In our editorial on Tuesday, we explore a recent Sonoma County grand jury report on a longstanding need in Sonoma County – school consolidation. As we note in the editorial, Sonoma County has 40 districts, the fourth most of any county in the state after Los Angeles, San Diego and Tulare counties.
But as hard as school districts are working to save money, it sometimes feels as if they’re sending mixed messages.
For example, the Sonoma County Office of Education recently authorized a study of combining Petaluma’s two largest school districts – the Petaluma City schools district and the Old Adobe Union School District. Such a merger would make sense given that both districts have recently lost their superintendents due to retirements.
But last week, Old Adobe announced it had appointed a new superintendent – Cynthia Pilar, the former principal at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa.
I don’t blame Old Adobe. Pilar is a well-respected educator, and even if the consolidation plan is approved, it would take years for it to occur. But here’s what I don’t understand. Despite all the cuts to education, teacher layoffs and calls for consolidation to save money, Pilar will be paid an annual salary of $140,000 – $3,000 more than her predecessor, who had been with the district nine years.
Does this make sense – particularly for a school district that has lost 20 percent of its students since 1998 and closed a school (Bernard Eldredge) a year ago?
No doubt Pilar has a tough job ahead. But it seems to me that at some point decision makers need to get over the idea that they always must pay more for a top new hire, whether it’s a principal, superintendent or city manager. It sends the wrong message to rank and file employees and puts that new boss in an awkward position when and if it comes time for more cuts and layoffs. And you know it’s more likely to be when than if.
- Paul Gullixson