District to oppose Prop. 19

COSTA MESA — The Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education is poised to adopt a resolution Tuesday opposing the statewide legalization of marijuana.

The school board also is expected to ratify a one-year contract for 1,200 teachers.

Two weeks ago, the school board asked district administrators to draft a resolution opposing Proposition 19 on the Nov. 2 state ballot. The measure would legalize marijuana for recreational use; medical use is already permitted.

The directive came at the behest of Trustee Martha Fluor after John Caldecott, executive director of district human resources, told school board members that the legalization of cannabis could pose some problems for the district, such as making it easier for bus drivers and other employees to use the drug before work.

"John gave an excellent presentation at our last board meeting, and since then I've received feedback from other school board members across the state who are in support of my position," Fluor said. "And they're also in the process of passing resolutions, too."

The district, Caldecott said, would have to prove that the driver was impaired before he started driving, but as of yet there are no legally defined standards or guidelines that address such an issue.

The same standards, or lack thereof, would also apply to teachers, Caldecott said.

Nonetheless, it's the policy of the district to maintain a drug-free workplace that is consistent with federal law, Caldecott said.

Federal law prohibits using marijuana for recreational or medical uses, but the U.S. Justice Department has declined to pursue cases related to pot use in California.

The California School Boards Assn. passed a similar resolution about a month ago.

Also on the agenda is the ratification of a one-year contract with the 1,200-employee teachers union, in which teachers have agreed to receive no pay raises for the 2010-11 school year.

Local No. 1794 members would also seen an increase in employee contribution to their compensation and benefits plan, according to union President Kimberly Claytor.

But Claytor said the amount of money that would be deducted from their monthly paychecks to pay insurance premiums will range from employee to employee, although the overall increase comes to 10%, she added.

The hike in monthly premiums is the direct result of an increase in the insurance company's premiums, Claytor said.

She said the district's provider is Anthem Blue Cross, which hiked premiums, with the district agreeing to cover 8.9% of the increase.

Claytor said the good news is that a good chunk of the 10% increase had been set aside under a previous agreement reached between the district and the union, as much as $700 per year per member.

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