Palo Alto teachers to get 1 percent bonus | December 21, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 21, 2012

Palo Alto teachers to get 1 percent bonus

Unions will vote after Jan. 7, and Board of Education indicates support

by Chris Kenrick

With three dozen Palo Alto educators sitting in the room, all five members of the Board of Education Tuesday said they would support a one-time, 1 percent bonus for teachers and staff.

Their comments followed testimony by five teachers who said they love their jobs but need a raise, particularly after shouldering a growing portion of their health care costs in recent years.

Gunn High School English teacher Mark Igler held up two monthly pay stubs — one from June 2011 and another from last month. The November 2012 stub was for $427 less than the one from 18 months earlier.

"I've made $5,200 less over the last 18 months," Igler said. "That's a lot of money — a big hit.

"I love my job and I'm not going anywhere, but $5,200 is $5,200 — and this is for inferior health care coverage than I had two-and-a-half years ago."

Other teachers told similar stories.

Several referred to last Friday's school shootings in Connecticut and noted it felt particularly awkward to be asking for a raise at such a time but said it is a "desperate situation" for many teachers.

"I greeted my students at the door Monday morning ... grateful that they're all safe, healthy and well-protected from news of recent events," Hoover Elementary School kindergarten teacher Corey Potter said.

"It seems selfish or inappropriate to talk about a raise right now ... but we've planned this for a long time, and many teachers desperately need it."

Potter, whose rent recently went up by $100, told of colleagues who drive long distances to get to school by 6 a.m.

"We love our jobs and feel fortunate to work for a district in which we have all the supplies we need, ample professional development opportunities and paraprofessionals in our classrooms each day," Potter said.

"This is as it should be: students first. But many of us have had to take on extra jobs."

Palo Alto's two school employees' unions, the Palo Alto Educators Association for teachers and the California School Employees Association, representing non-teaching staff, will vote on the tentative 2011-12 agreement after the first of the year.

If the unions ratify it, the Board of Education will officially vote on it Jan. 15.

Negotiations on a 2012-13 contract are continuing, said Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin, a kindergarten teacher at Addison Elementary School.

All five school board members said they intend to vote for the 1 percent bonus.

"I want to acknowledge the candor and the grace of your comments, and I hope nobody felt uncomfortable," board member Barb Mitchell said.

"You're the least selfish group of people I could possibly name, and I also appreciate your recognition of the families in Connecticut.

"We have a common sense that we may be seeing some light at the end of the (financial) tunnel. We want to be cautious but do recognize the importance of employee compensation, and of listening to all the people who made it possible these past few years to have the fiscal health that many districts don't enjoy," Mitchell said.

In other business Tuesday, the board elected Dana Tom as its president and Mitchell as its vice-president for 2013, and presented a gift from the Palo Alto High School glass-blowing program to outgoing president Camille Townsend.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by Nick, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

Would make sense to pay them a lot more now, and get rid of the lavish pensions. Then they can save for their own retirement like everyone else, while getting paid a great salary now.

Posted by Marty, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:23 am


You just sound bitter and selfish! Do you resent everyone you meet??

I'm sorry if your life sucks, but that's the choice you made.

The teachers deserve a little respect.

Posted by teacher and mom, a resident of Addison School
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

As a teacher and mom, I feel that they should give more money AND take away tenure like is done in corporate. It is not logical to me as a teacher....

Posted by Agree with Nick, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:38 am

Nick doesn't sound bitter or selfish at all - but poses a very reasonable position, which I agree with whole heartedly. Today's pensions will bankrupt our future! You only have to do some very simple math to show that. Too much money to teachers and administrators - not enough to kids, supplies and quality materials.

