 months of vacation days a year and inept performance.

It all makes me sick. I'd like to know what we as PA taxpayers can do about this. As voters, we have a voice in electing School Board Members. But how are we empowered to tie Administrators' salaries to experience and performance and not teacher raises? Is it solely through the School Board we elect?


69 people like this
Posted by MARY S.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

MARY S. is a registered user.

This is disgusting. Without loyal teachers teaching where would we be? Way too many administrators-"me too"? Have they no shame? Guess not.


11 people like this
Posted by E
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 5, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I don't know about ALL of the administrators, but the ones that I am familiar with work WAY more than their minimum hours. They have meetings, after school and weekend events and much more. Most, if not all put in their time as teachers also, and at minimal salaries.


23 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Friday afternoon

Kudos to the Weekly for its timely, thorough reporting.

Let's rescind these "me too" raises--especially if we're to retain any shred of hope of funding smaller classes in our high schools.

Last semester, by official count, 425 classes at Gunn and Paly had thirty or more teenagers in the room. How do you get your raised hand called on in such huge mobs? How do you get personalized, individual feedback on your efforts?

A healthy daily environment for our adolescents is a much more pressing need than additional pay for administrators.

When it comes to evaluating the job performance of administrators, I haven't a clue; that's a tough one. But as for evaluating the performance of teachers--that's an easy one:

Web Link

We owe our employees this kind of informed, performance-enhancing feedback on their work.

For a healthier high-school environment for our kids--improvements to conditions and regimens that are inimical to their well-being every single day of the school year--I encourage readers to visit: savethe2008.com

Best,

Marc Vincenti
Campaign Director
Save the 2,008 -- creating hope for Palo Alto's high-schoolers


45 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Let me get this straight - the person responsible for negotiating teacher salary increases has a "me too" clause in his employment agreement. I'd call that a conflict of interest. Also car allowances?? Last time I checked, Palo Alto isn't located in Europe. McGee lives in Palo Alto thanks to an interest free loan. Why does he need a car allowance?? Shouldn't he be setting an example and biking to work. What's next? Another parcel tax to pay for the budget shortfall that is a direct result of the School Board ignoring property estimates from the Santa Clara Assessor. This School Board is asleep at the switch!!


178 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:59 pm

For those concerned about Scott Bowers conflict of interest - get this - up until last year his wife was a teacher at Paly. When he voted her a raise he got one too - the ultimate twofer! This went on for years. I think she is now a coach, not sure if she is a district employee or not.


45 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm

@ Gunn Parent

You've raised a good point.

Scott Bowers' wife, Kathi Bowers, is a math teacher and Athletic Director at Paly. So when Scott negotiates teacher raises, he benefits from an increase in his wife's salary as well as his own "me too" raise. This has been true for many years.


21 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm

This proves our current system is not working. Government is unaccountable and ridiculous. We get a microcosm if this nonsense here in our faces right now. I note this is during school summer vacation. I wonder how many are paying close attention.
Our public government has run amok. There are so many examples - this just happens to be local.
These salaries, benefits, their work calendar/schedule are excessively generous.
What we have now are the elite Tech billionaires and the many on the public payroll with high salaries/benefits and excessive holidays. Then... we have the great mass of the heavily taxed public: upper middle, middle, lower middle, lower.
Then there are those on an array of public benefits and charitable support.
I heard on the radio about a public employee complaining something about being denied Cesar Chavez day off (Santa Clara County striking court employee) Good God, how many of us get that day off?!
I do't think public employees should be able to strike.
Taxpayers really need to wake up and increase participating in public discourse, debates, votes. It starts here in Palo Alto. Most of us are the burdened taxpayer without the tax shelters/schemes/overseas sheltering/shell companies and protection afforded the wealthy -- offered by the elected officials (check the cost to attend major politicians' "fundraisers.") We have little access to our major elected officials, most of us. I have had responses from Sen. Feinstein, but not Sen. Boxer, for example. I am just a "little person," though very heavily taxed at every possible angle. My voice is rarely heard and has little impact. Please vote Gary Johnson/William Weld for President. Thx.


26 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Email board@pausd.org. Say you want your email in the board packet. Don't vote in November for the incumbents who are wasting taxpayer money, Heidi Emberling and Melissa Caswell. Show up at school board meetings and say what you think.

This is local government you can make a difference.


25 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:52 pm

@Voter,
Going to school board meetings and writing the board is a waste of time, because they know that all you can do is talk to the hand and that you can't really DO anything.

To those above wondering what you can do, I have researched this extensively, and this is what you can do (posted on the sister editorial to this story, but clearly not everyone here has read it):

@Lets Act Now,
"My questions are simply what we as taxpayers can do at this juncture to make changes:
- fix the budget deficit;
- get our money back to help the kids and the schools;
- get rid of those decision makers, be it board or district employees, who squander our money: vote them out during the next election or recall right now. What are the procedures."

Here's the problem. School districts are uniquely insular governmental structures that lack the mechanisms of checks and balances that made our democracy great. Just electing a handful of volunteers every so often is not it. The principle of three branches of power at the top has been very important at the state and federal level. At the state and local level we have referenda and initiatives. We can chance the City charter. There are numberous causes of action where citizens can sue various governments to ensure rules are followed. But notice that even suing the CA Dept of Ed means very little because they have so very little power over local districts.

If you look at your PTA bylaws, there are sections that acknowledge that sometimes graft happens, and it's very important for parents to hold the power to stop it. Any individual parent has a great deal of power to do something if they even suspect something is wrong. If, at the City level, you don't like something the City Council does, there are clear rules by which you can leverage change, depending on the type of action.

But school districts have no such mechanisms. There is an ASSUMPTION - an assumption not borne out in fact - that school districts are beneficial because local control is beneficial, but there are no real mechanisms for ACTUAL local control. (An insular overpaid administrator living locally or a handfull of local volunteers elected every many years is NOT the same thing as local control.)

This is a really important lesson for innovating education in this country. People keep wanting to come up with some groundbreaking school or teaching method. But research on innovation tells us that "lead USERS" innovate - the people for whom the innovations are most necessary, especially the ones willing to be first - they innovate. Top down = NOT INNOVATIVE. If we want school districts to respond to forces of constant improvement everywhere in the country, the most important, essential change has to be to change the structure of school districts so they more resemble other proven democratic governmental structures in our society, and are directly responsible and accountable at the level of every interaction. People who have great ideas or great concerns should have some leverage to effect change, as they do in every other democratic institution (but not school districts, where all we can do is ask - that's not a check or balance).

