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Coast Unified teachers upset over new position's salary and qualifications 

"I feel disrespected and taken advantage of as an educator."

Cambria Grammar School P.E. teacher Ginna Mueller wrote that in a letter to the Coast Unified School District board prior to its Oct. 13 meeting. She was one of several district faculty and staff members who expressed displeasure with a new job position.

click to enlarge TENSIONS RUNNING HIGH Several teachers at Coast Unified School District were displeased with a new position that they say is overpaid. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COAST UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Coast Unified School District Facebook Page
  • TENSIONS RUNNING HIGH Several teachers at Coast Unified School District were displeased with a new position that they say is overpaid.

The district was looking to fill a temporary position called the negotiations liaison and transition specialist, after a part-time employee the district hired to address staffing issues left the position. Superintendent Scott Smith said the position is necessary to help with staffing transitions at the district level over the next year and a half, as he's expecting five management level staffers to retire.

"So right now we have a shortage that we need some coverage for and in the long run we're going to have a lot of transitions," he said during the meeting. "We want to make sure that as we serve our staff and students, that that service doesn't get interrupted because our staff and students rely on those services being in place and continuing in a timely manner."

But the controversy isn't necessarily about the position itself. Five district teachers who wrote letters to the school board were unhappy with a starting salary they believed was too high for a position that only requires a GED.

"With all of the education required to become a teacher, I am in disbelief that someone is given the opportunity to make this much in their first year in this position with only two years experience and a high school diploma," Mueller said in her letter. "I believe it takes a teacher nine years to make this much with our salary schedule."

According to the Coast Unified School District's website, the starting salary for the position is between $63,699 and $71,639 a year, something Cambria transitional kindergarten teacher Maya Lord took issue with.

"I moved to this area from Santa Cruz, with a dream that I would finally be able to spend less time struggling financially and maybe even afford to buy a home as a young professional. But with my salary this will not be a reality I can afford," Lord said.

According to the Coast Unified website, the negotiations liaison and transition specialist's responsibilities include anything from assisting the superintendent with union negotiations to operating office equipment. But Smith assured board members and teachers that this position was only temporary and would expire by June 30, 2024. When asked if he was comfortable with having someone who only had a GED in this position, Smith was not concerned.

"We need someone that is eager and happy to have a position and willing to be kinda jerked around and told 'go over there and do that,' and it's going to be constantly changing. It takes somebody who is very eager and appreciative in a position to enable us to kind of jerk them around like that," Smith told board members.

Most of the board members agreed with Smith's decision to fill the newly created position, pointing to the staff shortages the district has been facing.

"I know its not ideal, but neither is having five people leave the admin department in two years or less, so we're in a tough spot. We're going to have an election that year too. The district is going to change in many ways," said board President Samuel Shalhoub. "We're trying to get ready for that now, the best as we can." Δ


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