Posted by observer, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

I've been in a lot of school classrooms. I've sat on committees to appropriate money for materials.
"Agree w Nick" 's ending phrase "not enough to kids, supplies, and quality materials" is just another misinformed assumption about the mythical state of schools. PAUSD is not at all like school nationwide. Our per capita spending is huge. Our schools are chock full of computer carts, SMART boards, flipcams...(no comment on how necessary those big ticket items are to mastery of curriculum).
Thanks to PiE we have even more to contribute for classroom aides, art enrichments, etc.
We bus a large population of non-resident kids to/from school everyday. We run a distibuted kitchen service that brings hot meals to all campuses.
We have onsite counseling services.
If you have a lisp, we have speech therapists for you!
Arrive here not speaking English? We'll sit an adult next to you who speaks your native tongue.
Wanna learn saxophone? woodworking? robotics? PAUSD has you covered.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:27 am

So you're saying teachers/administrators are overpaid and that we should be giving more money to kids (?!) and buying more supplies and quality materials?
I don't agree at all. Teachers are by far the most important component in determining the quality of kids' education. I would suggest that in fact teachers are greatly underpaid considering their contributions to our society. Finland gets it - they pay their teachers as much as their lawyers and, as a result, have students that consistently score higher on standardized tests than their American couterparts.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

One percent isn't enough to help, it almost isn't worth the trouble. This has got to be the only country in the world where teachers have such low pay and low socio economic status. It is shameful when they are treated this way.

Posted by correlation, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I thought there was no or little correlation between spending and teacher/administrator salaries and student performance. The former seems to ever escalate, not so sure about the latter...
Forbes magazine or similar business pub had an article some years back contrasting a lavish American public high school with one in France. The French one was much more down-to-earth and concentrated on active learning, longer school day and respect for teachers, rather than frivolous stuff like giving everyone an iPAD at taxpayer expense (...though iPADs weren't invented yet, granted)and Winchester House type building projects like we see here. I just don't buy that ever more buckets of money down a black hole makes any difference. When our kids were in PAUSD we were always required to bring in stuff and supplies all the time.You certainly want qualified, professional, happy teachers and they should be correctly compensated BUT I think the union system has to be terminated. Realistic pension schemes are also necessary.

Posted by Shannon , a resident of Community Center
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

People claw their way into the Palo Alto real estate market because of the excellent schools. It's teachers and their hard work that makes those school desirable. Why then does the board give only a 1% bonus for young professionals who could be making much more in the corporate world, but who choose to work with children? Many of the teachers are deeply in debt for their education, drive long distances because they cannot afford to live nearby, and put off their own child-bearing because they cannot afford it. 1% seems pretty cheap, frankly.

Posted by Irony, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Quite ironic, I would say, that most of the people complaining that the 1% is too much are themselves making approximately double what these teachers make, doing a job that is far less important.

Let's face it: Most people aren't teachers because A) They don't have the skill B) They don't have the patience C) They want more money and D) They don't care that much about children (at least OTHER people's children). It seems like a lot of people in this area care a lot about their own children, or at least the SUCCESS of their own children. But would they take the time and effort to teach children of other people? Who would accept such low wages to do such a job, even if they could?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Try sending an email to a PAUSD teacher and see whether it ever gets returned. In the corporate world, bonuses and pay raises are earned with great job performance. That has not been my children's experience with most of their PAUSD teachers.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

> Teachers are by far the most important component in determining
> the quality of kids' education.

This is simply not true. The parents contribute far more to their children’s educations than teachers do:

Another Look At API Student-School Performance Data:
Web Link

Obviously teachers play some part in the education process—but the parents contributions are typically ignored by the education establishment, and not always readily understood by the parents themselves. The API data, coupled with various Census data, tells the real story.

Posted by Another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I think the adminstration pressures teachers not to leave an email trail, and I've seen evidence that school adminstrators are being told to handle things verbally whenever possible. That comes from a culture that sees parents as adversaries rather than partners at 25 Churchill. It could be your kid's teacher, but more likely there is an ethos in the school now that email conversations are bad, for certain issues at least.

Posted by Juan Valdez, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

@Another parent

Your comment is 100% accurate. And when you've been present at parent/teacher meetings where the parents show up with their lawyer, it makes perfect sense.

The tiger parents of Palo Alto need to give it a rest. @Mom, don't like your children's teachers, feel free to move to another district, please!

Posted by RussianMom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Wow! Lets all calm down. It's a great district because we have great
- teachers
- families
- kids.
The combination of all tree are making pausd so unique and special.
By removing one of the components, picture will change.
Respect to teachers is crucial and by teaching it your own child will go a long way.
Re a bonus. It's hard to live in PA with raising pricing for everything from taxes to utilities. Our salaries are not stretching fast enough. Then, whenever we have some surplus, we want to save if for the rainy day. BUT! Yes, our teachers deserve the bonus too. I vote for 1%, one time bonus. And I will also contribute by paying tutors, to make PAUSD a special district (no, I am not a tiger mom).

