A look at the entire picture

This letter is in response to Dr. Graeff’s article in last week’s Sentinel.

Dr. Graeff,

This letter is being sent to all employees because I believe that it deserves the same audience as your original message. I sent it with some concern as well for possible repercussion, but I can no longer sit quietly and be told that the certificated and classified employees are bringing about the financial ruin of the Ramona Unified School District.

It would be refreshing to hear the district admit that they made some very poor, if not ignorant, choices in paying for two new schools (along with the legal costs associated with these schools) in a district with “declining student enrollment.” Blaming past leadership does not take away the fact that our district is facing huge debts that are now due for the financing of these school sites and the accompanying legal costs brought on by their construction.

Additionally, the legal costs associated with the district’s failure to comply with Title IX also has added to our budget issues. To simply ignore/hide the huge financial burden this places on our district makes it difficult to believe all the

DO (district office), and you as the leader, continue to make known through public forums seem factual.

You have consistently, if not eloquently, placed the bulk of the blame for our problem on teachers’ and classified employees’ unwillingness to pay dramatic increases in benefits or be threatened with layoffs and pay cuts. RUSD teachers have long accepted being paid less in salary than almost every other district in the county, making up for this by having a benefits package that allows us to take care of our families.

Simultaneously, our test scores continue to rise, mulitple schools receive state and national recognition for their accomplishments, and support services for all students continue to be provided.

I am not pleading poverty, just asking for honesty. What a gracious group of administrators who were willing to take that benefits reduction (which they then took back), especially considering that their salary package places them from the middle to top end of administrative salary schedules in the county.

As for your point regarding not replacing retiring employees, your plea for cooperation would seem more sincere if the DO bit the same bullet and did not hire a new assistant superintendent to replace the recent retiree. We are all doing more with less; should we accept any less from the DO? Do we need this position? The answer is yes, but we also need more teachers, custodians, bilingual aides, maintenance staff, all of whom are facing benefit reductions, pay cuts and layoffs.

I truly appreciate the huge financial crisis facing our district and the State of California. My wife and I have a combined 45+ years of service to this district. Our children were born here and have benefited greatly from the education they have received here, and we will continue to serve all the children at our respective school sites with the highest level of care and professionalism.

I am proud to live and work in Ramona. The people that I work with, certificated, classified, volunteers, and administrative staff continue to work hard on behalf of all the children of this community. We all realize that cuts have to be made and that each of us will have to bear the burden of our government’s poor choices regarding the funding of education, but my hope is in the future that the leaders of our district will shoulder their fair share and be completely honest with the public about all the reasons for our current fiscal crisis.

The citizens of Ramona have always worked together, without placing blame, to help each through any crisis. I believe we will do the same as we work together for what is best for the children of our community.

Steve Koch, a history and critical issues teacher at Ramona High School and a wrestling coach at the school, is a 2001 San Diego County Teacher of the Year finalist, a 2004 California State Coach of the Year, and husband of the 2011 Ramona Unified School District Teacher of the Year.

   
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