A proposal to give raises to Fresno Unified School District’s highest-paid employees was taken off the table Friday after the Fresno Teachers Association – and some school board members – voiced concerns, pointing to an ongoing federal investigation of the district and related legal costs.
Recommendations for raises for Superintendent Michael Hanson, Chief Financial Officer Ruthie Quinto, Chief Academic Officer Kim Mecum and Chief Human Resources Officer Paul Idsvoog were scheduled for Wednesday’s school board meeting. But around 5 p.m. Friday, a district spokesman said the items had been pulled off the agenda.
“The agenda items for the June 15, 2016 Board of Education meeting regarding employee contracts were included as placeholders. At this time further research is needed,” spokesman Miguel Arias said in a statement.
On Friday the district would not release the employees’ current salaries, saying they did not have the time and citing events surrounding the end of the school year.
Hanson was the second-highest paid K-12 educator in California in 2014, taking home nearly $425,000. While Hanson’s regular salary is about $300,000, his earnings that year included $24,000 in “other pay” – which can include things like car allowances and stipends – and a $100,000 lump-sum payment that was part of a settlement with the district.
Hanson had publicly forgone $240,000 in extra compensation between 2008 and 2013, but later reached a settlement with the district to recoup $200,000 of that as part of a contract renegotiation.
In 2014, Quinto made about $205,000 in regular pay. That year, Mecum made about $199,000 and Idsvoog made about $164,000. However, Mecum and Idsvoog have been promoted since 2014.
How do you look at these children in the eyes and take that money?
Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian
Fresno Teachers Association Executive Director Louis Jamerson said Hanson’s salary is exorbitant and a raise is not warranted, especially given the investigation of the district’s no-bid construction contracts. As of April, the district had paid nearly $500,000 in legal fees associated with its use of “lease-leaseback” contracts.
Jamerson also pointed to students’ low reading proficiency levels and cited a report released last year that said only 2 percent of Fresno Unified students are considered college ready.
“Let’s fix those issues before we start talking about giving the highest-paid folks in the district even more money or an extension of their contract,” he said. “We have teachers up in arms about the district calling us, asking why are we spending more tax dollars?”
Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian pointed to the district’s poverty rates: Nearly 90 percent of Fresno Unified students come from low-income families. He also pointed to Fresno’s average per-person income, which is about $20,000.
$424,617How much Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson earned in 2014
“How do you walk into these poor areas where people don’t have enough food to eat or even enough money to buy shoes, and you’re asking for more money when you’re getting $400,000 plus. How do you look at these children in the eyes and take that money?” Ashjian said.
“We’re under an FBI investigation because of the things (Hanson) and his administration have done, and he wants a raise? Not only is my vote a ‘No,’ it’s a ‘Hell no.’ He wants to be paid more than the governor of California. Three times more than the mayor.”
Gov. Jerry Brown makes about $183,000 yearly. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin makes about $130,000.
Trustee Carol Mills said requests for raises should have been brought to the school board before it approved the district’s budget earlier this month. She also pointed to the district’s financial uncertainty amid the investigation of a pending court case related to construction contracts.
“As to the superintendent and deputy superintendent, how can we give a raise when the $38 million lease-leaseback litigation and the federal investigation around lease-leaseback have not been resolved, and the board doesn’t yet know the full extent to which their actions may have adversely impacted the district?” Mills said.