Several parents, occasionally raising their voices during a contentious school board meeting last week, asked why certain Laguna Beach Unified School District administrators got their jobs.
District officials said any hiring or transferring was done based on the person's many years of experience.
Howard Hills and Tammy Keces were two of the half-dozen Laguna Beach residents who questioned a proposed appointment for the position of fiscal services director and a teacher's job transfer within the district.
"There are other competent professionals in our district who aren't given an opportunity to apply," Keces said.
Residents wondered how Linda Barker, a second-grade teacher at Top of the World Elementary School and president of the Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Assn., was transferred to a new role training teachers on new Common Core state educational standards.
Barker, who has taught for 29 years, defended herself before the board members and public.
"I have served in many roles: the science coordinator for 14-plus years, a science-technology-engineering-arts-mathematics specialist," she said. "I have a master's in science in education curriculum and served as teacher in charge when Principal Ron LaMotte is not on campus.
"I have not promoted this move as a promotion," Barker said. "My title is the same, pay is the same, role is the same. The only difference is the audience will change. Whether someone agrees with it or not, this has turned into a personal attack on me."
"This is not personal," Hills said. "When stewardship does not protect the integrity of the system, who suffers? We need to make sure we are getting the best person for the right job to maintain morale of all school employees."
Supt. Sherine Smith said she met with all four principals and they recommended Barker for the job.
"We would like to see how you're voting," Keces said.
"We talked all year about whether we wanted to use a consultant or a TOSA [Teacher on Special Assignment, from within the district]," Smith said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Staff decided on the latter.
"She is still a teacher," Smith said of Barker. "She will not teach children, but will teach and coach adults. Her assignment is changing and that's not something the board had to approve. This is comparable to a teacher moving from second to fifth grade. Principals assign teachers to grade levels. The board's role is to approve policy and provide oversight."
Some parents said more people should have been given a chance to apply for the TOSA appointment.
Board member Ketta Brown acknowledged parents' concerns about the openness of the TOSA appointment process but stands by school administrators in this case.
"I understand about procedure. We heard it loud and clear," Brown said at the meeting. "When four site principals come to you saying this is the best person for the job, I felt like principals know better than I.But we need to be more systematic and have a standard from this point forward."
Residents also questioned why Shannon Soto, the district's fiscal services director, was set to receive a pay raise to $144,089 from her current $132,792 salary and a job title change to administrative services director.
Brown wondered aloud whether Soto's position would overlap with other administrators' duties.
"Are Dean [West], Shannon and Ray [Lee] doing the same thing?" Brown said. "We've got to figure it out."