Modesto City Schools board members voted to add two administrative positions Monday night, a chief business official to oversee the two financial officers running the district's fiscal matters and a public information officer.
The financial chief is estimated to cost $167,210 a year, and the public information officer will cost $66,284. Chris Flesuras, head of human resources, told the board that savings from vacant administrative positions and wage cuts would more than cover the cost.
The potential hires follow a round of wage cuts and layoffs the district adopted to close a $23 million deficit. Teachers spoke against the hires, saying if there was extra money it should go to classrooms rather than more administrators. "Sixty teachers are still laid off, and that's tough on kids," said Dana Filippi, Modesto Teachers Association treasurer.
Board members Steve Grenbeaux, Sue Zwahlen and Rubén Villalobos voted against the administrative expansion.
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"If I heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times from the community. We have to make administrative cuts," Zwahlen said.
Board members Cindy Marks and Gary Lopez said finances were too critical to not support the move.
"I'm pleased that we set aside money for this," Marks said, adding that if fiscal officers were overloaded "things can get missed."
"When you look at a CBO, you're looking at an investment," Superintendent Arturo Flores told the board. "I'm going to be vehement about this: The two directors need to stay."
Nancy Cline and board President Kim Spina said they hoped the new chief financial officer would decide to trim an administrator, but they joined Marks and Lopez in voting for the positions.
The board also debated ways to move ahead in hiring the next superintendent. Flores has said he will step down June 30 at the end of his four-year contract. The board voted to have Flesuras seek proposals from executive search firms and bring them to the next meeting.
Board members said they hoped to have applications in hand by March 15.
Also to be discussed at the next meeting are questions raised by The Bee about the use of Mello-Roos taxes charged to property owners in Village I. The Bee found that the district plans to continue charging the taxes for the next 27 years even though it is close to surpassing a $52.7 million cap on collections to which it agreed before Village I homes were built.
"Steve Grenbeaux and I requested that be put on the next board agenda to see if the board wants the district to have an independent audit," Villalobos said in a phone call after the meeting.
The board approved a contract for student intervention services with the county's Center for Human Services for $193,881.60. The contract charges $40.80 an hour, which includes time spent with the student, staff training, consultations, record keeping and administrative costs.
The contract was cut by one full-time position, which allows Modesto's one laid-off counselor to be rehired, though at about half her normal salary. Luz Aispuro, a bilingual counselor who worked for three years with district junior high students, said Monday night she does not know the details of her new job or what age children she will be helping. She said she's just glad to have a job.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.