Once they opposed automatic pay raises for principals. Now school board's OK with them | News | Palo Alto Online |


Once they opposed automatic pay raises for principals. Now school board's OK with them

'Me too' clause ties Palo Alto school district senior managers' increases to unions'

Despite prior opposition to the practice of tying raises for Palo Alto school principals and other district managers to those negotiated with the teachers' union, members of the Board of Education are poised to approve a five-year agreement containing the clause at their May 14 meeting.

At least three current board members, including the president and vice president, have in the past criticized the district's longstanding practice of providing "me too" raises to members of the Palo Alto Management Association (PAMA), a non-unionized group that represents 85 principals, assistant principals, directors, coordinators, school psychologists and other administrators.

Superintendent Don Austin brought the revised memorandum of understanding (MOU) to the board this week, saying that the new, pared-down agreement — now a single page instead of nine — would generate a more positive "partnership" with the administrators.

Board members commented briefly but commended both the management association and new superintendent for what Vice President Todd Collins said is "very much a step in the right direction." No one on the school board raised a question or made a comment about the five-year lock-step pay increase.

In interviews with the Weekly, both Collins and President Jennifer DiBrienza said their thinking on the raises has changed since they ran for election to the school board.

DiBrienza said during the 2016 campaign that "'me too' raises must be a thing of the past."

Collins similarly said that "the 'me too' policy for most if not all administrators does not make sense and should be replaced with an approach based on cost-of-living increases, with adjustments based on individual performance."

During budget-cut conversations at that time, the board discussed doing away with the automatic raises for senior administrators, a change then supported by Board member Ken Dauber. The question of eliminating the linkage came up again during budget talks through 2017, but the board never took any action to answer it.

Then last year, the Palo Alto Management Association received a separate compensation increase — a 1% raise and 1% off-schedule bonus, compared to the 3% raise that teachers received.

This caused such unrest among the senior management-group members, Collins said, that they considered becoming a formal union. So Austin made them an offer, Collins said: Scale back the memorandum of understanding in exchange for five years of salary increases tied to the teachers' union's. They agreed.

Austin said the existing memorandum of understanding with managers — itself unusual — contains "uncommon" provisions, including details on hiring and grievance procedures. The document was born out of intense distrust between managers and then-Superintendent Mary Frances Callan when the Palo Alto Management Association formed in 2006.

The memorandum "looked much more like a traditional union-bargained contract than an outlining of understandings of places with common interests," Austin said.

"The conditions (in the district) now are not the same as when that MOU was created — at least we don't believe they are," he said. "The PAMA group was willing to sign on for a five-year MOU to see if we're going to work together the way I expect us to work together, which is trusting, collaborative, as more of one team instead of having this perception of a barrier between the two groups."

Collins said he sees the trade-off as worthwhile.

"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."

Both Collins and DiBrienza told the Weekly that developing an effective, performance-based compensation system for the management group has proven more difficult than they realized. DiBrienza said that is particularly so given the variety of positions represented by the group, and high turnover at the district office added to the difficulty.

"That still might be something we work towards. In the meantime, giving them a predictable raise throughout seems fair to me," she said.

Collins said he looked for local public school districts that have created effective management compensation schemes and couldn't find any.

"We'd be out on the bleeding edge trying to invent something that I realized is really hard to do," he said.

Austin defended "me too" raises as a traditional best practice that prevents disparity between the bargaining units and "keeps the process a little more clean and stable."

The memorandum does not apply to members of the district's executive cabinet: the superintendent, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and chief business officer.

The board this week also briefly discussed a tentative agreement with the teachers union that would provide a 2% raise this year and 2% off-schedule bonus — salary increases that would then also apply to the managers group, if the new memorandum of understanding is approved.

The proposed raise, effective retroactive to Jan. 7, 2019, which is mid-year, would cost the district $1.2 million this year and $2.4 million in each of the following years. The off-schedule 2% bonus is based on employees' salaries after the raise is applied and would cost the district $2.4 million.

Under the new three-year contract, raises would be negotiated each year, unlike the now-expired contract, which contained three year's worth of salary increases and bonuses.

It also includes a memorandum of understanding to reopen four provisions during the next school year's negotiations, including compensation and benefits, meaning the union and district will quickly return to the table to negotiate raises for the upcoming school year.

Given that the union has not yet ratified the agreement, the board members Tuesday refrained from commenting on it in detail publicly.


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22 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:32 am

Jim H is a registered user.

I'm SHOCKED that a politician would make strong comments before an election to help them get votes and then completely change course once elected!!

How many of these people have promised change only to give in to the status quo over the years? Collins says he gave in because making such a change is "really hard to do". Nice commitment to your word. Nothing has changed since Collins and DiBrienza made their statements pre-election. How are they just now realizing that it might take some work to make changes in the system?

This is the same reason that so many other items will continue to languish. It's why sexual assailants and bullies will continue to get away with their actions, why teachers will never agree to fully implementing things like Schoology or pay attention to a student's 504 or IEP.

By the time parents have had enough, their kids are out of th system and there's no reason to fight, or parents just give in and count the days until they're out of PAUSD.

In the meantime the district shuffles bad teachers and administrators like the Catholic Church shuffles priests and they continue to plod along getting their guaranteed raises no matter how they perform. In a year or so, the district will moan about budget cuts and a lack of revenue, and then magically property taxes will be "better than expected" and bonuses and raises will be passed around again.

18 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 10:58 am

A more "positive" partnership --- yeah, for the ones getting the raises.

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. 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 --- the teacher's union, the staff, rather than on the side of those supplying the $$, the constituents who elected them, and oh yeah, the students.

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.... GREAT JOB SCHOOL BOARD!! In the pocket of the teacher's union and now the managers! Wasn't Todd Collins elected for his fiscal management experience and he spouted talk about accountability? Hah!

@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?

16 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:55 am

The corruption is just about complete. Well done school board! Maybe you can find a way to get paid too and tie it to the teachers union raises!

5 people like this
Posted by Fiscal Opportunity
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Everybody could use a bit of extra cash these days as the cost of living has increased somewhat.

Principals have expenses too!

10 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

I see. Unrest. So lock step increases (never decreases) for everyone regardless of performance or position. Sounds like....the Soviet Union.

Great work responding to threats...never mind about your constituents.

4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:44 pm

It is difficult to understand what Don Austin is trying to do with this. There are two models for "principal" - one model is the "first among equals" type of "super-teacher" that small schools used to have? The other model is the high-level manager of a great big school that needs lots of managment? Since Palo Alto consolidated all the small schools back in the late 70's-early 80's into a smaller number of larger schools, I would assume that principals are supposed to act like real managers-- which normally would include budget management as well. The new salary proposal seems very inconsistent.

8 people like this
Posted by pa resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2019 at 8:26 pm

“Betrayal is advancing myself at the expense of the one who I committed myself to advance.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

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