Greater transparency needed at Ramona school district

By Daniel Wise

The values we place upon our schools, students, and teachers are a direct reflection of our community’s character, future real estate values, and economic development — jobs.

Older schools require regular maintenance of facilities, grounds, and equipment. A slim majority of Ramona citizens have declined passing any temporary school bonds to this affect. There’s a “value-added” from experienced teachers who are professionally trained, certificated, and cleared by state licensing processes. They are committed to their students’ progress. Ramona’s students are working hard and demonstrating success across a multitude of academic measurements: local, state, and national standards.

Before you jump to blame teachers or administrators, get involved by learning the facts. Visit a school campus and speak with administrators and teachers. Go to school board meetings and see how a one-sided, sequestered board is not representing our beliefs or hearing your ideas. Our community needs to see greater transparency regarding the district’s “shell and pea games” it plays with financial projections and reserves.

Teachers have been proposing cuts for two years and are ready to make fair and reasonable pay cuts to our salaries, which by the way, have had no COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase in over four years.

So, schools which have a record of being well run, usually attract quality teachers and younger families into their community, sustaining economic growth with increasing property values. Ramona schools’ performances have consistently demonstrated an ongoing team effort, up to this point in time, resulting in progressive, higher academic student scores with ongoing college advancements. Isn’t this part of the current school reform proposals — to base a teacher’s COLA% upon the achievement of their students?

Dr. Graeff and his rubber-stamp school board are going in the complete opposite direction, forcing teachers and students to punitively pay for their administrative blunders, without any approval from teachers, RTA, PTA or local community input, except when residents tried to fight against the district’s use of eminent domain to acquire the Boundary Avenue property to build a new school they didn’t need.

That attempt at public involvement in the school-planning process was judiciously squelched by former superintendent Peter Schiff, his legal staff, and that school board’s approval, i.e. rubber stamp. Now, burdened by this flawed, financial mismanagement and reckless creation of unsecured, long-term debt, teachers and parents, together, need to pull all of our creative and physical resources together, so we can demand a more responsible and transparent school board process for planning and funding our future children’s education.

Apparently, there’s a status quo of Ramona citizens who don’t have children in the school system anymore, and therefore only care about protecting their own personal tax rates. Imagine that, personal financial concerns driving one’s decision-making. Teachers stand ready to resolve our negotiation issues, so long as the administration is prepared to act forthright with its financial obligations to the entire community. With a failure to reasonably compromise over the “costs” for excellence in education, this district is failing to sustain positive value in children’s schools. Teachers build communities; don’t tear us down.

Danial Wise is a teacher at Barnett Elementary School.

   
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