A California legislator wants to shrink considerably the severance pay for California school superintendents.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, introduced a bill Monday that would limit the amount superintendents receive for severance to only three months' salary, rather than the existing 18 months.
"The combination of high-paying salaries and high superintendent turnover is an issue that does not receive enough attention," Alejo said in a news release announcing the move Monday. "The two factors combine to create a problem of excessive severance packages at the expense of students and taxpayers."
Also, in response to recent developments in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Alejo plans to amend the bill before committee to include a provision that would limit paid leaves of absence for superintendents.
MPUSD Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd was granted a paid leave of absence through the remainder of her tenure with the district, set to end in June. The estimated cost to the district for her leave is about $93,000.
Alejo is proposing this legislation in response to a report by the Sacramento Bee, which points out the highest paid superintendent in California last year was the superintendent of Orange County schools, who earned $322,159. The superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, the largest school district in California with more than half a million students, received $275,000 in pay.
In Monterey County, Shepherd was the second-highest paid K-12 administrator. At $223,315, she was behind only the Carmel Unified School District superintendent, who earns $224,869 a year.
Alejo is also citing a recent report published in the American Educational Research Journal, which found that 45 percent of California superintendents left their jobs between 2006 and 2009. The high superintendent turnover not only hurts district stability but also its pocketbook.
"Considering the state's fiscal hardships, these are amounts that schools cannot afford to pay," Alejo said. "By placing limits on cash settlements and paid leaves for superintendents, we can save money for students, begin to improve our schools' administrative processes, and demonstrate fiscal discipline in the administration of taxpayer dollars."
MPUSD Board President Curt Parker said the bill to cap superintendent's severance pay is a good idea. But he believes the part aimed at MPUSD is not well informed.
"When I talked to (Alejo), his mind was already made up," Parker said. "He wasn't calling to get information."
MPUSD trustees will hold a special meeting Tuesday to continue the process of hiring a new top administrator. Among the items is the approval of a profile survey to circulate to the public that asks what type of qualities and background the public would like to see in the new superintendent.
Board members will also be asked to approve a timeline to complete the hiring process. The idea is to have someone in place by mid-April.
Parker believes the plan is doable, since the position is already being advertised.
"The superintendents, the best ones, go first," he said. "We're trying to get our name out there so we can get the best people to apply. And (the candidates) want to know before they quit their other job that they have a job in this district."
The board meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Instructional Materials Center, 540 Canyon del Rey, Del Rey Oaks.
Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 753-6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.