School district shouldn’t take drastic measures, risk losing teachers

JoAnne Rotta
English teacher, Quincy High School

Dear PUSD board members:

I attended the Feb. 22 board meeting, but I had to leave early. I am thankful that I left. It is unreasonable to have a board agenda that “saves” the major issue until the end of the night. It was my understanding that the layoff vote was not announced until almost 11 p.m.

The paper ran an editorial that discussed the poorly planned agendas and the fact that attendees are held hostage waiting for news of important items. Clearly, the paper’s message was ignored.

At the previous board meeting the personnel vote regarding layoffs was carried over to the special meeting scheduled for Feb. 22. Many people attended these meetings for that particular item. I know that you do not set the agenda, but I wish that you would discuss the placement of items of public interest on future agendas.

As a PUSD teacher of more than 30 years, I want to express my opinion regarding school closures and layoffs. My husband and I moved to Plumas County 34 years ago. It took almost four years for me to acquire a full-time job, though I worked at Quincy High School prior to having a contracted position.

For 12 years my husband worked as a wildlife biologist in Greenville. He was concerned when the U.S. Forest Service closed its office in Greenville (1994) that Greenville was moving in the direction of a dying community. Mills have closed; the hospital has closed; numerous businesses no longer function. I can understand the anguish Greenville residents are feeling regarding the proposed closure of the high school. If my children were still school-aged, I would not allow them to be bused to another community. It is dangerous and beyond time-consuming.

My husband and I raised our children in Quincy, and I am proud to say that both girls love this community and appreciate the education they were offered. Our oldest will graduate from the UC Davis School of Medicine in May; our youngest daughter is a third-year first-grade teacher in Reno. They are saddened by the crisis this school district faces.

I understand that changes must be made. Clearly, though, the changes do not need to be as drastic as they are. I just left a staff meeting that lasted close to two hours. It is heartbreaking to see young, enthusiastic teachers the same age as my children worry about their futures. It is heartbreaking to know that the quality of education we have offered for all these years will diminish.

Beyond my concerns for the young teachers, it is unbelievable to realize that Susan Frediani, my fellow English teacher, received a “bump/hold” notice after more than 22 years of teaching. I certainly did not begin this year thinking that I may retire. At this point, though, I am willing to consider some changes in order to maintain some of the quality and enthusiasm our younger teachers have to share.

It makes no sense to me that the bargaining team proposed a ludicrous offer to the union regarding early retirement. The union will not give up binding arbitration; that is clear. Have you truly considered the cost-saving measures related to a golden handshake? I continue to be a hardworking teacher. I love my days at school, and I am not close to being burned out (other than in reference to the never-ending stack of papers continually demanding my attention). My overall retirement plan included additional years of work, but the decisions made regarding layoffs need to be reevaluated.

If we are functioning on the premise of what is best for children, this is not in the students’ best interest. Have you experienced the difference between classes of 25 and below versus classes of 35? I have. Not only will the control and focus of the classroom change, so will the quality of education. I beg you to look at the larger picture. Consider the reserve money, and do not make decisions based on the most drastic choices.

Tradition with this district has shown that at the start of the school year many teachers may be rehired; do you want to lose the majority of these young (and less than young) teachers to other districts? I understand issues with the economy; I understand problems with state and federal funding. I do know that a slide show/workshop on finances (at the last board meeting) did not ease the pain or add additional support to those who will be receiving (or have received) layoff notices.

Again, please reconsider your decisions, and encourage those who plan the board meetings to be respectful to the public and not bury important items at the end of the evening.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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