http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/10/03/school-forum-puts-financial-crisis-at-forefront


Pleasanton Weekly

News - October 3, 2008

School forum puts financial crisis at forefront

Five of six candidates discuss concerns, goals of schools

by Emily West

Many educational buzz words were used during Tuesday night's school board candidates forum as hopefuls vied for votes.

Five of the six candidates were in attendance at the forum, put on by the Pleasanton PTA Council, Livermore-Amador League of Women Voters and Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin American Association of University Women. Each was allowed to make opening and closing statements, as well as address questions raised from the audience.

Even in a high achieving district that was prepared to face large budget cuts from the state, board members face the challenge of helping the students perform even better.

When asked what she might change, Valerie Arkin said she would like to see a continuation of excellence. The longtime youth advocate, former YMCA program coordinator and library commissioner added that the needs of all students should be met.

Incumbent Chris Grant agreed, saying that intervention programs are important to "catch kids" who are struggling and challenge them.

Other areas of improvement mentioned were class size reduction and moving forward with excellence study recommendations.

Jamie Yee Hintzke, former PTA Council president and excellence committee member, said she would like to chip away at the excellence study list as well and work hard to keep programs, especially language programs.

Jeff Bowser, a former teacher and school administrator, said he wouldn't change much and that the biggest challenge facing the district is the projected "fiscal nightmare."

With the budget in mind, Prasad Rallapalli, principal database architect at Yahoo, said he would encourage more parent and community volunteers to help children learn and receive a "world class education."

Most candidates thought any budget cutting should be kept as far away from the classroom as possible. Arkin thought partnerships could be made with businesses and organizations to gain more funding. Grant and Hintzke were opposed to dipping into reserves, instead saying they would want to find creative ways into finding more money.

The candidates were also asked about students' wellbeing, specifically stress related to increasing API scores, closing the achievement gap of disadvantaged groups, and concerns like poverty, emotional illness and drug abuse. Recent issues facing the district, including the court case involving Neal Elementary School and a parcel tax were not brought up in the audience questions.

Candidate Stephen Page said he didn't attend the forum in protest, citing the "absence of a citizen-centered medium to enable any person to speak directly to the public and share one's values."

Comcast Channel 26 filmed the forum, which will air at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Comments

Posted by Bob, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm



Superintendent Dr. John Casey is employed under a contract which ends June 30, 2010. His annual salary is $227,002, with a 12-month work calendar and 24 days of vacation. Medical and other health insurance may be purchased at his sole expense, and the District contributes $5,000 annually for life insurance premiums. At the completion of each year of the contract where he has worked at least 85% of the days, he receives a payment of $10,000 into a tax-sheltered annuity. He receives $1,000 per month as a transportation allowance and membership in professional organizations as appropriate and necessary. When Dr. Casey moved to Pleasanton, he received a $200,000 loan to help purchase a home in the community. This loan is interest free and must be repaid within 18 months of the termination of his employment. There is no provision or expectation that the loan would be "forgiven." The current balance of this loan is $190,000.