A call to get involved and let your voice be heard

By John Rajcic

The foundation of a free society is education. It is axiomatic that every student deserves a good school.

It is also self-evident that parents want their children in an excellent school. This is one reason why houses in a good school district or near a good school sell first at a better price.

Hardly a day goes by when it is not said, “schools should be run like a business.” The public school is not a business. This is not to say good business practices should not be incorporated into the system.

The accounting system in schools in comparison to a commercial enterprise may be instructive. School districts use a Fund Accounting system that emphasizes balancing the accounts and ACCOUNTABILITY, not PROFITABILITY. Further, the impact of market forces are not a direct factor.

Revenue is given to the public school; it is not earned. Public schools are a government enterprise that basically have no significant competition.

How much should it or does it cost to teach reading to a child? No one seems to know! Schools are designed to offer programs with no significant taxpayer input. Mandates from the state and federal government to a large extent dictate what programs are offered. State colleges and universities also dictate what courses students must take to matriculate. Board members work around the margins in slanting programs toward the needs of Ramona students.

The word “accountable” is elusive in education except for the students who are graded and accountable. It is hard for me to imagine a more stupid way of making decisions than to place decision-making authority in the hands of people who pay no price for making bad decisions.

Determining profit or loss may not be the purpose of the school district’s accounting system, but schools need to show they produce “added value.” In education we could say that “added value” is the public’s perception of the school’s performance. Objective indicators of school success in reaching its goals may be test scores, dropout rates, graduation rates, getting a good job after graduation that has advancement possibilities, and the percentage of students qualifying for entrance into the state universities.

“This might be called the age of genius machines, and it will be the people who work with them that will rise. One day soon we will look back and see that we produced two nations, a fantastically successful nation, working in the technologically dynamic sectors, and everyone else. Average is over.” (Tyler Cowen)

This is a clarion call for the community to get involved, attend workshops, ask questions, analyze, compare and determine what the school’s present and 21st Century needs are and should be. Everyone is challenged to do better.

An attitude of apathy and saying, “I can not make a difference,” must subside and people must get involved. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Again, this is a call to get involved and let your voice be heard.

Public opinion is everything. With public opinion, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.

John Rajcic is a Ramona resident and school board member who stresses that this is his opinion as an individual and he is not representing the board.

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  4. Good PR garners community support
  5. Three wishes for Ramona

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=31281

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Feb 13 2014. 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 “A call to get involved and let your voice be heard”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    APATHY AND DEMOCRACY CANNOT CO-EXIST.
    Thank you for encouraging others to have courage to speak out.
    Some of us have nothing left to say…… but one last time..
    if a Bond doesnt pass to atleast the COP, the RUSD will be at the
    mercy of the State of California government and all of its ineptitude.
    Good bye AP classes, school sports, music and art programs, industrial arts
    program, , and hello even larger student to teacher ratios, lower graduation rates, and
    more empty houses in Ramona and SDCE, and lower property values.

    Oh… and dont let Ramona Elementary be the focal point in the politics of trying to pass a bond. Not fair!

  2. Common Sense

    Although Mr. Rajcic indicates that he speaks for himself and not as a member of the board, the fact that he gives nothing more than excuses for basically maintaining the status quo speaks volumes as to why we are in this mess. The public is not stupid (at least most of the public). We know schools are not a business in technical terms – no business can simply raise taxes to cover their inefficiencies. I am sick and tired of hearing excuses from the board and district administration. That's all we get – excuses and publicity campaigns to plead their case for more bond money. When will we see action to address the FACT that the district spends more money than it takes in? When will we hear anything about the FACT that because ADA is down 21% we no longer need as many schools? When will what many in the community see as excess staffing in non-teaching positions be addressed? I've heard a lot about a bond and seen at least a dozen articles either about a bond or making excuses for the poor financial management of the district, but NOTHING about a cost containment strategy. When will a board member or Dr. Graeff write an article addressing that? It's been six months of bond talk – its time to address costs or you can be sure the bond will fail yet again.

    • Big Daddy

      Hi Common Sense, Just which positions in "non-teaching" are excess? There are so few janitors left that classrooms go a week without vacuuming. There has been a lot of staff cut, probably as much or more so than the 20% in ADA reduction. If you are going to make sweeping claims like that, please back it up with facts so I can believe you. The school closure thing is interesting, but I'll bet that just closing a school is not as easy as it seems. Not to encourage complacency from the district, but I wonder how many lawsuits will be filed by parents when it's THEIR school that closes, or what the ACLU does if it is the school (RE) that has 80% minority attendance. Will the school district have to defend with legal fees paid out of the general fund? The might cost more than what is saved by closing something. Just thinking…

      • Common Sense

        So, just because the ACLU may sue, we are supposed to keep a school open that is in desperate need of repair? It would cost millions that the district does not have to bring RE up to standard. All of the bond discussions I've heard suggest funding would be requested to cover the existing debt payments. That still does nothing to address the inadequate facilities at RE. I'm not in favor of closing RE and consolidating out of some dislike for RE. I like RE; my kids went there. It is simply the most logical, and least bad of the bad choices.

