School board approves emergency measures as district braces for possible teachers strike

By Maureen Robertson

In a special meeting that lasted 13 minutes, Ramona Unified School District trustees on Monday approved emergency measures that will take effect if teachers strike.

The vote came with no comments from the school board other than Trustee John Rajcic’s statement that he’s new to the board

Trustee John Rajcic reads a statement during the special school board meeting Monday. Also pictured are Superintendent Robert Graeff and Trustee Kim Lasley. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

“and not familiar with the antecedents of our current situation, so I abstain.”

“We are in a financial crunch,” he said. “Declining enrollment and failure to pass a bond issue did not help.”

After a brief statement from Superintendent Robert Graeff, comments from two members of the public, and an exchange between Graeff and Ramona Teachers Association President Donna Braye-Romero over the release of a fact-finding report on Monday, trustees voted 4-0-1 to approve a seven-page emergency resolution giving the district the authority to hire substitutes at $275 a day if Ramona teachers strike. The district currently pays substitute teachers $95.

The resolution gives the board and superintendent no other new powers, Graeff said Tuesday, but puts in one document what already is allowed by state Education Code and the California Constitution —  “the authority and responsibility to ensure that school campuses remain safe, secure, and peaceful.’

The resolution in its entirety is on the district website, ramonausd.net.

Alisa McVay, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at Ramona Community School, tells trustees the possibility of a teachers strike is frightening. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

“As you know, the last several months have been very stressful,” Graeff said at the Monday meeting. “We have heard representatives from the teachers association at board meetings and in the local print media talk about the possibility of a teacher strike due to their dissatisfaction with collective bargaining.”

Graeff and Braye-Romero said after the meeting they want to continue to try to negotiate a settlement.

“We do not want to strike,” said Braye-Romero. “…Hopefully we’re going to come to a reasonable settlement.”

For the past 18 months, the district and teachers union have attempted to agree on a contract. After initial talks and mediation failed, a California Public Employment Relations Board hearing, called a fact-finding hearing, was held. The three-member fact-finding panel consisted of RTA representative Margaret Wallace from the California Teachers Association, Ramona Unified representative John Gray from School Services of California, and an impartial panel chair, Bonnie Castrey.

The representatives of both sides received results of the report on Monday, and the district received it via email and has 10 days to release it to the public. Braye-Romero said Monday she had not received a copy and her understanding is both sides would receive the report by certified mail.

“Would you like us to give you a copy right now at this meeting?” Graeff asked.

“No, I’m waiting for the certified copy from the fact finder, who told us it would only come as a certified copy,” responded Braye-Romero.

“We did receive clarification today that both parties should have received the report electronically yesterday, and the 10-day window began yesterday,” Graeff said Tuesday.

If, as part of a settlement before April 18, one side does not want the report released to the public, it will never be made public, said Graeff.

The controversy apparently centers on the degree of cuts in salary, contribution toward health benefits, or number of teaching days. Teacher union representatives have said they offered the district a 4-1/2 percent cut. The district’s last public offer was 8 percent this year and 9-1/2 percent the next two years.

The district projects a $1.7 million deficit in 2013-14 and $8.9 million in 2014-15. Teachers have challenged those projections, saying the district’s ending balances historically are more than projected.

“This impending strike is really scary to me,” parent Alisa McVay, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at Ramona Community School, told trustees Monday. “I know that my daughter will not be going to school, because she’ll be terrified.

“…I really feel that there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on with what I hear,” McVay said, later adding, “I know that once parents do get wind of this, they’re going to get really angry at you guys.”

“The right thing is to surrender the school district to the state, let the state pay off the creditors,” Ramona resident Dave Patterson said. “They can negotiate with the teachers one time and it’s over, and everybody knows where they are.”

“I have had confidence from the very beginning that our facts are correct — with or without a report…because I’ve lived them for 11 years,” Bob Stoody, school board president, said after the meeting.

The board’s focus is to keep the schools open and safe, he said.

“Without knowing and having a crystal ball, we provided all options (in the emergency resolution) to make sure the students are taken care of the best way possible,” he said.

