Board approves contract for deputy superintendent

Benjamin Huang, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Community member Christopher Boyd voices his concerns over the size of new deputy superintendent Karen Hendricks’ salary to the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday. Hendricks will be paid $240,000 a year for her services, which is significantly higher than the salaries of most other PAUSD employees. “We’re out there as parents, raising funds, a million dollars here, a million dollars there. It adds up. And guess what? It’s all gone,” Boyd said. Photo: Benjamin Huang

Following five resounding “ayes” from the members of the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education, former Interim Supt. Karen Hendricks is stepping up to fill the new role of deputy superintendent after the board on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve her employment contract. 

According to Hendricks, some of her new responsibilities include oversight of the district’s Human Resources office, the Title IX and Office for Civil Rights compliance departments and the Public Records Act Department. 

“I’ll be working a lot in compliance and managing incoming concerns and complaints to make sure that they’re addressed efficiently and completely,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks will serve as a second-in-command to Supt. Don Austin for a period of almost three years starting Sept. 5, according to a copy of her employment agreement in school board documents. During that time, she will receive a salary of $240,000 per year.

This amount is significantly higher than the yearly salaries of most PAUSD employees, according to a 2018-2019 salary schedule for PAUSD contracted management personnel.

Hendricks said she looks forward to her new job.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Hendricks said. “I think we have a strong team here that’s supportive of the student experience. … I’m pleased to be a part of it.”

Board member Terry Godfrey praised Hendricks’s work as interim superintendent over the past year.

“I am so pleased that you are willing to do this for us,” Godfrey said to Hendricks at the dais. “Last year, when we had a little bit of chaos … as you wended your way through the year, I thought, ‘Have we worn her down? Is she running away?’ And so having you pop up and be willing to go back at it … I’m very pleased with that, and I thank you very much for the effort that you made.”

Hendricks served as the interim superintendent following Max McGee’s resignation in October until the district hired Don Austin in May to serve as a permanent superintendent.

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell said Hendricks would also bring focus to the district’s Title IX and OCR compliance departments.

“I think that your oversight and compliance on Title IX took us to a different level than we had been before,” Baten Caswell said. “I do think that your oversight of it in addition to your expertise around HR will help our district do this better. So I am very happy to have you take this role on.”

Not everyone at the meeting was content about the contract. Community member Christopher Boyd voiced concerns about the effects of the deputy superintendent’s salary on the district’s budget.

“When we look at the financial implications of this decision that we’re making …  and when you think of the senior staff of the Palo Alto Unified School District, and how much of the budget is allocated to that segment, that is something that I think requires profound discussion,” Boyd said. “I think the public needs to weigh in.”

The district’s chief business officer, Cathy Mak, said that factoring the deputy superintendent’s salary into the budget would not lead to more than a $21,000 budget increase per year.

According to board member Ken Dauber, monetary concerns are secondary to the invaluable services Hendricks will provide as deputy superintendent. 

“In terms of the financial piece of this … speaking from the district’s perspective to the extent that I can, I think this is a good bargain,” Dauber said. “We’re going to get way more than $21,000 of additional value out of Ms. Hendricks.”