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Study: Newport-Mesa teachers paid less than peers

Educators in local district have lowest average salaries compared with pay in county's other unified school systems.

January 24, 2007|By Michael Miller

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District pays the lowest teacher salaries of any unified school district in Orange County, according to a report presented Tuesday by a six-member task force.

At the school board's regular meeting, with more than 100 attendees packing the boardroom, teachers union President Jim Rogers and assistant superintendent of human resources Elizabeth Novack shared the findings of a countywide investigation. Their figures showed that Newport-Mesa's average annual salary was $64,292, the lowest of Orange County's 12 unified school districts.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District posted the highest annual salary, with an average of $78,988. Newport-Mesa's average daily salary of $345 was also the lowest in the county. The district placed second to last in total compensation, which included salary and benefits, finishing ahead of Tustin Unified.

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Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard asked the trustees, who voted, 6-0, to accept the report, not to comment on the numbers since the contract negotiations were ongoing. Rogers said the teachers union and district had already met three times and would continue to work toward an agreement.

During a break after the board's vote, Hubbard said he expected the bargaining process to go well.

"We're very proud of the excellent relationship the district has with the union," he said. "Mr. Rogers and I have established a quality relationship that we think is going to be very productive."

Newport-Mesa formed a task force in September to compare its salaries with those of other unified districts after Rogers requested an inquiry. The task force included three district administrators and three members of the teachers union. Since 1999, Rogers said, the union's contract has had the goal of getting Newport-Mesa's salaries between the mean and the 75th percentile for the county.

After the meeting, several teachers said the findings came as little shock.

"It was no surprise," said Bob Kelly, a sixth-grade teacher at Newport Heights Elementary School. "I think there was a gut feeling that we were not where we were told we were going to be."

Sharon Petersen, who teaches English as a second language at Costa Mesa High School, said she trusted the board members to remedy the situation.

"I heard every board member speak when they were candidates, and every one made the pledge to meet the 75th percentile," she said. "They've made that promise, and I'm choosing to believe them."

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