School district to add 4 positions

The Laguna Beach Unified School District voted unanimously Tuesday to add four new positions, but not without questioning the salary of one post and where the new employees would sit.

The positions are a database administrator, a communications and human resources assistant, a special projects, assessment and accountability coordinator, and a teacher on special assignment for English language development.

Supt. Sherine Smith, Assistant Supt. of Instructional Services Darlene Messinger, Communications and Human Resources Director Leisa Winston, two principals and two board members met in April as a committee to discuss how to make the district more efficient and handle new state and federal reporting requirements related to the new Common Core testing standards and the Affordable Care Act rollout.

"We don't want people to get passed around when someone calls the district office," said Winston, who was hired last year.

The committee also evaluated whether tasks were assigned to the correct person.

"At some point we had directors doing things support staff could have been doing," Winston said.


'Honking salary'

The school board's discussion primarily centered on the special projects coordinator's salary, which would range from $138,162 to $156,868 a year, according to a district staff report.

"That is a honking salary," trustee Ketta Brown said. Board President Jan Vickers and trustee Betsy Jenkins also called the pay rate high.

The special projects coordinator, under Messinger's direction, would be responsible for several tasks, including performing student assessments, growing the district's alcohol- and drug-prevention efforts, collecting data for the Local Control Accountability Plan and analyzing results from new state tests.

The accountability plan mandates that districts receive and use input from parents, educators and the public to reach certain goals, such as improving student achievement and ensuring all children can take classes that prepare them for college and careers, the staff report said.

The salary range is meant to attract the most competent candidate, said Winston.

Five top-level district administrators retired in 2012 and were replaced at a lower cost, she said.

The database administrator, communicatons and human resources assistant and special projects coordinator positions are an added cost related to increased services, but the district believes they are necessary to not only fulfill state and federal mandates and maintain existing outstanding programs, but to broaden use of innovative practices, Winston said.  


Space question

The database administrator, under Chief Technology Officer Michael Morrison, would help boost security when students, teachers or staff log onto the wireless network, create a way for users to sign on to one system for all of their web applications and better manage student data, according to the staff report.

The employee would make $5,681 to $6,913 a month.

The communications and human resources assistant would ensure that the district complies with the Affordable Care Act, such as monitoring part-time employees' hours and alerting them when it's time to enroll for insurance, the staff report said. The person would also post and answer questions related to job vacancies and prepare information for bargaining negotiations.

Affordable Care Act violations carry hefty fines that could, in some cases, equal or exceed what the new employee would make in salary, Winston said, stressing the role's importance.

District staff recommends a salary of $56,622 to $73,220 per year for the communications and human resources assistant.

Pay wasn't the only topic of concern to board members. Brown wondered whether there is room for the new employees.

Two classrooms and four offices in a building near the community pool across Park Avenue from Laguna Beach High School could be used for the new hires, Dean West, assistant superintendent of business services, wrote in an email Wednesday.

Vickers questioned moving forward without a specific location for the added hires.

"It's not like we have empty offices down the hall," Vickers said. "What is it going to cost for providing the facilities?"

The new teacher on special assignment would help teachers and instructional aides with lesson plans to improve achievement of English learners from kindergarten through 12th grade. One goal of the Local Control Accountability Plan is boosting students' proficiency in writing and ensuring all students are ready to graduate from college, the district staff report says.

English language learners make up 11% to 14% of Laguna Beach Unified's student population of 3,024, Winston said.

Eligible candidates must have a California teaching credential and five years of teaching experience, according to the staff report. The position would pay about $120,000 per year — from funds earmarked specifically for English learners — depending on the applicant's experience.

Trustee Theresa O'Hare said she supports the new position.

"We need a dynamo for the job," O'Hare said. "It's a huge need."

The district will post job openings both internally and externally.

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