The other big salary in Oakland Unified

There was much debate the other week over the $265,000 salary (plus roughly $23,000 in benefits) that Oakland’s new superintendent, Tony Smith, negotiated for himself in the midst of a horrifying state budget crisis.

But Oakland’s state trustee, Vince Matthews — who will have veto power over the fiscal decisions of the newly re-empowered board — isn’t too far behind. Matthews’ former role as state administrator might have been scaled back this week, after the transition to local control, but his pay hasn’t changed: It’s still $240,000 a year, plus benefits.

Hilary McLean, the press secretary for State Superintendent Jack O’Connell (Matthews’ boss), said Matthews’ contract includes a 60-day provision that prevents any immediate salary changes. She said Matthews will initially work full-time in OUSD; as his time commitment lessens, she said, it’s possible that his compensation will be “adjusted.”

“It’s still, certainly, a huge responsibility,” McLean said.

Of course, if Matthews finds another job outside OUSD, a different pay rate could be negotiated with the next hire.

The Last Act: On Monday, before relinquishing his powers as state administrator, Matthews disbursed the controversial $450,000 to charter schools, per O’Connell’s orders. The school board dropped the lawsuit they had filed against O’Connell in an attempt to keep the money.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Jonas Kniger

    This is the crap that is ruining the school system.They pay these clowns big bucks and they disperse school contracts. Then they take the kickbacks from the contractors. Then the students fail and they need moire money for students!Then they tell us hwo much then spend per studnet but they really spend it on the administrators! What a crock of BS! Fire all of them and get some educators running the schools with a bookkeeper and a reduced budget!

  • harlemmoon

    So, besides taking a seat in the overheated, musty, paint-chipped board room with a gavel in his hand, exactly what else will Matthews be required to do to earn his keep?

    By the way, we all know he’s been looking for another job. Any word on how that’s working out for him?

  • Max Allstadt

    Joel Klein, Chancellor of the NYC school system, made $250,000 back in 2005, which was the only stat I could find for him.

    If Smith can perform like Klein, I say the salary is appropriate.

    Klein had it easier than Smith does. Sure, Klein has a much bigger system to look after, but he doesn’t have to contend with the mayhem of an elected school board, he has a competent Mayor, and he has a mandate like few other big city school chiefs.

    Tony Smith has none of these advantages. If he gets anything done, I will be mightily impressed and glad to have my property taxes contributing to his salary.

    This country as a whole is in a bad habit of paying public administrators and officials as little as possible. You get what you pay for.

  • turner

    That is so not a good comparison. Here’s why:

    New York public schools
    schools 1,450
    students 1,042,077
    budget $17 billion
    Sup Sal $250,000

    Oakland Unified
    schools 110
    students 40,000
    budget $0.4 billion
    Sup Sal $250,000


  • Equois

    The waste of public resources by OUSD, and the state superintendent’s office is unconscionable, especially during these tough economic times.

    It is ridiculous and an affront to all taxpaying citizens to continue paying for a “state trustee” who is collecting over quarter of a million dollars in salary for doing hardly very little. He ought to be tar and feathered then ran out of town….that would be fitting as the scoundrel doesn’t even live in Oakland, and therefore does not contribute to local tax revenues…no wonder he has such little regard for this District other than to continue ripping off the taxpaying public.

    Who is accountable for providing oversight and allowing this waste to occur? OUSD pays the equivalent of two superintendents over $500,000 in salary and benefits. OUSD under the “leadership” of the appointed State Administrator (Vincent Matthews) continues to expose the taxpayers of Alameda County to wasteful spending and liability with no apparent oversight or accountability. Yet, taxpayers are asked to approve increased taxes to generate additional revenues for OUSD, to assist in educating Oakland’s children. Taxpayers are wary with good reason due to OUSD’s inability to exercise sound fiscal policy and management of the resources that are presently allocated.

    OUSD officials (specifically State Administrator Vincent Matthews, past General Counsel Deborah Cooksey, Danielle Houck (recently hired in Alameda USD to cut down on legal costs – something she was less than proficient at working for OUSD), et. al. continued the indiscriminate waste of public funds to target, harass, bully and treat public school employees uncivilly while pursuing frivolous legal witch hunts and vendettas (Tim White, Katrina Scott-George, James Ferguson, etc.)

    When those schemes fail, and justice prevails, the taxpayers are left to shoulder the burden of the economic liability and litigation costs created by OUSD.

