LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District trustee John Rush asked his Board majority colleagues to “team up for kindness” and show support for the district’s certificated and classified management and unrepresented employees who were the only employees not to get a pay raise and bonus last month.
Rush and trustee Jill McGrady voted at the Feb. 28 meeting in support of a 2% ongoing pay raise and 2.5% one-time bonus for the employees that include district administrators as well as school site principals and their executive secretaries, security directors and confidential employees such as those who handle personnel data.
Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin and Clerk Amanda Parrell voted against it.
“I thought maybe we could revisit that issue, give us all four weeks or so to maybe research and maybe vote on it,” said Rush, who requested the item be put on the Board’s next agenda.
“I’m in favor of that, Mr. Rush,” Davis said.
McGrady noted the Board gave pay raises to teachers and classified personnel at the Feb. 28 meeting.
“At that same meeting the Board majority refused to give a raise to one of, our unrepresented labor group,” McGrady said. “They did not even receive a minimal raise to offset the cost of living. Two of my colleagues cited the red on the Dashboard as a reason to deny these raises to the unrepresented labor group.”
McGrady then tried to read an explanation of the Dashboard, only to be interrupted by Davis, who asked Rachel Orosco, executive assistant to Superintendent David Vierra, for a copy.
“I’m very busy up here and it’s hard to understand,” Davis said.
McGrady paraphrased the explanation, which came from the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
“The county said that the Dashboard is not to be used as a penalty — that’s not to be used as a penalty. It is to be used for us to see what we need to improve on, to help us help students,” McGrady said. “It’s not to be used as merit pay.”
McGrady added if the district is going to start using merit pay, then the Antelope Valley Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association Chapter 612 should know.
“I don’t think any Board members ever said that’s the direction we’re going,” Davis said. “This Board supported the teachers’ union and the CSEA classified staff and that was very clear. The vote was very clear.”
McGrady added Orosco, who had to stay until the Board finished its closed session, which could stretch late into the night, to clean up, did not get a pay raise because there was red on the Dashboard.
“Everyone in the audience who didn’t get a pay raise, would you stand up please?” McGrady said.
Most of the people in the packed boardroom stood up.
“I would urge us to do the honorable thing now that we are aware that the Dashboard was not meant to be punitive,” McGrady said, “and since that was given as the reason that we were, that we bring it back for another vote. Let’s give it another chance. Let’s give us a chance to honor everyone that gets up every day and goes to work and does a job to educate the children in the Antelope Valley. Let’s honor all of them with a pay raise.”
Student trustee Noah Sveiven agreed.
“I think the denial of raises was needless, and I think it’s shameful,” Sveiven said. “I think that partisan posturing is not something that we should participate in in our public capacities.”
Classified employee Karen White said she hoped the Board would reconsider raises for the unrepresented employees.
“I feel, and I’m sure a lot of others feel, that that would be the equity that the district would be giving them because they’re just like the rest of the classified and certificated,” White said. “They dedicate their time, their efforts and I feel they should also be compensated in the same respect.”
Teacher Gary Roberts said the management and unrepresented employees are being held accountable for a socio-economic problem.
“Until we decide that we’re going to have universal health care; until we decide that we’re going to have preschool; until we decide that we’re going to have state-run daycare for all kids; until we have family leave for parents that have babies that have been born for first year; you cannot hold these people accountable for test scores,” Roberts said. “Test scores are not going to rise until we as a society, as a state, intervene at the earliest level.”
Roberts added that development of a child is most critical from ages 1 to 4.
“If they are given the equal play surface they will do fine in testing and so forth,” Roberts said. “But to hold some of your employees accountable for that increase is not right.”
Roberts added he hoped one of the Board majority would bring it back for a vote.
Former AV Union High School District trustee Donita Winn said during Great Recession money was tight for the district and no one in the district took pay raises.
“They all stuck together to make sure that we didn’t have to do any layoffs,” Winn said. “And we didn’t thanks to the guidance and leadership of Dr. Vierra. No one got laid off during that time. Districts across the country were laying people off because they couldn’t afford that. This team stuck together. They stayed together and they made it possible for everybody to have a job.”
Winn added it was disrespectful not to give the certificated and classified management and unrepresented employees a pay raise.
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