California Educator

November 2015

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W H E N S U P E R I N T E N D E N T S voluntarily quit before their contract expires or get fired, some districts offer huge payouts — sometimes six figures — as a parting gift. The hefty severance packages cost districts and taxpayers money that could be better used in the classroom. However, the state has recently placed limits on cash settlements to outgoing superintendents. Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) wrote AB 215, recently signed by Gov. Brown, which caps severance pay at 12 months — down from 18 months) — for new superintendents beginning Jan. 1. (See profile of Alejo on page 39.) One Bay Area school leader — Kari McVeigh, former superintendent of New Haven Unified School District in Union City — collected a $600,000 payout in 2013. The highest buyout on record went to Jose Fernan- dez, the departing superintendent of the Centinela Valley Union High School District, who amassed $663,000 in compensation in 2013. With a base pay of $271,000, his other benefits amounted to nearly $400,000. On top of that, the district provided Fernandez with a $910,000 loan at 2 percent interest to purchase a home in an affluent neighborhood, reported the Daily Breeze, which won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. Big bucks for going bye-bye years later. Mercer says Melendez was responsible for the departure of many good administrators, got rid of successful programs, and made changes without a thorough analysis or long-term plan on how changes would impact students and staff. With the constant shuffle of top administrators, there's no historical understanding of the programs in place or the pro- grams that were tried and didn't work, says Mercer. For example, one superintendent ended a successful English language development program. Another tried in vain to bring it back. Elementary schools have had three different types of report cards in six years. "Nothing is tried long enough to see if it's successful or not," says Mercer. "It's very hard for people to have buy-in or show fidelity to programs, due to the history of changing all the time. Teachers are the only consistency in the district and the ones who work very hard so students can continue to improve." Current Superintendent Rick Miller is busy picking up the pieces left by Melendez, says Mercer. Shiing sands in Sacramento During the 13 years that Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) President Nikki Milevsky has worked in her district, she's had seven super- intendents, including three interims. In 2013, Jonathan Raymond left after four and a half years on the job. He was replaced by interim superintendent Sarah Noguchi, who was in turn replaced by former Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda one year ago. Raymond launched the Priority Schools program in the spring of 2010 to help low-achieving students. Under this change, eight schools lost QEIA funding they were entitled to receive under CTA-sponsored leg- islation to improve low-performing schools. ey lost funding because class size was increased. "Because of Mr. Raymond, we turned down free QEIA money that could be used to lower class size and offer high-quality professional development," says a frustrated Milevsky, who describes the Priority Schools plan as a top-down program — unlike QEIA, which was teacher-driven. Raymond, an Eli Broad-trained superintendent, drove away competent people and created new jobs for his own people, one of whom led the plan to switch teachers to an inferior health care plan, says Milevsky. He also led the city in applying for a No Child Left Behind waiver that required the district to evaluate SCTA members on student test scores. After a long battle, SCTA successfully eliminated the waiver. Current Superintendent Banda has also created some new, high-paying positions. He was not effective in negotiating a health care package that is fair for school employees, and failed to get rid of abusive principals in some Sacramento City Unified schools, says Milevsky. "Sacramento City Unified School District deserves a really good leader," she adds. "Our students deserve i t . O u r t e a c h e r s d e s e r v e i t . An d o u r c o m m u n i ty deserves it." Sacramento City Teachers Association President Nikki Milevsky holds up a news story about yet another new superintendent. 36 F E A T U R E

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