News


School board OK's $240,000 facilities plan update despite objections

Plan will consider current state of schools and look to the future

A plan to spend nearly $240,000 to update the Pleasanton school district's facilities master plan met with opposition Tuesday night from a board member and a member of the public, but still passed on a 3-1 vote.

The facilities plan would look at the state of the district's buildings and plan for the future. Resident Julie Testa pointed out that schools are already overcrowded, with the need for two elementary schools, and that doesn't take into account almost 500 new apartments planned for the Hacienda Business Park.

She also said a facilities plan would be useless, since the district has no money for construction projects.

"Please use the quarter-million dollars to pay for teacher salaries," Testa told the board. "Tell the city that there needs to be a moratorium on building because the (school) district has not planned."

School Board Chairwoman Valerie Arkin opposed the spending for several reasons, including the back and forth between the city and the state over plans to build affordable housing, a new demographer's report that would tell what the district what to expect in terms of new students and the ongoing state budget crisis.

"It's a lot to spend without knowing what's coming," Arkin said. "I do think we need (a facilities master plan), but there's things we need to do first."

Arkin also proposed postponing a vote because she'd only received detailed information about the proposal the morning of the board meeting.

However, board Member Jeff Bowser called it "embarrassing" that it had been 14 years since the last facilities plan update.

The new facilities plan would incorporate demographics and the new housing element, and the district said many improvements could be done at little of no expense. The update will be done in four to six months.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by local
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

I don't understand the district. They keep saying they have NO money but they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for special elections and now a quarter of a million dollars for a facility needs study before we even hear back from the state on the city's new housing element which greatly changes the landscape of housing in Pleasanton, and thus more students.

A a month ago the district could not even tell the group from a citizen's committee where they spent the bond money we also give them or where the $9M went that they took from the taxpayers on a cashing out deal. Maybe they do have a large slush fund to pay for projects that they want, even though they keep telling the community they need more money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

More embarrassing, Mr. Bowser is to throw good money after bad. The time to do this is after all the other data is in; otherwise you'll be paying for updates later. Most of the board doesn't seem to understand they are losing parents through these actions as they see the truth about the lack of fiduciary responsibility. Sad really.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:56 am

Development is supposed to pay for itself, not the existing residents. Rather than build schools, PUSD paid for courtroom time and lawyers and squandered its developer fees on fees for lawyers. Even when PUSD was asked where it spent the developer fees with a public records/FOIA act request, PUSD would not response, even after the requestor filed a lawsuit.

And now it wants to spend a quarter of million dollars on a facility study? Absurd.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really - No Plan
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

Planning how to spend our $ is absurd? I'd rather them have a plan so that we may discuss the plan in public. Otherwise it becomes random spending. This lead to chaos and squanderd tax $.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chemist
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:25 am

$250,000 to study a parcel tax. $240,000 to plan facilities upgrades. $200,000 annual salaries for administrators. Automatic step and column raises for teachers whether they teach or not. A budget that is loaded with line items having nothing to do with educating our students. This school board needs to go to school.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

Reading all the PUSD's press releases on how poor they are and they have 'nothing left to cut' and have to do layoffs of teachers vs. suddenly finding a quarter of million dollars to spend on consultants to 'study' (who knows what the scope of work even is -- can't find it on the website) facilities is what is absurd.

And given that PUSD can't tell the public how it spent the millions collected in developer fees, including the $20 + million earmarked for the high school off of Valley and Busch that never materialized, makes it even all the more absurd.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

14 years without a facilities master plan is an embarrassment--really, if so it would seem like waiting another 6 months wouldn't make the situation a whole lot worse. Valarie Arkin, who served on the Hacienda Guidelines Task Force, seemed to be the only one of the 4 who gets what's going on with the settlement agreement and what that means to the City in terms of what gets built. People forget as well that the City isn't building the housing, developers/property owners are. Just because the property gets rezoned doesn't mean it will immediately be built. I don't think waiting 6 months would be a bid deal. The state financial picture as well as where the rezonings are going to be would certainly make the picture clearer and allow for a better master plan to be done. Seems like a lot of money to spend on a 'Plan' when the Board is supposedly trying to make cuts away from the classroom!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Honestly, using our limited money for a facilities plan rather than saving jobs . . . what is the point? So frustrating when as parents all we hear about are cuts to the classroom and that donations are needed. And the trigger cuts might happen.

