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Board of trustees, school employees respond to controversial raise

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 14:08


Tensions at Citrus College are still running high more than three weeks after the board of trustees voted 3-2 on July 17 to approve a four-year contract raise for superintendent/president Geraldine Perri.

The four percent per year raise will boost Perri’s base salary from about $215,000 annually in 2012 to $251,000 in 2016.  Meanwhile, classified employees at the college feel they’ve been left out during the tough economic times, exacerbated by the fact that full-time faculty workers were able to secure a two percent raise in April.

“In my personal opinion, it was poor leadership to make the decision to start doling out raises, but not make them equitable to everyone,” said Steve Siegel, president of the Classified School Employees Association at Citrus.  “I don’t believe the board did their fiduciary responsibility in crunching the numbers.”

However, the board members who voted for the raise—Sue Keith, Patricia Rasmussen, and Joanne Montgomery—all stood behind their decisions, despite the backlash from Citrus employees, students and members of the Glendora/Azusa communities.

Board members Gary Woods and Edward Ortell represented the dissenting votes.

“When we got into the board meeting we had the courage of our convictions,” Keith said.

 “You can bend at public pressure at any time, but we had already discussed it and it was a unanimous decision.”

But Keith’s neglected to include the “no” voters from her description of courageous policymakers.  Rasmussen accused Ortell of “grandstanding in front of the public” for deviating from an alleged consensus on the raise reached earlier in closed session.

The “yes” voters emphasized that they were putting the college’s interests first by making every effort to retain Perri, who has been consistently lauded for her performance since she was hired in 2008.  But even they conceded that the timing of the raise wasn’t ideal.

“If you’re looking at the state of the economy, or the state of the state, there isn’t any good time to do this,” Rasmussen said.  “I don’t think it would’ve mattered if we were flush with money or not.  I think anytime you give the top employee a raise, people get upset.”

Woods and Ortell disagreed.

This is a time you should be setting an example for everybody and tightening your belts too,” Woods said.  “Right now, to get an automatic pay [increase] ever year, doesn’t send a very good message to the faculty, staff and community.”

The next board meeting is Aug. 21.  Perri is expected to deliver the state of the college address during faculty convocation on Aug. 24.

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