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Amid Tacoma Strike, One Teacher Resigns After Looking At Administrator Salaries

Ashley Gross
Teachers in Tacoma picketed outside the central administration building on the first day of the strike, Sept. 6.

The strike by teachers in Tacoma has gotten increasingly bitter as it’s stretched into a second week. One long-time middle school teacher tearfully announced her resignation in a short video clip posted by a USA Today correspondent on Twitter.

Anne Hawkins has taught at Jason Lee Middle School for 19 years. She said she loves the students but made up her mind to leave when she started looking up salaries of top district officials in a database maintained by the Kitsap Sun.

“I saw the $500-a-year raise I’ve gotten in the past four years and the $40,000-a-year raise some of the administrators downtown got at the same time they’re pleading poverty and that they can’t afford to give us a raise now,” Hawkins said.

For example, the salary of Tacoma Deputy Superintendent Joshua Garcia has climbed from $207,125 to $250,211 in the past four years. At least eight district officials earn more than $175,000. Superintendent Carla Santorno’s pay has risen from $270,719 in 2013-2014 to $291,606 in the 2017-2018 school year.

Other district superintendents in the Puget Sound region earn similar amounts. Seattle Superintendent Denise Juneau will earn a base salary of $295,000 this school year. Renton Superintendent Damien Pattenaude earned $304,864 in the 2017-2018 school year.

By contrast, Gov. Jay Inslee earned $174,200 last year.

Tacoma school district spokesman Dan Voelpel said salaries are set at the market rate and that pointing out administrator salaries is a tactic often used by the Washington Education Association during strikes.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.