Letter: Teacher benefits: some clarifications

Before I respond to the letter in last week’s paper, I would just like to say that if we had a national health-care system, this issue and the controversy associated with it would not be taking place.

In Mark Ramey’s letter [“Perfect time for a squeeze play?” Oct. 4] he seems to indicate that I, one of eight members of the county’s Joint Benefits Study Committee, am responsible for the resulting recommendations. This is certainly not the case and it should be pointed out that one of the members was a teacher and that the document was agreed to by all the members.

He states that I made statements that other counties don’t help with family health care. This is not true. Other counties do continue to assist in this area, but to a much lesser degree than Rappahannock County. Regarding salaries in surrounding counties, it should be pointed out that in a recent study by the Virginia Education Association (the group that represents teachers in the state), Rappahannock was ranked 42nd of 132 school districts in average teacher salary. Culpeper County was 60th, Madison 94th, Page 112th, and Warren 59th. Fauquier was ranked at 9th. This report uses data from the Virginia Department of Education’s annual superintendent’s report.

The suggestion that the committee took advantage of present economic conditions to institute this change is ludicrous. The committee agreed that the present system was not financially sustainable and needed to be changed, but at the same time felt that any savings that came about should be used to bolster the teachers’ salary scales.

I am quoted in the final paragraph as using the phrase “leveling the playing field,” which, in discussions on this issue, I may have used. If I did, it would have been in regard to the inequities between the school’s plan and the plan offered to other county employees which cost them more and had lower benefits. My contention all along has been that all county employees receive the same benefits package. We were told that it was not “administratively feasible” to have a single plan for both, but that the effort would be made to offer similar plans in the future.

The tone of the letter seemed to indicate that I was somehow “anti-teacher,” which Mr. Ramey should know is not anywhere close to the truth. The Makela family has been a constant supporter of teachers since we moved here more than 20 years ago.

Change is never easy, but in this case, the facts and figures indicated it was necessary. If you find yourself going in the wrong direction on a one-way street, do you continue on or do you stop, turn around and get back on track? I feel we are now heading in the right direction.

Ron Makela

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