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School employees protest administrators' salary increase
Trustees approve new pay schedule; Grewal casts sole dissenting vote
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Turlock High food service workers Laura Finch, Melissa Leedom and Marie Silva joined other classified employees in protesting a salary increase for Turlock Unified School District administers. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

California School Employees Association members expressed their opinions of a recently approved salary increase for Turlock Unified School District administration and management with signs of protest —

 “Shame on you, TUSD,” “This is far from equal—justify this,” and “Wish the shoe were on the other foot” — which they displayed at Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting.

“We are here to let the Board know that what they did was unfair and shameful,” said CSEA chapter president Domenic Bagnani. “We caught wind of the 14 percent pay increase to administrators while we were told that the District did not have any money. Three bargaining units settled for 5.2 percent, except for the elite class of administrators.

 “While saying you care is nice, numbers and actions speak volumes,” added Bagnani.

What Bagnani is referring to is the Board’s recent approval of an updated salary schedule and supplementary raise for administrative positions last month.

The newly adopted salary schedule reflects a five-step progression that extends to certificated district and site administration and classified management. These positions include, but are not limited to, the director of child nutrition, the supervisor of maintenance, principals and assistant superintendents.

At the final step of each schedule, affected positions would be left with a total compensation that is five percent above the average of comparative districts—Ceres Unified School District, Manteca Unified School District, Merced City School District, Merced Union High School District, Modesto City Schools and Sylvan Union School District.

For some positions, this could lead to a significant raise. 

Prior to the new salary schedule, the total compensation of assistant superintendents in TUSD was 9.02 percent below the average total compensation of comparative districts. Factoring in the five percent increase that this position would receive once it surpasses the average, assistant superintendents are set to undergo a total 14.02 percent increase with a resulting salary of $151,765.

Other positions are not set to experience a raise — one of which is the facilities planner, which even after progressing through the five steps of the salary schedule, will still remain with a current salary of $101,655.

The Board voted 6-1 for the proposal that would cost $187,000 the first year, with Board member Harinder Grewal dissenting.

CSEA members applauded Grewal during Tuesday’s meeting, as he initially disclosed that he believed that TUSD should not have prioritized providing a significant increase to administration and management, rather the District should have focused on classified employees.

“If you look at classified employees, those employees are struggling,” said Grewal in February. “If we have this type of money to give to administrators, we should be able to help classified employees with health benefits. If we have this type of money, we should be able to help everyone.”

Grewal said classified employees are only paid approximately $25,000 to $30,000 a year and oftentimes aren’t able to afford health insurance.

“When you look at health benefit caps, we only give our classified employees $348 a month, which is significantly below the amount given in other districts,” said Grewal in February. “These employees work hard and they do a good job, but they are struggling to buy health insurance when we only give them $348 a month.”

The Board did not voice a response to the protest during Tuesday’s meeting. However, CSEA hopes that the presence of members still made an impression.

“It is unfair,” said food service worker Marie Silva. “Just because they have a higher education than us, it does not mean that they are better.”

“Without us, nothing would happen,” echoed food service worker Melissa Leedom.

“They should just give us the 14 percent and give them the 5.2 percent,” added food service worker Laura Finch. “I guarantee they would be out here holding signs like we are. They don’t know what it’s like.”