Laguna Beach USD to review pay raises for top managers

Leisa Winston, Deputy Supt. of Human Resources and Instructional Services, and Jeffrey Dixon, Assistant Supt. of Business Services. Courtesy of Laguna Beach Unified School District

The Laguna Beach Unified Board of Education will consider contracts exceeding $200,000 for two of its top managers on Thursday—less than two weeks before the close of a board election.

If approved, the base salary for Leisa Winston, Deputy Supt. of Human Resources and Instructional Services would rise from $230,178 to $234,206. Likewise, the base salary for Jeffrey Dixon, Assistant Supt. of Business Services would rise from $204,484 to $208,062.

Laguna Beach Unified had less than 2,800 students enrolled between its four schools, according to its annual report for the 2019-20 school year.

The proposed salary hikes arrive as many parents have grown increasingly impatient with the school board in recent weeks for refusing to reopen Laguna Beach High School and Thurston Middle School for in-person instruction. The Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Association has recommended distance learning to continue until at least the end of the first trimester to prevent a disruption to classes in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The school board will also discuss a Nov. 23 start date for resuming in-person classes at secondary schools on Thursday.

The proposed raises for Winston and Dixon, represent a 1.75% increase—which is also being considered Thursday for the district’s unrepresented managers and the classified staffers represented by the California School Employees Association.

Board president Peggy Wolff defended the executives’ raises, highlighting that newly elected board members will not be sworn in until Dec. 17.

“Their contracts entitle them to the same raises as the other groups,” Wolff wrote in an email Wednesday. “We are approving CSEA and all unrepresented management. We continue to be an acting Board and have been part of the negotiations. Our board continues to operate and govern the district.”

The school board still has the right to determine the timing of employee pay raises.

In July 2019, board members approved Winston’s current salary after her portfolio of responsibilities was expanded to included Instructional Services, which had its own administrator until former Assistant Superintendent Alysia Odipo resigned on June 30, 2019. Winston also oversees the district’s communications with the public and press.

The school board will meet via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22.

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