No salary cap for Gavilan president?

Steve Kinsella has spearheaded fiscal restraint during tight

Against a backdrop of rising class fees at Gavilan College and the decision to place salary caps for newly hired campus presidents at California State Universities, a $42,000 pay increase for Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella continues to ignite heated reactions within the community.

Kinsella made about $40 per student in the 2010-11 school year, when the average full-time enrollment for fall and spring semesters at Gavilan was about 5,800. That’s more than what presidents earn at CSU Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno, Fullerton, Humboldt, Long Beach, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Sonoma and San Luis Obispo, where the salary-to-student ratios ran from $8 to $39, and the average full-time student enrollment for fall and spring semesters ranged from 7,600 to 35,000 students.

“I told my wife when I came home – I said, ‘people are going be upset,’ but I didn’t have any idea how much,” said Gavilan School Board Trustee Tony Ruiz, recalling the special Gavilan College School Board meeting Oct. 26 when Kinsella’s contract was extended four years in a 6-to-1 vote.

As the lone opposing vote to the $42,000 raise – a decision Ruiz reiterated is in no way related to Kinsella’s job performance – Ruiz said people are still thanking him for his stance.

Community members continue to express “how angry they are” over the president’s hefty pay bump, according to Ruiz.

“This is big. I’ve never seen such a reaction,” said Ruiz, who graduated from Gavilan in 1960 and taught there for 30 years until 1999. “Parents are being pinched with fees and costs … students are really feeling the brunt. It’s a very, very tough time for young people in general.”

The four-year contract came as an incentive for Kinsella, who concurrently was a finalist in the search for a new chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District. Kinsella officially withdrew from candidacy for the chancellor position in late November after trustees extended and upped his contract.

Beginning Jan. 1 2012, Kinsella’s salary rose from $234,090 to $255,090. It will increase by $42,000 to $276,090 by 2015, as described in his contract dated Oct. 26, 2011.

Kinsella will also receive a lump sum of $31,500 if he remains employed with Gavilan College as of Dec. 31, 2015 when his contract expires. His previous four-year contract outlined a 3 percent pay increase annually until 2015. Kinsella’s salary will increase by about 9 percent starting in 2012.

In the country’s largest public school system in New York City, home to 1.1 million students, Chancellor Dennis Walcott is paid $212,614. In Los Angeles Unified School District – the second largest public school district in the nation with 672,000 students – Superintendent John Deasy earns $275,000.

When hired, Deasy refused a pay increase.

Kinsella did not respond with comments as of press time.

His pay hike comes at a time when student fees are increasing, state funding for community colleges is sinking and lids are tightening on CSU presidents’ paychecks.

On Jan. 25, California State University board of trustees established a policy that caps salaries at $325,000 for newly hired presidents; or raises salaries by no more than 10 percent of what the predecessor made. CSU trustees are currently searching for five new presidents in the 23-campus system.

At the local level, Gavilan lost $480,000 in state funding when $980 million in mid-year trigger cuts statewide went into effect Dec. 13. The trigger cut was caused by shortfalls in state revenues.

Of the $980 million, community colleges were left to shoulder $102 million of the trigger cuts. Of this, $30 million will be treated as a one-time deficit; the other $72 million will be permanently reduced.

For Gavilan, this equates to a $480,000 loss in state funding; or funding for 108 full-time students. They’ll feel the ripple effects soon.

Following a $10 spike in per-unit credits from $26 to $36 in fall 2011, Gavilan College students will have to shell out $46 per unit come summer 2012.

Once unit fees increase, they’re not likely to go back down, according to Kinsella.

Because of this, “the college will continue to make adjustments to the upcoming semester’s class schedules to bring our enrollment down and closer to the enrollment level the state will pay for,” said Kinsella in November.

In fall 2011, Gavilan was already serving 300 more full-time students than what is funded for by the state. The spring and summer semesters will see small adjustments to class schedules, Kinsella said.

Regarding the fee hike, several students cruising around Gavilan Thursday had similar outlooks regarding the fee hike: It’s not cool.

Many said something to the effect of “thank God for financial aid,” but pointed out the assistance only goes so far when books, gas, and food are factored in.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Jose Rosales, 21, remarking on the steadily rising cost of education. “I kind of wish we were back in the 1980s.”

Rosales graduated in 2009 from San Benito High School in 2009. He lives with his parents in Hollister, and is pursuing a career in digital media.

His classmate and fellow San Benito alumnus, 22-year-old Juan Garcia, said he’ll have to pick up more hours at McDonald’s – his place of employment in Hollister – to help cover rising school expenses. Garcia lives with his parents and helps them pay the rent on their house.

A handful of students had no idea about Kinsella’s raise – but raised their eyebrows at the tidy sum of $276,090.

