Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: Sacramento-area school trustees boost their own pay, send the wrong message

Trustees of the Sacramento region’s three largest school districts are teaching students some bad lessons: Make sure to look out for number one. Don’t fret too much about being frugal in tough times.

As The Bee’s Loretta Kalb reported Sunday, the school board members have boosted their own pay following the passage a year ago of Proposition 30, a statewide tax hike that bolstered school funding.

This month, the San Juan Unified School District board voted unanimously to raise its monthly stipend to $787.50 – the maximum allowed by the state for a district its size.

It’s not as if trustees have been doing a stellar job. They missed or ignored the problems right under their nose that led to Superintendent Glynn Thompson’s forced resignation and $17 million in legal claims facing the district. The district announced his departure Dec. 19 after an investigation substantiated claims from female employees that Thompson had bullied and harassed them and retaliated when they complained to trustees. Trustee Larry Masuoka, according to the report by a Sacramento law firm, learned of Thompson’s alleged behavior as early as November 2012.

In addition, San Juan remains on the state’s list of districts in financial danger because it cannot prove it can pay its bills over three consecutive fiscal years. Trustees could have at least waited until the district is off the watch list.

Sacramento City Unified also is still on that list, but that didn’t stop its trustees from returning stipends in February to the maximum $787.50 per month after reducing them a year earlier to $590.63 due to budget concerns. They also have the dubious distinction of collecting stipends for meetings they didn’t even attend. After The Bee disclosed that embarrassing fact, trustees agreed earlier this month to repay stipends – plus interest – for meetings they skipped without a legitimate excuse.

Elk Grove trustees set their stipend at $750 a month, after reducing it three years ago to match cuts in employee compensation. At least their district received a clean bill of fiscal health.

The payments may not amount to a ton of money, but the message matters, especially when children are involved. School board members ought to know that.