By Bill Tamburrino
We already know what the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) thinks about our student/athletes at Mountain Valley Academy. We may soon see what the Ramona Unified School District thinks about all of the student/athletes in our district.
There are no sure things when dealing with politicians or administrations. I have been asked to speculate what would happen to the athletes, teams, and the athletic department if RUSD teachers go on strike.
I was involved in the last strike and know firsthand what a strike can do, can accomplish, and what harm can happen as a result of a work stoppage.
A strike is like a wound. A wound is painful, but a wound will heal, unless it is fatal. However, that wound will leave a scar, an ugly scar that will serve as a constant reminder when two bargaining units cannot resolve a critical issue.
During the last strike, the athletic contests were played. The teams were coached by administrators or teachers who chose not to strike.
Remember, that was a different time. Ramona High School had fewer athletic teams and all of the coaches were credentialed teacher/coaches. There were no walk-on head coaches.
That is not the case now. The majority of coaches are not teachers at Ramona High School. It would be much easier to continue playing games if a strike occurs than it was during the last strike.
Rumors, innuendos, purposely leaked statements, and off the record comments have it that if there is a strike all athletic events will be canceled. Whether that is the truth, speculation, bluff, or a downright lie depends on whom one listens to and whom one believes.
Belief and trust is the major issue in the current impasse. As Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In this case statistics are all based on speculation. The district does not know how much money it will get from the state or when it will get it. Governor Brown has not yet released his current plan for educational spending.
The district wants a three-year contract and is balking at contingency language that the teachers want if the state sends more money than expected. The district wants to keep any and all extra money. The teachers want a share of the money.
I attended a teachers’ informational meeting, and the teachers do not trust or believe the district. They do not feel that the district has bargained in good faith. They believe that the district purposely pushed for an impasse so that it could impose the contract that the district wants. Whether that is the truth or perception is not known. However, perception often is perceived as reality.
What would happen to student/athletes if there is a strike?
It is my opinion that the student/athletes are going to be used as political pawns. The district is trying to influence the teacher/coaches not to go out on strike. The district knows that few if any teachers put in as much time as teacher/coaches/advisers and are in many cases the leaders of the teachers.
And at this time I want to make it very clear that I include all advisers in this category, which include but is not limited to: band, spirit squads, ASB, service clubs, SkillsUSA, VICA, etc. We no longer have extracurricular drama or journalism and only have one foreign language offered at RHS, which in my opinion is criminal.
It is not a coincidence that the great majority of teachers of the year at RHS have been coaches/advisers. It is ironic that when hiring teachers it is said that hiring is based on teaching and not coaching, when it is apparent that coaches are often the best teachers in the classroom.
If there is a strike and if all athletic contests and practices are ordered stopped by the district (which is the current speculation), then this is what would probably happen.
It is my opinion that a strike will not take place this school year. The district already has all of the money from ADA committed from the state and a strike would actually help the district’s money crisis. The only people hurt by strike would be the students.
During the last strike misinformation was spread by the district. The district said that “Every class is being taught by a credentialed teacher.” True but not true. The substitutes were credentialed as subs but not credentialed in the classes that they subbed in. So an English teacher could be in a calculus class. Also, when there were not enough subs, students were put in auditoriums and a few teachers tried to control over 100 students who knew that there was no accountability for misdeeds and most of the subs didn’t know their names.
It is safe to say that little or no education took place in classes supervised by substitutes during the last strike.
If the strike takes place during the fall, then the entire athletic program could be in danger and canceled for the entire year. The football gate profits finance the nonrevenue-producing sports, and with no football gate there would be no nonrevenue-producing sports, according to athletic director Damon Baldwin.
The athletes who had worked all year and in many cases paid for camps, summer leagues, private coaches, etc., would be cheated out of a year of athletic participation. Many student/athletes would transfer to schools that still competed, and the district would lose ADA if and when the strike ended, and those student/athletes would not be eligible to return to RHS without losing eligibility.
“Several of my junior football players (next year’s seniors) are being recruited and will be offered scholarships. The offers will be taken off the table if those athletes don’t play,” stated a disgusted Baldwin.
If the district allows sports to continue during a strike and teacher/coaches honored the strike, what would happen? Many of the teams already have nonteacher/coaches and in those cases things would resume as normal. If striking coaches were replaced, then we could see a continuation of what I call “Mommy and Daddy Ball,” which is what too many recreation leagues are. A coach can be removed for any or no reason at any time that an administrator sees fit. There is no recourse, no tenure, no explanation needed. If the superintendent gets fired, he gets 18 months severance pay.
A strike can actually help the district and district administrators. Several administrators have already left the district and others have applied and tried to leave. If an administrator applies to another financially strapped district and can say in his/her interview, “I got RUSD back on its feet by breaking the teachers and classified unions and I can do the same for you,” that administrator would be in a good position.
The district can save a lot of money if many of its experienced teachers move to districts that have leadership that was able to avoid the crisis that Ramona is in now. Advanced placement teachers and successful teacher/coaches are sought after in other districts. Bringing in teachers with little or no experience will save a lot of money for the RUSD. A purge every five years would be cost effective.
It is my opinion that the biggest losers in a strike would be the students and the student/athletes, all too often the least important factor when money matters are concerned. Education has found ways to save money by offering fewer classes and course offerings, cutting requirements, packing classrooms with over 40 students (which is why Mountain Valley is so popular with parents and students), letting students take fewer classes their senior year, which sends them to college and the work force ill-prepared, and getting rid of the most experienced teachers to save money.
As a sports writer and a retired teacher, I find it ironic that parents are willing to pay for private coaches, summer camps, travel teams, and tutors for difficult classes and college entrance exams but will always vote against a bond and fight higher taxation for schools. The public has yet to figure out that good schools with good extracurricular and co-curricular after-school programs are always in communities with less juvenile crime and graffiti, which means higher property values.
It is also my opinion that both sides have made mistakes and exercised poor leadership and poor judgment, which has led to this crisis. Hopefully those mistakes were honest.
Only time will tell.