Chance For OMSD To Lose Hammond & His $750,00 Per Year Compensation Slips By

The hopes of a select group of parents in the Ontario-Montclair School District and some local reformers committed to fiscal transparency and accountability that Superintendent James Hammond would depart from the district for a position as a chancellor with a community college district in Washington State were not fulfilled last month.
Hammond has over the last several years become a lightning rod for controversy in the wake of a series of further revelations about what many consider to be the overly generous terms of his contract and financial arrangement the district made for him that augmented his total annual compensation that has approached or exceeded $400,000 for nearly a decade.
It was learned earlier this year that Hammond had applied for and was vigorously competing to become the chancellor of Pierce College/the Pierce County Community College District, which has campuses in Puyallup and Lakewood in Washington state, where he was to be provided a salary and total compensation package that is roughly one third of what the Ontario-Montclair School District is paying him.Though Hammond’s management and direction of the district is not, for the most part, widely criticized, the amount of taxpayer money shelled out for him to do so is, as are misrepresentations he has made at numerous junctures to individuals and agencies up and down the state.
In 2010, Hammond upset the community of Davis and the board of the Davis Joint Unified School District when he announced his intention of leaving the superintendent’s position there. Hammond stated publicly in that northern California city that he was professionally satisfied with the Davis Joint Unified superintendent’s position but that he was prompted to leave for the Ontario-Montclair post to replace outgoing Superintendent Virgil Barnes because he did not want to live apart from his family, who were living in the Inland Empire. Notefully, however, upon taking the job with the Ontario-Montclair School District, Hammond dispensed with the narrative that he had come to Southern California to move in with his family and in private remonstrated to the board, which then consisted of
Steve Garcia, Maureen Mendoza, Paul Vincent Avila, Sam Crowe and David Campio had that he had nowhere to live locally, whereupon the school board in 2011 provided him with what was originally a $100,000 “loan” from the district, which was not recorded properly, for him to purchase a condominium in Ontario. In action that seemingly defied state law, the school board then acceded to Hammond’s request that the district forgive the loan and provide him with another $231,000 to pay off the remaining principal on his financing arrangement for the home purchase, such that the district had provided Hammond with $331,000 to purchase a property originally appraised at $235,000.
There were numerous examples of Hammond using his position with the district and the trust the gullible majority of the school board had placed in him to negotiate for himself deals or arrangements which were grossly in his favor and disadvantageous to the district. It was noted by some in the community that Hammond was nowhere near as cut-throat in his negotiating with vendors and service providers on behalf of the district as he was in negotiating on his own behalf with the district and the board.
Upon his hiring in 2010, he was initially provided with an annual salary of $230,000, which was to run through June 2013. That salary, however, was augmented with benefits that ran to more than $110,000 in 2010 and had crept up to $160,000 by 2013, which were in addition to the unrecorded and ultimately forgiven loans he had received for purchasing his residence in Ontario.
In 2013, his salary was increased to $250,737.63 and he was given pay add-ons of $54,279.46 along with benefits of $187,059.83, for a total annual compensation of $492,076.92.
In 2014, his salary was increased to $263,654.56 and he was given pay add-ons of $133,169.24, though his benefits dipped to $40,335.58 , putting his total annual compensation at $437,159.38 .
In 2015, his salary was $260,000.00 and he received pay add-ons of $214,413.76 together with benefits of $42,159.37, for a total annual compensation of $516,573.13.
In 2016, his salary increased to $267,285.40 and he was given pay add-ons of $264,850.35 along with benefits of $44,651.90, for a total annual compensation of $576,787.65.
In 2017, his salary was boosted to $333,632 and he was given pay add-ons of $185,412 along with benefits of $95,719, for a total annual compensation of $492,076.92.
In 2018, his salary was adjusted downward to $308,013.30 but he was provided with pay add-ons that exceeded his salary – an amount of $351,877.61 – along with benefits of $68,439.45, such that he received a total annual compensation of $728,330.36.
