Ontario-Montclair Superintendent Lost $100,000 From a Single Sentence Change in His Contract

James Hammond still made $646,744 last year, partly due to pay raises totaling more than 15%

Ontario-Montclair School District’s superintendent made roughly $100,000 less in 2022 after the school board removed a single sentence from his contract, according to a review of district records.

The amendment eliminated a longstanding provision that allowed Superintendent James Hammond to accrue and then immediately cash out up to 85 sick days annually. In 2021, Hammond was the highest paid superintendent in the state, with a total compensation package, including pay and benefits, just below $750,000.

Of that total, $129,506 came solely from trading in that year’s accrual of sick leave.

Newly obtained records show Hammond’s compensation dropped to $646,744 last year as a result of the amendment unanimously approved by the school board in June. The revision not only removed a sentence allowing him to cash-out sick time, but also capped Hammond’s accrual of sick time at 85 days per year. His contract originally gave him 30 days of sick leave, plus five days for each year of service since his hiring in 2010.

He is still permitted to trade in up to 25 days of vacation, according to his contract.

The district is required to pay Hammond for 444 days of banked sick leave and any amount of unused vacation days upon his exit from the district. He had 556 days of sick time and six vacation days banked as of October 2022. The California State Teachers Retirement System also converts any remaining unused sick leave above 12 days per year into additional service credits upon retirement.

Even with the reduction, Hammond would have still been the highest paid K-12 administrator in California compared to his peers from 2021, according to data compiled by Transparent California.

Compensation breakdown

Hammond’s annual compensation in 2022 included:

  • $447,641 in direct pay, including $39,903 from cashing out his entire vacation accrual for the year.
  • $62,202 in contributions to the California State Teachers Retirement System.
  • $75,150 in deferred compensation.
  • $27,500 for a whole-life insurance policy.
  • $34,251 toward health and wellness.

A Southern California News Group investigation in 2021 first detailed how Hammond used his carefully crafted contract and ever increasing amount of leave to raise his compensation to the top of the charts.

Records show the reduction in the superintendent’s pay last year is almost entirely attributable to the elimination of his sick leave cash-outs. Two salary increases allowed him to offset some of the loss, however.

Hammond’s contract lets him waive an annual cost-of-living increase to instead take any raise provided to the district’s bargaining units. He accepted a 4.76% raise given to California School Employees Association members in April, and then in October received an additional 10.25% raise as a result of the newly approved contracts with CSEA and the Ontario-Montclair Teachers Association, records showed.

15.5% raise in 2022

His salary jumped nearly 15.5% total in the calendar year, going from $26,591 per month in January 2022 to $30,712 a month in October.

The two unions have been generally supportive of the superintendent and endorsed his supporters on the board in the last election. Emails obtained in a public records request indicated the leaders of CSEA and OMTA warned Hammond that a reporter had contacted them to ask about his high pay in 2021.

Hammond is seemingly well-liked in Ontario-Montclair, and the school board has credited him with many of the district’s successes over the past decade, including the passage of a facilities bond in 2016 and reductions in suspensions and expulsions. The district’s academic performance is consistent with state averages in most cases, according to GreatSchools, a nonprofit that rates schools and districts to assist parents. Though OMSD is expected to have a deficit this school year, it has ended the past two years with surpluses, according to a recent annual audit report.

The district, like others in the state, is suffering from declining enrollment. It has lost 1,596 students since 2019, the audit found.

Voters reelected board members

Though some parents criticized Hammond’s high pay at board meetings in response to the Southern California News Group’s investigation, voters were less concerned and overwhelmingly supported all three incumbents in the 2022 election.

Board member Elvia Rivas, while serving as president in 2021, previously defended Hammond’s generous compensation and the sick-leave cash-outs specifically. She explained in an email at the time that Hammond’s pay was structured to provide “financial incentives for him to stay in OMSD and prevent the frequent turnover in the superintendent’s position that occurs in many urban school districts.”

“Dr. Hammond’s continuity of effective leadership has made a huge positive difference in the lives of students and the families we serve,” Rivas wrote.

Minutes of the June 16 meeting, when the board revoked the sick leave cash-outs, did not indicate any discussion by the board. The minutes show Hammond verbally outlined the changes, as required by law, and stated it would decrease the district’s fiscal obligations.

Rivas has not responded to past requests to explain the reasoning for the change. Neither Hammond, nor new board President Sonia Alvarado, a real estate agent who once helped Hammond sell a home the district bought for him, responded to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full article in the SB Sun

Editorial: As state superintendent race tightens, Tuck the best choice

In this editorial, the Orange County Register reaffirms it’s endorsement of Marshall Tuck for state superintendent of schools:

Let’s not bury the lede: California’s school superintendent race has drawn nearly three times the campaign spending as the race for governor. It has generated more than double the spending of the last three superintendent races combined. It has featured a clash of union interests, billionaires, charter schools and Hollywood stars.

And yet, according to an Oct. 30 Field Poll, challenger Marshall Tuck and incumbent Tom Torlakson are tied at 28 percent – with 44 percent of voters undecided.

The campaign resembles something of political trench warfare: Each side lobbing shells, but gaining little ground. Field Poll’s Late August/Early September results found a 3 point split in favor of Mr. Tuck, 31-28, with 41 percent undecided.

In other words, after $30 million dollars of combined campaign spending – a number compiled by Oakland-based education think tank EdSource, roughly 80 percent of it independent expenditures – California voters are in about the same place they were two months ago.

The Register has previously endorsed Mr. Tuck for the office, calling him a “mission-driven education reformer.” We reaffirm that endorsement, and the results of the recent Field Poll give us even more confidence in his candidacy.

Read the full editorial here