Three wishes for Ramona

By Superintendent Bob Graeff

Ramona Unified School District

Looking forward to 2014, I would like to share three simple, straightforward wishes I have for the entire Ramona community.

First, I wish that every adult in the entire Ramona community would fully support the importance and critical value of our local public schools. Since the opening of the first American public school in 1635 in Boston, a cornerstone of our democracy has always been a core belief in public education.

As in Poway, San Marcos, and other local communities with high-performing student populations like ours, I wish that every Ramona resident, parent, retiree, young single, and educator would renew their faith in public education and recognize it as one of our single most important vehicles to maintaining economic and moral leadership across the entire globe.

Second, I wish that every Ramona parent and school employee would raise their level of expectations for the success of every child in the community. Whether bound for the university, the military, or the work force immediately after high school, nearly every student could — and should — be asked to increase their level of commitment to their core studies, to their elective programs, and to preparing for future success.

With parents and school employees working together and holding themselves to higher levels of responsibility as well, our local students (Grades K-12) could achieve so much more during their school-aged years, leading to greater fulfillment in their adult lives.

Finally, I wish that every Ramona voter would take time this coming year to review information from our local school district to understand why the board may be asking again for support for a local school bond. For decades, the state’s financial plan for all school districts has been to require new construction and major upgrades to come through bond measures approved by local voters.

Even though our student enrollment is declining, our aging schools and complex fiscal issues must be addressed — now more than ever before. For our local schools to meet the changing demands of an evolving economy, our students must be housed in adequate buildings and with programs that are supported financially to address student needs.

On behalf of the Governing Board and each of our employees, please join me in doing what you can to make these three wishes come true in 2014. On behalf of the entire school administration in Ramona Unified, Happy Holidays — and Happy New Year!

Related posts:

  1. The teacher, not the program or money, makes the difference
  2. A look at Ramona school district finances
  3. Barnett Elementary earns state Distinguished School honor
  4. Letters to the Editor
  5. Education: How It Doesn’t Work

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Dec 31 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.

23 Comments for “Three wishes for Ramona”

  1. Guest

    From my perspective, a list of wishes for the community loses its sincerity when it includes a wish for us to tax ourselves more to fix mistakes anybody who had a clue could have avoided.

    My wish for Ramona is that Dr. Graaff and the RUSD would make at least some progress in addressing the critical issues facing the district before asking us to pony up more money to bail them out.

  2. Guest

    It’s not completely Ramona’s fault we are low on funds. Our property taxes are not allocated fairly and we see only about 85% of the taxes we send in. The state redistributes the funds how they wish and better performing schools are actually penalized. The real problem is that the school’s infrastructure is not taken into account in the state’s apportionment (redistribution). So that if one school has excellent students learning in a dilapidated shack and another has poorly performing students performing in state-of-the-art facilities, the poorly performing school gets more money.

    You can see where the disconnect is here as it’s the teachers that make the students perform well or not, regardless of the physical building. However, that’s not how our brilliant state does the math. Look to the Teacher’s Union here too as a problem and not a solution. With free health benefits for the teacher and ALL OF THEIR FAMILY, the personnel costs have gotten out of hand. Also, if a group of volunteers get together to make repairs or improvements to the school infrastructure, they can’t do it due to union rules.

    Prop 13 has also hurt schools as it has shifted the tax burden to homeowners and away from businesses because people move to a new home far more often than a business moves its location. So, many businesses are paying little more in property taxes than they were in the late 1970’s. In fact, it’s coming very close to one-half of all property taxes collected in the state are from homeowners and only one-third from businesses (with non-owner occupied homes making up the remaining 20% or so).

    We do need more money from the community to get around these union rules and have more control over our destiny. Personally, I’d prefer to see businesses levied a larger portion.

    Think about the people you want to hire or the people working when you start drawing a retirement check. Do you want them well educated or not?

