Drawing honks from passing motorists, more than 50 educators in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District rallied Wednesday in support of Measure T, a $45 million bond on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Standing on sidewalks along Miller Street in front of the district office, the teachers, counselors and others held signs reading, “Yes on Measure T.”
The $45 million bond measure would build a new school in the Santa Maria district and make what district officials say are much-needed improvements to the other 19 campuses. The measure needs 55 percent to pass.
Jose Segura, president of the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association, said the union, which represents 700 teachers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other credentialed staff, voted to support Measure T.
“We feel that it is good for teachers, it’s good for students, it’s good for public education and we are fully supporting it,” Segura said.
Among those holding signs was Erin Robertson-Saucedo, a kindergarten teacher at Rice Elementary School.
She has 29 students packed into her classroom — it nearly was 35 until another kindergarten class was added just days before the new school year started.
A compressed lunch time leaves the youngsters little time to eat. Her school is among many that have multiple lunch sessions.
“Our lunch hour is very hectic and very fast for the kids because we only have about 15 minutes to eat before the next rotation of kids come in,” she said. “That doesn’t set a good start to our day, rushing the kids.
“Also, the heat has been abysmal in our room. I know that for myself, with this number of kids crammed into a room, it can be very difficult because we’re tripping on each other trying to get in our rotation groups.”’
She isn’t the only teacher with the large class. A transitional kindergarten class has about 33 students.
“And they’re all 4-year-olds, so trying to manage them behaviorally and academically is extremely challenging for her,” Robertson-Saucedo said, adding the all the primary teachers have a similar tale.
District officials say the schools were built to handle about 11,600 students, but enrollment exceeded 16,000 this year.
After the rally, which lasted approximately an hour, some of the participants attended Wednesday night’s Santa Maria-Bonita school board meeting, where both supporters and opponents of Measure T spoke.
One man said he strongly opposes Measure T and doesn’t believe the taxpayers of Santa Maria should have to pick up the costs to solve overcrowding.
Board member Will Smith said people in three out of five homes he has visited while campaigning have said they won’t vote for Measure T, which he likened to a band-aid on a cut needing a tourniquet. He has pushed for other options, such as a year-round schedule instead of the bond to solve the overcrowding problem.
“This Measure T is not going to solve any of the problems,” Smith said.
Responding to the critics, Superintendent Phil Alvarado noted that the district has one new school under construction and has approved adding classrooms to Tommie Kunst Junior High School.
“I think it’s important for public to know there is a plan for growth,” Alvarado said.
As for year-round education, Alvarado said he has dealt with different schedules during his 38 years in the district. Year-round education is expensive, difficult on parents and problematic for after-school program providers.
The union also has endorsed two candidates — incumbent Fidenzio “Bruno” Brunello and challenger Janeen Miller, an educator.
The other incumbent, Smith, did not gain the support of SMEEA, and some participating in the rally held signs urging voters to oust the man, some contend has been disruptive.
Some speakers Wednesday night lobbed criticism at Smith, a former teacher in the district whose credentials were revoked. However, Smith said he is appealing the decision.
Alvarado said Smith has sought “stays” to allow him to teach until the appeal is settled. However, Smith claimed it was paperwork problem.