Jun. 24—Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer will be leading the agency for at least another three years, with a pay increase retroactive to 2019.
The district's Board of Education approved the contract extension by a 5-1 vote Wednesday night, with Courtney Porter dissenting and Ron Heberle abstaining.
Heberle abstained after voicing his concern, not with Washer's performance, but with the fact that the superintendent's salary continues to increase while other employees' pay remains stagnant.
"I do have a problem with that, and Dr. Washer is our contracted employee, and I think that those kinds of things should not be automatic," he said. "I think that there should be some discussion about what that position is."
According to Tuesday's staff report, Washer's extension is an amendment to her contract approved on July 18, 2018.
The base salary in the amendment is $277,042, and reflects an ongoing 3.26% salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2019. The contract expires June 30, 2024.
"Dr. Washer knows I'm not talking about the person in the position," Heberle said.
"It's the position that keeps expanding away, monetarily, from the other employees. I have talked to Dr. Washer about this, so she knows clear well what I'm talking about. It is in no way about her or her performance."
Michelle Orgon, president of the Lodi Education Association, called for the board to vote against the extension, citing her union's vote of no confidence against Washer made earlier this month.
"We don't think that (the contract) is fair and accurate under the conditions we feel currently, with the lack of what we see is transparent leadership, and being issued directives and not clear communication going out to our members," Orgon said. "It took (LEA) two years to reach a settlement. Many members have written to you, emailed you, spoke to you, gave you phone calls. We do find the (salary) amount is in excess and find that extending to the years you are looking at is too many for where we see we are."
Parent Brenda De La Torre also urged the board to reject the contract proposal, stating Washer's three-year retroactive raise was more than $26,000, and was more than many California School Employees Association members make in a year. She said a continued lack of transparency from the superintendent, as well as the board, spoke volumes about district leadership.
"Teachers and the CSEA went two years without a contract. Why don't you try it? It seems as though this contract came rather easily," she said. "The last year has been full of broken promises and a lack of transparency from your office. Parents as well as teachers have voted no faith in your leadership. The faith we have in our school district is on a steep decline and it all starts at the top."
While she agreed with Heberle's comments, board vice president Susan Macfarlane said the superintendent had remained transparent throughout the previous year and worked diligently under extreme circumstances.
"I know how many hours you put in just as much as our teachers and custodians," she said. "Without your leadership I don't know where we would be. When I look at other districts around us, I always say often 'wow, we're fortunate.' And I appreciate all you've done and will continue to do for us."
Board president Ron Freitas agreed.
"You were the number two tenured large school superintendent in the state of California, and the pandemic hit a year ago, and the number one person quit that day," he said.
"To have your leadership through this, it cannot be stated enough. We greatly appreciate you. This district would not survive without your leadership and we thank you."