Are you, personally, really ready to act now, or do you think by your post you will motivate someone else to? Because based on considerable experience, leaders who pull together everyone and get the ball rolling are essential and hard to come by. If you want someone to do it, do it yourself. Don't count on someone else to do it. Get on the phone and start pullling together allies in the community.

You asked what you can do, and luckily because Palo Alto is a charter city, the way forward is clearer than if it weren't. Charter cities in Palo Alto can choose to set up their school districts under their city charters, which Palo Alto has done. Read the City Charter, it establishes the Superintendent position, the board, and even explicitly states that the state ed code governs. Except for areas like discrimination in which higher laws pre-empt, we can basically change everything.

When you get your group together, you have as much a right as anyone else to figure out where the problems and waste are in our system. You can look at other cities across the nation that demand greater accountability. In some cities, school districts are accountable to the Mayor's office, for example, You could establish an independent position of management and budget, outside the district's control, to take and act on citizen complaints, better manage funds, etc. You could establish a registry for voters online and let citizens vote instantly on some kinds of proposals during meetings. I'm not suggesting you do those things, I'm just pointing out that you can do anything you want - subject to convincing other Palo Altans that you have a good plan. Because I think charter amendments have to be voted on, they can't just be adopted by city councils. To get your proposal on the ballot, ask the City Clerk for instructions (and check them online yourself). You need to get so many voter signatures - which in this increasingly interconnected City shouldn't be that difficult if you have a good plan - then you get it on the ballot, and citizens get to decide if we want to improve our district. Maybe even coming up with rival plans, where the highest vote prevails, would be a good thing. It may not even be too late for the coming election.

That may not have been the answer you were looking for. But it's reality. You've asked how to do some very common sense things, which citizens should have the power to leverage in a democratic system, but don't because school districts are completely insular. Change that, and you can leverage those kinds of checks and balances, this time, next time, and forever after. (I advise you to get allies in the community who care but no longer have children in the school district, because the ones who do will need cover every once in awhile, at least until the system stops being so utterly insular.)


15 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:57 pm

PS to @Let's Act Now and everyone else wanting to do something.

Yes, you can also recall Board Members. That does nothing to create direct accountability or checks and balances. It's just as much work as a charter amendment, and won't accomplish nearly as much. (I believe - correct me if I'm wrong, I may be - your power to recall board members is also spelled out in the city charter.)

Look at the school district section of the City charter. (You can find it online.) Get together with others, form coalitions. Find examples of change that really works. Propose a charter amendment to create more accountability of our school district to the community. One really drastic thing you could also do is force a reorganization, I think that allows a lot of discretion in letting people go (and going outside of contracts unless people are rehired).

Good luck, I will support your efforts. Remember, don't count on someone else to do it, it will never happen. But if you do the hard work at the start, many others will join.


26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Don't you realize that we are all the cows PA school administrators are milking. It will continue until we stop agreeing to pay any more parcel taxes. They shame stupid us and then put the money in their pockets.


28 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Effective January 1, 2001, the annual salary of the President of the United States was increased to $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance.

Who might even suggest that the people who run the school district might deserve salarues approaching the President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world?!?!?!

This has to be one of the biggest frauds that has ever been put over on the people of anywhere in the world!


33 people like this
Posted by sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 5:18 pm

sheri is a registered user.

McGee's compensation includes a $750-per-month auto allowance (and every senior administrative team member receives a $450/month car allowance). We know he doesn’t have to drive far as the district gave him a $1.5 million interest-free loan to purchase a home in Palo Alto.
This at a time when City officials are telling (or bullying) residents to get out of their cars and bike or use public transportation (which is nearly non-existent in most neighborhoods).

Just a side gripe.


27 people like this
Posted by Thank You
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm

@E
"I don't know about all of the administrators, but the ones that I am familiar with work WAY more than their minimum hours. They have meetings, after school and weekend events and much more. "

Not buying the pity party. Most people in salaried jobs, especially here in Silicon Valley, work WAY more than the hours they are in the office. Employees in the REAL world must also bust their chops nights and weekends on electronic leashes because they have performance reviews, must compete to retain their jobs, and actually need to EARN raises! And guess what? These same salaried employees definitely do not get 7.5 weeks of vacation per year like our pausd administrators. Try 3 weeks max.

I agree that most teachers work very hard in the classroom. Perhaps, after performance reviews based on merit (not a 2 year automatic tenure), the hardest working highest performing teachers should be making the $200k salaries instead of the paper pushing self-awarding administrators.


18 people like this
Posted by No use of Reserves, No Impact on Kids
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Here's an idea - instead of balancing the budget on the backs of kids and teachers, REQUIRE that they do it by cutting recurring overhead. NO use of reserves (our rainy day fund); NO use of bond funds for expenses like IT; NO cuts that impact kids and classrooms. ONLY reduction in overhead.

This is no different from what happens ALL THE TIME in the for-profit world - if profits come up short, overhead and discretionary expense gets cut. The only way to make it happen is to tell them THEY HAVE NO CHOICE!


9 people like this
Posted by Cassie
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Never ends.

Amazing, but it will always continue never stopped.


110 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Just received the Paly Back to School Packet in the mail. The majority of the packet is asking for money for PTA, PIE, clubs, sports, etc...

I will send all of mine back with a $0 and explain that the reason I am not contributing is due to the mismanagement at the administrative/board level. Maybe PIE, PTA and Sports Boosters can put some pressure on the board to make some changes when they see their donations decrease. Doubtful, but maybe.


23 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

@Dean,
According to this article, the highest paid Governor in the entire nation makes $190,000.
Web Link

All of these administrators make more than every Governor in the entire United States, for less than a year's work.

Max McGee makes a good six figures more than every state Governor in the entire United States. He also gets a 1.5million interest-free loan for housing.

There is no reasonable mechanism to reduce the salaries we pay administrators, to hold them accountable for their performance. Everyone who posts "we should do x,y, and z" - don't waste your breath. We should. We never will, unless the community stands up and changes the rules in the city charter so that there can be real accountability.


25 people like this
Posted by not me
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:25 pm

And this is why I don't contribute to PIE.


18 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm

@Jim H.,
I'm sorry to say, unless you also couple your protest with action to change the system, then your protest will change nothing. If you become the subject of backbiting by administrators, the adults at school may even take it out on your child, I've seen that happen. You'll never hear what the administrators told the teachers behind your back, so they may even bully your child or even gang up on adults in your family as a result and feel just dandy about themselves for it. All that stuff about improving community etc to protect children is only if they like you. Good luck if you cross the wrong person, which starting a boycott of PiE guarantees. And no matter how egregiously anyone behaves toward you or your child, there is no mechanism to hold anyone accountable - only to reward them for getting away with it.


