For the second time in so many chances, Morgan Hill Unified Superintendent Wesley Smith turned down his scheduled pay raise in an effort to set an example for the district as it deals with continuing budget cuts in the face of dwindling state funding.
Smith pointed to the uncertainty of whether or not tax measures might pass this November – Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative to benefit public education and, pending school board approval, a local bond measure to repair infrastructure – as a basis for his decision.
In two opportunities, Smith has declined a 3 percent raise, which is built into his contract.
A 6 percent raise year over year is roughly $11,500 that Smith will never see added to his $190,000 annual salary.
“I thought it was a responsible thing to do as far as protecting the district in times that really, really are uncertain – at best,” Smith, 43, said.
Smith has been MHUSD’s superintendent since November 2009 when he was hired to replace retiring Alan Nishino. Previously he was superintendent at Cascade Union Elementary School District in Anderson, a small town near Redding and also has been an administrator and English teacher. Smith and his wife’s three children attend district schools.
In his three years as superintendent, the district has enacted just three days of instructional furloughs – a standout statistic among neighboring districts.
“I’d like for all of us to think about alternatives to furloughs,” he said. “The problem (with furloughs) is it’s fewer instruction days for our kids. So instead of working fewer days, what if we just didn’t make more money?”
Smith did say that turning down the raise was not meant to put pressure on the union to freeze their salaries or scheduled raises teachers are promised based on seniority, but as an example to come up with other ways to spend less.
The low number of furloughs, “speaks positively about the district and board and the business department,” Smith said. In June, the board passed a balanced $79 million budget and approved a three-year contract with the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers that enacts one furlough day in 2012-13 and a trigger single furlough day based on the passage of the state tax extension in November.
MHUSD isn’t immune to cuts, however.
Over the last five years about $10 million has been cut. Tangibly, it has meant slimmed-down summer school, cuts to adult education, eliminating temporary teacher positions, cuts to art and elective courses at both high schools and eliminating eighth-grade promotion ceremonies, among other reductions.
Nearby at Gilroy Unified School District, Superintendent Debbie Flores has not accepted a pay raise since she was hired in 2007. Her current annual salary is $181,755.
Board President Ron Woolf said Smith’s gesture sets the tone for the district.
“We’re in a time when every dime that’s spent is examined and what he’s saying is ‘I want to do my part.’ It would have been just as easy to accept that raise and move on,” Woolf said, a former longtime MHUSD educator.
“I commend him for doing that. He’s got a family. Everybody’s cutting back,” he said.
Smith’s annual evaluation by the seven-member school board is complete and his mark of “satisfactory” was announced at the June 26 meeting. His evaluation is either deemed “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” there are no degrees in between.
Woolf said beyond doing a superb job – Smith has made an impression on him.
“More than any other superintendent, he is so visible. He gets the community involved. You get the feeling that if the superintendent is involved, I can be involved. He’s moving on things. He doesn’t sit still,” Woolf said.
The next meeting is 6 p.m. July 24 at 15600 Concord Circle.
The first day of school is Thursday, Aug. 16.