Opinion - November 12, 2010
A persuasive voice for a school parcel tax
If the Pleasanton school board is going to ask voters again next year to pass a parcel tax, as is likely, it can count on its new superintendent Parvin Ahmadi to be a persuasive advocate. Ahmadi is winning praise both for her early leadership in the district and at board meetings but also for her frequent public appearances before community forums. Just last week she won loud applause from the Tri-Valley Realtors' Network and with good reason. She said what every Realtor likes to hear: Pleasanton schools are among the best in the state and her goal is to make them even better. In these depressed housing market times, when people move, they look for communities such as ours that have ongoing business and retail development and, above all, top ranked schools for their children to attend. Ahmadi praised community support, especially the fund-raising efforts by organizations such as the Pleasanton Partners in Education (PPIE) Foundation and the Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE) organization. Without those contributions, reading and science specialists who Ahmadi considers essential for a high-achieving district might have been dismissed. But the district's economic woes are not over, which is why the district's budget is among her four main goals for her first year as superintendent. Right now the district is looking at cuts of about $7 million in fiscal year 2011-12. A parcel tax, which failed to garner the necessary two-thirds plus one votes last year, would help. An outside advisory group recommended asking voters again to approve a parcel tax, a proposal that will go to the board for a vote in January.
Ahmadi told Realtors that their strength in "selling" Pleasanton is that our nine elementary, three middle and two comprehensive high schools are about the same size, all are top performers in state and national test standards, and all offer the same curriculum. Valley View Elementary also offers dual immersion classes from kindergarten through fifth grade in Spanish, but those classes are open to students from throughout the district. Both Foothill and Amador Valley high schools have just under 2,500 students, middle schools have about 1,000 students and most elementary schools are in the 600-700 student population range. Unlike in Fremont, where Ahmadi was assistant superintendent, potential buyers looking for homes in Pleasanton don't have to worry about where to buy or which school their children might attend. They're all about the same in size and quality. In Fremont, she noted, location does matter among its 42 schools, with housing prices higher near Mission High and selected elementary schools. Even moving near a school doesn't assure the student will go there. This year, Fremont had to move 800 students out of the schools they'd been assigned just two weeks after they had settled in because of overcrowding at what parents considered to be the better schools.
Ahmadi's talk no doubt persuaded one large Realtor's group to back a parcel tax if it goes to Pleasanton voters next year.