Update on RUSD negotiations with teachers union

By Bob Graeff

Superintendent, Ramona Unified School District

As most Ramona residents know, our school district has been in negotiations for the past several months with the Ramona Teachers Association, attempting to reach a contract settlement for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years that is both fair to our teachers and financially responsible to district taxpayers.

At the heart of the matter is the district’s critical need to reduce costs in order to maintain financial solvency. Our district’s revenues are down 20 percent from what they were five years ago, due to continuing reductions in per-student funding from the state and 11 years of declining enrollments. Our costs, however, have not declined. To the contrary, they are rising.

In order to balance our $45 million budget this year, we’ve already taken several painful steps, including reducing the number of teaching positions, custodians, bus drivers, classroom aides, and office staff; eliminating multiple student programs such as music for elementary children, summer school, the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, and reducing support for classroom supplies, textbooks, and equipment.

With the failure of Proposition R last November, we need to not only maintain those reductions, but now must look for additional cuts in order to maintain our physical facilities and meet our debt obligations — all while maintaining fiscal solvency. Since 91 percent of the district’s budget is for salaries and benefits, we’ve asked for reductions in total compensation from our employees.

The district classified and management employees have agreed to compensation cuts of three furlough days last year and up to 10 percent annually for three years. That leaves the teachers union whose members’ salaries and benefits comprise 62 percent of the district’s budget. Our proposals to the union negotiating team have offered several options they can choose from, including across-the-board salary reductions, shortening the work year, and/or beginning to pay a portion of their health and welfare benefits. Unfortunately, the union’s proposal thus far has been 1.62 reduction for the 2012-2013 year only, representing just a fraction of the cuts our district needs.

Teachers have always been and continue to be our top priority. The current median salary for a Ramona Unified teacher is $78,122. Along with all district employees, teachers have received fully paid healthcare for themselves and their families, along with retirement benefits.

However, teachers are not the district’s only priority. Buildings and facilities need to be clean and safe environments for our children. We need computer technology and other resources to help provide the high quality of education our parents and community have come to expect.

Having not reached an agreement after lengthy negotiations and mediation, the next step is a Fact Finding hearing, scheduled on Feb. 27. At this hearing, the district and union will present factual evidence to a three-member panel, after which the panel will present its findings to both parties within 20 days of the hearing. Those findings will then be made public at a governing board meeting after which the panel’s recommendations can be accepted in part, in their entirety, or rejected by either party.

We hope Fact Finding will lead us to an agreement with the teachers union, so that we can implement the cost savings we need to maintain fiscal soundness and get on with the mission all of us have to “prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s world.”

Related posts:

  1. RUSD offers teachers $80,000 to leave early
  2. Teachers protest proposed cuts; support workers review tentative agreement
  3. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees
  4. What’s the holdup?
  5. What’s best for the district?

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=21116

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Feb 14 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.

17 Comments for “Update on RUSD negotiations with teachers union”

  1. Hervé Auch-Roy

    May I suggest to re-assign the money of the San Vicente Road project ($20M to $40M) to help with the school's budget while the economy is recovering, instead of adding more burden on teachers?
    The San Vicente Road project won't "prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s world”, but will only allow drivers to drive faster. That much money would be much better spent on teaching driving safety early on in school, among other things.
    It seems to me that it's a matter of priorities.

  2. Dr Graeff , I work very hard for the money I earn as a physician in Ramona, and have lowered fees more than 50% for my Ramona patients in financial need over the last 5 years. I respectfully challenge you to donate $1500 per month (ie 18K/year) back to RUSD (through a designated non-profit 501c3) while YOU are in office as Superintendent , and I will gladly match your donation to RUSD for up to the next 3 years. Your donation of this money back will essentially reverse the Board's stepping up your salary, which the community perceives as an ill-timed raise. Thus, it will remove this as impediment in negotiation of a settlement with the teachers union. (If you feel that this is an unfair sacrifice for you, this is exactly how the teachers feel, ofcourse.) It will also go a long way in good will in our community, in terms of volunteerism, donations, and possibly another bond election sometime in the future.
    Please take this offer/challenge seriously. It would shock most people in Ramona, but that would be a good thing.
    Sincerely,
    Jane Tanaka MD

  3. J.D.

    Why did you take a hefty raise for yourself at a time when you are asking your custodians, secretaries and teachers to take a pay cut?

  4. dr graeff,
    your top priority is your own salary and benefits package. you and the rest of the ALT can lead by example and do what you're asking the teachers to do, and what the rest of the staff has already done. at three times the median teacher's salary (plus perks), i have to wonder…if you don't show up at work, exactly what doesn't get done?

  5. american parent

    Just wondering why not kick out all Illegal students and consolidate classrooms —- eliminate ESL and lunch programs???? seems like you would have enough money to teach my student and more pay for teachers. I'm sick and tired of hearing that the schools are out of money, can't buy books, pay teachers, or keep up with the maintenance of the schools when we can joyfully throw money at students that don't even belong there and then ask tax payers to pay more.

    • I respect your opinion, and understand your frustration, American Parent. Your tax dollars are hard earned and should not be squandered. Your chlld should not have his or her education sacrificed due to poor fiscal decisions.
      However, 75 % of the children whose parents came here as illegal immigrants are US citizens, born here in the US.
      My grandparents on both sides labored in the US Territory of Hawaii, and were never allowed to become US citizens, due to federal law. Their children, my parents were blue color workers who had to work from an early age and not able to complete their education during WWII. Thanks to my family, who valued education above all, I am a physician. The little kid who is the child of immigrants in Ramona could one day be the police officer, physician or teacher who has a great positive impact on your grandchildren's lives in the future. We are all interdependent. This is the reason why I feel that education is of utmost importance to all of Ramona's children.

