As one who acted in support of last year's teachers strike and parent boycott, I feel obliged to express my personal feelings about the tragic course of events that have transpired since our teachers have made the disastrous choices to strike and continue this raging battle in our district.
I ran for a position on the school board because I wanted to be part of changing the history of our district to one of peace and harmony. In spite of four new board members, an excellent new superintendent and equally exceptional new business manager, it would appear that nothing we can do will effect that change.
I am very proud of the team to which I belong. We are fortunate to have a leader in our board president, Biff Green, who has made sincere efforts to successfully help bring about a positive change. We have done our best to work beside him and achieve the solid working unit this district so desperately needs. Our new superintendent and business manager are products of that teamwork.
It was painfully clear that we inherited a seemingly insurmountable number of problems. Now, as we watch with a true sense of grief the battle continued by the teacher's union, I see in my team members an attrition of the energy and positive dedication we all shared.
It doesn't seem to matter that we have demonstrated that we are doing the best we can. Months ago we offered a meeting with two board members, two administrators and whomever the union wanted to bring. The objective was to closely examine the budget and try to understand where they saw dollars where we did not. They refused to meet. At our last board meeting they were willing to blast us as we patiently listened, but walked out when the time came for our staff to present our facts.
The union now wants binding arbitration, which would turn over our authority to a third party to settle the differences. We just completed a kind of "binding arbitration" when we accepted the last fact finder's recommendation to give the teachers a 4% salary increase. It cost us $2 million dollars in cuts, including counselors, health clerk aides, textbook programs and athletic programs. We are on the governor's watch list because we do not have the financial reserves required by the state, and have yet to complete making the necessary cuts for a balanced budget.
Yet we have made cuts and gave the recommended salary increase to demonstrate that teachers are our top priority. Even that very painful process has not been enough. I am not willing to risk further cuts, or bankruptcy, based upon the decision of an outside fact finder.
With all of the components in place to make this district a champion for the children, we had hoped to gain at least one year of peace to give our new team a chance. The union is not willing to grant that reprieve. It is my hope that the community and the majority of our teachers will stand up and be heard, for the sake of the children, and for the sake of the destiny of our district.
Bonita Board of Education