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Monday, November 29, 2021

Ontario-Montclair superintendent says latest report on his chart-topping salary ‘will not be final’

The Ontario-Montclair school district superintendent offered to meet anyone upset by his chart-topping salary following public criticism at a school board meeting Thursday, but about what amounted to him more than $600,000 annually over the past three years. was not sorry. ,

Superintendent James Hammond thanked the audience for asking some “fair questions” about his salary and said he was available to explain executive contracts and allowances in person if needed.

“This isn’t the first time articles have been written about my contracts, and it certainly won’t be the last time,” he said.

Parent Aaron Mathiesen, who had criticized Hammond earlier in the night, shouted back: “Maybe that’s the problem.”

Hammond declined to answer questions from a reporter at the conclusion of the meeting.

Compensation $700,000. Close

An investigation by a Southern California newsgroup found that Hammond is regularly the highest-paid superintendent in the state, including the value of his benefits, which in 2020 was close to $700,000. An unusual range of perks, including a generous allocation of sick and vacation time. That he can cash out each year allows Hammond to raise his base salary to $320,000, more than even the leaders of the state’s largest school districts.

Hammond redeemed all 110 days of vacation he received in 2021 – including 85 days of sick time – in an additional $167,596 salary.

And the amount of leave only increases as long as Hammond stays with the district, as he receives an additional five days in his total for each year of service. By 2024, if Hammond redeems every day available to him, he will be paid for more days than in the calendar year.

The school board previously limited Hammond’s annual cash-out to 40 sick days per year until 2019, when the cap was raised to 50 days, the contracts showed. The cap completely disappeared from Hammond’s contract the following year and vacation pay is now the biggest boost to Hammond’s take-home pay. His other benefits include lifetime health insurance, $134,714 in retirement contributions; And the annual cost of living adds up.

‘Surprised and disappointed’

At Thursday’s meeting, a small group of parents and employees called for a reallocation of the money paid to Hammond.

Mathiesen, a member of the school site council at Berlin Elementary, said he was “shocked and disappointed” to learn of the benefits being offered to Hammond. Mathiesen pointed out during public commentary that Hammond’s cash-out of $167,596 in 2021 was enough to give about $6,000 each to the district’s 32 elementary and middle schools.

“I help approve the annual spending plan for the school site,” he said. “Because of that, I know that $6,000 would equate to full payment of site invention staff for math support, the entire annual budget for explaining the service to meetings and parent involvement — in fact, at that school site. For the entire parent-participation budget.”

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He said this could cover materials for a playground, or all supplies for extra-curricular activities.

He said the leave cash-out, which is only a fraction of Hammond’s salary, amounts to twice the median household income in Ontario.

not destination district

“The daily rate of superintendent’s compensation exceeds the biweekly salary of the average person in our district, and what does it have to show for?” Mathiesen asked. “If our district sees a significant improvement in test scores, if our district is what everyone wants to work for and if every parent wants to take their students to our schools, then I can probably cover the cost. I can fill a small percentage. But we are not.”

The Ontario-Montclair school district in western San Bernardino County enrolls approximately 19,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The district’s academic performance is considered average for the state, according to ratings calculated by the nonprofit GreatSchools. Test results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for 2018-19 showed scores increased from the previous year, but were still below the rest of California in English language arts, math and science.

‘Taking advantage of the system’

Parents Berenice Cadena said even half of Hammond’s salary would allow the district to improve. She explained that schools receive unequal finances, with one school having a regular uniform with a volleyball team while the other receiving the equivalent of a “painted apron”.

That said, her husband gets five sick days a year after 15 years with his employer, while Hammond will be in line to collect 90 sick days in 2022.

“These kinds of benefits seem like he’s taking advantage of the system,” she said. “It’s taxpayers’ money.”

Ontario-Montclair school superintendent James Hammond listens to public comment during a school board meeting at the Central Language Academy in Ontario Thursday night. OMSD superintendents were the highest-paid K-12 school administrators in California for the past three years and regularly earned more than $600,000 a year. (contributed by photographer/John Valenzuela)

The school board’s president, Alvia Rivas, has previously stated that Hammond’s higher pay was to encourage longevity and avoid the short tenure that other school districts see with their superintendents. Neither Rivas nor the other two board members addressed the superintendent’s salary in the meeting.

teachers deserve more

Tracy Taylor, president of the Ontario-Montclair Teachers Association, urged the school board to consider offering a comparatively higher salary for other employees. He said that while some people support Hammond’s compensation, many others are upset by it.

“We can’t help but compare this to how other employees are compensated and how our classes have always wanted more content,” she said. “If we’re compensating one person so well because we want to retain him, what does that say about the rest of us who have to raise him year after year?”

He said the district’s teachers would have to spend eight years without getting sick, which is what Hammond gets a year on sick leave.

Taylor said some of the district’s workers make less than $30,000 a year.

“We need to change the way employee compensation is allocated through the district,” she said. “We should also be worth maintaining.”

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