Related posts:

  1. Ramona school district braces for strike
  2. Ramona school district, teachers union expect fact-finding report Monday
  3. Teachers, district near negotiations showdown
  4. Ramona teachers wage State of Emergency campaign
  5. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=22464

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Apr 9 2013. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona, Schools. 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.

15 Comments for “School board approves emergency measures as district braces for possible teachers strike”

  1. Parent

    What? Why waste additional funds on subs that will be nothing more than high priced babysitters? 275 is a ridiculous amount when simply advertising and an offer of less would probably bring in as many “subs”. Most parents I know have no intention of sending their kids to school during a strike anyway.

  2. Rational Ramona

    I do not understand why anyone would not send their child to school. All the subs are certificated and credentialled just like the regular teachers. They are all qualified individuals. If your child "would be terrified" it is because you put that idea in their head.
    As to the money to be paid to subs, the $275 paid to those subs is less than a day's pay for the teacher who would be striking. And the teachers would not get paid while on strike, so the District would still be saving money.

    • Lukas

      As a Student at RHS, I can say there are some Subs that can actually teach, but there are only a handful. Do you really think that there is going to be a lot of Subs who are capable of Teaching AP Calculus, AP Statistics or any math that's higher leveled than Geometry? And do you think there will be a lot of Subs capable of teaching AP Spanish or Spanish 3? Or any level of Spanish for that matter? Or a lot of Subs capable of teaching Physics or AP Biology?

      • Guest

        The resolution says all grades will stand after the emergency is over and can't be changed.

        • Another guest

          If I choose not to send my son to school, do his grades stand as well? If he doesn't go to school, will he be given unexcused absences? How will it affect him in the future of his education?

    • QUALIFIED TEACHER

      In regards to "All the subs are certificated and credentialled just like the regular teachers." NOT NECESSARILY. In order to get a 30 day Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit, a person simply needs to hold a bachelor's degree, pass a basic skills test, submit fingerprints, and pay a fee. This allows a person with ABSOLUTELY NO TEACHER TRAINING OR EXPERIENCE to substitute for up to 30 days in any individual classroom. Sure doesn't sound like a qualified individual that I want to be in charge of my children. When thoughtful parents keep their children home, low attendance numbers will force schools to combine classes which would be a big change for students and could certainly cause them to become 'terrified'.

      • Guest

        And to top it off the RUSD School Board resolution says that volunteers will be used to keep the numbers managable under the supervision of the substitute. That means a less than qualified sub could be supervising 40-60 srudents with the help of volunteers. I would not want to subject my child to that. School board your all allegiance is to the students of Ramona. Its time to put Graeff in his place and tell him to settle the contract now!

  3. Fear of retaliation

    I will be home schooling my student if there is a strike. I support the teachers 100 percent. However, I will not allow this to interfere with my child's college track. It saddens me greatly that the school board for whom we voted is not willing, or possibly able, to stand up for our children and do what's right. Paying for the mistakes or decisions made by a previously elected board is not the responsibility of the teachers. First they cut a major part of the music program, then cut the hours and pay of the auxiliary staff, now they want to punish our teachers as well? In the long run, it is our children, our neighborhoods, our property values, our rights as citizens of Ramona that suffer. I live in Ramona because of the benefits. I wonder how many others like myself, parents or teachers or business persons, are seriously rethinking their decision to continue living in a town that doesn't consider it's citizens first.

  4. Parent

    If the district would be making money if teachers go on strike, then where is the incentive for them to settle with the teachers? It sounds to me like they are forcing a strike on purpose by not settling. The board will probably vote against the recommendation of the Fact Finding Report too at Graeff's suggestion. This is all so underhanded. I hope the board will wake up and see Dr. Graeff for what he is…conniving and dishonest. Time for the board to protect Ramona instead of protecting Graeff.

