Ramona school district facts as we know them

By Bill Clark and Elizabeth Granquist

There have been a lot of rumors, misleading facts, and confusing information spread regarding the labor dispute between the Ramona Unified School District and the Ramona Teachers Association. The purpose of this letter is to present the facts of this situation as we know them.

Both sides agree that the District faces financial challenges (partly due to the Certificate of Participation which was incurred to build and modernize schools in the District). The amount of these challenges is in dispute.

The District relies on financial projections which in the past have proven to be highly inaccurate. Teachers believe that these projections will prove to be inaccurate once again. Additionally, we believe that the community as a whole needs to come up with a plan to handle the future COP payments. There is no way that these payments can be made for the next 20 years or so merely by gaining concessions from employees.

In Dr. Graeff’s recent article published in the Ramona Sentinel, he states that over recent years the District’s costs have not declined, but have gone up. In this same article he refers to a number of cost-cutting measures undertaken by the District including reducing the number of teaching positions.

Many teachers have retired in the last few years and many of these positions have not been filled. Additionally, several teachers have been laid off by the District. Partly due to these cuts in certificated staff, financial information provided to the teachers shows that actual expenditures made by the District have decreased from $53,895,503 in 2007-08 to $50,046,206 in 2011-12.

In Thomas Cook’s recent letter to the Ramona Sentinel it is stated that the average teacher salary at RUSD is $78,122. For the 2011-12 school year according to information provided by the District, the computed average salary of a Ramona teacher was $70,098. To reach the $78,122 level, a teacher must be in his/her 20th year of credited service and have accumulated 60 units of accredited post graduate credits (or 45 units and a Master’s Degree). A beginning Ramona teacher could earn a salary of $39,954. The certificated salary schedule can be seen on the RUSD website.

It has been stated that Ramona teachers receive fully paid healthcare for themselves and their families, along with retirement benefits. Most Ramona teachers do not contribute to Social Security and therefore do not receive Social Security benefits for their time as RUSD employees. Instead, teachers and the District make contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). When a teacher retires (s)he receives a retirement benefit from STRS.

With respect to receiving fully paid healthcare, this statement is accurate. However, it needs to be noted that in past years when teachers received raises, RUSD reduced the amount of the raises in order to offset rising health care costs. This was often referred to as “the total compensation package.”

In Dr. Graeff’s article, he indicated that teachers offered a 1.62% reduction for the 2012-2013 year only. In mediation and fact-finding, RTA offered to accept substantially more in concessions. As has been previously reported, in mediation, RTA offered to accept over 9% in concessions over a two-year time frame. This was immediately rejected by the district. Yet in Dr. Graeff’s most recent article he continues to claim that the District needs the teachers to take cuts. Dr. Graeff knows well that the teachers have offered to accept substantial cuts!

The concessions demanded by RUSD are significantly more than concessions made in other San Diego County school districts.

All we have asked for during this entire process is a fair and reasonable settlement. We are anxious and willing to return to the bargaining table in order to negotiate such a settlement. We are willing to accept significant concessions but believe that the District is unnecessarily demanding that we accept draconian cuts to our compensation. This, we can not accept!

If as stated in Dr. Graeff’s article, teachers are a top priority for the District, then we ask the RUSD Board of Education to allow your bargaining team the flexibility to work out a fair and reasonable settlement with the teachers. The entire community is best served if its teachers can focus solely on what we do best and that is educating the youth of Ramona.

Bill Clark and Elizabeth Granquist, teachers at Ramona High School, submitted this on behalf of other concerned teachers at Ramona High School.

Related posts:

  1. School district to start negotiations for 2012-13
  2. Greater transparency needed at Ramona school district
  3. School district heads toward fiscal precipice, county warns
  4. Cuts and changes at Ramona school district
  5. School District and Teachers Association Need to Work Together

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=22045

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Mar 23 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.

18 Comments for “Ramona school district facts as we know them”

  1. Daniel Wise

    This is a great presentation and clarification of financial data which the public needs to better understand about the management of our school district. You may want to follow up with another article explaining how the administration has to "crystal ball" its projections, without a clear picture of state budget funding while not knowing our actual student enrollment numbers until the first day of school. Basic reform in funding the delivery of public educational services is needed from the top down. Thanks for the facts.

