Absent supe, late pay irk SUSD teachers

05/23/2019

Shoreline teachers expressed frustration with delays on payments that were contractually agreed upon in January in a letter delivered last week to Superintendent Bob Raines and the district’s board of trustees. The letter, signed by the Shoreline Educators’ Association and read aloud by eighth-grade teacher Julie Cassel at last Thursday’s board meeting, also called for Mr. Raines to spend at least four days a week at the district office in Tomales, claiming his absence creates disorganization. 

“Our experience to date shows a continuing pattern of mistakes, failures to follow up or follow through to meet necessary deadlines, and various communication gaps and miscues,” the letter states. “Our leadership must find a way to conduct its business more efficiently and to reduce the time spent managing the chaos created through last minute problem solving.”

The district’s teachers haven’t received the 3 percent raise that was negotiated in a new three-year contract signed on Jan. 28. The raise, which required the approval of the Marin County Office of Education, was first delayed because of flooding in February that cancelled a regular board meeting, where it needed trustees’ approval, and then again in March, because the salaries included cent amounts and the county office of education requires round dollar numbers. 

Also delayed by the cent amounts were increases in hourly pay and stipends for work done beyond teaching. 

The letter was well-received: this week, the district’s 57 certified teachers are receiving their retroactive pay, and the 3 percent raise will be reflected on their next paycheck. Mr. Raines said the late payments were a result of miscommunication between the county education office and the district. 

“I was frustrated with the whole situation. I don’t want to point fingers, but it was a frustrating process for everyone,” he said. 

Yet in their letter, the teachers association said the late payments reflect a trend of errors caused by Mr. Raines’s chronic absence. “Disarray shows up in other areas as well,” the letter states. “He is away too often at meetings and conferences.” 

Speaking with the Light this week, Mr. Raines said his weekly schedule varies and that sometimes work takes him out of the area, such as when he goes to San Rafael to work at the county office or to Washington, D.C. to lobby for federal funding. “I would love to be spending more time in my office,” he said. He added that anytime a leader isn’t present, it causes stress, and that next year he’s “going to be more focused on spending time in the district.” 

The new contract for certificated staff also changed teachers’ health care plans. To counteract higher deductibles, Shoreline swapped benefits for health savings accounts and agreed to reimburse teachers for the taxes they pay when depositing money into them. The reimbursements were delayed because the county education office required a new memorandum of understanding, which the district office didn’t know about. 

“These issues could’ve been resolved sooner with better communication,” Ms. Cassel said. “Dates kept being thrown out, and then they weren’t met. That erodes trust and communication. When you’re counting on money coming in and then it’s not there, that can be frustrating.” 

The late payments come during what Mr. Raines, hired as superintendent in 2016, called a “challenging year.” In April 2018, West Marin School parents signed a petition declaring a vote of no confidence in the board and superintendent for their handling of school principal Matt Nagle, whom they demoted in June. Mr. Nagle’s interim replacement, Chris Eckert, went on indefinite medical leave in November. Mr. Eckert’s interim replacement, Rey Mayoral, resigned in December when a past sexual harassment settlement came to light. 

Beth Nolan, the school’s fourth principal in an eight-month span, took the position in January, and will return in the fall.

The turnover in leadership isn’t confined to West Marin School. The principal of Tomales and Bodega Bay Elementary Schools, Amanda Mattea, announced in March that she is leaving after two years.