Why compensation cuts from all RUSD employees are needed

By BOB GRAEFF, Superintendent, Ramona Unified School District

Over the past several months, the Ramona Unified School District has increasingly emphasized the need to cut operating costs in order to maintain the level of fiscal solvency necessary to accomplish our mission to “prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s world.”

In doing so, we have already cut dozens of teaching and support positions as well as music programs for elementary school children, summer school, our GATE program, and funds for classroom supplies. Our classified and management employees agreed to compensation cuts of three unpaid furlough days last year and up to 10 percent annually for the next three years. However, as drastic as those cuts have been, they have not been enough. We need reductions in our compensation costs from all our employees.

Contrary to public expectations, the passage of Proposition 30 in the November 2012 election does not relieve the District’s ongoing deficit that has been created by the following events and conditions:

•About 90 percent of the District’s 2012-13 budget is being spent on personnel salary and benefits expenses, leaving little funding for the non-personnel resources that are important to the education of our children.

•Health benefit costs for our eligible teachers continue to be fully funded by the District — and those costs are increasing about 10% per year.

•Continuing declines in student enrollment, combined with reduced funding formulas by the State, have resulted in a loss of funding by more than 22 percent in our unrestricted accounts since 2007-08 and about 20 percent in our restricted categorical funding.

•Specifically, enrollment has declined by more than 1,400 students over the past 12 years and is projected to drop by another 150 students next year — by itself reducing State funding by $800,000 next year alone.

Meanwhile, the State continues to defer full payment of the funding school districts are to receive, which requires us to borrow monies to operate our schools from other sources until we receive payment in full. The interest costs associated with such loans place additional pressure on the District’s General Fund.

•Without additional reductions in personnel costs, the District will not be able to meet its financial obligations for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years.

After more than a year of collective bargaining negotiations with the union representing our teachers, followed by two months of mediation, we have not been able to reach an agreement that is both fair and financially responsible.

The District and union then presented their cases to a Fact Finding panel February 27-28. The panel now has 20 days to present its findings to both parties, after which they will be made public at a local board meeting.

While the panel’s conclusions are not binding on either party, it is the District’s continuing hope that an agreement can still be reached with the union negotiating team that is both fair and financially responsible. The District remains accessible and available to work with the union to identify and then implement the savings needed to keep our schools solvent.

Related posts:

  1. Update on RUSD negotiations with teachers union
  2. Cuts should be outside the classroom
  3. Teachers protest proposed cuts; support workers review tentative agreement
  4. What’s the holdup?
  5. 17 say yes to RUSD’s $80,000

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=21782

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Mar 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.

26 Comments for “Why compensation cuts from all RUSD employees are needed”

  1. Guest

    Wait, did I read this correctly? Did he really say "all RUSD employees"? This is coming out of the mouth of the man who has taken raises over the past few years while the classifieds have had their pay and benefits slashed? From the guy who wants the teachers to take about a 30% pay reduction over the next three years yet has increased his own salary by over 10%? Dr. Graeff, until you publicly demonstrate that you and the district administration will reduce your own compensation by an equivalent amount that you are requiring of other, more essential district employees, your words are a joke.

  2. retired teacher

    1. The district has NOT been available to reach a settlement and certainly their ideas iof fair is anything but.

    2. The teachers of Ramona do not want a salary package (income and insurance) any more than any other teachers in San Diego County. In fact the total package they want is one of the lowest in the county.

    3 .Ramona does not want to be known as the district with the lowest paid teachers. The district will have a hard time finding people who want to make a career here. Some will start here to get their foot in the door and then leave after they have a few years experience. Other districts are hiring now that Prop 30 passed.

    4. The past and current teachers are the ones who brought about RUSD's reputation as one of the highest scoring districts in the county, if not state. Graeff did not pour his sweat into this this effort. The teachers did.

  3. guest

    Who does he think he's kidding? "The District remains accessible and available to work with the union to identify and then implement the savings needed to keep our schools solvent" That is so untrue! The teachers were asked a to come up with ideas to save money and Graeff shot them all down! The community has been telling them to sell RUSD owned land/ properties and combine schools. Graeff rejected those ideas! Graeff don't want to do anything other than strip the well earned salary package out of the teachers' hands. The school board needs to give Graeff a vote of "no confidence". He is not truthful. This article is nothing more than Graeff's attempt to pull the wool over Ramona's eyes. We all know the real issue is a very large loan that needs to be paid for. Interesting he choose to leave that "elephant in the room" out of his article. How dare he blame the hard working teachers who have been there for our community.

  4. Parent

    MISTER Graeff…

    Evidently you have not been reading the commentary of the Sentinel readers for the past several months. Are you kidding me that you would emphasize the need for ALL employees to take cuts when you’ve been unwilling to do so yourself? What is wrong with you….seriously??

    Dude, step up and do something yourself without all the political BS. RUSD is in DESPERATE need of leadership and open communication among teachers, parents and admin to fix this mess. Quit being so slimy and take some real action. I’m quite disgusted…

  5. Moving Forward

    Recall the school board and send Graeff packing right along with them. Surely we can do better.

