Trustees approve 7.8% cut for Ramona teachers now, 9.4% later

By Maureen Robertson

Calls of “recall” and “shame on you” followed the school board vote Monday night to impose cuts of approximately 7.8 percent for teachers this year and 9.4 percent for the next two school years.

Ramona Unified trustees, from left, John Rajcic, Kim Lasley, Rodger Dohm, Dawn Perfect, and Bob Stoody, and Superintendent Robert Graeff prepare for the start of Monday's meeting. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Schools will be closed from May 20 to 24 to account for five of the six unpaid furlough days trustees approved. Teachers will pay a portion of their health benefit costs, retroactive to February. Teachers opting out of district health benefits will receive a $1,500 annual stipend this year but not for the next two years, according to the three-year agreement.

The 4-0-1 vote, with Trustee John Rajcic voting “present,” follows about 18 months of unsuccessful negotiations and mediation sessions with the Ramona Teachers Association, and a fact-finding hearing and report overseen by the state Public Employment Relations Board.

Because this year’s cuts are retroactive, they will be split between teachers’ May and June paychecks.

Teacher representatives have the “right to meet and negotiate with the district concerning any term and condition of employment implemented herein or any other negotiable subject” with a written request from the Ramona Teachers

Dr. Jane Tanaka, left, and middle school teacher Andrea Marootian talk before the meeting starts. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Association, the agreement states.

“They still have a chance to come back,” said Superintendent Robert Graeff. “RTA can come back in to restructure the proposal…I hope they come back.”

Facing a packed Ramona High auditorium that topped 300 people, trustees heard impassioned pleas from teachers, parents, residents, and students not to endorse the cuts as proposed.

The teachers union executive board has approved a strike authorization vote of union members. “The date, though imminent, is yet to be determined,” said a statement from the union.

“It’s as if Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce and we are stuck in the middle,” said Ramona High School senior Marissa Martinez, asking trustees to think about “who is really stuck in this situation.”

Representatives of the Southwest Teachers Association in Imperial Beach show their support. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Cuts in state revenue of about 20 percent, declining student enrollment resulting in an annual loss of $3.5 million, increased costs, spending district reserves, and a loan a previous board took that was to be paid with developer fees are among reasons given for the district’s fiscal woes.

“My job is to make sure that this district stays solvent, and state takeover is not the answer,” Trustee Kim Lasley said. “I am very sad that it has come to this.”

The economic downturn the past several years has affected many, including her family, she said, adding, “I know what it is like to almost lose your home…We are doing what is needed to remain solvent and keep our schools open so the employees can get paid and for our kids to be safe.”

Trustees and the superintendent faced a barrage of accusations and criticism at the board’s meetings Monday and last Tuesday.

“Many people will probably lose their homes,” teacher Bo Varnado said. “…I hope you realize the enormity of this

Superintendent Robert Graeff listens as board President Bob Stoody reads from the agenda. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson


If they beat down their employees when it isn’t necessary, they’ll be remembered as the “bullies they pretend not to be,” Grant McNiff, chief negotiator for the teachers union, said.

“You have a terrible job to do, but please, oh please, oh please, let’s do it with respect, let’s do it with dignity, let’s do it with honesty, let’s develop the trust that needs to happen so we can all come through this process not as ‘them’ and ‘us,’ but a ‘we,’ moving forward,” said 11-year Ramona resident Joyce Daubert, who is a retired Poway teacher and former Poway Federation of Teachers negotiator.

She questioned “a mysterious $800,000 that didn’t turn up in the budget when the fact finding took place, and now exists in the world.”

Retired Poway teacher and former Poway Federation of Teachers negotiator Joyce Daubert, an 11-year Ramona residents, talks to the trustees. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

The district’s second interim budget report, required by the state, had a projected ending balance about $800,000 higher than the first report, Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said Tuesday. The report came after material for the February fact-finding hearing was prepared, but it is Ostermann’s understanding that it was included in the fact-finding discussion.

“These teachers give their life’s blood,” said parent Joy Plantz, one of 22 people to speak Monday. “…Everybody has the same goal in mind. Why can’t there be a medium found?”

She believes “the district is arguing that the glass is half empty and the teachers are arguing that the glass is half full, and there needs to be better communication.”

The cuts to teachers amount to $1.6 million this year and $5.4 million after three years, said Donna Braye-Romero, teachers union president.

“Our local economy cannot endure such a hit,” she said. “…You need to stop what you’re doing and find a way to compromise, not just dictate what you will take.”

Mike Zehm, Ramona Elementary teacher for 32 years, said he no longer trusts district leadership.

“Their greatest interest this year has been paying off the district debts on the backs of the employees,” he said.

Deanna Lasley talks of how much her mother, Trustee Kim Lasley, cares for the students, teachers, and community. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

One assistant superintendent has left, another is leaving, and five schools will have new principals next year, he said.

