WatchSonoma Watch

Getting over the idea that new hires need to be paid more

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

6 Responses to “Getting over the idea that new hires need to be paid more”

  1. Rupert Murrow says:

    Why isn’t the PD reporting on the conflict of interest charges filed against Supervisor Valerie Brown? They were all over Ms Koire’s other FPPC complaints, including front page AND editorial coverage. Now Mr Gullixson remains strangely silent. Is it because your editorial board endorsed Supervisor Brown that you refuse to report on the allegations? If there is another plausible reason I am sure your readers would like to hear it.

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  2. Billy C says:

    Hmmmm there are 40 ” districts”? if each Superintendent makes $140K that would be
    $5.6 M. figure in retirement and other bennys probably closer to $10M per year.

    Nobody sees a problem with this ?

    How much further out of hand must things get before we see a major change in how we
    spend our education dollars?

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  3. Rupert Murrow says:

    So it looks like an FPPC Complaint was filed against Supercisor Valerie Brown for conflict of interest? Is this not newsworthy? Why aren’t we reading about this on the front page of the PD? It seems like every other FPPC report gets front page (or at least Watch Sonoma County) headlines. Could this be because the PD ENDORSED Supervisor Brown and thus doesn’t see the need to report on HER conflict of interest allegations with the same (ahem) enthusiasm and zeal that they reported on those of other non PD endorsed electeds? I remember reading article after article when Rose Koire made her last complaint. Now the PD is strangely silent about a Sonoma County Supervisor being accused of a serious conflict of interest. I hope the PD is not playing favorites by ignoring the FPPC Conflict of interest complaint filed by Rose Koire. Any explanation for this inconsistency Mr Gullixson?


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  4. Paul Gullixson says:

    Thank you for catching that.

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  5. Dan Delgado says:

    It demonstrates the disconnect between the district officials and the public. Sure makes it hard to rally around their pleas for more money for education if they can’t manage what they have already.

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  6. NOTUTOO says:

    You meant predecessor, not successor.

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