In a sweeping vote of confidence in Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill, the Burbank school board recently extended his contract and gave him a raise.
Hill's new contract goes through June 2020 and comes with a $248,230 annual salary, which includes a 3% pay hike.
Larry Applebaum, school board president, said Hill's contract extension and pay increase followed a satisfactory evaluation by the school board.
"Quite frankly, the superintendent got a much-better-than-satisfactory evaluation from this board," Applebaum said. "We're very happy, and we're very pleased to be able to move this contract forward."
Applebaum and fellow board member Steve Ferguson negotiated Hill's new contract, which includes the same 3% pay increase the board gave to Burbank teachers, classified employees, administrators and senior management.
"Everybody says nice things to you, but what we can do for you the most is to instill confidence, and this is how we can do it," Ferguson told Hill.
Shortly before the board voted, school board member Armond Aghakhanian asked Hill if he would finish his doctorate degree by the time his contract expires in 2020, spurring laughter from fellow board members and those attending the school board meeting.
Hill said he is on track to finish his degree in May 2018.
"I do want to, in all seriousness, thank the board," Hill said. "I know it's a privilege to be in this position and have the opportunity to serve this community, and to support and work with all of our great employees. I know it's not an easy decision for you to select this person who sits in this chair, and to show the confidence in me, to be able to continue to work in this great district, I greatly thank you."
In 2015, Hill emerged as was one of five finalists the board interviewed from 18 candidates they considered in a national search for a superintendent.
At the time, Burbank teachers criticized board members for choosing Hill, who does not have a teaching credential, and the board voted to hire him during one of the school board's most contentious meetings in recent years.
However, since Hill started in July 2015, teachers have brought no public complaints against him to the board, and school officials say they've seen a change for the better in Burbank Unified.
The school district has also emerged as a standout in the region for the progress it's made to tackle wide-ranging and complex issues, from adopting a comprehensive mental-health and wellness master plan to closely monitoring students who've hit obstacles while on their path to graduate high school.
Early on, one of Hill's key priorities was to reach a 100% graduation rate, and he has personally called students to push them to finish their studies, while leading a team of district administrators who also reach out to students and routinely share data with the school board showing the number of students who still need diplomas.
In recent months, school officials have been working to gather parent feedback as they create a special-education master plan and establish new goals for arts education, among other focus areas.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again — we're blessed because we have a great person at the top, and we have really great people underneath you in the senior management that sits here in front of us every two weeks [during school board meetings]," Applebaum said.
Applebaum added that the board was able to hire a superintendent without a teaching credential because of the credentialed employees who are part of the district's senior management team.
"They make you look good," Applebaum said. "It's a great team. I can say, that as somebody who's been here for a number of years, it hasn't always been a great team. There have been great individuals, but not always a great team. I'm so proud of that, and I think the community is proud of that."
As each of the board members cast their vote approving Hill's contract, member Roberta Reynolds said she cast hers with "enthusiasm and total confidence."
Hill said that although the district has accomplished a lot, "We still have a lot more to do."
Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org