AUSD’s Vital’s new contract…no raise, but increased benefits

I want to start by saying that I like Kirsten Vital and I think that we are lucky to have her working as Superintendent at AUSD. She is 100% committed to her job, working massive hours, etc. and her vision for moving the District forward is solid and well-planned.

But I was upset when I found out that just months after passing Measure A, three of our five School Board members (Mooney, Sherratt and Tam) approved a contract with a raise for her.

Then I found out that they didn’t. The “Vital got a raise” issue is not exactly true.

Vital’s new contract continues, as her past one did, to include an annual cost-of-living increase of 3% and keeps her starting salary (which adjusts in January) at the same level it currently is.  There are two other changes that have financial (or possible financial impacts). First, it provides for an annual bonus of up to $15,000 for meeting performance goals set by the Board. Second it moves her from receiving no money for healthcare to the District covering 100% of her healthcare (about $11,000 a year).

The 2011/12 goals are as follows:

  1. At least 95% of all eighth grade students in the District will be eligible to participate in promotion activities.
  2. During 2011-12, at least 22 teachers, who have not previously been fully-trained, will participate in SIM strategies professional development activities (training, monitoring, and strategic coaching).
  3. As appropriate, District staff will be fully trained in the procedures, and monitoring of the Student Attendance & Information System (Aeries, etc.) by the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

Vital will be eligible to receive a performance bonus of $5,000 for successfully implementing each of these. It’s additional money and people can be upset about it. It’s certainly politically tone-deaf to start this within months of going out for a parcel tax. But it’s not going change the fact that the District has extremely low admin costs. And $15,000 is hardly a large portion of money from Measure A.

Despite the fact that each of these goals helps meet the specific goals of Measure A, while I probably would have shied away from the new bonus this year, as Mike McMahon did, until such time as State funding becomes more clear.

It’s this bonus that is the only real “raise” that Vital has received, and it’s not guaranteed, and the metrics for achieving it are clear, so she’ll either meet them, or she won’t. They aren’t subjective like “increase the emotional happiness of District Staff.”

The health benefits are a different, and interesting story. Apparently the recruitment brochure for the Superintendent position stated that the position came with “health benefits” but when the contract was written, it followed the standard at the time, which was that Administrative people received no health benefits. Vital signed the contract, then noticed the discrepancy, the District said, whoops, a contract is a contract, and Vital had no health benefits.

Since that time, the administrative staff have begun to receive the same health benefits as teachers (meaning they still pay for a lot of their benefits), but Vital did not, as she’s the only contract employee in the District.

During the negotiations this time around, it was decided that the Superintendent should receive the same as the admin staff, but that the District should also make up for the past mis-communication as well, so the Board agreed to pay 100% of health this time around. It sounds like the expectation is that it is only for this contract and that the expectation would be for it to go down in the next one, to match the rest of the administrative staff.

The net benefit to Vital is 100% healthcare, it’s a new benefit, but honestly one I believe she deserves. I don’t begrudge anyone healthcare and I think it’s a universal right, so I don’t think it is even a “benefit.”

To sum up: no raise, healthcare, possible performance-bonus. AUSD will pay a little more.

And for those who are interested in helping to set the performance goals for 2012/13, October should be the month when the Board sets the goals that will be the basis for 2013’s bonus discussion.


[updated: 7:10am to fix date typo]