Since I appeared in the articles in the Porterville Recorder and on KTIP Radio concerning the financial abuses that are rampant by the PUSD Board of Trustees at the expense of our students & teachers, I have been shocked by the support that I have received from the community.
I knew that people were fed up with these "City of Bell" types of boondoggles; I just did not expect to receive 100% support from the community (outside the current trustees & superintendent of course). I have received calls, visits, text messages, e-mails, speaking engagement requests and even friendly words of encouragement from strangers on the street.
District employees have offered their support but have asked that I keep their identity under wraps for fear of retaliation from the district leadership. I understand how vindictive this school district's leaders are. I was a volunteer coach in the district the last three years. Since I began questioning district benefits and finances, I am no longer allowed to volunteer with the student athletes. Even a financial donation to my own daughter's team was refused.
I have also been asked to clarify a few points and comment on the trustee's justification for benefits. I agree that Richard Morris, like other trustees, primary job is to advocate for the school district in Sacramento and on all levels. Let us just not forget that Taxpayers funded these trips to the State Capital that are a common part of volunteering for a school board. Key word again being "volunteer".
I find comments about it being "unethical to consider removing perks" or "sad" to question district finances just another example of trustee self-preservation. I would love to debate the "ethics" of providing millions of dollars' worth of trustee benefits year after year at the expense of students & teachers.
And yes, Dr. Snavely, I do have an agenda. My agenda for PUSD is solely that my child and every other student in the district are the priority and not put last behind trustee benefits & perks. If Dr. Snavely truly believes, as he stated, that the district is a $100 million dollar business, than it is crystal clear that he and the trustees have forgotten that the students are the real customers of that business.
Comments have been made about honoring the "promises" of the past (maintaining trustee perks). Who exactly made that promise to provide lifetime benefits anyway? I certainly did not make that promise and know of no other private citizen who did. The superintendent certainly does not have the power to make that type of promise at taxpayer expense. Those past promises were made by the trustees themselves FOR themselves.
Should the taxpayers really continue to be on the hook for this expense? Remember, this policy of lifetime trustee benefits did not end because the trustees saw the error in their ways. The law changed.
California Government Code 53201 NOW prevents the policy of providing health insurance for retired board members from continuing forever yet PUSD continues to be financially burdened with this self-serving policy prior to the law change. I have asked the district for records of who actually voted to enact lifetime benefits for themselves with PUSD being the only district in the county to do so. Not surprisingly, those records are lost.
The biggest question I have received is where do we go from here? Obviously, the trustees have "circled the wagons", preferring to justify why they receive these lavish perks rather than having an open and honest discussion about ending these abuses for the benefits of our students and teachers. Teachers who continue to receive pink slips due to a difficult State budget (People have suggested pink slipping or recalling the trustees themselves).
My suggestion has always been to not let this issue pass. Tell your friends and neighbors who may be unaware of this practice. Letters to the Editor of the all the newspapers expressing your feelings on this topic as well as calls to KTIP are a great way to make your feelings known. I would suggest having an open honest discussion with the PUSD Trustees themselves even if they have shown no desire to do so. Make a personal contact with every school board member.
Calls and e-mails to trustees are great but nothing beats a good honest face to face conversation about ending this practice that only the sitting trustees support. Remember also that Trustee Hayley Buettner, Pat Contreras & Sharon Gill will be up for reelection in November so you will have your opportunity to vote support or dissatisfaction for current trustee policies in a few short months.
Here are their names, phone numbers and e-mail contacts
Attending board meetings is another option. PUSD board meetings are held on the 2 nd & 4th Thursdays of each month at 4:30. The district office is located at 600 W Grand Avenue. Public Comments & Oral Communications are allowed at the school board meetings.
Lastly, feel free to contact me personally at email@example.com with questions or if you would like copies of any bit of the information that I have received and continue to research. Happy to provide it at no cost.
The only way that these types of abuses end is if the public gets involved and makes it happen themselves. Abuses like what is occurring at PUSD are allowed to continue to go on year after year because the public feels helpless.
I am here to say that we are NOT helpless. Let's work together on a local level and begin to change our school district for the better.
John S. Hardin -- Trying to "Make it Right"