Molly Peters | Alarmed by Board Member Letter

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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I reside in Los Angeles, but I have been a teacher in the William S. Hart Union High School District for 20 years, and I was very alarmed by board member Linda Storli’s Feb. 27 letter in The Signal, specifically her misrepresentation of facts around the state of the current Hart district budget. The following comments are my own and are not endorsed by any teacher organization, including the Hart District Teachers Association.

In the piece, Mrs. Storli stated, “It just seems to me wrong to lay off employees and give raises at the same time.” These issues are separate; the district has been overstaffed for years and reduction in force notices were inevitable due to decreasing enrollment and overhiring. This so-called “fiscal crisis” is manufactured, and the Hart district board should be asking why the district is in this place financially when we have such large reserves. To be clear, the current board-approved budget shows the district going from a $116 million-plus surplus to bankrupt in three years. How is the money being so mismanaged?

Next she stated, “Years ago, we had a similar situation and we, the teachers, voted to forgo a raise and keep as many employees as possible.” Again, overhiring over the past few years and money mismanagement are two very separate issues. I remember the furlough days we took and the pay cuts we ended up bearing in the early-mid 2000s; many of my colleagues and our current school administrators were teaching in the district during that time. One major difference between then and now is that we did not have a reserve of over $116 million at that time, money that should be spent on current students, not sitting in reserves to be untouched. We were also not overstaffed, and we did not have an ongoing cost-of-living adjustment from the state of 5.5%.

The last thing she said was, “Not the same time, not the same teachers and not the same Hart.” The only thing that I agree with Mrs. Storli on is that the district is not the same. However, it is not the teachers who have changed. It is the leadership that is not the same. How are we going from a surplus of over $100 million to bankruptcy in three years, and why is there no money set aside for salary increases for this year, despite the Hart district receiving almost 5.5% from the state? And next year, the district is slated to receive around 1% from the state budget — so there are no cuts to the Hart district budget. Period.

Mrs. Storli is an elected official as well as the current school board president, and she owes it to her constituents, the community and our students to be more informed, and to check that the information she publishes is accurate. I also believe Mrs. Storli owes the district’s hard-working teachers an apology.

Molly Peters

Los Angeles

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