Concerned parent will keep children home if teachers strike

This was sent to the Ramona Unified School District Board members and superintendent.

I am a parent with children in specialized academic programs at Barnett Elementary School and James Dukes Elementary School. I have been observing the proceedings between the Ramona school board and Ramona Teachers Association. In the event of a strike by teachers, the increased class sizes, the potential for less control both in the classroom and on the playgrounds, and the unfamiliarity and awareness of the individual needs of a child by temporary staff put all of the children at risk.

I am especially concerned about the physical, emotional, and academic welfare of the children with special needs, but those same concerns would apply to the general student population. With less classroom and playground supervision, the children with special needs are particularly vunerable to harassment, both physical and emotional, putting them in a high risk environment.

I consider this to be a serious safety issue. I am not willing to put my children in that position, are you?

In addition, teachers and aides have spent eight months working hard to help these children achieve academic, social, and emotional growth.  The unstable school and classroom environment that would result from a strike would put these fragile children in serious jeopardy in all of these areas, resulting in potentially significant losses.

While my primary concern about a teachers’ strike is the safety of our children, no one can deny that there are many significant challenges facing educators today. They have spent time, energy, and financial resources pursuing advanced educational degrees and training. Many classroom teachers have multiple degrees and certifications making them a very valuable resource for our precious children.  They face the difficult task of, not just giving our children “book learning,” but the tools to be successful in spite of the many challenges facing our children in an ever changing world.  Every day they have to deal with the effects on our children in their care resulting from the moral and social challenges of our society.

Read the headlines ­— Sandy Hook, for example.  Our teachers spend six hours, or more, a day with our children, then spend countless more hours a day preparing for the next day. They use their own resources on supplies and materials. It is absurd to thank them by reducing their pay and/or benefits.

The discussions between the school board and the teachers’ union have been long, laborious, and stressful for all parties.  The issues are complex. I see valid points on both sides of the table. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the teachers involved in my children’s lives. They have continued to display professionalism in carrying out their responsibilities to our children and in their contact with parents, in spite of what must be very difficult times for them.

You, the members of the school board, also face difficult and trying times.  I do not envy any of the parties involved in these negotiations. However, ultimately the children will be the victims of a failure to come to an agreement.  You can be assured that, in the event of a strike, I will NOT compromise the physical, emotional, or academic well-being of my children. My children are too precious and so are the teachers who nurture them.

A concerned parent,

Marie Grey


Related posts:

  1. Ramona teachers union leaders call for strike authorization vote
  2. School board approves emergency measures as district braces for possible teachers strike
  3. Ramona school district braces for strike
  4. Ramona school district, teachers union expect fact-finding report Monday
  5. ‘We are united,’ teachers tell trustees

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Posted by Staff on Apr 27 2013. Filed under Editorial, Letters to the Editor. 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.

20 Comments for “Concerned parent will keep children home if teachers strike”

  1. Ms Grey, When parents have recently voiced their concerns about physical safety and emotional impact of crossing the picket lines and seeing their teachers protesting, I have supported their decisions to not send their kids to school if the teachers decide to strike.
    I see that you sent your letter to the Administration and Board. I suggest you also send your letter directly to the Ramona's Teacher's Association and the California Teacher's Association because the ball is in their court. For some reason, the Board and Administration legally are not allowed to open up renogotiation, but the RTA is fully open to do so. I hope they do renegotiate rather than strike. I do not understand why the RTA and the Board did not agree on the Fact Finding Panel's recommendations, especially if what Dr Graeff said on TV is accurate, and that RUSD would have become insolvent on July 1 , 2013 otherwise. ITS NOT TOO LATE.. RENEGOTIATE!

    • B. Ingalls

      Thanks for being involved and concerned. We love our community!
      The district has imposed its will and has no interest in negotiating. If we were to come to the table, there would be no one there!
      The Fact Finder's Report was not an independent audit. In fact, it was discovered later the district withheld $800,000 in assets from the Report. The Report does not include numbers, so was subject to interpretation. RTA saw it one way, the district another. RTA was willing to meet in the middle, the district not so.
      Because things are so bad, we're waiting for PERB – and courts – to intervene.
      Thanks again for continuing to listen to both sides. We do appreciate you!

      • guest

        Please elaborate on where this $800K came from, and where is is in the budget, or wherever. I want to believe that but need to see exactly its source and where it is now in the general fund or elsewhere.

