Six-figure teachers, school officials show dramatic rise in Modesto area

naustin@modbee.comMarch 22, 2014 

While the Great Recession has yet to recede Valleywide, the number of top-earning educators roared back in 2013, buoyed by the higher taxes of Proposition 30, passed in 2012.

The dramatic reversal shows in Modesto City Schools’ records of $100,000-plus earners for 2013, compared with income reported to the IRS for 2012. Both were provided to The Modesto Bee in response to California Public Records Act requests.

In 2013, the district paid 142 individuals more than $100,000. That more than triples the number passing that bar in 2012, when 42 people made the list. The change in teacher pay was even more dramatic, from six teachers topping $100,000 in 2012 to more than 60 last year. That tenfold increase came with the return of school days that had been cut and thousands of dollars earned in stipends for extra work.

At the start of 2012, schools stood hamstrung by the state’s financial plight. California revenue losses meant less money for education. On top of that, the state put off indefinitely about a quarter of what it calculated schools should get, saying it just could not afford to pay. The state then delayed what it agreed to pay for months, forcing many schools to borrow to make payroll.

Even those reduced, delayed amounts would have shrunk midyear if Proposition 30 did not pass in November, the state warned as schools made best-guess plans for 2012-13. Saved by the bell, however, by the passage of the temporary tax hike, school spending expanded in 2013.

Look for the numbers to rise again in 2014. Modesto City Schools has brought back teacher training days as well as school days. In ongoing teacher salary negotiations, even the district’s opening position includes a raise. Standard salary bumps for seniority and education credit also will nudge some over the bar.

Top leaders paid far more

The Bee extended its survey of $100,000-plus educational earners for 2013 to Yosemite Community College District and Turlock Unified School District.

The college district, which includes Modesto Junior College and Columbia College, paid 155 employees more than $100,000 last year, about two-thirds of those instructors, and the rest administrators. Turlock Unified, the county’s second-largest kindergarten through high school district, had 53 people on its list, including eight teachers.

Each of the districts paid its top executive significantly more than any other employee. YCCD Chancellor Joan Smith earned $270,835, more than $50,000 above second-highest earner Dennis Gervin, now an MJC biology instructor but for part of 2013 the Columbia College president. Modesto Superintendent Pam Able received $233,867 in 2013, nearly $87,000 more than the second-highest paid, head of human resources Craig Rydquist. Turlock Superintendent Sonny Da Marto earned $193,321, a $62,000 bump up from Lori Decker, in charge of district finances.

Modesto and Turlock spend less per student on administration overall than the average California district, but more on their top office, based on statewide figures from Ed-Data. The state average for superintendents in 2013 was $167,000. Both districts spend less per student on teachers, once benefits are factored in, than the state average. Turlock’s 700 teachers averaged $70,862 each in salary alone for the year and Modesto City’s nearly 1,400 teachers averaged $78,371 each in 2013, according to California Department of Education filings.

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Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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