  2. Tim

    Education should be one of the communities highest priorities. Make your voice be heard Ramona. Contact your school board members. It is their job to direct the superintendent. If you do not want class size ratios to increase to 35:1 and the school year to be shortened get in touch with them. If you want high quality experienced teachers in Ramona's classrooms let them know. Your input is very valuable. The board is voted in to protect the community's interests. Here is a link to their emails: http://www.ramonausd.net/domain/55

  3. Jane Tanaka MD

    I agree with the writers' opinion :"Additionally, we believe that the community as a whole needs to come up with a plan to handle the future COP payments. There is no way that these payments can be made for the next 20 years or so merely by gaining concessions from employees."
    Based on the last Bond initiative nealry passing with 50% of voters approving Prop R, I suggest that a voluntary donation program may work. If 50% of the 10,000 households in Ramona would donate $1 per day the COP debt could be paid off in less than 20 years.

  4. Jane Tanaka MD

    Additionally, if Ramonans would be willing/able to donate funds, materials, manpower, and if RUSD and its Unions would cooperate, then attending to the multiple deferred maintenance problems, which impact the health and safety of our students and RUSD employees, would also be resolved.
    The administration and teacher's union have been haggling about money for too long in a nonproductive way.It is only disillusioning the public. Resolve this quickly;avoid a strike, so we can move on! You had 50% of us caring enough to vote "yes" on Prop R in November 2012. As weeks and month go by, you risk disdain and apathy developing in the public.. It is becoming increasingly clear that you need the pubic's help to prevent RUSD from going into insolvency, and to also help with deferred maintenance which impacts the health and safety of our students.

  5. Jane Tanaka MD

    And yes, I am aware that the larger portion of voters who were in favor of Prop R were not homeowners, and are people who would least able to afford donating to a 501c3. Sometimes those with the least to spare are the most generous because they understand the need for interdependence during hard times.

  6. um wrong

    "yes, I am aware that the larger portion of voters who were in favor of Prop R were not homeowners" Where did you get this information?

    • Tim

      I thought voting in this country was still by anonymous ballot. How could anyone possibly have this information? Everyone I know who voted yes was a homeowner. This information does not add up. And traditionally homeowners have been much more likely to vote than those who do not own their own homes. This information sounds very fishy.

  7. Guest

    ' Most Ramona teachers do not contribute to Social Security and therefore do not receive Social Security benefits for their time as RUSD employees. Instead, teachers and the District make contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). When a teacher retires (s)he receives a retirement benefit from STRS."
    What does this have to do with anything? Have you compared a compensation package from the State Teachers Retirement System to SS benefits someone in the private sector will receive for working the same amount of time? It's not even close.

    • Tim

      Employees pay 7.65% of their wages to Social Security.
      Teachers pay in 8% of their wages to STRS (the teachers' retirement fund).
      Social Security replaces about 55% of an average wage earners salary.
      STRS wage replacement is about 62% of a teacher's salary.
      The reason for the difference in return: The federal government manages Social Security and STRS manages the teacher's retirement fund.
      But keep this in mind if a teacher's spouse who is collecting a Social Security check dies, the teacher's spouse's Social Security checks STOP! The widowed teachers are discriminated against because EVERY other widow/widower in the country gets their spouse's Social Security after the spouse dies. This make retired teachers the largest percentage of elderly retired professionals living in poverty, after losing a spouse who has earned Social Security during their years of work!

      • Guest

        There are so many holes in your argument, that I don't even know where to start. But the whopper is that you make it sound like the surviving spouse of someone who dies receives all their SS. Umm…no they don't. They may receive the "step up" that his or her spouse was getting, but they don't get two incomes. Why would the government give the surviving spouse the others money if the surviving spouse never paid into SS in the first place. You know as well as I Tim that generally speaking, with all things being equal, that a teachers retirement benefit is far greater in dollars than the equal earner paying into SS. Not to mention, that if a teacher has 30 years in, they can begin collecting a top wage at age 55.

