Where’s the outrage?

Marsha Sutton


By Marsha Sutton
What happened to the contentious critics who attended all those Del Mar Union School District board meetings the past four years to lambast previous board members, three in particular, for a laundry list of charges that included, confusingly, grievances ranging from inattention to micro-managing?

Those naysayers and nitpickers – the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” as Spiro Agnew famously said of his detractors – have inexplicably disappeared from public view.

Apparently the issues now aren’t nearly as important as the prior prime objective, which was to harangue, harass and humiliate three pesky board members who had the gall to stun the power-brokers and puppet-masters by unexpectedly winning an election.

I’m not saying the old board did everything right – they made mistakes, certainly. But the new board also deserves some measure of community involvement, which is glaringly absent.

Some of those verbal assaults – aimed at former trustees’ decisions and actions, as well as their personal character – centered around fiscal issues and the proper management of district funds.

As recently reported, the current school board, with three new trustees who were championed by those who vilified the previous board, approved two controversial allocations of the district’s allotted $763,000 in Federal Education Jobs Funds, which was federal money intended to save jobs.

Del Mar’s decision to give $1,000 in “cash incentives” to all employees amounted to about $500,000. Most of the rest was spent on a Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan (SERP).

After this news was released, comparisons were made to other local school districts that chose instead to save temporary teachers’ jobs or use the money to offset the impact of statewide budget cuts to the general fund.

No district other than Del Mar used the money to give cash to employees.

The question most asked by readers was whether the DMUSD should have contributed the money to support the Extended Studies Curriculum program.

Every year, parents are asked – begged, really – to give to the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation specifically for the ESC program (consisting of classes in science, technology, art, music and physical education), which costs a bundle to operate. Parents are told frequently by the district that ESC jobs are in jeopardy as a result of state budget cuts, and programs will be cut if donations fall short.

Many parents now want to know why the district didn’t apply that federal money (and there was a lot of it) to the ESC program. Five hundred thousand dollars could have made a huge impact.

A good question. A better question is why the school board didn’t denounce this giveaway and ask the same question before unanimously approving the $1,000-per-employee payout.

An even better question is why parents didn’t loudly and publicly condemn the school board for supporting the proposal.

A one-time giveaway

Last fall, teachers entered negotiations unhappy with higher health care costs and were presented with a district offer to use Federal Education Jobs Funds to offset these rising costs. Although the proposal was tentative – and at the time unapproved, and perhaps even unknown, by the school board – members of the teachers’ union convened and overwhelmingly accepted the unauthorized proposal.

Next thing you know, the item is on the school board agenda for approval.

So what are caught-in-the-middle trustees to do? Be villains and veto the loose agreement after the district prematurely offered and the teachers accepted? Or acquiesce, be good soldiers, and smile uncomfortably while voting yes?

If board members were not involved in early labor negotiations and the offer was made by district senior staff without trustees’ foreknowledge or tacit approval, then they were likely faced with a hard decision.

On the other hand, weren’t they elected on a wave of disapproval of former board members who were accused repeatedly, and often unjustly, of not providing proper fiscal oversight? Did no one on this current board consider ways that money might be put to better use? Don’t elected officials have a primary duty to carefully guard taxpayer money and see that it’s spent appropriately and effectively?

Trustees appeared to ignore the very real possibility that, should donations fall short this year, new teachers might be sacrificed if it comes to pass that class sizes must increase or there’s not enough money to fully fund ESC.

The $1,000 is what the DMUSD deceptively labeled “a one-time stipend.” But the definition of a stipend is “a sum of money allotted on a regular basis, usually for some specific purpose” – making the phrase “a one-time stipend” an oxymoron. This clearly wasn’t a regular payment; rather, it was a one-time giveaway, a bonus in anyone’s vocabulary.

Making matters worse, the district’s “one for all and all for one” idea of equity meant that not just teachers but every district employee all the way up to Superintendent Jim Peabody would be entitled to the federal money.

What “incentive” does this provide? What will these workers do better now that they have this bit of money? Will teachers “teach” better? Will Peabody “lead” better?

Although a nice piece of change, a $1,000 “cash incentive” isn’t going to change anyone’s lifestyle, especially a full-time employee working in the Del Mar Union School District. But when you put it all together into a half-million-dollar package, it becomes a huge chunk of money that could have really made a difference in the security of the ESC program.

The “cash incentive, one-time stipend” program insults all the hard-working parents who dig deep into their pockets each year to generously contribute whatever they can afford to sustain the ESC program. Given this misuse of federal money, the Foundation will have a much harder time this year convincing over-extended parents that the district is poor and needs their donations.

So who is responsible for this misguided allocation of money? Teachers for asking for it? District staff for offering it? The school board for approving it? Parents for not forcefully objecting?

Throwing new teachers under the bus

The school board’s approval of this $500,000 giveaway exposes as hypocrisy the motives of those protesters who created such a stink in past years over fiscal mismanagement.

