News

Editorial: The 'me too' raise is back

School board poised to reverse positions and reinstate automatic pay raises for principals and other managers

Labor negotiations with public employee unions remain one of the most opaque and intentionally hidden government processes in California. This is particularly frustrating in Palo Alto, where an engaged public expects more transparency and the opportunity for input.

To its credit, the Palo Alto school district is taking several baby steps toward opening up the process, including some limited sun-shining of the proposed agreements before they are actually approved.

This follows the closed session approval in 2016 of a disastrous three-year contract that was negotiated based on erroneous property-tax revenue estimates and without any public discussion, followed by a second embarrassing mistake the district tried to hide — its failure to notify the union it would exercise its right to cancel the final year's 3% increase because of lower-than-expected tax revenues. It was the final straw that led to the resignation of then-Superintendent Max McGee and cost the district more than $4 million.

Last week the district gave the public a head's up about two pending agreements, one with the teachers' union, the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA), and another with the non-represented group of about 75 principals, vice principals, deans, psychologists and other management employees, the Palo Alto Management Association (PAMA).

Thanks to stronger-than-expected projected increases in property-tax revenue this year of 7.4% (compared to the budgeted 2.8%) the tentative agreement with PAEA proposes a 2% salary increase, effective in January 2019 through the end of the school year, plus a 2% bonus. According the district, the agreement will cost the district $3.6 million in the current fiscal year, and $2.4 million in each future year (plus whatever increases and bonuses are approved later for future years).

The proposed agreement is currently being voted on by union members and will come before the board for public discussion and approval if it is ratified by the union.

The agreement with the management employees, who informally bargain as a professional association but are not a union, contains not only across-the-board salary increases equal to the 2% negotiated with the teachers, but a five-year commitment to use this practice of so-called "me too" raises.

Three of the five current school board members have strongly opposed such automatic increases in the past. Todd Collins and Jennifer DiBrienza made their opposition clear in their 2016 election campaigns. Collins said the policy "does not make sense and should be replaced with an approach based on cost-of-living increases, with adjustments based on individual performance." DiBrienza said management raises "should be based on a range of measurable outcomes as determined by the district."

Board member Ken Dauber also criticized the automatic raises and voted against the controversial budget three years ago in part because of the "me too" provision.

After saying nothing about their change in position at Tuesday's board meeting, Collins and Dauber each later told the Weekly it was a worthwhile trade-off in order to get PAMA to agree to ditch a detailed nine-page memorandum of understanding that outlines procedural protections and other guidelines for their interactions with the superintendent. However, neither could cite any specific problems with the agreement.

The PAMA group was formed in 2006 after a revolt of principals in response to personnel actions and organizational changes taken by then-Superintendent Mary Frances Callan and the school board. The controversy led to her resignation and the development of the lengthy agreement that quieted the tension and has remained largely in effect ever since.

As Dauber, Collins and DiBrienza argued just three years ago, no well-managed professional organization should set compensation of its senior managers by tying it to a rank-and-file pay raise negotiated with a union. Compensating the highest-performing school principal identically to the lowest-performing one isn't fair and removes the most basic tool to managing and rewarding performance. We don't like the idea that well-paid managers have an unusual legacy agreement that includes detailed policies intended to outline and protect their rights, similar to a union contract. But unless problems with this agreement can be identified, agreeing to five years of "me too" raises in exchange for getting rid of it isn't in the public interest and shouldn't be approved.

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Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Walter Hays Dad
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 10:04 am

This is a disappointment. What this means is that the president of the PAEA now negotiates raises for every employee in PAUSD but a few in the district office. Do we think that CSEA will not also get the same deal?

It is disingenuous for PAUSD to put out figures on how much the raise in teacher pay will cost without mentioning everyone else. Every time the teachers get a raise now, PAUSD should simply assume that all other employees are receiving the same raise, and so deliver figures for all the employees. On this logic, I would estimate that this 2/2 raise and bonus for the teachers will cost the district not $3.6 million this fiscal year, but likely $5 million. All future negotiating with PAEA should now account for the full cost of the raise.

Finally, anyone else think it interesting that PAUSD and PAEA signed their tentative agreement on the same day PAUSD announced the agreement with Stanford? Any chance PAUSD is spending its Stanford GUP money before it hatches?

