They cut everyone else's pay, so Modesto City Schools' trustees figure it's time to reduce their own. The school board today will consider taking a 5 percent pay cut.
Trustees used to make $750 per month for their service, but they reduced that last year to $725. Now they will consider trimming it to $688.75 per month.
"The board has to lead by example to have any kind of credibility with employees," said Trustee Steve Grenbeaux, who proposed the reduction.
The school district will slash its teachers' salaries by 4.5 percent starting with the 2010-11 school year. Administrators and non-teaching staff members also will have their pay reduced.
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The cuts are part of $32.4 million in reductions being made by the district next year. Modesto City Schools' $238.6 million budget will be 12.3 percent less for 2010-11 than it spent this year.
That proposed budget also will be on tonight's agenda, and so will another issue suggested by Grenbeaux.
Grenbeaux, who served on the seven-member board from 1979 through 1991 and was re-elected in 2007, doesn't like the way the board president is picked these days.
"During my first go-round on the board, the president was whoever could garner four votes," Grenbeaux recalled. He said some presidents served back-to-back terms and others never were selected.
Now trustees rotate the role of president, making sure every new member gets a chance to take charge before any of the more senior trustees gets a turn.
"It always gives the board leadership role to the most inexperienced people," Grenbeaux said of the district's current selection policy. "It eliminates veterans from ever having a leadership role, which is counterproductive."
A new board member now can be elevated to board president after being in office just one year. When there are two or more new trustees, the one elected with the most votes becomes president first.
Grenbeaux said he will propose that trustees be required to have at least three years on the school board before becoming president. He will propose that change take effect after trustees Sue Zwahlen and Ruben Villalobos get their chance to be president.
Zwahlen and Villalobos were elected in November. Zwahlen now is vice president, and she is in line to be president next year because she was the top vote-getter.
"We were elected to the school board, so the new members should have the opportunity to serve (as president before their terms expire)," Zwahlen said.
If three years' experience is required before becoming president, Zwahlen said some trustees might not be around long enough to attain that leadership role.
Theoretically, four new trustees could be elected at once. If that were the case, even under current rules one of them would not get a turn as president before his or her term in office expired.
The board president runs school board meetings and signs documents on behalf of the entire board. But the president doesn't receive any extra authority, according to Zwahlen.
"The president gets one vote, just like the rest of us," Zwahlen said. "I don't see it as a power position."
Today's board meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the district office, 425 Locust St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2196.