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Classified Employees Picket School Board Meeting

Trustees approve laying off 32 classified employees due to budgetary cuts made necessary by lack of state funding.

An emotionally packed crowd, many carrying picket signs, turned out for the monthly meeting of Ramona Unified School District Board of Trustees to protest the laying off of 32 classified employees.

Despite the protests and pleas made to the board, the trustees unanimously approved the layoffs.

“What is so disheartening dealing with these 32 positions and people, this is the beginning,” board president Dan Lopez said, indicating there will more layoffs in coming months.

He went on to say it is “very, very difficult” for the trustees to face “people-centered types of decisions in front of us… Being in a small community does not make it easy.”

Each of the trustees expressed their concerns about the pending layoffs.

“This is a small community,” Kim Lasley agreed. “On this list (of layoffs), I know many of these people. It doesn’t matter who we know, we do have to go by the contract agreement. It has to go by seniority.”

The layoffs and other cutbacks in the school district are necessary because of lack of funding from the state Department of Education and other cuts being made in education statewide.

“We already reduced $7 million out of our budget the past several years,” Trustee Rodger Dohm said. “That’s a tremendous amount of money. We have done everything we can to keep it (budget cuts) out of the classroom. It’s impossible to do it… We’re not just cutting positions. We know that those positions represent people.”

By cutting the 32 positions, the district will save $230,000 in the current school year and an annual projected ongoing savings of $730,000.

Assistant Superintendent Anne Staffieri said the layoffs “will not solve all of our budget problems” but are necessary, “due to reductions in funding for the current school year and in an effort to keep the cuts as far away as possible” from the classrooms.

The trustees did agree, however, to pull one position from the layoff list until it can be further researched.

Wesley Clowers told the board he does not understand why he was included in the layoffs because his position of warehouse delivery driver is paid out of food services and not the district’s general fund.

“I go above and beyond of what’s asked of my job,” Clowers said. He explained many duties he performs to help other employees in food services, including mopping the floor.

“I can’t, for the life of me, understand why you would cut a position that brings money into the district,” he said.

Superintendent Robert Graeff explained that the duties of the warehouse delivery driver would be taken over by the person who currently delivers mail throughout the district.

Jim King, president of the local chapter of the California Service Employees Association, called the layoffs “out of line.”

“The classified employees have been taking the brunt of the cuts for the past five years,” he said.

He also expressed his concern for the safety of the students with the night custodial positions being eliminated. In addition, he suggested the board and management should meet with classified employees and ask for their ideas on where money can be saved.

“Ramona classified employees are here to help,” King said. “All you have to do is ask. Making us suffer is not right or fair.”

The positions being eliminated include bus driver instructor, accountant, clerks, receptionist, secretary, attendance/health technician, instructional and special education para-educators, student support services technician, groundskeepers and custodians.

In other business, Emily Rajcic, associated student body (ASB) president at Mountain Valley Academy, and Larry Hofer, faculty advisor, made a presentation on the Warrior Foundation. Students raised $2,450 by selling Christmas trees along with donations from the Rotary Club of Ramona and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Evelyn McCormick, a Ramona resident and member of the board of the Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station, accepted a giant-sized check facsimile from students Alec La Rosa and Dylan Loftis.

Students also volunteered at Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego and plan to continue their association with the foundation, Hofer said.

Trustee Lasley announced three students from the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Ramona High School have been invited to attend Veteran’s Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. next November.

“They will be up on stage with the president,” Lasley said, adding she plans to go along as a chaperone.

The next meeting of the RUSD governing board begins at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Wilson Administration Center, 720 Ninth St.

Jolinda January 21, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I appreciate the difficulty facing this board. Regardless of the situations that got us here, this has to be a very hard thing for them to face up to doing. And I am thrilled to see the efforts make by our youth to help this situation. We have much to be grateful for even in these hard times. I send hope to the families who have lost jobs and pray they will find themselves in a better situation soon!
greg Chick January 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I have never had benefits, Workers rights, Unemployment Insurance, Health Insurance or even a "Paycheck". I have been self Employed, on a daily basis I have been in jeopardy of being laid off. If I did not kiss as to the consumer, I could be fired. Every Customer is my boss. When this economy hit, I took a 50% decrease in income. I empathize with Classified Employees, but, When I lost sight in one eye, I was out of work for a long time and no compensation. I had to learn to Plum with one Eye. I know times are tough, but we are all in this, not just Classified Employees. We in America still have more than most of the World, just not as much as the People we watch in Hollywood. Greg Chick, Ramona's Plumber. PS I thank any of my Bosses who are past or current "Employers of mine" and who are laid off for the opportunity to serve and wish you well.
Dave Patterson January 22, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I have to think that when we say we made it without help or a safety net, we have forgotten how many people along the way were there to offer assistance. Our parents, our neighbors, our teachers, our employers, our families and yes the government sometimes. Rather than look at an issue through the I don't have what you have, and so you shouldn't have it either, let's look at the bigger picture, and what good hard working people need to survive here. Then we can objectively determine if the compensation is adequate for the needs of the "good" people we need to hire for our schools. I prefer to take a top down view, where the priority must be putting teachers in the classrooms. If we use that as a guide, we should be able to cut where the real money is, from the top. How about we cut the salaries and compensation of administrators that don't teach full time? Cutting Mr. Graff's salary and compensation by 50% would save at least $150,000 by my guess, and that's only the beginning. I commend the RUSD employees for defending themselves through collective bargaining, because if they didn't they would be paid nothing, while the people at the top clean up.
Ralph January 23, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Where is the outrage over all of the, higher taxes, fees, fines, bureaucratic and regulatory compliance costs that cause businesses to shut down or prevent them from even opening? If you truly and honestly want to understand why we are in these budget cutting dilemmas, you simply must understanding where the actually funding comes from in the first place. We don't have schools and public services because we "think they are worthy and necessary." We have these things because there is a source of revenue for these desired and worthy services. The funding comes from tax revenue generated through commerce, i.e. the doing of business. So when ever you see or hear of ANY new rule, regulation, fine, fee, permit, tax or even any new form that needs to be filled out, understand that you are looking at another brick in the wall, shutting us off from funding these worthy and needed services like schools, water, parks, trails and funding for social services. I personally know of several businesses who have tried to open in Ramona who were prevented from doing so, because of overwhelming costs, unassociated with the actual business. These include, permits, fees, taxes, fines and regulatory compliance costs. For just one example, if you don't know and understand what the TIF fee is all about, then there is no way you can understand why there are funding problems. By the way, unfortunately, there are lots more funding cuts coming, and that is a tragedy.
Dave Patterson January 24, 2012 at 01:59 AM
We as Americans have a right to a profitable business. We do have the right to make a try at it. However, our children do have a right to a reasonable education, at our collective cost. Education is not only for those that can afford it.
Dave Patterson January 24, 2012 at 03:51 AM
I meant to write that we Americans do not have a right to a profitable business, only the right to try. Our children have the right to a reasonable education, paid for through our taxes. If my business cannot pay reasonable taxes to support the education of our children, then my business was a bad idea!

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