Friday, May 25 , 2018, 6:22 am | Fair 50º


Sarvis Ratchets Up Plea To Boost Salary Level of School Administrators

Trustees appear hesitant at superintendent's insistence that current pay scale is a recruiting obstacle.


Santa Barbara schools Superintendent Brian Sarvis turned up the volume Tuesday night in his ongoing plea to the school board for a pay raise for administrators, saying he is worried about his ability to recruit and retain talented staff.

Specifically, Sarvis said he is most concerned about trying to find a replacement to Assistant Superintendent of Business Ed Diaz, who abruptly resigned this fall following a budget mix-up, less than a year after being hired.

"I’ve been in this district almost seven years, and we have had seven assistant superintendents of business," Sarvis said at the board meeting. "That’s quite a turnover."

Sarvis said he was told by experts from a Sacramento-based consulting group called School Services of California that the upper salary range for Diaz’s position in Santa Barbara should be around $150,000. Currently, he added, the most a person can make in that position here is around $130,000.

Sarvis’ request Tuesday night came about a month after his staff produced a report showing that Santa Barbara school administrators’ salaries are lower than those of most others at similarly sized districts in California.

Diaz, meanwhile, left in mid-October, several months after the business office discovered a surplus of several million dollars that, had the money been accounted for earlier, would have prevented many of last year’s extensive budget cuts in music and junior high electives. Many of the cuts have already been restored.

When pressed by trustee Bob Noel about whether boosting one assistant superintendent’s salary to $150,000 meant doing the same for Santa Barbara’s two other assistant superintendents — of elementary and secondary education — Sarvis acknowledged it would.

Dollars & Sense

Last month, administrators with the Santa Barbara school districts produced a report showing that Santa Barbara’s high school principals, assistant principals, assistant superintendents and superintendent are paid less than the vast majority of their counterparts at other similarly sized districts in California.

The study compared Santa Barbara to eight other districts: Ventura, Burbank, Napa, Upland, Lake Elsinore, San Marcos, Tustin and Santa Clara.

According to the report:

Santa Barbara’s average assistant superintendent makes about $129,000. Of the other eight districts, just one – Ventura Unified – pays that position less on average. The seven other districts – Burbank, Napa, Upland, Lake Elsinore, San Marcos, Tustin and Santa Clara – pay between $131,000 and $163,000.

· When it comes to superintendent salaries, only Ventura pays less than Santa Barbara, which pays Sarvis $171,000. The other seven districts pay their leaders between $185,000 and $240,000. (Ventura pays $145,000.)

· All eight other districts have a higher pay ceiling for high school principals than Santa Barbara, where principals can make as much as $118,600. However, Santa Barbara’s beginning principal salary of $106,600 is higher than that of three districts.

· Santa Barbara’s elementary principals fare a little better in the comparison than their high school counterparts. The starting salary of $92,800 is higher than that of five districts, and the top salary of $104,000 is higher than that of two of the districts.




"I think they are all worth that, yes," he said.

Sarvis said he would also like to see the salary schedules hiked for principals and other administrators.

"With high school principals, every year (for the last three years) we have hired a new one, and we have gotten lucky," he said. "We again may be faced with hiring another this spring. To advertise for principal at a below-market rate is a problem."

School board members, perhaps sensing the political volatility of the topic, seemed hesitant to make any promises.

Trustees Annette Cordero and Nancy Harter asked Sarvis to come back with a more specific request.

"I feel like it would help me see what your vision is," Cordero said.

Noel warned that raising the salary levels for just one or two positions could trigger a domino effect, in which every administrator — and teacher — could feel entitled to the same raise.

"That could cost a lot of money," he said.

Noel suggested the district do away with the so-called "salary schedule" for assistant superintendents, and instead move to a more individualistic system, in which the district would negotiate a salary with potential new hires.

Teachers union president Layne Wheeler also weighed in, reminding the board that administrators already receive the same raise that is granted to teachers every year.

"This is a slippery slope," he said. "It cost (teachers) just as much to live in Santa Barbara as the people who make twice their salary."

The board also heard words of warning from Eric Smith, the district’s interim assistant superintendent of business. Smith is helping the district on a temporary basis to regain its financial footing.

After saying he is not interested in the full-time position, Smith added that finding a good full-time replacement will be an uphill battle, because chief business officials for school districts are in short supply, and Santa Barbara is viewed by many as too an expensive an area.

"You might get somebody who wants to cut their teeth here — an up-and-comer," he said. "It’s a difficult place to move to."

Left unsaid Tuesday night was whether raising the salary level of the assistant superintendents would mean doing the same for Sarvis, who currently makes $171,000.

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