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MUSD superintendent salary peaked in 2008

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POSTED March 14, 2014 1:15 a.m.

During the budget crisis six years ago, Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer took a 5 percent pay cut which lowered his base salary to $176,441.51 – down from $186,222.38. That figure remained the same through June 30, 2011.

Along with the pay cut, the Board of Trustees also cut Messer’s car allowance as part of the cost-saving measures taken to balance the budget. Those budget-saving steps went across the board. The trustees’ monthly stipend of $390 a month was also slashed by 5 percent. With the fiscal health of the district getting better, all that have been sacrificed in the budget hemorrhage have been restored.

When Messer assumed the post after the departure of Cathy Nichols-Washer in 2008, his base salary stood at $161,822.39. That represented a 10 percent bump from his previous capacity as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for which he was compensated an annual salary of $145,640.64.

Messer’s salary as superintendent, even after four years on the job, was nowhere near the salary figures enjoyed by his predecessor. When she resigned her post in Manteca Unified, Nichols-Washer was receiving an annual salary of $207,415.80. She left Manteca for an even higher-paying job in the same capacity as superintendent for Lodi Unified for which her compensation per year was $230,000.

Messer’s $186,222.38 is the exact amount that Nichols-Washer had agreed to be paid in base salary when she signed her last contract with Manteca Unified on July 1, 2007, according to a story in the Manteca Bulletin.

Trustee Nancy Teicheira, who has been on the board for more than 12 years, noted that there was a big jump in the superintendent’s salary when John Reichwald came on board in 2000. He was at the helm of the school district through 2003 when he was succeeded by Nichols-Washer. His salary “jumped way up high” because “some just felt he was doing such a great job,” Teicheira said.

In addition to their base salaries, administrators typically also receive extra stipends for their doctorate or master’s degrees. Case in point is San Joaquin County Office of Education Deputy Superintendent James Mousalimas whose receives a $1,500 master’s degree stipend on top of his base salary of $181,413.12 annual salary.

Who determines superintendents’ salaries? According to a California Watch ( story written by a freelance reporter last year, “school district boards typically set salary levels” of superintendents, except when the state assumes control – “at least, for the superintendent’s salary” as was the case in South Monterey County.

Recently, the State Controller’s office requested that K-12 agencies voluntarily report their compensation by May 5, according to information from The Center for Investigative Reporting of California Watch.

Earlier this week, the Centinela Valley Union High School District in Southern California has been in the news due to the $663,000 total annual compensation of its superintendent, Jose Fernandez, last year. The superintendent oversees the district’s three high schools with a total enrollment of 6,500 students. Manteca Unified has a total K-12 student enrollment of 23,000 plus. The latest reports from CBS Los Angeles indicate that Fernandez has announced he was voluntarily cutting many of the perks attached to his contract.

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