Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 1:35 pm in Schools.
Mt. Diablo’s school board has given up on pursuing a parcel tax — for now. Superintendent Gary McHenry abandoned the plan Wednesday because of a lack of support. (To learn more about the decision, read staff writer Shirley Dang’s article.) In place of the parcel tax, the school board may seek a school construction bond in 2008.
Sorry, but this is just further proof that McHenry and the school board don’t get it. An informal survey showed only 46 percent community support for the parcel tax of $100 or more (a two-thirds majority was needed to pass). It’s not that residents don’t recognize the need to help our schools and our children.
Instead, they are likely sending a message. Why should parents trust a school board that has such a tenuous relationship with the backbone of the schools: namely, the teachers and other employees? The employee union refused to endorse the parcel tax — and likely won’t pledge support for the construction bond either. As of Tuesday, the district had yet to reach agreements with any of its bargaining groups.
This follows on the heels of revelations earlier this month that district administrators paid a law firm more than $5 million during the past five years — and they did so without school board approval or a contract. Again, this hardly fosters a sense of trust.
Perhaps the construction bond has merit. Maybe the parcel tax would be a much-needed lifeline. Frankly, both are overshadowed by the labor negotiations. The lack of health benefits for teachers — granted, a problem created by teachers who waived them in favor of more money — has created an exodus of qualified educators. The schools face a shortage of teachers and ballooned class sizes. Those harsh realities are hard to overlook, especially as the teachers who remain continue to work without a contract.
So, if the district wants support from parents, show them what progress looks like. Settle the contracts with the bargaining groups. If you give, maybe then you shall receive.
– Ann Tatko-Peterson