    • Jane Tanaka MD

      Agree with most of your points, Guest. Not trying to nitpick, but…
      regarding :"Also, if a group of volunteers get together to make repairs or improvements to the school infrastructure, they can’t do it due to union rules." .. actually that is not quite true. Our school district's maintenance personnel are so short staffed, and the $200K- $270K they receive from the State for maintenance is only about 1/3 of was is really needed… thus, they are accepting help from volunteer groups. Volunteers have to pass a finger print/background check if they are volunteering during school hours. Friends of Ramona Unified Schools has raised over 17.5K in donations toward remediating deferred maintenance problems in the last 6 months, and one of our members, who is a non-union plumbing contractor, worked at RUSD at no charge for over 50 hours.
      Also with regards to "With free health benefits for the teacher and ALL OF THEIR FAMILY, the personnel costs have gotten out of hand," I believe that the teachers and administration are definitely paying more out of pocket for their medical expenses this year and that the district chose a less costly health plan.

      • Mike M.

        Thank you Jane for letting me/us know about the opportunities for volunteering. I ran into some resistance a couple of years ago with this so this is a welcome change. As far as the benefits, I had been told that by a teacher at the elementary school, so your information is, perhaps, more recent and accurate.

        I suppose my question is, "where is the waste or mismanagement?" I know there are those who resist additional funds going to the school, so where should we NOT be spending the money already received?

  3. Jane Tanaka MD

    Speaking as a private citizen, homeowner and business owner in Ramona, If 30 cents to 50 cents a day per household in Ramona over the next 20 years would keep our school district solvent, pay off the COP , maybe even repair potential health and safety hazards in our public schools, it would be worth it. It would prevent further exodus from our town, further closures of businesses dependent on a healthy young population, and would attract young families to move up here again for their first homes. And yes, since we small businesses would beneift also, we could be levied a little more property tax and share in this burden as well.

    • Guest

      I couldn't disagree more! RUSD has to show us something FIRST. They have done NOTHING significant to consolidate services or cut costs. All they want to do is ask us for more money. Well, that may be necessary at some point, but at least take some of the steps that have been mentioned time and again in these posts FIRST. That would indicate that the district gets it and is willing to change the way they do business. To simply bail out the district without seeing any progress first is just throwing good money after bad. Mark my words – if we do that, we'll be in the same boat again in 5-10 years. For the life of me, I don't understand why this isn't crystal clear to everybody. Have you all been bellied up to the government trough for so long that you have forgotten how the real world works? While I appreciate your compassion on this issue, compassion without accountability is what got us into this mess in the first place.

  4. Andrew S.

    Jane, you have some very valid points (and an open mind to fixing them, as I know you have no children in the school district). As a business owner in Ramona, I agree that kids need more opportunities to work; and we need businesses that have the capacity to hire. How about the creation of a Community Investment District, similar to a Business Investment District? It can be administered by a non-profit rather than a government; it’s a taxing authority made up of a majority of people in the affected (or designated) area; and if businesses or individuals were to participate, it ends up on your tax bill as a guarantee of income coming in.

    Also, kudos to the plumber Greg who donates his time. Are there any other professional trades people that can donate their time instead of money to help out? Mr./Ms. Guest, your clearly not interested in supporting our youth learning because of the people running it, so how about volunteering to help the non-profit instead?

    • Jane Tanaka MD

      Thank you Andrew. Suggest that you forward your ideas about a Business Investment District to Dawn Perfect, our new RUSD Board President and Dr Graeff . Their email addresses are on the RUSD website!

      Andrew, could you check to see if a BID can legally give money to help pay off the Certificate of Participation? When we first formed Friends of Ramona Unified Schools last year we found out that a 501c3 could not do so.

  5. Mom

    Fire Taxes, Property Taxes, Rising HOA cost, Rising water cost, rising Sdge cost and now you want to add me in paying money for the schools too!! My family is stretched so thin as are MANY others, I will not go bankrupt for a school district that needs to make their own cuts! We have all had to make cut backs for our families. Time for the school district to do the same! The cuts come from you not with your hands in my already empty pockets!