“I find that unfair. I find that really ridiculous,” said AJ Velazquez, 20, who graduated from San Benito High School in 2009. “I think he should put some of his money towards fixing the campus.”

Velazquez motioned to a blocked-off area behind him in the student center, which is closed down for fix-it renovations.

Velazquez said he didn’t know about the unit fee increase either. His parents, who help him pay for tuition, “are going to be upset about having to pay more money,” he said.

As 2010-11 was the first year of class schedule reductions caused by budget cuts, enrollment was down for the first time in five years during the fall and spring semesters, according to Jan Bernstein-Chargin, director of public information at Gavilan.

Still, comparing Kinsella’s pay with that of CSU presidents is a case of apples and oranges, according to Gavilan School Board Trustee Tom Breen.

Smaller institutions such as Gavilan impose “far more duties” on a president, he said.

Whereas CSU institutions have multiple “layers” of management, Breen pointed out Gavilan has a leaner staff with three vice presidents, several deans and fewer administrative personnel.

“The big institutions have lots of vice presidents and administrative officials that take on a lot of the work,” Breen continued. “There’s a substantial difference between smaller schools and bigger schools.”

As for the salary ceiling set by CSU’s new policy, Breen said pay caps for presidents are “a good idea, if salaries are running away.”

When asked if the measure should be applied to community colleges in the future, Breen replied “boards should consider salaries at all levels. Not just for the highest paid.”

Another major variable trustees cited is the cost and time associated with searching for a replacement. Gavilan will save, at the very least, the first two years of Kinsella’s raise by not having to conduct a search for a new college president – “not to mention the intrinsic savings of no interruption to programs and budget planning during a year or two transition time,” wrote School Board President Laura Perry in a letter to the Dispatch Nov. 18, 2011.

She also pointed out that when Kinsella took over as president in 2003, Gavilan went from having a $1.8 million deficit and $1 million in reserves to having zero deficit, $57,000 in surplus and $1.7 million in reserves – in the course of one year.

Kinsella has served as Gavilan’s president for nine years, beginning in 2003. He has been in the California community college system since 1991, and became the Chief Business Officer of Gavilan College in 1996.

Perry pointed out in her letter that Kinsella’s knowledge of accounting and “his unique ability to apply business-like policies to an educational institution has been invaluable.”

Scott Lay, President of the Community College League of California (a nonprofit group providing direction on statewide education policy, research initiatives and publications) illuminated the context and logic behind salary raises.

“This is a really difficult time to look for a new CEO,” said Lay. “The pools are very thin. Boards are skittish about letting go someone they think is a good leader.”

When asked how he would respond if someone questioned why Kinsella is making more per student than most CSU presidents, Lay echoed Breen: The community college jobs aren’t any easier than a CSU job, he maintained.

The duties of a community college president impose a “different, broader role,” he said. “Legally, there are more responsibilities that are put on a community college CEO.”

Still, Ruiz pegs the overarching problem as a recurring scenario in schools and government, where elected officials hire an individual “who knows more than they do collectively, and over time, the group becomes more and more dependent on that person.”

The outcome? High salaries, Ruiz said.

“I think this compensation is a piece of a much larger problem that we have in our government,” he continued. “There has to be some room to award an outstanding superintendent, but it can’t be to the point where it’s outrageous.”

Speaking from a student’s perspective, 27-year-old Amber Morgan called the raise “a little excessive.”

“He’s a good school president – he really is,” she said Thursday between classes. “But it just boggles me, that much money.”

Morgan, who is married and lives in San Martin, is in her second year at Gavilan and will earn her associate degree in Liberal Arts at the end of the school year. Morgan works seven days a week and pays for her classes out of pocket because she doesn’t qualify for financial aid. She hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree in archeology from California State University, Monterey Bay; then continue working toward a doctorate degree.

“It’s tough,” she said, of working her way through school. “It’s hard these days.”

• An online reader poll conducted in November by the GilroyDispatch showed a majority of poll-takers disagreed with Kinsella’spay bump. In Gilroy, 92 percent were opposed.
How presidents compare
Amount made by college presidents, per the average full-timestudent enrollment of fall and spring semesters in 2010-11 (Annualsalary divided by number of students)
Gavilan College: $40 per student
California State University:
– Monterey: $59 per student
– Bakersfield: $37 per student 
– Sonoma: $36 per student
– San Luis Obispo: $20 per student
– Humboldt: $39 per student
– Chico: $18 per student
– LA: $17 per student
– Fresno: $15 per student
– San Diego: $12 per student 
– Sacramento: $11 per student
– San Jose: $12 per student 
– San Francisco: $10 per student
– Long Beach: $10 per student
– Fullerton: $8 per student
Sources: The California State University, Gavilan College

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