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Teacher dislikes Bulletin coverage

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POSTED March 7, 2017 12:32 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
As an educator for 35 years, I have to take issue with several of your comments as the editor of the local newspaper regarding our local public school teachers.  In May of 2016, you referred to schoolteachers as members of a cartel, a term usually reserved for illegal drug operations in Latin America.  To summarize, you said that teachers only want more money for schools because they want salary raises.  So, first you compare teachers to drug cartels, then you call us greedy. 
Just so you know, the teacher’s bargaining proposal for this year was a student-centered approach and included hiring more nurses, counselors at every elementary school, lowering class sizes, and hiring more coaches.  Even though the district received a 16% increase to their budget this year from $211 million to $245 million, they have offered the teachers 2%.  The teachers asked for 5%. In fact, over the past 4 years, the district has received an increase of 51% from $162 million in 2013-2014 to $245 million this year.  We haven’t.  These numbers are from the district website for ANYONE to find, including the editor of a local newspaper.
Another comment you made was this past March 2. You stated that Manteca Unified is “Offering the highest compensation of all districts within San Joaquin County and all but one district in Stanislaus County.”  Not true. Not even close.  MUSD ranks 4th in overall compensation in San Joaquin County. 
What alarms me the most are your editorials so you can serve as the spokesperson for Jason Messer, the Superintendent Manteca Unified School District.  Did you make a secret agreement with Mr. Messer so his Public Relations Department will give you articles to run in exchange for presenting his side and attacking his employees?
Mr. Messer has led the local school board down a road of poor budget decisions. Frankly, I would describe these decisions as anti-children.  That’s a powerful accusation, so let me go into more detail. 
uMr. Messer has encouraged the school board several times to not lower class sizes in kindergarten to Grade 3.
uMr. Messer has nearly forty of his most experienced teachers out of the classroom while we hire interns to teach the children.  As you pointed out there is a teacher shortage, it should be all hands on deck.  And we should try to keep our most experienced teachers with a fair offer.  Mr. Messer, you received a 5% raise, but why do you offer your teachers 2%? 
uWhen there weren’t enough teachers to start the year, Mr. Messer made the decision to not hire substitute teachers for these classrooms.  He decided to move Intervention and Read 180 teachers(staff who teach the neediest kids at the neediest schools)to classrooms that did not have a teacher. However, each school had at least 3 educators that do not teach students who could have temporarily moved into these positions.  A First Grade teacher was moved to the high school to teach Math.
uMr. Messer has spent over $50 million on his Going Digital Project which puts a tablet in the hands of every student.  As many parents already know, the tablets spend more time being fixed than in the hands of the students.  Teachers spend countless hours during class helping students with their devices rather than teaching.  We’re teachers, not tech support.
uThose of you that have purchased a home south of 120 will have your children bussed as far as ten miles away.  Why?  Mr. Messer didn’t talk to the developers and work with them to build schools for those new neighborhoods.
uMr. Messer started a new voc ed program called b.e. tech.  I love vocational education, but it has to be the right kind, and it has to be well-planned.  Currently, the district spends 20k per student at be tech.  At the other district high schools, the district spends 5k per student.  When b.e. tech was opened, it was promised that it would pay for itself.  And it isn’t. Only 150 students attend b.e. tech.   After being opened for 5 years and spending $25 million to build b.e. tech, it is time to shut it down. Or, since high schools have block schedules with 90 minute classes, let students attend their regular high school and then go to b.e. tech for a voc ed class in the afternoon.   It is not a mistake to try something new, but it is a mistake to continue spending taxpayer money on a failed initiative just to protect your reputation.  It is a morally wrong to start new programs when Manteca High is in such poor shape.

Ken Johnson
Manteca Unified
teacher

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