The Colusa County Board of Education didn’t have to pay Superintendent of Schools Mike West more money to get him to stay, but the trustees voted 5-0 at their Dec. 12 regular meeting to increase his salary anyway.
West, who had already declared that he will run for a second term in the 2018 primary election in June, made considerably less money in his first three years of office than the superintendents in neighboring counties, and less than each of the superintendents in Colusa County’s school districts, said Trustee Ed Conrado.
Conrado proposed – and got – a 7 percent increase for West, retroactively to July 1, 2017, which bumped West’s salary from $134,367 per year to $143,775.
“We talked about having a three year plan, but we know that we cannot commit to more than just the current year,” Conrado said.
According to Conrado, the salary for the position of Superintendent of Schools remained relatively flat for over a decade, with just a 4 percent increase last year.
“When I took a look at it, that was kind of eye-opening for me,” said Conrado, who worked with Trustee Barry Morrell on a salary study to bring to the board.
Although the board considered doing smaller increments over the next few years to bring the salary of the superintendent of schools closer to what they felt it should be, they ultimately decided that even with a 7 percent pay raise, the salary would still be below the average of the four local school districts’ superintendents, which is $144,251, and lower than the average of 14 Northern California superintendents, which is $147,728. Only Lake County and Glenn County offices of education, like Colusa County, paid their superintendents under $140,000 per year in 2016, according to Transparent California.
Additionally, the salary of the Colusa County Superintendent of Schools is based on 230 days of service per year, compared to 225 workdays for the four local school districts and 224 workdays, which is an average year for the school chiefs in the 14 Northern California counties, Conrado noted.
Even Trustee Brenda Miller, considered the “budget hawk” on the Board of Education, agreed that the salary for the superintendent’s position needed to be more equitable with those holding similar positions, and felt the salary needed to be competitive enough to attract qualified educators to run for the position in the future.
“If you want to line up for the job, that’s wonderful, but there are tremendous qualifications that need to come along with that,” Miller said. “I know I’m the biggest one on the soapbox when it comes to the budget, but I also know you have to be competitive to get the very best.”
Miller said she believes the county already has someone “truly wonderful” running the office, but said that wouldn’t always be the case with such a low salary, should West eventually retire.
Conrado suggested the board develop a non-binding five-year salary schedule that spells out how compensation for the superintendent’s position might change over time. A salary schedule would add transparency, he said, and give future candidates for the position the ability to evaluate the job’s compensation.
Meanwhile, West, who appreciated the payraise, said it is always difficult to go before the board and work out salaries in open session, but felt the increase was appropriate because even with a 10 percent increase, the salary for his position would be well below the average of many superintendents in Northern California.
The Colusa County Office of Education has sprung to life with West at the helm, since he took office in January of 2015, and he was quick to point out the positive changes.
“We’ve come a long way,” West said. “We’ve done a lot of different things. We’ve turned the county around, and I think that we’re continuing to do that. We’re seeing tremendous effort from all our people.” ■