The Española School District Board approved April 17 on a 4-1 vote to extend Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez’s contract through June 30, 2020, with the option for either party to cancel the contract by Jan. 31, 2020, if a new superintendent is hired.
Gutierrez will remain at her current $140,000 annual salary.
In contrast to the lack of pay increase, the last paragraph of the contract allows Gutierrez to accrue 10 more days of vacation, for a total of 40 days.
Whenever she leaves the District, her new contract allows her to be paid for no more than 30 days of unused vacation, an increase of 20 days from her previous contract.
“It builds in protection for me but also protects the Board,” she said.
The Board added a provision that allows either them or Gutierrez to cancel the contract because this is the first time Board members will be elected in November, instead of the traditional February election.
Another factor is the election of four Board members in November. Normally school board elections have three or two seats up for election, depending on the election cycle.
When Patrick Herrera was forced off the Board in August 2018 because he did not live in his district. He was replaced by Matthew Pana.
Pana is allowed to fill the position until the next scheduled election, which is Nov. 5. Because Pana must run for Herrera’s vacated seat, which is the fourth seat up for grabs.
It is possible four new Board members will join Board Secretary Gilbert Serrano on Jan. 1, 2020, and that group may not want Gutierrez to lead the District.
This contract allows for the Board to find a new superintendent without having to buy out Gutierrez’s contract. Conversely, Gutierrez may not want to work for a newly-elected Board and can resign, with 30 days notice, and be paid her vacation.
Gutierrez said Monday that when she returned in 2017, she planned to stay for two years to finish some of the things she had started in 2015. Then with the state Public Education Department takeover of the District’s finances, she wanted to see through the return of control to the District.
She said she’s still willing to stay through her contract but the probability of a changed Board makes it difficult to commit to such a contract.
“This contract gives them (the next Board) a chance to hire their own,” Gutierrez said. “And that’s fine. If the new super wants help, I’ll be glad to do that.
The new one-year contract did not give Gutierrez a raise, although she could have had the same 6 percent increase all District employees will receive in the next Fiscal Year, beginning July 1, 2020. Gutierrez turned down the raise in lieu of being allowed to accrue more leave and be paid for more leave, should she resign or be terminated in January.
Board Member Pablo Lujan was the lone dissenting vote against approving the new contract. He said he preferred to give Gutierrez the 6 percent raise and not allow the increased vacation days.
Lujan asked what the vacation pay would come to, if Gutierrez would sell back the extra days. Human Resources Manager Esther Romero said to divide her salary by 2,080 hours and multiply it by 20 additional days. That comes to $10,770, if Gutierrez leaves in January. The 6 percent raise would have come to $8,400 for the entire contract year.
“I’d rather give her the 6 percent,” Lujan said. “It would save the District $3,000.”
The difference is $2,370.
If Gutierrez leaves in January 2019, it would cost the District more than $2,370 because had she been given the raise, she would have only been paid at the higher rate for seven months, not the full 12 months. She would have earned an additional $4,900 through January 2020 and would still receive the full benefits of 20 additional days of vacation for a difference of $5,870.
Should Gutierrez stay through the contract and leave on June 30, 2020 and she is paid the extra vacation at that time, it will cost the District $2,370 more than had she been given the 6 percent raise.
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