  5. Brian

    Rational Ramona most stay at home parents or those who have friends, neighbors, grandparents to take care of their kids will not send them. The district will lose ADA (money for the number of students in school) because attendance will go down. The RUSD resolution says grades will stand where they were when the teachers went out on strike. The picketing teachers will not cause the children to be frightened, but having a new teacher when they are used to the old one will be difficult. The little ones won't be happy about it and the HS and MS kids won't care about their classes because their grades will be froze. And everyone knows a sub is a sub. It's not the same as having the regular teacher.

    • Rational Ramona

      So, it doesn't seem to matter to the public that the lowest paid support staff have taken cuts and that administration has taken cuts. Only the teachers seem to be held in any esteem. Well, that speaks volumes as to the elitist society we have developed around the teachers. I am not saying that they aren't good teachers – I believe they do a fine job. What I do believe is that we can sit around and whine about previous decisions by previous administrations but the reality is that we are in a financial crisis because of a few different factors: the reduced funding to schools by the State, the loss of funds due to declining student enrollment, the COP payment (loan) for new construction and modernization of buildings, and the past refusal of all the bargaining units (management, support and teachers) to contribute towards benefits. Closing a school and reducing transportation is not as cost effective as it looks on the surface. Also, salaries and benefits are 90% of the school district's budget: when all else has been investigated, it is only logical that we have to make fundamental changes to keep this District afloat. And, you must understand that virtually every school district in San Diego county has their employees paying for benefits as do most private employers.
      Everyone one of the support (classified) staff (the lowest paid employees in this District) has already taken a 7.5% pay cut this year. And our numbers have been cut dramatically by lay offs. I am not saying this has been easy or palatable, it just needs to happen to keep us solvent. It is time for the teachers to step up and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

      • Guest

        I highly doubt any teacher in the district would say they agree to any cuts made to classified staff. Bottom line is that the classifieds' union negiotiations team agreed to many of those cuts and the csea members voted to ratify the new contract. Many teachers have been laid off, just like many classified staff has been layed off. Don't forget that classified employees have a 'me too' clause and will potentially benefit if teachers get a reasonable settlement. Don't blame the teachers for crappy decisions made by others.

        • Rational Ramona

          It was NOT a crappy decision; the classified unit does not have the protections built in Education Code that the teachers unit has – it was pure self preservation.

  6. Teacher

    Teachers feel sorry that the classified got bad counsel and settled when they did and for what they did. We know how hard you work and we appreciate you so very much. But the classified staff did vote on their settlement. You had a voice in your settlement. Please respect that the teachers want the same courtesy. We too are resolved to take a cut. You won't find any teachers who say they expect no cut. We just want to keep it to a reasonable percentage. We also know that you have a "me too" clause in your contract and so what we get, you will get too. We need to support each other because we both know the district would screw all of us. Hang in there Rational Ramona.

    • Teacher's kid

      It seems to me that COMPROMISE is what all parties involved need to put forth. Teachers all around San Diego County have taken salary cuts. My spouse hasn't yet had to take a cut in pay, but neither has he received a raise in seven years. I lost a lucrative business in 2008 due to illness and still can't work because I am too sick much of the time…and too stubborn to live off the government. My father was a teacher for 43 years. During his career, he gave thousands of unpaid hours to his students to make sure each and every one would have something to take away with them…a fond memory, strength, confidence…the list could go on forever. He also spent thousands of his own meager teacher's salary to supplement and enhance his students' educational experience. I have friends who are teachers and EVERY one of them spends money from his/her own pocket to supplement and enhance their students' education. They don't have to do it, but they do so because there just isn't enough discretionary money in the budget for them to get everything they need or want to be able to have our kids leave class looking forward to with anticipation what their teacher has in store for them the next day. A good teacher is like a good book: you turn those pages day after day, minute after minute because you know that the next page will be as exciting as the previous one. I personally don't think anyone employed in RUSD should ever have their pay cut. But how I feel and the reality of the situation are polar opposites unfortunately. I want our RUSD staff..all of them..to WANT and ENJOY to come to work everyday. After all, they hold in their hands our future, our most precious commodities: OUR CHILDREN. I have faith that all parties involved will realize that compromise is the only solution to this unfortunate problem.

Leave a Reply

Facebook

);