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Seventeen percent of Gilroy teachers will be eligible to retire
over the next five years.

Seventeen percent of Gilroy teachers will be eligible to retire over the next five years.

Aside from the positive correlation that teacher experience has with school performance, there are other impacts. Our experienced teachers have roots in Gilroy, own homes, have long-term relationships, and some may even have grandchildren in the community. It would take a lot before they took their highly sought after skills to a different district (but if frustrated enough, they might retire sooner than later).

In contrast, we’ll be replacing them with younger teachers who won’t have roots in Gilroy and who will find it very difficult to buy a home based on a starting salary of $35,000 annually.

According to Edwin Diaz, Gilroy has a teacher training program second to none, but after training, some experience, and a step up in confidence, the new teachers will still have a low threshold for discontent as a trigger to move to “greener pastures” and lay down their roots. We will need to hire a lot of teachers in the next few years, and we will spend much resource to train them, but will that investment ultimately end up in another district?

The district and community must work together on creating a total environment for teachers that will keep us competitive with other districts. Clearly, Gilroy is at a disadvantage with salary: one local teacher has told me that Salinas has offered him $10,000 more a year — and $10,000 will go much farther toward housing in Salinas than in Gilroy. Salary, benefits, and training are important components of a total package for teachers, but so is effective support for discipline issues, attractive and serviceable classrooms, reasonable grouping of student ability in the classroom, and a voice that is heard and respected by administration and community.

The district must do everything they can to strengthen those components of the package that can offset the weakness in salary, and in the long term, take an aggressive look at the budget to see what areas can be scaled back in order to provide more in salary.

I believe that passing Measure I is something the community can do to support the retention of teachers and contribute to the improvement of academic performance. Passing it would be a statement for our teachers (“we will provide a clean, safe, and attractive facility for you to work in”), for our students (“your education is extremely important to us and we will demonstrate that by providing a clean, safe, and attractive facility for you to learn in”), and for ourselves (“we have more pride in our community than to permit our esteemed teachers and beloved children to work in an unsafe, unattractive, overcrowded, and depressing environment”).

Yes, things could have been managed better in the past, but we don’t have the technology to go back and change that although we can (and must) always hold present and future board members accountable. Yes, I’m unhappy that some of the money will go to consultants, but doing the facilities study and putting it all together is a big job, and it isn’t unreasonable that the board didn’t have all the expertise to pull it off (I wouldn’t). Yes, we need to teach our children to demonstrate that they should appreciate and honor the resources we (at no small sacrifice) provide, by taking responsibility to treat them well. Yes, I hate paying taxes, but this is one way I give back to the community I’m blessed to be living in.

Right now we are between a rock and a hard spot: there is no money to do what needs to be done, and we can’t print the money in our back room. If we withhold the money, I don’t see how our critical needs will be addressed. I will sacrifice for the long-term greater good of our community (and our children) and vote Yes on Measure I (and the state Proposition 47). I hope you will, also.

Tom Bundros, Gilroy, candidate for School Board

Submitted Friday, Oct. 18 to [email protected]

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