Seeing no objections today to actions that, under the previous board would have created near riots and storms of criticism, it would be easy to assume that the outrage was a sham, simply a vendetta against that particular school board. One wonders if the relentless defamation of previous board members had less to do with issues than with personalities and retaliation.

Do trustees now get to act with impunity? Is there no backlash for mismanagement of federal dollars? Apparently not. As long as the “bad guys” on the school board are gone, new board members get a pass.
Yet there is outrage out there – just untapped, unorganized and unscripted. Some comments from readers say it best:
•“While all the other local (apparently well run) school districts were using these federal taxpayer funds appropriately to hold on to teaching positions, DMUSD was … handing out $1000 cash bonuses as ‘incentives.’ … All the while, our current teachers, while pocketing their $1000, were out there picketing against the pink slips, and wearing pink in memorial for those poor teachers who were let go. Ridiculous and so disingenuous.”

•“Does the DMUSD Board of Trustees and Jim Peabody genuinely think this was truly the intent and the best, highest use of these federal dollars? How can they look themselves in the mirror?”

•“Why did parents knock themselves out to dig deep and try to meet the DMSEF’s goal of contributing $800/student or whatever it was? Why didn’t they just apply the $743,000 and keep our oh-so-valuable art, music, tech, PE and science teachers?”

•“This is quite possibly the worst mismanagement of funds I have ever seen. So glad to see that Peabody and staff have the best interest of the children at heart here and took $21K out of the General Fund for themselves. How can they possibly expect the foundation to raise money when they pocket it themselves?”

•“I was campaigning for our teachers to ‘save their jobs!’ I had no idea they were so quick to throw each other under the bus. How many ESC teachers could we have next year with that money? How many temporary teachers are going to be let go? All this talk of ‘reorganizing’ the library, raising class sizes, reducing ESC, all the while they gave themselves a bonus.”

•“The trustees utterly failed to ask challenging questions about this policy, and the superintendent caved on a ridiculous proposal to give out meaningless bonuses in an economic time such as this. Shame on the leadership of DMUSD. That much money could have been used in a number of more productive ways.”

Really, what else is there to say?

Marsha Sutton can be reached at: SuttComm@san.rr.com.

Related posts:

  1. Local school districts allocate millions in federal money differently
  2. More time given for discussions of school closure
  3. How to resolve multiple issues within the DMUSD
  4. OPINION: Del Mar Union School District in desperate need of change Nov. 2
  5. Funds raised may save ESC

Short URL: http://www.delmartimes.net/?p=25841

Posted by Staff on Jul 28, 2011. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Education Matters. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

38 Comments for “Where’s the outrage?”

  1. dmusd

    I agree, where is the outrage! Every board meeting they discuss the dire situation coming in from Sacramento. Every school function I am asked for more money. My children are asked for money, I am asked for money, my parents are asked for money. When the President was speaking to school children, my kids were in a gift wrap assembly being promised ipods if they sold enough – but don't go door to door (translate I am asked again). The bottom line they are always begging for money so when the Superintendent and the district staff take money out of the General Fund for themselves I think to myself, maybe I will give myself a 1000 bonus this year and say no next time I am asked for money.

      • Leslieaudra

        No Ryan, not absurd. It is true. Most schools have one fund-raiser a year. Ours has multiple ones plus give cash for gifts for the teachers, a teacher appreciation week that we are expected to not only bring goodies but serve. The list goes on and on.

    • Leslieaudra

      That is a very good point. Every person I talk to from other school districts raise money to buy a new piece of equipment for their school or maybe a new computer for the library, this district expects millions of dollars to be raised for teachers salaries. My "no more moment" came early on when I received a list of supplies I was to bring on the first day. It included 3 reams of copier paper that the office would use. Every kid in that grade was to bring this. There were two and a half classes roughly 50 kids each supposed to bring 3 reams of copier paper. Unbelievable.

  2. dmusd

    I think Superintentent Peabody and/or the Board Trustees owe the community at least an attempt at an explanation of this. Is there a behind the scenes story here that the public is not privy to?

    • guest

      There is a reply in the Board Agenda for 8/24. The explanation does not make sense to me. Perhaps someone here understands it. What is does not address:

      1. Why was 21, 000 taken out of the General Fund for district office employees when most of the employees in the DO are new – the Super and the Asst. Supers. The all got raises with their promotions and new hires. Why the bonuses?

      2. Could the money have been used for ESC funding?

  3. DAW

    Yeah I suspect there's a bit more. What exactly could the money be used for? I seriously doubt the money could have been put in the General Fund to be used for supplies, etc. I believe it was given in part to mitigate the increases that all DMUSD employees were having to pay for health care premium increases. Regardless it is a bit shocking that the money was spent that way when there is a clear established program for raising one time donations (just like this) to retain the ESC program (Foundation).

    This was done at the beginning of the school year, why did we all miss it then? Why, especially, did Marsha Sutton miss it then? Was it hidden info? It's like me complaining about former Sup McClain when she's been gone for over a year now. Why so late?

