Just five months after the West Sonoma County Teachers Association (WSCTA) went on a three-day strike for a living wage and less than four weeks after Measure B narrowly passed, the West Sonoma County Union High School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to grant Superintendent Toni Beal a collective 8% pay raise, spread out over two years.
Measure B, a parcel tax for residents of West Sonoma County, on which the last year of teacher salary increases was contingent, clearly states that the money will be used to fund at-risk electives such as culinary and art classes and cannot be used for administrative pay.
Amidst the chaos of the coronavirus outbreak and school closures, the board agreed to this monumental decision over a Facebook Live meeting, with only four seconds allowed for public comment.
As student board representatives for El Molino High School, we are extremely disappointed in the board’s unanimous decision to grant Ms. Beal a collective 8% raise with so many financial uncertainties hanging over our district budget in the coming years, including an impasse with underpaid classified employees, cuts to our already-diminished programs, and layoffs of four full-time teachers.
(Editor’s note: Since this was written, the district settled with its classified staff and the number of lost teaching positions is now slightly less than two, according to Jeanne Fernandez, the WSCUHSD board chair.)
Below is an itemized list of disagreements we hold regarding this decision:
• The Superintendent’s poor handling of negotiations with the Teacher’s Association does not merit a “me too” raise. The teachers were forced to strike, ADA was lost due to large student participation in the strike and the district incurred additional expenses, included a lawyer and six security guards to “protect” the campuses.
• After this pay increase, Ms. Beal’s total annual income will be $187,644 plus 100% health coverage. Teachers’ raises came with a 5% cut to their health benefits, leaving them at 85% health coverage.
• The raise puts Ms. Beal’s pay in the top 10% of superintendents in Sonoma County even though she presides over one of its smaller districts. According to the California Department of Education, Ms. Beal’s salary following the raise will also be above the state average for districts of similar size.
• This raise for administrators will further increase the wage gap between management and teachers/classified workers.
• It is unreasonable to raise administrative salaries at a time when general education requirements, our foreign language programs and arts electives are being cut.
As students in the West County Unified High School District, we feel as though our needs are being undermined by the board’s treatment of administrative staff. As current and future voters in the county, we are outraged by the betrayal of Measure B as it is written.
Although we do not have much time left in this district, as one of us is a senior and the other a junior, we are both incredibly invested in the betterment and longevity of the West Sonoma County Union High School District.
We urge the board to reconsider this decision and repeal the raise.
Jeanne Broome is a junior and Ricky Luoto is a senior at El Molino High School. They are student representatives to the school board.