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Teachers not at fault for Denair Unified troubles

POSTED September 17, 2013 9:10 p.m.

The statement made by Denair Unified School District interim superintendent Walt Hanline, displayed on YouTube, regarding a State takeover of the District was dishonest.  His political spin was: (1) that the District's present woes are the result of paying its teachers and employees too much; and (2) that these teachers have refused to bargain for less pay to save the District.

In fact, the District's financial disaster has nothing to do with the pay rates of teachers.  Their pay is among the very lowest in the county and Denair is the only district bankrupt.  This district's board simply created far too many unneeded positions to support with its revenue in this tiny district. The Board was warned by teachers at a public meeting in 2008 that new administration positions and other positions would result in unsustainable ongoing deficit spending unless the district could materialize 500-700 new students out of the ether. The Board hid deficit spending from the public with loans, by emptying its healthy reserve, and by misusing a one year federal bailout.  It finally maxed out its credit last year and the County Office of Education was forced to intervene.  Not learning, the Board continues to hire unneeded employees and support unneeded administration positions to support Hanline's old fashioned big school ideas about what a school district should look like. 

The second part of Hanline’s spin is that the District wants to negotiate and is just waiting for the teachers to make a proposal.  In fact, it has been the District, not the teachers that have stalled negotiations by calling for impasse and by engaging game playing.  Twice administrative judges have ordered the district to bargain.   

The game is transparent to anyone who knows school business.  Hanline will delay the process until fact finding is ordered.  Since fact finding is not binding, he will advise the Board to ignore the finding and proceed with its plan to reduce teacher pay by as much as 11.5 percent. This may be far in excess of what is needed avoid a State takeover.  (The monthly payroll of the District has already declined by 16 percent due to retirements and resignations.)

Hanline is not kidding when he says, "My will be done."  What he is missing is that the teaching staff and other workers at Denair are a part of the community on which he is imposing his will. They along with parents and students are Denair.  Teachers and other employees have dedicated their very lives for the children of the district. They lived with less compensation every year in order to provide a unique and personalized small school setting for students. Now, as a reward, their family's livelihoods and futures are now being undermined.

This is not just a matter of money; it is a matter of respect and appreciation for the people holding the District together.  Besides the money issue, Hanline’s treatment of employees has been despicable. This guy may need a hug.

Sadly, these teachers will now have to pay, not only for the District's past terrible fiscal management; now they will have to pay for the enormous legal costs generated by an adversarial superintendent’s will and mistakes.

 — Larry Hoyt

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