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Questions board benefits, Messer salary hike
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
It takes five years of college to get the beginning salary for teachers of $43,797 per year. After 22 years of experience and the equivalent of 3 additional years of college the top salary is $80,345. What other professional with 8 years of college earns $80,000 or less?

Teachers are required to teach 20 to 34 students 7 hours a day filling out Student Study Team Forms, Report Cards, lesson planning and keeping parents of student progress, behavior concerns in the one-half-hour per week prep time K-6 teachers get. Also within these duties they’re responsible to report abuse, homelessness, physical ailments, vision, and hearing problems. This is the reason many teachers take work home with them.

The teachers I have talked to have said they are not opposed to giving up something after all other possible reductions have been explored. With all concerned spending many, many hours coming up with a list of possible cuts that according to Mr. Messer, “should be as far away from the Classroom as possible.” The Level 1 and Level 2 cuts have been adopted and Level 3 has not.

A couple of items on Level 3 were: cutting back on cleaning (which requires the teachers to clean their own rooms) and closing or combining some school sites. Level 3 the committees were told the Board would study and voted line by line. This was never done which was told to the Bulletin and the board by Mr. Johnson, President of the M.E.A. He also said he “was willing to work with administration to identify cuts that still could be made” at one of the board meetings. Was this ever done? To my knowledge it has not.

It was reported in the Bulletin that the board would accept the 5% cut which amounts to $20 for each of them. However, nothing was said about the health insurance benefits these seven people receive. The benefit cap paid by the district is approximately $675. Most certificated staff are paying an additional $300 or more out of their checks each month to pay for their insurance. The cost of the insurance for the seven board members is approximately $1,000 per month, $7,000 times 12 is $84,000 per year. Remember that being a Board member is not their primary source of income or benefits as it is with the teachers. Part-time teachers (those working less than 80% of the time) do not receive benefits.

The Sun Post reported on March 27, that Jason Messer received a $28,000 raise for being named Superintendent, this on top of the of $20,000 received early in the year which totals $48,000. The Sun Post reported his salary is around $184,000 and 5% of that is $9,200. That still leaves him $38,000 ahead for the year which does not include a stipend he receives for supplies, about $350/month, and a car and fuel allowance. The board agenda several weeks ago had an item listed for closed session to discuss contract issues for Mr. Halseth. One can only guess what he received. He also received $20,000 the same raise last fall.

The board recently approved the purchase of buses were told would result in a savings over the next seven years. How many of us are going out to buy a new car now when the prices and interest rates are down to “save money over the next several years?” This is not the time to be approving any big-ticket item when people are losing their jobs.

Two of the board members have stated that class size reduction would never be voted out by them. Yet, last week teachers received an e-mail that stated class reduction was gone for next year. That means that all K-3 classes will be increased from 20 students per class to 32 and 4-6 teachers will have 35 students next year. Are the children of Manteca being held hostage by larger class sizes to punish teachers for not agreeing to the district’s demand? If any parent reading this thinks so, you can help by e-mailing the seven board members or sending letters to them at the District Office, P.O. Box 32, Manteca, CA 95336.

In the same e-mail, teachers were told that they would once again have to fill out forms (more paper work) listing their credentials (doesn’t the district know what credentials the teacher they have employed hold?) and to list which grade level assignment they would like for next year and which sites they would like to teach at. However, they could not list the school site they are currently at. This is important because it involves moving his or her classroom which is left for the teachers to do. This sounds like intimidation to get the teachers to agree to the 5% cut the administration wants.

Nowhere has it been reported that some teachers have already experienced cuts in their classroom budgets (approximately $200-$250 per year), their copy counts and print shop counts, classroom supply purchases are being monitored by district personnel, teachers are being asked to justify purchasing classroom supplies, and in some cases, having their orders denied or decreased. All these cuts directly affect the students and the teachers’ ability to provide the materials needed for teaching.
L.H. McAllister
March 30, 2009