        • B. Ingalls

          A few people spoke to this at the last board meeting. According to RTA, "The District's 2nd interim budget shows almost $800,000 more in the general fund ending balance. This information was withheld from the fact finder and from RTA on the night of the fact finding."
          RUSD justified it's omission by saying, "We hadn't board-approved the funds, so they couldn't be included."
          Wouldn't it be great to have an independent auditor, not just the district reporting the district's funds to the SDCOE?

        • Ramona Teacher

          I don't know where it came from, but it shows up on the difference between the first interim and second interim projected ending balance. Please look on the district website. The budget is on the lower right side on the homepage. I found it under CAPS.

      • guest

        Just playing devil's advocate here because teachers provide unique insight on this stuff… $800K is maybe 1% or so of the total budget. Even if there was another $800K that came in late in the year, why should it all go to preserving teacher's salaries? We already spend 90% of the budget on salaries and our schools are dumps due to deferred maintenance. Teachers complain they have to spend their own money on school supplies because that budget was slashed. Class sizes have increased because of teacher layoffs. So from obvious teacher's perspective, why should that money go to preserving teachers salaries, when so many others have taken cuts? Or requiring that we taxpayers cough up 100% for your family's health care premiums?

        Would you be averse to having the district spend that money on maintenance, supplies, or additional hires that would indirectly improve your work envoronment?

        • B. Ingalls

          It's not about the money, really. It's about trust; not including the money in the factfinder's report was public deception. RUSD continues to tell the community they are in a crisis, but the district declared itself insolvent – not the county or any other agency.
          It's all about fairness.
          We're not asking to have everything go back to salaries – although we will be some of the lowest paid educators in the county. We're saying, "Be fair. Negotiate in good faith." Does that sound unreasonable?
          Do our masters degrees and experience count for nothing? Are teachers really overpaid for what they do? I challenge anyone to come to my classroom. Before I was a teacher, I was in medicine, records-keeping, marketing, and research. Nothing challenges me like teaching – and I love it!

          • Bad Timing

            First again, I LOVE our teachers. Past and present. I respect them and know in my heart they indeed have the best interest of my children in mind. But it IS about the money. Work on your message guys. "It's about trust" translates to "we don't want much but we don't want to lose." Or some variation on that theme. "Negotiate in good faith" means "we tried to push things our way and we got slammed." Right or wrong, that is the perception. And as for your conclusion that the district declared itself insolvent; isn't THAT what being transparent is all about? You suggest they hide it from us? Pretend it'll get better without drastic action? Lastly, you ask if your "…masters degrees and experience count for nothing?" Money? I think you mean money. "Are teachers really overpaid for what they do?" NO!!!! But again, you are clearly referring to money, compensation. I have NO DOUBT you are dedicated and focused. I am pointing it out because many of you are so wrapped up you are not seeing what many of the rest of us see. It is about money. And that focus has unfortunate timing thanks to our national economy etc.

          • Ramona Teacher

            "Negotiate in good faith" to me means come to the table and work to find a compromise. The district had their fact-finding binder ready way before the actual date was set. In fact, they had it ready before it was determined that it was necessary to go to fact-finding. The impression was that they really didn't care what we had to say, it was their way, that's it. They proved that when they imposed heavier than the fact finding report suggested.

            Personally I have problems with some of the numbers they use. The district has said that they have slashed the budget, and in many cases they have. So why did they change the amount listed under "Books and Supplies" on the 2012-2013 budget from the $2 million plus listed in their original budget to $3 million plus in the board approved budget? I am not aware of any textbooks being purchased, I have not seen additional supplies. I still have to buy hand soap for my kindergarten bathroom. They also project having over $500,000 left at the end of the year. Is this bad planning, or padding the budget to make it look worse?

          • big daddy

            1. Why didn't the RTA have their binder ready? Why didn't their big brother, the CTA, have their binder ready? It means that the district was more prepared
            2. Why do they work so hard after the fact to discredit the report that they agreed upon at the start?
            3. If you question the budget, and you are obviously reading things carefully, why don't you DO something about it?
            4. The fact finder's report was in the district's favor, but recommended nowhere near the cuts that the district wanted, and much closer to what the RTA was willing to conceed. so in that sense, the district lost. The district is willing to accept the terms in it's entirety, The RTA is not. It's black and white.
            5. A budget is not a straightjacket and it's not bad business to have a modest operating income left over. It's considered smart. Even the most thoughtful projections are made with statistics that are part voodoo, part prayer, and part uncertainty. To have $500K left over out of a $40+million budget is not "padding". Look at the ecomony, for god's sake. It still highly unstable. $500K seems like they were acting conservatively because they truly don't know what the new state budget will bring, and they know that they will be in the red next year. But the RTA will scream and rant (because thats all they do now) that the district is lying and hoarding money.If they show me I will believe them. But if they won't, I will not believe that a public agency who is audited every year is defrauding us all. Incorrect projections, a little number fudging in the budget, and conservative planning is not unethical or illegal, and shouldn't be the platform that the RTA takes to get around the requirement that their members have to take some cuts for three years.