Does anyone know if they decided whether to go ahead with that IT job?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

$240,000 is 1,600 families donating $150. And we might be losing over $3 million if the trigger cuts happen. Please reconsider this decision for the sake of our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Somebody at the district needs to keep better tabs on the business person who is making a hefty salary. She seems to never be available for calls nor in the office. Guess she must be out inspecting facilities? Then why do they need an outside company? Just saying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

When a plan makes no sense, look for the alternative motivation behind whoever is pushing it.

Mike


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Good point Mike. Probably trying to justify the school impact fees they want to collect from the developers for the high density housing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by why?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm

"$240,000 is 1,600 families donating $150"

So they are using the CORE money we donated for facilities? (directly or indirectly, that is)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

"So they are using the CORE money we donated for facilities?"

No, I'm sure that CORE money was used for what it was supposed to fund. But the $240,000 could have been spent on a number of things that we are losing / have lost from the classroom and we will have to fundraise for these things in the future if we want to keep them. I guess for me it's just a matter of priorities and I was hoping that given the cash shortages we are facing, we would be really careful about how we spent our limited funds.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

This plan brought to you by the same idiots who continue to press for a parcel tax. Remember that when the next ballot comes around.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Making mountains out of mole hills or just plain making things up. Since when is using a consultant or doing a study a bad idea? Private industry does is all the time. Stop tearing things down and start building them up.

Vote yes on the new parcel tax.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Seriously folks, does the school district hire such incompetent people that they can't even 'study' their own facilities in house and instead have to hire consultants? I can't imagine the city of Pleasanton spending a quarter of a million dollars on consultants to 'study' the city's fire stations and parks.

Furthermore, the board of directors and stockholders of a private sector corporation would have a field day if a quarter of a million dollars were proposed to be spent studying how to enhance the company's corporate facilities, particularly if the private industry was in the 'red' and losing money in a down economy. Gee whiz.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm

"Furthermore, the board of directors and stockholders of a private sector corporation would have a field day if a quarter of a million dollars were proposed to be spent studying how to enhance the company's corporate facilities"

Happened at Oracle as I recall. They spent a lot more than that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Reader/editor, you selectively shortened my quote. I said:

"Furthermore, the board of directors and stockholders of a private sector corporation would have a field day if a quarter of a million dollars were proposed to be spent studying how to enhance the company's corporate facilities, particularly if the private industry was in the 'red' and losing money in a down economy."

Oracle hasn't had a negative net income/operating loss since around 1990. If you heard about a consultant study for upgrading corporate facilities that was done in the 1990 time frame when Oracle lost money, please forward the link or press release.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike Conlon
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 12:29 am

This sounds to me like a payoff to someone's friend(s).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chemist
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

Don't know whose brother-in-law runs the consulting firm that will be getting this $240,000 pay off, but maybe the PUSD should see if the firm could throw in a new parcel tax study. After all, the new parcel tax study could be done quite quickly. I have my NO ON F sign ready to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

PUSD has a $27 million facilities debt that they CANNOT pay. PUSD needs developer fees to pay that debt so they are supporting the new development even though our schools are 118% overcrowded. The fees that they will collect will be used to pay of the existing debt and they will use this report to tell the community that they need a BOND as well as a parcel tax to pay for the new schools. Growth should pay for itself but existing residents who have already paid our school mitigation will end up with the burden.

I have advocated for facilities for 15 years. There was a time when the district had more than enough capital money to build them. The district made the decision that they did not want to build the facilities so the operational money could go to salary. The capital money is now gone and we do not have a clear picture of how it was used. The time to plan has been lost now we must protect the quality of life for our existing community.

