After I wrote a long post about the new contract and salary deal
for H.T. Sanchez at TUSD, I steeled myself, waiting to have my head bit off in the comments section. To my surprise, that's not what happened. The commenters took a variety of positions on the contract, but the arguments tended to be more nuanced than the usual polarization I find in the comments section. [That's not true, however, of the very long 28th comment, which called me naive and ignorant and argued at length about how badly Sanchez has harmed the district. I'm fine with that, by the way, it comes with the territory. My surprise was that my post didn't get more comments like that.]
In the course of the back-and-forth, one anonymous commenter said I was "missing the point" on one issue. And you know, the commenter is right. So I want to post the comment here as a kind of post script to what I wrote initially.
In a reply to a comment, I wrote that the size of Sanchez's salary wasn't directly relevant to the salaries of teachers and other staff. With 3,000 teachers and even more support staff, any lowering of his salary would result in pennies for everyone else. Earlier, I had also mentioned Mesa Superintendent Michael Cowan, whose district is a similar size to TUSD and who has a similar salary to Sanchez's. Cowan's is probably a bit lower, though it's hard to tell with all the add-ons to the base salary. But, as someone pointed out in another comment, Cowan refused a raise because of the financial problems Mesa, like all Arizona school districts, is suffering through.
With that background, here's the comment.
David: You seem to be missing the point here. It doesn't matter whether Sanchez and his cabinet refusing to take a raise and / or bonuses could make a material difference if the amount they refused to take were divided up and applied to teachers' salaries throughout the district. This has to do with morale and the ability to lead. Does it make sense for Superintendents and central administrators to take raises and bonuses in a context in which the legislature is further cutting funding to an already disastrously underfunded school district? The quote from the Mesa Superintendent Cowan provided a perfect example of how a good leader handles himself in a situation like this. The behavior of the leader sends a message to the troops which either improves morale and unifies the force or degrades morale and impairs his ability to lead. It seems that Sanchez has done the latter — and in a context where morale and confidence in his leadership were already dangerously low.
Point well taken. I'm not sure how it could have or should have come about, but the best outcome for the sake of the district would have been for Sanchez and other top administrators to forego raises at this point while committing to stay on. It would have hurt their pocketbooks— hough not anywhere near as much as the non-administrative staff is being hurt by the state budget cuts to education—but it would have sent a message to the rest of the TUSD employees: We're in this together.