Posted by Yes, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I completely agree that all teachers should be paid more. If they were paid 6 figure salaries, they would deserve it and our country would have better teachers. Really, how many of us want to homeschool? As posted above, who really wants their jobs? Middle school and high school might be easier, but who really wants to be in a classroom with children every day? I love children but could not be with them all day, even if they are all well-behaved. Kudos to the elementary school teachers who spend all day with children with only a few breaks. Nannies charge at least $10/hour and elementary school teachers have 21 children. They aren't earning $210/hour.

I have three children and have been overall happy with the teachers in PAUSD. Sure, there are some lemons around, but win some, lose some. We've had some fantastic teachers. And I have seen some of the bad ones mysteriously leave the district.

I encourage everyone to be generous with gifts for teachers at the end of the school year.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

> They aren't earning $210/hour.

Actually, they probably are, when all of the compensation dollars are accounted for.

A teacher starting at $50K, with an average 3% per/year increase, will after 30 years, be making at least $136K/year. If the average increase is only 2%, then the exit salary will be around $100K/year. The initial pension payout for these two scenarios will be 72%, which will will bring this teacher another $2 to $3M (depending on actual COLAs) for 30 years of retirement.

If all of the direct salary, benefits and pension payouts are added together, and a 30-year average salary computed--then this teacher will be making between $240 and $290 per hour (based on a 186 day year, and six hours on-site).

Of course, if the teacher were to be see other salary increases for merit, then these numbers could be higher.

Without taking all of the compensation into account--people can very easily claim that teachers are underpaid. But it's difficult for most people to agree that making an effective hourly wage of between 200 and 300 per hour amounts up to teacher abuse.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I noticed a typo in my posting. The numbers I should have keyed in are about $160/hour to about $200/hour, based on all compensation and 30 active service years.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

To provide accurate info: The average salary for PA teachers is just under $87,000/year (9 mos). Although they have not received cost of living raises since 2009, they have received raises for each year of service and for additional education. There are a number of teachers with salaries over $100k/yr. This information is all available online.

Whether someone supports/doesn't support this raise, it is important to have factual info for reference.

Posted by teacher's mother, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm

My son is a teacher and he spends 12 to 13 hours almost every day on-site. I don't know where you come up with 6 hours!!! Most teachers do more on-site than just their classroom hours!

Posted by Willy Loman, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

>this teacher will be making between $240 and $290 per hour (based on >a 186 day year, and six hours on-site).

Hmmm - I know a few teachers - they're working some weekends, get in early for prep and stay often till 5 or 6pm to prep more on email after dinner. I bet they wish they had a 6hr day! And btw - during the 6hr day - there's no sneaking away for a break - you have to be fully engaged with the kids!

Posted by Voter, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Teacher's mother:

Your son should get a much larger bonus than a teacher who works the very minimum, is unresponsive, unengaging, etc, who should get nothing.

It's a shame the teachers unions, in their constant battle against accountability, fight performance based compensation like it's the plague.

Posted by Reality, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

The conversation really shouldn't be about if teachers are good/bad, overpaid/underpaid, etc. It should be about people getting what they deserve. Some teachers are not great and shouldn't be paid as though they are. Others ARE great and are underpaid. Yes, the unions must take most of the blame for this.

Posted by RT, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I understand about pension for jobs where your effectiveness is determined by your age, e.g. firefighter, whereby you cannot work at your profession for your whole life because of physical demands of the job. This is not the case for teachers. Teachers should be paid a fair wage and no pension.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm

> I don't know where you come up with 6 hours!!!

These are verifiable hours. Most schools don't require timecards for teachers, so there is no easy way to know how many hours any given teacher spends.

> My son is a teacher and he spends 12 to 13 hours
> almost every day on-site.

Then your son needs to seek help from his immediate supervisors. He clearly needs to have a senior teacher review his approach to his job. No one who has adequate time management skills should be spending that kind of time on the job. As his mother, you should counsel him to seek help from this department head.