14 people like this
Posted by Grandpa
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2016 at 7:56 am

We will keep giving to Pie even though our kids are long out of school. PAUSD is a great district that is important to all of us.

We always vote for school board because it is so important to have good management. I voted for Emberling and Caswell last time. I will be looking at new candidates this time.


62 people like this
Posted by GC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2016 at 8:39 am

Car allowances?


94 people like this
Posted by @Car Allowances
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2016 at 8:57 am

I had the same reaction: do people really still get car allowances? These aren't roving salespeople or people living on the road - these are senior admins with office jobs! What is this, the 1970's? How about you take that big salary and get your own car like everybody else!


18 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2016 at 10:07 am

@Everyone not contributing to PiE,
Let me be more direct.

PiE is run by parents, and the funds directly benefit kids. Do not hold back funds unless you are willing also to work directly to change the system. Those funds help shore up gaps in poor management. Leaving those gaps unaddressed will not be an impetus to fix the system, it will only leave more gaps.

Fix the system.

@Grandpa,
Thank you for your concern. With all due respect, as someone more recently in th system, the problems go well beyond voting in better people on the board. But your stewardship in really looking below the surface to find better board members is needed too, so thank you for your commitment. But during your time, we didn't have such problems because the staff apparently had a stronger social contract with the community. Since then, pay has ratcheted up so much, it's actually bought us degraded performance (for this type of work, business research comes down generally on the side of overpaying people hurting performance). We have no mechanisms to correct. Bringing in new board members will not be enough.


1 person likes this
Posted by Question
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

@Bell, CA - I'm a little afraid to ask, but why is it that new board members will not be enough to make changes? Are they somehow prevented from reflecting the interests of the community?


13 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2016 at 2:28 pm

@Question,
"...why is it that new board members will not be enough to make changes? Are they somehow prevented from reflecting the interests of the community?"

That's a very good question. One could ask the same of kings and dictators - are they somehow prevented from reflecting the interests of the community? Why do people want democracy when they could just petition the king or the king's advisor's? Don't kings have incentives for the country to be successful?

Or, more to the point, you could ask the same thing of state representatives - why do we have initiatives, and causes of action to sue the state? What if, at the federal level, we didn't have the 3rd branch, the judiciary, and all we had was the executive branch and legislature? What if we only had the elected executive branch, which is more like what we have at the school district, highly paid employees the community has no leverage with (if they aren't rich and famous) and a handful of elected volunteers?

Checks and balances are an essential aspect of democracy, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. Checks and balances have to involve actual power or they are meaningless. Let me say that again: CHECKS AND BALANCES HAVE TO INVOLVE ACTUAL POWER OR THEY ARE MEANINGLESS. If petitioning the king were enough, we would never have had a revolution that established the United States of America. The same goes for representatives who are elected only every 4 years (6 years if they can get an excuse to extend their term on the ballot as Caswell did).

They were managing a bond fund of over a third of a billion dollars that we were told then was going to give us basically new facilities for the next century. That's not really what we got. The public was supposed to have input, but it was a sham. People could sign a card with their personal information and read it in an obligatory, short time, and they could not engage in a discussion if the employees or the contractors rebutted with false information. Again, the value of democracy is in getting better than we could with a king, because public input and sunshine tends to hone the use of public funds, but only if the public has a lever if the leaders get too far off the rails. Even in this discussion I saw someone make a false-choice statement saying we decided to improve the two schools we have for greater capacity instead of opening three, but from what I saw, we could have improved the two schools we had AND opened the third for the same money if the public had had more input, I don't think the money was spent effectively at all (that's another discussion). Regardless, if I thought the public input was a sham, I should have had some recourse to change that. There really is none. I know parents who have told the board about things the district is doing that are just illegal - the stronger your point, the less likely they will even contact you back. If you had effective recourse as a citizen, they might still not contact you back, but usually after you exercise the recourse, the governance continues with more attention to the will of the people.

We have all kinds of board policies, and the policies even say they are "binding" - but what does that even mean, legally? There's no way to force the district to do anything.

Look at what happened with the adoption of Everyday Math. I'm not suggesting that there was any malfeasance in what happened - but the reality in those situations is that we will never know if there is, and there is a huge amount of money in textbooks for schools (and malfeasance in textbook selection related to graft is definitely not new). So allowing the community input in that decision could be an important check - the ability to do so could seriously reduce the incentives of graft. Real checks and balances require that power is shared - in other words, absolutely power can't corrupt absolutely, because no small entity can ever have absolute power. Again, that's the beauty of our democracy at every level except school board.

When the district was deciding on the math textbook, the program parents clearly favored (and which is used at Sacred Heart or Menlo School, I forget which) was overlooked by accident, and an evaluation was made between other programs that were inferior to Everyday Math but not great. When the district decided to adopt Everyday Math, parents balked. Around 800 elementary school parents signed a petition asking - not to override anything - just to delay the adoption a year so that the overlooked program could be considered. That's a lot of elementary parents. The administration accused parents of disrespect for teachers, because teachers had decided on the program - which was hugely disingenuous accusation, heavy-handed, divisive, and deceptive, because the administration knew very well that the program parents felt was better had never been considered. The publisher offered the materials for free for consideration. When something like that happens - the disingenuous accusation intended to shut up the community - that's a big red flag in public life. But the public could do nothing about it for lack of tangible checks and balances. (That's why even the PTA rules allow for far more checks and balances than just elections, for example.)

The Superintendent decided to adopt Everyday Math anyway. Our parent community was finally appeased because the principal promised only 10% of the education would be Everyday Math, it would be supplemental. But that's not what happened. The students who are doing well in math now are the ones whose teacher ignored the pressure to adopt EDM and did whatever that teacher wanted. Unfortunately, we still suffer from that decision.

My point does not hinge on whether EDM was great for anyone or not, though, my point is that when the decision always rests with a completely insular power, and the community can only ask, the fundamental benefits of democracy are thwarted.

At the City level, whether one was for Measure D or not, the reality is that if the community did not have the power of input - hard as it is - into City decisions, the councilmembers could literally do anything they want to the City, obliterate it, sell it off, so that a later election would be moot and too late. Measure D was not just about that one referendum, it was about the City Council being reminded that their decisions were subject to the will of the people in the City, and that serves as a check and balance on governance. Having referenda and initiatives doesn't mean every decision ends in a referendum - it means the City leaders govern in a way that is cognizant of the checks and balances the citizenry hold if coucilmembers run amok.

We have no such power at all at the school district level. School districts are almost completely insular as governmental structures. People who care about innovating in education should really care about that, because changing that will be what allows school districts to innovate and respond to local needs.


