‘Work Together’ Grows From Slogan to Action

Boosters Hold First $1,500 Saturday

Reported by Leslie Bever and Tony Levesque (Enterprise intern) with Patric Hedlund

Last week teachers, parents, staff and students waved "Work Together" signs and sported "Work Together" T-shirts for a rally at the 4-way stop on Frazier Mountain Park Road near Monterey Trail in Frazier Park. That was Thursday afternoon, June 2. On Saturday, June 4 drivers in Pine Mountain, Frazier Park and Lebec saw students waving signs for a mountainwide "Save Our Sports" washapalooza.

It was organized by student Antonio Saenz and sponsored by the Frazier Mountain High School Booster Club. Families worked together to send hundreds of gleaming cars back onto the streets of the Mountain Communities.

The mountain is mobilizing to help find solutions to budget troubles and to reclaim educational excellence in local schools. The FMHS Booster Club, an independent nonprofit group with a mission to support FMHS sports, the cheer team and drumline, received over $1,500 from Saturday’s community effort.

The next fundraising event will be "dinner and a movie" night set for Saturday, June 25 Antonio Saenz said. [Watch The Mountain Enterprise Community Calendar next week for location, time and details.]

As families wake to the need to participate actively to support the schools, a spirit is growing that is similar to the drive which raised the Pine Mountain Learning Center charter school to be the top-scoring academic school in Kern County.

Parents and teachers warned the El Tejon Unified School District Trustees and the superintendent at an emergency meeting on May 19 that cutting classroom educational aides, sports programs, extracurricular offerings and after-school "late bus" transportation is driving more parents to enroll their children elsewhere. Now the district expects to lose over $1.4 million next year due to state cutbacks and dropping enrollment.

"This is our opportunity to not only help out our school but to save our athletics department as well," said Shane Ryan, who will be a senior at Frazier Mountain High School. "We need to work together as a community to save our district from collapsing."

At the June 2 rally, teachers took aim at decisions being made by ETUSD Trustees.

Principal and Vice Principal Jobs Advertised

A special public hearing on the district budget was scheduled by the trustees for Wednesday, June 8. Job postings placed by Superintendent Katie Kleier on EdJoin.org for a new high school principal (about $93,000) and vice principal (about $73,000) could, with benefits, cost the district about $220,000 next year.

"The budget decision to hire two additional administrators is the worst possible financial decision," said Chuck Mullen, a 23-year middle-school math teacher, coach and parent who has himself received a layoff notice. Some teachers, parents and students are calling for the superintendent to delay hiring new administrators and to share the principal duties during this budget crisis. Mullen said teachers are deciding among themselves to give back $1,000 each from their annual salary in this crisis year.

“No child in our district has been taught to read by an administrator,” Mullen said. “I’m certain the 11 aides they [laid off] have…. If we don’t hire these administrators—and with the sacrifice the teachers have made—we could keep our sports and our aides, too,” Mullen said. He added that teachers would also work to take on some of the coordinating functions of administrators.

“My daughter is in kindergarten” said parent Jennifer Krawczyk at the June 2 rally, “and I’m concerned she is not going to get a good education with all of the layoffs. I used to be a student at this district myself and I enjoyed it, but with the way things have been going up here I don’t know if the board members or the superintendent even care.”

That was echoed in remarks by those who wondered out loud if the ETUSD Board’s lack of creative leadership is a reflection of “crisis fatigue.”

The next Work Together rally was set to follow the board’s Wednesday, June 8 vote about keeping or dropping sports and hiring additional administrators. The rally will be held in the school district administrative parking lot.

The next Booster Club meeting will be held Monday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cave at Caveman Cavey’s Pizza. Preliminary results for the car wash were Pine Mountain $342, Lebec $370 and Frazier Park $790.

Those who helped in Frazier Park included Kayla, Alexa, Leonard and Leonard Jr. Puga; John, Leslie, Cody and Sami Bever; Scott, Dakota and Serenity Grimm; Darla and Kelly Davis; Sarah Ryan; Max Arteaga; Juan Mejia; Ashley Kern; Suzette Martin; Patrick Moulder; Syana Guerra; Tyler Ryan; Joe Flores; Kaitlyn Ciotto; Shelby and Shannon Hallmark; Joe Flores; Jason Vaughn and Michelle Mullen. Those who helped in Pine Mountain included Mike, Heather, Alex and Ryan Oman; Jeff, Stefani, Saryn and Katelyn Neeley; Steve and Chris McCheshne; Alex Kern; Nick Duhm; Rachel Rivette and Arianna Saenz. Those who helped in Lebec included Antonio Saenz, Justin Jones, Corey Hansen-Vance, Naomi Morris, Marquis Hunt and numerous others.

The Mountain Enterprise, Mil Potrero Water Company and Holiday Inn Express provided locations for the car washes. Denise Saenz donated supplies for all three locations and Antonio Saenz organized the event. Dr. Kathy Crandell Gillies, DCM is offering free sports physicals to kids under 18 who will be playing sports next year (call 245-2550 for an appointment).

This is part of the June 17, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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