        As for non-teaching, I am sure there are a number of examples of areas that have been cut to the bone. Nobody would suggest cutting those areas further. How about administration? District staff? Do we really need as many superintendents, assistant principals and counselors? Where I work, when business drops 21% we cut back on administration first. In fact, a 21% drop in business usually requires more than a 21% cut in expenses just to stay even – you know, the relationship between fixed vs. variable costs.

  3. Really?

    From Ramona Unif website

    Superintendent Robert Graeff was named as the ACSA Region 18 Superintendent of the Year. He was selected out of 59 Superintendents from San Diego and Imperial Counties. Dr. Graeff will be recognized at the ACSA/CSBA Honoring Our Own celebration in May.

    • Wow!

      That tells you all you need to know about the state of public education. That a superintendent who has presided over this mess, who offers no viable solution other than to tax the community, could be recognized shows me that the entire establishment is either ignorant or corrupt. A sad state indeed.

      • Unbelievable

        Ditto that!! How screwed up must the other school districts be? This is just a ploy to get you all to think he's an excellent administrator (not!) to get you to vote yes on a new bond issue. Not happening here!!!! Wow. I agree with you 100%.

      • Just a dad

        Hey Wow, You need to read the paper, and the district site(s) and get informed. The district announced a 5-point plan to help the district stay financially solvent and only one point asks for tax money. It may not be as "viable" as you want and you might not agree with everything, but its not a case of only "taxing the community" as you put it. I am not a fan of the district leadership, but I'm not into mindless bashing of them, either. Please inform yourself or don't comment. You just came off as a totally-non credible ranter.

        • Wow!

          Seriously? Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean that I am mindlessly bashing, nor am I uninformed. I read that 5-point plan in the paper. Since then, have you heard a single word about consolidation of school sites? Reduction of administrative personnel?

          Just today the Sentinel reported that enrollment is projected to continue to decline. Enrollment is now 23% below 2004. The Sentinel states that the revenue loss of the 132 fewer students next year will be $750K. If you apply that rate per student of $5,680 to the 1,673 reduction of students since 2004, it equates to $9.5 million in lost revenue per year. Do you see $9.5 million in reductions in that 5-point plan?

          To the point: this $9.5 million doesn’t have anything to do with the bond. This is the ongoing operational shortfall resulting from a reduction of ADA.

          • Just a Dad

            Okay, let me begin again by saying that there are still areas where the district can be more efficient. But you are implying with your numbers that they need to make cuts of over $9million now to match their funding decrease over the last 8-10 years. Have you not noticed how many employees HAVE been cut over the past 5 years? We have 40% fewer teachers and well over 20% fewer classified staff and administrators. I don't know how many millions that is, but of you take a teacher's salary, which on the LOW end is $50,000, and multiply that by the AT LEAST 150 teachers who were laid off or not replaced after retirement, and thats a cut of $7.5million per year. So no, there is not $9.5million being proposed to cut in the 5-point plan, but I'll bet the district has been making cuts of OVER that amount for the past several years. Let me reiterate that I'm not a district fan, but my son is already suffering because of big classes and crappy facilities. If you demand another $9million a year from the 5-point plan, you'd better speak up about where you think it should come from, and please be specific.

          • Wow!

            I'd love to know where you get your numbers. 40% cut in teachers? Full time teaching positions? I have to see that! Why would the district cut 40% of its teachers when ADA is down by only 23%? Your 150 teachers number, when compared to the student reduction of 1,600 kids, would mean an average class size of 16 for those teaching positions. At best, a reduction of 1,600 students in an average class size of 35 would mean a reduction of closer to 45-46 positions. Your numbers are impossible to believe. I'd have to see hard evidence to be convinced of that. Same with the 20% classified you are claiming has been cut. I have attended board meetings and have probably read every article regarding the financial issues facing the district. I don't recall any numbers like that. Still, even IF those numbers are correct, it doesn't address the wasteful overhead required to keep an additional school site open. In fact it makes the point even stronger. 40% less teachers means 40% less classrooms. Your math just doesn't add up.

          • Anon

            1,600 students is the population of RHS and NOT the whole district. There are 5 other elementary schools, a middle school, an alternative high school, and RCS.

          • Anon

            Oh nevermind, I misread your comment. Disregard my last comment (about the 1,600 number).

          • mom on the run

            You can contact the county department of education. You can confirm with the district payroll department. In 2002 there were 407 credentialed teachers and about 7,300 students. In 2013 there were 235 teachers and about 5,700 students. I don't know what all those teachers are doing and what kind of classroom situation they had then vs. now. But it is clear that there are fewer teachers at every grade level. Standard class sizes have increased significantly to anyone who has kids aging through the system, especially in K-3. I really would be happy to provide more, but if you are not going to believe any of it no matter what, it's kind of a waste of my time.