26 people like this
Posted by Election
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 7, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Editor: I have to post this here because the related post was closed. Palo Alto Online, posting an article announcing a board member is running for re-election then not allowing posts is unfair. Blasting articles closed for posts to reader's mailboxes makes it worse. This reached my inbox after posts were closed. This gives the candidate free advertisement with no ability to refute her claims. If posts did not meet the standards, delete them or warn the poster. Unlike other school district related articles, this is not an article about a child. It is about an election of a candidate who has won 2 elections. She has played the game for a long time. Posts will get rougher. I don't like it, but that shouldn't close off input from the public.
Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by A PAUSD Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:32 pm

This is what I suggest.

Firstly the general consensus is shock over the salaries, and mismanagement, and crazy benefits for these admins.

SOMEONE should start a website (come on folks this IS Silicon valley). I don't have that knowledge.

Website should track
1. board members who makes fiscally responsible decisions in their voting
2. board members who make fiscally irresponsible decisions

then continue to vote in the board members like Ken Dauber.
Vote OUT members such as Heidi Emberling

Also for new candidates running for board - if they support same fiscal decisions such as Heidi .. DO NOT vote them in. PERIOD.

And we should have others on the site... who will RUN for board... who WILL be fiscally responsible.
Lets protect the children and the classrooms. At the grassroots level.

Not supporting PIE and protesting that way, and writing a message on PIE won't go anywhere.

VOTE with your VOTES of whom to allow board members to stay or get voted into office.

As for conflict of interest.. HOW THE HELL does one negotiate and approve for one's own salary increase? SOMEBODY STOP THE INSANITY here.


16 people like this
Posted by lets act
a resident of Ohlone School
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm

It seems Terry and Ken tried to stop this outrageous raise from happening in May. Apparently they made a motion to delay the decision and have the staff justify the raises.

Apparently Heidi, Melissa and Camille voted them down.

Is there any way to get such people such as Heidi, Melissa and Camille off the BOARD????!!!!!


17 people like this
Posted by paras and subs
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Although I agree that the well-paid administrators should not have benefited from the generous raises negotiated by PAEA, I sincerely hope that the hard-working and underpaid paras and substitutes did receive raises. Does anyone know whether or not this was the case?


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:59 pm

@lets act - all 3 are up for re-election. Camille is retiring, but Heidi and Melissa are running again. So you can get your wish - work for their challengers ;-)


25 people like this
Posted by Election
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm

@ A PAUSD Parent - it is one thing a conflict of interest exists. It is worse because both the Board and Administrators allowed the public to believe he would not automatically get the same raise as the teachers because he was on a separate contract. They never told us that he, and all 6 Administrators, would automatically get whatever raises he negotiated for teachers.

It is a stunning lack of integrity and misleading the public.

Even worse, Townsend attacked posters and the media for being wrong, when we now learn they stated the truth. McGee, Townsend, the head of Human Resources have no integrity left. Emberling, maybe she's just naive and gullible, but Baten Caswell has been around so long there is no excuse.

If you've watched the meeting for the past year, you have seen the Board has too many preferred employees who now believe they can do anything because the Board will protect them no matter what. The question is what else have they not told us?


5 people like this
Posted by some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 8:17 am

Lets Act,

All 5 board members said that they are open to evaluating how management raises should be determined.

Here is how the school board discussions on those raises went:

May 10: Management raises were discussed at the May 10 school board meeting. Melissa Caswell asked how PAUSD management raises are determined. Heidi Emberling suggested that information on how other districts handle this be presented too, which Terry Godfrey, Ken Dauber and Melissa Caswell supported. Ken Dauber preferred a 1 year raise instead of 3 for management, saying that the reason he supported 3 years for staff did not apply to management. He also suggested merit raises for management. Web Link

May 24: On the agenda was the board's vote on management raises. These raises would be folded into the budget that would be presented to the board at its next meeting.

As requested, staff presented how management raises are determined in CA school districts: the majority do what PAUSD has done and is proposing - match teacher raises.

Ken Dauber asked to defer the vote on these raises for 2 weeks because he wanted more research to be done. This would have had the board voting on management raises at the same meeting it discussed the budget, presumably requiring that a TBD be placed on the budget's compensation line. He did not indicate which raise, if any, he preferred and did not mention at this meeting his May 10 suggestions of a 1 year term and merit raises. His motion to defer the vote failed because other board members felt that 2 weeks was not enough time for staff to complete the extended research he wanted.

Then the board voted, rejecting staff's proposed 3 year management raise.

Ken Dauber suggested and Melissa Caswell motioned (with Ken Dauber seconding) to match the teachers' raise but cut it down to 2 years and discuss year 3 when staff came back with the additional information. Despite Scott Bowers saying that the board could further delay and discuss management raises into the school year, Caswell, wanting to address this sooner, added to the motion a requirement that the board discuss management's 3rd year raise when the board returned in August. This motion passed. All 5 agreed to the 2 year matching management raise. Ken Dauber did not vote yes though because he said, again, that he wanted that information to be presented at the June 7 board meeting. Web Link

June 7 and 21: PAUSD budgets, with compensation, were discussed and voted on.

June 30: PAUSD met the state's June 30 budget adoption deadline.

July: The County released the final property tax revenue amounts for 2015-16. That ended up being $22 million more than PAUSD had originally projected in June 2015 but $3 million less than PAUSD projected in its mid-year update.

July 27: PAUSD re-convened the board for a special study session about the shortfall.

August: PAUSD will be presenting the additional management compensation information that the board requested.


12 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 8, 2016 at 9:15 am

"Some facts" gets a lot wrong here. Looks like the reason is to fuzz out what actually happened: Godfrey and Dauber (not sure why this whole post is about Dauber) wanted some justification for managers' raises beyond "me too", and the other three board members voted no. As a result, managers got two years of "me-too" raises.

Dauber said that he preferred 3% raises in 2015-16 and 2016-17 rather than the 5% and 4% proposed by staff, but that he wanted some reaction from staff. Godfrey said she didn't have a figure in mind, but wanted some justification. Her colleagues disagreed: they didn't need justification.

Dauber made a motion to defer the managers' raises for two weeks, Godfrey seconded it, and Caswell, Emberling, and Townsend voted no.

The statement that "All 5 agreed to the 2 year matching management raise" is false, as Dauber voted no. He supported a 2-year rather than a 3-year raise, but opposed "me-too". All four other board members voted yes.

Clearly, incumbents running for re-election are feeling nervous about their financial screw-up and would like a do-over, at least on the history of what actually happened.

