High school district approves salary increase for classified group


The last remaining group of employees in the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) received its 12.5 percent salary boost on Feb. 18. The district and the classified employees represented by the California Schools Employees Association reached an agreement on the new three-year contract through 2018 on Feb. 1.

Paired with raises for SDUHSD certificated teachers, four assistant superintendents and management, confidential and supervisory employees, the net effect of the salary increases represents a $1.1 million increase in cost to the district.

The agreement was reached through interest-based and collaborative negotiations and was posted online for public review on Feb. 2. Matthew Colwell, president of the CSEA Chapter, said all of the talks were civil and both sides left happy with the outcome.

The agreement includes the addition of a salary step of 7 percent raise for 2015-16 and an additional 5.5 percent effective July 2016, as well as increased compensation for extracurricular activities.

Trustees John Salazar and Mo Muir voted against the increases, as they have for all district raises.

SDUHSD Superintendent Rick Schmitt said the “dedicated” and caring classified employees have not received a master contract raise since 2007.

“The agreement continues to provide budget stability for the San Dieguito Union High School District as well as financial security and stability for our hardworking classified employees,” Schmitt said.

SDUHSD Vice President Joyce Dalessandro said the district’s classified employees represented the nuts and bolts of the district, the daily details and the “take for granted’s” – she said their list of contributions and areas of expertise are far too numerous for her to mention.

“This group has been without a salary increase for the longest than any group in San Diego County, which says a lot about your loyalty, dedication and ability to hang in there knowing that in time we would do the right thing,” Dalessandro said.

Schmitt said the district can afford the increase in salaries as it has budgeted conservatively and has healthy reserves. He said typically districts spend 85 percent of their budgets on personnel and even with the raises for all three SDUHSD employee groups, the SDUHSD is significantly under 85 percent for the cost of personnel.

With growth in state revenue and increased enrollment, Schmitt said they expect to see their funding increase from the state. He said that the district is in a “healthy and stable” position and is maintaining a healthy level of reserves, some of the highest in the district’s history — after 2017-18, the reserve is projected to be at 13 percent, according to SDUHSD Associate Superintendent Eric Dill.

“This raise is affordable and it is also equitable and fair,” Schmitt said.

Muir reiterated her concerns about class sizes and about the language in the contract increasing class sizes to 38.4 and 34.6 for high school and middle school respectively. Schmitt stated that Muir’s numbers were not correct.

As Jason Viloria, associate superintendent of administrative services, has explained in past discussions, the new contract language does not increase the maximums for class size averages, it simply clarifies the ratio and process — class sizes remain 32 students to one teacher for high school and 29:1 in middle school.

Schmitt said there are no changes to class sizes in this contract.

“Class sizes are the lowest they have been in a decade, I want to make sure that’s clear,” Schmitt said.

Muir continued to disagree that class sizes won’t increase.

After the 3-2 vote, Dalessandro expressed her frustration that the vote was again not unanimous and did not give full support to the district’s staff.

“I don’t get this, this has pushed me to the edge here,” Dalessandro said, noting that her comments were uncharacteristic of her but she said she felt the need to speak up. “These are our employees,” she said to the loud applause of the employees in the crowd.

Salazar dismissed Dalessandro’s comments as “grandstanding” and “pandering” to the crowd.

“We’re not against the employees. We’re against it because we don’t think it’s fiscally responsible,” Salazar said, noting that he is only doing the job he was elected to do and that board members are allowed to think differently.

The argument was interrupted by SDUHSD Board President Beth Hergesheimer’s gavel as she moved the meeting along.