Waiting to hear in next year's budget sessions how programs need to be cut back, service cuts to special education students, etc., all because there is no money. Well, here is $5 million walking out the door. What about all the programs our Board members care so much about.

Finally, nice trick the PAEA pulled. They are getting back the 2% bonus they gave up previously, though they are not the same dollar figures. This year's 2% is increased because of the raise. Fairer would have been a 2% bonus based on old salaries, so the trade would have been dollar for dollar.


29 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 10:51 am

Me too raises --- doesn't this just place managers, (principals?) administrators, now in the position of being cheerleaders for the teachers union getting raises? I thought they were supposed to be managing the teachers, and overseeing budgets, hiring and so forth, the things that managers do. As such, doesn't this just create a conflict of interest, co opting them as big cheerleaders for teachers union raises? Is that an appropriate role for this group? So this just makes it clear how they are all on the same side - the teacher's union side --- and the School Board supporting this also makes it clear whose side they're on.

Hmm....accountability....fiscal management....most expensive per pupil/per year cost in Calif ($20k/student/year before the new raise)....and now me too raises for management....and now more administrative positions added and no one subtracted....the gravy train seems endless....

@Walter Hays dad --- Stanford GUP has always been about getting a new revenue source for the teacher's union. How would they keep up their salary level if all these new students get added and new teachers need to be hired, without increased revenue?


29 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:14 am

Tying manager's raises to the teacher's union's raises is a conflict of interest and is not in the public interest. This is the dream of the teacher's union, to have all the managers and the school board completely on their side, which is what the school board would demonstrate by agreeing to this and selling out all of us.


15 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:48 am

Todd Collins is a registered user.

I appreciate this editorial - it's important to remember the positions elected official took and point out when they change; the Weekly does a good job of that.

This change, for me at least, was made for good reason. You can read more about those reasons in the Weekly's accompanying article (Web Link).

As John Maynard Keynes said, when accused of changing his position, "When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?” Here, the information and the circumstances changed. First, I learned more about what has and hasn't worked in incentive compensation for educators - there are no good examples I could find where it has moved the needle for students, though many where it generated controversy.

Second, we had a chance, for the first time in many years, to reset our relationship with PAMA, in exchange for giving them something they really valued. Improving the cohesion and teamwork among our district leadership team is one of the most important tools we have for achieving our goals for students. To me, that's worth a lot, even changing my position on me-too raises.

For the highest level employees - the Supt, Deputy Supt, Asst Supts, CBO, etc. - we have moved away from me-too raises. (This is the team that negotiates pay with the teachers union.) I hope we will be able to develop a bonus program linked to their performance, similar to what many private sector executives have. This would be an unusual approach in education, but one that makes more sense to try first with a small number of senior employees (vs. PAMA's 80+ members).

Thanks again to the Weekly for being both the good memory and good conscience of our community. You help make us better.


29 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Too bad our school board members don't do the same @Todd Collins. Should GM managers pay be tied to the UAWs labor contract? Aren't they supposed to manage the labor force, not be tied to their tails?

Maybe buttering up the PA Weekly will help cover up the tone deafness.


27 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:25 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Todd Collins,
So, what you are saying is that when you were campaigning to be elected to the school board and you said that the current system of "me too" raises "does not make sense and should be replaced with an approach based on cost-of-living increases, with adjustments based on individual performance." that you didn't really think it through but you knew it sounded good and would get voters on your side.

From the article you reference, I can only see this quote as coming close to giving a reason for the change, "I changed my view based on new information and the situation, which allowed us to get something quite valuable in exchange," Collins said. "If our management team isn't a team then we can't really expect the kind of results that we want."

All that says is there was new information. There is always new information. Sounds like PAMA got mad that they wouldn't get guaranteed raises and threatened to unionize, so PAUSD backed off.

The new MOU is the essence of "me too". It's essentially one paragraph that gives PAMA the same raise as PAEA. It might as well just say, "give us what they got."

So, you have given up on tying salaries for any PAUSD employee to performance, outside of a handful of people. Do an outstanding job, get the same raise that the teachers union got for them. Spend half of your time on a vaping break, get the same raise that the teachers get.

What did you give PAMA that they really valued? Guaranteed raises?

Nice job holding the line.