Next up: what happens to the 4% raise for managers for 2016-17, now that the district is in a $3 million deficit? Dauber wants to eliminate it to save money, leaving the 5% for 2015-16 in place. Emberling wants managers to keep the full 9% raise, according to the Weekly. Caswell hasn't weighed in.


15 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

Wait. Let me get this straight. The board wants to consider whether they should be automatically giving administrators big raises, so they are putting administrators in charge of giving the board the information to evaluate the situation? Seriously? (Administrators with some of the most sharpened obfuscatory skills anywhere?)


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2016 at 10:02 am

Why all the angst over administrator salaries? You are the ones who made it very expensive to live in Palo Alto (and the Bay Area in general) by being anti-development.

Take some ownership of the impact of the "residentialist" mindset. This is what you get when you don't build enough housing in this area. And that goes for everyone up and down the peninsula, but as a resident here, I can pretty much say that we're among the worst offenders.

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 10:44 am

To correct and add more detail on what was said at the May 24 meeting:

Ken Dauber said that "our strong preference" is a 2 year management raise and that "our initial suggestion in terms of level of compensation" is that management get a 3% raise in Year 1 and another 3% raise in Year 2. By "our" he meant himself and Terry Godfrey he said.

He did not ask the board to vote on the 3% + 3% raise suggestion. Instead he made a motion to defer action until June 7 when staff would return with a justification other than "me too" for the raise staff proposes. Terry Godfrey seconded this motion.

Despite Ken Dauber's "our" in his introductory comments, Terry Godfrey said that she wanted to "hear more thinking" about the term - 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years - and that she did not know if the raise "should be more or it should be less" than the amount proposed.

After Ken Dauber's motion did not pass because of other board members' timing concerns, Melissa Caswell moved to approve the proposed first and second year raise but not the third year. Ken Dauber seconded that motion and said "it makes good sense." She added to the motion that the third year raise be discussed in August. Ken Dauber said he voted no because he wanted that justification to be presented in June instead.

Web Link





9 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

Whoever hired the recent teachers who were charged with abuses, should get a 9 percent pay cut for not screening their applicants properly. Administrators who did not notice kids alone in classrooms with said teacher should also not get rewarded.


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2016 at 11:55 am

Remember that the Superintendent wanted to rush through the approval of the contract without any discussion.

And the reason that the Board and the Superintendent didn't want to wait until July is because some of them had vacations scheduled.

So decisions involving 10's of millions of dollars, and a structural deficit of $4 million and growing all because of administrators wanting to give themselves a raise, and the Board wanting to rush through the process because of vacations.


14 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm

"some facts" persists in trying to obfuscate what happened at the May 24 board meeting. She seems to be trying to turn the disagreement into timing, instead of whether staff should present a justification for "me-too" raises."

"After Ken Dauber's motion did not pass because of other board members' timing concerns, Melissa Caswell moved to approve the proposed first and second year raise but not the third year. Ken Dauber seconded that motion and said "it makes good sense." She added to the motion that the third year raise be discussed in August. Ken Dauber said he voted no because he wanted that justification to be presented in June instead."

What actually happened:
Dauber made a motion, seconded by Godfrey, to delay voting on the management "me-too" raises until the next meeting, and to require staff to present a justification of the raises. The 3 other board members voted no: they wanted to approve the raises then and there.
Caswell then made a motion, following on a suggestion by Dauber and Godfrey, to remove the 3rd year of raises. Dauber seconded the motion, which then passed.
On the final motion, to approve the 5%/4% raises, Dauber voted no because he disagreed with giving substantial "me-too" raises without justification, not because he wanted the third year to be discussed in June rather than August.

None of this is terribly important. What is interesting is that the "me-too" raises are suddenly politically sensitive, because of the budget deficit and the Weekly editorial. Incumbents are interested in obfuscating what really happened, and would prefer to talk about what happened in May as a disagreement about timing, and not about principle.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

This would all be solved by building more housing.
Housing prices would come down and we could pay the administrators less.
Why do you think you need to pay such high salaries to your employees ?
Location, location, location. I got an A+ in Econ, but even a failing student can tell you that its just supply and demand. The local AND foreign buyers will keep coming and you cannot live in the past as some of you must.



16 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 8:54 pm

@Me,
You are talking nonsense. We pay administrators far far more than would be necessary to attract good people, in fact we pay them so much it hurts performance (if you read business research). We have more administrators than we need. There are no mechanisms to reduce admin pay, as evidenced by the fact that during the last recession/the housing crisis, in which housing prices did drop, there was no drop in administrator salaries.

But I know for a few people in our community, Build Baby Build is the answer to all problems.

Building more housing means more students in the schools, more problems and costs, and more not fewer administrators. Nice try, again, though.


10 people like this
Posted by Dummynek
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 8, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Bell hits the nail on the head. Everyday Math was the last straw for me.
1700+ parents signed a petition against the program and Skelly didn't give a hoot. I Still remember how a school board member mumbled something about PA teachers having a "special sauce" to make it work....

INSTEAD OF WASTING YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY ON CONTRIBUTIONS TO PIE DO YOUR KIDS A FAVOR AND ENROLL THEM in one of those Russian or Chinese after school math programs. Than you will really understand how inferior our schools really are!





Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:03 am

This is the Old PA Me. Happy there's another Me in Midtown. Maybe we're related?

As for Bell: "We pay administrators far far more than would be necessary to attract good people, in fact we pay them so much it hurts performance (if you read business research). We have more administrators than we need."

How do you know? This is a pretty big statement. Please educate us on PAUSD should be paying administrators and how to run the organization. I'm personally not a fan of paying more to government institutions because you end up with waste (see: CPAU), but I also am wary of statements like the above without knowing the experience and knowledge of the person making these proclamations.


6 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 9:40 am

When the pay of the Superintendent for a small town's school district is closer to what the President of the United States makes than the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the whole state or the Governor for that matter, we are paying too much. When we are paying far more to assistant this-and-that's than jobs with way more responsibility in equally expensive areas, like federal judges in San Francisco, we are paying too much. Especially since we have no real mechanism to reduce pay scales.

You sound like a PAUSD administrator, they also seem to judge facts based on whether they look down their noses at the speaker or whether intraoffice gossip and backbiting make them look bad. Why not judge using the facts? I wish I didn't have to restate the obvious, but use search, books, and don't just try to cherry pick what you want to hear. You could use many different phrases to assess whether paying too much can hurt performance.

Here's just one of many articles, this from Forbes: "The Highest Paid CEOs are the Worst Performers, New Study say". Web Link

That's not a singular article. If you look at business research for the past five or six decades, you pretty much find the same. If you have a very narrow task, like on an assembly line, carrots and sticks can help. If you have jobs that require problem solving, too much financial incentive can seriously hurt performance.

