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