  4. DMUSDFamily

    Thank you once again, Marsha Sutton, for saying what needed to be said and reminding us to remain active participants in the important (and lately faulty) decisions that DMUSD is making. It has become very tempting to throw in the towel in disgust, left feeling like this Board and Superintendent are no better than the last couple administrations, but we cannot give in to that temptation. We must keep asking questions and requiring accountability.

    Where is the Board oversight of the Superintendent? Did we just mistakenly elect a bunch of puppets or do they intend to fulfill their responsibilities by providing a check and balance to our Superintendent's decision-making, as the community that elected them expects?

    We don't have the luxury of allowing ourselves to become worn out and give up our involvement – not only is our kids' education too important, but so are the democratic concepts of accountability, good governance and transparency. Thanks to Ms. Sutton for reviving us with this wake-up call.

  5. Ryan

    You don't even have all the facts straight! Lol…you all act like teachers get paid so much money. Their health care costs went through the roof..for example, my kid's teacher's daughter was on a PPO plan that they could afford…had doctors. dentists, physical therapists all lined up and on board with their daughter….because of the costs they had to switch to HMO and go through the whole ordeal again with new doctors…cost them a lot of time, money, and energy.
    Plus, teachers haven't gotten a pay raise in years, and finally they attempt to help with the sudden and crazy health care costs by offsetting cost with the stipend…after they paid taxes on that tax incentive….it came out to $600 not $1000….Again, do your kids attend DMUSD?? you are getting a private school experience for your children for free…or wait for the $800 a year that is donated…you are donating to your kids future and so that they are provided a great education….the teachers have families too that they need to take care of so that they are not stressed and unable to be most effective to the students…every little bit helps when they are already getting paid next to nothing….the teachers spend at least $500-600 a year on things for your children…so it's like reimbursement….they should just start nickel and diming you for every single penny they spend on your children….so you should just reimburse them yourselves..or instead the State was trying to give back to them in a small way for all the money that they spend….Don't listen to one tainted journalist's perspective…think out of the box before you rush to judgement…how dare you accuse the very district that has always provided for these children in the highest regard…

    • Guest

      If this is a posting from a DMUSD staff member, I am very worried. Your student's families are dealing with layoffs, pay reductions, higher insurance premiums, job uncertaintly, unreimbursed job expenses and long hours. We are all managing increased health care premiums and expenses in an economic environment where salaries can't keep up.
      DMUSD is a high achieving district due to the high involvement of our parents, excellent teachers and effective administrators. The District must continue to push for excellence, but teachers and administrators pay and benefits must be relevant and in-line with the "rest of the world." When pay and benefits become out of touch with economic realities, change will come.

    • dmusd

      Personally, I don't oppose the teachers getting the money, as long as others didn't lose their jobs because of it. I oppose the district office staff, including Peabody, taking money from the General Fund to give themselves a bonus. Most of those people (DO staff) are new and took the jobs knowing we are in a funding crisis.

      Also, I seriously doubt the teachers in our district pay 500 a year out-of-pocket. Last year I personally bought everything from stickers to diaper wipes to coffee for our school. They ask and they get in this district.

    • DAW

      Ryan – I'm a family member of two DM teachers and a parent and you've got your information grossly wrong. First, pay for DM teachers is very good (the senior teachers make over $92K/year). They have always gotten pay raises – step and column – just not COLAs – virtually no one is getting COLAs now (or step and column for that matter except for public employees). They were not taxed 40% on the incentive – for most teachers their tax rate is about 25%. Most teachers do not spend $500-$600 of their own money. The local PTAs usually give somewhere between $200-$400 per teacher and my family member teachers have rarely spent more than another $100 out of pocket (which is tax deductible by the way on a special line for educators on your 1040).

  6. guest

    This decision was made at the first board meeting of the new board, in December 2010. Why is this reporter just bringing it up now? And why are there no comments from any board member or the Superintendent here? Did the author not seek to get feedback on this from the players involved? Do we know if those funds could actually have been spent on ESC? Finally, the author complains that parents are not interested but then lists many quotes from parents that suggest otherwise.
    Somehow I get the feeling that this article is largely an opportunity for a personal rant by the author. Accurate, fair reporting, it is not.

  7. Integrity_Is_Lacking

    Ryan, you are so off-base in so many ways –

    1)You lose all credibility when you say that teachers "haven't gotten a pay raise in years." Have you forgotten the step and column increases they received? Teachers from neighboring districts chose to go without increases to save their fellow teachers' jobs, but not here.

    2)Why would you assume the community has a responsibility to protect teachers from rising health care costs, especially while the rest of the world is dealing with this issue, to a much more painful extent? Most of us either have our health plans stripped of benefits annually, or else face hefty annual increases in our health benefit payroll deductions. But teachers, who have traditionally had the richest of all health benefit plans plus minimal payroll deductions, typically have a contract that specifies either: 1) a defined health care benefit (meaning the specific plan of benefits can never vary, regardless of rising premiums, until next contract negotiations) or 2) a defined health care contribution (meaning the dollar amount that the district contributes towards a teacher’s health benefit plan is specified and must stay in place, sometimes with specified annual increases, until next contract negotiations.

