School Board Approves Contract Extensions for Superintendent, Top Administrators

Vote is one of many in busy agenda; Board sharpens Measure J spending focus

Published : Friday, January 25, 2019 | 5:37 AM

Pasadena Unified Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, Chief Facilities Officer Nelson Cayabyab, and Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Blanco.

[Editor's Note: This article originally contained an error when it stated that the new contract amendments carry through 2020. Rather the extensions cover employment agreements through 2022.]

The Pasadena Board of Education Thursday, in a series of split votes, approved contract extensions for Pasadena Unified Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, Chief Facilities Officer Nelson Cayabyab, and Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Blanco. The votes extend each employee’s contract through June 30, 2022.

Under the new contract amendments, McDonald’s base salary will be $265,000 annually, Cayabyab’s will be $190,800 annually, and Blanco’s will be $189,967.90.

Each vote was 4-3 in favor of the extensions.

Both City Councilmember Tyron Hampton, a former School Board member, and Teamsters Union Representative Ray Witmer spoke in favor of the contract extensions, but Board Members Patrick Cahalan, Kimberly Kenne, and Michelle Bailey, all spoke out against.

“We’re not there yet,” said Kenne. “We can’t make plans yet. I need to be more confident of the future.”

“There is tension on the staff,” said Bailey, agreeing with Kenne. “There is a morale issue here, and I am desiring more from Board leadership and executive leadership. It’s just not here. I’m not ready to support any contract extensions. I need to see more leadership.”

Board Member Cahalan said he would be ready to revisit the issue after March 15.

The extensions vote was one of a number of discussions in a crowded agenda, which also saw the School Board narrow down spending priorities for Measure J tax revenue and accept the District’s annual audit. The District will see a revenue increase of about $7 million yearly beginning in 2019, thanks to its share of new ¾ cent City sales tax.

Chief Business Officer Leslie Barnes presented a broad overview of the District’s Measure J Ad Hoc Committee’s spending recommendation. The recommendations would include increasing or maintaining District reserve requirements, offsetting deficit spending due to declining enrollment, restoring positions and funding shifts that were made in the 2018 Fiscal Stabilization Plan, paying one-time large expenditures such as textbook adoptions, District signature programs, backfilling lost grant funding, and paying for deferred maintenance.

The re-prioritized spending comes in the face of declining enrollments. The District’s State funding is tied to the number of students it enrolls.

“I think we can crunch this down a little more,” said Board Member Patrick Cahalan. Cahalan explained that the District projects its declining enrollment numbers each year, as the budget is created.

“We want to tell the Committee,” said Cahalan, “that we want to be conservative and expect that we will lose 250 kids a year, as opposed to 100 kids a year,” and that the District will set aside an appropriate figure each year to cover those losses in revenue.

“If the decline is less than we projected, we will still have that money to spend,” he said. Cahalan also wanted to see funds reserved for the District’s Family Engagement Center program.

‘We want to make sure that we are on good fiscal grounds, and that we can satisfy the County,” added Kenne, who said, “That was an important issue that the City Council raised.”

Kenne also stressed the importance of deferred maintenance, in case the District asked for a bond issue from voters in a few years, “We need to be able to let them know, that if they approve money for buildings, we take care of them.”

Cahalan also told the Board that once priorities were decided, spending would be a regular conversation each year with the City Council, differing according to need each year.

Added Cahalan, “I don’t think the City Council wants to be in the business of telling us how to balance the books, it’s more like they want to have an idea of where we might spend this money. And if the idea changes, that’s fine, as long as we’re reporting how we’re spending the money, and why.”

The Board ultimately approved a smaller, three-category list of priorities which included increasing or maintaining District reserve requirements and offsetting deficit spending due to declining enrollment, restoring programs, and deferred maintenance.

The smaller, focused list will be returned to the Ad Hoc Committee — made up of Pasadena Unified Board Members and City Councilmembers, including the Mayor— for final approval.

The Board also accepted the annual audit and financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. The 91-page presentation by the auditing firm of CliftonLarsonAllen, warned about the rising costs of workers’ compensation, saying that “It is extremely important that the District closely examine its budget and the impact that workers’ compensation may have on the future solvency of the District. The workers’ compensation rate charged should account for not only current costs, but for unpaid claims as well.”

The report added that the District should also “develop and implement formal policies and procedures relating to informal tracking of workers’ compensation claims.

The District responded that it will transfer $4 million into the workers’ compensation Fund to be set aside to address the unfunded liability. The District will also address the unfunded liability in the development of its rates for 2019-2020. The District also said that it has changed its third party Administrator and is “implementing improvements to the workers’ compensation program.”

The audit found no reported significant deficiencies and no non-compliance material in the District’s financial statements. The report also found no material weaknesses in internal control over the District’s major Federal awards and identified no significant deficiencies in its Federal awards.

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