News


Pleasanton school board OKs early retirement buyout plan

Program would replace older teachers with newer ones at lower pay

Teachers eligible for retirement will be offered an extra incentive to bow out early under a plan approved Tuesday night by the Pleasanton school board.

The plan would offer 75% of a teacher's final year's salary to those who decide to retire, with the district saving money by hiring newer teachers at lesser pay. Administrators and non-certificated employees would not be eligible.

To make the plan work, nearly 60 teachers would have to choose retirement, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services.

"We need 59 eligible employees," Cazares told board members. "That's about 35% of eligible employees."

The offer would be cancelled if fewer than the 59 required sign up.

"This is going to be difficult to achieve," said Dennis Hu from the Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS). "It may be a long shot."

PARS is a private company that specializes in buyouts of this kind.

Hu said his firm has worked with public-sector employers from San Diego and Los Angeles to San Francisco. The district would pay PARS 5% of the total payouts to administer the program for five years or at least $5,000 per year.

The district estimated 17 retirements through natural attrition. Currently, up to five retiring teachers could take an existing early retirement incentive of a one-time payout of nearly $38,000 or annual health care costs of about $6,800 until they're 65, when Medicare benefits kick in, or 60-84 months, whichever comes first. Those who take the PARS deal would not be eligible for the district's incentive.

PARS's initial estimate was that 41 teachers -- about 24% of those eligible for the buyout -- would take its offer, which would actually cost the district more than $426,000 over the five-year length of the payouts. The district would still cover health care costs until the retiree is 65.

The number needed for the plan to work could be lower than 59 if enough higher-paid employees sign up and could be higher if lower-paid employees take the deal. The PARS plan is based on an average salary of an incoming employee at about $62,000 a year and an average of about $90,000 for those retiring. Those numbers were provided by the district for PARS to make its calculations.

"This program is about math," said Board Member Jeff Bowser. "It's taking an expensive teacher and replacing (that teacher) with a less expensive teacher."

Bowser abstained from the final vote because his wife, who is a teacher in the Pleasanton district, would be eligible for the buyout, although he said she has no intention of retiring.

While Board Member Jamie Hintzke worried that the district could lose experienced teachers, Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi noted that many of them do return as mentors and substitutes.

Board President Joan Laursen said the deal could save jobs.

"This means we wouldn't have to lay off 59 teachers," she said.

Trevor Knaggs, president of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT), said he also supported the plan.

Teachers who opt for the PARS plan would have to sign up by April 27 and would need to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation. If enough employees don't sign up, the district would void those termination letters.

If too few take the option for the district to go ahead with the plan, PARS would get a one-time fee of $3,500.

The district would pay 15% of the salaries of each retiring employee through PARS for five years for the 75% total.

To be eligible, an employee must be 55 or older with five or more years in the district or 50 years or older with 30 or more years. Employees who take the buyout would have the option of getting paid the 75% of their salaries over the course of five to 15 years or to get a smaller amount annually for the rest of their lives.

Budget

In other budget matters, Cazares said the district might have to cut another $8.5 million from its budget in the 2013-14 school year if school revenue proposals don't pass in November. There are currently three different packages that could offer districts across the state financial relief.

In a presentation of the district's current financial state, Cazares said it currently has nearly $6.7 million in undesignated reserves, with an unexpected $217,000 it received from lottery sales. With no increase in state funding, those reserves would drop to about $181,000 for the 2012-13 school year and to a deficit of $8.5 million the following year.

In a lengthy discussion that included invoking Robert's Rules of Order several times, the board agreed to discuss taking money from the Sycamore Fund to pay for a facilities master plan study.

Board Member Valerie Arkin made the motion to put that on the board's next agenda.

Arkin also wanted to discuss the possibility of postponing the study and included that in her motion, which was disallowed on a point of order by Laursen. Arkin's following motion, to postpone the study, fell flat with no support by Laursen, Bowser or Board Member Chris Grant.

The Sycamore Fund was established through the sale of district property. It was initially set up for technology upgrades but has been used in recent years as a source for revolving loans. The fund once stood at more than $7.2 million but now holds just shy of $4.8 million, with more than $2.4 million owed by the district.