    I don’t know if the DMUSD teachers' contract specifies a “defined benefit” or a “defined contribution” healthcare plan, but in either scenario, it would be extraordinarily generous for a district to give each teacher a one-time (outside of contract negotiations) gift of $1000 just because healthcare premiums increased, no matter how significantly. As we all know from reading the news, healthcare premiums are rising in double digits each year and should be anticipated to do so for years to come. This extra $1000 per teacher gift becomes even more inappropriate when we consider that the funds were taken from federal dollars intended to save teachers’ jobs.

    On the other hand, if this $1000 per teacher “stipend” came about as part of a new contract between the teachers union and the district administration, then apparently it was fairly and rightfully negotiated (although still strange to use the federal jobs dollars to fund it). As community members, we should know the story behind this, and what the “give and take” was in negotiating for this amount. The district’s silence on this makes it appear to be a little suspect.

    3)As a DMUSD parent for 10+ years, I'd be very surprised if teachers truly feel forced to spend $500-600 out-of-pocket for classroom supplies. Parents are given a lengthy list of supplies to bring to the classroom at the start of each new school year and during the year room parents spread the word about any additional classroom needs for teachers. As long as the teacher communicates, his/her every classroom need and more is met by parents.

    4)It’s absurd to state that teachers are "paid next to nothing." This is an insult to people in our community who ARE actually being paid next to nothing for their work during these tough times when many are taking whatever jobs they can get. If I recall correctly, the average compensation for DMUSD teachers is approx. $70,000 (this is an outdated figure and may have risen). How many community members, even in our relatively wealthy community, would dismiss $70,000 for a job working ten months as "next to nothing"?? Certainly no one I know.

    5)When you express outrage at our community for "accusing" the district that has "always provided for these children in the highest regard…” you appear to be so very out of touch. The district’s JOB is to provide the best education that our tax dollars can provide for "these children”. The district’s JOB is to spend those dollars on the best, highest purpose. The community only expects that the district will fulfill its purpose and has an obligation to hold them responsible.

    Ryan , when you provide your viewpoint, please don't play loose with the facts just to support your opinion. This community is too intelligent and involved for that to be effective.

    I’m glad Marsha Sutton is shining a light on this important issue. I plan on stepping up my involvement to help hold our Board and Superintendent more accountable, and I hope others do, too.

    • Some facts.

      - Average Del Mar school teachers makes over $65,000.
      The avg teacher makes $65k per year not including benefits.

      - With benefits the average teacher makes $100,000+
      If you include benefits (health care and pension) along with the salary than the total compensation number jumps to $100,000. Remember they don't get meager social security. When they retire they get guaranteed a percentage of their HIGHEST salary. This means they'll get 80% of their highest salary for the rest of their lives.

      - Teachers can retire earlier than regular workers
      Teachers can retire as early as 55 not 62 or 65 like those of us in Social Security.

      - Teachers get the entire summer off. That's 3 months when they don't do any work.

      - Teachers union contracts forbids the district to make them work more than 7:45-2:45 Plus they work a half day on Wed when they all go home. This is a total of 33 hours per week. Subtract from that lunch break, another smaller break and a period to work on other stuff and they work less than 30 hours a week.

      - Teachers do get raises every year because the union negotiates that with years of experience they get more money. They don't like to call this a "raise" but to the rest of the world if you made more this year than last year – that's a raise regardless of how you classify it.

      – MR

      • Guest

        Excuse me…If you think teachers do not do any work during the summer (which is just over two months according to the district calendar, not three), and do not work outside of their contracted hours (including Wednesdays in which they do NOT all go home) then you know NOTHING about teachers, especially in this school district.

      • Guest

        - Average Del Mar school teachers makes over $65,000.
        The avg teacher makes $65k per year not including benefits.

        So what? This is higher than the average salary of those who are starting workers at Qualcomm. And most Qualcomm newbies don't have as much education time as a new teacher (teachers have to do some post-baccalaureate training and testing). You have a grudge against teachers getting paid below the average salary of an educated worker in San Diego? Don't they experience the same cost of living issues as you do, Mr Robertson? You may be a multi-millionaire, but teachers are not.

        - With benefits the average teacher makes $100,000+… When they retire they get guaranteed a percentage of their HIGHEST salary. This means they'll get 80% of their highest salary for the rest of their lives.

        Yes, and most educated people in San Diego make approx that much or more at THE END OF THEIR CAREERS. You make this statement as if they make 100k out of the gate, as wet-behind-the-ears new teachers. But that hype would be very inaccurate. Why do you, so firmly entrenched in the rich-beyond-belief camp, begrudge a worker who has worked for 30 years the opportunity to retire at a higher salary than they started their career with? Doesn't this progression of salary make sense in private industry? Why should it be abhorrent with a public servant? are they supposed to sacrifice themselves and the financial security of their families on the sword of public service, and simply take one for the (public) team?

        - Teachers get the entire summer off. That's 3 months when they don't do any work.

