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Superintendent's raise dredges up past problems

The school board approves a 4% increase, boosting Sherine Smith's salary to $234,000 from $225,000.

March 19, 2014|By Bryce Alderton

Laguna Beach Unified School District Supt. Sherine Smith has received her first raise since joining the district nearly four years ago.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the 4% increase at its March 11 meeting, boosting Smith's salary by $9,000 a year. The raise, retroactive to July 1, increases her pay from $225,000 to $234,000.

The spike aligns with the percentage salary increases approved for 162 certificated teachers and counselors represented by the Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Assn., 25 classified management employees, certificated administrators and school psychologists who are not part of either the faculty association or the California School Employees Assn.

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Two residents spoke against giving Smith a raise.

Parent Sheri Morgan referenced a proposed calendar change, voted on in January 2013, that would have moved the first day of school to before Labor Day, and the resignations of high-ranking administrators.

"This is not personal ... we've had to replace key hires, so can we afford this [Smith's raise]?" Morgan said.

The board initially approved the school calendar change but reversed the decision in March 2013 after several parents complained that district officials did not clearly communicate the idea to them.

Smith said in a previous interview that the calendar change was well-intentioned, but agreed that communication with the public could have been better.

Laguna resident Howard Hills said the resignations of the district's human resources director and assistant superintendent of instructional services within a month of each other shouldn't be forgotten.

"There's a price tag put on problematic personnel management that took place," Hills argued.

Smith said the district has been fiscally prudent during her tenure

In the last two years, the district saved more than $250,000 in director and assistant superintendent salaries, including $134,021 from the 2011-12 to 2012-13 school years.

The human resources director, Gerald Vlasic, was the only employee whose pay was higher than that of his predecessor — by $47,650 — but his role involved more duties, Smith said.

"This board [voted to] reduce salaries of new managers when other managers retired," Smith said during the meeting.

Hills acknowledged the salary savings, but said there are additional costs, including time spent recruiting candidates.

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