There’s a big story breaking in Ramona. And it has nothing to do with a solar farm marring the beauty of our backcountry. The Union Tribune printed an article about the Ramona Unified School District’s financial woes in July. It failed to report the real story. The district proposes a single solution to its debt problems - decreasing teachers’ salaries 8% this year and 9.5% for the next two. The superintendent and board members refuse to explore other avenues of revenue and “have no interest” in putting another bond before voters, though they stated otherwise in the UT. While claiming to take a cut in salary by paying for health benefits, district administrators and the board offset this “cut” by adding 9 paid vacation days. Board members actually increased the superintendent’s compensation to $200,591 in a closed, midnight session January 17. As reported, Dr. Graeff’s compensation is one of the highest in the county, though he is superintendent of a small district. (RUSD’s board minutes, employee contracts and the UT verify these numbers.) Not surprisingly, the district faces a teachers’ strike as early as March. That is real news. Will RUSD meet its goal of “solvency” if teachers earn 9.5% less? Today, its teachers’ salaries rank 21 of 40 in San Diego County. Salaries will fall to 36 of 40. Our finest new teachers are looking for positions elsewhere. And who will replace them? Will top teachers come to one of the lowest-paying districts? As a university supervisor and cooperating teacher, I assure you, they won’t. Studies show teacher experience is the greatest predictor of student achievement. RUSD earned high scores in the last decade because of its veteran teachers. These same teachers cannot continue to produce academic results while struggling to make ends meet. RUSD’s scores will plummet. People will leave Ramona’s schools, the tax base will fall, and there will be less money to fund education. Honors and awards and commendations will be things of the past. The superintendent, assistant superintendents and members of RUSD’s administration are applying for positions elsewhere; some have already left. They hope not to see the damage done to our community, its teachers and its children. A teachers’ strike is the real story in Ramona. Bonnie Ingalls Olive Peirce Middle School, Ramona Former Distinguished Teacher in Residence, California State University, San Marcos
— February 27, 2013 7:53 p.m.

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