Ramona school district facts as we know them

By Bill Clark and Elizabeth Granquist

There have been a lot of rumors, misleading facts, and confusing information spread regarding the labor dispute between the Ramona Unified School District and the Ramona Teachers Association. The purpose of this letter is to present the facts of this situation as we know them.

Both sides agree that the District faces financial challenges (partly due to the Certificate of Participation which was incurred to build and modernize schools in the District). The amount of these challenges is in dispute.

The District relies on financial projections which in the past have proven to be highly inaccurate. Teachers believe that these projections will prove to be inaccurate once again. Additionally, we believe that the community as a whole needs to come up with a plan to handle the future COP payments. There is no way that these payments can be made for the next 20 years or so merely by gaining concessions from employees.

In Dr. Graeff’s recent article published in the Ramona Sentinel, he states that over recent years the District’s costs have not declined, but have gone up. In this same article he refers to a number of cost-cutting measures undertaken by the District including reducing the number of teaching positions.

Many teachers have retired in the last few years and many of these positions have not been filled. Additionally, several teachers have been laid off by the District. Partly due to these cuts in certificated staff, financial information provided to the teachers shows that actual expenditures made by the District have decreased from $53,895,503 in 2007-08 to $50,046,206 in 2011-12.

In Thomas Cook’s recent letter to the Ramona Sentinel it is stated that the average teacher salary at RUSD is $78,122. For the 2011-12 school year according to information provided by the District, the computed average salary of a Ramona teacher was $70,098. To reach the $78,122 level, a teacher must be in his/her 20th year of credited service and have accumulated 60 units of accredited post graduate credits (or 45 units and a Master’s Degree). A beginning Ramona teacher could earn a salary of $39,954. The certificated salary schedule can be seen on the RUSD website.

It has been stated that Ramona teachers receive fully paid healthcare for themselves and their families, along with retirement benefits. Most Ramona teachers do not contribute to Social Security and therefore do not receive Social Security benefits for their time as RUSD employees. Instead, teachers and the District make contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). When a teacher retires (s)he receives a retirement benefit from STRS.

With respect to receiving fully paid healthcare, this statement is accurate. However, it needs to be noted that in past years when teachers received raises, RUSD reduced the amount of the raises in order to offset rising health care costs. This was often referred to as “the total compensation package.”

In Dr. Graeff’s article, he indicated that teachers offered a 1.62% reduction for the 2012-2013 year only. In mediation and fact-finding, RTA offered to accept substantially more in concessions. As has been previously reported, in mediation, RTA offered to accept over 9% in concessions over a two-year time frame. This was immediately rejected by the district. Yet in Dr. Graeff’s most recent article he continues to claim that the District needs the teachers to take cuts. Dr. Graeff knows well that the teachers have offered to accept substantial cuts!

The concessions demanded by RUSD are significantly more than concessions made in other San Diego County school districts.

All we have asked for during this entire process is a fair and reasonable settlement. We are anxious and willing to return to the bargaining table in order to negotiate such a settlement. We are willing to accept significant concessions but believe that the District is unnecessarily demanding that we accept draconian cuts to our compensation. This, we can not accept!

If as stated in Dr. Graeff’s article, teachers are a top priority for the District, then we ask the RUSD Board of Education to allow your bargaining team the flexibility to work out a fair and reasonable settlement with the teachers. The entire community is best served if its teachers can focus solely on what we do best and that is educating the youth of Ramona.

Bill Clark and Elizabeth Granquist, teachers at Ramona High School, submitted this on behalf of other concerned teachers at Ramona High School.

   
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