PUSD must make a CLEAR statement to the City that there is NO room for growth and NO MONEY for facilities. The district must make it clear and be honest that new growth will have a serious negative impact on the district and current residents. PUSD must be honest with the community that mitigation fees will not be enough to meet the burden of new growth and there is no room to house new student until new facilities can be built because PUSD already has 1,847 unhoused students NOW!

The lawsuit says the City can not have a cap and must rezone but if there is no room to house students they should refuse to approve new development!!!! PUSD must send a clear message now not ruin our City then ask taxpayers to fix it!!!!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NewMom
a resident of Foothill High School
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

The district should have some plan for facilities and improvement but I agree that it seems that now is not the time.
As a homeowner, there are lots of things I want to do to my house, but I'm not out hiring contractors since I don't have the money for it.
The district needs to get it's current students taken care of before it takes on any more burden,
I don't know if it is true, but I've heard that the district will not fund graduation ceremoneies this year? Can someone clarify that for me?
I'd rather spend money on graduation to recognize the hard worf of our students than to give it to some overpriced consulting firm.

Julie, sounds like you should run for city council!! You seem to have a great understanding of what is going on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:30 am


Please do not ask for any parcel taxes when this is the way of spending money. I know of many households who have not been able to make their homes up to date in the last 14 years.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

Like all large bureaucracies, school districts will spend all the money they can get. Now that tight times are upon us, the scramble is on to stop the continuous outlay of funds.

...But 3 members of the board seem to be oblivious to what their oversight responsibilities actually are and that includes financial accountability.

If the majority of the board is not even capable of close scrutiny of the financial situation, initiating significant spending control and setting priorities will be set with more thoughtful diligence, they need to step down.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ticked
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:28 am

I am ticked. The community went out and raised $372,537 from community members through CORE to help with programs in the school that the school district said it could not afford.

Now the school district is spending $263,910 on a study to see what our future facility needs could be.

The community has been mislead. If we did not have money to pay for what the CORE fund raising is paying for, why are they now spending all that money for some consultants? Sounds like the school district had enough money for the programs that CORE is paying for but they wanted more money to pay for some consultants. They knew the community would not raise money for a facility needs study consultant so the district told the community that the funds raised would benefit their schools directly. Once they had that money, the money was available for this consulting firm. The district did a slight of hand trick and tricked the whole community.

Looks like a Halloween Trick or Treat. The school district Tricked the community into raising funds so they could Treat some consultants.

I will certainly remember this when the school district asks me again for donations or a tax.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by observation
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:26 am

Have you noticed that citizens are more "ticked" (like the above poster) against the government than the private sector?

Not many complaints against our local grocers, bakers, candlestick makers, etc.

Many more complaints against government services and programs.

Yet the Democrats are pushing for more and more government programs, more government employees, higher taxes to pay for bigger government.

This "experiment" in more and more socialism is proving to be an enormous failure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kim
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Dont come looking for parcel tax when you can find money like this for district offices...shame shame.
Hope the voters have long memories.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ticked
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

observation, that is correct. The primary reason; competition. I am in the private sector. If I treated my customers the way government (in this case the school district) treats customers, I would be out of business. I have not been an advocate for school vouchers in the past but the actions of our school district have me rethinking this. If there were competition we would get a better service.

Have you seen the way the school district treats the public at school board meetings? It is atrocious. It is quite evident that the school district does not want to hear from parents or anybody else in the public. They have forgotten that they work for the residents. If I treated my customers that way, I would be looking for a job (probably in the public sector as that is the only way I would get away with it).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by observation
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Dear Ticked,
I am with you all the way.
Fyi...tho I am the produce of "government schooling," I've soured on it so much that I have yanked my child out of PUSD. The private school we have chosen has turned out to be the best decision we've made for our child. No looking back.

