By John Rajcic
I do not take myself seriously. I take my job very seriously and the role of a board member is of paramount importance. Timely honest information is essential in a democratic society.
I believe my humanity, integrity and character have been impugned by the complaint the district’s educational leader filed against me. Life has been good to me for over eight decades, and being a school board member is a life-changing event at my age. A school board member has an opportunity to make a positive difference in our community.
My basic philosophy is anchored in optimism. Disagreement is not disloyalty, and no person in a bureaucracy is indispensable.
I come from an environment where, if you do not improve product or service, you lose market share. In a small way, I try to inculcate this sense of urgency into the school system. I do my best to do what is just and morally right.
We are all governed by volumes of laws. In my daily behavior, I am governed by the Commandments and the 1st, 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution. I am agnostic about at lot of things in education, except the value of a teacher and principal. I have praised many teachers, principals and students for their outstanding accomplishments and will continue to do this. Rules should be limited so that teachers are permitted to use their discretion to do the right thing at the right time. I have observed some great teaching in Ramona.
My campaign pledge was to stress the importance of education, oversight, follow the money and hold management accountable. This is the least I can do. My campaign slogan has been, “kids first.” I do my best to vote with that in mind. It appalls me to walk into the district office and wonder how the entrance to this venerable building could get into such despicable disrepair. The entryway should be humble, inviting and tidy.
I do believe the board should sell the old Ramona Elementary School, continuation school, district office and everything to the east, including the old football field and another undeveloped site, and place them on the tax rolls. Our declining enrollment dictates no less. The school site near the airport could become the District Headquarters and Maintenance and Transportation Center.
Relocating displaced elementary and continuation students is a challenge, but solvable. This would also improve the learning environment of these students and reduce maintenance costs.
Sale of the property would go a long way in retiring the district’s long-term debt, which was incurred without a vote of the community. The current amount due on the debt, with principal and interest, is about $34 million, according to the district.
I believe, as Lincoln believed, “public opinion is everything, with public sentiment nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed.” Ramona probably is the only school district in San Diego County or maybe the country that has never passed a badly needed bond issue, which will still, I believe, be required even with the sale of said property. We should let the math and community determine this.
Great schools impact positively on every aspect of life in a community. Machiavelli had it right when he said, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Those in a public bureaucracy grow accustomed to a certain way of doing things, and changing the culture is difficult.
The central administrative staff should be as thin as possible to get the job done. It is amazing to some how the district survives when a position is not filled for some time. “Work” in a public bureaucracy expands to equal or surpass the people available, much like expenditures expand to equal or surpass the income available.
I do not begrudge a teacher’s salary. They are important and should be respected much more in our community and nation. I see myself as a public figure and get an occasional comment that does not please me, but most of comments I receive, on countless editorials are very laudatory and supportive of my positions. Public figures, in our great land, are subjected to harassment, verbal and written abuse. All this goes with the territory. This, as a public figure, I respect.
I appreciate and learn much from my critics. Criticism goes with the territory as any public figure should expect. I am enjoying my work as a board member and want to make a positive difference.
I am not an irresponsible, mean and nasty person as one of my board colleagues maintains. I just disagree with him and many board actions. Regrettably my disagreement is interpreted as disloyalty and/or irresponsibility. Those who do not like change will like irrelevance even less.
John Rajcic, a Ramona resident, is a Ramona Unified School District Board member.