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Teachers voice concerns to board

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Lake Tahoe Unified School District teachers want open communication with the district. On Tuesday night, they got their wish.

Diane Scheerhorn, school superintendent, and the Board of Education scheduled a meeting that night with nearly a dozen teachers and representatives from the teacher’s union to address the issue of stagnant dialogue and rampant rumors.

A letter signed by four teachers published April 26 in the Tribune acted as a catalyst for the gathering.

“I think it was a very constructive and open forum,” Scheerhorn said. “I think it was needed. This is a very tumultuous time for the community as well as the school district.

“It’s been 20 to 30 years since there has been a reduction in staff to the extent we had this year,” she said. “The loss of jobs raises a level of anxiety and that’s exactly what happened.”

Linda Blaney, a teacher at South Tahoe High School for 26 years, was the first teacher to address the board.

“Our concerns are not salary, or benefits, or work conditions or work hours,” she said in a prepared speech. “Our concerns are about district management and fiscal responsibility, about respect and unity.”

Blaney questioned Scheerhorn’s $30,000 annual travel expense and whether she went over the limit. Through financial statements, the answer came swiftly that Scheerhorn in fact had $8,000 in funds remaining.

A concern was raised that the board did not act independently in responding to the April 26 letter. Board member Bernadette Santana replied to that.

“We as a board are not told (to do) anything,” she said sternly. “We may have had a discussion on how we wanted to respond to the letter. I’m willing to have Diane Head go in and pull the last report and show you what is going on, what is projected for next year, what is projected for the following year. I can show you paper on budget woes being felt. We have managed to maintain a great deal of solvency pertaining to our budget.”

Gay Horton, a teacher at the high school, was disappointed about the lack of communication between teachers and the district.

“I don’t have faith right now. We talk about for five years that the schools have declining enrollment, understood,” she said. “But for five years we should be starting to do something. This trend is not going away, we know that. So why aren’t we making some plans?”

Scheerhorn admitted public relations need to improve and plans to implement a communitywide school newsletter, a staff newsletter, post up-to-date information on the district’s Web site, implement an efficient e-mail system and provide more forums and meetings with community members.


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