Guest View: Disappointed in district merger talk

San Benito High School has a new look.

I am very disappointed to those in San Benito County that speak of the benefits of consolidating school districts without backing claims made with any real facts.
It would be one thing if those speaking really had “showcase” school districts that could make claims that consolidating would benefit the greater community because they know how to run schools better or there was some other compelling reason to, but your article did not highlight any. The fact of the matter is, looking at test scores and the efforts that are made to stop students from transferring out of underperforming school districts to better perform school districts, the case can be made that each school district should tend to their own knitting for now.
Claims made about cost savings are nebulous at best. Who is to say that if the San Benito High School District were to merge with the Hollister (Elementary) School District that one human resources manager could handle the increased workload? Who is to say that a superintendent could handle the larger number of students, including being an expert in the nuances of educating K-8 students compared to 9-12th graders without having additional administrators? They are two different environments in the educational world, to say the least.
The biggest quantitative issue is what happens to the pay scales. It is a simple fact that high school teachers make more money than K-8 teachers. However, when school districts unify, pay scales typically equalize because it is generally not acceptable to bargaining units for teachers in the same school district to be subject to different pay scales. So if the community were to unify the high school and elementary school district, either the elementary teachers and staff would get a pay increase, significantly overwhelming any perceived savings on common administration, or the high school pay scales would decrease, saving funds for sure, but also making the high school uncompetitive to attract and keep teachers.  The community may not be aware of it, but schools are finding it very difficult to hire now and there is a shortage of teachers.
Any honest discussion about consolidations of the rural schools would include that some of them are doing fantastic. How would those students attending those schools benefit from going to less-performing schools? Their parents are tax (and bond) payers that chose to live in particular school districts, voted in bond measures that they are paying for and reaping the benefit of, and voted for school board members that represent their interests. The two topping performing schools, South Side and Spring Grove, each have principals that also serve as the district superintendents, and do not receive any additional compensation for the superintendent role. Where is there a cost savings?
Each school district in San Benito County has an elected school board. Board members of those districts should demand that there administrators manage their respective schools to deliver top-notch educations in safe environments today, and not worry about what is happening in other school districts. Some schools do receive more money than others, but in this county, the top-performing schools receive a lot less than the poorer-performing schools.
For the record, in addition to being a parent from the high school and interacting with the Hollister (Elementary) School District as part of its Measure M Citizens’ Oversight Committee, I think that they have wise and honorable teachers and administrators that try to give value for the tax dollar and take spending our money with respect.  They each have pockets of greatness and some areas that need improvement.  I don’t see, and your article did point out, how spending any time on discussions about consolidation helps expand the greatness or shrinks the shadows where improvement is needed.
Robert E. Bernosky, Hollister

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