Forest Grove brass get pay hike amid teacher layoffs, big program cuts

Even though most area school district administrators are accepting pay cuts or freezes next year as the recession grinds on, the Forest Grove School Board Monday night awarded raises to the district's top brass in 2011-12.

The tally went 5-0 in favor of granting 1.75 percent cost-of-living increases to 21 administrators and about a dozen supervisory and central office employees.

The pay hikes come at a time when the district is laying off dozens of teachers, chopping electives and closing a grade school due to a huge disparity between expected revenue and expenses.

Disgruntled community members asked the board to hold off on the raises.

'I walked out early,' said Pam Danzer of Forest Grove, a parent who has been unemployed since 2007. 'I understand why they're doing it. There have been cutbacks, but everybody's had cutbacks.'

'Things are tight all the way around,' she added, calling the awarding of raises in the current economic climate 'appalling.'

But Dave Willard, who next year moves from assistant superintendent to a halftime human resources director slot, said the board's decision made up for a drop in income all employees had absorbed since 2009 in the form of unpaid furlough days and the loss of promised cost-of-living increases.

'All employees in this district have given up salary,' Willard said. 'The board has chosen to put back those nine [furlough] days and make sure we have a full school year for students and staff next year.'

He emphasized that every employee group would be given identical treatment in terms of wage parity. 'The same process has been followed for everybody,' Willard said of the approved raises.

He added that the administrative pay hike would not negatively impact district finances next year, because scheduled budget cuts include the elimination of 1.5 fulltime administrative positions, saving the district $138,000.

Cost of the approved raises is $130,000, Willard said, leaving district coffers approximately $8,000 to the good. Although he couldn't pinpoint the exact black-ink figure, 'overall we will be spending less,' he insisted.

At least one board member, Fred Marble, defended the administrative pay boost as the only equitable thing to do. Since administrators shared the pain of pay cuts with teachers last year, he said, they should get a pay bump if teachers do.

Marble said he felt it was appropriate to reward administrators for leading the district through an unusually challenging year.

Meanwhile, talks between the district and the Forest Grove Education Association over a new labor contract are under way, with the old pact due to expire June 30.

It's unknown what kind of compensation package the district will negotiate with its teachers' union, but Willard said the 2011-12 budget, adopted by the board June 13, provides for a 1.75 percent raise and sets the pay grade for a teacher at the top of the salary schedule at $75,352.

Since administrators aren't represented by a union, the district isn't contractually obligated to grant them raises. But Willard said the tradition over the past 10 years has been to give them 'basically the same treatment' as teachers.

He also said that while individual administrators don't have the authority to turn down a board-approved raise, they 'could donate it back' to the district if they wished.

Kate Grandusky, who will replace Ralph Brown on the board July 12, weighed in on the pay increase in a letter to her colleagues-to-be last Sunday.

Administrative raises '[do] not make sense at this time,' she wrote. 'This is not about whether they deserve it, but about ... what message [you are] sending to the community.'

here's what top forest grove school district administrators will earn in 2011-12

n Yvonne Curtis, superintendent: $134,550, a raise of $6,836 from 2010-11, when she earned $127,714

n John O'Neill, assistant superintendent: $131,918, a raise of $12,829 from 2010-11, when he was paid $119,089 as director of student achievement

n Mike Schofield, business manager: $127,000, a raise of $7,538 from the $119,462 former business manager Darin Davidson earned in 2010-11

n Dave Willard, human resources director: $65,000 for a newly-created halftime HR position, a decrease of $60,216 from the $125,216 he earned in 2010-11 as full-time assistant superintendent

what are other districts doing?

n Banks: In 2011-12, the administrative team will get a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and an 8 percent health insurance cap increase. But they're also taking 10 unpaid furlough days, which works out to be a 3.77 cut in overall compensation.

n Gaston: Administrators will receive no increase in salary. But they also won't have to take any furlough days in 2011-12, meaning their pay will go back to what it was in 2009-10.

n Hillsboro: Since 2009, the year he was hired, Superintendent Mike Scott has elected to freeze his annual salary at $175,000. All other administrators received a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in 2010-11, but also accepted six unpaid furlough days. In 2011-12 they will get no pay raise and will take five furlough days to help staunch a near-$20 million budget shortfall.

n Beaverton: The district has 108 administrators on its payroll. They've agreed to four unpaid furlough days in 2011-12 and may take a pay freeze or a minimal cost-of-living increase. Their salary package is still in negotiations.

n Tigard-Tualatin: District administrators are taking a pay freeze in 2011-12.

Patrons take their frustration online

Unhappy that the Forest Grove School Board handed out raises to administrators Monday after adopting a budget containing $7.5 million in program cuts for 2011-12 just one week earlier, district patrons took to the Internet to voice their dismay in online comments.

'Taking pay raises (especially the administration) when there have been so many cuts is just plain wrong,' Cindy Brandt wrote Friday on the district's Facebook page, after the agenda for Monday's meeting appeared on the district's website.

Approval of the pay hike was listed as the final item on the consent agenda, typically reserved for 'routine and non-controversial matters,' board chair Anna Tavera-Weller has said at past board meetings.

'Whatever happened to a pay freeze? This is not what other districts are doing,' parent Candi Chamberlain commented in a Thursday post.

And Amanda Marquardt tackled the question of contractual agreements and pay raises.

'I would think we could expect ... pay freezes and no raises for administrators at the very least since they're not bound by a union agreement,' she wrote.

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