After hours of deliberation, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Graeff said the district was "very disappointed" that it got no closer to a contract agreement with union negotiators Wednesday night.
“It was our hope that we could arrive at a settlement that is both fair to our teachers and financially responsible,” Graeff said in a statement released Thursday morning.
“We’ve already had to cut several teaching and support positions as well as music for our elementary children, summer school, the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program and funds for classroom supplies, textbooks and equipment in order to help balance our current and future budgets.”
However, further cost savings are necessary, and those cuts, Graeff said, should come from the teachers’ salaries.
Ramona Teachers Association President Donna Braye-Romero told Patch that just because teachers' salaries make up 62 percent of the district budgets, it doesn't mean they should take the largest cuts.
“Being the people who are actually in contact with the children on a day-to-day basis, I don’t believe we should be taking the biggest cuts," Braye-Romero said. “I think the cuts should be affordable and fair for all.”
Graeff stated that the fact-finding panel now has 20 days to submit its findings to the district and the union, after which they will be made public at a future governing board meeting.
See also: for Contract Negotiations
During the next 20 days, Braye-Romero said the teachers will “absolutely” continue teaching and that a strike would be “bad for everyone.”
Armando Macias, who has two children in third and fourth grade at Hanson Elementary, said he hopes the parents of Ramona "really understand what this means if teachers strike."
"I, for one, do not want a sub in the classroom for any length of time," Macias wrote. "And think of Ramona's already slow economy and how that will affect us all!"
But the Ramona Teachers Association president said no strike has been planned or even voted on yet by the union.
“We absolutely do not want to go on strike," Braye-Romero said. “But with that said, we absolutely cannot tolerate the cuts this district is proposing.”
As of now, the district has asked the teachers to take a 9-9.5 percent pay cut, Braye-Romero said, a percentage she calls “outrageous.”
“I think a fair cut is something reasonable to what any other district around here has taken—a 2-4 percent cut," she said. “We’ve gone way beyond that and gotten nowhere.”
Braye Romero said the district provides no retiree benefits. Each teacher contributes to their own State Teachers Retirement System account, but there is no teacher contribution to health benefits.
“That is an ongoing conversation,” Braye-Romero said via email. “We have been paying them through not taking salary increases over the past many years to maintain our benefit coverage.”
So where does Braye-Romero think the Graeff's "necessary cuts" should come from?
“[The district has] buildings that need to be sold, they have property that needs to be gone," she said. "They built schools without community permission and they now have got to find a way to get community support to pay for those schools they chose to build without community support.”
According to the president of RTA, the district is preparing for a strike. At time of posting, Superintendent Graeff had not responded to Patch regarding a possible district strike.
The fact-finding panel now has 20 days to submit its findings, Graeff said, and the RUSD's bargaining team “remains available to meet with union negotiators in order to identify and then implement the savings we need in order to keep our district financially sound.”
“I think we have more of the community support than we know of,” Braye-Romero said. “I know that we will be spending the next several weeks working on community support.”
Patch will keep the community updated on the fact-finding results in the coming days.