What’s best for the district?

Ramona Unified School District is in a fiscal corner — no question about it. Since we, the community, are the district, what are we going to do about it?

Bob Stoody, school board president, wants a town meeting. Let’s do it, and the sooner the better.

Teacher union representatives and supporters are showing up en masse at school board meetings. Their message: They don’t accept cuts the district proposes. The public is not privy to closed door negotiation talks, so there’s a great deal we don’t know. We do know that negotiations have stalled. Mediation failed and negotiations are at the fact-finding phase in which a panel of three — one selected by the teachers union, one selected by the district, and an objective fact finder — will release a report after a hearing on Feb. 27. Each side has the opportunity to present its side at the hearing. That report eventually will be made public. That’s a good thing. The more information the better.

Unless things go their way, there’s a good chance the teachers union will vote to strike. We hope they don’t.

On the opinion pages of this week’s Sentinel and in previous issues, readers have seen varying opinions about the district’s financial situation. There’s no doubt that decisions made by a previous board and administration hurt the district. They did what they thought was best at the time. Those serving on the current board deserve our praise. They voluntarily walked into a mess and they’re attempting to weather this storm. They are our neighbors. They are doing what they believe is best for the fiscal health of our district. Trustee Dawn Perfect said it best during the school board’s retreat last month: “We have got to get employee compensation. They’re great people doing a great job, but the burden of 90 percent of our budget is just not something that I can live with.”

In her four years as trustee, Perfect watched the percentage of the district’s budget going to salaries and benefits go from about 84% to about 90% as the nation and state faced a fiscal crisis. No salaries were cut, raises based on years of service and additional education were given, and the district continued to pay 100% of health benefit premiums, even as the cost skyrocketed and now tops $17,000 per family. From the outside looking in, the teachers union could have helped but didn’t. As support and management workers took three unpaid furlough days last year, the union refused. The teachers had their reasons. Distrust of district numbers is voiced most frequently. While employees at other districts accepted cuts during the worst of the economic crisis, our teachers didn’t. The district did what it could to protect the teachers. That may have contributed to today’s tensions. We urge all parties to step back, take another look at the entire picture, keep an open mind, and see if we can’t resolve this — our children deserve it.

Related posts:

  1. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees
  2. School district to start negotiations for 2012-13
  3. District declares impasse in teacher talks
  4. School district heads toward fiscal precipice, county warns
  5. What’s the holdup?

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Feb 8 2013. Filed under Editorial. 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.

6 Comments for “What’s best for the district?”

  1. Hervé Auch-Roy

    We ought to see the bigger picture, and look at where tax payers' money is going.
    As an example: the $20+ millions (and likely much more) that the San Vicente Road project would be much better used at weathering the current difficult economic times for Ramona schools.
    These kids are the future of our community, and they deserve well paid teachers and well maintained schools.
    And, by the way, let's include more driving education to teach these kids how to handle unpredictable road conditions, and "dangerous roads" that they will inevitably encounter in their life as drivers.

  2. Lisa

    The answer is clear. The Board needs to really advertise and promote a smaller bond to cover just the cost of the two unpaid for schools. Now that the people of Ramona know the truth about why we need the bond we will probably pass it. The Board was trying to hide the real reason for the last bond in a disquise of "our schools are falling apart and we need the money to keep them from falling down." Now that we know HL and RCS have to be paid for the truth has come out. There a a lot of people who will come out against it but there a more good people here in Ramona who supprt education. Give the citizens of Ramona to come through for the sake of the economy of the entire community.

    • the truth about the "not for salaries" bond is clear…it was for salaries. HL and RCS loan expenses were not secret at all. they consume less-than 4% of the district's income, easliy accommodated in a heathy district where typically only 85% of income goes to salaries and benefits. i will oppose any bond while payroll is consuming such a high percentage of income as ours is.

  3. Brian

    If Ms. Perfect wants to decrease the percentage of salaries in a labor intensive buisiness she needs to go educate herself. The teachers salaries do not even come close to 90% of the District budget anyway. She and the rest of the board should question the District's "proposed" figures.

    • the district's total salaries and benefits do, though. the teachers should not be taking such a cut without administration following suit. if combined cuts allow for less reduction for teachers, all the better.

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