  6. Darnell

    Another tax authority? Are you serious? That is not a solution to anything. That type of thinking solves nothing.

    Once that "authority" gets engrained in the consciousness of the community, it will grow teeth and power and next thing you know, it will be a beast all its own.

    Great job, by the way, of trying to shut "Guest" up by making it appear as though he or she isn't interested in helping the kids just because of the individuals running the show. How about realizing that it isn't just about who is running the show, but the fact that they already get enough money from the tax payer and the tax payer wants to keep his or her own money rather than give it to a government body or even another taxing authority.

    Your comments are the very type that are made to be divisive and helps take more money from those middle class families that people like you claim to want to help. If you take more money from those families, you are hurting the kids even more because now their parents have less money, but your taxing authorities know what's best. right?

    Foolish, simply foolish thinking.

  7. Guest

    First of all, there are multiple "Guests" – not important since all seem to be saying the same thing. I am amazed at these business owners are so willing to be taxed – sure they are. If any of them ran their businesses like the RUSD runs the schools, they'd be out of business.

    "Where is the waste or mismanagement?" Seriously? It has been said in multiple posts multiple times – ADA is down by 21%. Where are the cuts in fixed and administrative staffing? Business 101 – when any entity has 21% of its business go away, what do they do? They reduce expenses. Show me a business that does not and I'll show you a business headed for bankruptcy.

    I have seen very few people who are unwilling to support a bond inititative under any circumstances. The vast majority of people I know indicate that a bond would be supported IF there was faith that the district would manage it responsibly. Nobody trusts RUSD to do that. So, the burden is on them to show the voters that they can be good stewards of our tax dollars. That means, if ADA is down 21%, then do what any responsible business (for-profit or tax-exempt) would do – reduce administrative expenses and consolidate services.

  8. P.M. Ketchem

    My wish is to see board minutes posted on the Ramona USD website without undue delay. Last post was regarding the board meeting on 8/26/13. There have been four regular and one special meeting since the last minutes were posted, yet none of the minutes appear on the districts web site.

  9. Repeat guest

    Jane, I know personally that as of recently volunteers were discouraged. It was only last year that so much controversy over this and the district fiscal matters came up and somehow the help was graciously accepted. But it wasn’t like that before. Just in August 2o12 I tried to replace an elementary school window, at my cost, through the district And it took three weeks to get a phone call back. And that’s just one example among many. And the teachers taking cutbacks in their benefits…..paying more this year than ever…..this is the FIRST year they have felt these cuts, and they certainly didn’t do so voluntarily…..negotiating and threatening to strike for 18 months? Are u kidding me, Jane t? Just last year it was reported that, the District is one of only two of the 22 “comparison” districts which pays 100% of health care benefits, Ramona USD and San Diego Unified are the only two which pay full 100% if the employee health benefits. And yes, this year the teachers finally took the cut that the rest of us taxpayers know all too well. I have NEVER had a job that pays 100% of my benefits and I’ve worked some major employers in San Diego county. C’mon……the taxpayers need to shoulder this burden? No, there needs to be way more significant cuts and much more productive employees hired….have you ever tried to call the RHS or Olive Peirce office? You can’t ever get someone on the phone. RHS counseling doesn’t answer phones, emails, nothing since Joanne Parker left. Connie Claxton is the first person to advertise the script program, but try and catch her when she’s actually at her desk….. The teachers verbally spouted their disgruntled remarks all last year directly to the students, whining about their lack of pay and ongoing fight with the district…..and you expect the parents to get behind these “so called” professionals? You lost my respect when your teaches started acting like the students themselves. The bond hasn’t passed in 5 years, and my feeling is, it won’t pass this time either. Parents are looking for new alternatives. They are tired of the bickering and the complacent district employees.

