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Critics Blame Administrator Raises For Defeat of Bond in Sacramento

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A mostly lame-duck school board in Sacramento, Calif., has come under fire for approving big pay raises for administrators.

Hoping to stop the migration of administrators to better-paying neighbors, the board voted 4-3 last month to raise the salaries of principals and district managers by up to 20 percent.

But not everyone is happy about the Nov. 19 vote, which came during the final meeting before four new members join the board.

"I'm not saying I agree or disagree, but what's important is that we should have made the decision," said Richard Jennings, one of the new board members who will be sworn in this month.

Three of the four lame-duck members voted for the raises.

The vote is not the only controversy surrounding the raises: An incumbent board member blamed early media reports of the raises for the failure of Measure E, a $250 million school repair bond that local voters defeated last month by a mere 260 votes.

"I feel very strongly that the bond was blown because of this," said Michelle Masoner, a six-year veteran who voted against the raises and will stay on the board.

Under the new salary plan, the top pay for a high school principal will be $79,223, up from $70,165. An elementary school principal can make as much as $66,232, compared with $60,068 under the past pay schedule.

"This is not a pay raise, but an equity adjustment," said Jeff Kitchen, the president of United Professional Educators, the Sacramento principals' bargaining unit.

The total package will cost more than $1 million over two years.

"We've been losing the cream of the crop," said Ida Russell, the board's president who did not seek re-election. "I'm very pleased that four of our board members had the courage to make this decision."

Twenty-one principals and vice principals have left the district since 1993, said Joseph M. Carrillo, the assistant superintendent in charge of personnel. The 51,000-student district has 116 principal and vice principal slots.

Ten of the departures came this year, including some defections to nearby school districts where principals can make 15 percent more than in the state capital.

Office Raises Criticized

The most contentious part of the package was a series of raises for the newly reorganized central-office staff. For example, the district's school-improvement administrator can earn $85,291, up from $70,165 before.

"Central-office administrators made out on this one, and they're the ones who are notorious for mismanagement," Ms. Masoner added.

She predicted that reaction to the raises will be so negative that it will be impossible to pass Measure E, the district's first school bond in more than 20 years, on a second try next summer.

But Superintendent Ted D. Kimbrough, who did not get a raise, said he doubted that the bond measure was now doomed.

"The get-out-the-vote effort could have been better," he said.

Local principals praised the new salaries.

"It makes a lot of difference," Richard Owen, the principal of the 2,000-student Sacramento High School, said of his raise.

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