Modesto City Schools Superintendent Pam Able got the go-ahead to reorganize district administration last week.
Other such plans have passed with little comment in recent years. This plan, however, came under fire because an administrator and several technology department managers get new duties and pay raises.
At a time when the district is laying off workers, and labor negotiations over reducing salaries and hours have reached an impasse, some saw that as a luxury Modesto cannot afford.
"Unconscionable," was the judgment of board member Cathy Hallinan, who cast the lone vote against the plan Tuesday night.
"I cannot support anybody getting a raise," she said. "Everybody is being asked to do more with less."
But Able's plan got support from longtime board member Cindy Marks.
"We're really light on management, despite what other people might say," Marks said, adding that a smooth-running administration supports principals and therefore helps students.
The reorganization saves the district $44,000, less than the cost of pencils for its 30,000 pupils. Compared with Modesto City's $250 million annual budget, the reorganization won't even cause a ripple.
But the handful of raises within it three information and technology directors will receive $5,000 pay increases made waves.
"Basically, a classified support person is paying for all these savings," Roosevelt Junior High teacher Melody McGill told the board. "I'm just not sure how streamlining can be effective if you're just changing job titles and positions."
Aaron Castro, president of the California School Employees Association Modesto Chapter, protested the technology department changes, which cut a tech job while bumping up other salaries.
"Here you're cutting a classified position and then you turn around and increase the managers in that particular department. That's disgraceful," Castro said Friday.
The reworked tech department has 11½ managers and 23 classified support staff, which Castro said was "too many chiefs and not enough Indians."
Several speakers at Tuesday's school board meeting alluded to the inequity of giving raises to administrators while cutting the hours and salaries of people in the trenches. The Bee took a closer look at some of those issues:
Too many chiefs?
Modesto City has fewer administrators than other districts its size and other districts in the area, according to Ed-Data, an online data base of California education statistics. In the 2010-11 school year, the latest year available, the district had about 4 percent fewer administrators per student than the comparably sized Lodi Unified and Clovis Unified districts. Turlock Unified, Ceres Unified, and Merced's elementary and high school districts had 13 percent to 20 percent more leaders in place, weighed by district size.
Modesto's leaders are, however, better paid than other districts in the area. The district paid $365 per student in administrative costs in 2010-11, according to Ed-Data. By contrast, the Sylvan Union district paid $265 per student, despite having more administrators. But statewide districts paid on average far more, $460 per child.
Average pay for Modesto teachers dropped from $80,360 in 2007-08, its funding peak, to $77,000 in 2010-11, despite the layoffs of many of its lowest paid, beginning teachers.
Teachers still get small, automatic raises for seniority or completing advanced college work, but their ability to collect thousands of dollars extra with coaching and other stipends has fallen greatly.
Pay cuts have hit all the district's top earners, lists of employees earning more than $100,000 in 2009 and 2011 show. For one thing, far fewer made the list in 2011: 95, down from 177. Nearly all those who dropped to less than $100,000 were teachers making up to $42,700 for taking on extra duties.
Administrators, however, clearly had the greatest opportunities for advancement. Able tops the list, moving from $131,350 as a district director in 2009 to superintendent, making $226,800 for 2012. She took the job July 1, 2011, succeeding Arturo Flores, who made $228,200 in 2009.
Looking at others who made the list both years, 60 folks lost money and 14 gained. Gainers were almost all administrators or teachers who became administrators.
Not counting Able's promotion or that of Chief Business Official Julie Chapin, the average change was a $5,300 loss.
Support staff, the fingers and feet of every school district, have lost the greatest number of jobs, as well as taking pay cuts and furloughs.
In part, that reflects California's roller coaster finances and protective laws for teachers. Districts had to notify teachers and most administrators by March 15 if they might be laid off in 2012-13, 10 months before the state's final decision on revenue will be known.
Support staff need only be given 45 days, making those jobs the safety release valve when the state's red ink flows.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.