        • Brian

          A family member of mine never paid into SS to begin with and she is still collects a SS check as the 30+ widow. SS pays to widows/widowers of spouses who contributed. You may be speaking of a widow/widower who contibuted to SS and was married to spouse who also contributed. Whether a step up in SS benifits based on the deceased spouse's contributuions, the point is they still a get a something based on what the spouse contributed. Is that what you meant? A little known piece of federal legislations excludes teachers from this benefit who have made contributions to a retirement fund such as STRS. Other professions can have their own retirement funds, but only teachers are excluded because of this peice of legislation. Many teachers do not even know about this.

        • Tim

          Guest, regarding your point about a teacher retiring at 55 getting the full retirement (top wage) if they have 30 years in, this is not true. That is because teacher's retirement is not based solely on years of service. There is an age factor calculation. The teacher retiring at 55 would receive far less in month payments.

  8. Barbara Teets

    As a parent in the RUSD, I applaud the teachers for writing such a fair commentary. They were able to accomplish this task without spending a dime of the districts money. Unlike Dr. Graeff who sent a letter to every household in Ramona who has a child registered with the district. This attempt to sway the community cost the district valuable dollars in paper, envelopes, postage and administrative time. I would also like to take this opportunity to point out, in my opinion, that our teachers have already taken a reduction in salary. Continued in a separate comment below.

  9. Barbara Teets

    RUSD has been budget cutting for many years. We have cut administrative, janitorial, classroom supplies and much more. Take a look at your child's classroom. The budget has not afforded teachers classroom supplies for years, and yet our children manage to come home with binders, pencils, prizes for good grades and much more. These supplies are not covered by the district rather our teachers personal funds. I also urge you to drive by your school in the evening and on the weekends to see how many teachers are working in their classrooms, look at the time stamp on emails that are sent to you. Our teachers work very long hours. Many hours that are considered their personal time. We have the most dedicated teachers in Ramona and I believe they are being more than fair in their negotiating. I would like to know if any one of our administrators has ever talked personally to a teacher(s) to find out how much they spend of their own personal funds or how much of their own personal time they spend on classroom/school work. I think if they would take the time to inquire about the numbers they would be more than shocked. I know I was when I asked my teachers.

  10. CA Smith

    Ah, yes, another unbiased and objective statement of the "facts" from one of the principals in this matter. The fact that the schools have become sources of propaganda, indoctrination, and social conditioning rather than education, and that the school board is unresponsive to the voters with its spendthrift ways, doesn't seem to be a subject of discussion. When these things change, let me know and I'll be more concerned. For what its worth, I am a homeowner, and have had kids and grandkids in the Ramona school system. My grandkids are being home schooled.

    • Brian

      My kids went to Ramona Schools and I and a homeowner too. And my grandkids will go to Ramona schools. I don't know what in the world you think goes on in the schools but I volunteer there daily and I can tell you the teachers have so much curriculum to cover in about 6 1/2 hours, they don't have time for any of the BS you refer to. Have you seen how much testing is being done these days? The teachers just want to be sure the kids are all ready. Have you read the paper and seen how great Ramona Schools do compared to elsewhere? Ramona Schools are awesome! When in heavens name do you think they have time for propaganda and indoctrination? You are delusional!

      • CA Smith

        Brian: Obviously my perceptions are different than yours. Why do you call me delusional? I saw my kids being indoctrinated about homosexual lifestyle. Teachers asked my kids about whether or not their bowel movements floated. They also provided biased views on politics. Enquiries were made about religious and personal aspects of our home life. The same happened to my grandkids before they were removed from school and home schooled. My value system may be different than yours, and hence my perceptions different. But do not patronize or minimalize me by calling me delusional.
        Fact: If you agree with the bias, you won't see it as bias.

      • Guest

        I would beg to differ on citing test scores to prove Ramona schools are "awesome". We moved from Ramona and my kids were behind in all subjects. The API of the schools they attend is similar to Ramona's. However these schools don't spend weeks practicing for the standardized tests like Ramona did. When the new standards take effect next year, don't be surprised when those API scores go down in Ramona. Of course the teachers will blame the school board or homeowners for not passing the bond issue, but the reality is that the API is artificially high in Ramona schools.

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