        Bull. Most teachers spend weeks either breaking down classrooms (in June) or prepping classrooms (in August) when school is out. They spend days in staff meetings to to assess the year they just finished or to get their grade-level team on the same page going into the school year. They often spend weeks of the summer engaged in career enhancement activities and workshops that are part of their continuing ed requirement or in an effort to further educate themselves to advance to the next paystep.

        - Teachers union contracts forbids the district to make them work more than 7:45-2:45 Plus they work a half day on Wed when they all go home.

        Bull again. On most half days, which are scheduled inservice days, the teachers stay and do cross-teaming. They are working to imporve their teaching strategies as individuals and teams. Its like a grade level staff meeting. Surely MP#.com had those? Was it a complete waste of your time, Mr Robertson? Probably not, since you got pretty rich with that company.

        I am not even a teacher. I am the offspring of a teacher and a parent of a student in the DMUSD. And this kind of misinformation just ticks me off. It is meant to inflame and aggravate the taxpayer. As if an educated, satisfied teacher is not a boone to our schools. as if people who are at work before 0800 and are often on the job late at night, hosting back-to-school nights or working on classrooms, dont deserve to be compensated at a rate that falls BELOW that of the typical worker in business or technology in our area.

        Why are teachers so undervalued? Dont we want our kids to grow up to be businessmen or scientists or the founders of million-dollar tech companies too? Who will get them there is our public school teachers make the minimum wage? Would you like to home school my children, Mr Robertson?

        I doubt it.

        • guest

          I have an MBA with 20 years of experience. My total salary (including annual bonus, if any) is less than what is quoted here the average teacher earns. I work from 8am to 5pm everyday. And I have a good job.
          I will receive no pension when I retire….not 80% of anything. I will have my 401(k) account from which to draw. My employer matches 2.5% of my salary to that account. I pay for my families health care premium, less the $250 my employer contributes. I am happy to have this job, although I sure wish the pay and benefits were better.
          I just called a friend who works at Qualcomm. And, no, new hires don't make near what you think they make.
          I point these facts out, because it sounds to me like those defending the teachers have a chip on their shoulder. If you have to defend teachers pay and benefits with such emotion, perhaps it's time to reflect and look outward. Truly, DMUSD teachers are appreciated by their student families. We do not take you for granted. However, I strongly suggest you look thoughtfully at the pay and benefits – measure them without this emotion against what the rest of local professionals are making.

          • guest

            Thanks for shedding light on the truth. I think there is a misperception that all of us in Carmel Valley are rich. Many of us overpaid for our houses (and are now house poor) to send our children to this school district. At least the teacher's union protects their retirement. They never account for that in their salary discussions when they site how small their income is or isn't. Meanwhile, I just watched my retirement shrink again today as the DOW plummets, they are protected from that. I also have to pay more every year for health care and have not gotten a raise in two years. Watching them waste money is an insult to us, especially when they expect 800 per student. For those of us with several children that really breaks the bank! But we scrape to do it to provide the best education and I expect the district to respect that and do the same.

        • I posted facts and you posted anonymous personal attacks. This is called an "ad hominem" argument where you criticize the person rather than address the argument. It may make you feel better but it doesn't address the facts. I encourage you to sign your name if you really believe what you're writing. I hope readers will dismiss posts where people don't put their real name.

          Since you asked about my opinions, here are some:

          Teachers should not get guaranteed pensions where they contribute $1 and get back $10 when most other citizens contribute $1toward their pension (Social Security) and get back pennies and are forced to pay the other $9 that teachers will get. That's wholly undemocratic and wrong. The government should treat all citizens the same.

          There are many bad teachers who never get fired because the union protects jobs at all costs. My kids went to Del Mar Hills and there are several terrible teachers. I went to the principal and she said, "yes they are bad teachers. sorry about that. I hope you get better next year." Same teachers are back the next year (just at a different school in DMUSD).

          I do not think DM teachers are overworked because their Union has done a great job of limiting the hours they work. At 3pm there are no teachers on campus. Similarly at 1pm on Wed on most days the campus is empty. I went by the school yesterday and there's no teachers working at all. Most do not take homework to grade but rather have parent volunteers do it or have kids grade each other's tests or they use the time they are allotted each day without teaching responsibilities (in addition to lunch and breaks). I know this because I have 2 kids in the school and have seen it with my own 2 eyes.

          I don't begrudge teachers for wanting to work as little time as possible. That's life. Everyone wants the highest pay for the least amount of work. Bravo to the Union for doing their job. Unfortunately the system is perverted because the school board is controlled by the Union. Instead of looking out for parents issues they are beholden to the Union and will agree to whatever the Union dictates. What's missing is the checks and balances.

          – MR

          • Guest

            You posted not facts, but many statements that were, at best, exaggerations. At worst, some of them were outright incorrect (ie, 3 months off, Wed are half days of work, etc). And while not every teacher is exemplary at every school, this doesnt mean that the teachers as a whole deserve to be treated like greedy SOBs by the community, as if they are only interested in gaming the system.

            If you have a legitimate complaint, make it with accuracy, not inflammatory remarks.

