Last week, the district changed the requirement, which originally required seniors to register each year for the exemption. The change brought out a number of people who were upset over the idea of school officials changing language on the ballot measure.
That was not the case, though, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services. She and Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi explained that nothing was changed on the ballot measure; the requirement will remain in place, but the district will do the work to exempt seniors after they register the first year.
That did little to assuage Measure E opponents, such as David Miller, who said the change was confusing.
"Now you're changing in midstream," Miller told the board. "This is unacceptable. Shame on you."
Other opponents said the district had lost their trust. Anne Fox brought an email sent from the principal at one of the district's schools, supporting Measure E. Fox said the email was a violation of both the state education code and the district's email policy.
"I'm really disappointed the district would do this," Fox said.
Raquel Vargas read off a list of the district's highest-paid employees from a recent publication. Three of the top four are assistant superintendents Luz Casares, Cindy Galbo and Bill Faraghan, all of whom make more than $200,000, including pension contributions by the district and miscellaneous expenses. Ahmadi, who was not listed by Vargas, makes $220,000.
Julie Testa repeated her claim that a refunding done by the district was illegal; Cazares said, however, that what the district did was standard practice across the state until an opinion from then-Attorney General Jerry Brown said it wasn't. Cazares noted that no district was ever prosecuted for breaking the law.
Doug Miller said it's not only Measure E opponents who don't trust the district.
"Neither side trusts the board. If they trusted the board ... there would be no restrictions," he said, referring to the measure's wording that requires the board to spend the money on specific items.
He, like some of the other opponents, criticized Cazares for the way she explained step and column increases that will add up to $15 million in the four years while Measure E, if passed, will raise about $8 million.
Two pro-Measure E supporters spoke, with Bill Clatworthy noting that each generation is responsible for the education of the next, and Andrea Stokoe, who said quality education helps keep property values high.
In her report to the board, Ahmadi steered the conversation away from budget cuts and Measure E and pointed toward some positives in the district. She noted, for example, that many graduating students have been accepted to several colleges, giving them their pick of colleges. She also noted that Pleasanton students excel in everything from science fairs to the arts and have won state level competitions across the board.
In her briefing about the fiscal outlook for the district and the state's budget, Cazares said there was good news: California state revenues were up $1 billion in March, more than originally projected. State officials also realized one of the assumption made last year -- projected profits from the sale of buildings -- was a bad assumption, and removed that from budget calculations. Although that wound up with a net loss for the state in March, Cazares said that, too, was good news, because it made budget projections more realistic.
Cazares also said if Gov. Brown goes to an all-cut budget as he's threatened to do, the district could have to cut its budget $3 million to $5.4 million for the 2011-12 school year. In addition, she said the district could be looking at $7 million in cuts for 2012-13.
With no budget passed, plans to put a tax extension on the ballot on hold, and Proposition 98, which guarantees a minimum payment from the state -- with annual increases -- likely to be suspended by the Legislature, school officials are waiting for the governor's revised budget, the May revise, to find out where they stand.
The board also heard a report on a proposed new homework policy that would set standards for the amount of time each grade should spend on assignments and require more coordination between teachers when assigning homework. The policy is set to go before the board for a vote in May.
The district is also considering a seal of bi-literacy for students who are proficient in a language in addition to English. That seal would appear on transcripts and diplomas; if approved, Pleasanton would be the first district in Alameda County to have such a program.
Trevor Knaggs, president of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT), said in his regular address to the board that teachers, parents and students from across the state plan to hold a sit-in at the state capital next month to pressure legislators to pass the tax extensions bogged down in the Legislature.
"We've given everything and we can't give more," Knaggs told the board. He said the week of May 9-13 will be "action week," with each day focusing on one of the letters in L-E-A-R-N. May 9, for example, will focus on Legislative activities.
The board also approved an agreement that will let special education students continue to receive services from Alameda County through the end of the school year, with the district picking up the tab for any new students who are added. The district will be required to pay for services in the future, and has budgeted $1.7 for that in the upcoming school year.