In 2019, his salary zoomed to $340,321 and he was given pay add-ons of $268,387 along with benefits of $74,996, for a total annual compensation of $683,704 .
In 2020, his salary jumped to $355,285 and he was given pay add-ons of $197,112 along with benefits of $167,573, for a total annual compensation of $719,970.
Last year, his salary tapered off to $353,477.00 and he received pay add-ons of $189,511 along with benefits of $200,608, for a total annual compensation of $743,596.
Hammond pushed the board for further contract adjustments and perquisites, including 110 days off per year, 25 days of paid vacation, 30 days of sick leave, plus an additional five days of off-time for each year he was with the district and the ability to cash out that leave time if he did not take it, which he generally did not, given he was only required to actually work 255 days per year.
Former Board Member Sam Crowe, who was initially enthusiastic about hiring Hammond in 2010, became disenchanted with him relatively early on. Crowe was unable to convince his board colleagues that Hammond was abusing his position of authority. In particular, Elvia Rivas and Steve Garcia proved to be highly protective of Hammond. Rivas, who was first elected to the board in 2010 after Hammond was in place and who oriented her to her function as a board member, repeatedly in the face of criticism leveled at the superintendent publicly asserted that Hammond’s remuneration level was justified. Garcia, who had been elected to the board in 2005 and had his term extended to 2010 when the district went to even-numbered year elections and was voted off the board in the 2010 election but returned to the board in the 2012 election, was disdainful of any criticism leveled at Hammond.
Despite some limited public scrutiny of the steep increase in Hammond’s pay and benefits that came about in 2013 when his original contract was extended, he flew below the radar until late 2019 and 2020, when the issue of his pay level exceeding that of virtually every other school superintendent in the state, including in districts where the number of students and academic test scores exceeded those of Ontario-Montclair.
Examinations of the perquisites and arrangement he had made for himself, including his ability to cash out sick, leave and vacation pay in a way which boosted even further his already inflated compensation put him under the microscope. Earlier this year, a bipartisan piece of legislation authored by California State Senators Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa and Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Yucaipa along with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens Senate Bill 924, closed all loopholes that allowed California school districts to avoid disclosing how much their employees are paid to the state controller every year.
After that, it dawned on Hammond that it might be a good idea to make himself scarce not only in Montclair and Ontario, but California as well.
He was familiar with the educational system in Washington State, having achieved a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Martin’s University in Washington, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Gonzaga University and a doctorate in education from Washington State University.
He had taught in Washington, where he had also been a dean of students, middle school assistant principal and high school principal and superintendent of the school district in Tukwila, Washington. When the opening of the post at Pierce College, which is located in Pierce County, Washington, emerged, Hammond jumped at it. He was ready to make the transition, despite the Pierce College chancellor post paying $174,700 in annual salary and roughly $65,700 in benefits for a total annual compensation of $240,400, just slightly more than one-third of what he could make by remaining with the Ontario-Montclair School District, where his contract runs until 2025.
One consideration in the 51-year-old Hammond’s decision to leave California for Washington was that he stood to realize a windfall of more than $695,000 by cashing in all of his accrued but unused vacation time and sick leave upon his departure from Ontario-Montclair. Thus, Hammond stood on the brink of making close to $1.4 million this year.
Indeed, Hammond was anticipating getting the Pierce College chancellor’s spot after he was informed early this fall that he was a finalist for the position. After interviewing for the post, Hammond was confident he would be soon departing California for Washington.
As it turned out, however, one of those Hammond was competing with was Julie Manley White, who was previously the senior vice president of student engagement and learning support at Onondaga Community College in New York State and the president of Pierce College’s Fort Steilacoom Campus in Lakewood, Washington. The selection committee felt White, with her familiarity with Pierce College and her involvement in education at the college level, was the best fit for the job.
Consequently, Dr. Hammond will remain superintendent with the Ontario-Montclair School District, at least for the time being.
-Mark Gutglueck

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