Parents, staff protest MPUSD superintendent’s raise as state budget cuts loom.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
As nearly 300 people lined Pacific Street in front of Monterey’s Colton Hall on May 6, holding handwritten signs protesting the pay raises given by the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Board to Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd and her staff, an elementary school student’s voice rang out above the rest.
“Think of the next generation!” the pint-sized redhead yelled to passing motorists, who honked in solidarity. “We deserve more!”
That, says District 40 Parent-Teacher Association President Tamara Suber, is the crux of widespread concern among district parents, school staff and taxpaying residents who passed last November’s Measure P. The $110 million bond was supposed to invest in children’s educations, she says, not salary increases for administrators.
“We didn’t get a program reinstated, we didn’t reduce classroom size, we didn’t even fix the toilet seats [with the bond money],” Suber says. “We’re in the bottom of the bottom right now. We have four schools in program improvement. It’s bad.”
Seventeen-year-old Nour Melhem, a Monterey High School junior, is fed up too.
“In some of our classes, there are over 40 students,” she says. “How is anyone supposed to learn in that environment?”
William Pace, a teacher transferred from Colton School to MHS last year, says he doesn’t have the tools he needs to be an effective educator.
“We have limited access to technology – 35 computers for all of Monterey High – and I lack supplies,” Pace says. “When raises are being given and I barely have any supplies in my classroom, something is wrong.”
Molly Crannell of Monterey requested to transfer her two young kids out of MPUSD and into Salinas’ Washington Union School District in December. If the transfer isn’t approved, she plans to move to Pacific Grove or Carmel.
“It’s about the class sizes. It’s about the board’s disrespect for parents and teachers,” Crannell says. “That’s what it’s come to. I’m giving up my house to have a better education for my children.”
Property owner Carolyn Grebing, an MPUSD parent, is feeling the pain in her pocketbook as well. “When I have rental property in Monterey, and people won’t rent my property because it’s in a district without schools they’ll send their kids to, that’s affecting my property value,” she says.
Both Pace and Suber note that huge state budget cuts are looming, and may be even worse than expected if lawmakers refuse to approve temporary tax extensions to help fund education and other vital services. At California Teachers’ Association rallies in Monterey and Salinas May 9, local education leaders declared a “state of emergency” and called on residents to contact their representatives and urge them to support the tax extensions.
Otherwise, they fear Gov. Jerry Brown, who supports the tax extensions, will resort to an all-cuts budget that will force MPUSD to slash its budget by an additional $6.7 million. That’s on top of the $34.5 million the district has cut over the past three years, which has led to today’s overcrowded classrooms and overworked teachers.
“Our kids are getting a third-world education,” Monterey teachers’ union president Dennis Wright said at the May 9 rally. “More cuts will be devastating.”