The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) intentionally withheld the release of superintendent Mark McLaughlin’s original 2017 employment contract and subsequent 2020 amendment, which show he is paid more than $1,100 a day in base pay alone, not including any health benefits or pension contributions. While contract information can usually be found on any district’s website — including for most Ventura County school districts, such as Moorpark Unified and Oxnard School District — McLaughlin opted not to make his contract publicly available. At the same time, CVUSD makes available employment contracts for assistant superintendents Hayek, Valentine, Miller and Loo, but not for McLaughlin, who is CVUSD’s top-paid and highest-ranking leader.
The unusual move to hide the contract highlights an apparent culture of secrecy and resistance to public accountability at CVUSD, particularly among board members and staff.
The Conejo Guardian was able to obtain a copy of McLaughlin’s contract, but only after his office first claimed, under a strange interpretation of the Brown Act, that the school board had “orally reported” a summary of McLaughlin’s recommended compensation and did not need to provide the contract itself. “On May 5, 2020, board president Goldberg read the terms of McLaughlin’s contract amendments verbally prior to the board’s discussion and final vote,” CVUSD told the Guardian.
In response to a formal public records act request, the district produced McLaughlin’s contract, which at present is only available to the public at conejoguardian.org.
McLaughlin’s first agreement, from 2017, was for 220 working days, for which he was paid a base salary of $230,000. As of 2022, his base pay had gone up to $245,604, which is $1,116 per work day. Ten optional paid work days may be added by the superintendent. He is also compensated for 13 sick days (12 per year with another day paid in advance each year), which can be cashed out upon retirement.
CVUSD is among the California school districts that decline to submit personnel salary and benefits data to the California State Controller’s office, which is published for the public at publicpay.ca.gov.
Government statutes prohibit secrecy among public officeholders. Government Code 6253.9(a) states that “any agency that has information that constitutes an identifiable public record not exempt from disclosure … shall make that information available in an electronic format when requested by any person.”
A complete list of all CVUSD employees who were paid in 2020 is available here.