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Centinela district teachers livid at $633,000 superintendent pay

Jose A. Fernandez, superintendent, Centinela Valley Union High School District
Jose A. Fernandez, superintendent, Centinela Valley Union High School District
Centinela Valley Union High School District

Teachers in the 7,000-student Centinela Valley Union High School District are angered by a Daily Breeze report that Superintendent Jose Fernandez received a pay package last year worth a reported $633,000.

Jack Foreman, president of the Centinela Valley Secondary Teachers Association, told KPCC: "We're just appalled that he would take this excess compensation."   

Foreman said he plans to meet with many of the union's 310 members this week to decide what, if any action, they might take. The district in southwest L.A. County operates Leuzinger, Hawthorne and Lawndale high schools, an adult school and a continuation high school.

The Daily Breeze story notes that Fernandez's total compensation "even eclipsed that of John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system. Deasy’s base salary is $330,000 this school year and his gross compensation is just shy of $390,000, according to the LAUSD. But the district enrolls more than 650,000 students while Centinela Valley serves about 6,600."

Assistant Superintendent Bob Cox said  the information in the Daily Breeze report came from public documents requested of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. However, he said the district would not respond questions about the superintendent's pay.

"We've chosen not to do anything in response," said Cox.

Nor will the public have a venue to question board members anytime soon in an official setting. The school board cancelled February's regular monthly meeting because not enough members planned to attend.

Foreman said the County Office of Education stepped in to stabilize the district's finances in 2007-08. A spokesman for the county Office of Education was unable to confirm its role at Centinela Valley, and the school district's Cox also declined to discuss the district's current or past finances.

The school board hired Fernandez in 2009 and renewed his contract in 2012. Under the new contract, he was given $200,000 per year in base salary, plus a nine percent increase for every year he had stayed since 2009, plus $1,000 per month for out-of-pocket expenses.

The school district also loaned Fernandez $910,000 to buy a house in Ladera Heights. According to his employment contract, the loan was at two percent interest, repayable over 40 years.

The nine percent annual raise rankles Foreman, who said teachers in his union have received a combined 2.75 percent increase since Fernandez took charge.

According to the contract, the superintendent's work year was set at 215 days. His 30 days of annual paid vacation and 24 annual sick days could be traded for cash if unused, the contract said. The Daily Breeze calculated the value of the contract at $633,000 per year.

Foreman admitted Fernandez had done a good job getting the district back on a stable financial footing.  Fernandez, a former Inglewood councilman, had previously run the district's adult school and served briefly as business administrator, Foreman said.

The school district levies a parcel tax to raise more than $3 million annually to supplement state and other sources of funding. The election to approve the tax was in 2012.

"The people of this community voted for the parcel tax to support education, not so one person at the top could bring in a windfall of perks," Foreman said.

PDF: Superintendent's contract with Centinela Valley Union High School District