            I agree about the closing a school thing. It would likely have to be at the elementary school level. I think the district knows the community is waiting for them to take some action on that front, but we will have to see.

          • Wow!

            First, I want to make it clear that I am NOT in favor of reductions in teaching positions. They are not the issue in the district's financial troubles. Having said that, the numbers you provided don't make sense to me. Your numbers – 407 teachers 7,300 students = average of 18 per class. When have we ever had 18 students per class? We had 20 per class at one time in K-3, but that is just a fraction of the total number of students. Now, 235 teachers 5,700 students = 24 students per class. None of these figures supports the contention of classroom overcrowding. That is why I have trouble believing the numbers – not because I want to critique them, but because when I look at them they just don't make sense.

            But, let's take your numbers at face value. They strongly suggest that we have too many classrooms and too many school sites. That we could have a 42% reduction in teaching positions and a 21% reduction in students, with no reduction in classrooms and school sites is the crux of the issue. That is the problem; nothing I've seen from RUSD suggests they have a sound plan to deal with the issues. All they seem to want to do is get a bond funded.

          • mom on the run

            Yep, you are right they want to get a bond funded. However, they also know that without other financial changes they will go bankrupt in the long run. If a bond is not passed to pay off the COP, the bankruptcy will happen within the next year – or something else drastic will happen because the county will not allow the district to operate in the red.

            Really, I agree about the fact that we now have too many elementary schools, but if the district starts making smart financial moves, it is likely that this will eventually be one of them, even if they claim it's not part of this year's "5-point plan". I think the community needs to keep driving on this and never relent. But if a bond does not pass to pay off the COP, we are all screwed when the district goes bankrupt. Those in the community who would rather see the district fail than give them a dime out of some determination to punish those in charge will be doing nothing more than cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Because a community without good public schools is also doomed to fail.

          • Wow!

            I agree. I don't want to see the district fail, but I really need to see them show some effort to work on some of the other issues besides just the bond. Cutting teachers is not the answer. If they start a serious diologue about closing a school and make some reductions in district and school site administrative (not custiodians) staff, then I would be inclined to vote in favor of a bond because I could have a reasonable level of trust that they finally get it and will do what is necessary, if uncomfortable, to get the district on sound financial footing. If I don't see an progress, I will vote no, as will most of the people I know. It's up to the district to show us something – and soon.

        • JimC

          Just a dad – your rationale is ridiculous. Counting the number of points proposed by the district is irrelevant. The 1 point asking for tax money is probably 20 times more than the savings from other 4 points combined. By your logic I'd count my house payment equally with my 4 lunches at Subway so I could tell my wife I'm cutting my spending back 20% if I eat out only 3 times instead of 4.

          • Just a Dad

            Um, I think you misread my statements? The point was that when community members make strong statements like "the district has "done nothing" or "not made sacrifices" or "not cut back to match student decrease" I ask for clarification and point out that (although they can still do some things differently), they HAVE made many millions of dollars in cuts as student attendance decrease. And yes, they took out that loan to build and upgrade new facilities that was a risk turned disaster when the economy collapsed. So now what? How about continuing to press for reforms? The district is moving in the right direction. Let the district die of bankruptcy? Vote no on the bond to pay off the loan? I'm pissed about the whole thing, but I'd rather fork out a couple of hundred dollars a year than watch my property values fall by a hundred thousand because thats what happens in communities without decent schools.

          • JimC

            I disagree. I carefully reread each post and I don't see where anybody claimed the district has not made sacrifices. What I see are some proposed solutions around closing a school and cutting staff to match reductions in kids attending. Those proposals, while maybe not the right ones, at least open a dialogue around a solution. I don't want my property value to decrease either. I also don't want to keep throwing my tax dollars down a rabbit hole.

      • guest

        Any executive/s who, through the ludicrous affirmation and consent of a governing board (as has apparently been the 'norm' in this big business known as education), accepts pay increases based on step increases negotiated with a separate labor bargaining unit is absolutly outrageous. How about about executives receive increases based on merit – that is achieving predetermined performance goals, which I have found to be the norm in the 'real world'. When it is time to step up and take a cut, commesurate with the bargining unit they willingly accept pay increases
        tied to, they then try to divorce themselves from those cuts, and cut a sweetheart deal to assure they don't have to share the pain that others, of considerably less financial means, step up to as a significant contribution to ensure the survival of the enterprise. The current state of education in our great state of California, and Ramona in particular, I find to be disheartening to say the least, and obscene at the extreme. When will the governing board and executives wake up? I hope before their follies cause the demise of RUSD.

        • ...

          Finally. Someone who gets it! Please consider running for the school board and bring some sanity to this situation!

        • guest

          This is the best thing I’ve read ever when it comes to the RUSD. Honestly, I have no faith left in the system of the RUSD. I vote no on any bond regardless of the consequences. The schools don’t care about the kids or the parents. As soon as we can move from this district we will be gone. What ever number you predict are leaving, please add 2 more as soon as we can.

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