In split vote, Fallbrook Union Elementary board approves raises for superintendent, other administrators
The vote was taken after the board approved a new contract for classified employees
Last updated 1/23/2020 at 6:28pm
The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District voted at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, to approve a new two-year contract with its classified employees’ union granting them a 4 percent raise — and also voted to give the superintendent and other administrators a similar pay boost.
The union contract passed unanimously, but the administrative salary increase had one dissenter: Board Member Caron Lieber.
“My position is the superintendent has already received her raise in July, it’s a 5 percent raise,” Lieber said at Tuesday’s board meeting, reading from a statement she prepared beforehand. “She’s at the top of the scale in San Diego County, the top of the scale in Riverside County or close — I could be wrong a little on that.”
Lieber is not, in fact, far off on her judgement of Fallbrook Union Elementary Superintendent Candace Singh’s pay compared to her peers in the region.
Singh, who oversees a K-8 district of a little more than 5,000 students, made $327,453 in 2018. That’s about $60,000 more than the $266,504 earned that year by Superintendent Timothy Ritter of Temecula Valley Unified, which has about 29,000 K-12 students, and the $260,898 made by San Diego Unified Superintendent Cynthia Marten, whose district has more than 120,000 K-12 students.
“(Singh) has been here nine years, I admire and appreciate her service, but I feel that her raises should not continue,” Lieber said.
Lieber, who was elected in 2018 and is one of Fallbrook Union Elementary’s newest board members, suggested no raise for Singh, a 1 to 2 percent raise for cabinet members like the district’s associate and assistant superintendents and a full 4 percent raise for other management staff such as principals and assistant principals.
“If you look at a $60,000 employee getting a 4 percent raise and you look at a $200,000 employee getting a 4 percent raise,” Lieber said, “you can see that a $60,000 employee might not be able to keep up with cost of living, especially with housing and insurance, health insurance, whereas a $200,000 employee getting a 4 percent raise obviously will be able to keep up.”
Lieber said she estimated that her suggested changes to the management salary increases could save the district $30,000.
“There (are) other ways we could use this funding, I think, to better the lives of our children and our district,” she said.
Following Lieber’s comments, Board President Siegrid Stillman continued the vote on the administrator salary increases with no further discussion. Stillman, along with board members Patty de Jong, Susan Liebes and Lisa Masten, voted in favor of the item, and it passed 4-1.
Asked for comment at the end of the meeting, Stillman offered this: “The superintendent’s contract is open for discussion every June, that’s when contracts are negotiated, and that’s the appropriate time to bring it back up.”
Village News sought clarification on the terms of Superintendent Singh’s contract and was referred to the district’s lawyer, Daniel Shinoff, who said the salary increases approved for Singh on other management staff were not connected to anyone’s previously-negotiated contract.
“Tuesday night’s vote for a Management Team compensation increase was separate from the negotiations in June,” said a statement from Shinoff, a partner at law firm Artiano Shinoff who has represented various San Diego County school districts for decades.
According to the information provided by the lawyer, there was no requirement that management salaries be increased when raises were approved for classified employees.
“The Superintendent’s and Cabinet members’ compensation increase votes were part of the overall compensation increase votes for the Management Team,” Shinoff said. “These were independent from and had no connection to the action taken by the Board as it pertains to the classified personnel compensation increase vote.”
Stillman later sent a statement to Village News defending the superintendent’s raise after her initial comment at the board meeting.
“Dr. Singh is one of the longest serving and successful superintendents in our region,” Stillman said. “Her salary is commensurate with what other superintendents with her experience earn. The majority of our Board believes if we want a strong and proven leader at the helm, then we must offer a competitive salary.”
She also said the district is fortunate that Singh has stayed in her position with the district for more than nine years.
“Our priority has been to maintain stability and continuity for our schools by keeping our excellent leader at the helm,” Stillman said. “We are confident that paying her a competitive salary is in the best interest of our organization and the students we serve.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Lieber also suggested the school board may be violating its own policy and state law by voting on administrative salary increases as a bloc and not mentioning the superintendent’s and other cabinet members’ raises separately — the meeting agenda only referred to raises for “management, confidential, and unrepresented employees.”
Shinoff said that claim is “inaccurate” and that the district was in full compliance with the law.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at [email protected]