Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 25, 2010

Casey says goodbye as school board members Arkin, Hintzke block expenditures

One fund saves music programs, another falls short of sparing technology specialists from cuts

by Glenn Wohltmann

A farewell to retiring Superintendent John Casey and wrangling over money took up the bulk of Tuesday night's school board meeting in Pleasanton.

The meeting was Casey's last before he leaves the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD), and he was presented with three plaques; from the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA); from the Pleasanton Teachers Association and from Pleasanton Partnerships In Education (PPIE).

Alex Sutton, president of the CSEA, recalled Casey as being "tough on decisions, soft on people."

"If I was to evaluate you, John, I'd say you meet district standards," Sutton joked.

Teacher's union President Trevor Knaggs told the board that in order to learn a bit more about Casey, he Googled the name. He learned that "John Casey" is not only the Pleasanton district's superintendent, but he's also a surgeon, a NASA consultant and a character on the British television show Dr. Who, which is why he's always so busy, Knaggs said.

"Happy trails, Dr. Casey," Knaggs told him.

Judge Ron Hyde, president of the Pleasanton Partners in Education (PPIE) Foundation and a retiree himself, gave Casey an appointment book in addition to a plaque, explaining that's something he gives all fellow retirees so they can keep track of all their spare time.

Money issues dominated the remainder of the meeting. The board received a check for $160,000, the first of two installments from Pleasanton-based ValleyCare Health System.

"We would like to pay for two nurses for two years," said Ken Mercer, the outgoing president of the ValleyCare Foundation told the board. That will bring the number of full time equivalent nurses from one to three. Mercer is also retiring from his hospital post.

The board also learned that the Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE) foundation had raised enough money to save elementary and middle school music programs for the upcoming year.

However, PPIE has fallen short of its most immediate goal of paying for four hours of technology specialists at elementary and middle schools through its CORE (Community OutReach for Education) campaign. Casey recommended borrowing $23,867 from the $4.3 million the board has available from its sale of the Sycamore property years ago. That idea was met with opposition from board members Jamie Hintzke and Valery Arkin.

"We're talking about pulling money out of the Sycamore fund to backfill this and that makes me nervous," Hintzke said.

The CORE campaign will continue through the summer, with coupon books for local merchants being sold at a number of locations, and donations being sought from parents of incoming and summer school students.

"If we don't raise the money, how will we pay it back?" Arkin asked. Taking money from the Sycamore fund requires a four-vote approval rather than a simple majority of three out of the five members. Arkin and Hintzke voted against it and the motion was defeated, leaving CORE to raise the remainder itself.

Taking money from the Sycamore fund to pay for textbooks also was opposed by Arkin and Hintzke. The district recommended spending $350,100 on advanced high school math and Spanish texts and had worked out a deal with a publisher to provide three years of math books for grades three to five and pay for them over five years, but that required a legal move, taking money temporarily from the Sycamore fund to offset the cost.

Again, since that required a four-vote majority, the motion failed with opposition from Hintzke and Arkin. Instead, the board approved buying a single year of elementary math for third graders at a cost of $135,000. A second motion, which added the advanced high school textbooks at an additional $11,100 also was approved.

The board formally approved the budget it had tentatively agreed upon last month with minor changes, and agreed to back a lawsuit suing the state of California, which would require the state to pay for mandated programs.

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