We have a whole bevy of bureaucrats at the top who are paid so much, their behaviors prioritize their pay and the status quo, not our children. Look at what Skelly did that started the OPM scuffle. He entered into two agreements with OCR without telling the board, especially not before his performance review and raise, because, by his own admission, he was embarrassed. Despite the controversy that ensued, the district never spent any effort getting to the bottom of problems to protect our children, staff made sure all the efforts and legal expenditures were to protect them and their careers/high pay. (Also by public admission.) The parent group representing special ed students asked for a special liaison and was denied.

I don't see a single administrator in PAUSD who would for moral and ethical reasons, even tell themselves the truth if confronted with bad behavior hurting kids, much less seek out ways to shed light on the truth, protect and comfort the hurt students and families, and improve the system. They all want to go along get along, because of the exorbitant pay and ridiculously easy hours and benefits.


2 people like this
Posted by some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 9:42 am

Board Watcher,

You are correct that the "raises are suddenly politically sensitive, because of the budget deficit."

This time last year the school board, with no no votes, bestowed [portion removed due to inaccuracy] "me too" raises upon management employees on Ken Dauber's motion, which Terry Godfrey said she was "happy to" approve. There were no questions and no discussion about the soundness of the "me too" practice then. Web Link

This year, the board did not knowingly vote in raises that created a $3 million deficit; that deficit was discovered a month or two AFTER the raises were approved. Both proposals - staff's and Ken Dauber's 3% + 3% management raise "suggestion" - would have helped put the budget in the hole. Ken Dauber said his was $350,000/year less expensive but added that the district would need to spend that money on other programs and services.

***

You said: I am "trying to turn the disagreement into timing, instead of whether staff should present a justification for 'me-too' raises" and that Dauber wanted "to require staff to present a justification of the raises. The 3 other board members voted no: they wanted to approve the raises then and there."

What actually happened: [Portion removed due to inaccuracies.]

The first vote was on Ken Dauber's motion (seconded by Terry Godfrey) to defer the management raise vote for 2 weeks and, in those 2 weeks, have staff "justify" that difference with information on management recruitment, management retention, and management compensation practices beyond the 15 or so Santa Clara County districts' compensation practices that staff had presented that night. It was defeated 2:3.

You are right as to Camille Townsend who wanted to approve staff's proposal as is, uncomfortable sending principals and other management employees the message that they were somehow less worthy of those raises than teachers and staff.

But Melissa Caswell agreed with Ken Dauber that there should be a thoughtful process as to how these raises are granted. She mentioned fairness and respect, concerned how late changes might undermine them. She said that two weeks was not enough time to look at compensation practices in an objective and systematic way. She was fine only granting 2 years of raises - last year's and this year's - and deferring the decision on the third year until the summer, after that additional information was presented to the board.

Heidi Emberling also agreed to the need for more information and a summer discussion on this, saying too that 2 weeks was "way too short [and] too quick" to gather the information that was needed for their deliberations.

***

You said: "Caswell then made a motion, following on a suggestion by Dauber and Godfrey, to remove the 3rd year of raises. Dauber seconded the motion, which then passed.. On the final motion, to approve the 5%/4% raises, Dauber voted no because he disagreed with giving substantial 'me-too' raises without justification, not because he wanted the third year to be discussed in June rather than August."

What actually happened: Ken Dauber suggested that, in the event that the board did not approve deferring the vote, the board "set compensation for these employees for 2 years." "Set" appears to mean at the level staff proposed since he twice approved Melissa Caswell's motion to approve "the changes outlined" in the board packet - the 5% and 4% raises. She added that staff should bring them information concerning the third year raise in August. It passed 4:1. Ken Dauber ended up voting no because "2 weeks is perfectly reasonable [to] take a closer look now at the compensation level."

Web Link



5 people like this
Posted by Obvious
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:18 am

Such a funny thread - the gnomes seems to be arguing about whether ALL the board members did a dumb thing (approved big me-too raises) or just almost ALL of them did it. Either way, it was a dumb thing.

Dauber was willing to vote against something - whatever it was, he gets credit for that. Good for him.

Caswell seems captured by the staff, publicly worrying about hurting their feelings by delaying their raise for two week. Whatever is was, that's bad for her.


2 people like this
Posted by some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

In my post above - meant to say that Dauber "seconded" rather than "approved" Caswell's motion.

***

[Portion removed due to inaccuracy.]

The other difference is the size of the raise proposed. IMHO that should be justified and debated. Ken Dauber was right to raise it.

But the timing concern is compelling. All board members knew in March, when the teachers' agreement was approved, the exact terms that would be in management's "me too" proposal.

Why did the two board members who moved and approved "me too" raises without comment last year wait until the 11th hour this year - the school board meetings immediately before the district budget which had to include these raises was presented to them - to question this practice? They could have asked that it be put on April or May's agenda which would have given staff plenty of time to study it and the board ample time to modify the practice, if needed, all in time for the June budget discussion and vote.

That other board members were concerned about the late timing, given the tasks they agreed staff was to do and the budget cycle, is not surprising.




7 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:38 am

Look at this discussion. Yet another that is all about the administrators, all about the adults, all about their protecting their turf/overblown salaries/status quo/power, while the real needs and changes and processes our kids need once again fall by the wayside. Those "other programs" are class size reductions voters were promised, for example. That should be something all these overpaid adults actually care enough about to push, but which among them would ever do such a thing? Who among them would go out of their way to stand up to colleagues? In the OCR mess, it wasn't just the Superintendent who saw what they did to deliberately stress families at the direction of the law firm (who benefited hugely from the adversarial relationships). Who among them ever even thought to themselves, we could be doing serious lasting damage to families and children by doing this? (Or did they find it easier to pile on to families who inevitably reacted badly to being treated like that? That kind of exorbitant pay makes for some pretty strong myopia and self-justification.)

Once again, how is it that the board wants to know more to possibly adjust administrators's exorbitant pay, but who do they ask? The very same administrators. Doesn't anyone recall what just happened with class sizes? The parents found out that they are too large and violating policy, administrators had massaged the numbers to claim they weren't. That alone is de facto evidence that we are not nearly getting what we are paying for. And evidence that in this situation, the board should be looking for help from sources actually capable of scrutinizing the situation.


4 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:44 am

"some facts" is persisting in getting some facts wrong. Let me point them out again. (I see the editor is also at working pruning, but she missed a few things).