“I know that the district leaders think that they are sailing into the 21st century of learning, but I see the district as a ship not only losing the wind in its sales, but one without a rudder.”

Calling for a one-year agreement rather than three, teacher Lezlie Mitchell asked the board to direct the superintendent to “look into additional avenues for balancing the budget.”

Another teacher, Rebecca Pierce, said her application for a home loan will be in jeopardy, and teacher Cori McDonald said teachers are willing to take necessary cuts, but why so much?

“I hope that what you impose is necessary and not just what you can,” she said.

Reduced compensation for teachers is the last of several steps the district has taken to reduce costs, Graeff said.

Support and management employees agreed to similar cuts earlier in the year, and other cuts included eliminating several administrative and management jobs, laying off classroom teachers, not replacing employees who have retired or resigned, and eliminating music for elementary students, summer school, and the Gifted and Talented Education program, he said. Cutbacks in classroom supplies, textbooks, and equipment also have been made, he noted.

After voters approved Proposition 30 in November, the district reduced the percentage of proposed cuts for teachers and reimbursed a portion of cuts already approved by other employees, Graeff said.

Trustees John Rajcic and Kim Lasley listen to speakers. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Also, nearly 40 percent of Ramona’s teachers will receive a 5 percent pay raise next year, as a result of step and column, he said, referring to salary increases resulting from longevity with the district or receiving additional education.

McNiff said the teachers’ negotiating team will meet to discuss what can be done to change the board’s mind.

“We’ll get through this,” he said. “We’ll get through this.”

As teachers, parents, and students exit the Ramona High Performing Arts Wing after trustees impose cuts for three years, a sign sends a message. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Related posts:

  1. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees
  2. Teachers, district near negotiations showdown
  3. Teachers protest proposed cuts; support workers review tentative agreement
  4. Ramona teachers union leaders call for strike authorization vote
  5. Teachers challenge district’s numbers

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Apr 23 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.

34 Comments for “Trustees approve 7.8% cut for Ramona teachers now, 9.4% later”

  1. I believe I just saw Dr Graeff on KUSI news justifying the cuts as necessary so late in the school year, because otherwise RUSD would be declared Insolvent as of July 1, 2013. What happened? We have this additional $800K at the end of the academic year,so why are we now insolvent and need to have 6 furlough days at the end of May? Not allowed to swear here.. so let me say it in Japanese… BAKA-YARO! .
    Push back the furlough days and pay cuts to next school year, starting in September, and reduce them to what was recommended by the Fact Finding Panel. Insolvency can wait a couple of months… we have plenty of debt that wont go away… and you have to give the State time to find the money to bail us out anyway.

    • Guest

      Could not have said it better. Thank you Dr. Tanaka for your continued support of Ramona Schools. Our community is blessed to have a member that speaks up and backs up her words. Please continue to gather community supporters so this abuse of power stops!

      • Not to deter from the present issues, but yes , Friends of Ramona Unified Schools (FORUS), is in the process of obtaining a 501c3 status as quickly as possibly, and
        will be working with the community to assist in deferred maintenance/health/safety issues which cannot be addressed under the current /recent budgetary constraints… and which most likely will not be addressed if the State takes over. It turns out that donations cannot be toward paying off the COP; that is not legal for some reason.
        Independent of FORUS, a concerned Ramona parent will be approaching the PTA and RTA about possible community fundraising for teachers who may be in acute need this May/June due to pay cuts for the year being distributed over just two months, the last 2 months prior to summer recess. So if you see a booth at a local event..please help.
        And Teachers and Administration/Board… IT'S NOT TOO LATE…NEGOTIATE!
        (If needed… will provide free psychiatric intervention.)

  2. Beau Taylor

    Congratulations! Dumber students are on their way.

  3. guest

    Totally agree with you Dr. Tanaka. RUSD has always ended with a strong bottom line
    rather than the "projected" year end balances." Ususally they have several million at the end of the year. Dr. Graeff is a smooth talking, hard hearted, vendictive man. Unfortuately the board is convinced he is telling them the truth.

    But here's the real problem. Graeff and his followers (aka school board) are going to do heavy and long lasting damage to Ramona's educational systém by forcing a strike and not one good thing will come from it. They would have to take 50% of every teacher's salary to even come close to paying off the the COP. The teachers and classified employeed can not solve this problem for Ramona. So why are they putting the students, parents and all district employees through this?


      This ultimately boils down to Graeff trying to earn "street cred" so he can go looking for a job at a larger district with "union-buster" on his resume. We are merely a stepping stone in his career path. He has no interest in the school district's kids, education, debt, solvency, etc.

