Paso Robles teachers, in a group about 50 strong, took the opportunity before a routine study session on Feb. 5 to announce to the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board their recent vote of no confidence for Superintendent Kathleen McNamara.
The vote, issued by the Paso Robles Public Educators union, came after teachers learned next year’s proposed budget includes nine furlough days, marking the third consecutive year of significant pay cuts. The current school year includes 12 furlough days, following six last year, which have resulted in pay decreases and a shorter school year.
“I am beat up and tired of telling our parents and children how great our school district is while we are continuing to get furloughed,” Jenny Martinez, an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher, said to the board.
The furloughs were initially triggered when the district’s budget reserves dipped below a required margin, risking a fiscal crisis that could have led to state intervention. To balance the budget and build up reserves, the district looked to cut teachers’ salaries and benefits, which make up a large part of the operating budget.
Members of the teachers’ union were optimistic that eventually the budget would balance out. According to Robert Skinner, a Paso Robles High School history teacher and union treasurer, a compromise was reached assuming the furloughs would be temporary, and would only continue if November’s Proposition 30 did not pass. Since the measure passed, the union believed the district would scrap furlough days. When it didn’t, the decision exacerbated an already tense relationship between the teachers and McNamara.
“It seems like every year there is at least one thing that happens that says, well, this person is not demonstrating fiscal prudence,” Skinner said, noting that a recent accounting error led to the temporary disappearance of $1.59 million.
Of the 77 percent of teachers who participated in the vote district-wide, 95 percent supported the vote of no confidence. McNamara previously received a similar vote while serving as a superintendent in Riverside County.
Since taking over in 2007, McNamara has received a cumulative salary increase of $20,000, while teachers pay has decreased as much as 6.4 percent.
The PRJUSD Board hasn’t yet fully considered the vote because it’s so recent. In a statement issued by the board after the public comment period, Board President Katy Griffin said the board may evaluate the superintendent’s performance, and “will do so in a time and manner of its own choosing.”
The district and the union begin meeting to negotiate next year’s budget on Feb. 12.
McNamara hadn’t returned a request for comment as of press time.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay