Join teachers in seeking fair settlement

By Donna Braye-Romero

Times are definitely better for California’s public schools. The state’s economy is slowly rebounding, and with the passage of Proposition 30, the state’s K-12 schools are not facing more cuts, but are actually seeing funding increases that should mean stable funding to schools for the next several years.

Here in Ramona, though, participation in this more prosperous future is severely compromised by the fiscally foolish actions of a previous school administration and school board. By obligating the district to repay $55 million (including construction fees and interest) to build two new schools without first securing the funds to pay back the loan, they created a situation that calls for maximum collaboration between the current school administration and board, the district’s teachers, and the entire Ramona community. It is going to take everyone working together to craft a solution that will put the school district back on a firmer financial footing.

First, the school district should settle a fair and reasonable contract with Ramona’s educators. Then, the entire education community can work together as a team to help all Ramona citizens understand the necessity of passing a bond issue to rectify the previous fiscal mismanagement. However, instead of working with teachers, the district is trying to solve its fiscal problems on their backs, demanding salary and benefits cuts that are unreasonable, unfair and unacceptable.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Ramona district unreasonably demands to cut teachers’ wages by the equivalent of 27 percent from one year’s salary, the equivalent of 50 furlough days or two-and-a-half months’ wages. At the same time, salary concessions requested in negotiations sessions by other county school districts, over the past five years, are averaging only about 2.8 percent for the entire five-year period. And, this while the Ramona school district budget shows the district ended the 2011-12 fiscal year with a 15 percent ending balance in the general fund, an amount five times that recommended by the state as prudent.

The district’s demands are also unfair. Even though Ramona teachers bear no responsibility for the unwise expenditure for two new school sites several years ago, the district is seeking to rectify that fiscal mistake by breaking the backs of teachers financially — putting the entire burden on them. Teachers proposed a more than reasonable cut of 9.2 percent over two years, which would easily carry the district over until a more permanent solution can be made.

But the teachers’ proposal was rejected and the district continues to say we are not willing to take a cut. But how can it be fair to expect them to carry the entire load themselves? Forcing teachers to accept such crippling financial cuts is not a viable long-term solution to the district’s debt problem, but more important, it promises dire consequences for the entire Ramona community.

Such action could decimate Ramona’s teaching staff — many of them could absolutely not withstand the financial impact of the burden the district would place on them. Many would lose their homes. Many could not provide health care for their families.

How could this not result in an exodus of teachers to numerous other San Diego districts where they would be treated more fairly and equitably? And this is to say nothing of the detrimental effect on Ramona property values and businesses because teachers — one of the community’s largest work forces — would have much less to spend here.

As current teachers leave or retire, it will become increasingly difficult to attract new eager teachers to take their places. Ramona’s children deserve the brightest and best to teach them, but why would such teachers be attracted to teach in a district for miserly wages and benefits, with little hope of improvement? Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and ultimately, Ramona’s students, their families and the entire community would be grievously injured by the district’s current proposals.

Ramona’s teachers are willing to accept their part of the shared responsibility for helping the district work its way back from imprudent fiscal decisions to a place of greater stability. But they do not believe it fair or in the best interest of the future of Ramona’s schools and children to accept the entire burden of doing so.

If you agree, we urge you to contact members of the Ramona Unified School District’s Board of Education. Urge them to settle a fair contract with us. And then, let’s be a team that includes the entire Ramona education community and all of Ramona’s citizens ready to work together to find a viable solution to our serious problems.

Let’s create the components of a new bond issue (or solution?) that could unite us around fixing an unfortunate past error, so that together, we can move forward to a brighter future for our students and our community.

The Ramona teachers and supportive parents will be attending the school board meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. We urge you to join with us in telling the school board to do what is right for Ramona and settle with the teachers.

Donna Braye-Romero is president of the Ramona Teachers Association.

Related posts:

  1. Ramona teachers wage State of Emergency campaign
  2. Teachers join the Web generation
  3. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees
  4. A simple solution to a simple problem
  5. School district calls back five teachers

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Feb 8 2013. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Comments for “Join teachers in seeking fair settlement”

  1. Guest

    That's funny. How come I don't remember teachers complaining when the two new schools were built for their benefit.

    • Theresa

      Guest you must be one of the people who took out the loan for the schools. Does it make you feel better to blame the teachers for your mistake? The community liked having new schools too. What's next, are you going to blame them? Oh and by the way, schools are not built for teachers. They are built for the benefit of the community by school boards and administrators who are responsible.

    • guest too

      Since when are schools built to benefit teachers? Answer this question….do you finance the building that you work in? If you do, then your comment may be valid.

      • the answer to your question, for most people, is yes. my company could afford to pay me more if they didn't improve or maintian their facilites. they'd soon find themselves in the same boat the district is in, too.

        • Guest

          Big Bird,
          When corporations plan on building or leasing a new building they factor in the salaries of the employees so the company can stay competitive. A savvy company values its employees and would not risk losing its well trained work force because it couldn't retain them.

  2. Even with Prop 30 funds, after this fiscal year, its projected that RUSD will have a budget deficit, due to the mortgage on the 2 new schools. 55 million? or 34 million dollar construction debt with interest?
    We need a non-profit organization to which we can voluntarily donate to, and that would responsibly handle the funds and pay off this debt. ( Either a Local Education Foundation, or another established 501c3 that has the capability )
    Lets get solution oriented. Apathy is our biggest obstacle in this financial/political double bind.

  3. Lisa

    Teachers had no part in making the decision to build those schools. It is not the teachers' job to say yay or nay regarding new buildings. The 2004 school board and Pete Schiff made that decision. It was their responsbilty to represent the community.
    Kids and parents weren't complaining about the schools either but, are they to blame? No, and the teachers aren't to blame for the schools being built either.

  4. Ron

    Well said Ms. Braye. The public needs to know that really is going on. I am in total support of the teachers. They work hard for our community and the superintendent/
    school board is looking forthem to be the solution to a bad situation. But it isn't right to ask the teachers, public servants, to pay for the buildings they teach in. How many of us would be ok with paying for the buildings we work in?

  5. "the Ramona district unreasonably demands to cut teachers’ wages by the equivalent of 27 percent from one year’s salary"

    donna, what's unreasonable is to sum three years' worth of cuts and present them as a percentage of one year's salary. doing so makes me question the accuracy, and even the integrity, of your other claims and remarks. clearly, you are trying to make the cuts appear as large as you can, and in fact worse than they are. please, cowgirl up and address this with a correction. you can call it a clarification if it helps.

  6. Guest

    Question: How big of a cut is the administration taking? I'm asking because the non-classifed staff has had their pay, hours, and benefits slashed in the past 5 years, the teachers have taken no cuts, and It's been published in the UT that during this time, the school board awarded, and Superintendant Graeff accepted an approximately 10% pay increase.

    I have read all the articles in this publication from Dr. Graeff of shared sacrifice. Now that we know he's been misleading the public, I don't trust what he says. Unfortunately, Ms. Braye representing the teachers' union has twisted the numbers so far in the teacher's favor so I don't find her credible, either.

    If the teachers want the community to support them, they should rein in their union mouthpiece before she can do more damage than she has in this recent piece. on the flip side, if the administration gives themselves raises during times of crisis, they shouldn't expect the teachers to take cuts, or the public to back their bond measures.

    Just sayin'.

    • Tim

      The classified employees will get whatever the teachers(certified staff) because it is written into their contract. I believe it is called a ""me too" clause.

      The Ramona Teachers Union's leader is trying to convey the tremdous damage and hardship that will be done to the teachersif the district makes their proposed cuts. She is a brave woman who is willing to sacrifice her personal life/freetime to defend her fellow Ramona teachers. If you have problems with her numbers thats ok, but don't attach her personally. She is just standing up for her co-workers.