In fact, I rather get amused to read about all the problems of PUSD and at other public schools because it only corroborates that we chose wisely.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm

"Fyi...tho I am the produce of "government schooling,"

I think you mean "though I am the product of". "Produce" is what you find a section of a supermarket.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sheila
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

To Oh Dear & Mike Conlon - CORE is supposed to be used for library assistants and technology specialists. The funding for these jobs will end in May, and all will more than likely get pink slips again unless the Pleasanton community raises dollars to cover their salaries. The IT position was awarded to the former PIO from Fremont - Ms. Ahmadi's former district (and friend) even though current pusd employees had applied for the job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yet Another Teacher
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

Quote from the full article:

"The facilities plan would look at the state of the district's buildings and plan for the future. Resident Julie Testa pointed out that schools are already overcrowded, with the need for two elementary schools, and that doesn't take into account almost 500 new apartments planned for the Hacienda Business Park.

She also said a facilities plan would be useless, since the district has no money for construction projects.

"Please use the quarter-million dollars to pay for teacher salaries," Testa told the board. "Tell the city that there needs to be a moratorium on building because the (school) district has not planned."

School Board Chairwoman Valerie Arkin opposed the spending for several reasons, including the back and forth between the city and the state over plans to build affordable housing, a new demographer's report that would tell what the district what to expect in terms of new students and the ongoing state budget crisis."

Julie and Valerie are both right. What we have with Mrs. Ahmadi is Dr. Casey's administration without Dr. Casey. And they wonder why they can't convince the voters to pass a parcel tax?

I gave Mrs. Ahmadi the benefit of the doubt when she became our new Superintendent, but she has destroyed any trust we teachers had in her ability to change direction in our district. It's just more of the same old song and dance.

We can't afford to build new schools but let's commission a quarter million dollars to plan something we can't ever build? Brilliant! Dr. Casey couldn't have done better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:11 am

While its likely this money for the came from the building fund and not the general fund, I would agree with YAT that this is a waste no matter what fund. And YAT is correct that there isnt enough money to build a new school(s). And if there was enough money to build or the community will to pass another bond before the other two are payed off, there isn't enough money for its operating costs (or the community will to [also] pass a parcel tax to pay for operating another school [which would require specific language in a ballot, which PUSD doesn't want]). If it is from the building fund, it should be used at the sites where it is likely there already are needs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:13 am

this money for the study came from


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Future Mom
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:29 am

Julie Testa, please run for school board! Your community needs you! The students need you!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vern
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

Libs just can't stop spending............
Got to start voting no on school bonds and parcel taxes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

I asked and was told that the money for the report will come from the general fund. The facilities fund is empty with $27 million dollars committed to existing debt. If the facilities fund does not receive enough from developer fees to pay off the $27m debt, that money will eventually/likely come out of the general fund also.

Past boards and past superintendents have painted PUSD into this ugly corner. When the money was there they refused to build the facilities and instead have left the district overcrowded with an unmanageable debt. I think that this administration does not see anyway out other than asking for the community to pass new taxes. Existing residents should not pay for new growth nor should we be negativly impacted by new growth!

The District must tell the City they have NO space and NO money for new growth!!! The City must not approve any housing that will produce students until there is space in the schools that will not have a negative impact or financial burden on existing residents (not just portables).

Please send emails to both School Board and City Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

Hmmm, an issue everyone agrees with, so why are we doing it? I'm very concerned about all of this.

I want to help the schools and volunteer a lot. However, I have to prioritize where I give in this economy and need to see funds helping the kids education now.

The admin IT job, potentially "carving" new money out of the budget to fund nursing jobs and now this. I'm feeling let down because ultimately it is one pot of $$ and when it's gone, it's gone and the cutting starts again and we'll hear that there's nothing else to cut but things that affect the classroom.

If we have to cut anything this year, I suggest that these new expenditures should be first on the list.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

I have an idea.

Let's have all PUSD employees decide if they want a facilities study. After all, they work in these facilities, and any investment in facilities should improve their work environment.

The question to be posed to the employees is:

Will you have 1% of your pay withdrawn annually to be placed into a Facilities Fund for the purposes of improving your work environment?