          • DXM

            Are you aware that DM teachers are not the highest paid in San Diego? Not even close. There are something like 12-15 districts whose average pay is higher than ours. And yet we have the highest test scores in the entire county.

            I think that is pretty good bang for our buck. And before you lay all the credit on the homefront – which certainly deserves much of it – bear in mind that Solana Beach pays more, as does Coronado, and our test scores are higher than theirs, as well as higher than RSF.

            Part of why our "average" payout is higher is because this is a great district to work for, and its my understanding that we have a disproportionately higher number of seasoned, experienced teachers compared to some other districts. This would certainly push the "average" pay up, but it would theoretically benefit our kids as well. The test scores do not refute this.

            Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I just want to point out there are many ways to interpret your "facts".

          • So your argument is "there are other government workers who make more so DMUSD is OK"? Unions have done a good job of taking a large amount of tax money it's true and some Unions are even better than others.

            I know it's not politically correct to say that teachers don't work hard and maybe they do work hard, but they don't work long hours. There's no other job where employees get all summer off plus one week for Christmas, another for Easter, half day on Wed, every possible holiday. Teachers are very well paid for their part time work.

            The pensions alone are amazingly good. It used to be that government workers had modest salaries but guaranteed job for life and guaranteed pensions – albeit modest. Those days are gone and now government workers are paid more than the average business worker (who's taxes pay their salaries), plus it's almost impossible to get fired PLUS they get dreamy large pensions.

            – MR

      • DAW

        Jeez..MR annoys me to no end! You better start posting some specific references for your remarks as well.
        1. How do you come up with benefits of $100k? Health care is about $14k – do you really think the defined benefit input is $20k/year?
        2. Sure they can retire at 80% – if they work an incredibly long time, certainly not the average.
        3. The entire summer is not 3 months (outright lie). For this calendar year the last day of work was 6/17 and first day back is 8/23 – that's 2 months. And…you won't find a teacher in this district that doesn't go in before Aug 23.
        4. Find me a teacher – please post a name or at least a specific reference – that works 30 hours a week – or were you just making this stuff up?
        5. In most jobs there are longevity raises of some sort not based on performance – when i was in the military, longevity raises, when I worked at McDonalds, longevity raises.

        You do a good job of demonizing teachers but offer no solutions and very few facts thus you distort the conversation and make yourself look like a disingenuous liar in the process.

    • Ryan

      lol…you and your sense of entitlement…quite funny…are you not staing your opinion yet you accuse me for mine…weak!

  8. VRM84

    Why are you so angry Mr. Ryan? The idea that a reporter would reveal the inner workings of a public agency and point out hypocrisy is essential to a functioning democracy. We need respectful debate, much more debate, about how our education dollars are spent. The fact is that there is a very well understood pay scale for teachers that is not hidden from them when they enter the profession. I'm not saying that some teachers don't deserve more pay, some do; and we should look at ways to optimize the school budget to provide additional funding for outstanding teachers (not pay every single person in the district an equal sized bonus…) The bottom line is that our students did not get one ounce of benefit from the way that half million dollars of federal funding was spent. And the irony is that amount is approximately equal to what the Foundation spent all year trying to raise from cash strapped parents in a recession. Thank goodness for Marsha Sutton spending time asking intelligent questions about the use of public funds. She makes several excellent arguments, not least of which is parents need to pay attention and speak up when they disagree about district policy. Keep up the good and essential work you do, Marsha. Our schools need the debate.

  9. MLG

    Just for the record, when Spiro T. Agnew said "nattering nabobs of negativism" he was referring to the press. He later resigned in disgrace.
    Not somebody I would have chosen as a model of outrage!

  10. Ryan

    As a community member and father to a teacher on the East coast, I am just appalled by how many of these "well-educated" parents and community members bash teachers….how did you get to where you are today? did you teach yourself all the skills needed for these jobs? Have you no respect for teachers and administrators that are leading our youth?

    Here is a list of why you all sound very UNEDUCATED!!

    Teachers don't do anything for three months? Really? = UNEDUCATED – they go to workshops and in-services and plan for the upcoming year – as the State and expectations on teachers is constantly evolving

    Teachers go home early on Wednesdays? Really? Name one. Every other Wednesday they are involved in staff development..they have time banked the minutes so that they have those Wednesdays free…then the agreed that they would use two of those 4 wednesdays to continue professional development…even though the time is banked…in other words for the novice readers…it means the day would either start later or end sooner to account for those minutes…so UNEDUCATED!! – .the other wednesdays are used to play engaging, high-level plans to teach the students…it doesn't come out of thin air = UNEDUCATED

    Raise every year?? Nope!! Some years the pay increases by a $1000 before taxes because of the STEP…..some years (based on years) there is no raise = UNEDUCATED

    Teachers work from 7:45 – 2:45?? Name one. Absolutely not true. When do they meet with parents? Respond to emails? Grade papers? Reflect on data? Plan lessons? meet as a grade level to ensure success across grade level? do report cards? conference with students/parents? update website? make phone calls? conduct professional development? ensure all students are getting the best education possible? Does this happen during those hours…nope because they are busy teaching…happens before and after and on weekends…so don't pull some stupid numbers like 33 hours out of the air = UNEDUCATED = REALLY UNEDUCATED

