Controversial pay raise for a Visalia superintendent

VISALIA, Calif.

For the last year, Craig Wheaton has been serving as the interim superintendent at Visalia Unified School District. This week, the school board voted to hire Wheaton on full-time and that means a three-year contract with scheduled salary increases. It also means Wheaton will be paid $16 thousand more than he was as an "interim" superintendent.

Wheaton said, "I view it really as being appointment to a position. If we have a principal leave we're going to reappoint someone to that position and so I've been filling in as superintendent interim for one year and now I'm a permanent position."

While the permanent position as superintendent means a raise for Wheaton, he doesn't think it's over-the-top. In fact, he says Visalia Unified has one of the lowest paid superintendents for the size of its district.

Here's how Visalia Unified compares to nearby districts. Porterville Unified has far fewer students but the superintendent's salary is somewhat similar. Clovis Unified has roughly 11,000 more students and a much higher salary.

Parents here at Manuel Hernandez Elementary School had mixed views on whether the superintendent should get a raise during tough budget times

Dolores Ramirez said, "No because that's taxpayer money and California is already in debt."

Theresa Anderson said, "Sure by all means you know he should be accredited for the job that he's doing."

No matter what, Craig Wheaton's salary will top out at $190 thousand after he's been with the district for five years.

Right now, Visalia Unified is preparing for only half-a-million dollars in budget cutbacks for next year. No teachers will be laid off and right now, negotiations are looking like even teachers will get a raise. Still, next year the district may not be so lucky.

Wheaton said, "It's the year after we're really concerned about."

Wheaton promises any future salary freezes, furlough days or benefit decreases will also apply to him, as well.

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