After a bristly back-and-forth between the Las Lomitas Elementary School District school board and a group of parents and teachers, board members unanimously voted Wednesday night (March 13) to give a district administrator a new title and pay hike.
The board voted to reclassify the position of director of curriculum and instruction as an assistant superintendent position, with an annual pay increase for the person now in the position, Shannon Potts, of between $25,000 and $30,000, depending on her "step" (one through nine) on the salary schedule.
The vote happened despite public comments at the meeting from parents and some teachers urging the board to delay the vote in favor of getting broader input on the change. Some parents who spoke, such as Laurie Sobel, explained that they came to the meeting to speak for teachers who feared retaliation for opposing the reclassification and pay increase for Potts.
Board President John Earnhardt argued that the decision would help retain key talent when Superintendent Lisa Cesario retires at the end of the school year, and because Potts is doing work outside of the scope of a traditional director of curriculum and instruction.
“My job as a trustee is to make sure the district can be run well with a new superintendent,” he said. “This is not a job performance review; let’s keep the discussion on the role, not the person.”
The scale of the pay increase is unprecedented in the district, because pay raises for administrators are usually tied to those of teachers (teachers and administrators already received a raise of 6 percent spread over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years), said Mimi Sabo, co-president of the teachers' union, the Las Lomitas Education Association before the meeting.
Sabo said earlier that she has three main concerns about the proposal: the questionable need for an assistant superintendent in a school district as small as Las Lomitas, which has only 1,259 students; the fiscal impact on the district; and the timing of the raise.
The board will also miss the chance to hear feedback on Potts and the administration from a survey of teachers done as part of the district’s effort to hire a new superintendent, said Sabo, who has seen the survey results.
Cesario announced in late January that she will retire at the end of the school year. The survey results, Sabo said, will be presented a day after the Wednesday vote, and could be “vital” to a board decision on whether Potts should be given the new title and raise.
The curriculum and instruction position’s salary maxes out at $177,397 (Step 9). The new assistant superintendent position that Potts now holds comes with a maximum salary of $203,145, according to the district website.
Potts’ salary was $162,345 in 2016, according to the latest data from Transparent California, which tracks compensation of public employees in the state. Before becoming the director of curriculum and instruction, she was principal of La Entrada Middle School, where she began her career in the district in 2012.
The consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which is managing the search for a new superintendent, will present the board with a “Superintendent Search Leadership Profile” at a meeting on Thursday (March 14) at 1 p.m. The meeting takes place in the District Conference Room at 1011 Altschul Avenue in Menlo Park. The meeting is open to the public.