As the Rancho Santa Fe Faculty Association continues contract negotiations for the 2016-17 through 2018-19 school years with the Rancho Santa Fe School District, several teachers spoke out in favor of salary increases at the April 14 board meeting.
“It is my hope that the board will see that our organization is advancing teaching and learning in our community by cultivating working conditions that are attractive and acceptable to professional educators who will in turn create the best learning conditions for students,” said Amanda Valentine, fourth grade teacher and president of the faculty association.
The district’s initial proposal to the faculty association in February included no change in salaries and benefits from the 2013-16 agreement. Last year, R. Roger Rowe teachers and staff saw their first salary increase in seven years when the board approved a retroactive 3 percent off-schedule raise for the 2014-15 school year and a 3 percent on-schedule salary increase for 2015-16.
“The district is now at risk of losing exemplary teachers,” said history teacher Corinne Braun.
Braun said even with the 3 percent increase she is earning $25,000 less than her counterparts and if she worked in the neighboring San Dieguito Union High School District, she could earn $115,000 a year.
“If I had started my career over in that district I could earn more than a 12-year veteran teacher in this district,” Braun said. “The only way to remain competitive in our academics is to remain competitive in our compensation. It takes years of experience to develop an exceptional teacher and the board’s current negotiations put the district at risk of losing these irreplaceable resources.”
In addition to salary and benefits, Valentine also expressed concerns about a recent board policy passed in March that has created “unnecessary division between teaching staff and administration” and has lowered teacher morale.
The policy, effective March 1, 2016, stated all employees “shall not display any temporary or permanent tattoos while they are acting within the scope of employment. Employees may wear earrings but piercings in all other visible parts of the body during the scope of employment is prohibited.”
Valentine said as the board continues to hold meetings during the course of the school day, the teaching staff was unable to share concerns in a meaningful manner before the policy was implemented.
“Meetings that are conducive to the schedules of both parents and teachers build community trust,” Valentine said. “Through evening board meetings, let’s give our public and community the opportunity to be included, informed and supportive.”
Valentine also addressed the teachers’ concern about the renewal of Board Policy 4111, regarding enrollment of children of district employees in the school. The policy is triennially connected to the negotiations process, “creating a false deadline that hastens negotiations and encourages compliance over interest.
She said it has been used as a tool to create division and worry. Teacher Darcy Gleisberg echoed Valentine’s statement, saying she believes that Policy 4111 has become the greatest leverage the school board has when negotiating with the faculty association.
“It’s a disappointing tactic from a board designed to govern with the best interest of children in mind,” Gleisberg said.
Gleisberg said that a teacher’s ability to have their children enrolled at R. Roger Rowe should be a fixed feature, not something that is in yearly jeopardy.
The board did not respond to the teachers’comments as it conducts contract negotiations in closed session.