Members elected to the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees serve the community without compensation, and it will remain that way following a decision at Tuesday’s meeting.
When presented with the option of receiving $400 a month in addition to health benefits as pay for their duties as members of the Board, just two voted in favor of the stipend, newly-elected member Mary Jackson and Ken Malech, while the remaining Board members voted against the item.
When presenting the item to the Board for a vote, Superintendent Dana Trevethan pointed out that a majority of the school districts in Stanislaus County provide compensation for their school board.
“The responsibilities we have and the diligence we have to perform this job…quite honestly every district agrees with me. I think it’s important,” Malech said when speaking in favor of compensation ahead of the Board’s vote. “I don’t think we’re volunteers. We went to the Elections Office and volunteered to be elected, but we are here on behalf of Turlock citizens, representing them and their interests and that’s a big responsibility.”
According to data presented by Trevethan at the Feb. 5 Board meeting, of the 22 districts in Stanislaus County who reported back for this year and last, 18 school boards receive some form of compensation that includes a stipend, medical benefits or both. In some instances, individual board members on said boards elect to receive no compensation and/or donate compensation to student programs.
TUSD is one of four districts that reported back which do not provide compensation for its school board.
“TUSD has been around for over 100 years, and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a stipend as a school board, so I don’t feel compelled to change that now,” Board member Barney Gordon said, adding that $400 a month for each Trustee would add up to about $34,000. “I would much rather see that money go into the classroom directly.”
Compensation is limited by Average Daily Attendance, and in any school where the ADA for the prior school year was 25,000 or less, but more than 10,000, each member of the school board who actually attends all meetings may receive the $400 as compensation and health benefits for their services.
This money could be important in enticing new people to run for a position on the school board, Jackson said.
“The one thing that I think is important here is that there are sometimes people who will not make the commitment to run for office,” she said. “That $400 might be the reason that they do run for office, and if you want a diverse board and you want people from different areas, different ethnicities, different races, I think it’s very important.”
Board member Frank Lima, who voted no on the item, said that although serving as a Trustee takes up his free time — and some vacation days — there is no better feeling than giving back to the community.
“People don’t realize that when I’m not a work, I’m not getting paid. It’s amazing the amount of time you lose, but I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying than serving,” Lima said.
He also pointed out the potential for conflicts of interest, as the Board recently approved increasing health benefits for TUSD employees.
“That’s the last thing I want, is anyone from the public believing that we’re up here trying to serve ourselves,” he said.