Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro was recently awarded $29,812, the latest in a series of pay supplements given to him based on performance, as evaluated by the board of trustees.
Navarro’s contract allows a yearly merit award in the form of a tax-sheltered annuity — a retirement savings plan — as long as he gets at least a “standard” rating from the board.
The amount is adjusted each year based on the rating Navarro receives and the Internal Revenue Service limitation on such annuities. This year’s nearly $30,000 award, approved at the Nov. 26 board meeting, is for a “proficient” rating Navarro received from the board. He earned an “exceptional” rating the previous three years.
“The board was still very pleased with his performance, but that’s just the way the numbers fall,” trustee Martha Fluor said.
Board President Vicki Snell noted that Navarro suffered a head injury before the start of the 2017-18 school year, which caused him to miss work for about two months.
“His absence for a long period of time interfered with some of his goals,” Snell said.
Navarro said he is “grateful for the competitive compensation that all Newport-Mesa employees receive.”
He did not respond to a request for further comment.
During public comments at the board meeting, Erica Roberts, a parent at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, and Laurie Smith, a retired Newport-Mesa teacher, urged the board to deny the latest supplement, saying Navarro had not earned it.
Roberts argued that Navarro has cost the district a lot of money in legal fees. A lawsuit filed in 2016 in which two former district employees alleged that Navarro created a workplace culture of fear and intimidation was settled last year. The plaintiffs did not receive money in the settlement, according to the district.
Snell said concerns about Navarro’s compensation are “voiced by a very small group of people.”
“People say that they value education, but they don’t seem to want to pay people what they’re worth,” Snell said.
The annuities awarded to Navarro are not creditable to the State Teachers’ Retirement System, and he is not eligible for any additional STRS contributions, per his contract.
The awards are in addition to his base salary, which is currently $289,915, up from the $230,000 approved when he began at Newport-Mesa in July 2012.
Navarro received a raise of about 6%, or $14,376, in October 2013 because his original salary was considered on the low end for superintendents, according to the board.
“There was a point when he needed to be raised substantially — he was underpaid,” Snell said.
By contract, Navarro and members of the executive cabinet are guaranteed proportionate cost-of-living adjustments when other employee groups receive raises. Such raises increased Navarro’s salary by 6% in 2014, 2.5% in 2015 and 2.5% in 2017 and 2018.
Navarro and cabinet members also receive monthly allowances of $750 for transportation and $100 for communications, totaling $10,200 annually.
“I would challenge anyone to take a look at corporations and look at how [employees] are evaluated and how they are compensated,” Fluor said. “Many corporations provide salary increases. ... I believe our system is quite weighty. We don’t sit willy-nilly and hand out numbers.”
The superintendent’s performance is rated first by board members individually, then collectively, and Navarro completes a self-evaluation. His performance is based on eight standards of governance: vision, mission and beliefs; work and school culture; leadership and personal integrity; communication and advocacy; community relations; fiscal and facilities; human resources and annual goals and priorities. The evaluation reports are not available to the public under state law.