Homework

Budget matters may not matter for kids, but homework does, and a review of district homework policy adopted last year shows most students -- and many parents -- still think they have too much. That flies in the face of teacher responses to a survey done of parents, teachers and students.

The survey shows 29% of parents and 53% of students think too much homework is assigned while only 3% of teachers agreed. Students and parents also thought more homework was being assigned while only 1% of teachers thought that was the case.

One thing they all agreed on: Although the percentages differed, there still is difficulty in coordinating homework assignments between teachers so that students aren't deluged with homework on some nights with much less other nights. That, board members agreed, needs to be handled on a school-by-school basis.

Jane Golden, director of curriculum and special projects pointed to one school, Harvest Park Middle School, as moving in the right direction; the school now uses Google's calendar feature to coordinate assignments between teachers.

While students still claim they're getting homework on weekends and holidays, Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services, said a part of that may be procrastination by students who are given an assignment early in the week and wait until the last minute to complete it.

Many students reported they never use social media, text or surf the Internet when they're doing homework, but Laursen, a parent herself, was skeptical.

"Sorry, students, I don't believe you," she said.

The student member of the board, Sherya Gupta, said she'd talked to her friends about homework and that many agree there has been a shift, with less homework in general. Gupta said that's not the case for students taking several advanced placement (AP) courses, many of whom work hours each night. Board members pointed out that AP courses aren't covered under the district's policy for homework.

Transitional Kindergarten

The board also gave its final approval to begin transitional kindergarten in the upcoming school year. The plan would initially offer a kind of pre-kindergarten for students who turn 5 in November of the school year, but could be expanded to those who turn 5 in October and September. Based on current funding figures from the state, at a 30 to 1 ratio, the district would actually make more than $200 even if the state doesn't fund the program until those students are actually 5 years old, although the current plan is to fund the program from the start of the school year.

The meeting lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours and action on several items was postponed until the next board meeting, set for March 27.

Comments

Posted by Question, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

Wow! PARS was the supplementary retirement program that initiated the successful recall of 4 members of the St. Helena school board. Is this the same PARS program? It was promoted as a way for teachers to take early retirement and only non-management certificated employees (teachers) were eligible because according to their Board meeting, this would save money because less experienced teachers would be hired with less pay to replace the older teachers.

Then in St. Helena, it all went haywire!

Administrators that were management certificated employees started taking the PARS golden-handshake, even though that was never mentioned in the original adoption of PARS. So it ended up being the MANAGEMENT Golden Handshake.

Non-management certificated employees were not eligible, then they started taking the PARS golden handshake, and didn't save the District money, because you don't save money by replacing an administrator with another administrator. All of a sudden, Management Certificated Employees became eligible.

The article says for Pleasanton-
To be eligible, an employee must be 55 or older with five or more years in the district or 50 years or older with 30 or more years.

Is that management and non-management?


Posted by Parent and Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

"Bowser abstained from the final vote because his wife, who is a teacher in the Pleasanton district, would be eligible for the buyout, although he said she has no intention of retiring."

I used to think we only had 3 yes people and that Arkin and Hintzke were good, but it seems they too, are yes people.

With Bowser abstaining, there is no way this would have passed unless either Arkin or Hintzke also voted yes.

This november I hope more people run for the board and we can clean house. Getting rid of Grant, it seems, won't be enough.


Posted by Parent and Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:52 am

"While students still claim they're getting homework on weekends and holidays, Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services, said a part of that may be procrastination by students who are given an assignment early in the week and wait until the last minute to complete it.
"

Not really. I know of a middle school teacher (regular, not honors or gate class) who gives kids too much homework, and it has nothing to do with procrastination by students.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

I was listening to the meeting. I think it's designed for teachers, but the other groups can also take advantage of it if they want to. I could have misunderstood though - it wasn't all that clear.


Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

The article here is not correct, according to the school board members. The vote this week was to authorize $3500 for the consultant to further analyze the early retirement, not the approval. That is unless the staff mislead the board members. It will come back to the board after the analysis is completed and there is enough interest, and the consultant (who will make a lot of money if it is approved) says it is good financially for the district. Then they can look at the numbers again and make the final approval. If the newspaper feels the vote was the official ok, please respond as maybe some board members were duped into voting for this.


