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Superintendent Of Tiny School District Making $663,000 Seems Sketchy As Hell

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A tiny high school district in Hawthorne and Lawndale is drawing comparisons to the city of Bell for its superintendent who has made more than $663,000 in compensation last year.Centinela Valley Union High School District Superintendent Jose Fernandez drew a base salary of $271,000 in 2013 plus other perks that amounted to almost $400,000, according to a review of documents by The Daily Breeze. Fernandez's district includes four schools. By way of comparison, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is in charge of 900 schools and draws $389,887 in total compensation.

When you dig into the details—as The Daily Breeze has—it only gets worse. Fernandez has been getting huge bumps in his salary, but he's only had one formal review since 2009. Fernandez also got an insanely sweet loan from the school district in 2012 to buy a fancy house in Ladera Heights: he snagged a $910,000, 40-year loan at just 2 percent interest. That's a pretty rad deal for someone with good credit, but Fernandez has gone through bankruptcy twice.

Teachers and residents complain that Fernandez was the only one getting huge raises and all sorts of perks at a time that the district was making cuts. But the board president Maritza Molina wrote a letter defending Fernandez's compensation, saying that he had brought the district back from the brink of financial instability, helped to make big gains on test scores and overseen the passage of a construction bond. Molina took a swipe at people who dared to question his compensation: "Regrettably, concerns about the superintendent’s compensation package have distracted from the District’s core mission of educating our children."

Like Bell, this all went down in a small district where no one was paying attention. No one even challenged Fernandez for his position in 2013. But now residents are paying attention. The Associated Press says there are calls for a criminal probe and for Fernandez to resign.

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Last night residents came out to protest Fernandez's compensation for the first time since The Daily Breeze brought attention to it. Danielle Sevilla told the board, "It’s unacceptable that the superintendent was paid more than $600,000. The money should be put where it’s clearly needed most, the students. You’ve taken advantage of the people least able to advocate for themselves."

[The Daily Breeze's complete coverage]