    • ap,
      beyond what jane wrote, and she addressed a point i would have made less-diplomatically, what you are suggesting would hurt ramona schools. they are funded by the state on a per-student basis, and one of the biggest challenges we are facing is declining enrollment. go try to sell your outlook to someone in sacremento, because surely the money spent educating even the very small number of undocumented ramona students is coming from some fund that is hurting, but locally it actually helps. so does the free lunch program. the more students that are eligible, the better ramona schools are funded. hopefully you are sitting down, because those are the facts.

      • Thank you Big Bird. That is absolutely true. Additionally, if Sun Valley Charter HS had stayed open for a few more years, especailly if there had been an independent study track, it would have attracted students from the down the hill , and possibly added to the enrollement of RUSD, and hence their financial base. . Ramona has lost some students and funding to the Julian school district due to this. In my opinion this is another mistake we have made. Ironically Principal Tarr of Sun Valley HS ( which shut down due to impending 450,000 dollars deficit) forecasted long ago all of this fiscal mess that Dr Graeff would inherit from Mr Schiff's tenure as superintendent , a Bond failure , and it coming down to a teachers' strike. I've lived here in Ramona only since 1996, but it seems there is a tendency in our school district to not look further down the road for oncoming Mack trucks.

  6. J.D.

    I'm so glad we pay top dollar to attract top notch talent like Schiff & Graeff.

    • half their salary could easily attract someone twice as effective. truth is, every superintendent i've ever interacted with has had the same grandiose attitude about themselves. look at the fiasco going on right now in south county. i found the escondido superintendent's wallet, full of cash, in a parking lot one day. he could not be bothered to let me return it! where do they find these people, and can't our board do better?

    • Guest

      JD
      What planet are you from? I hope that was a sacastic comment because it is absolutely false! Hought was a good suoerintendent. So was Endeman. RUSD has been totally screwed over by Schiff, Graeff and Mc Carthy. And don't forget Luann Rivera who was the big push behind getting the loan and having the two schools built, regardless of the fact Ramona's enrollment was declining at the time.

  7. TEM

    As an RUSD parent, I am offended by the tone of this editorial (which also came in the mail to all RUSD parents, as nothing short of propaganda). It seeks to pit parents against teachers, and shift the public sentiment in an attempt to strong-arm the teachers into accepting a deal. The reality is that the great majority of the parents have no respect for the School Board or the Superintendant/ Asst Superintentants, as they see them as detached from the daily reality and challenges of learning. Parents see the struggles of teachers to buy supplies and provide activities to the kids, often out of their own pockets. Parents see the stress that is caused by having 35+ kids in an elementary-level classroom, with no aides or assictance. This thinly-veiled effort to drive a wedge into the classroom is not the answer. Instead, if the Board and Administration truly want public/ parental support, they can do so only through equal concessions and actual sacrifice. Until then, no amount of letters or open editorials from Dr. Graeff will do anything but solidify my support for our classroom leaders — the teachers.

  8. amarootian

    A few comments from a teacher,
    Dr. Graeff states, "Unfortunately, the union’s proposal thus far has been 1.62 reduction for the 2012-2013 year only…" This is technically true, but does not include what was offered in Mediation. In Mediation, the teachers offered 4.32% this year and 4.86% for 2013-14- a total of 9.18% over two years. This offered was quickly dismissed and no counter offer was given.

  9. amarootian

    Dr. Graeff also states, "The current median salary for a Ramona Unified teacher is $78,122." After 30 years of teaching, Ramona teachers make an average wage when compared to the county. According to the salary schedule, to earn $78,122 one must have taught 20 years and have a Masters or its equivalent. I believe the high salaries are due to three issues. 1. The teachers that were let go last year, were the new teachers making the lowest salaries. The youngest teacher in our district has 7 years in! 2. Many teachers are at the top of the pay scale because of their years of experience and education level. 3. Many teachers postpone retirement because they cannot afford the cost of health care. The district has declined to offer retiring teachings incentives to retire early and save the district money over time. With the cuts they are seeking, Ramona teachers would be near the bottom, even after 30 years of service.

  10. Brandie

    I do not think that the teachers should take a pay cut at all especially when the superintendent makes so much money, also if this is mainly to pay back the loan to build our schools why haven't people tried a fundraiser state wide on the internet to help pay back the loan since the ones that actually should take the pay cut obviously will not maybe we could resolve it in another way that does not involve a pay cut to our teachers. Then after that is all said and done then we as a community should find a loop hole or something to replace the wonderful Dr. Graeff with someone who actually cares about pour children.

  11. Brandie

    I do not think that the teachers should take a pay cut at all especially when the superintendent makes so much money, also if this is mainly to pay back the loan to build our schools why haven't people tried a fundraiser state wide on the internet to help pay back the loan since the ones that actually should take the pay cut obviously will not maybe we could resolve it in another way that does not involve a pay cut to our teachers. Then after that is all said and done then we as a community should find a loop hole or something to replace the wonderful Dr. Graeff with someone who actually cares about pour children.

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