CUSD Union Members Fumed Over Salary Offer to Finance Guru

A complaint sent to trustees prompted the district to revise the terms. The job candidate then declined the offer to run the school district's finances.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated at 4:09 p.m. to include quotes from John Pappalardo, the candidate who turned down Capo Unified's offer.

At first he said yes, then no. In between came a union complaint that the salary being offered for Capo Unified's new finance director was too high in the midst of trimming next year's budget.

“Paying more for a management position during this fiscal crisis sends the wrong message,” wrote Ronda Walen, president of the California School Employee Association’s local Chapter 224 in an email to the seven Capo school board members. (District officials have said .)

Specifically, Walen objected to the district offering more money than predecessor made and to a provision that would have made the salary offer immune to budget cutbacks.

On March 12, the school board trustees met in closed session and agreed to offer John Pappalardo, currently the chief financial officer for Pasadena Unified, the job of Capo’s deputy superintendent of business and support services.

The next day, Pasadena-area newspapers reported that , and CUSD issued its own press release March 15.

But on Wednesday, Superintendent Joseph Farley that Pappalardo – who had already accepted one revision to the offer – was experiencing “second thoughts” and had declined the offer.

Pappalardo told Patch that a number of concerns went into his decision, but in the end, the money wasn't enough to make the move worthwhile.

"While it is true that a mutual agreement was not able to be reached, my final decision was based on a number of factors, including financial, personal, and timing issues in consultation with my family," Pappalardo said. "In the end, the financial benefit of changing jobs was not significant enough to warrant a move." 

Walen’s March 23 letter to the trustees said Pappalardo was offered $23,000 more a year than Lebs made. According to a contract included in Wednesday's trustee packet, the district was set to spend $198,000 a year for Pappalardo's salary.

Walen said it was especially unfair that Pappalardo’s new job wouldn’t be subject to cuts other employees may have to make in the coming years.

“If he is to be a leader in this district he should lead by example and accept a contract that subjects him to all the same cut every other CUSD employee will be asked to accept,” Walen wrote.

Three days later, Monday, Farley emailed trustees to say Walen’s points were “valid,” and he had adjusted the district’s offer accordingly.

Walen and district spokesman Marcus Walton did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Farley said Wednesday that although there were several issues that gave Pappalardo pause, the primary reason for rejecting the offer was salary.

Pappalardo did initially agree to the changes and to "accept any cost-of-living increases or decreases [emphasis in original] given to other members of the Capistrano Unified management, anytime after June 30, 3012 [sic]," Farley told trustees in his Monday email to trustees.

“Since we are anticipating that a reduction will be made for management, this language has the potential to reduce his salary by at least 4.7 percent, or higher, depending on what is actually done with management salaries,” Farley wrote, adding that he too would take any management decrease the board decides is necessary.

Walen indicated in her email that union members encouraged her to contact the trustees.

“While CSEA understands the magnitude of the impending fiscal disaster that is happening due to the irresponsible actions of politicians in Sacramento, members don’t believe that every measure is being taken locally to control unnecessary spending,” the email states.

“While we all may never agree on exactly what ‘essential’ spending really means, the continued approval of higher priced management and other non-essential items makes it difficult for me to convince my members that the threat is real and that CUSD has no other option than to ask them to sacrifice again.”

The district is currently employing two consultants to fill the role of deputy superintendent of business and support services. The temporary contracts for Robyn Phillips and Tim Holcomb are set to expire Saturday, although they can be extended by mutual agreement.

Phillips is being paid $2,500 a week; Holcomb $215 an hour.

For his part, Pappalardo said it was an honor to receive an offer from Capo Unified. 

"Everyone I met in Capistrano USD was professional, positive and friendly," he said. "The efficiency I found in Capistrano USD reminded me of the small districts I have dealt with over the years, and very atypical of larger district bureaucracies.  

"I was very impressed with the leadership and staff that I encountered, and I can see the positive trajectory that Capistrano Unified School District is on under the excellent leadership of Dr. Farley and his team," Pappalardo said.


