COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — It wasn’t on the official agenda for the school board meeting.
At least not the paper agenda.
But the Adams 14 school district voted 3-2 to increase the pay of superintendent Dr. Javier Abrego by $4,125 and give the district’s leader a one-time $25,000 contribution to his retirement plan.
The move, which came as an addendum to the agenda of Tuesday night’s meeting, has upset some parents and community members who didn’t expect the move.
“Being that it comes after a lot of community engagement and parents speaking out saying things in the district aren’t going well, teachers coming out and saying they’re working under horrible working conditions and then having the superintendent getting a raise is almost like as slap in the face,” said Janet Estrada, whose son attends Hanson Elementary in the school’s biliteracy program.
“It makes it seem like the superintendent is doing an excellent job turning around the district and he is not.”
Estrada said she had no idea Abrego’s salary was being discussed. Had she known the school board planned to vote on it, she says she would have made an extra effort to attend the meeting.
“It speaks to how they’ve been handling things for years now, no transparency, doing things not with integrity for sure and again just dismissing the community voice,” she said.
The school board president, Timio Archuleta told Next the salary increase was tied to an evaluation during the last school year, but it had never been made official by the board, which was the purpose of this vote.
“We’re as transparent as we can be with the district,” he said.
The method of the board’s vote is under question though. Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires public bodies to provide notice of their meetings 24 hours in advance, with topics the body plans to discuss at the meeting.
“The point of that is to give the public an idea of what their school board or their city council or their county commission is going to be talking about so if they’re interested in that they can watch the process and they can listen to what their public officials are saying and listen to how they’re making that decision,” said Jeff Roberts executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition
“It’s considered to be something of a flexible standard and there are things that come up but they should be related to an item on an agenda,” he said.
The board added Abrego’s salary addendum to the agenda in the first moments of Tuesday’s meeting.
Roberts says a 2008 Colorado Supreme Court case over meeting notification establishes a certain standard.
“A notice is sufficient as long as the items actually considered at the meeting are reasonably related to the subject matter indicated by the notice,” Roberts read from the Court’s ruling.
“So if there’s nothing on the agenda about the superintendents raise, there’s nothing that can be reasonably related,” he added.
Archuleta was unfamiliar with the 2008 case, and said he would ask the board attorney about it.
Archuleta told Next the apparent discrepancy with Abrego’s salary was brought to the board “probably a month ago”. He said the board didn’t receive the written addendum to Abrego’s contract from the district attorney until “a few days” before the meeting.
When asked if the board could have waited a few weeks to put it on a future agenda, Archuleta said “Sure, we probably could have waited.”
Archuleta said the board frequently makes in meeting changes to agendas, either dropping or adding items for the board to consider.
He admits, people who don’t attend the meeting wouldn’t know about the changes.
“They don’t know what’s actually on the agenda because we amend it from time to time. So, they may get a list of what our agenda items are, but they may change. They may get dropped off or something else may get added, but we do it at the beginning,” he said.
A community organizer told Next parents upset by the move may try to take the district to court over the matter.