          • guest

            I hear everything you are saying. There are valid reasons not to trust the other side, but I think your views are one sided that you don't see anything that the RTA has done that constitutes deception. There are integrity issues on both sides. The $800K thing, which still has not been made clear, is almost irrelevant at this point to the big picture. The same cuts would still be on the table. Yeah, we have a surplus this year, but a huge deficit next. Even with the $800K. It looks to the public that the RTA is so hell bent on accusing the district of fraud, misconduct, and cheating, that they are forgetting that some of us require that they actually prove it. And the district never said they were insolvent – it was clear that they are going to be without concesisons. But the RTA thinks they are lying about that too. If you think that the district is submitting fraudulent budgets, then please do something to expose them so they can be fired or prosecuted. And publish something so we can read it. But don't let your quest for vengance screw up my kid's senior year. It's the only one he's going to get.

          • Ramona Teacher

            The big thing about the $800,000 was that the district knew it was here or coming, and declined to share that information with the 'fact-finders'. The panel only uses what is presented to them, does not determine the 'truth' of the 'facts'. You can find the additional $800,000 in the difference of the ending year projections on the first and second interim reports for this year in the Budget section under CAPS. Please also look under Multi-year projections to see just how far off the district is with their projections. For several years now we have been told over and over again how far in the hole we will be, only to come out in the black. Last year's multi-year projection was that we would have about $800 left over at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, instead we had over $6,000,000. For this 2012-2013 school year they projected a negative $7,000,000 but the current interim projections show over $3,000,000 in the black. HOLY COW!!!! That is a difference of about $10,000,000 dollars!!!! I realize that the budgets are difficult these days, but HOW can they be that far off given the size of the overall budget? Please, do not take my word for it, look it up on the district website.

            Dr. Graeff did go on camera with both channel 9 and 39 and stated that we would be insolvent by July 1st if the district did not impose on the teachers. I found the clips on their websites.

            I DO NOT want to mess up your son's senior year. As a teacher I have a lot of time, energy and heart invested in my students. I want the absolute best for them, everyone of them, this year and every year. This has added a lot of stress to everyone. I really wish I could trust what the district tells me.

          • Dennis

            "Last year's multi-year projection was that we would have about $800 left over at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, instead we had over $6,000,000. For this 2012-2013 school year they projected a negative $7,000,000 but the current interim projections show over $3,000,000 in the black."

            the district has projected deficits and taken corrective actions. you are comparing before and after, as well as one-time (or at least non-recurring) influxes. i believe the numbers the district is presenting, and i believe the cuts are the appropriate solution to an obvious problem. could they get by with a 5-6% cut instead of 8-9%? perhaps, but your leadership didn't make that happen. i know you think the district walked away from that offer, but opposing the neutral recommendation says the teachers weren't willing either.

          • guest

            Thank you, Ramona Teacher, I will look this stuff up. I absolutely know that neither you nor any teacher wants to mess up my son's senior year. But I believe that your RTA wants to do it, and you are going to let them if you vote to strike, or if you don't take a stand with your union leaders and get them to accept the terms of the fact finders report. Please ask yourself why the CTA in this so deep? Do you think it is some noble cause for them? If you strike, they still get paid and don't have to live or work in this community. They will get to flex their muscle by standing on the rubble heap (made up of our kids, schools and your relationships with your collegues and parents) and demand that other distiricts get in line or suffer the same fate as ours.

            I'm not anti-union, but something is definitely fishy in Denmark about this whole thing. I think you as a teacher need to look out for yourself, because the RTA and CTA don't care much about you personally, either. They each have their own agenda,

          • big bird

            excellent responses here from bad timing and guest, so i guess props are due to ms ingalls for bringing them out. hopefully she, donna, grant, andrea, et al. can open their eyes enough to see beyond the narrow view their comments display. give me a reason to support you and i will, but right now you've got nothing.