  7. Guest

    Just got a letter from Dr. Graeff in the mail today. In paragraph 3 he lists the specific programs and positions that have been cut. Pretty much everything and everyone is in there except – district administration. How many of those positions have been eliminated? How many superintendants have taken pay cuts? I think teachers make a good annual salary for what is essentially 8 months of work. Should they take cuts? Maybe, but unless the district leaders are willing to slash their own salaries at the same rate, the teacher's union shouldn't budge. Fair's fair.

  8. Fed Up

    I got a letter in the mail too…. if it went to every student in all of Ramona, that's a tidy sum. This wasn't the first mailing that was from Dr. Graeff or his office. If the entire population of Ramona needed to read it, certainly publishing it in the Ramona Sentinel would have done the trick…. and saved some money.

    I am not a teacher but do have students in the Ramona school district. Quality of education is definitely a concern and a priority. Why not let the teachers focus on education and the community focus on how we can trim the fat…. starting at the district office. We are constantly hearing threats of either strikes or teacher pay cuts. We are hearing from the head office how we can't make the budget, meet expenses etc and are asking for help. I have yet to hear from the chief loud speaker how HE is going to help make sacrifices…. take a significant pay cut, reduce the excess staff, eliminate perks and bonuses etc.

    The problem of the budget and the outstanding bill ($55mil) is a problem the community is going to have to address and resolve. Pointing the finger at who created the mess is not going to resolve the issue…. HOWEVER…. I for one would be much more supportive if I felt EVERYONE was making an effort/sacrifice starting with the head office. Lead by example Dr. Graeff…. have us do as you do rather than as you say.

  9. J.D.

    Read paragraph 5. Administration (management) and classified workers both agreed to the equvilent of approx. 10% . Classified took some from benefits and some in unpaid furlough days. Admin chose to protect their pensions by paying toward their healthcare benefits. The same choices have been been refused by teachers because they claim its "unfair" to ask them to take the same.

  10. Guest

    Funny how Mr. Graeff is allowed to plead his case in public! That's called "Bad Faith Bargaining". Time for someone to take this over paid clown to task!

  11. Parent

    Ugh….Graeff is a really bad MANAGER as well as a lousy/uninspiring leader. There I said it! If he were at the vp or managing director level in a corporation he would have been fired not given a raise by our equally inept school board. He is far more politician than manager and RUSD is in desperate need of leadership, management and effective decision making.

    The point made about spending $ on postage is an excellent one and further illustrates why he just needs to go and take several with him. If it means a state run district to clean up this MESS then bring it on.

  12. Involved Parent

    Part One:
    Here is some info the general public probably doesn't know about. The district had a study done on future developers fees. The study was done by an outside firm (Dolinka Group, LLC) and presented to the RUSD School Board March 1, 2012. Here is the finding:
    Future residential units are anticipated to be built resulting in 337 new elementary school students, 10 new middle school students, and 561 new high school students. That means there will be developers fees coming in even though the district has been telling everyone developer fees are dried up. It also means more ADA (money per students from the state). The study also said the facilities cost of the DO (not the personnel) is $726,400 per year. Why not make a cut at the DO facility instead of making cuts in the classroom. (i.e. low paid teachers, large class sizes and furlough days)? I say close the DO and cut the number of people working there. Move the DO personnel into an existing school and share the cost.

  13. Involved Parent

    Part Two:
    The DO administrators need to take a reduction in pay but the various departments at the DO need to downsize. Do we really need 4-5 employees working in the HR department? Do we really need so many Asst. Superintendents? Couldn't we just go with directors who are on a lower pay scale? With a district our size one Superintendent and one Assistant Superintendent should be enough. All the departments at the DO could be trimmed.
    School Board members: Keep the cuts out of the classroom!

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