But, make sure to squeeze everything you can out of Stanford. That's the PAUSD way.


2 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Todd Collins is a registered user.

@Jim H, as I said, what changed is that I found that this group of management employees responded differently to incentive compensation from almost all others I had encountered before AND given that difference, we had a chance to align them effectively under the proposed MOU. Both were a surprise to me, but surprises happen in life, and in my experience, we do best when respond to them with an open mind. Under the new MOU, I think the cost will be about the same, and more importantly, the performance better.

You seem to feel the way I felt before, so I can understand it - it's just that over the last 3 years, I got new information, so changed my view. It would be easier, in many ways, to just stick with the original position (no me-too). The problem is, I think our students would be worse off.


30 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 2:49 pm

@Todd Collins --- baloney. You're not looking out for your constituents or the students, and neither are your colleagues. Managers are supposed to manage the labor force, not put their nose to the union's tails and follow them. The managers don't like it, well, they can find somewhere else to work. Given the analysis of how teachers make more on average in PAUSD than the average tech worker in Silicon Valley, seems like a pretty cush setup.

More covering up and dancing to cover up your indulgence of the teacher's union and their partners, the administrators, and also the complicit school board.

Stanford GUP has always been about getting a new revenue source for the teacher's union. Just like the rich landowners (kulaks) next door in the Soviet Union --- make sure to rip them off just because they have something --- to please your patrons --- the teacher's union. Never mind about the community, the traffic, the extra students, the impact on our kids.

Maybe you'll resign early.


26 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Todd Collins, so you're saying that PAMA didn't like having their pay tied to their performance evaluation and would rather have guaranteed raises? How is that news to you? Government employees are not known as nose to the grindstone go-getters.

Please explain why you you think students would be worse off under an incentive based system. Please avoid generalities such as "things changed"


2 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Todd Collins is a registered user.

@Jim H, this isn't a good forum for a thoughtful or detailed discussion. If you'd like to talk about it, my email is tcollins at pausd dot org. Happy to meet or have a call with anyone who'd like to discuss. You may not agree, but I can share my perspective and hear yours.

@Cover Up Culture, same offer to you. Not sure why you think I (or anyone) is beholden to the teachers union above the students, but happy to discuss with you.


25 people like this
Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 26, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Green Acres parent is a registered user.

@Todd Collins

I disagree; this is a good forum to have this discussion because it's public. This is a public matter. Taxpayers will be paying for these raises for years to come. We have a right to know why you said one thing to get elected and then did the opposite. Your explanation leaves a lot to be desired.


21 people like this
Posted by time for an apology
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 4:45 pm

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

The corollary of that is that you didn't know what you were talking about in the first place! And, yet you stated it with so much confidence amid claims the others were wrong while running a campaign in which it now turns out you weren't qualified.


25 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Todd Collins,
As Green Acres states, this is a public issue, and you are a public official. A public forum is the perfect place to discuss. You have taken out ads against political opponents and writen Op-Ed pieces regarding your thoughts on Stanford's GUP, so why is it that you can't fully explain yourself here? Is it because people will ask questions, as I have, and you don't want to answer them in public, or at all?

So, the big question that you have left unanswered is "How will the students be worse off under an incentive based system?" What led you to that conclusion? How is giving money to managers who don't want to be compensated based on good performance a better system for students?

PAMA was mad that they didn't get as much money as the teachers and your response was basically, "OK, we'll give you the same." That's the equivilent of a 4-year old holding their breath until the parent gives in. Most parents don't give in.

We deserve to know the reasons behind your actions. Vague answers won't cut it. Would love to hear from the other board members, as well. Please explain how this is better. What company have you worked for where guaranteed raises improve the quality of the product?



26 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:12 pm

Todd - I am frankly shocked at your change in position while at the same time being willing to lay out your rationale or logic in a public forum.

"Taking things offline" is often used as a way to bury a discussion. I agree with @JimH and @GreenAcresParent, just answer the questions publicly. They seem completely legitimate to me. And you have used public forums before to express your perspective on far more complicated issues. This is no different.

Once again:
1. How will PAUSD students be worse off under an incentive based system?
2. What led you to that conclusion?
3. How is giving money to managers who don't want to be compensated based on good performance a better system for PAUSD students?