This should raise approx. $800,000 per year, from which they can pay for the study and begin planning. Then, if the employees so choose, they can withdraw another 1-3% to be put into the Facilities Fund to begin paying for those improvements.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

With every student comes State ADA (operating dollars). If managed prudently there should be enough money to operate the needed schools.

PUSD is currently 1,847 students over state loading capacity, even greater over state campus size capacity.

None of the three Trustees who voted for this expenditure are up for reelection in the next election and this is not about politics. This is about protecting Pleasanton's quality of life.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

DCOT - I'm sure that the staff share the parents frustration on this one and I don't think either group want to pay for it or think it's the best way to spend our limited money.

My concern is that we will lose donations and so the actual cost to the district and the community will be even higher. This town can afford to support the schools, but it is all about trust and about sharing priorities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ticked
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

Julie, thanks for verifying the money does actually come from the general fund. That is another verification that the money we gave to CORE is actually going to this consultant for the study. Amazing that they do not even have enough money in the facility fund to pay for this study so they are now going after the same fund that pays teachers and school staff.

I wonder if this is like the previous consultant they hired to figure out the language to put on a ballot to pass a parcel tax. This consultant may have been hired to figure out the language to put on a ballot to pass another bond. Even though we are currently paying a lot for the existing bonds (yes we have two bonds outstanding at this time but your property tax combines them), and the district already taking more money from us by their cash out scheme that has been well reported in the Herald.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

Julie, do you know when this item was discussed at the meeting? I ask because I did watch it on tv from about when the kids went to bed until at least 11:30pm when I thought they must be close to wrapping up and didn't hear anything about this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

The item was discussed at about 9:00 but because of technical difficulties it was not televised. They still have not archived it to view. Info on PUSD website has not been avaiable all week.

There was another interesting item that was pulled at the last minute, it was to discuss lowering the developer mitigation fee. I am very interested in that one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I think it was on tv, but not on the district website because I saw some of it (I think it was the same time they were talking about the extra kindergarten classes). I must have turned it on just too late for this discussion. I'll have to wait until it's broadcast again to check it out. I'm just curious about how it was presented and the types of questions asked. I find it so difficult to believe that this went through . . .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yet Another Teacher
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

None of the teachers I know want this study. It's...*sigh*...another consultancy firm paid for a "bridge to nowhere". PUSD administration just *loves* these studies for some reason. It's not the first time they've thrown money down a rathole and I'm afraid it won't be the last. I would like an investigation into who gets these consultant contracts, how much value the district gets for the money it pays, etc. I don't want to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, but let's just say I'd like to see someone "follow the money" and see if there are connections between the district administrators and these contractors.

One of my colleagues theorizes that the reason PUSD loves consultants so much is that it's a way for the Board and the administration to have a scapegoat if things go wrong: "It wasn't us, it was the consultants! Blame them!" It's the adult equivalent of "The dog ate my homework."

My opinion--and I speak only for myself, as always--is that PUSD administration lives in a parallel reality where no teachers have been laid off, no classified staff have lost their jobs, and the California state budget crisis never happened. The sun shines every day and we all ride unicorns through gumdrop fields.

You think parents are frustrated? Try being a teacher in this district: I've served on a dozen different committees comprised of parents, teachers, and administrators, and the administrators DO-NOT-LISTEN-TO-US.

And yes, I will name names: Jane Golden. Cindy Galbo. Parvin Ahmadi. Jane and Parvin pretend to listen. Cindy doesn't even bother to pretend and never has. That's why I've stopped serving on committees that involve district administrators; we'd work on something together for weeks or months and at the end, the committee's plan would be overruled in favor of whatever it is Ahmadi/Golden/Galbo et al. had decided to do before the committee was formed. I've better ways to spend my time than being a member of a rubber-stamp committee (like helping my kids scrub out the aquarium so our fish don't go to fish heaven).

p.s.--It's "paid", not "payed". I'm not sure why people think it's "payed" but that's not the correct spelling.


