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Lodi Unified School District trustees extend superintendent contract to 2014

Board approved labor agreement 6-1

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 2:05 pm, Wed Aug 24, 2011.

Lodi Unified School District trustees voted to extend Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer’s contract through June 2014 at their meeting Tuesday.

Although he complimented the strides he feels the district’s top leader has made in recent months, trustee Ken Davis voted against the extension, citing financial concerns with her annual salary.

“She has come an extremely long way since 2008,” Davis said. “I want her to stay, and I really do. We’ve had our issues ... but I just can’t at this time see spending $675,000.”

Nichols-Washer earns an annual salary of $215,000 plus an estimated $10,000 in other incentives, such as a car allowance. She does not receive free benefits.

“You do the math,” Davis said.

Unlike other district employees, the superintendent is hired at the will of the school board.

Last September, the former board extended Nichols-Washer’s contract through 2013. There were no other changes to the contract, and her annual salary was unchanged.

Since then, there are several new faces on the board, including George Neely, Ruth Davis, Ron Heberle and Michael Abdallah, all of whom were critical of Nichols-Washer during their campaigns. All four were seated in December.

Trustees have been discussing the contract behind closed doors prior to most regular school board meetings for months, but Tuesday is the first time it was discussed publicly.

Before the vote, Neely recalled a day last December when he and Heberle sat down with Nichols-Washer to assure her that they did not leave their day jobs to get rid of her. Instead, he said, they invited her to pursue with them a path to make Lodi Unified an education destination.

“Dr. Washer took that challenge and ran with it,” Neely said. “Being one of the superintendent’s biggest critics (before being elected), I appreciate everything she has done in order to move the district forward.”

The board president ticked off a number of issues she has handled in the last year, including addressing a substitute shortage and overseeing a new program, which is in the works, where teachers will provide evaluation input on site administrators who will, in turn, review district administrators.

Cassel, too, sang Nichols-Washer’s praises.

“Cathy Washer and this board, I believe, have a very positive relationship, and that’s what this district needs,” she said.

Last year, Davis was also the lone dissenter against Nichols-Washer’s contract, and made clear the reasons why he would not approve extending it. At the time, he said he felt she had not performed at the level of satisfaction he expected, and called hers a leadership vacuum at its worst.

Since then, there have been questions on how the last evaluation was handled. When Davis publicly called into question why evaluation scores were changed after trustees last August met in closed session, then-President Richard Jones said he left the process open-ended.

Since being hired in 2008 to replace former Superintendent Bill Huyett, Nichols-Washer has had her share of naysayers.

In April 2010, she received a no-confidence vote by the teachers’ union, and she has weathered three straight years of spending scrutiny as the district has repeatedly cut programs and personnel.

In 2009, however, she voluntarily took a $15,000 pay cut from her $230,000 annual salary in an effort to help close the district’s multimillion-dollar deficit. She said she took the 6-percent cut in the hope that other employee unions would do the same.

When trustees approved the 2009-10 contract, they opted to consider restoring her salary to the original negotiated amount at the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year, depending on the budget. At the time, Nichols-Washer said she was not anticipating a raise and instead believed the board would focus its annual review on her goals and plans for the future.

The pay cut has not yet been restored.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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7 comments:

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:41 pm on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Mr Dawes stated...the teachers union got ever board member elected that they endorsed...they got exactly what they wanted. " I do not believe that is true.

    soooo... what is true? If you have information, why not share it.

     
  • William Dawes posted at 6:44 pm on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    William Dawes Posts: 113

    Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:32 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.
    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 3822

    ".. the teachers union got ever board member elected that they endorsed...they got exactly what they wanted. "

    I do not believe that is true.

     
  • Kevin Paglia posted at 11:12 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1880

    If you look at http://www.greatschools.org/cgi-bin/ca/district-profile/752 and scroll through the scores you can see just how good of job the LUSD powers have been doing. The district scores are virtually all BELOW state average. I don't mind a contract extension but if we were doing this badly in our job we would be looking a pay cut.

    Why reward being led to below average?

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:32 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Jerry Bransom posted at 7:05 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011...
    I guess the lesson here is if you are in power, you don't really have to pay for your mistakes. Let everyone else pay for them.

    Jerry... your point is one possible lesson.

    Another might be that people “in the know” (the teachers union and school board) manipulated voters to gain something. It is possible that Ms Washer was the boogie man that was needed to generate anger and the votes needed to achieve an end. I think there was mob mentality that resulted in certain events taking place. If you look at the results instead of the words said... the teachers union got ever board member elected that they endorsed...they got exactly what they wanted. Yet... the scapegoat (Ms Washer) gets a pay extension from the board that claimed she was bad. Now they say she changed and deserves a second chance. In addition, the union was very very pleased with the contract that was offered after the election and stated... we got the very best deal we could have under the circumstance with the new board. The deal was quickly signed sealed and delivered.

     
  • Jerry Bransom posted at 7:05 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 363

    I guess the lesson here is if you are in power, you don't really have to pay for your mistakes. Let everyone else pay for them.

     
  • Jerry Bransom posted at 7:04 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 363

    What a bizarre series of events! Now I really am confused.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:55 am on Wed, Aug 24, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Before the vote, Neely recalled a day last December when he and Heberle sat down with Nichols-Washer to assure her that they did not leave their day jobs to get rid of her.

    I wonder if the teachers in the trenches feel the same way...is Washer really that much better or was she never that bad in the first place?

    The teachers were screaming for her departure and complained of what they thought was her over paid salary... I wonder if this same argument will resurface once the next contract year comes up and teachers are asked to reduce their pay.

     

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