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The $296,205 a year retiree

SJCOE’s legacy of paying top dollar for leaders

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The $296,205 a year retiree

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POSTED March 11, 2014 1:38 a.m.

When Mick Founts took over as superintendent of San Joaquin County Office of Education, his annual base salary was set at $235,000.

Today, four years later, the figure remains the same. He has not received, nor has he requested, any salary increase during that time, even as the county office budget has jumped from $250 million when he started to $270 million today.

In contrast, the contracted base salary received by Founts’ predecessor, Fredrick Wentworth, was $261,725. According to public records obtained by the Manteca Bulletin, during the four-year period from 2004 to 2008, Wentworth’s total compensation increased by 36 percent. Additionally, in one six-month period – from July 1, 2007 to Jan. 1, 2008 – Wentworth’s salary increased by $57,640.

According to data culled from CalSTRS (California State Teachers Retirement System), his total annual retirement benefit was $239,535.84 with his pension based on his 46.25 years of service in the education system. His final pensionable salary (annual) which was used to determine his retirement benefit, was $222,877.44 with his final pensionable salary placed at $18,573.12 a month.

Since retiring Wentworth now receives a monthly pension of $24,683.76 or $296,205.12 making him the third highest CalSTRS pensioner. Topping the list at $302,064.12 a year is James C. Enochs, the retired superintendent of Modesto City Schools. Wentworth is now receiving $35,000 more a year in retirement than when he was working and $61,000 a year more than the superintendent who is still on the job.

The contract salary figures for Wentworth shown in the public documents are as follows: Jan 21, 2004 ($168,599), Jan 1, 2005 ($175,963), July 1, 2006 ($189,758), Aug. 1, 2006 ($192,958), Jan. 1, 2007 ($199,220), July 1, 2007 ($204,085, and Jan. 1, 2008 ($261,725).

Base salaries mentioned above don’t include tax shelter annuities, health and life insurance, retirement contributions, car allowances and other benefit items.

Wentworth’s salary was the third highest in California based on Class 3 in the state’s Classification of Counties. Those that fall under Class 3 are the counties that are within certain ADA (average daily attendance) figures. In 2013, those Class 3 figures ranged from 60,637 for Solano County to $136,176 for Ventura County. San Joaquin’s ADA is 131,044 while Stanislaus County is 100,396. These are the only three counties in this category with six ADA figures. The rest are five figures.

Fonts said during a telephone interview on Monday he was not sure about Wentworth’s salary being the third highest in the state. However, he does not think his salary of $235,000 a year puts him in the top salary bracket in California. One thing he knows for sure, he said, is that the County Office of Education’s annual budget today is $270 million and that is based on the size of the county enrollment. When you look at the county in that light, “we have one of the largest budgets there is” in California, he said. That’s how he was able to start various educational programs “like our charter school programs” as well as ROP programs, he pointed out.

By law, superintendents’ salaries can only jump 10 percent a year, and the Board of Education has to approve it. In Founts’ case, when he won the election – he ran unopposed in the election when Wentworth retired from office after more than 40 years of service in education – he negotiated his salary with the members of the board which was part of the standard protocol.

“They asked me what I thought was fair, so I chose $235,000. If you see my contract, it’s very simple. It’s just a one-page contract. I felt that was fair,” Founts said

At that time, Founts has had years of experience in education at the administrative level, starting from director to finally being deputy of superintendent to Wentworth.

When he mentioned the amount that he thought was fair remuneration for his position at the helm, one of the board members said “they thought I should be paid as the previous superintendent” and pointed out Founts’ many years of service with the county office beginning in 1991. But, Founts said, “I just thought I couldn’t do that.”

The $235,000 figure he mentioned, although significantly less than that of his predecessor’s, was still “one of the highest but not the highest” in San Joaquin County.

During his salary negotiation with the board, Founts also made another promise.

“I told the board, as long as I was there, I wouldn’t ask for a raise,” he said, even though, later on, he gave raises to his employees.

“It didn’t make sense to ask for more money,” he added.

The superintendent’s salary could go even lower in the event Jeff Tilton, one of the three vying in the June – and, if necessary, the November – elections for the soon-to-be-vacant position. Tilton, who was recently promoted to superintendent of New Jerusalem School District’s K-12 Delta Charter Schools in Tracy, recently announced that if elected, he would take a voluntary 15 percent voluntary reduction in salary which, based on Founts’ $235,000 would place his annual salary at $200,000.


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