SUSD teachers take pay cuts while superintendent gets big raiseby tcguestblogger on Oct. 12, 2011, under Uncategorized
[Ed. Note: Lynn Lujan read this letter to the Sunnyside Unified School District Board during call to the audience at its Tuesday meeting.]
By Lynn Lujan
Sunnyside Unified School District Teacher
I have been an employee of Sunnyside School District for 33 years. I am here today to speak about the $225,000 pay increase the school board gave the superintendent over the next 3 years.
On my commute to school I listen to NPR. One day, Admiral Mullens was being interviewed. He was discussing military budget cuts. Admiral Mullens stressed the importance of making sure the men and women in uniform be well equipped with materials and supplies. He warned against what he called the “hollowing out” of the troops.
The term “hollowing out” of the troops really resonated with what is happening to the teachers in Sunnyside. Classroom teachers, in spite of loss of job security and loss of wages, have continued to hoist the onslaught of requirements onto their backs. Teachers miraculously accomplish so much with so little time, money, or consideration.
Then the news hit that, sometime over the summer, the school board had approved an additional $75,000 per year, for the next three years to the superintendent. I really heard about it second-hand. My father, who is quite a jokester, told me Sunnyside’s superintendent had received a huge raise. I said, “Oh, Daddy, you know that’s not true.” I read the newspaper and went from disbelief to anger to disgust to frustration over this travesty of a decision. Now I am just sad. A hollowed out sad.
While teachers are scraping by with loss of income, in these economic times of austerity and belt tightening, the school board decided to provide a bailout to the highest paid employee who exhibited, not illegal, but questionable practices with a school-issued credit card and then rewarded him with a substantial pay raise with hopes of tickle-down profits to the district.
Hollowing out of the troops. By purposeful acts of the school board. It’s disheartening to know that the school board has so little regard for its “troops” that it is willing to disenfranchise the many honorable people who chose an honorable profession. How can the school board be so disconnected from the “troops”? What was the thinking behind this economic injustice and equality gap?
And the silence is deafening. Where is the line of teachers expressing their dissatisfaction? Some may breathe a sigh of relief that teachers are so beaten down they won’t attend a board meeting to show concern over this issue. I find the silence very troubling. Silence driven by fear (fear of speaking up, fear of joblessness, fear of retaliation) has horrible repercussions. It smothers your soul and steals your spirit. It is better to have a democracy of checks and balances where people question and challenge decisions and have an honest respectful debate. It is critical to allow and encourage differing points of view. Hollow silence from the troops.
I will continue to walk and talk for passage of the bond/override. But my heart is heavy. It’s difficult to ask taxpayers, who have always given more than their fair share to education, for support when foremost in their minds is that a single employee was given a huge raise. It’s understandable for taxpayers to conclude our schools can’t be that destitute. The impact of this single decision has made an already uphill battle of passing the bond/override much steeper.
While I am disappointed and disheartened in the board’s decision on this issue, for 33 years I have believed in the Sunnyside community and always will.
I would like to end with a quote:
“An intelligent person speaks, a wise person listens.”
I am hopeful the board listened.