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Time to cut school board stipends & benefits

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POSTED December 19, 2008 12:45 a.m.
The sum of $8.75 million doesn’t really seem like all that much money if you think about it.
By the time it took me to write that sentence, we probably spent that same amount of money in Iraq – or some other foreign country – or blew it on some improbable social experiment that won’t work out but will keep a lot of paychecks flowing for a decent amount of time.
But why bother making sure that our kids have the necessary tools they need to succeed in school?
In the age when the Big 3 auto makers are asking Congress for billions of dollar in bailouts in order to keep themselves from shutting their doors, schools less than 20 miles away in Baltimore and D.C. are in such states of disrepair few teachers would dare set foot on their campuses.
And now that Ah-nuld has declared a state of fiscal emergency for California, educators all across the state are holding their breath to see what exactly the final fall-out is going to be when it is all said and done.
For Manteca Unified, it will undoubtedly mean school closures of some kind – be it long running campus institutions or annexes to existing schools that grew too fast to accommodate demand.
Even though it’s still probably a month away, it appears that both the Lathrop and Sequoia annexes will be history while Calla High School will be transferred out to Weston Ranch’s New Vision in order to consolidated the two programs.
Personally, it’s hard for me to refer to it as the Sequoia Annex since I attended kindergarten through second grade at Yosemite School – complete with history, and the unique feeling that in order to go outside you literally had to go down a hallway to do it.
But the bottom line is quite simple – if we’re able, as a society, to put our money into all of these different things, then why not start right at the top with the education of the people who will one day lead this country?
And symbolically, on a local level, the Board of Education should have been the first to stand up and offer to give back their stipends and suspend their benefits (if they still receive them) showing solidarity and expressing their understanding of what their employees and their constituents are currently facing.
I stand firmly on the platform that nobody should run for school board if they’re only doing so for the money. The passion for the kids that they’re supposed to serve should far outweigh any nominal amount given to compensate for their time.
When I wrote a column that was critical of the district purchasing laptop computers for members of the board – IBM ThinkPad tablets no less – you would have thought that I was launching a worldwide smear campaign complete with commercial spots and billboards.
And that was only one member of the board who took almost two hours to belittle my attempt at advocating fiscal responsibility.
Now those computers – as well as the stipends of those who sit on the seven-member panel – are to blame in part for the multi-million dollar mess that Manteca Unified currently finds itself in.
It’s ugly.
People are going to lose their jobs. And with the economy the way it is right now, businesses aren’t exactly opening up the floodgates to let in new employees.
It seems legitimate that any sort of cuts should start first at the top and work their way down.
Nobody locally sits higher on that educational food chain than those seven people elected to serve the residents of Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch.
I’m sure this isn’t an easy decision for anyone to make, and a position that nobody wanted to be in.
Handling it by sending a message early by suspending the stipends of trustees, however, would have been a sign of good faith that they’re trying everything possible to not impact the children.
At the end of the day, this is, supposedly, all about the kids.
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