    Marsha Sutton a good journalist? = UNEDUCATED – look at her track record – she simply only looks for anything she can and tries to spin it in a way to create controversy…I see that you have fallen prey to her novice tactics = UNEDUCATED

    Then there are people on here commenting and giving statistics like they are educated…yet they have been sued numerous times for their "illicit actions" yet will call out others as he/she is some hero and an all-knowing deity = UNEDUCATED

    So… "INTEGRITY IS LACKING" – clearly it is you that is off base – please don't try to muddle the waters with your opinions if you can not accept other opinions….it is not the money that provides the kids with the best education possible..it is the TEACHERS…your comment = UNEDUCATED

    Marsha go back and look at exactly how that money from the government could have been spent….find out the facts…you will uncover it came with a string attached as to how it could have been spent…you are allowing the parents to think that this money was from the general fund…which it was not!! get the facts straight…do some actual research and then report before jumping to conclusions and getting people on board with your biased reasoning…that is what you have been doing for years with this district! = UNEDUCATED

    I surely hope that you write comments like this to the numerous ways the government is wasting "OUR" tax money….yet you pick on Del Mar…wow…As a community member of Del Mar I am not upset with how the government allocated the money…why are you so special..you act like you pay some much money for this one cause…it's only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of your money…sad! =

    Embarrassed to be part of this community with members like this!

    • dmusd

      In our district the teachers have prep time during the day. For me it has been very difficult to arrange an after-school meeting. I had one teacher who flat out wouldn't meet with me to discuss trouble my child was having and our IEP was ignored. Wednesdays – many leave- the parking lot is empty. The emails are responded to usually during school ours, although I will say sometimes after. Our teachers (my child's) have always done the website during school hours as well, some don't have websites. When I have volunteered in the classrooms the teachers are often on their computer doing these things while the parents lead the groups (math or reading) for the younger children or while the older children are working at their desks. The parents do the clerical work and the kids often grade the math or worksheet homework. If you look at the school parking lot at 3 – it is usually empty. They work the week before school starts and they tear down the room the last day of school. But guess what? I still think …most…care and work hard.

      My explanation doesn't mean they don't work hard, that they don't have a difficult job, or they aren't dedicated. I am just so tired of people saying teachers are saints or that they sinners taking advantage of the system- they are neither. They are people and they deserve rights and days off and fair wages. But they don't all try hard and put in the extra effort. I remember when they were discussing stopping prep time, some teachers threatened to stop assigning papers and essays. Really? So stop with your teachers are the victims rant. The teachers in our District have it really good for the current state of things. So a one time incentive to stay is preposterous.

      The point here is not whether or not teachers work hard or deserve their packages, the issue is did the District and Teachers Union make the best use of a federal fund in these times of cuts. Did anyone lose his or her job because of this? Could this money have been used for ESC or other uses? Perhaps like previous posters have alluded to the article is inflammatory because MS doesn't explain the rules of the fund (federal funds always have a lot of rules.) That is why we need to hear from Peabody or the Board to explain this. The silence makes me wonder.

  11. VRM84

    It is embarrassing to have people rant and rave and throw personal insults at a reporter for reporting facts. Those are the methods of uneducated bullies. With all due respect, not all teachers are great and not all teachers are terrible, they run the gamut like every other professional organization. What is the point of the ranting? That teachers and schools are exempt from accountability just because they teach?? Come on… there is no credibility in that argument. Let's have a rational debate about how our districts spends tax dollars. DMUSD is a great school district because we have good teachers, involved parents, capable students, and marginally more money due to basic aid. However, it is NOT perfect, AND there is considerable room for improvement in how the money is spent and how teachers are trained and compensated. For the record, I DID research the Education Jobs Fund legislation. That money could easily have been used for ESC this year and the Foundation could have banked their contribution to DMUSD to insure stability for funding the ESC program for years to come. Funding ESC at the end of a year rather than in advance is something the Foundation had been trying to achieve since its inception….The trouble is NO ONE on the board asked any questions. Herein is the biggest weakness of our district. Questions SHOULD be asked of the Superintendent — Tough questions should be asked. It is essential that the Trustees be respectful and professional in their approach, and the Superintendent must be honest and transparent. If we can accomplish that, our district would see obvious improvement on the important matters of finance and policy. Let’s calm down, give the messenger a break, and have a thoughtful conversation about how to make the most of limited funds for public education.

    • DAW

      I agree with most of what you are saying. to be quite frank, calling MS "the messenger" is giving her way to much credit. For as long as I've lived here, MS has written vile reporting on Del Mar teachers, Sup Bishop, former and current Board Members. However, she went out of her way to never utter a bad word about her backed Board of Katherine White and fellows (who actually did more damage to the district than all other problems combined). Further more, MS gives no due diligence to same area school district Solana Beach. It's clear that Marsha has a chip on her shoulder regarding Del Mar and because of that, she is not merely an innocent messenger. You must take her reporting with a grain of salt and assume that she is posting all the negatives and skipping over any positives. It's just her way.