  4. Teal Young

    I wish I had stood up and asked for a count of hands from all the parents of children who came and did not speak but wanted to let their board know that the citizens of Ramona stand behind continued negotiations toward a reasonable resolution and agreement of appropriate compensation for our much beloved teachers. These people are deserving of our respect and all we want is action done in good faith, without subterfuge and interesting accounting tactics. I have talked to quite a few of my children's teachers and to a person they have been most concerned about how this affects the children- as one friend put it " We understand we have to take a pay cut, we can see that the district's roles are declining and we know the district is in deep trouble, we just don't want to go without contingency clauses for three years." However, during the meeting last night there was no "hearing" anyone not sitting on the stage at all. You had in attendance angry board members, board members who looked as though they were getting ready to put down their favorite dog,board members that looked like they were trying their hardest to just fade into their seats, and Mr. Graeff who was the picture of arrogance. There was no open minds, there was no discussion on what had been put before them by the public, there was not even the pretense in considering anything that had not been offered to the teachers, and to Ramona, since October of 2012. So much for fact finding. The facts are not the point anymore, if they ever really mattered at all. I for one can only conclude that there is another agenda, another set of facts and some distinct undisclosed influence on their decision making process, because in the bright light of day, their rationale for these impositions make no sense at all, given what the public has been told. Which leaves the question: " What have we NOT been told?"

    • Vicki Sellers

      I AM on of those parents who were in attendance and I did not speak up verbally but came to show my support for my daughters teachers past and present…I AGREE with you Teal that it was a travesty by Graeff and the board who had already made their decision no matter what anyone said or how much any one us pleaded for our children, or the livlihood of these teachers, schools and community. AND I too have the same question as do many others that you raised…WHAT do we NOT know that they do? and WHY arent they telling us?

  5. Anonymous

    I can’t believe this…

    We are closing our schools for a week. This is absolute crap.

    Teachers…take the cuts or seek employment elsewhere.

    Graeff…ditto. I hate RUSD at this point and whst it’s doing to the community and our kids’ education.

    How can we fire this superintendent and hire a savior for our schools?

  6. Ramona Teacher

    Thank you Dr. Tanaka, I had not seen the reports yet so I went online to check it out. Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more, I saw the media interviews with Dr. Graeff on both KUSI and kgtv. I was more than a little surprised when he stated that without the cuts to the teachers, RUSD would be “insolvent” by July 1st. What happened?!? Maureen Roberton’s article posted on the Ramona Sentinel website on March 26th stated, “In his report to the trustees, Ostermann said income is up about $25,000 and expenses are down, leaving a projected ending balance on June 30-the end of the 2012-2013 budget year-of $3.2 million, up about $800,000 from the nearly $2.4 million projected in his first update in December.” Which is it? Insolvency or $3.2 million? And people wonder why we as teachers don't trust everything we are told….

  7. Mesa Mike

    Boy, your school board down there sounds just as arrogant as our city council up here in Costa Mesa. Communication, and more importantly, LISTENING, is vital, but one can already see their minds are made up. They even bring in their kids to speak about how much their parents care, when clearly they don't. Straight out of the playbook!

  8. Guest

    Bottom line is this all could have been avoided if the teachers had given something, anything, to help out over the last five plus years but they gave NOTHING. News flash RUSD Teachers we had a recession that we're still climbing out of. Every employed adult I know has lost some income and benefits, that is if they weren't laid off or had to close their business. If RUSD Teachers gave 2% a year for the last four we'd all be sitting pretty now. Union leaders gave some very bad advice and now it's hitting the fan. Sad day for the community since some of the best people I know are RUSD Teachers.

    • Zach

      This is not true. The teachers offered 5%+ and they were willing to stay in negotiations. The district just walked away. RUSD wanted it their or way or no way. No teachers in any other school district in CA has had to take 8% or 9%. Teachers in other districts took 2%, 3% 4% but not 8% or 9% and they had restoration and contingency language. So you see its not just CA's budget causing all the troubles. RUSD is responsible for the COP which is the heart of our problems.. Most other CA school district have returned their teachers to their previous levels since the passing of Prop. 30.

      • Montana Vet

        Got any examples Zach of school districts that restored cuts following Prop 30?

        • Joe

          Poway is raising its teacher's pay by 4% by doing away with the furrlough days it put into place in 2010.

        • Joe

          El cajon has given the teachers back 2% of the cuts they took.

        • Fran

          In San Diego Unified we got a 2 percent raise in January, restoring instructional (furlough) days and then another raise in July."

        • Sweethellcat

          Sweetwater Union High School Dst. restored 11 furlough days after prop 30 passed because of contingency language bargained during the last round of negotiations.

        • San Marcos Teacher

          In June 2010, teachers also agreed to a 3.26 salary cut and six furlough days. That reduction was RESCINDED after the district received money from the Federal Education Jobs Bill.

