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Letters to the Editor, May 4 - 7

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Listen to teachers; they do the work

EDITOR: A letter to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board:

Dear Britta, Dan, John, Nicole and Sal,

As retired teachers in Sonoma and as former Valley of the Moon Teachers Association presidents and lead negotiators, we have one basic and important question for the board members making the decision about the prospective new superintendent’s contract: Are we in this together or not?

The teachers in this district deal every single day with what is best for students. They put up with less than optimal working conditions and pay; they put up with their professionalism constantly questioned; they put up with paying out of their own pockets for supplies and spending their private time on school and student issues. You don’t hear them complain when they think that everyone – community, administration and educators – is working in concert and sharing the load.

But right now, in the midst of debilitating cuts to supplies, increases in class sizes, and the loss of valued staff members, teachers are being asked not to complain that a large chunk of money will be drained directly from the classroom and used for an administrative salary and contract package.

We know it is less expensive to give a COLA to an administrator than to the teaching staff, but that is symbolic of the fact that you are not behaving as if we are in this together. That is NOT sharing the pain.

Intervention money has been cut, leaving sites with no options for students who need extra support. This pain could be alleviated in some measure with the $10,000 PhD stipend and the $400 a month transportation allowance offered to the superintendent candidate. Teachers earn about $40 per hour to work with students before or after school; the $10,000 alone could provide 250 hours of intervention that would directly benefit Sonoma students. Is that enough intervention money? Of course not. But it is money that is being directly taken away from serving students and given to an administrator. Teachers are required to take additional coursework to keep their credentials current, and they receive no compensation at all for that expense. Teachers drive to various sites for work-related meetings, and they receive no compensation at all for that expense.

We are so tired of hearing that we need to offer an exorbitant salary – greater than any other superintendent in the county, including the County Superintendent – to “attract a quality candidate.” We have never, in all of our years of teaching, heard anyone use that logic when discussing teacher salaries. Wouldn’t it make sense that we need to offer a more competitive salary to “attract quality teachers” as well? Will you commit to negotiating teacher contracts that are higher than any other teachers in the county?

And yet, in spite of it all – SVUSD does have quality teachers. In spite of the pay, in spite of the workload, in spite of not being listened to. They do the work. So listen to them. Are we in this together?

You will have to answer that question during this superintendent search, and you will have to answer that question at election time.

Kevin Coates, Gail Purtell, Bob Gossett, Melanie Blake

Retired SVUSD Teachers

How ‘bout ‘Guggenheim West’?

EDITOR: The flap over renaming the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art or not: Seems the museum’s board is hot to drop the “Valley” part with the reasoning that it’s not inclusive or too limiting. I grew up in New York City where museums were plentiful and had names like Guggenheim, Whitney, MOMA or Brooklyn in the title. I don’t think anyone in the New York metropolitan area or neighboring states imagined these art retreats were limited to people named Guggenheim or solely resided in Brooklyn. As artist Chester Arnold opined, it’s what’s inside the place that will draw folks or not, not the place’s name. All this stuff about “re-branding” and such is just market-speak nonsense. For that matter it could be called, “Callahan’s Last Stand,” and be done with it.

Will Shonbrun

Boyes Springs

Sonoma, it’s like I don’t even know you anymore…

EDITOR: I woke up Friday, April 20 feeling proud and pleased to be living in such a progressive place. Then I opened the I-T. First I read about school officials making punitive threats against students who participate in a nationwide anti-violence protest (“Sonoma Youths Plan Campus ‘Walkout’ on Date of Columbine”). I applaud the 50-or-so who went to the Plaza anyway, and gave and heard speeches they’ll remember much longer than they would their school lessons of the day.

Then there’s the Sonoma City Council. Despite our climate that offers free sunshine pretty much every day of the growing season, it has decided to make now-legal cannabis plants hide indoors, under grow lights powered by PG&E (“City Affirms Tights Limits on Cannabis Grows”).

Sigh.

Roger Hamlyn

Boyes Hot Springs

You down with WPP?

EDITOR: “Sonoma Valley Museum of Art” or “Sonoma Museum of Art”?

White people problems!

Seth Thornton

Sonoma