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Message From Pasadena Unified Superintendent Brian McDonald on District's Last, Best and Final Offer to United Teachers of Pasadena

April 12, 2016


Pasadena, CA -- As Superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), I am inspired by the achievements of our students and the passion of our staff.   For instance, standout student and Rose City High School senior Dalon Poole was recently recognized and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama for his contributions to the world of photography.  Dalon has a passion for learning and a drive for creative excellence.

At the same time, behind each student’s success is a team of Pasadena teachers with a desire to educate and a willingness to encourage our children towards academic and personal success.  Each day, they mentor and inspire in powerful and often unseen ways.

Public education has a life-changing mission with a transformational impact on students, families, and communities.  Our district’s graduate profile is more than just aspirational; it is a call to action shared across PUSD.

When I accepted this role as Superintendent, I recognized there would be hard work ahead in making the types of change that would position PUSD to be a district of first choice.  Much needs to change in PUSD in order to benefit our students.  This means we must manage taxpayer funds responsibly while being committed to excellence in all that we do.

As public education moves beyond the great economic downturn, PUSD, like other districts, is addressing multiple issues such as prolonged declining enrollment, establishing a formal budget planning process that aligns spending with strategic goals, and modifying staff assignments based upon enrollment trends and student needs.  It is not business as usual in PUSD; this is a time of intentional change requiring full participation at all staff levels.

Since 2012, PUSD enrollment has decreased by over 1,000 students.  The downward trend is due in part to the decline in birth rate and housing affordability; according to national demographers, these are changes occurring across California.  In addition, there are a number of non-public alternative K-12 opportunities in the PUSD service area.  While we are beginning to see enrollment level out for the first time in nearly a decade, more hard work is needed.   We must continue to place a top priority on program improvements across the district, develop course offerings that retain and attract students, and continue the redirection of resources to the classroom for differentiated instruction that benefits all students.

At the same time, PUSD is committed to attracting, retaining, and rewarding talented teachers.  It is for that reason that our last proposal to United Teachers of Pasadena (UTP) provides an ongoing 5% salary increase effective July 2016.  The offer calls for a 3% salary increase of UTP bargaining unit salary schedules retroactive to July 1, 2015, and a 2% salary increase effective July 2016 for the next school year.  Based on funding from the state to be announced by the Governor in May 2016, teachers may also receive up to an additional 1.6% raise, bringing the total compensation up to 6.6% ongoing.

In addition, modifications to the compensation structure are being made so that PUSD remains competitive for those with higher levels of experience. This means supplemental increases to targeted sections of the salary scale to attract, retain, and reward experienced educators who are foundational for student success.  We believe this final proposal to UTP is fair and meets the interests of our students and their families.

PUSD allocates 87% of its budget to personnel (this includes administrators).  Part of PUSD’s challenge in remaining competitive with our salaries is that we have not kept pace with the needed staffing reductions in relation to actual enrollment and, as a result, PUSD’s level of staffing is high relative to other districts’ staffing levels.

Another factor is that our health care benefits costs are relatively high compared to most districts.  This has been true for many years as UTP made this choice to keep teachers’ out-of-pocket costs for health care very low.

An additional challenge is the employer public retirement contribution rate for teachers was increased two years ago by the legislature.  It rose to 8.88% in 2014-15 (from its decades-long 8.25%) and then to 10.73% this past year.  It will increase to 12.58% on July 1, 2016, and will continue increasing each year.  Employer retirement contributions will reach 19.10% in 2020.  These costs, when added to the built-in step and column raises (salary increases based upon years of service), are projected to rise at a rate which outpaces the increased revenues from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

PUSD employs 864 credentialed full and part-time teachers.  A majority (58%) of our teachers earn an average of $107,233 in total compensation, including salary, district-paid health care benefits, and district-paid retirement contributions.  The annual salary of these senior teachers is $85,450, the average district cost per teacher for health care is $12,614, and the district-paid retirement contribution for that salary level is $9,169.

With the proposed increases in salary, PUSD must be able to align personnel for maximum effectiveness.  In order to redirect our resources to students while at the same time sustaining and offsetting needed salary increases (both now and in future years), PUSD’s proposal to UTP allows the district to transfer an instructor in instances where it would benefit our students. Many of the surrounding districts have this flexibility.

We remain committed to working with UTP to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.  The next step in the bargaining process is “fact-finding,” which in our case will take 30 to 60 days to conclude.  However, the process can sometimes extend beyond the 60 days depending on a range of factors. The fact-finding timeframe can be altered should UTP accept the district’s proposal.  The “fact-finding” meeting between UTP and PUSD is scheduled for May 4, 2016.

While change can be difficult, it also leads to innovation and growth.  I began by talking about the outstanding Rose City High School student, Delon Poole; I want to end by noting that every student in a PUSD school can be assured of working with a team of teachers and staff members committed to his or her success.  Our graduates are changing the world both locally and globally. Working with UTP and the other bargaining groups, Pasadena Unified School District will continue this tradition of world class excellence.



Pasadena Unified School District

351 South Hudson Avenue

Pasadena, CA 91101


Emergency: 9-1-1

Non-emergencies: 626-396-3600

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