  10. So Much Fun

    Just and FYI for those who mentioned cutting staff. In the past five years RUSD has cut administrative positions. Used to be 30 administrative staff positions, now there are 21 including the principals from each school. Seems appropriately proportionate to the decline in student enrollment.

  11. Resident

    Repeat Guest – You are 100% on point! You make some fantastic points that illustrate the fantasy world RUSD is living in. SD Unified is in the position they are in because they are owned and operated by the teacher's association; what's RUSD's excuse?

    So Much Fun – I find it impossible to believe there are only 21 administrative positions for 9 sites, especially when I know for a fact that RHS and OPMS have multiple assistant principals. Besides, where is the corresponding cut in school sites? We all know the district does not need all 9 sites.

  12. Involved Parent

    Repeat Guest & Resident – I have students at RHS and OPMS. I have never had any trouble reaching someone at the middle school. The district cut the receptionist positions district wide several years ago. The health clerk was cut back to 3 hrs a day. Those who are left are multi-tasking. There is one Principal who handles curriculum and staff development and one Asst. Principal who handles all the discipline and helping students who are struggling. There are two full time security people. One full time custodian. You're calling for further cuts to staff on the campus yet you're complaining about service?

  13. Jane Tanaka MD

    Very lively discussion above! But lets meet in person, not just online, and with the Board, not just amongst readers:
    Per the RUSD Facebook page:

    The Governing Board is offering a Community Workshop on the District's plan to Maintain Long-term Fiscal Health from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM on Saturday, January 25. This unique opportunity for community members to review the District's plan and to make public comment will take place in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Olive Peirce Middle School. More information in the next several days will be provided.

    • Guest

      In the immortal words of General McAuliffe at Bastogne, "NUTS!". That's exactly what anybody is if they think sitting around in a community forum is going to solve the district's problems. The district, and anybody with half a brain, already knows what has to be done but they are unwilling to do it. RUSD lacks the internal fortitude to make the difficult decisions made necessary by their own mismanagement. This forum has no purpose other than to give the district cover by "proving" they had community input and the "only" way to solve the fiscal crisis is through a bond measure. If the district had any intention of addressing even some of the problems by other means they would have done SOMETHING to show us. To date, they have not. Anybody who attends this forum will be nothing more than RUSD's tool – Mark my words – I've been there and done that!

      • Big Daddy

        Um, I guess I'm one of those people you claim is missing half a brain. I do have my own ideas, but what exactly muse be done? You seem pretty wise – can you spell it out for me? I would love to know how the district can come up with a $35million loan payment on cutbacks alone. Also, if I go to this workshop with the intention of 1) listening to what they have to say and giving my input/criticism, and 2) engaging in face-to-face debate with my elected officials, that makes me a "tool"? Just for showing up? Maybe you need to look up the definition of "tool" in the urban slang dictionary.

        • Guest

          The point isn't that the district needs to come up with the $35million through cuts alone – the point is the district needs to make some significant cuts before asking the public for more funding. All they have done so far is try again and again to pass a bond. We all know they need to close a school and consolidate. We've heard a lot about a bond but haven't heard them talk at all about other means to become more financially stable.
          As for whether or not you go to the forum, it's your time, not mine. I've been to many of these in the past 20+ years and have found that the district always has a per-ordained outcome and the public is there for nothing more than political cover. If that's OK with you, then by all means, go. The urban definition of "tool" wasn't my original intent, but I have to say that anybody who thinks the district has any intention of seriously considering anything other than a bond as the only solution does fit the urban definition.

          • Big Daddy

            When you put it that way, it is more sensible. I agree with you. And if you've been through these cycles before and found the district to still be complacent, then you can do what you want. I haven't, so I want to hear what their financial plans, I want to hear community input, and if the district doesn't consider or adopt any reasonable measures (either from their own ideas or ours), then I will also vote "no" on their bond measure, if they end up putting one on the ballot….

  14. Dennis

    "recognize it as one of our single most important vehicles"


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