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Mt. Diablo school district explains secretary pay mix-up

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, September 24th, 2010 at 1:02 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Valley View Middle School secretary Paula Walton.

Valley View Middle School secretary Paula Walton.

By Theresa Harrington

I reported in today’s newspaper that several secretaries in the Mt. Diablo school district were upset that they were underpaid in August by about one week. They said the district wanted to withhold pay for about one out of three weeks worked until June 2011 — or about 10 months after they did the work.

Valley View Middle School secretary Paula Walton was particularly concerned about this because the delayed payment will adversely affect her pension, she said.

Unfortunately, district representatives were unable to get back to me in time for my print deadline with their side of the story.

However, I received an e-mail last night and spoke today to Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, regarding the dispute.

Braun-Martin said the district thought it had notified employees of its intention to pay employees in that “pay class” for two weeks in August (even though they were required to work three weeks), then pay them for the extra week in June 2011 (even though they will stop working June 22).

The district set the payments up this way to make payroll more even over the 10-and-a-half month period, she said.

“First of all, we are in the process of working with the leadership of CST (Clerical, Secretarial, Technical bargaining unit) to address the concerns raised regarding the August payroll schedule and respond to their grievance and find a way to work this out,” she wrote in her e-mail. “We have received an e-mail from Ms. Walton and we will provide Ms. Walton with information regarding her specific situation.”

Braun-Martin said uneven payments from month to month complicate reporting to PERS (the Public Employees Retirement System).

“We divide the employees’ work year into even months for pay and PERS reporting, so that their earnings are consistent from month to month and the employees’ base pay is not continually fluctuating,” she wrote. “If we simply pay people for the hours they work each month, they would have a different paycheck each month. We try to set up a system that gives them a consistent paycheck from month to month, because the PERS system is designed around having an equal number of days of month.”

The problem is: some secretaries say they were not told about this plan and they never agreed to it.

“They’ll pay us, but it’s not going to be with interest,” said Margaret Buresh, a Northgate High secretary in Walnut Creek. “And they already got the work out of us. That’s outrageous. If I’d known I wasn’t going to get paid til next June, I certainly wouldn’t have come back (one week early).”

Adding insult to injury, the district may propose cutting the hours of secretaries and other employees even more, to balance the budget. Unions are wondering why the district doesn’t just use the $6.5 million it will get from the federal jobs bill to close budget gaps.

Braun-Martin said the district hasn’t decided how that money will be spent.

“There isn’t a plan yet,” she said. “We’re still waiting for the guidelines and regulations, so we know what we can do.”

Would you agree to work a week in August if you knew you wouldn’t get paid for that week until June 2011, with no interest for the 10-month delay?

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7 Responses to “Mt. Diablo school district explains secretary pay mix-up”

  1. Realia Says:

    So, so typical. Braun-Martin, a former principal who has no apparent professional credentials for her current positions (besides knowing which fannies to kiss to get such a job), enjoys her fat raise while putting the screws to support staff who actually depend on their pay to survive financially. This only happens in a culture that devalues its employees while enriching its “administrators.” Obviously, the district wants its site secretaries (as well as other union employees) to quit so they can be replaced with desperate workers who won’t dare challenge the almighty district once hired – at the bottom of the salary scales.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    Remember, Julie Braun-Martin approved Nugent, who rumor has it had disclosed his DUI to the district, and was known to the Supt before the Board meeting. What is so complicated about cutting them a check NOW for the extra week in August and then stopping their pay on the last day in June ? Every business in America is required to pay hourly workers this way. Every public entity that has hourly employees does it this way. Reporting to PERS complicated by uneven pay ? That doesn’t make sense. its all computerized. Braun-Martin’s excuse doesn’t pass the smell test.

  3. Nellie Bly Says:

    The issue here is not Julie Braun Martin, but the district’s handling of pay for certain employees. How does attacking the individual who’s trying to explain this issue add anything constructive to resolving it? Theresa’s news story and On Assignment blog do not say the delayed pay was Braun Martin’s decision, yet unlike other district administrators who directly oversee payroll processes, she stepped forward to answer the reporter’s questions. And for her willingness to provide some information to the public, she’s attacked.

    Braun Martin was a successful principal at a number of schools before being promoted to Director of Certificated Personnel a few years ago. She managed the calm startup of Delta View Elementary even though construction delays prevented students and staff from inhabiting the school building for its first few months. She worked closely with the former Assistant Superintendent of Personnel before being named to the position last Spring.

    I’ve heard that the district leadership has become very reluctant to speak to the media. Reporters must now submit questions in writing at least 24 hours in advance of a deadline. While this practice is disturbing, it’s understandable when people posting comments resort to personal attacks rather than reasoned opinions and ideas.

  4. tharrington Says:

    To my knowledge, there is no district requirement that reporters submit questions 24 hours in advance. Sometimes, when district officials are tied up in meetings, they request questions in writing so they can respond more efficiently. However, Braun-Martin and others do return calls, which I appreciate.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    Sue, aka Nellie, one of the issues is the competency and training of the “Human Resources Director” as raised by “Realia” — or in the case of the MDUSD the title is Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services of this “company” of nearly 4,000 employees. Yes, she did have a couple of years of learning experience in the Department after she left her principalship but absolutely no background or training in Human Resources prior to that time. Just as with the Nugentgate fiasco, Secretarygate shows she has little real knowledge of how things work in the real world. The Supt didn’t know the answer so he passed the buck to Braun-Martin and her explanation was short a brick or two. When you have part time hourly employees, you pay them by the hour. When you have monthly salary employees you pay them by the month. The school secretaries have been relegated by the board to be part time hourly employees. Its an issue that should have been taken care of earlier — but when discovered should have been immediately fixed. That’s why they call her the “Assistant Supt of Personnel Services”.

  6. tharrington Says:

    I should have clarified that the e-mail sent to me by Braun-Martin was also signed by CFO Bryan Richards. However, it was sent from Braun-Martin’s e-mail address and she is the one who returned my phone call.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Since CFO Richards “signed it”, that is really not a lot of confidence based on his history with West CC USD, and John Swett USD, both districts in finanical trouble. Very interesting though that the email originated from Braun-Martin and she returned the phone call.

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