The Los Banos Unified School Board indefinitely tabled a vote last week that could have given the district's top official a raise after dozens of teachers, parents and students protested.
If the amendment to Superintendent Steve Tietjen's contract had been approved, he would have received a 3 percent raise every year for four years. He makes $160,000 annually in a city where the median average income is $45,000.
Los Banos Elementary teacher Julie Beltran, who makes $80,000 a year, said it would not be fair to teachers if Tietjen were to receive a raise.
"I haven't had a raise in four years," Beltran said. "I've been maxed out. And, because of the furlough days, it amounts to about a $200 pay cut per month."
It was unclear where the parents of students being recognized for their scores on state testing ended and protestors began, but the council chamber at City Hall was packed and the crowd spilled into the lobby on Friday. Dozens held signs or wore them around their necks, of which some read, "Now is not the time."
Brenda King, a parent who held a picket sign, said the timing of the potential raise was bad.
"The teachers have made sacrifices for these schools; it's time the superintendent made sacrifices for the schools too," King said.
Some teachers have attained step raises during the last four years, said Los Banos Teachers Association President Anthony Parreira. However, he said, no teacher has received a cost of living raise during that time.
Parreira, who makes $84,000 a year, said the increases in teachers' salary schedules don't compare to Tietjen's pay. Teachers' step increases are awarded as they acquire years of teaching.
"Steve (Tietjen) started at a salary that was higher than the superintendent that he just replaced," Parreira said. "So, he didn't start at the beginning- superintendent salary and have a way to go up. He started at the top."
The school board this summer renewed Tietjen's contract after paying an independent company $4,000 to review and assess his performance under his previous contract.
Board member Dennis Areias, who was serving when Tietjen was hired, said the board planned to give the superintendent raises based solely on performance. He said the board decided to give Tietjen a pay increase after a positive performance review.
"Dr. Tietjen has never once asked us as a school board for a raise," Areias said.
Jack Vasquez, another board member, said he was disappointed to see parents, teachers and students holding picket signs.
At the start of the meeting, Tietjen asked that the vote be tabled.
"This has had an emotional impact on the district to take a look at the salary increase for the superintendent, and I don't want to do anything that's going to get in the way of our forward movement academically in our district," he said. "What this has done [is] we have lots and lots of employees who recognize that salary steps are in fact raises."
The superintendent said he hasn't escaped unscathed from the district's budget woes with five furlough days this year, and two last year.
Tietjen said he adamantly denied raises when offered by the board during the last three years, but this year "I didn't say no."
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.