  2. S. H.

    The fact finding report recommended 5.1% this year, and 7.01% for the next two years, It was also recommended by one of the panel members that there be restoration language if the contract was for more than one year. This seems only fair to me because if the economy and the districts finances change, or if new money is made available to the district, then the teachers would be eligible to go back and renegotiate for restoration. But the district's resolution to impose is far from the fact finding report. It was harse and disrepectful. The district will impose 7.81% this year and 9.48% with no restoration language. The district was going backwards in negotiations. If the teachers do go back to the bargaining table they should be taken seriously and treated with repect. Because when you go back to the bargaining table, you should be ready to bargain, not dictate like Graeff has done.

    • I know they wont do this… its too fair … Go back and negotiate… but do so on video and upload it to the Sentinel and Patch. Have us all vote. We are all speculating as to who is being deceptive or dishonest. Remember the public would be watching, and we watch body language and facial expressions; points deducted for lying or being inconsistent in answers. Points given for good conduct and understanding the other side's perspective during negotiations.

    • Big Daddy

      Yeah, I agree with Jane. So the RTA won't agree to the fact finder's report because they don't trust the district to uphold their end and eliminate the furlough days even if money is available? Okay, a lot of bad blood there and distrust, I don't blame the RTA for feeling that way. But the RTA definitely can set this up so that the district will be inclined to play fair. They are certainly smart enough. Parents sure would go on the warpath to reinstate those school days and would back the RTA big-time.

      UNLESS the RTA doesn't really want to settle this fairly because they have another agenda that the CTA is partnering on. It has to do with unions who are so power hungry that they violate the fundamental reasons for their existence. They now care more about power than protecting the teachers – if they did, they would take the fact finding report terms.

      Wake up teachers, The CTA has a leash around the necks of the RTA and will claw over your backs to get the power they want. They have already started. They don't care about your livelihoods or our kids. They are organized and already have many of you drinking their kool-aide and accepting their propaganda without question. If the rest of you don't organize, too, and take some action, then you deserve everything you're about to get.

      • b. ingalls

        In the first paragraph, you say RTA is "smart enough," and in the last, you say it's not "awake" enough to see CTA taking power. Teachers are not one, giant group with no brain. We teach the state standards including the union movement as part of American history. We understand unions are only as good as the people in them.
        And, teachers are generally good people.
        RTA is waiting for court injunctions. If we negotiate with the district at this point, we are legally bound by what the district imposed. That's just how it is, legally.
        We're not drinking anyone's Kool-Aide, not CTA's and not RUSD's.
        Thanks for communicating!

  3. Ramona Teacher

    Do you really think that if teachers, or their unions, were so powerful that we would have intentionally let our schools & classrooms become so dilapidated and under-served?

    "Reality check" you still have to follow the money, no matter which job or profession you're evaluating. Have many bankers went to jail for their financial diddling? Teachers used to be part of a "site-based decision-making process", as part of our site improvement planning. It's been years since my principal ever gave me a copy of a site budget for evaluation! How can our superintendent declare insolvency, since prior to this announcement, he'd already increased his own salary by 17% with "step in pay grade" increases, but we're not calling it a raise? He makes more money than the Mayor of San Diego, as a non-teaching, office manager for a small rural school district in Ramona. We can't afford over-priced administrators anymore then we can promote underpaying teachers, and still sustain a standard of educational quality. And there's additional evidence that "it is about the money".

    Since the Ramona Community doesn't trust or value its own school system, it hasn't passed any of our previous efforts to use school bonds as a local, temporary tax fund to maintain our schools. Guess who's buying the hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes to prevent public health epidemics from spreading through schools and your community? Your teachers & volunteer parents, that's who. We are working as a team for the children we serve and care for at every school site to keep the classrooms supplied and clean; this causes the loss of teachers' time for educational planning, now that the administration cut custodial hours and left it up to the teachers to maintain the learning environment of our classrooms.

    I know that 'teacher/ union bashing" is back in mode for some people who either don't have children in school anymore or had their own dissatisfied, personal experiences in some school system. But, we cannot just ignore the "reality-check" of where all that money untimely came from, with the board's approval? It's not just $800,000 for this year, but the millions of dollars which have been "under-whelmmingly" explained or "creatively" accounted for over the past 10 years through the due process of legal negotiations. The previous board and superintendent had no public vote of support to irresponsibly dump a $25 million construction loan into the general fund of a small rural school district without any secured funding from state or federal sources.

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