"This year, the board did not knowingly vote in raises that created a $3 million deficit; that deficit was discovered a month or two AFTER the raises were approved. Both proposals - staff's and Ken Dauber's 3% + 3% management raise "suggestion" - would have helped put the budget in the hole. Ken Dauber said his was $350,000/year less expensive but added that the district would need to spend that money on other programs and services."

This is like saying that spending less money on rent makes no difference, because now you've spent the left over money on food. In one scenario, you still need food, and in the second, you've paid your rent and also have food. Saying that "the board did not knowingly vote in raises that created a $3 million deficit" misses the fact that the board knowingly voted in raises that added millions of dollars to the district's fixed costs, which (not surprisingly) put the district in a precarious position.

"some facts" says: "Ken Dauber suggested that, in the event that the board did not approve deferring the vote, the board "set compensation for these employees for 2 years." "Set" appears to mean at the level staff proposed since he twice approved Melissa Caswell's motion to approve "the changes outlined" in the board packet - the 5% and 4% raises."

After Dauber lost his motion to delay the vote on the raises for two weeks, he seconded Caswell's amendment to remove the third year of raises from the main motion. That doesn't mean he supported the 9% raise that was left, as "some facts" is trying to assert. You can tell that he didn't because he voted FOR the amendment to remove the third year of raises, and then voted AGAINST the 9% raise.

"some facts" does raise a fair question: why did Dauber and Godfrey not raise the issue the prior year? I imagine it's because they were on the board for only 6 months -- but they should answer that question. Of course, that raises the followup question: why did Melissa Caswell never raise the issue in 9 years on the board, and only see the problem after her new colleagues raised it? That's going to be her problem making the "experience" case. If she's making budget mistakes and not raising important issues after 9 years on the board, what's the benefit to the public of keeping her on? Presumably she's not going be getting any better.


7 people like this
Posted by Election
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

Not all employees covered by the management raises are high paid Administrators. In terms of setting salaries, employees who are Confidential Secretaries and Principals really have no say in this. There is a big difference between Administrators earning $212K and these other employees. The District should separate the categories to ensure lower level and lower paid employees can get the raises.


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Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm

"When the pay of the Superintendent for a small town's school district is closer to what the President of the United States makes than the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the whole state or the Governor for that matter, we are paying too much."

Jeez, we already went through this as a country, when Babe Ruth was asked that same question many years ago. The President of the United States is not a worth metric for cash compensation. It's a ridiculous comparison, especially when he doesn't have to pay Palo Alto housing prices (I assume he doesn't have to pay rent on the White House, nor Moonbeam in Sacramento).

"You sound like a PAUSD administrator, they also seem to judge facts based on whether they look down their noses at the speaker or whether intraoffice gossip and backbiting make them look bad. "

Nope. Just a tax-paying resident of Palo Alto and, more importantly, a veteran of internet chat board discussions that can see through simplistic comparisons and arguments.

You still haven't answered my question, though - what's your expertise in running a government agency? All I see is a bunch of internet reading. And we all know that everything we read on the internet is true. (sigh)

[Portion removed.]

The old residents of Palo Alto continue to make it expensive to live here. How would you argue against that?


1 person likes this
Posted by some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Board watcher,

You: "a fair question: why did Dauber and Godfrey not raise the issue the prior year?"

The more compelling question IMHO is why did Dauber and Godfrey wait until May to question the long-standing practice that they have known about for at least a year and the details - length and amount - they were aware of in March? What they wanted was a vote on compensation at the same meeting that the district budget, with a blank in that line, needed to be presented to the board and public. That is too late.

You: "the board knowingly voted in raises that added millions of dollars to the district's fixed costs"

Not "millions." The subject of this article and thread is management raises. Based on Ken Dauber's math, the 5% raise cost $875,000. He suggested starting the discussion with a 3% raise which would have cost $525,000. The most essential "food" that extra funds should be spent on is subjective. Some think it is more teachers. Some think it is retaining strong principals. Some think it is hiring more counselors. Some think it is attracting the best superintendents.

You: "Caswell's amendment [was] to remove the third year of raises from the main motion." Dauber voted "FOR the amendment to remove the third year of raises, and then voted AGAINST the 9% raise."

Caswell's amendment, which Dauber seconded TWO times, was to adopt the 5% and 4% raises AND take up the 3rd year raise in August . Click through the link in my post and listen at around the 2 hour 20 minute mark. At the end Dauber said he voted no because "2 weeks is perfectly reasonable [to] take a closer look;" his fellow board members did not agree and wanted to give staff more time to gather the information.

Why would he second Caswell's clear amendment on amount AND duration, twice, and then flip on the amount part?

If your interpretation is correct, the take-away is that Ken Dauber did NOT support giving principals ANY raise either last year or this year since he did not make a counter motion asking the board to consider a lower amount. It seems unlikely that he'd do that after he started off with comments saying they were due a raise.


10 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 1:36 pm

@Me,
The Superintendent of Palo Alto does not not have to pay competitively for housing either, he gets a $1.5 Million interest -free loan from the district to cover his housing.

The federal judges who make half to a quarter of what he makes in San Francisco have to pay as much or more for housing, without the benefit of a huge interest-free loan. Furthermore, the Superintendent gets paid for less than a full work year. Prorating his salary means he really does make comparable money to the President if the United States. He may not have Air Force One, but he doesn't need it - he gets a $750/month car allowance. What bureaucrat in a small town school district needs a $750 car allowance?

Our district administrators pay is out of line with other jobs of considerably greater responsibility and equal costs. Your ideological framing does not hold water, and your changing the focus to building housing yet again is a red herring that does a disservice to the interests of our youth. The overblown administrator salaries have no mechanism for reduction, realistic performance assessment, and it is taking resources directly from our children.

Would that more people would rant to protect our children, rather than using the online forums to misdirect to their pet interests like building more housinf. Sheesh.


1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm

"Would that more people would rant to protect our children, rather than using the online forums to misdirect to their pet interests like building more housinf. Sheesh."

You bring that old sawhorse out?

"Oh God, who will save the children?"

(come on)

Everything's connected. Everything.


2 people like this
Posted by Election
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Car Allowances - employees are reimbursed for driving their own car for District business. This is standard business practice and in line with IRS regulations. There are many schools in this District, and employees may need to travel to them.

Usually employees are reimbursed at the IRS mileage rate for the year, which takes into account not only gasoline costs but also wear and tear on your car. Employees also sometimes have to drive to County meetings and liaison meetings with other cities.

Rather than dealing with the minutia and transaction costs of having an employee bill the District for mileage reimbursement for every trip (which has it's costs in processing and cutting a check), the District may give an employee a mileage and/or car allowance.