  6. Ramona_Parent

    Oh the teachers are not completely without blame. They are trying to rally a community that has also been hit hard by these economic times. Their own students have lost their houses, suffered from foreclosure, the community has suffered complete job losses, benefits cut also. The teachers feel that these measure are not fair, but other employees within the district have ALREADY taken these cuts. It's their turn, and unfortunately, these things are not always fair. What is NOT fair is that the faculty is CONSTANTLY verbalizing their gripes to the student community. You say you are professionals? Well we parents are tired of our students and families getting dragged into this. Teachers at the high school speak regularly about negotiations to their students! Barnett Elementary is a negative environment for my kids and I am tired of it! I am ashamed at you teachers. You point the finger at Dr. Graef but you guys have actted classless and shameful!

    • Barnett Parent

      I am a Barnett parent and I do not agree. I know that all of the teachers give their all to the students every day. I know that they pitch in their own money to get supplies and treats for students and even pay for field trips and sixth grade camp when parents are having hard times. They are givers not takers. We should all be willing to support them because they support our kids in more ways than just educating them. As for the classified employees in the district who have taken cuts, well it is totally not fair for them too. The teachers are in support of the classified employees. The classified employees have a "me too" clause in their contracts which says whatever the teachers get they will get also.

    • Sarah

      Barnett is not a negative environment. If you want to see what that looks like go to LA. Barnett has high scores, high expectations, hard working students and hard working staff. The classified and certified staff deserves to get paid just as well as any other school staff in the county. They have families to take care of too. Maybe the reason they are talking now is because they are scared. I know I would be if my husband's employeer was going to take the whopping amount that the district wants to take from them!

    • Kim

      Let me get this straight, because others in town have been financially strapped the teachers should as well? Maybe if America was a Socialist country your statement would work, but America is not a socialist country. Just because other people who have different careers have lost their job, or have taken a pay cut does not mean everyone should. The teachers went to school and spent a lot of money for their education. They deserve to make a fair wage that is comparable to other teacher's in other school districts. I am scared to see what kind of teacher would be willing to teach our children who make wages well below the average teacher's salary (not a quality teacher that is for sure).
      You are correct; it is not okay to involve the students in the negativity of the negotiations. There is a place for presenting concerns and the classroom is not the place, unless it is an economics class then it could be used as a lesson.

  7. Jane Tanaka MD

    Unfortunately, public trust of both the Administration and of the Teachers Union are at an all time low. Both sides need to come together, otherwise the citizens of Ramona will have a hard time respecting our school district.
    Weeks ago I proposed, in writing ,a challenge to Dr Graeff to donate his raise back to the schools via 501c3. I hope to meet with him personally in the near future with the assistance of tje School Board President .( I said “no” to KUSI’s Turko btw.) I pledge $1500 a month over the next three years if Dr Graeff sticks around and does the same. (The amount of his raise(s) differs depending on what paper you read $4K to $18K. )
    A small group of concerned Ramonans have started meeting to form a 501c3 under the Ramona Community Foundation/San Diego Foundation. Funds would go to paying off the RUSD 34 million dollar debt as well as deferred maintenance which are safety/jhealth issues. Donations of manpower, money, materials will be needed.
    If the Adminstration and Teachers Union would demonstrate their willingness to compromise for the good of the students, then the public would be more altruistic and willing to help! Instead

  8. Brian

    The "teacher union" is nothing more than the Ramona teachers. They come together as group to negotiate with the district. They are your neighbors and some of them have been around Ramona long enough to have educated 2 generations of kids within a single family. Many of the teachers are Ramona High grads. What they want is to be paid close to the same total salary package as the other teachers in San Diego county. The district is penalizing them by asking then to take thousands of dollars less each year, making them the lowest paid teachers in the county. Other districts who pay a lot larger salaries do not pay teachers' benifits because they offer higher salaries to offset the cost of the benefits. The districts who offer lower salaries pay the teachers' benefits to offset the lower salaries.. Ramona teachers are willing to give, but just not as large a percentage as the district wants to take. The teachers want to stay get a salary package close to what other teachers in SD county get paid and are if ok if it is slightly less. Is that asking too much?

  9. Tim

    This article is nothing more than a bunch of PR hogwash to get the community thinking on the side of the district, so that when the fact finding report becomes public he (Graeff) won't look so bad when he talks the board into rejecting the finding. Then he will go against the fact finding report and do what he wants anyway.

  10. Kim James

    Mr. Graeff, you stated that RUSD needs to cut operating cost to accomplish your mission; to “prepare today's learners for tomorrow's world". Then your next statement said, "RUSD has cut dozens of teaching and support positions as well as music programs for elementary school children, summer school, our GATE program, and funds for classroom supplies. So in other words, classes are over crowed, plus there is not enough staff to teach them; then you cut programs that enriches their education and keeps children out of trouble, you eliminated summer school that helps already struggling students, and cute the GATE program that truly does "prepare today's learner for tomorrow's world". In addition, you are asking the teachers to take a big pay cut over the next three years; thereby, pushing out competent teachers to better paying districts. Please explain how this is accomplishing your mission?

