By Miriam Raftery
December 19, 2013 (Alpine) – The Alpine Union School Board voted unanimously to slash pay and benefits for teachers by an average of 30 percent. Teachers fear losing their homes with such deep cuts – and in January, the teachers’ union will vote on whether to go on strike.
Cuts, which start at the end of January will include a 7.85% permanent pay cut and a $5,500 reduction in district contributions toward health care benefits. Full-time teachers stand to lose $1,400 to $1,600 a month and nearly half of the district’s 100 teachers stand to lose 30 percent of their pay and benefits, according to California Teachers Association representative Bill Guy, UT San Diego reported. Some could lose 50 percent.
Angry teachers shouted at school board members at a heated meeting on December 10, asking to speak.
In an open letter to the AUSD board published by the Alpine Community Network, Alison Knight Ford, wife and daughter of teachers in the district and a parent with children in Alpine schools, called on the Board to resign. “Your actions have caused a massive wave of upset among the parents and teachers of this community,” she said, adding, “I have NEVER felt this worried or concerned for my little child's future.” She added that she and her husband are considering removing their children from the school system.
Lou Russo, a parent and member of the Alpine Planning Group, calls for other drastic action. "Is it time to close an elementary? No one wants to hear of it, but Alpine Union School District (AUSD) finds itself butting heads with that terrible reality known as reality," he suggests. "What does shuttering a school site buy us? Isn't it time to find out?"
Russo, offering up his own "Plan to cure the AUSD" sent to local media outlets, also suggests laying off some teachers and cutting administrative costs would be preferably to the board's course of action. He asks, "Do we really need a full time superintendent? Do we need full time administrators at each site? Can they double up? Can a senior teacher be part time vice principal? Why not?"
Supervisor Tom Pellegrino attempted to justify the cuts, adding, “If we had the money to give the teachers, we would give it,” 10 News reported.
Ramie Hagood sharply criticized Pellegrino’s conduct at the meeting. “To impose the changes in the middle of the meeting before everyone had the opportunity to speak was extremely disrespectful and unnecessary. They should be ashamed of themselves,” she posted at the Alpine Community Network.
Many teachers have criticized the Superintendent for maintaining a hefty salary and travel allowance while asking deep sacrifices of teachers.
The district blames its economic woes on rising heatlh costs, state budget cuts, and declining enrollment. But teachers say those problems have been known for years – and they are prepared to strike.
The district blames declining enrollment, escalating health costs and state cuts. Teachers say all of those problems were in the forecast years ago and they are prepared to strike.
"If we go out on strike, that's even more money out of pocket, but I'm willing to do that," said Beth Bresnahan, who has taught here for nearly three decades, 10 News reported She concluded that it’s time for teachers to take a stand.