San Ramon community protests SRVUSD spending and issues with remote learning

A+group+of+SRVUSD+parents+and+students+sat+outside+of+the+district+office+on+June+23+to+protest.

Nick Harvey

A group of SRVUSD parents and students sat outside of the district office on June 23 to protest.

Nick Harvey, Opinion Editor

San Ramon Unified School District parents organized a sit-in protest on Tuesday in front of the district office before the Board of Education meeting to show both their opposition to management raises and support for allowing students to return to campus in the fall.

Approximately 75 individuals showed up to protest, with a mixture of students and parents attending. 

At the May 26 district board meeting, the Board of Education approved a 2.56 percent raise for “tier IV management and confidential employees” that is retroactively applied to be in effect from July 1, 2019. This includes a raise for outgoing superintendent Rick Schmitt. These raises totaled about $960,000, according to San Ramon Patch.

Management employees include assistant principals, principals, district staff, the assistant superintendents and the superintendent, board member Mark Jewett said at the May 26 meeting. 

This raises takes place during a period of financial uncertainty for the district. A budget slideshow from the June 9 district board meeting indicated a nearly $17 million deficit for the district’s 2020-2021 school year budget.

The raises for management and confidential employees occurs simultaneously with a 2.56 percent raise for all other district employees, including teachers.

The five Board of Education members are not included in the raise. Jewett said at the May 26 meeting that each board member receives a taxable $400 stipend from the district per month which would not be increasing.

While some parents were protesting these raises, others were there to voice their desire for their students to return to campus in the fall.

“I believe we need school in-person, five days a week, as much as possible, with safety precautions in place, as well as distance learning developed for anybody in a vulnerable category or not ready to return,” Cal High parent Nicole Horder said.

Although the protest was organized by district parents on Facebook and Nextdoor, students also came to voice their opinions.

“I don’t feel it’s right if we only go to school two days a week, I feel we aren’t going to get the right education that we need, and students aren’t really going to do their work,” said Autumn Carroll, an incoming eight grader at Iron Horse Middle School. “We need to go to school five days a week just to learn the basics… kids have been skipping out on classes and haven’t been doing their work [in online classes].”

In addition to educational concerns, some were also worried about mental health.

“Especially during a time when they’ve been isolated away from their peers, I don’t know if the board realizes how much that has affected our children,” said Doris, a parent at San Ramon Valley High who did not wish to provide her last name.

Board president Greg Marvel walked out onto the lawn to speak with protesters before the meeting.

Parent protesters were glad that their concerns were being heard and felt.

“My goal is that we’re heard,” said Jennifer French, a parent of Charlotte Wood Middle and San Ramon Valley High students. “I think this is the first time in years that the school district has had so much pushback and so much parent involvement that they realize that our voices count.”

The board indicated at that evening’s meeting that returning to in-class lessons in the fall would be preferable, but that they would need to be able to adapt to future circumstances. A final decision will be made in mid-July

“It sounds like we’re unanimous that we’d prefer the five-day [option] if we can do that,” board member Rachel Hurd said during the meeting.

Demonstrators seemed to be happy at this announcement.

“This group has worked hard to lift our voices and it seems like we have been heard,” parent Erica Reardon wrote on Facebook. “Let’s hope the priority will be to problem-solve a full return with the option of distance learning for the families that choose!”

Other parents came to protest the district budget.

“We are hoping for a detailed plan tonight, there’s been tons of spending on facilities and we’re trying to stop them from spending money that might not be necessary if we’re not attending school in the fall,” said Lorraine Bordegaray, a parent with one child attending Stone Valley Middle School and another who graduated from San Ramon Valley High this year.

Protestors were particularly upset about certain district purchases in the budget, namely a $129,000 Home Depot open order and the purchase of five Ford trucks.

“The Home Depot open purchase order — I can say a lot of thought was put behind all of these, for instance Home Depot acts as a warehouse for us, and we’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars annually by not having to stock our own supplies,” Greg Medici, the district’s chief building officer, said.

Marvel commented at the board meeting that spending was necessary to maintain facilities and grounds, and that fixing problems resulting from a lack of maintenance would cost more than upkeep.

The board unanimously approved contracts and purchases of over $50,000 at the meeting, including the purchase of the trucks and the Home Depot order.