23 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:17 pm

First sentence I wrote immediately above should read:

"Todd - I am frankly shocked at your change in position while at the same time being UNwilling to lay out your rationale or logic in a public forum."


27 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:34 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Looking back at past actions of PAMA members:

Scott Bowers, who failed to confirm with the PAEA that they wished to reopen negotiations back in 2017 which was an essential part of his job and ended up costing the district millions of dollars, would get a guaranteed raise.

Cathy Mak, former Chief Business Officer, was "surprised" at an underestimation of property tax revenues, which affected raises and people also lost their jobs, would get a guaranteed raise.

Holly Wade, called out by OCR for her handling of sexual assault cases negatively affecting students, would get a guaranteed raise.

Kim Diorio, disciplined by the board for her handling of sexual assault cases negatively affecting students, would get a guaranteed raise.

Etc...

Yeah, that sounds like a solid plan.


2 people like this
Posted by South Gate
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:01 pm

South Gate is a registered user.

@Jim H -
the only person you listed there who was a member of PAMA was Kim D. The others have individual contracts and these me too raises wouldn't have applied to them.


18 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:18 am

Jim H is a registered user.

Ahh, Ok. I can list others. Phil Winston, Katherine Baker, many of the Jordan/Greene administrators over the past 5 years, ...

The faulty logic remains


19 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2019 at 5:25 pm

@Todd Collins -- here are a few examples of when the school board (including you) chose district and teacher's union interests over students; there are just so many to name in this cover up culture:

Gunn Robotics sexual harassment/assault incident --- the District is spending taxpayer dollars to fight against a student who was sexually harassed at school and wants to feel safe there, presumably because the District messed up not doing a manifestation determination hearing.

The whole treatment of special ed students at PAUSD --- the District saves money by mistreating students.

When the District demotes personnel who haven't followed the law, shuffles them around the district without putting any disciplinary letter in their personnel file.

Gunn Robotics sexual harassment --- when the District didn't perform a required manifestation determination hearing. Why not? Was the staff person disciplined?

When the District promotes someone to be Paly principal who didn't follow the law and caused harm to a student.

When the District promotes someone to be the Gunn principal who didn't follow the law and caused harm to a student.


17 people like this
Posted by pa
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Well if you won't respond here, WHY DON'T YOU TAKE OUT ANOTHER $4000 AD? Yeah, that wasn't handled in a dignafied manner, one to one. Geez, you're one of the biggest disappointments.

You have a special needs child and you still vote to attack parents. Wait - there's more, disclosed in a public records release, an August 23, 2017 letter with a directive from you, TODD COLLINS, to keep special needs students in-house, a "pre-determined" position [WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW] to cut costs for special education placement, exactly when the 30 day IEP placements are being determined.

This is on the heels of the end of year 5/22/2019 Special education report was presented at your board meeting where teachers SELF-DISCLOSED that they were failing 50% of 2E special needs students.

Corruption or incompetence?


12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Res
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Crescent Park Res is a registered user.

I agree with Jim H. and just about everyone else here who is critical of this decision and the Board members who changed their positions based on "new information." If I were grading them, they'd all get a "check-minus-minus." Todd Collins gets one minus taken away and his grade raised to a "check-minus" because at least he's willing to put his comments out there publicly. Though he left the conversation early.


14 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Res,
Keep Collins at a check minus minus. He might have made his comments public, but they don't say anything about his process for changing his mind other than there is new information.

I'd actually add a minus to Collins since he made such a big deal, pre-election, about getting rid of the me too raises. And now, he's a fan.


15 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Guess what Todd Collins? Who cares if the PAMA supposedly says it doesn't want to be rewarded based on performance? WE DO!! and you as the SCHOOL BOARD DO!!!

We want performance out of our school administrators; and our teachers too, but the teacher's union is doing its utmost best to root any whiff of accountability! GREAT JOB getting rid of accountability for the managers too! Way to go!! How are we supposed to get any decent education for our kids if no one, utterly no one is accountable and held accountable for their performance?

Please resign.


6 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2019 at 7:40 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Ben the plumber
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 24, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Your not in the trenches with and for the Kids. Or else you would understand that we all share in the same weight in this industry, that are all equally here in it for the kids. Don’t the kids deserve us as the best roll models we can be?

Some of you sound like cynical old fools.


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

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