> salary data on line

Several newspapers have taken on the challenge to put the pay of public employees on line. Sadly, the individual agencies have not. Moreover, there is much information not posted on these newspaper web-sites. As it were, it can be requested from each agency, under the California Public Records Act.

Pension data for public agencies (CalPERS and CalSTRS) can be obtained from (at least for people drawing more than $100K/year from the pension funds). This can be eye-opening.

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I have little doubt most of the posters here care a lot about the quality of our children's education, and we would like to reward the people who make it possible accordingly.
It boils down to dollars and cents, and living within our means. As part of this, I can think of two programs I would eliminate because times have changed and we need to adjust: (1) The Tinsley program busing in kids from outside Palo Alto, which creates a group of underperformers who use up lots of scarce resources, (2) The translator services the schools provide to non-English speakers. At some point, parents and families have to assume certain responsibilities and not just assume PAUSD will take care of everything.
We need to get away from this culture and sense of entitlement.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm

What percent do teachers pay towards their pension each month/year? What's the contribution over 30 years with a starting salary at $52K (contract of 186 days)?

Posted by Information, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Teachers pay 8% of their salary into their retirement. The district contributes 8.5% and the state adds about one percent. This is higher, I believe, than most employees. The good thing, policy wise, is that this system forces people to plan for retirement. The bad part is that the expected returns that the state assumes from employees contributions is too high, like seven percent annually.

Posted by Accountable, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I don't agree with any raise without accountability. The tutoring service is booming for a reason. There is such a large disparity in our school classrooms. The odds of getting consistent, good teachers from k thru 5 is almost non-existent. I blame the system, administrators, and bad teachers. Greed is a terrible thing! thanks o our school board members, this will continue.. Sigh...

Posted by myhometoo, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 8:02 am

Regarding Mr Wayne Martin:
Congratulations, your math skills are awesome, thank your teachers.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

What is the average contribution (percent) that most people put towards their own retirement (before a company match)?

Posted by correlation, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

Teachers get a perk in that their kids can attend PAUSD schools even if they don't live here. That is equal to quite a benefit for people who don't pay the horrendously high property taxes we pay!!!
Incidentally, I do know some PA teachers who do live in PA.
I think the desirabiliy of PAUSD schools comes from the often very poor education offered by OTHER areas of California. It's like damning with faint praise. That said, there are some very fine teachers in this district - I wish we could give those persons a nice bonus.

Posted by Yes, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2012 at 10:03 am

Yes, the Tinsley program is completely outdated and is only helping a few determined children with nurturing parents who would move to PA if Tinsley ended.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Does our BoE have the backbone to address removal of Tinsley? Hmmm. . .

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2012 at 10:13 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

> Congratulations, your math skills are awesome,
> thank your teachers.

As I have previously noted, teachers have played a role--but I have taught myself the mathematics which I have tried to apply to situations like this one.

With well-designed text books, and well-designed homework, people can teach themselves almost anything--at home, or these days, using the resources of the internet, and digital computing devices.

Some teachers may open doors, but it's the students who walk through those open doors.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Much of the discussion on this thread was a shocking and disgusting display of Palo Alto selfishness. It's astonishing and sad that PA, one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S., would not want to reward their teachers for producing such brilliant students.

Sorry folks: it is not all genetic or self-taught success. Teachers present constant intellectual challenges to already high-functioning kids while also trying to support them as they deal with the pressures they face in this community.

Recognize the huge role that teachers play -- then look at the median income for other PA professionals and the median income for PA teachers. Geez.

Teachers are far from rich, the hostility over a bonus of a few hundred dollars (minus taxes) is appalling. It says a lot about "community" in PA.

Posted by it's obvious, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Get rid of tenure after two years of no real performance.
Implement performance reviews.
Make teaching leads responsible for their teams performance and principals accountable overall rather than their current helpless stance. Pay the good more.
Let the poor go. As good as Gunn is its clear who the poor teachers are. They don't deserve ANY bonus money.

Posted by debatable, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

Just the last two posts:

"Teachers present constant intellectual challenges to already high-functioning kids while also trying to support them as they deal with the pressures they face in this community."


"Let the poor go. As good as Gunn is its clear who the poor teachers are. They don't deserve ANY bonus money."


Palo Alto is really a great place to live and send kids to school, or it just SUCKS.


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