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Glendale Unified board agrees to smaller raise

Glendale Unified board agrees to smaller raise
Glendale Unified board member Shant Sahakian proposed a friendly amendment that cut the board's pay raise from 5% to 1.5% for the upcoming year. The increase is in line with teacher raises. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

A desire for equity led Glendale Unified school board members to unanimously vote to reduce a scheduled pay raise for themselves to match increases agreed upon for the district’s teachers.

The board voted, 5-0, for a friendly amendment that slashed its 5% allotted pay bump to 1.5% for the upcoming fiscal year, the same pay rate hike agreed upon by Glendale Unified and the Glendale Teachers Assn. during salary negotiations in April.

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“I look at this more as a kind of a symbolic message that, if we’re able to afford 1.5% for our teachers, we shouldn’t be getting more than that,” board member Shant Sahakian said. “That’s the message.”

According to Glendale Unified policy, board members have the authority to give themselves an increase, “in an amount not to exceed 5% based on the present monthly rate of compensation.”

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“Yes, we are not employees, but we need to have consistency with raises,” board member Armina Gharpetian said. “I personally don’t feel comfortable getting 5% when everyone got 1.5% for two years.”

A 5% increase would have moved the monthly salary for board members to $1,346.87, an increase of $63.14. The 1.5% bump of $19.24 raises the board’s monthly salary to $1,301.97.

The amendment is a one-time action, and the board can return to 5% raises in the following years.

Sahakian, however, recommended that more discussion and permanent action should be taken.

“First, what I’d recommend is that we, moving forward, only give board compensation increases that match what we give our bargaining units and nothing more,” Sahakian said. “Secondly, I think we need to go back and amend that policy. I think the board has way too much latitude on how much it can increase when it can increase it. So, I’d recommend that you only increase it up to the amount that you give a raise in a given year.”

Board president Greg Krikorian said that, while a 5% increase can sound rather generous, pay is still not close to being fair.

“We all know what hours we put in,” Krikorian said. “I averaged my hours, and I know I put between 90 to 120 hours a month either through my emails or work. If you base that to what we’re getting paid, we’re getting paid $9 an hour, and right now there’s talk of minimum wage being $15 … I just want to shed light on that aspect.”

Sahakian agreed but countered that the job isn’t about financial compensation.

“I don’t think any board member here would say we’re paid well for the work we do, but also we signed up knowing what the job costs, both financially and the time we sacrifice from our own family,” Sahakian said. “I know we’re all here because we love the work that we do.”

Krikorian said he would “follow the will of the board” and discussion to change board policy would be placed on a future agenda.

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