A select few will proudly boast that they work for the public school system in Banning.
However, teachers are willing to readily seek jobs elsewhere for just a little bit more money, but more importantly, for greater peace of mind, and less stress.
They’ll easily jump ship and search for positions next door in Beaumont, or eye coveted positions in Redlands.
Not too many non-educators were at Banning Unified School District’s meeting last week, hosted at Banning High School.
For the uninitiated, it was a sobering revelation of just how low morale is within the school district; to others, there was a lot of preaching to the choir.
A significant portion of the meeting was intended for the district to receive input for its Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP.
But a fair amount of time was allowed for employees to vent their frustrations: having elements of an LCAP, and prioritizing programs and materials is irrelevant if there is no support from the higher-ups — or, at least, the illusion of administrative backing.
Teachers, counselors and others who work in the district echoed resounding elements eked out when a significant portion of educators welcomed students back to school earlier this year by going on strike.
Banning Teachers Association members feel that Superintendent Robert Guillen’s administration does not always acknowledge their concerns and needs.
It could be as simple as teachers hoarding pencils, or insufficient provisions of copier paper — since the district allegedly does not provide adequate department supplies at a basic level — or bypassing contract agreements that teachers have agreed to.
Issues stem from large class sizes and lack of student discipline, to inadvertently adding extra unpaid time to a school day.
These issues apparently are still not ironed out satisfactorily, which BTA president Anthony Garcia has hinted during school board meetings throughout the year since the strike.
One counselor at the board meeting said that she sees employees as colleagues who are just trying to stay afloat, in an environment where “everyone’s fending for themselves,” and no one from administration cares.
Mr. Guillen and school board president Mr. Alfredo Andrade: while you acknowledge these concerns at board meetings, why is your district still fretting about the same morale issues of “us versus them” that we reported months ago?
Guillen is admirably gunning to build and fund a sorely needed Career Technical Education center to provide vocational training to the many students not intending to go directly on to college after high school; and to acquire for the district what could someday be the most enviable fine performing arts facility in the Pass area.
But what good are these facilities if no one in their right mind wants to come to Banning and work in them?
Guillen is right to invest in the future growth that is inevitably coming to Banning.
He is wrong to not address in full the morale issues plaguing his district.
Educators’ mantras have been “we do it for the kids.”
And the administration believes it’s investing in its physical plant so that those same potential kids have a place where they deserve to be educated.
The district may be contracting and struggling with flat or declining enrollment, but once homes start to roll in — three, five, 10 years away — Guillen may look like a misunderstood visionary who ignored those who questioned his priorities while he was here.
People get their names on buildings, sometimes because they fund them themselves, which is not a likely case in this scenario, or because they were revered in their field.
Mr. Guillen’s name is not revered by the lower ranks.
His colleagues and those who know him, know he can be a great guy.
His buildings may get built, and he will leave behind that legacy of accomplishment.
But we think reverence is just as important as investment.
Paying for weekend staff retreats in the hope that colleagues bond together is clearly not enough.
Our teachers deserve more: more pay, more help, more resources, more support.
Those teaching our special education students need to be listened to.
Invest in these elements — invest in your people — and you’ll have a true legacy that will be fondly forged in the collective memory of those who are still left standing in our classrooms.