By Scott Milner
For more than 25 years I and my family have been residents of Ramona. Ramona’s school system helped prepare our daughter, Tifany, for UCSD, medical school and law school. Clearly, the platform for her record of achievement at the university level was the education she received in Ramona.
Now, our two little grandchildren are students at James Dukes Elementary. We want them to also get the opportunity to receive a high quality education in Ramona. But I am fearful that growth of the non-classroom expenses is stripping away resources that are essential for their education. A quick look at the district’s current budget will show that of the $46+ million, less than $4 million goes to books and supplies, while about $24 million covers classroom teachers, and supervisors.
Of the nearly 50 percent remaining, well over 70 percent is spent on salaries and benefits for the superintendent, three assistant superintendents, other support staff, and non-education related personnel. As an example, for approximately 220 days of work each year, the average assistant superintendent makes over $136,000. Although the incumbents may be highly trained and skilled in their profession, can we afford to have three of them on the staff? Would the education our children receive be better and more assured if we replaced each of them with two skilled and experienced teachers?
Most of our hard working community members earn far less than an assistant superintendent and yet work more days each year. Although I have placed multiple phone calls to the office of our district superintendent, Bob Graeff, I have been unsuccessful in learning his pay and benefits, though it is public information. I’m certain it is in excess of $200,000 per year.
It is time for all of us to be highly critical of “over staffing” and growth of the non-essential expenses associated with our school district. For the benefit of our children, we need to set a goal of taking not less than 80 percent of the district revenue into the classroom. Of the remaining 20 percent, no more than half should be used for the front office staff and administrative office staff.
Unlike our out of control federal government, the Ramona Unified School District is accountable to us. Our school board and superintendent can complain all they want about the sources of our budget deficit being lack of state money and the failure of the unions to accept less. But I contend that a top down review needs to be conducted, even if by a citizens’ committee, to substantially trim non-education related expenses before any cuts are made to the classroom teachers.
Our children’s and our grandchildren’s futures demand it.
Scott F. Milner is a Ramona resident.