Santa Rosa school board to consider salary increases for superintendent, other district officials

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Some teachers and school staff members are voicing anger and disbelief at a proposal to raise the Santa Rosa City Schools superintendent’s salary by nearly 29%, after months of intense negotiations with the teachers union over teacher pay increases.

Superintendent Diann Kitamura, who led the district through the devastating 2017 wildfires and the aftermath, has been in her position for three years and has not received a pay raise since she started. The proposal calls for increasing her salary from $200,000 to $257,094.

The district also is proposing to increase the salaries of four other district administrators.

Critics say the proposed pay increases lower morale and expose issues of income inequality among staff members.

Kitamura’s salary is right at the state average for superintendents, but in an interview she said it’s lower than what superintendents make at districts of similar size and in areas with a similar cost of living. At Napa Valley, for example, the top administrator gets paid $265,000, while superintendents in San Rafael and Novato make $279,400 and $228,000, respectively, according to the Santa Rosa school district.

“You cannot compare a superintendent salary to the state average because each district is so different,” Kitamura said.

There’s currently no salary increase schedule for the superintendent position. “It’s not about me, it’s about making this right for the future of the district,” Kitamura said.

The district also is considering salary increases for four assistant superintendents: Stacy Spector, human resources; Steve Mizera, student and family services; Anna Guzman, teaching and learning; and Rick Edson, business services. They currently make $155,140 a year.

The district is proposing to bump Spector’s pay to $160,569, while Mizera and Guzman would earn $166,189 and $172,006, respectively. Edson, whose role would change to deputy superintendent, would get paid $189,000 annually under the proposal.

“This is an exponential pay raise for the top 1% of our organization,” Kristin Colgrove, office manager at Hidden Valley Elementary School, told the board at a Wednesday meeting.

During teacher pay negotiations, district officials initially offered a 1% pay increase. Months later, in March, they offered a 5.5% salary hike over two years, but the union had countered, asking for a 10% bump.

An agreement was reached at the end of March for a 3% raise to teacher salaries beginning in July, followed by a 4% hike the next year. The union members voted in favor of the contract, which the school board approved Wednesday.

“We had to organize and fight hard to get a raise, and as soon as we ink the deal they do this,” said Will Lyon, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association.

Kitamura said the departure of an assistant superintendent last year left extra work that was absorbed by the remaining superintendents.

She said she works 12 to 14 hours a day and never turns off her phone on the weekend. There’s been major changes in the district that are time absorbing, like the transition from at-large board elections to district election.

And there were the October 2017 wildfires, which heavily affected students and staff members in the district and required extra responsibility, said Kitamura, who completed her doctoral degree in March after writing a dissertation on crisis leadership.

“I didn’t get into this for money, but I also should be valued … Is this because I am a woman of color that I should not be afforded a raise?” said Kitamura, who is of Japanese descent. “Would it be the case if I were a white man?”

However, Lyon disputed her remarks on discrimination and said a raise for the superintendent on par with the percentage increase for teachers would be fair.

“To me, this is 100% nothing to do with gender or race; this is 100% about income inequality,” Lyon said. “We’re in the fourth most expensive county for educators and she makes a living wage, and we have classified employees who don’t.”

Margaret Buhn teaches students with severe disabilities at Montgomery High School. On Wednesday, she spoke to the board about the challenges faced by her classroom aides because of low wages. They are forced to take second jobs and live in low-income housing. One drives for Uber after work and the other provides in-home care four nights a week, she said.

“What would motivate people to apply for these (classified) jobs when baggers at Whole Foods make $15 an hour and fast-food restaurants are starting at $11 or $12, the same as our child care workers or yard duties,” Buhn said. “We need to make living wages — at least $15 an hour to make our classified staff a priority.”

The proposed pay hike also stirred the pot on other issues. Matt Davis, longtime Santa Rosa High physics teacher, came to the board Wednesday to speak about keeping smaller-sized Advanced Placement classes.

“If you can find the money for these extremely large and unprecedented administrative raises, surely you can find the money to keep small AP classes open next year,” Davis said.

The salary increase proposal was expected to go before the board for a possible vote Wednesday, but the item was removed from the agenda because of the absence of board president Jenni Klose, who had an illness in her family, and trustee Stephanie Manieri, who was out of town.

Laurie Fong, the board’s vice president, said the full board should be present for the discussion and vote.

“The items on the agenda tonight on salary schedules and contracts have generated concern as communicated to the board and to the superintendent over the past week,” Fong said during Wednesday’s school board meeting.

The issue likely will come before the board on May 8.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or On Twitter @susanmini.

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