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Here is what I wonder: Why was it all so necessary? On the surface, Poway schools look great from the outside (Midland Elementary, Westview, Del Norte High Schools) and new structures added to many schools — Mt. Carmel, my home school, for example. However, here is the rub: many classrooms are empty — I understand one of the many elementary schools that have been added even have an entire top floor wing that goes unused. The addition of Del Norte High School was superfluous — it only threatened Mt. Carmel High School’s very ability to be adequately staffed and have enough students to function like a top-tier high school. I understand that developers make promises, owners pay Mello-Roos taxes to supposedly pay for the new swanky schools in their upscale neighborhood, but the staffing, upkeep and all that goes into a school functioning properly is not taken into account. So the teachers take pay cuts: 2.75 percent in 2009-10, 4.3 percent in 2010-11 and 2011-12 (done in a spirit that hoped to avoid seeing valuable, young teachers not be dismissed), and the district claims it will have to make cuts again next year, and that is when/if Proposition 30 passes. If Prop. 30 does not pass we are being told to expect to cut about $39 million. To put that in perspective when the whole district took a 4.3 percent cut, it saved the district about $8 million. The state has had to make it possible for districts to cut as many as 15 days from the student calendar. So districts (San Marcos) have a contingency to cut the 15 days from this year’s calendar if Prop. 30 does not pass.
Ah, but we have the technology upgrades. The word is that the staffing and support to keep this up and running is as shaky as the iPhone 5’s mapping directions. And , of course, if the new aforementioned schools have new “stuff” then the district tries to retrofit all that to the older schools and that becomes fiscally problematic. So let’s pass another bond.
Admittedly, nothing is simple. But here is something to consider — we upgrade schools in Poway. They look pretty. Architects get their money. Builders, too. Costs rise so that original estimates are way off. But the students and teachers pay the real bill — why? Look at class size: 42-plus in high school, 38-plus middle schools, 25 to 26 in primary classes with 35-plus in the 4th and 5th grades. Devastating.
Now the talking heads (overpaid as they are) all over will argue that “class size does not really matter all that much in the end.” Oh really? Ask any one of them to take the job of the aforementioned teachers for even one year and they will know the difference. Ask the parents and the students what it feels like crammed in a room full with desks, wall-to-wall, with a teacher just trying to survive. Ask all those parties what they think. It is crazy. And that situation is not made one iota better by all the bonds and improvements and new schools. Passing Prop. 30 and defeating Proposition 32 will make a difference. If Prop. 30 passes we will at least not have to face more cuts next year. If Prop. 32 fails then teachers will keep their political voice and continue to pressure Sacramento for stable, predictable school funding. If Prop. 32 passes then teachers will have no political voice. Without political pressure from teachers I just don’t see how things in our public schools will ever get back to where they should be.
I congratulate my former colleagues for doing their best when even their best is barely adequate by their own standards. I wonder how long they can endure. The students get lost in the shuffle or they simply, unaware of the past success in Poway schools, have no idea what they are missing out on because this will be or already is the “new normal” for them.
I retired in 2010. In 2009, when there was class size reduction for 9th grade English and our school was on semester scheduling I had a total of 135 students. The following year we lost class size reduction and switched to a trimester system. The result: 240 students that year that year in my English classes.
Thank God I retired.
Bob Pacilio is a former teacher from Poway Unified School District.
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