By Jose Herrera
Signal Staff Writer
The Newhall School District governing board unanimously approved a 4% salary increase for Superintendent Jeff Pelzel after he obtained an “exemplary rating” while teachers begin negotiations with the district in hopes of a similar outcome.
“He was given an exceptional rating for all of his work that he performed through a cyber-attack, a ransomware attack that the district experienced, and through the constant changes during the pandemic,” said Brain Walters, the president of the governing board.
The salary increase, which would raise his current salary from $200,000 to $208,000, was included in his contract, he added.
“He’s eligible for it when he meets the contract terms, and he did,” Walters said.
The governing board met on Tuesday as part of its bimonthly meeting, and more than 100 Newhall teachers were also in attendance, in person and virtually.
Hilary Hall, the co-president of the Newhall Teachers Association and a teacher at Pico Canyon Elementary School, said teachers showed up to show unity.
“We wanted to let people in the district and the school board know that the NTA is unified and that we stand behind our negotiations team,” Hall said.
Teachers “sunshine” or highlight sections of the contract they are going to negotiate, and the board approved that, too, according to Hall.
“This opens up the negotiation process,” Hall said. “We’re hoping to get a significant raise. We haven’t had a raise on the salary schedule in three years.”
Walters said he understands that teachers want raises, and he noted that last year the district approved a 1.5% off-schedule raise, which means it is not ongoing.
“It would be our desire to always be able to give our teachers raises, but unfortunately we don’t control that,” he said. “We don’t control the money that comes into us. We only control what we can do with it once we have it, and we do our best to stick to our board protocols, as well as our established and legal limits about how much we can dip into our reserves.”
Hall recognized that the superintendent has the salary raise written in his contract, but she hopes the board will also recognize that their teachers are also exemplary.
“In the Newhall School District, there’s a lot of talk constantly about how we have the best test scores in the valley,” Hall said. “That’s touted to attract people to the district. We feel that our scores and our work are part of what makes this district exemplary.”
Walters noted that negotiations happen between bargaining teams behind closed-door sessions. He said the district has always taken a collaborative approach to negotiating.
“We believe in interest-based bargaining, where we talk about finding mutual interests and try to address those interests rather than negotiating the other side to the ground. We feel very strongly that we will be able to represent all stakeholders which includes teachers, classified staff, our parents and our students.”
Pelzel was unavailable for comment at the time of publication of this article.