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Posted by ticked
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

consultants are used in government all the time to do studies. Typically the agency hires a consultant to do a "study". The consultant makes all these findings on what the agency needs (e.g., more money, etc.), the agency says "Our 'independent' consultant said we need to do this.". The main thing to note are these consultants have a limited pool of clients (in this example, school districts). If they tell the district what they want to hear, they can be hired again for something else. If they tell the district something contrary to what they want to hear, they do not get a job at that district anymore and people in that district tell other districts not to use that consultant. Essentially these consultants are told what the outcome the district wants and then the consultants come up with ways to support the desired outcome.

What most people do not realize is there are many meetings with the consultants and the district before a report is issued. This give the district administration several opportunities to make sure the consultant's report supports what they want to do. Conversely, if the district does not want to do something, the consultant report will reflect why such and such is a bad idea.


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Posted by to:ticked
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Ticked,

I think you summed it up nicely. That is how it works. If you go back to the issue of "cash-out refinancing", at three to four times the normal cost for Bonds, what the district did was use an agency that provided a "Legal Opinion" in support of the boards desired action. That made everything OK, at least until the sunshine exposed the bottom of the deck dealings.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

YAT, You know, I knew it, and I thought about it, and I did it the wrong way anyway. My bad.

Julie, what the state provides is not enough, wouldn't allow for any raises--ever, is usurped by mandated programs, and so on. It is not realistic to believe one can solely be prudent enough to make it possible to operate additional schools.


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Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Kathleen I disagree with you and have spent years reserching the topic. After a point it becomes more expensive to operate a school that is too large.
There are recomendations that are suggested for economic efficiency, curricular diversity, academic achievement, and related variables. Beyond the recomended size the economy of scale is lost, as well as the quality of life for staff and students. A discussion of school size should be on another thread but all of the PUSD demographer reports, and school mitigation report dated Jan 2010, acknowledge our schools are overcrowded thus beyond the threshold of economic efficiency and optimal positive student outcomes.


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Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Kathleen I disagree with you and have spent years researching the topic. After a point it becomes more expensive to operate a school that is too large.

There are recommendations that are suggested for economic efficiency, curricular diversity, academic achievement, and related variables. Beyond the recommended size the economy of scale is lost, as well as the quality of life for staff and students. A discussion of school size should be on another thread but all of the PUSD demographer reports, and school mitigation report dated Jan 2010, acknowledge our schools are overcrowded thus beyond the threshold of economic efficiency and optimal positive student outcomes.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Julie, not true. It's like a large family, add a baby, throw a few more noodles in the pot, sleep in a bunk bed. You can't just get a newer, bigger house.

Yes, you can move some current teachers at no increase, but you need a principal, maybe assistant principals and counselors (depending on grade level) office staff, a custodian, lights, heat/air conditioning, water, etc. I'm not saying bigger schools are okay; I'm saying the budget is not there.


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Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

Additional students bring with them the ADA dollars which have operating cost built in. With an additional 500 students the cumulative ADA dollars should cover the operational cost of another school. The district currently identifies 546 unhoused students in K-5.
The debate in this community has been who does those operational dollars belong to, our students to have reasonable size schools or administrators for salary. So far they have chosen salary.

My belief is that if the community does not share concern now, new growth will be allowed to continue to overburden our schools. Existing residents will be forced to pay another bond to mitigate the new growth.

CDE Web Link

Web Link
"After school enrollment reached 400 no benefit was realized, increased size can result in increases in costs."


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Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

Kathleen, your analogy does not work in so many ways. When you have a baby you do not automatically get a raise (unless you are on welfare). With each new student PUSD gets $9,842.
ED-Data
Web Link


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Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

Kathleen, your analogy does not work in so many ways. When you have a baby you do not automatically get a raise (unless you are on welfare). With each new student PUSD gets $9,842.
ED-Data
Web Link


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Posted by Yet Another Teacher
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Oct 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

Julie Testa wrote: "The debate in this community has been who does those operational dollars belong to, our students to have reasonable size schools or administrators for salary. So far they have chosen salary."

Yep. And let's not forget that when Casey was on his way out the door, the Board gave all of his hand-picked subordinates three-year extensions on their contracts so that the new Superintendent couldn't clean house.