    When taxpayer resources are so utilized, they need to be fully disclosed and exposed transparently as a matter of sound public policy and accountability.

    Otherwise the waste and abuse goes unchecked. There needs to be more transparency in tracking the expenditures of the Legal Department and judgments against the District. The results would probably horrify most taxpayers.

    In one particular case, OUSD has wasted over $300,000 in court and related costs while pursuing a frivolous case that involved a sham investigation and retaliatory set up of a veteran teacher the District had wrongfully targeted for dismissal. The District lost the case, yet refused to abide by the education code and continues to this day to engage in reprisals against that teacher and thereby exposes the unsuspecting taxpaying public to further financial liability and waste.

    Under the ‘leadership’ of State Administrator Matthews the District has on most occasions, behind closed doors, demonstrated “bad faith” in a callous disregard of court judgments, the OEA/OUSD Collective Bargaining Agreement, Education Code, and Labor Code. This results in increased liability and litigation costs caused by OUSD’s continual wasteful spending that taxpayers have to bear.

    Immediate action is requested to investigate and hold OUSD accountable and to force the District to abide and honor its legal obligations without exposing the unsuspecting taxpaying public to further financial liability and waste.

    OUSD officials have created additional financial liability to be borne by the unsuspecting taxpaying public by wrongful termination actions brought against one veteran teacher while he was on medical leave in violation of the OEA/OUSD Collective Bargaining Agreement and federal ADA statutes.

    The District’s callous actions further exacerbated the teacher’s medical condition, and has caused significant financial harm and economic loss, including the threatened foreclosure of the teacher’s home. It also has negatively impacted the receipt of disability insurance benefits by the teacher

    The net result of OUSD’s intransigence, “deliberate indifference” and calculated reprisals against this teacher is the incurrence of additional liability that will be passed on to taxpayers as an outcome of wrongful termination litigation prompted by OUSD retaliatory actions.

    The violations of statutes, workplace hostility and abuse within OUSD have to stop!

    Whereas, this teacher’s case is just one of many, there needs to be an investigation and public disclosure of the total amount of legal expense/liability incurred by OUSD.

    Maybe we can offer a settlement to pay to this teacher Vince Matthews salary as compensation for all the abuse endured.

    Why isn’t the media investigating and holding the District and state to be more accountable. Then again, perhaps they are in cahoots!


  • a brown

    Let Mr. matthew know his boss needs help in Sac., and he needs to get back there, as soon as possible, I’ll take his job– Scholarship program member for HS Seniors in Oakland, 25 years later– New Supr– 42–


  • Public School Fan

    I still think that the biggest waste of money in OUSD is the approximately $77 million spent in outside contracts with consultants. Pretty much everything else is a drop in the bucket . . . Perhaps many of the contractors are providing necessary services that could not be procured otherwise within OUSD itself, but wouldn’t it be nice to think that someone is taking a fine tooth comb to that list to actually figure it out? Cutting down on these contracts would save the district so much money! I wish that I believed that all of that money spent on such contracts was both crucial and necessary, but I don’t. Even worse, I don’t know if anyone in the district would actually know.

  • harlemmoon

    Not to make matters worse, but several of the high-paid consultants were once OUSD employees. They wisely figured out that quitting the district and rejoining as a consultant was a far, far more lucrative option.

  • Michael Siegel

    Katy, any public comment on why the School Board dropped the law suit, regarding the $450K? Was this a quid pro quo, to facilitate the return of powers to the local board?

  • Joe Public

    I posed the question in the previous report “It pays to be superintendent” about how much the various CEO’s for the various charter companies operating in Oakland earn because that should also reflect in the “other big salary/ies in Oakland”.

    Katy, do you have any info on these charter schools/CMOs and how much goes towards overhead administrative costs?

    Are these CEOs pulling in these types of salaries for the couple of thousand students that they serve? Is that information public and/or should it be part of this conversation given that is a huge cost for educating our city’s children?

    It would seem to fit into a similar argument line from Equois post with regards to the failures of the district. How much does it cost on the charter school side to replicate the very positions that already exist within the district?

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    Joe Public: Some of the information you request needs to be researched by “someone.” The side-by-side comparisons are not just floating around somewhere, and there are not enough interested investigative journalists to take the project on. But because your question piqued my curiosity, I’ve given it a shot for one CMO (Charter Management Organization) with schools in Oakland, the Central Valley, and LA: Aspire Public Schools.

