Vikki Vargas/ Lori Bentley
Years of budget cuts have some officials raising eyebrows over the superintendent of the Centinela Valley High School District's salary, who makes more than the President of the United States. Vikki Vargas reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. from Lawndale on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.
Hundreds gathered at an emergency school board meeting at Lawndale High School Center for the Arts Tuesday night, many on hand to address reports that the superintendent of the Centinela Valley Union High School District was earning more money than the president of the United States.
"I’ve worked 12 hours today, but I made sure that I came here today because I wanted the board to know that not only is it wrong, it is unethical, it is immoral to pay anybody that amount," resident Cynthia Mosqueda said.
Superintendent Jose Fernandez earns over $660,000 a year in pay and benefits.
"Seeing how much we have to fundraise for extra things for my kids at school, and these people are getting extra salaries? How is that justified?" Lawndale High School parent Yvette Lindler asked. "When kids don’t even get 10th grade PE anymore because there’s not enough funding? How can that be? I’m simply disgusted by this."
The Centinela Valley Union High School District serves four high schools and 6,600 students in Lawndale and Hawthorne. In comparison, LA Unified has 10 times as many students, and the superintendent of that district earns about $390,000 a year.
"It’s outlandish, it’s off the charts, it’s crazy," Teacher Union president Jack Foreman said. "At a time when we have been sacrificing and we’ve been cutting, we don’t see why the superintendent should get a salary that’s way out of line."
The Centinela Valley Union High School District provided NBC4 with a copy of Fernandez’s contract. According to his contract, Fernandez is entitled to a nine percent pay raise and $1,000 a month in expenses.
Fernandez took over when the district was nearly bankrupt. Since then, residents have approved bonds for school construction. Additionally, more students are staying in school and graduation rates are up, according to an NBC4 report.
"If the guy wasn’t doing his job, sure you fire him. You don’t give somebody a big raise because they’re doing their job that they’re supposed to do," resident Jay Gould said.
Fernandez was also given a $900,000 loan with a 2 percent interest rate to buy a home, according to an NBC4 report.
"The superintendent’s compensation package was vetted by the District’s attorneys, submitted for review to the L.A. County Office of Education, and made public and approved at a properly noticed public meeting. The process was transparent," school district president Martiza Molina said in a statement.
Many attendees of Tuesday’s meeting called for change.
"I hope that this board makes a change and makes a change quickly because if you don’t, the people out here and people like me, will be campaigning in this next election, and we will change the faces of this board," Mosqueda said.