A couple of weeks ago I asked the Glendale Unified School District to provide me with a copy of incoming Supt. Dick Sheehan's new employment contract. Sheehan replaces retiring Supt. Michael Escalante on July 1. I recently received the contract and was disappointed to read that the Board of Education voted to pay Sheehan $240,000 per year.
In a column in February, I pointed out that Escalante's salary of $297,000 is more than the $250,000 that Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon Cortines is paid, and also more than the salaries of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ($227,000); the vice president of the United States ($221,100); members of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives ($174,000); members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ($150,000); or the Los Angeles City Council ($149,000).
With the exception of Cortines, Sheehan's salary still exceeds all of these positions and is a 32% increase from his approximately $182,000 salary as deputy superintendent.
Can we afford to keep paying these kinds of salaries, especially in light of the potential devastating loss of so many teachers?
All over California, newspaper articles are discussing the escalating salaries paid to school superintendents.
In the Nov. 30, 2009, edition of the Santa Monica Daily Press, columnist Bill Bauer questioned Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Supt. Tim Cuneo's salary of $232,400 (not counting bonuses or housing allowance). He pointed out that former San Diego Unified School District Supt. Terry Grier, who resigned last year, earned $269,000, plus annual bonuses. That district has 135,000 students, which is more than 11 times larger than Santa Monica-Malibu and five times larger than Glendale Unified.
Lately there have been letters to the editor of the Glendale News-Press asking for greater transparency from the district. A great way to start would be to put the annual budget on the Glendale Unified website and the minutes to all board meetings, if not streaming video of the meetings themselves.
One way for the school board to show that they are making cuts overall and not just at the classroom level would be to not replace Sheehan. Since the district is asking the kindergarten-through-third-grade teachers to take on more work with increased class sizes, the responsibilities of the deputy superintendent could be divided up among the superintendent and the three remaining assistant superintendents and save more than $180,000 per year.
While I know that reducing a couple of administrators' salaries won't solve the budget gap, it will signal to parents and teachers that the Board of Education and administrators are willing to share the pain we are all going to feel.