Pinnacle Editorial: Trustees failed community by approving raise

Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella is replaceable.

That is all the Gavilan College Board of Trustees needed to grasp when deciding whether to award him last month with a $42,000 annual pay increase that will bring his compensation package to $276,090 annually plus benefits.

But somehow, six of seven trustees failed to understand the reality of this new economy, the resultant financial crisis that government institutions will continue to face going forward, and the plight of the everyday taxpayer who just took another kick from the public sector to an already bruised shin.

The Gavilan College board’s decision not only reflects the very reasons why voters have come to distrust elected officials like poison, but it also revealed that a majority of the current crop of community college leaders personify the lacking fortitude and willingness to make bold decisions, to lead, to recognize the repercussions from sending an irresponsible, precedent-setting, morale-dashing message to the taxpaying community along with staff members and students who have absorbed painful hits to their wallets in recent years and will likely continue doing so.

You certainly can’t blame Kinsella for pursuing a new professional challenge by seeking the higher-paying chancellor job at West Valley Community College – a salary that Gavilan College trustees eventually matched while he maintained standing as one of three finalists for the opening in Santa Clara County.

His bosses on the board, however, have no credible excuse other than acknowledging they either lack confidence in their abilities to fulfill one of the most important facets of their job, to oversee or hire a top administrator who handles day-to-day operations at the college, or that they are just plain too lazy to take on the challenge.

Aside from the only sensible stand on the board from the lone dissenter, Hollister-area Trustee Tony Ruiz, others did offer their share of rationalizing the irrational.

They reasoned, for instance, that the raise was worth the money because it would have cost that much in the first year or two to conduct a high-priced search.

Aside from the fact that Kinsella’s increase will establish a new bar for where the president’s salary can go, it carries indirect consequences as well.

Using trustees’ justification – that the search would add a significant cost equaling the pay raise in the short term – we believe every other Gavilan College employee should research or calculate the average cost to find a replacement for his or her position and to demand a raise that is equal to that amount.

In all reality, trustees should and likely would be offended by such demands. They would wave politely and thank the employees for their service to the district – which is precisely what they should have done in Kinsella’s case.

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