    By going to http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/990search.php I was able to locate the 2008 990 for Aspire Public Schools (EIN 943311088). According to this document, President & CEO Don Shalvey (who recently stepped down to take a position with the Gates Foundation) earned $190,587 in compensation and $14,483 in contributions to employee benefit plans & deferred compensation during 2007.

    The enrollment for the Aspire schools which existed during the 2007-08 school year (16) was 5774 students. You can find enrollment figures on DataQuest.

    On the list of Aspire’s five highest paid employees was the principal at one of their Oakland schools, Berkeley Maynard (enrollment of 307 students). Kristyn Klei earned $119,087 and was given $16,660 in contributions to employee benefit plans & deferred compensation. This is all public information since Aspire Public Schools operates as a non-profit organization.

    One of my big issues these days is that principals for Oakland’s small secondary schools (350-400 kids) are earning nearly the same amount as principals of our large comprehensive high schools with 1700-2000 students. The challenges, issues and dynamics at the larger schools should necessitate that those schools are provided with leaders who get paid more.

    Since many Oakland parents and students prefer the range of classes and activities offered at the large schools – and believe a small school setting would be much too limiting – OUSD needs to keep its remaining comprehensives strong and intact so it can offer ALL types of families the “choice” they prefer. I suspect that these schools may have been given short shrift in recent years since so much administrative attention was given to developing and opening the small schools. By the way, a recent report by the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs revealed that the opening so many small schools caused “collateral damage” to the existing large high schools there. One side effect of the small high schools here is the dramatic shrinking of the pool of AP’s who are acquiring the necessary experience to allow them to move up to principal positions at large school sites.

    The district desperately needs to re-evaluate how much it pays the principals who manage the large schools, so it can improve its ability to attract strong candidates. And aside from the money, I know of several very good assistant principals who fled the district because they were not properly wooed, so the district also needs to increase its focus on identifying and nurturing its strong potential leaders who actually like working in Oakland. I don’t think much of this was done in recent years and I hope the new superintendent will take it on. A strong organization knows that doing this is an important part of keeping itself strong.

  • Max Allstadt

    What Oakland really needs to do is to stop selecting school board members by public election, and start selecting them by mayoral appointment. The same goes for East Bay Regional Parks Board, BART Board, Peralta Community College Board, AC Transit Board, etc…

    Why? This oversight is a job for technocrats, and the oversight of technocrats is a job for legislators and executive elected officials. Making a technical, specialized job an elected position is a sure fire way to fill that job with a wannabe politician instead of a competent specialist.

    Look at David Kakishiba: That idiot wrote the Measure OO ballot measure so badly that he nearly bankrupted the city. If he can’t do math, how do we expect him to ensure that our kids can?

  • Steven Weinberg

    From 2000 to 2004 Mayor Jerry Brown had the power to appoint three members to the Oakland School Board. They were serving on the Board when the finances of the district collapsed and Oakland was taken over by the state. One of Brown’s appointees, Harold Pendergrass, went on to serve on the board of a charter school, UPrep, which collapsed itself due to fiscal mismanagement and fraud. Pendergrass had been connected to Brown in earlier political campaigns. The two other appointees, Paul Cobb and Viola Gonzales, were certainly as political as David Kakishiba. I don’t consider being political a bad thing, but I’d much rather have a politician elected by the people, than one appointed by one person.

  • Max Allstadt

    The point of using Mayoral appointments is to ensure that appointments are not made by one person. It should be done for terms that overlap mayoralties. That way a board accumulates over multiple mayoralties.

    Elections aren’t good because an elected minor official can do things like, oh, I don’t know, make out with (and probably screw) 17 year-old student, and not easily be fired. If Chris Dobbins served at the pleasure of the Mayor, he would be long gone by now.

    Oakland is ABSURDLY over-governed. There are over 60 officials that are elected to represent some part of Oakland on county issued ballots. If you include judges that have to be confirmed by the electorate, it gets up into the 90s.

    With that many electeds, most of the minor positions are filled by people who get the best union or newpaper endorsements, or who’s names look best on the ballot, or who’s faces look best in the voter guide. Very few people pay any attention to debates or platform statements when they vote for an EBMUD director.

    We should reduce the elected officials in this town to 9. Scrap the election of the City Attorney, scrap the election of the Auditor, and leave us with the council and the Mayor. Everybody else should be appointed, and easily dismissed. Being elected makes people too powerful and too hard to get rid of if they’re unscrupulous or incompetent.

  • obama newage

    Superintendents get paid too much for what they do.