Posted by raise your kids, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

Pre-kindergarten? How about mommy and daddy raising their own kids rather than expecting the taxpayers to pay for what will amount to pre-school and daycare?


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

Just read the whole article, it says this is just for teachers and other groups are not eligible. Long time parent - they made it clear in the meeting this is just a test and the maximum exposure at this point is $3500. They will only go ahead if it breaks even.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

Here are my concerns:

1. There is a projected deficit of $8.3 million in 2013-14. If more cuts happen, how will it feel to those losing jobs while others are home with a nice bonus?
2. Why are we starting at 75%? Why not $3,500 for two years (or three or four . . . ) or start at 10%?
3. Why are we needing to pay PARS 5% of the retirement amount to monitor the fund? Do we not have a business department to do that?

I have asked that this be checked, but I believe the board only approved the research, not to go ahead with the payout.


Posted by Gwen, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:41 am

Alright, that does it. I've given money to the schools until it hurts, just like every other taxpayer in this economically depressed city. But I'm fed up. $3500??? When kids knock on my door asking for help to go to Europe or some other fancy place, instead of saying no like I have in the passed I'm going to say NO!!!!!!!


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

And I forgot

4. If you rehire people being cut, like counselors or reading specialists (who are likely higher than the bottom of the salary schedule), you will not get a 1:1 savings. 59 leave and maybe you save 40 jobs from the cut list.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

Cute Gwen, It isn't $3,500; it's more like $15,000/year for five years (top end teachers can make $98,000). And why would you hurt kids?


Posted by No pre-school, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:35 am

I'm with 'raise your kids'. Sign up for Gingerbread pre-school, which is SUPER, and the city 'makes' money. The system, college degrees, everything is set for K -12, not pre-school. It would only be for 'some', which would amount to sitting for those parents who don't plan ahead. Pre-school is 2 hours, maybe 3 days/week, otherwise it is called child care. More transportation and shuffling. How many rooms would need to be built? Increased number of care attendants required would raise the cost per child....right back to 'bad proposition'. Not now.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

I guess pre-K will be 30-1 like everyone else in 2012/13. Now that will be interesting . . . !


Posted by No pre-school, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

The average teacher at retirement age makes $90,000...plus all the benefits, for a 10 mo. job.?....how sweet . And newhire salary of $62,000. is a pretty good place to start !


Posted by Question, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:48 am

I just looked. The resolution adopts the plan and approves it.

Web Link

It says that if not enough is make it viable, it won't be implemented.

Also the actual text of the resolution has nothing in it to distinguish who exactly is eligible that I can find.


Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:51 am

This whole deal seems like it is meant to confuse the public enough so the administration can present to their friends a gift. They say it is for non-management only. Am sure they will get around that somehow at the last moment. Remember, it is also the consultant company that stands to make 5% of the total deposits. So they will be working real hard to make it look like this early retirement is a good deal for the district.

There is a lot of money involved here in the administration of the plan. Are there other companies that do this? Did the district go out to bid on this or did they just contact one of their friends and are giving the deal to them? I thought the district had to go out to bid on contracts over a certain dollar amount. I would imagine that if this goes through, the dollar amount will be significantly more than the threshold. Something fishy going on here.

I agree with Kathleen that even if this goes through, teachers will still be layed off. So some teachers will get a bonus for retiring and others will just loose their jobs. Talk about a messed up system. This will make it quite difficult to hire good teachers in the future knowing our district is willing to give compensation to those are older (and only have to be at the district for 5 years) and laying off just about anybody else. If you are a good up and coming teacher, would you want to risk this in the future?


Posted by Marie, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

The PUSD Board cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that you will save 59 teachers from receiving layoffs and then say this incentive will save the district the difference in salary between a first year teacher and a retiring teacher. Those teachers who (and rightfully so) do not get layed off have a salary higher than a first year teacher. Guess they think we are not intelligent enough to figure this out.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Mar 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

is there a way to get in on the handout even if you've taught school?


Posted by Barton Parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm

No money to teach kids how to read but there is money for this? I used to think Grant was good but now I think he was just riding in the wake of Jim Ott and Juanita Haugen. The three nitwits need to be gone, maybe by recall unless they can demonstrate they understand the first priority of a school district is to TEACH ALL CHILDREN TO READ.


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