School board praises new pay plan for top administrators

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

The Palo Alto school board last night praised a proposal by Superintendent Don Austin to reform the way top administrators are paid that increases salary ranges but eliminates stipends that can add more than $10,000 to their compensation.

The changes apply to the district’s top five administrators, known as the superintendent’s cabinet, who all make over $200,000 a year.

The changes would amount to five-digit increases to the base salary ranges for several cabinet positions while doing away with stipends for cars ($5,400 a year), longevity ($3,200 every three to five years), advanced degrees ($2,500 a year) and cellphones ($480 annually).

The existing stipends can amount to more than $10,000 added on top of the administrators’ base salaries.

The contracts that the board is considering would offer raises between 3% and 3.6% to Deputy Superintendent Karen Hendricks, Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives Yolanda Conaway and chief academic officers Anne Brown and Sharon Ofek.

Austin said the new contracts would “decouple” senior administrators’ raises from union negotiations, keeping them from being automatically tied to raises that bargaining groups get.

The practice is recommended by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Austin said.

‘Me too’ raises

Earlier this month, the board approved a “me too” raise for principals and other managers who are represented by the Palo Alto Management Association, a compromise after those employees threatened to unionize. A “me too” raise means one group of employees will get the same percentage increases as another group. In this case, the principals will get the same increase as the teachers.

At last night’s board meeting, Austin criticized the Post’s reporting on the proposal, stating that a prior article on the proposed raises was “full of errors.” Austin objected to the statement that the raises amount to base salary range increases between $17,900 and $62,000.

In fact, the increases to the base salary ranges top out higher than that, at $62,074. The top salary “step” for the chief business officer position, Step 5, is proposed to be increased from $208,048 to $270,122.

And all five positions will pay more than $200,000 a year.

Steps in pay

Under the current salary schedule, associate superintendents, assistant superintendents and chief business officers all start out at “Step 1” base salaries between $188,481 and $190,407.

Those ranges go up to between $208,048 and $210,173 under the existing schedule.

The district will be paying its new chief business officer, Carolyn Chow, $25,000 less than current Chief Business Officer Jim Novak.

Novak, who is retiring next month after less than a year in the district, makes $265,000 per year while Chow will be making $240,000.

Deputy Superintendent Karen Hendricks is up for a raise to $247,200, up from her current total pay of $240,000.

Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Anne Brown would make $218,964, up from her current total pay of $211,350.

Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Sharon Ofek would be making $225,538, up from her current total pay of $216,424, and Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives and Operations Yolanda Conaway would be making $212,592, up from her current total pay of $206,400.

The board members said they approved of the proposal’s simplifying administrator employment contracts.

Board members Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza said the streamlining would help people understand what administrators are really paid.

“The public has an interest in what the compensation is for senior management,” board member Ken Dauber said. “All of these steps are really positive in terms of clarity.”

Board Vice President Todd Collins said the simplified contracts were “definitely out of the norm for school districts of our size,” stating that the change would “pay dividends.”

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