In an effort to attract and retain the best possible employees for Turlock Unified School District, the Board of Trustees approved a salary schedule and supplementary raise for administrative positions on Tuesday—one of which was met with opposition among the Board and community members.
“I hope that this helps us attract very qualified employees and also retain a lot of our great administrators we have now,” said Board member Barney Gordon. “I would like to see them stay and benefit our district, not go to Modesto or Ceres.”
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.
“I believe that we have a low number of applicants for these positions,” said assistant superintendent of Human Resources Heidi Lawler, who gave the presentation on Tuesday. “Although they appear that they would be desirable positions both for internal and external candidates, I just don’t see that we are getting the number of applicants we should, especially compared to our certificated teaching openings where we have hundreds of applicants in each posting.”
Lawler reported that for the new schedule, employees would not be placed based on years of service, but rather on current salary.
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.
According to Lawler, the District chose to utilize these particular districts since they had similar enrollment and demographics; consistency among programs, school and district structures; and a high level of like positions in all employee groups.
“We’ve lost some really outstanding teaching leaders who took administrative jobs in other districts,” noted TUSD superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “The whole idea is to attract and retain, so if we are going to be competitive, we have to have attractive salaries.
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.
“My true hope—in addition to helping us attract and retain folks—is to encourage those who are at entry level positions to have an interest in moving up, such as assistant principals which are entry level positions,” said Lawler. “We want those individuals to be excited about the opportunities.”
“It’s not all about money, but money helps,” Lawler added. “When you’re given additional responsibility, the idea of having a salary where you feel like you’re adequately compensated is important.”
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.
“It’s kind of tough to see that some folks are getting a pretty large raise and other folks aren’t going to see a raise, but when something like this hasn’t been addressed for years, we get all these very large inequities,” said Gordon. “I’m comforted to know that we aren’t all of the sudden spiking the county salaries, we are trying to be fair and adequate.”
The Board voted 6-1 for the proposal which would cost $187,000 the first year, with Board member Harinder Grewal dissenting.
Grewal cited a number of reasons for his vote, with the most prominent reason questioning the District’s priorities. Instead of providing a significant increase to administration and management, Grewal believes that TUSD should have instead focused on classified employees.
“If you look at classified employees, those employees are struggling,” said Grewal. “If we have this type of money to give huge raises 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 reports that these 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. “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.”
Despite his opposition to the new salary schedules, Grewal rejoined the rest of the Board by approving an additional 5.2 percent salary increase for classified management and administration—an increase that has already been approved for all other employee groups.
“The item we addressed before was an adjustment to the salary schedule, which will allow us to be competitive with neighboring districts,” said Board president Frank Lima. “Knowing that some positions on that salary schedule are going to have a substantial raise and others are not going to get a raise at all—what this will do is give everybody an additional 5.2 percent increase whether they got a jump on the salary schedule or whether they did not get a jump.”