Megan Botton | The Emperor Has No Clothes 

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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This letter is in regards to Linda Storli’s letter to the editor published on Feb. 27.

I wish to address some slanted truths and pose some questions for the public’s consideration. This submission is entirely my own and is not approved or endorsed by the Hart District Teachers Association.

I have spent more than half my life in the William S. Hart Union High School District — four years as a student and 20 years as a teacher. I also have a child in the Hart district with one more set to come in a year and a half. I intend to dedicate another 20 years to the district.

The Hart district school board, under Mrs. Storli’s leadership, fails to understand how the staffing mistakes made as a district and the budgeting mistakes made as a school board are two different issues. She cites how we were in a similar situation years ago (“not the same time”) and the teachers (“not the same teachers”) voted to take furlough days — a pay cut — in order to maintain jobs. She insinuates that our current employees are not as self-sacrificing and altruistically caring as we were back then. She is correct that this is “not the same time.” We were not overstaffed at that time and we did not have a massive reserve of money, combined with ongoing cost-of-living adjustments from the state. 

Regarding the overstaffing issue the district has created: How is it that they did not see how declining enrollment would cause a need to reduce staff prior to December/January of this school year? Why is it that instead of discontinuing dozens of temporary contracts/positions that were funded with one-time money during the COVID years, they hired them permanently, contributing to our current overstaffing situation? Why is it that last year at this time, the district was worried about teacher shortages so it aggressively recruited by holding job fairs and offered a small “finder’s fee” to current employees who brought someone in to apply for a teaching position who was then subsequently hired? Why is it that last year the district gave monetary incentives to classified employees who decided to enter into a credential program with the intention of becoming a teacher in our district? Are we really to believe that the district had NO idea our enrollment numbers had declined? They are incorrectly blaming the budget for the 61 reduction in force notices they have issued.

Mrs. Storli asserts in her letter that the district “cannot use money from projects to pay employees. That would be against the law. I understood that years ago while teaching in this district and I am sure the teachers of today are just as informed.” She can holster her implied finger-wagging because, yes, we are just as informed. We look at what money is available for general salary increases, not projects. How is it that the district can go from a surplus of $116 million to a projected bankruptcy in just three years? Why is it that instead of the recommended 3% reserves, they had upward of 30%? The public deserves to know how the school board was so blindsided and surprised by both declining enrollment and severe budgeting issues. Either they weren’t properly informed (a problem), or they didn’t properly plan (also a problem). Why is it that our superintendent visited every school site at the start of the school year and talked to staff about how compensation was at the forefront of their minds and that the district understood that they must remain competitive in order to attract and keep the best educators, and now in the same school year, they find themselves in this staffing and financial crisis?

Mrs. Storli has also commented how she doesn’t understand how the governor can make these cuts. To be clear, the governor is NOT making cuts. The district received an increase in ongoing monies this year. They will receive an increase in ongoing monies next year — less than 1%, most likely, but still an increase. THERE ARE NO CUTS. If our school board president (and any other board member) is unable or unwilling to understand the real issues and who is to blame for them, they need to resign or be voted out so our children’s education can be left in more capable hands.

Megan Botton

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