Turns out Mrs. Ahmadi never had any intention of doing so, but it doesn't matter. The Casey Administration continues under another name, as was the Board's intention.

The administrators rarely pass by an opportunity to remind parents, teachers, and students that the district is all about the admins, not the rest of us. I've certainly learned that lesson in many painful ways over the past few years, and having had my fingers burnt, I'm not getting involved with this mess any longer. I teach the best I can with what I've got and that's that.


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Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 29, 2011 at 10:28 am

I agree with Yet Another Teacher. It certainly is all about the administrators and the District Office, not the children, parents, or teachers.

Developer fees were not used to build facilities and the remaining school sites were all sold off to developers to build yet more houses, overcrowding the schools even more, while the District office argued that "mega schools" meant more money from the State.

It sold off the Valley Trails site and the Del Prado site and South Pleasanton high school site, closed the First Street/Bernal Downtown K-8 school arguing there was 'insufficient enrollment,' then went to the taxpayers saying, oops, a new middle school was needed to replace the one it just closed or else there would need to be year round school. It took over the Downtown site and for over two decades, have steadily been filling it up with bureaucrats, many having no connection with the community at all.

When is the last time you saw someone from the District office actually at a school site, other than when they were campaigning for a parcel tax?


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Does the community have a legal course of action against the previous PUSD superintendent and financial officer for leaving the district in impossible debt? It would be justice to attach their retirement for breach of fiduciary responsibility, instead of the taxpayers getting stuck with it again.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 30, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Taxpayer,

A civil suit could be filed, but the most effective method, I think, would be to gather sufficient support from the public to demand better governance.

Mike


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Posted by disgusted
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Oct 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Yes , it seems crazy that we are paying retirements for folks whose bad judgement caused such a mess of indebtedness. John Casey will enjoy a comfortable future when my kids will be crammed into more over-crowded schools. Not fair!


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Posted by Jill
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Some people have noted that the current administration might not be much different than the previous. The only way we will get change is if the public gets involved. I know from experience that the district does not make you feel welcome when you attend board meetings but as a community we have to show up and tell them this is all unacceptable. If we do not show up, they win.

We already have one board member who chastises any other board member who wants the community to know more what the district is doing. He uses terms like micro-managing, etc., to intimidate. Just ignore him. There are two board members who seem to care about what the public says. We need to support those board members who listen and then take action.


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 1, 2011 at 6:59 am

I just watched the recorded SB meeting...yuck!
Jeff Bowser justified spending a quarter of a million dollars on a facilities report by repeatedly saying that it was embarrassing that they had not commissioned a facilities report in 15 years. The irony is that of all of the things they should be embarrassed about that is not one of them. Arkins arguments that the timing was off, further budget triggers and they have no funds to build with, was a more credible argument.
What was really embarrassing to watch was Bowser saying that Arkins concern that she wanted to read the supporting documents for the RFP was micromanaging. That she had to explain to him that she needs to be informed before voting on such a large expense. Bowser said that is why they have staff, implying they should just trust staff.

Trustee Bowser, that is the definition of a rubber stamp and that is embarrassing!


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:09 am

Taxpayer, Couldn't agree more. For Bowser to openly state he can spend nearly $250,000 by trusting the administrators says he isn't concerned about taxpayers or teachers and classified staff who lose their jobs and then see this happen.

Julie, The baby analogy is a simplification, of course. But just saying we get $9,800 for each student is also a simplification. The reality is that $9,800 is spread out over the entire district, not per student at each school (a school of 500 students does not get all $4,900,000 they generate each year). The issue is there is no will to rebuild what gets funded from the ground up--from the classroom out--and that is not just a PUSD problem.

One side note, there is a report in the press today that states students are hurt by shorter school years: Web Link "The policy brief, called 'Turning Back the Clock: The Inequitable Impact of Shortening California's School Year,' said that charter schools and districts that have increased learning time have seen jumps in test scores, while the opposite is true in districts that have cut school days."


