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Raise for school president angers co-workers

Jacqueline Park

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012

Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012 02:07

Over cries from frustrated staff members and amongst heated debate between its own representatives, the July 17 meeting of the Citrus College Board of Trustees included a 3-2 vote to approve a long term raise for school superintendent/president Geraldine Perri, Ph.D.  

Perri, whose base pay was about $215,000 over the 2011-12 school year, now stands to make an additional four percent in pay each year until 2016.  In the final year of her contract, Perri is expected to make close to $251,000.

In addition, Perri would receive 2.83 vacation days a month, with an option to cash out at the end of the year.  If she opted to cash out all of her vacation days, Perri could earn an additional $80,000 over four years.

Several members of Citrus’ classified (nonfaculty) staff members attended the meeting.  While the full-time faculty members secured a two percent raise in early April through their union, the Classified Staff Employees’ Association was unable to do the same.  Members of the Citrus CSEA allege that they have not received a raise in as many as seven years.

The tensions began during the public discussion preceding the vote.  Bruce Langford, the chief negotiator for the full-time faculty, issued a statement saying that the CSEA “waited too darn long” to negotiate with the board.  

That was greeted with boos from the classified staff members.  Langford forcefully responded “It’s true!”

The controversy began after nine other speakers—including classified staffers and community members—expressed a desire to vote down the raise.  Board president Joanne Montgomery directed attendees to a media statement released with the names of all the board members printed on it.

The statement was pro-raise, pointing out how Perri had not received a raise in four years.  However, board member Edward Ortell, Ph.D, said he had never seen the document before.  This discussion between Ortell and Montgomery followed:

Ortell: “How many of us [board members] have seen that statement?”

Montgomery: “Me.”

O:  “You’re the only one?”

M: “Yes.”

O: “So it’s not a statement from the board. . .”

M: “No, no.”

O: “. . . it’s a statement from you.”

M: “A statement from Dr. Perri and I.”

O: “As high profile as this is . .  . I think that’s unbelievable.”

An already tense environment then became hostile after Ortell floated an alternative proposal to solely increase Perri’s vacation days instead of her base pay.  Board member Patricia Rasmussen began to accuse Ortell of putting on a show for the larger-than-usual audience.

“Things were discussed, thoroughly discussed, after every board meeting and everyone had an opportunity to give insight," Rasmussen said to Ortell.  "It is bad boardsmanship to come back after the fact and deny what is approved in closed session.

“That is a personal accusation that I don’t think should be tolerated,” Ortell said.

“You are grandstanding in front of the public," continued Rasmussen.

“That’s a personal attack!” said Ortell.

After the argument died down, trustee Susan Keith pointed out Perri’s outstanding performance evaluations.  But when she would later go on to say “we are not out of money at Citrus,” she was interrupted by irate staff members who believed they had been told otherwise during contract negotiations.

“We were lied to. Lied to!” someone could be heard shouting.

When the measure finally come to a vote after more than 35 minutes of discussion, Montgomery, Rasmussen, and Keith all voted in favor of the raise, overcoming dissenting voters Ortell and Gary Woods.

Several attendees walked out of the meeting in disgust after the vote was cast.  Montgomery apologized for the uncharacteristically emotional meeting, but said that if the school lost Perri as superintendent/president, it would “lose a gem that could not be replaced.”

The next board meeting is Aug. 21.

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