OC Register Is Hot for Teacher . . . Salaries

Local educators fume as the daily publishes its latest salary database

“School employees,” he wrote, “perform one of the most critical tasks in our society. They educate and keep safe our children, beset often by challenges stemming from growing class sizes, shrinking resources and a multitude of responsibilities that extend beyond simply conveying grammar, math, history and science to our children.”

Diepenbrock conceded in his message to the paper’s readers that the project has been met with resistance, consternation—even lawsuit threats. As for calls that the daily release its employees’ salary information, he explained, “We are employees in a private industry. As such, our salaries are already known to our stakeholders—those who own and manage our company.”

The Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD) held out the longest in providing information for the Register database, which includes all 27 public-school systems in the county and the Orange County Department of Education.

Curt Merlo

In an Oct. 19 letter to all HBUHSD employees, Deborah M. Coleman, the assistant superintendent in charge of human resources, explained the district wanted to make extra-sure it must release the data, but in the end, “it has been determined that the requested information is within the rights of the Register and our district must relinquish this data.”

She attached an Oct. 6 letter written by Diepenbrock on Register letterhead to the district’s records supervisor requesting the names, job titles, work locations, employment status (certificated, classified, pupil services, administration or other), full or part-time status, years of service in the district and/or educational attainment (step and column), the district step and column key, base salaries, and details on elevating base salaries to total pay for all employees.

The Santa Ana-based daily further requested such information of every district employee making more than $100,000 per year. If no teacher was identified earning that much, the district was to single out its highest-paid teacher, with the salary and all other data.

Diepenbrock wrote it’s not the paper’s intent to publish the salaries of the district’s lowest-paid employees, and anyone with “potentially life-threatening situations” that could arise from their information being published was directed to provide him documentation. These exclusions are the reason the final published database will include about 37,000 workers rather than all 72,000, he explained.

In light of Diepenbrock’s demand, Coleman disclosed in her message, “Individual employees DO NOT need to provide any of the information requested by The Orange County Register. The district office will be responding to the public-records request and providing the data that is being requested.” Three times in the message, Coleman advised employees to contact Diepenbrock directly if they had problems with any of it—and included the editor’s phone number each time.

When it comes to fears about the Register’s reporting, the CTA is considering the source. The Freedom Communications flagship has had a bad reputation among educators ever since its late owner, libertarian icon R.C. Hoiles, dictated that reporters must refer to “public schools” as “taxpayer-supported schools.” Guy says the war on public education continues on the Register op-ed page and in some pointed news stories.

“We do feel they have a history of bias against public education,” he says, “so that causes concern.”

This article appeared in print as "Hot for Teacher . . . Salaries: Local educators fume as The Orange County Register publishes latest salary database."

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