  12. Integrity_Is_Lacking

    I'm not interested in engaging in a debate on the Del Mar Times website about the importance and value of teachers, which is obvious.

    I support the valid concerns mentioned by many here, and more importantly, I’d like to see the DMUSD Board and Superintendent Peabody address these concerns at a future Board meeting as an agenda item. They need to have the opportunity to either acknowledge the issues, or to set the record straight by presenting facts that we may not know. We can all publicly express our opinions and concerns at such a meeting and let the real democratic process work. With this style of communication, we’d be able to move forward in a more positive way, more in line with the best interests of the students, teachers and entire community.

    Ideally, the Board/Superintendent could request questions/concerns from the community in advance, pick the top 20 or something like that, have time to research them and present the responses at such a meeting.

    As it stands now, the DMUSD Board and Superintendent seem to treat the community as an annoyance to be avoided, to be kept out of the process and to be kept from hearing any potentially controversial information.

    Unfortunately, this has been proven through their poor track record of sharing information in a basic, straightforward way. For example:

    Michael Robertson (like him or not) has made numerous requests for simple public information and DMUSD ignored these requests for months, even though this stonewalling was illegal. As a community, we should be glad that Michael has the resources to push back with legal pressure to help put public information out in the open, where it belongs, and not hidden from our view. Michael was asking for things such as email communication between the teacher’s union and Board members, which is clearly information that belongs in the public domain, according to both federal and CA state law. Emails are not difficult to access and provide. Why would the district stall on these requests?

    Another example – Why did the district bury the Superintendent’s (already made) decision to spend the federal jobs fund money on $1000 bonuses in an early agenda with a new board? Why wasn’t there a real attempt for more discussion with community members? A better way to have handled receiving this substantial federal windfall, which no community member apparently even knew existed, would have been to announce and explain this exciting news to the community at a meeting and on the website, and then notify everyone that the Superintendent’s idea(s) for expenditure of the funds would be discussed at the next meeting and either voted on then or, if time allowed, at a following meeting. What was the rush? A timeline and communication plan would have given community members an opportunity to weigh in.

    I’m not suggesting that Superintendent Peabody encourage a complete discussion with the community on most district business, but let’s face it, an unexpected windfall of over half a million dollars (earmarked to save teaching jobs) is pretty exciting and unusual and should not be quietly spent while most don’t even know the money exists. As it turns out, in this case, many of us may have spoken up instead of leaving Superintendent Peabody to apparently decide on his own (or jointly with the teachers’ union) to use these funds to hand out $1000 to each district employee. To save teaching jobs.

    And, the fact that this decision was made at the same time that the DMSEF was putting on the full court press to families to donate $800 per student to the schools, sending desperate sounding pleas about the importance of saving ESC teacher positions, makes it even more distasteful.

    Mr. Peabody and Board members, can you see why this lack of communication will cause you to rapidly erode credibility within our community? Why not be more up front about the business of the district? You might be surprised at how well it goes. Building a better relationship with community members by showing that you genuinely intend to keep the lines of communication open could go a really long way towards building back the trust you need right now.

    I hope to see concerns mentioned here on a Board meeting agenda in the near future.

  13. VRM84

    For anyone interested, information about the Education Jobs Fund program is available online at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/educationjobsfund/app....
    Select the MS Word Document titled: "Guidance for States on the Education Jobs Fund Program"
    Section D of that document on page 6 has the information about what the funds could be used for. There is a wide range of uses, exclusively for teachers (ie, not district office employees or consultants, etc.) That is why DMUSD actually did take money from the General Fund for this program in addition to the federal grant…. In an attempt to be "fair" Mr. Peabody offered this program to every single employee, but some number of of employees could not be paid from the Education Jobs Fund monies. Therefore, those employees were paid $1,000 each out of the General Fund….it did cost us money we don't have….just FYI for those who are interested….

    • guest

      In addition, in December Peabody gave a probational employee a one months salary parting gift when it was mutually decided he was not a good fit, because "it was the right thing to do." That was another 10K wasted.

  14. Factfinder

    Sutton brought to our attention, through her column, her opinion that the Federal funds were improperly allocated and, based on the comments already posted, there is little disagreement.

    However, she did not just make this column up out of whole cloth. The facts that she ferreted out and painstakingly assembled can be found in a news story published in this paper last June. In case you missed it it is posted here:
    http://www.delmartimes.net/2011/06/28/local-schoo...

    Like all good research it is not exciting, entertaining or sensational. Rather it lays out in great detail, for anyone with the patience to read through it, the facts and events surrounding and leading up to the allocation of those funds.

    I would urge anyone who wants to engage in a debate on this issue to arm themselves first with the facts. Agree or disagree with the actions of the board, the superintendent, the teachers, or the union, you'll find what you need to know at that link. Hopefully it will help to focus the debate on the issues instead of the personalities of the debaters.

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