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Western Placer employees get raises

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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In a time when most school districts across the state are suffering financially, Western Placer Unified School District employees have something to smile about – raises. Teachers received a 3-percent raise when the district’s budget was passed June 21 and the Board of Trustees enacted raises for the other employees Tuesday night. Those raises take effect this school year and affect every one of the district’s approximately 600 employees. “We’re really in a very fortunate position and I think everyone deserves to be compensated and have that increase,” said Board Member Ana Stevenson. Other board members echoed her sentiments. “This is the goal we’ve had for a while and we’ve finally got the opportunity to do it,” said Board Member Brian Haley. The goal Haley referred to was what the district has been working at off and on since 2007 – to bring all employees’ salaries to the average in the county. According to Superintendent Scott Leaman, the minimum raise was 3 percent and the maximum raise was 8 percent. Additionally, according to Leaman, the amount of money the district pays for benefits went up about 6 percent – keeping the employee contributions the same. Board President Paul Carras said the raises are well-deserved and help Western Placer Unified School District attract and retain qualified employees. According to the district’s analysis, conducted with current public information on other districts’ salaries, Western Placer’s teachers are already comparatively well-paid – in the top 20 percent in the county. Administrators – including principals – however, were in the bottom 3 percent, comparatively. That means it was a common scenario over the past two or three years to have a teacher who, in being promoted to principal, would actually be taking a per-hour pay cut. Leaman’s salary also fell well below the average, according to Carras, and the board voted to extend his contract at least one more year and included a 6.5 percent raise. The raise brings Leaman’s salary to $158,442. Due to financial troubles in years past, no Western Placer employees were given raises last year, Leaman said. “We’re happy we’re in a district that is growing,” said Mike Agrippino, a teacher at Glen Edwards Middle School and president of the Western Placer Teachers Association – the teachers’ bargaining group. According to Agrippino, there is “no ill will” surrounding the raises awarded to administrators. Those raises, in total, amount to slightly more than $200,000 annually, said Terri Ryland, assistant superintendent for business and administrative services. The assistant superintendents were very close to the average salary of the compared districts and received the minimum raise of 3 percent, Leaman said. Superintendent Leaman evaluated Western Placer Superintendent Scott Leaman received his performance evaluation from the Board of Trustees Tuesday night – earning a high overall mark of 4.8 out of 5. “Last year, we didn’t give Scott (a salary) increase but his evaluation was just as good,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s important to know that the salary increase didn’t happen last time because we were in a different financial place.” Stevenson added that Leaman is “most deserving” of the contract extension that came with his evaluation, as well as the accompanying 6.5 percent pay raise that brings his salary to $158,442. Haley said the raise brings Leaman to the average level in the county. “You richly deserve it, Scott,” Haley added. Each board member independently evaluated Leaman’s performance to keep it as fair as possible, Carras said. The results were then averaged to the final grade. Students do well on STAR testing Preliminary figures for the statewide STAR testing are back and Western Placer Unified School District’s students did very well. That’s according to assistant superintendent for educational services Mary Boyle, who added that everyone in the district is to thank for the positive news. “I am so thrilled,” Boyle said. Boyle attributed the high scores to being a cumulative effect of everything the district has implemented over the past years – including teaching to state standards, offering advanced placement classes to allow students to excel and supporting struggling students. According to figures from the California Department of Education, Western Placer Unified School District students improved 7.4 percent in English, 2.5 percent in math, 3 percent in science and 8 percent in history. The district, Boyle said, is seeing significant increases in scores, and they’re going up every year. “When you see such significant growth,” Carras said, “we may well become (a destination district). We have not faltered academically.” Carras added that the early results are yet another reason to be proud of students’ achievements, following other recent successes and awards within the district, including Twelve Bridges Middle School and Lincoln High School receiving California Distinguished School Awards earlier this year. Final results of the statewide testing are expected to be released by mid-September, Boyle said. Board OKs Mello Roos hike Development in Lincoln Crossing and Twelve Bridges will cost a little more, following the board’s approval of 6 percent raises to Mello Roos. Those raises, according to Ryland, are linked to construction cost figures in a formula agreed upon by voters when they were initiated. “By law, we cannot use that money for salaries,” Ryland said. The increase amounts to 33 cents per square foot in Twelve Bridges – bringing to total to $5.90 – and less than three cents per square foot in Lincoln Crossing – bringing to total to 38.9 cents per square foot. Those figures change and builders expect them to drop off again next year. “This will probably be the last year that goes up,” said Bill Mellerup, a board member of California Building Industry Association. “The fees tend to lag behind construction costs. We’ll see them go down next year.” Mellerup added that the fee will “work itself out” and is “not going to be that big of a deal.” He further complimented the school district, saying it is "doing a good job." All of the money from the Mello Roos taxes goes directly into the school district’s facilities fund to build new schools and maintain or upgrade existing schools, Ryland said. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.