  9. Guest

    Saddest part is the disconnect in these negotiations, with RUSD management/board electing hard-edged negotiative manipulation to force the teacher's to either comply or strike. One side is the emotionally committed teachers versus the callous superintendent with the board following his lead, and Dr. Graeff using the teacher's vested interest against them as if it is a weakness.

    I support our teachers and question RUSDs tactics for dividing a community.

  10. Brian

    I agree with the last speaker of the evening, who basically said, with your choices there are always consequences. RUSD decided to take out the COP loan without community support. They blindly went ahead and built two new schools, which they had no means to pay for. They face a state takeover if they do not repay the loan. The loan is due now, so rather than taking their lumps, they have passed their problem on to all the district employees and the students (fewer school days, possible strike, larger class sizes. RUSD should face the consequences of their actions. They caused the mess, they should step up and take responsibility for it. Let the State take over.

  11. Montana Vet

    Good contribution by Guest. Whereas the teachers claim that the Governing Board members are puppets (probably unlikely) the teachers should be reflecting on the quality of their leadership. I have no idea what teachers pay in terms of union dues, but don't they deserve better?

    • Sue

      I do believe the board members are being manipulated and here's why. The board members volunteer for the job of school board members. They are members of this community (Graeff is not) and they have worked on many projects at the schools with the teachers. They really are not awful heartless people if you get to know each of them individually. However when they are on the board they change into being pro administration. They buy into everything Graeff tells them as truth. Then they all vote the same way (except Racjec), so they are individually persecuted. If even one of them asked questions publicly or showed any intelligent opposition towards ANYTHING Graeff proposed, I might think differently. But they never do!

  12. Guest

    Zach let me correct you. Teachers offered 5% THIS year not 3 or 4 years ago when other districts were taking 2-3% cuts. Now the holes been dug so deep there really no easy way out.. Reading all this nit picking about mis-managing a few dollars here, a few dollars there is getting tired. Bottom line is we had a recession which hit our state in particular really hard. We all suffered with lower paychecks, except for the RUSD teachers. Now they need to give a little too.

    • Joe

      So sorry that you are having such a hard time. Many other classified staff are not jumping on the, "We suffered , so you should too and if you don't we hate you." What the heck? Do you think the teachers would be treating you that way if the roles were reversed? No we wouldn't. Like I said, thank goodness for the classified who have not been fooled by the DO's lies. The district screwed you not the teachers. We love our classified staff and appreciate you very much. We're very sorry you have been having to take lower paychecks. Teachers do want to give. We have offered decreases in our salaries. The district refused to hear our offers and then they spread rumors that the teachers weren't willing to give. Be careful who you listen to.

    • Montana Vet

      It seems like the union strategy has been to drag out negotiations, but what did that get them? Did you see this morning's Union Tribune article on compensation for union bosses? These teachers pay a lot for leadership. I don't think the Ramona teachers are getting good advice.

      • teacher.

        The Union Tribune is very anti union…any union. Teachers can decide for ourselves whether or not we are getting good advice. We aren't relying on hear say and rumors. We are dealing with them directly, asking questions and gathering information and we are intelligent enough to make that determination. Thank you very much.

    • S. H.

      When they did come in with any figure lower than what the district wanted, the district walked away. That's why they had to have a mediator first and the Fact Finding. The district was never there to negotiate. If you weren't there, you don't know what was offered, you are just relying on rumors.

  13. Teacher

    Guest please tell me why a school district built new school in a recession. You seem to be the only person on here that teachers should pay for the districts mistakes.

  14. Teacher

    I am sure that “some of the best people you know” are very offended by your lack of support. Also explain why the district needs more from teachers than what the fact finding report suggests?

  15. Sue

    The federal government has allocated about $1.2 billion in Federal Education Jobs Fund money to California school districts. According to the Calif. Dept. of Education, “This includes salaries, performance bonuses, health insurance, retirement benefits, incentives for early retirement, pension fund contributions, tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment assistance, transportation subsidies, and reimbursement for child care expenses. Funds may be used to restore reductions in salaries and benefits or to implement increases. They may also be used to eliminate furlough days.”

    • Mom

      RUSD got Fed. Ed, Jobs Funds just like all districts in CA and instead of being able to rally like other districts, our money will be covering the district's mistake (COP). Other CA school districts are educating their students with longer school years, adequately paid teachers and lower class sizes. Its time for the RUSD School Board to put their heads together and start raising some money for our kids!

  16. MainStreet Media

    Teacher is correct.
    I just checked with the district. The insurance carriers will not allow the district to pay premiums retroactively, BUT the district will take 2.48% of each teacher's salary, spread over the last two months of the school year (May and June), to cover the district's cost for premiums for the last five months of the school year.
    I apologize and regret my error. I will correct it in this online article and put a correction in next week's paper.
    Thank you, teacher, for the correction.
    Maureen Robertson

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