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Teachers request higher salaries, reserve reduction

Laura Beaton
A packed audience attends the school board meeting at Greenville High School, which featured a dozen district teachers and staff addressing the board regarding low salaries, pink slips, increased workloads and poor morale.

  “Money is seed corn, not just sustenance,” Aleece Oravetz said in her address to Plumas Unified School District’s board of directors March 13.

  Oravetz was referring to the district holding on to too much money in its reserve fund. She said excessive austerity creates stress for students, parents and teachers.

  “You are being abused,” a parent recently told her. She said in many districts, three preps are considered too many. In PUSD, teachers with four, five, six or even seven preps is the norm.

  She spoke of her own 60-hour workweeks, her dedicated Sunday afternoons for AP tutoring and study groups, every lunch period spent working, the school activities she attends with papers to grade and the ever-increasing duties that keep piling up on teachers.

  This year alone she said there have been six major changes, many of them unfunded: PBIS, Aeries, Common Core, OARS program, leadership teams and a realignment of the CTE program.

  “We simply need a realistic interpretation of the budget,” Oravetz summed up at the end of her 15-minute address.

  Oravetz was followed by many other eloquent and emotional speakers, who spoke of feeling hopeless, overworked, ashamed (of the district’s pay scale), ridiculed by their out-of-town colleagues for the district’s low wages and backbreaking workloads, and above all else — tired.

  From Portola to Chester and everywhere in between, teachers and classified staff stood up and spoke out in tones ranging from beseeching to demanding to accusing. They asked the board to wake up and turn things around by spending some of the excess reserve on much-deserved wages.

First, last, best and final

  Several speakers took issue with the district’s negotiation team for its “first, last, best and final offer” presented earlier in the month during salary negotiations.

  They said the district needs to learn the definition of negotiation — which involves the “four C’s” that the district touts in its new 21st-century learning strategy: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

  One speaker said county teachers have seen just a 1 percent raise over the past eight years. Ron Logan, Plumas County Teachers Association president, contends that the district is sitting on a reserve that is more than $5 million above its own bottom line.

  “I question the need for more than twice the reserve the board approved,” he said. “We need to serve today’s students today — to spend today’s funds today.”

  Logan said the first, last, best and final offer was unacceptable. Negotiators were expected to return to the table today, March 19. The PUSD board could not respond to the public comments.

Biomass boiler update

“The big news is we’ve received a $350,000 grant to build a chip plant in Crescent Mills from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy,” Mikailah McKee, Renewable Energy/Biomass Utilization Program lead for the Sierra Institute on Community and Environment told the board.

  McKee reviewed the October 2013 biomass feasibility study presentation given to the board regarding biomass heating options for the Portola High School. One of the options involved partnering with Eastern Plumas Health Care.

  All of the options would provide a cost savings of up to $1 million over a 30-year period — the lifespan of the biomass system.

  McKee said she needs an answer, one way or the other, by the April board meeting.

Second interim budget

Director of Business Services Yvonne Bales said the second interim budget looks good. Revenue is projected to be significantly higher due to higher property taxes, contributions from Plumas Charter School and other sources.

  She said $562,000 in increased revenues combined with $130,000 in decreased expenditures results in an overall projected $56,000 deficit spending outcome, far better than the $1.4 million deficit projected.

  Bales gave a presentation on the new Local Control Funding Formula that, among other things, will produce a net result of increased responsibility for PUSD to fund Plumas Charter School.

Local Control Accountability Plan

  Superintendent Miglis gave a report on another new plan — the Local Control Accountability Plan. The plan is not business as usual.

  It involves funding formulas and changes, a new role in accountability, Common Core implementation, stakeholder participation (parents, staff) and assessment.

  The LCAP focuses on eight priorities: basic services, school climate, student achievement, student engagement, other student outcomes, parental involvement, course access and implementations of common core standards.

  She said the plan is aligned with the local budget and must be ready by July 1. For more information on materials presented at the board, go to the district’s website,

  The next regular board meeting is set for April 10, 5 p.m. at C. Roy Carmichael Elementary School in Portola.

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