Different Administrators have different travel requirements. The Director of Special Education and Special Education Coordinators must travel daily to every school in the District (not all in the same day, of course) as well as to County of Santa Clara programs and to Non Public Schools. Because Palo Alto is at the border of the County, most County schools are quite far away and, the availability of appropriate programs is very limited. It can be cheaper to place students in San Mateo County (which is less than a block away from some homes in the District.) However, I do not think any of the employees mentioned in this paragraph receive a car allowance, and must bill the District for mileage after each trip. Please correct if this is wrong.

Questions
- Are the car allowances for the employee to buy or to own their own car?
- Do the car allowances for the senior administrators preclude them billing for mileage? Or do they receive both? It appears they only receive mileage if they travel 50 miles from the District.
- Why do some Administrators receive different amounts? What is it based on? Does the Superintendent travel more between schools than the Associate Superintendent. Do they both really travel more in a day than Special Education employees?
- Are District employees encouraged to travel on public transit? Does the District participate in Go Passes for train and bus?


11 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 6:59 pm

@Me Me Me,
In case you hadn't noticed, this is a thread from a story about our CHILDREN, not a PAF blog on housing. But that's the point with PAF adherents, isn't it? Always trying to divert the discussion away from important problems to solve, like water restrictions because we live in an arid place, the infrastructure, the needs of our children - in this case, excessive and overly expensive bureaucracy taking directly from immediate needs like reducing class sizes.

The effective and cost-effective governance of our schools has everything to do with whether all of our children get a safe and high-quality education. When there are so many administrators making so much money - it's not just the top ones mentioned above who are all making a lot more than the Governor of the entire state of California - and when that pay and their automatic raises directly impact whether the district can deliver on the empty PROMISES it made to get a recent tax voted through, then it is a concern for the community.

[Portion removed.]

It shouldn't have to take parents to notice a problem and research that we have significantly overcrowded classrooms relative to our own district policies, all the while the same overpaid district administrators massaged the numbers to portray things as hunky dory. When we have a situation in which the district person negotiating with the employees stands to benefit himself by giving away the store - I can't even understand how that could be legal, much less go on for year after year without any reasonable stewardship stopping that. The arrogance is no mystery, given how the board turned their backs on the most vulnerable of our students while helping overpaid administrators circle the wagons. There should be checks and balances so that kind of thing never happens.


3 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:56 pm

[Post removed; repeat of earlier comment.]


9 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:59 pm

@Election - you are right I'm sure about travel reimbursement. But Cathy Mak, the CFO, as far as I know, doesn't travel to school sites at all. She may occasionally go to County meetings (though apparently not often enough to get straight about what the Assessor's forecast meant). But her $450 / month reported car allowance, if true, seems to simply be a straight up perk, not a reimbursement.


1 person likes this
Posted by Offensive on so many levells
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 9:00 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:38 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:20 am

[Portion removed.]

Example of why California's a mess and that direct democracy through propositions is a disaster. We have people with just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I am not egocentric enough to believe that I know exactly what the salaries should be for administrators be, even with as much internet reading that I do. Yet we have people doing the equivalent of telling chefs what knives they should be using to debone the fish they're serving to customers.

[Portion removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Bell CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 1:27 pm

@Me,
Luckily for our democracy, our system of government recognizes the inherent worth of individuals, that 12 ordinary people can be an important part of justice, that everyone is equal under the law. [Portion removed.] I actually find the residents of this community to be unusually engaged, highly intelligent, and concerned about being conscientious citizens in our democracy. Many have expressed a desire to change the status quo to improve the schools. Research shows that engaged parents are the main driver of quality schools, which is why the governor's local control formula and new initiative is so strong about demonstrating inclusion of parents.

Luckily also for our democracy, checks and balances keep democratic institutions healthy. When those checks and balances do not exist, or are weak, such as they uniquely are with school districts, it is a duty of people who care about democracy to create them. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance - our kids deserve that vigilance from their community.

No one has yet answered my question - how is it that the school board is asking the same overpaid administrators to give them information to decide whether they are overpaid? This is the same administration that just made it look like we didn't have overcrowded classrooms (versus district policies) that parents had to go gather the data themselves to find the real truth, that we do have classrooms mostly over the policy size limits. The same administration that told us we needed the tax increase for our students' mental health and they would otherwise have to fire 80 teachers. They have a history of massaging information to say what they want. Too bad McGee fell for it, too. Oh well.

@Me above may feel incapable of assessing when we are paying too much for school bureaucracy, without performance measures accountable to the community, but I don't think the very people whose overblown salaries are in question should be the very same ones answering the questions either. They've never done so honestly before when it wasn't even their salaries. Governmental checks and balances exist precisely because humans don't tend to behave well in such situations without them. It's time the community made some changes in the system so we have accountability.


Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Aug 10, 2016 at 1:50 pm


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12 people like this
Posted by Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

@Me,
You wrote "I am not egocentric enough to believe that I know exactly what the salaries should be for administrators be,"

You can actually educate yourself, if you get over the idea that acquiring knowledge and exercising sound judgment is a matter of ego and above your abilities, as you just expressed. Much has been written since the founding of our democracy about the duties of citizens to be informed and involved. No one is requiring it of you if you want to thus constrain yourself, though, another privilege of democracy.

I don't claim to know the exact right salary of administrators, but I know excess when I see it: all of the administrators making more than Governors in all 50 states in the nation, including California is pretty obvious. If money grew on trees, sure, but administrators only thinking and acting like it does is not the same thing. When it means we don't address the student needs the district promised would be addressed in the last property tax increase, something is wrong (again).


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I feel being cheated by PAUSD, and do not want to make Pie donation to PAUSD anymore. PAUSD paid so much for the school administrators in a way that a profitable industrial company does. It is a business rather than a public education department. Strongly protest!!!!!!!!!!!!


11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:40 am

I suppose the most immediate response to this outrageous situation is to stop my annual PIE donation -- the district is clearly wasting cash and likely feels no need for restraint or efficiency because PIE is there to "bail them out" by shielding their flagrant waste from flowing down into the classroom. I'll also be voting against any new bonds until the district gets its ridiculous overhead under control.

Compensation should be a function of responsibility and accountability. Without the latter, the former is irrelevant. The CFO should not be getting credit for managing such a large budget when the price of an 8 figure "oops" that would get anyone in the private sector fired immediately is actually getting a "me too" raise.

I wasn't paying attention to this but I sure am now.


4 people like this
Posted by Reprehensible
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Reprehensible is a registered user.

This district has a surfeit of administrators who are overpaid and underworked!

Cut the number of administrators by one-third, and that will put a big dent in the budget problem.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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