A reader writes … By Bruce Roberts

January 15, 2001

The continuing and increasingly bitter dispute between the El Centro Elementary School District and the El Centro Elementary Teachers Association in my opinion is not the badge of honor that board members and administrators apparently believe it to be.

Rather, it is an advertisement for failure and distrust. The board is elected to lead and has failed to do so, choosing to abdicate its responsibility to the very people, teachers, who make its product, education, possible and to the public they both serve.

As ECETA president, I want to make sure the community understands that our members are only asking for a fair and reasonable salary and benefits package and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false. The truth is both sides know the money to get the deal done is there, thanks to the Legislature, which released it as unrestricted funds to school districts statewide in the latest budget. While most districts have come to some resolution with their teachers, a relative few have not, deciding instead to siphon off as much of this unexpected (and unearned) windfall as possible for "administrative" purposes — which basically translates into anything other than teachers' salaries.


Our own El Centro Elementary School District is in this latter group, a rather dubious distinction when you consider the intent of the legislation was to boost teacher compensation, not to build administrative empires. School districts may have the right to appropriate funds in this way, but that doesn't keep it from being wrong (and it doesn't engender a lot of trust on the part of teachers, either).

Unfortunately, this board and administration believe it is more important to teach the teachers a lesson than to accord them the respect and fair treatment they deserve. But at what cost, I wonder, to teacher morale and to the community-at-large?

I would submit that cost has already been significant, far exceeding any perceived advantage or benefit to the district's negotiating position.

Finally, since the board has chosen to name a successor to fill trustee Steve Walker's unexpired term rather than accede to our request for a voice in the selection process, I would hope that whoever is appointed will approach the job with both an open mind and a critical eye (although, at this point, these may be sufficient grounds for immediate disqualification). Certainly, from the working teacher's point of view, the current composition of the school board can only be improved.

Of course, there is always November, when the above seat (and two more) will be voted on by the people, and this may provide a more favorable venue than any other. After all, the measure of an elected board's effectiveness shouldn't be its capacity to stare down its most important employee group — to the detriment of everyone concerned.

BRUCE ROBERTS is a teacher for Wilson Junior High School and also president of ECETA.

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