LeAna Bui March 30, 2012 at 05:53 PM
JG: I would hope any quality candidate for any job would do some research on a potential employer before accepting a job offer.
LeAna Bui March 30, 2012 at 05:57 PM
JG: No question incentive pay would come through subjective standards just as it does in private employment. While it is difficult to quantify those qualities that earn extra pay, as an active parent in my kids' schools, I and my friends were all aware of the "good" teachers, the "innovative" teachers, the 'lazy" teachers, the "distracted" teachers. Administration is aware as well.
Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Tammy. There is no union control of this board. That argument is a diversion to avoid dealing with the clearly anti child and anti public school bias of some "mom" bloggers and their friends who elected the past corrupt "reform" board. The cusd taxpayers lost millions because of those trustees
Tammy Boyse March 30, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Ummmm...I was referring to Capo Parent's earlier post from another story that it was a union staffer that complained about the salary offer of the new CFO. This story broke, and I congratulated her on her breaking it before it became an article by Ms. Arevalo. I read enough to know who the players are in CUSD. I also know who were the wasteful spenders, the Fleming supporters, and the involvement of the union in this district.
Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 06:40 PM
LeAna You are correct
Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 06:43 PM
LeAna. Bryson is a member of SAG member. Palazzo was in the classroom but could never fairly be called a "teacher". She was incompetent to be kind. We have fewer union members or union supported trustees now then when Beall and Reardon ran CUSD
Joyce E March 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
A $198K a year? Why are we allowing our government to make this type of money! These are the people who put us in this financial crisis. We are dealing with a greed issue - the more you pay them the more they want and the less we seem to get out of these "overpaid" positions. There was a time when government employees made a good/comfortable living while working for the people - now they are making salaries that are the extreme and lead to greed and corruption - which is why California is on its way to being bankrupt. Actually our country is on its way....seems like history is going to repeat itself - anyone see the similarities of the "Fall of Rome"? Last there are many talented people who are out of work and would take a government job in a second for way less than $198K. Do you guys think of looking elsewhere for talent other than keeping it in your own little "good ole boy" network? Also, instead of paying these blown out of proportion salaries how about redistributing it to the teachers. And pay the teachers accordingly depending on merit. There are many teachers who should not be teaching and happily I saw a few of them let go with the lay offs who should not be around kids much less teaching! So pay the teachers of merit what they should be making which would lead to better quality teaching and a better education for our children. That would seem to be a given and called common sense which is extent in those who make these type of decisions in our government.
randy March 30, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Wouldn't it be nice if non-teaching management get same salary figures as highest paid classroom teachers? The highest paid certificated management should go to school principals' highest salary. Just saying. The highest government pay should not be higher than our state governor. Many talent may be unemployed and could apply if they want to rebuild. So the union will always be there. Bad solution?
Pam Sunderman March 30, 2012 at 07:51 PM
LeAna, parents, administrators, and even fellow teachers are often in disagreement about who the best teachers are. It is truly difficult to quantify that because, in most cases, it depends on the needs of a student, the current "approved" teaching methods, the expectations of the parent, and many more factors. Teaching is a dynamic profession. What is considered "best" changes according to many factors. It's one of those things that you may "know" about one teacher and not about another. I once had a high up district official introduce me as the "best" teacher at that grade level ever. She said she knew that because her child had been in my class. She was pleased with her child's experience, but actually I was the ONLY teacher at that grade level she experienced for her child. Nice words to hear...but hardly qualification for merit pay.
Pam Sunderman March 30, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Pay me for continuing to pursue excellence with continuing education. Pay me for my experience. Pay me for sharing what works with others. Pay me for innovating new practices. Please don't pay me for what parents think of me. I value their partnership and have a duty to value their input about their child (they know their child best). But don't base my pay on what they may see occasionally in the classroom, or what other parents have said about me to them, or (shudder) what their child says about me (good or bad). We don't need teachers who pander to public opinion. We need teachers who are willing to collaborate on the best practices and we even need rogues who question the powers that be about practices. We need funny, compassionate, demanding, daring, risk taking, rule following, loud, quiet, boring (because let's face it...not all learning is fascinating), interesting teachers. And if that description can't possibly fit one person...exactly! We need all kinds. And we have plenty of methods in place to save us from those that truly should not be in the classroom. And they work.
Pam Sunderman March 30, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I hereby pledge that if I win the Mega Millions I will singlehandedly pay the deficit in CUSD this year. That is, by the way, the only way the lottery will ever help to solve the financial problems of a single school, let alone the whole state. I will do so anonymously but I wanted all the usual suspects to know who it really was.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 30, 2012 at 08:29 PM
LOL, good luck!
Oracle March 30, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Remember, you heard it here first: Penny promises never to use the "f" word again.
Oracle March 30, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Yeah, but talk is cheap. Can you actually produce a resume that will give some high level of confidence that what you say is actually true? That's what you pay for when you hire someone like Pappalardo.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 30, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Depends on which F word we're discussing. ;-) I vow to continue to use the words fun, funky, friendly (and in the course of CUSD coverage: funding, finances, fiscal)
Oracle March 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Sure, take the $198k and split it up across the 2200 teachers (last years number?), and I'm sure the district will run much better without a CFO but with an extra $90 in each teacher's pocket.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM
There's a saying among educational administrators: School finance is very complicated. There's only five people in the state who understand it! While that's probably greatly over- (under?) stated, the point remains. School finance is very complicated.
Oracle March 30, 2012 at 10:23 PM
"Wouldn't it be nice if non-teaching management get same salary figures as highest paid classroom teachers?" Hey, I remember that, we called it the Soviet Union!
Capo mom March 30, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Putting aside that fact that you blog from Newport Coast, not CUSD; "Pay me for continuing to pursue excellence with continuing education." I'd be more than happy to, as soon as you demonstrate by independent standard that this is accomplished. "Pay me for sharing what works with others." You have repeatedly told us ,jollygirl, that teachers already compensated to be collaborative. "Pay me for innovating new practices. " Remember whole language? You were compensated for that. Our kids are still paying. "Please don't pay me for what parents think of me." Teachers aren't paid by what the consumers of their products see as value. They are paid by what the lowest performer in the step and column gets. Chew on that for a bit. Read further. "We need all kinds. And we have plenty of methods in place to save us from those that truly should not be in the classroom. And they work." I got one word for you, MIRAMONTE
Capo mom March 30, 2012 at 10:32 PM
LeAna, Teachers line up for the union cattle car when they join the profession. That is what is called a self inflicted wound.
Capo mom March 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Gary Pritchard is a member of CTA. Lynne Hatton is an educational consultant.
Pam Sunderman March 31, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Odd to hear you talk about security...if he doesn't solve the financial problem then he should take the same cuts as anyone else, right?
Capo Parent March 31, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Shelly We don't know if a new teacher is worth the money he or she is paid at the time of hire, but that doesn't mean you don't hire new teachers. Pappalardo was being asked to take over the equivalent of a financial Titanic. Until he had a chance to perform, it was unknown whether or not he would be worth roughly $200,000. Now CUSD is without a full-time CFO/CBO at a time when it really needs financial leadership and continuity. As for the rest of your rant, I don't know what you're trying to convey.
Capo Parent March 31, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Here we go with the standard BS about the settlements. Just a little honesty would be nice, but that's way too much to expect from you and your friends. Just remember, it was the insuring agency for CUSD that wanted to settle; it made the initial settle offer and handled the settlement negotiations. The CUSD board had NO involvement in the settlement dicussions. Also, don't forget that Fleming and the other defendants signed off on the settlement agreement before CUSD. CUSD was the last party to agree to the settlement, and it only signed off based on the advise of its attorney and the threat of having its defense pulled which would have required CUSD pay for its defense out of its general fund. You talk big, but you would have caved like a little kid crying at Halloween once the realities were explained to you, unless you're just immune to reality.
Capo Parent March 31, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Unfortunately, because of how edcuation system is set up and run, there are actually very few people who really understand school financing issues and demands (it doesn't appear any of them have ever worked at CUSD). It's called supply and demand. It's why the airline pilot gets more than the flight attendant.
Capo mom March 31, 2012 at 04:51 AM
If you want to know what people thought of the decision to hire Pappalardo, check the comments on the original announcement. Oh, wait, there weren't any. I was personally ambivalent because I don't trust the decision making process at the DO but going into this budget cycle I knew we really needed someone. Pappalardo had experience in public school financing with significant deficits and collective bargaining issues. He managed to take PUSD from a $17 million hole to a positive position with 4% reserve with no layoffs. That was promising. School financing is complicated in 1 sense but not so in another. The former board understood the issues. For those who think that $200k is too much to pay a CFO of an extremely troubled enterprise, I have a question Why did the board approve his original contract? Were they wrong to do so? Farley & Walen obviously think so. That is very short sighted. No one will come to CUSD for this position without security. Why should they? They had no hand in creating our problems nor were they (unlike current CUSD employees) the beneficiary of the spending orgy that brought us to this point. But who really needs a good CFO in CUSD, anyway? The most obvious answer is Farley-now he must negotiate solo with the county for the funding CUSD needs, (fun!) and the unions-with 92 cents of every dollar cut will come from salaries, they will feel the most pain. To call these people idiots would be to overstate their intelligence dramatically.
Pam Sunderman March 31, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Penny, does the Patch have any policies on cyberstalking? Capo mom seems to be walking a very fine line here. Why would she be so intent on tracking down whoever she thinks I am and wherever I happen to live? I'm getting a little concerned for my safety if she ever actually figures it out. And a little concerned for her mental health...she seems to be somewhat obsessed with my identity for some strange reason known only to her.
LeAna Bui March 31, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Capo Mom: Are you really insulting every teacher in the state of California? Union cattle car? Many of the most talented teachers I personally know have gone into the profession "in spite of" the union and the low pay. They do it because it is a calling that they are passionate about. I am so thankful that these teachers do not allow the venom of people like you stop them from doing their jobs.
LeAna Bui March 31, 2012 at 05:53 AM
JG: I agree completely!! When I referred to what parents know - I was just making a case that if we can identify certain teachers, I'm sure the admin can do even better. Parents should in no way be involved in an individual teacher's compensation review.
mayo gubbins April 03, 2012 at 01:40 AM
One thing we can all agree on is that CUSD gets much less than other districts. The CA average per child is somewhere around $8,300 while CUSD gets around $7,200. If this district had the extra grand per child, then it would have an extra 50 million a year. Call Mimi Waters and Harkey to complain. CUSD has the highest API for a large district and gets the least amount of money.


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