In support of $66 million school bond

By John Rajcic

My personal philosophy is anchored in optimism. Life begins to end when we are silent about things that matter.

Education matters. We live in a very competitive, complex and challenging world. The importance of a formal education is paramount.

Our current school board and past school boards have been known to celebrate a “balanced budget” as deferred maintenance skyrocketed, as projected revenue loss due to declining enrollment was evident, and sorely needed equipment was not acquired. Not to mention failure to establish adequate reserves to pay off long-term debt. This is a failing of boards and superintendents. Now it is time to “pay the piper.”

Walk through the schools, talk to students, parents, teachers, classified staff and attend a board meeting. It readily becomes apparent our schools should be brought into the 21st century. Much emphasis is being placed on the need for the $66,000,000 bond measure.

The school board seems to be sensitive about using bond funds for salaries. “No bond funds will be used for salaries” has become the board’s mantra. This is disingenuous. The bond funds will be used for equipment, deferred maintenance and debt retirement that frees up General Fund Revenue so the district can pay respectable teacher and classified staff salaries. Honesty is the best policy!

The school building and equipment are not the constants that make the significant difference, as important as they may be. It is the teacher. The classified staff is also a necessity for a well managed school. Are teachers over-compensated and are their retirement plans excessive? I think not!

As an aside, the former county superintendent retired at $281,034 or 107 percent of his salary. The county school board “spiked” his salary. Now comes the executive cirector of the California School Board Association (CSBA). He was paid $540,000, which included a $175,000 bonus. He also used a CSBA credit card at a casino for $11,000. These are aberrations and should not occur again. Such unconscionable actions had a very negative impact upon the public’s view of the compensation and retirement system of the classroom teacher. These actions “poisoned the well,“ so to speak, for the classroom teacher.

The teachers in our district have an average-annualized monthly salary of $5,791. Teachers contribute 8.25 percent of their salary to their retirement account with the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). CalSTRS has nothing to do with Social Security.

Under CalSTRS a teacher earning $6,700 monthly, retiring at 63 with 26 years service will receive a monthly pension of $3,911.

I have never met a person who could not proudly speak of their favorite teacher or teachers and the positive impact they had on their lives. It is time that we all pay attention, get involved and invest in our schools. When a school is being built or renovated, parents are known to pay much more for a house to get their children into that school’s attendance area. Invariably the first question asked by house buyers, particularly families with school age children, moving into a community is “what about the schools?” Good schools enhance property values and the quality of life in any community. I remember a few years back when I drove my 92-year-old mother by the old elementary school on Hanson Lane, she looked at the deteriorating “relocatables” and made the comment, “Ramona must not care about their kids.” Family and faith coupled with quality schools make a positive difference. Sound financial management is basic to any organization.

John Rajcic is a Ramona resident.

   
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