Modesto City Schools board adds probation officer, gives district brass raises

06/17/2014 8:25 PM

06/17/2014 8:26 PM

Modesto City Schools board members passed raises for employees and themselves on split votes and approved a first-time contract to post a probation officer at Elliott Continuation School.

Adding a probation officer based at the high school for at-risk teens fulfills a goal of the district’s community-advised spending plan. That plan lays out goals to accomplish with extra funding it receives, primarily for poor students and English learners. Elliott has the highest percentage of both among high schools in the district, by 2013-14 figures.

The two-year, $224,603 contract with the Stanislaus County Probation Department passed unanimously Monday night, as did a renewal of the district’s contract with the Modesto Police Department for four school resource officers, a one-year, $452,500 pact.

Adding probation to the safety mix helps on several fronts, including an emphasis on long-term solutions for offenders, said board member Rubén Villalobos.

“Probation officers have a mandate to work on rehabilitation,” said Villalobos, a defense attorney who has worked with juvenile hall detainees. “They also have the best access to up-to-date intelligence to work with our trouble kids. I think it will be a great addition,” he said.

The board members also voted to increase compensation for the top brass, as well as their own pay and health benefit allowance, all with split votes.

“We need to retain and recruit people of high caliber,” said Amy Neumann before joining the majority in voting for a 7 percent boost, increases of $9,844 to $10,498, for the district’s three associate superintendents for next year. That includes a 4 percent hike to return to full salary at the peak of the boom years, as teachers got last year, a 2 percent raise for this year and a 1 percent one-time payment.

The package brings next year’s pay to $149,280 for Chief Business Official Julie Betschart; $156,237 for head of education services Ginger Johnson; and $159,188 for Craig Rydquist, in charge of human resources.

Board President Cindy Marks was the lone dissenting vote against associate superintendents. She also voted against similar raises for employee groups and Superintendent Pam Able.

“This is consistent with my earlier votes, because I believe it overcommits the district,” Marks said, noting higher retirement costs that will follow, and the expiration in six years of extra taxes voters passed with Proposition 30. “I don’t believe these are sustainable,” she said.

Able’s $238,225 pay package for 2014-15 passed on a 5-2 vote, with Marks’ dissent joined by Neumann’s. “We’re talking about considerably more money here than the other proposal,” Neumann said before her vote.

A $15 addition to board stipends and $22.50 more in health care allowances each month passed on the same 5-2 split, with Marks and Neumann again dissenting. The change brings the stipend to $765 a month, and with the benefit increase will be a $3,110 additional cost over the year to the district.

Board member Sue Zwahlen said she saw the stipend as a way to offset the costs of school board service. “It’s important to take this seriously. It’s important that everyone be able to run.”

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