A tone-deaf decision

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it seems that public boards and commissions are tone deaf when it comes to pay raises for leaders.

The latest to join the clinker chorus is the state Board of Education. The board announced Tuesday that it is raising Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi’s annual salary by 33 percent next month.

Matayoshi’s new pay will be $200,000 – up from its current $150,000.

Our reaction is the same as it was when the Maui County Salary Commission voted last year to bump the mayor’s pay 19 percent and council members by 15 percent – shock. Just what message does a double-digit increase for leaders send to public-sector unions?

In the superintendent’s case, the argument was made that the pay level has remained unchanged for 15 years. It can be argued right back that at least for the first decade results in public schools should have warranted pay cuts and firings, certainly not a raise.

Matayoshi has been superintendent since 2010 and real progress is being made. But a much more prudent decision would have been a single-digit increase – and a promise to use performance reviews annually to give future merit raises.

The board also decided to give the deputy superintendent, Ron Nozoe, a $20,000 pay increase. That amounts to almost a 15 percent raise. Nozoe’s annual pay will go from $140,000 to $160,000.

Again, a smaller pay raise should have been put in with yearly reviews promised.

Frankly, it is negligence not to review leaders’ performance – and compensation – on a yearly basis. Not only is it impossible to play catch-up, it is unfair to the leader and the public to not review how the job is being done.

And, again, huge pay hikes raise the very real problem of sending the wrong message to bargaining-unit employees.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.