    Mr. Graeff, in an article in the Ramon Sentinel last week, it talked about how Ramona has a bad heroin problem. In the article, a drug treatment counselor said that the average age of a client used to be 17; now it is 12. I know RUSD does have a huge drug problem because I know several RUSD workers and students who talk about the drug problem at the schools. Mr. Graeff, I am sure during your education you learned how school programs keeps kids away from drugs. Well, we have no programs and drug use is up. Last I checked drug use does not, "prepare today's learners for tomorrow's world".

    Mr. Graeff, I do have to say thank you for writing your opinion because it reaffirmed why I am NOT sending my soon to be Kindergartner to RUSD. With overcrowded classes and not enough staff plus rampant drug use, RUSD is bordering on child abuse. I feel very badly for the parents who do not have another school option for their precious children. As for me, I do not trust your school district with my daughter; therefore, I will drive down the hill and back up two times a day and pay, $550 a month so that she will not be abused by your district. I understand the district is broke, but that is not my daughters fault. I refuse to make my daughter pay for other people's mistakes!!

  11. Chris

    Yet the school board obviously thinks he's doing a great job. They just renewed his contract for three more years

    • Tim

      The school board is out of touch with what the public wants. They will never get a bond passed if Graeff is the superintendent. The public does not trust him and that is what matters. The board was voted in to represent the public not Graeff.

  12. Frustrated Parent

    As a parent with one child attending a school in the district and another who will start next year, I am very concerned as to the disaster that is our district. I am baffled and insulted that the head of our district would write an article filled with half truths in our hometown paper expecting the support of the community. Does he really think we are so ill informed and stupid?? Clearly, he does. Placing the blame on the backs of the teachers is unwarranted and unfair. From my perspective, the teachers have tried to reach a manageable compromise and the district is unwilling to budge. Everyone seems to have to "do more with less" these days, but when it comes to class sizes this is an area where this principle is just not possible. As a parent and a taxpayer in this community I am offended that Dr. Graeff would submit this article stating that ALL employees need to take a pay cut, before he has done so. This is not the leader we need to be running our district. Talk until you are blue in the face, Dr. Graeff, but no one will listen to you until you can lead by example. You are not protecting our children or doing what is best for our community.

    • Tim

      Bravo! And remember he wants to raise class size to 35:1 and shorten the school year (his proposed teacer contract) More fore less! Time for him to start looking for empoyment elsewhere. Ramona kids deserve better!

  13. Teacher

    I am so glad to see that there are so many smart, informed, parents in the district that can see through it all…. These are your children and their education.They deserve better.

  14. Jane Tanaka md

    I happen to be part of the 1.5% population of Ramona that is Asian American, so the concept of Interdependence is a core concept for me. But perhaps it is seen as contrary to most Ramonans._FDR , in the midst of the USA recovering from the Great Depression, said,_" The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the INTERDEPENDENCE of the various elements in all parts of the United States – a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer."_I visited Poway Unified School District recently, and what impressed me the most was a little plaque that acknowledged that the PTA had donated more than $4,000,000 in one year, not in cash, but in volunteer hours (at $20 an hour) . _ I would hope that this concept of Interdependence is not mistaken for Socialism… that anyone willing to make some sacrifices financially or in time/effort would be seen as honorable.

  15. Jane Tanaka MD

    The burden should be shared, but voluntarily. I wish there would be some way that each teacher could decide, on his or her conscious and financial situation, how much to give back to RUSD …and most already are in extra work hours and supplies they donate.
    I wish that people would consider volunteering time , materials and money to RUSD for its deffered maintenance , and to help with paying the debt.. voluntarily.
    That was we can ward off the closted thing to Socialism that threatens Ramona… the State taking over RUSD for the next 20 years.
    Repectfully
    Jane Tanaka MD.

  16. Parent

    Jane…at my school there have been instances where parents have offered to donate labor/materials for site improvements but were prohibited by RUSD due to the conflict w/ the union contract. Not as easy as it seems.

    The key to success is successful labor relations and our district/board have a horrific track record in that regard.

  17. Teacher

    The union has nothing to do with approving improvements to schools. It is the district that makes those decisions.

  18. Parent

    Teacher…your reading says “union”

    My writing says “were prohibited by RUSD”

    Perhaps the district was using a conflict with union labor as an excuse but whatever. Bottom line is this district and its management of its unions is a complete JOKE.

    By the way, if you’ve ever held a job in the corporate world you could look at this district’s mission statement and realize it’s a cliche and something totally useless for the bafoon sup to be quoting.

    • Tim

      Dr. Graeff does not manage the classified or certified unions' business. The unions are made up of the unified members to bargain for fair working conditions and wages.. Graeff manages the school district's programs and finances. He has done a poor job of it. Becuase of poorly to managed finances, he is in no shape to fairly bargain with the members of the school district's two unions. The board is out of touch with what needs to be done because up until now they have all voted together. Lets hope we can get a few new board members in to think for themselves. And lets hope Dr. Graeff finds a new job this summer.

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