According to the Daily Breeze, the superintendent of the Centinela Valley High School District in Los Angeles, Jose Fernandez, is making an insanely inflated amount of money because of perks he had negotiated in his contract. Fernandez made more than $663,000 in total compensation last year. His base pay amounted to $271, 000 in the 2013 calendar year while his ancillary benefits amounted to almost $400,000. That’s not all; the school district gave Fernandez a $910,000 loan at 2% interest to help him buy an expensive house.
The Centinela Valley High School District only has three comprehensive high schools and a continuation school, but Fernandez accumulated more than twice what his peers made in neighboring districts. John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest school system, grossed a little less than $390,000. LAUSD has roughly 650,000 students; Centinela Valley, 6,600.
Sandra Goins, executive director of South Bay United Teachers, the umbrella union for teachers in the Centinela Valley, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes Peninsula school districts, blurted out, “That’s obscene. That places him above the president of the United States — the leader of the free world.”
Fernandez was hired as interim superintendent in 2008 to fix the faltering school district. In late 2008, he was promoted to permanent status by a 3-2 vote, receiving a 19-month contract with a base salary of about $163,000. In 2009, his base pay was increased to $198,000, but the perks given border on the surreal:
- An annual raise of 9 percent.
- A 215 day work year; other superintendents of districts can work as many as 245.
- Extra pay for work beyond 215 days a year.
- Reimbursement for his buying “air time,” or up to 5 years of service to add to his service so he could increase his lifetime pension.
- The guarantee that he could only be fired if at least 4 of the board members agreed to do so.
- The option to cash out pay for vacation.
- The option to take a low-interest loan from his district in order to buy a home.
Fernandez used the loan option recently to buy a two-story, four-bedroom home in Ladera Heights, an upscale neighborhood. He can pay off the loan in 40 years. Steve Murillo, owner of First Manhattan Mortgage and Realtors in Manhattan Beach, said, “That’s a super good deal… It’s like they are giving him free money.”
Concurrent with the revelations about Fernandez’s compensation package, State Controller John Chiang has been asking every public school district for compensation documents in order to be more transparent about financial matters. This followed the scandal in Bell, where City Manager Robert Rizzo, who had a salary of nearly $800,000, and a total yearly compensation package worth $1.5 million, was convicted of corruption along with six other Bell officials.
The Centinela Valley School Board unanimously extended the contract of Fernandez for another four years in 2012.
While Fernandez is raking it in, teachers in his district have received two raises since 2006-07. In 2011 they were upped 1.75 percent, and in 2012 they got a 1% raise.
Jack Foreman, the Centinela Valley teachers union president, said, “It really makes me feel sick. I think the message is that the district doesn’t put a very high value on its teachers.”
The Daily Breeze reported that the superintendents of fellow school districts were making far less; in 2013 George Mannon of Torrance Unified made $257,804; Steven Keller of Redondo Beach Unified, $251,032, and Walker Williams of Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified, $227,229.
The median household income in the Centinela Valley high School District ranges from $33,000 to $49,000.