The controversy over teacher contract negotiations took an odd turn during a Desert Sands Unified school board meeting on Tuesday night – invoking comparisons to Vice President Joe Biden and the recent terror attacks in Boston.
The Desert Sands Unified School District is still negotiating with the district teachers union to finalize a contract for this school year, which is nearly over. As negotiations have dragged on, criticism of the district and board has been common at school board meetings.
During a board meeting on Tuesday, the criticism was more usual, personal and vitriolic.
One teacher, Gabrielle Jackson, opened her plea for settlement by referencing the recent terror attacks at the Boston Marathon. The bombings have killed three people and injured more than 100 others.
“Someday I dream I will wake up and hear that that people have stopped hurting each other on purpose. Furthermore, (it might be) that teachers will be recognized for having a special gift … Maybe we might be compensated for our efforts and talents as professionals. Please do not scoff at my idealism and say these things are not possible. All it would take to have peace is for each person to decide they would not hurt anyone anymore. And all it would take to settle our contract is for each of you to decide that my colleagues and I are valued and appreciated and settle with our negotiators.”
Several other critics targeted district Superintendent Gary Rutherford, who started the job in February.
David Parsons, a foreign language teacher from Shadow Hills High School in Indio, criticized Rutherford for not sharing in the sacrifice of teachers voluntarily giving back part of his salary, which is “tens of thousands of dollars above what Vice President Joe Biden earns.”
“Sir, you exhibit hubris,” Parson said, gesturing towards Rutherford, who furrowed his brow in surprise.
Desert Sands Unified School District Superintendent Gary Rutherford is photographed at the Desert Sands Unified School District Education Center in La Quinta on December 16, 2012. Photo by Gerry Maceda, Special to The Desert Sun
Rutherford earns a $242,000 salary, plus additional compensation that includes a $1,200 annual stipend for his doctorate degree, $3,000 a year for a tax-sheltered annuity and $9,000 to compensate him for using his vehicle.
The previous superintendent, Sharon McGehee, who spent five years with the district, would have received salary of $279,884 if she had worked the full year. The average salary for superintendents in districts with more than 20,000 students is about $223,000. Desert Sands has about 29,000 students.
Vice President Biden earns $230,700 per year, but he is also provided a mansion and other uncommon benefits by the federal government.
This is what the mansion looks like, by the way. Photo from WhiteHouseMuseum.org
Ironically, much like Rutherford, Biden has been criticized recently for not giving back part of his salary. Although sequestration has prompted President Obama and many White House cabinet members to forfeit about five percent of their salaries, Biden has made no such gesture, according to a recent report by CBS News. Biden is less wealthy than most of the other cabinet members, who were independently wealthy before they assumed their posts, according to the CBS News report.