For $143,002 Raise, Almendarez Leaves CJUSD In The Lurch

Jerry Almendarez, who spent 13 years in the Colton Joint Unified School District as a student, the last nine years as its superintendent, and a decade prior to that as principal and administrator, on January 1, 2020 will depart from the institution where he has spent more than three-fifths of his life.
As the new year dawns, Almendarez will take the helm at the Santa Ana Unified School District
With the move, Almendarez will graduate from overseeing a district of roughly 24,000 students, which qualifies it as the 58th largest school district in California by enrollment and the fifth largest in San Bernardino County, to a district nearly twice the size of Colton Joint Unified. The Santa Ana Unified School District registers as the eleventh-largest school district by population in California and the second largest school district in Orange County.
Almendarez started with Colton Joint Unified as a school principal in July 1999, after spending seven years elsewhere as a teacher. He served as the district’s director of human resources from March 2004 until March 2007 and became the assistant superintendent of human resources in July 2008. He stayed in that assignment until October 2010, at which point he acceded to the superintendent’s spot.
Almendarez has a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from the University of Redlands, and a bachelor’s degree in business/finance from Cal State San Bernardino. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and the University of Redlands. This spring he was named a 2019 Ted-Ed Innovative Educator.
Many believed that Almendarez was absolutely committed to the Colton Joint Unified School District, which operates all of the public schools in Colton, Grand Terrace and Bloomington and the Southridge neighborhood in southernmost Fontana. His own statements and those of his supporters on the school board indicated he was going to remain with Colton Joint Unified until his anticipated retirement, which was not to come for another 15 years. The lure of the money the Santa Ana Unified School District is going to pay him, however, overcame any feelings of loyalty he once felt for the students in the Colton Joint Unified School District. The Santa Ana Unified School District has an annual operating budget of $697.4 million.  Colton Joint Unified had a budget of $257.88 million in Fiscal Year 2017-18.
By making the jump, Almendarez will see his total annual compensation leap from $291,998 to $435,000.
At present, Colton Joint Unified is paying him $239,241 in salary, another $1,500 in compensatory add-ons and $51,257 in benefits. The Santa Ana Unified School District will remunerate him with  $327,000 in salary, other pay of roughly $33,000 and benefits of $75,000.
Almendarez quietly applied for the position in Santa Ana this summer shortly after the district’s superintendent, Stefanie Phillips, announced her resignation on June 25. Almendarez understood that if his application was successful he would need to leave Colton Joint Unified in the lurch. That, in fact, occurred after a three-month long selection and interview process in which the Santa Ana Unified School Board received input from parents, staff, students and community members via an online survey, hearings and public discussions.
Colton Joint Unified was caught flat-footed by the Santa Ana Unified School District’s decision to hire Almendarez, and it must now carry out its own recruitment effort.
The district, nonetheless, made no show of resentment toward Almendarez, providing an official statement that “We wish Superintendent Almendarez the very best and congratulate the Santa Ana school district on an excellent selection,” while maintaining the district was focused on “continuing the outstanding work in our district to prepare all of our students for successful lives and to do that in the best, most effective ways possible.”

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