Trustees reapprove COLA increase for PRJUSD superintendent

PASO ROBLES — Some items were brought back to the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District’s Board of Trustees Tuesday night for reapproval. 

At the Tuesday, May 23 meeting, staff brought back due to education code 35164, “the governing board shall act by majority vote of all of the membership constituting the governing board,” and Board Bylaw 9323.2, which reads, “The Governing Board shall act by a majority vote of all of the membership constituting the Board, unless otherwise required by law.” 

Because the majority of the governing board is four of seven members, items approved with three of five present members must be brought back to the board for approval. One of those items approved was the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Superintendent Curt Dubost, approved on April 25. 

Dubost had previously requested that he not receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2022-23 until all other employees have been paid. At the Dec. 13, 2022, meeting, trustees approved an agreement with Paso Robles Public Educators (PRPE) and district management. Then at the Feb. 28 meeting, trustees approved the agreement with California School Employees Association, Chapter #254. These agreements then prompted a 10 percent COLA increase in compensation for Dubost.

There was a controversy between trustees regarding why the superintendent contract was not included on the agenda during the April 25 meeting. Trustee Laurene McCoy had especially raised concerns over the accompanying documents not being attached to the agenda the same way they are with every other agenda item. This then prompted Trustee Dorian Baker to request the agenda item to be tabled to another meeting, which was voted down.

Going back and forth with Trustee Nathan Williams regarding the April 25 meeting, McCoy said, “The point is you didn’t attach the documents that were needed, but every other attachment has always been there except that one little thing that is not a little thing … as a board president you need to make sure that things are there that are supposed to be there.”

The contract was given to trustees after closed session on April 25 and trustees McCoy and Baker felt there was not enough time to review the document. Staff admitted there was an error in not adding the contract to the agenda.

“I acknowledge that wasn’t attached. There was no [malice] to it,” said Nathan Williams in response to McCoy. “You could have asked at any time for it.”

McCoy reinstated that she would be voting no on the COLA increase for Dubost and Baker reaffirmed that the item should have been tabled when she requested it to be.

“I think my biggest concern is probably the transparency issue,” added Trustee Kenney Enney. “The public did not have access to the document. The perception was that it was being hidden from them. One of the reasons why I am doing this job is because I want to make sure people have faith and confidence in the system and that does not support faith and confidence in the people.”

At the end of the discussion, the COLA increase was again approved by trustees with a 4-3 vote, Baker, McCoy and Enney voting no.

In other business, geohazard study results have revealed a potential danger lurking beneath Georgia Brown Elementary School in Paso Robles. These include ground shaking, surface rupture liquefaction, tsunami, and landslides. From the results of the study, it has now been confirmed that an “anomalous feature” exists directly under the current campus. While the Department of the State Architect (DSA) assures there is no immediate safety issue, the discovery will cause delays in the planned modernization and construction. Staff recommends postponing the move to a temporary site until further information is gathered, prompting discussions on alternative plans and community input. 

Trustee Joel Peterson addressed the DSA’s findings and request to investigate further. 

“They (DSA) understand we are retrofitting an 80-year-old building that is one story that’s withstood a 6.5 earthquake 20 years ago, across from where they are building multi-million dollar houses, apartments, brand new Boys & Girls Club within a quarter mile of this place?” he said.

Peterson finalized his comments with, “I am not going to stop my quest to have that school rebuilt and remodeled in that end of town.”

Ultimately, trustees approved to pause the move of staff and students to the temporary campus, pause design work on the current 36th Street Campus remodel, and work with staff to schedule a special meeting to discuss how to move forward once reports from safety inspections and investigations are complete later this month.

The next Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, at 6 p.m.