Special to the News
Questions over a new compensation plan for San Benito CISD may soon be answered.
The matter was scheduled to be discussed by the Board of Trustees at a workshop on Thursday. The last time board members met, concerns were expressed over previous studies’ comparative analyses incorporating market values from upstate districts, and even the reason why a plan is being proposed at all. This is because a 2014 study was conducted for San Benito by the Texas Association of School Boards.
Citing this already-existing data, Board President Anna Cruz questioned at a February meeting why the district is seeking another plan.
“…We had a TASB compensation plan, or study, conducted in 2014-15 and it came with recommendations; now people are questioning why we are doing it again,” Cruz said at the meeting.
According to a timeline that Superintendent Dr. Adrian Vega presented at the meeting, much has occurred within the district since the last study, and he now seeks up-to-date data before moving forward on future budgeting processes.
Vega also mentioned that measures recommended in the study were not adopted in its entirety.
“Portions of the plan were adopted,” he said. “And then if you go to Nov. 16 (2015), whatever happened by way of making those salary adjustments … threw everything out of kilter. So for that reason … it was critical that just like everything else — with the efficiency audit and the curriculum audit — I wanted to know exactly what we knew and where we are at this particular moment.”
Besides the salary adjustments made on Nov. 16, 2015, Vega said a new superintendent — himself — was also hired in January 2016. School district officials including Vega have since met with TASB to complete the new study.
Place 4 trustee Arnold Padilla sought to explain why previous recommendations were not implemented, reminding that a reduction in force was in effect at the time.
“So all those things triggered an issue where we didn’t utilize it (plan) and had concerns with it,” Padilla said.
Among the 2014 study’s issues Padilla noted were “comparables” the market values for district salaries.
“What happened was that study went out to our work staff and they were very disappointed, because the scales were way off and it was something we couldn’t afford,” Padilla said. “Obviously we’re in a better financial position today than we’ve been in quite some time, so I foresee us to be in a tremendously better position to take care of our staff as we should have been able to take care of them over the years that we weren’t able to.”
Previous recommendations were also of concern for Place 3 trustee Joe G. Gonzalez, who suggested that district officials conduct the study in-house rather than seek out TASB.
“They can give us options but we don’t have to follow their options,” Gonzalez said. “Just because TASB says doesn’t mean TASB’s right.”
These were remarks that prompted a response from the superintendent as well as two fellow board members.
Responding to Vega encouraging that the district at least provide salaries that are competitive with the local market, Gonzalez reminded that not every Rio Grande Valley community’s tax base are of equal size.
“It’s hard for us to compete against the Harlingens, against the Donnas, against the Weslacos, and heaven-forbid the Brownsvilles and the Pharrs and all of that,” Gonzalez said before asserting that officials remain focused on what the district can afford.
Place 7 trustee Angel Mendez challenged Gonzalez’s comments, urging that educators not be placed in a position to “settle” for less pay.
“We still have to be realistic that we do try to encourage the bringing in of new talent and being competitive with other districts, and the only way that we can do that is through competitive wages,” Mendez said. “So it really comes down to bringing in talent; bringing in some more empowerment to the community; having more purchasing power by those individuals who are coming in from other communities. …We still don’t want our teachers to settle. We want them to have a very competitive wage where they can actually be happy to come and work in San Benito as well. That’s my concern.”