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

Viewed original broadcast of meeting. Was some of the exchange edited for future broadcasts? Rubber stamp is an appropriate term... but, my question would be; how was Trustee Arkin so far out of the loop to not have the information? It was an excellent presentation... Trustee Bowser was certainly out of line!


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Posted by Occupy PUSD
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2011 at 9:06 am

I suggest we (parents and teachers) who are against this funding all show up at the next school board meeting. Those who can't fit in the room can picket outside the building. Maybe even do a P-town version of "occupy". Somehow Bowser, Laursen, and Grant need to get it into their heads that they need to listen to voters. And make sure we vote both Arkin and Hintzke back on the board - they are the only two voices of reason!!


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Posted by new mom
a resident of Foothill High School
on Nov 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

LOVE IT!! Can you let us know what is the date/time/venue of the meeting you want to 'Occupy".... On a different note.. there were some war protesters with signs at all the corners of First and Neal one evening lsat week. I thought we had our own 'Occupy Pleasanton' but I guess not...LOL


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Posted by Gladpatisgone
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Nov 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

Jeff Bowser seems to have taken over for Pat Kernan! I have been shocked at the way he speaks to fellow board members (like Valerie Arkin) and informed citizens at the podium. His condescending tone of voice and paternal attitude remind me of the way Pat used to lecture folks whom he thought challenged staff reports or decisions. Sadly for us, Pat appears to have been proven wrong in his judgment at nearly every corner as just the Signature Properties and COPS disasters show. The people he often spoke out against (Kay Ayala, Cindy Mc Govern and Julie Testa for example) were right more often than he was, a sad legacy after all those years of "service."

This snotty do-as-they-say staff loyalty (rubber stamping) does not belong in the boardroom any longer Jeff. You were elected to-politely-THINK for yourself and not simply regurgitate staff opinions spoon-fed to you. Millions of dollars that could have gone to our kids and teachers have vaporized due to board members like you choosing to ignore people who ask questions and demand answers of our district staff.

We are in a serious pot of trouble right now so if you can't or won't consider these issues carefully and objectively, resign and let someone else do it. The citizens of Pleasanton deserve better.




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Posted by Jill
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2011 at 9:59 am

I wonder why people like Bowser run for office and then tell others who ask legitimate questions of staff of expensive items that they are micromanaging? Does he just like to see himself on TV? Is he protecting his own financial interests since his wife is an employee of the district with tenure? Trustee Arkin had the right and obligation to demand to see the document that they were voting on. If Bowser does not see so, he should step down as he is in the wrong place.

The District desperately needs board members who can think for themselves, research, and ask the needed questions. Especially in these tough financial times. We do not need more rubber stampers. It is embarrassing that the institution that is supposed to be the role model and training our kids for the future acts like this. We have great teachers but what goes on in the district office and board meetings is just wrong and a bad influence on our kids.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

I just watched this part of the board meeting (very frustrating the video is not chapterized so you can view one section), and the dismissive behavior toward Arkin by the other three board members, particularly Bowser, is appalling. They pushed to a vote without even considering Arkin's concerns. As to Bowser's spouse being a tenured teacher, I'd be surprised if she thinks this is a good use of general fund dollars.

During the meeting it was well pointed out by Arkin and Testa that it is before the city completes it process on where additional housing might be placed, before the demographers update their report based on what the city plans, before we know what will happen with state education funding, and at a time when we have no money to build, and no money to operate new facilities if we could build. This expenditure and process can wait, and may be better started over the summer months anyway.

And to Grant's concern for finding efficiencies within current facilities, then why didn't you ask what that study would cost?


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Posted by Where did all the developer fees go?
a resident of California Reflections
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I have a feeling because the developer fees were squandered on other things other than increasing capacity of existing facilities due to residential growth, the District now wants a City/Taypayer Bail Out so that the existing residents can fund the growth themselves.

Ben Tarver always said "development should pay for itself." Well, the PUSD did not spend the developer fees on increasing capacity, and now it wants the existing residents to fund the bail out.


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