http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/06/08/pusd-banks-on-furlough-days-restores-programs-and-jobs


Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 8, 2012

PUSD banks on furlough days, restores programs and jobs

Could see schools shut down four days, saving $1.8 million

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton School District is apparently banking on furlough days to balance its budget for the upcoming school year.

An agreement between the Pleasanton School District and the California School Employees Association would actually add $60,000 to the district's budget if furlough days aren't implemented. That's in addition to the extra $380,000 cost to the district in its recent agreement with the Association of Pleasanton Teachers for teacher training: $250 per day for six hours of training for up to three days per teacher.

The CSEA, like management and the teachers union, agreed to up to four furlough days, which would be triggered by reductions to the state's funding formula known as base revenue limits, what the state gets per child. If the state reduces the limits by between $243 to $274, CSEA workers would get one furlough day, and get a second furlough day if the limits get cut from between $275 to $306.

Each furlough day for all employees would save the district $450,000, so if all four were implemented due to another round of state budget cuts, the district would save $1.8 million.

"What that enables the district to do is essentially close down, unfortunately, on these furlough days," said Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources.

The union concessions were enough for the board to bring back more than $1.3 million of the $2.2 million in cuts to programs it made earlier this year.

In a lengthy discussion, board members Valerie Arkin and Jamie Hintzke pushed specifically for the return of the popular Barton Reading Program. The board voted unanimously to approve the equivalent of one more reading intervention support person than recommended by the district, bumping the cost for reading support $80,000, to $400,000.

A separate motion made by Arkin and seconded by Hintzke to add one extra reading specialist specifically for Barton failed on a vote of 2 to 3.

Board Member Chris Grant said the experts, not the school board, should decide how to allocate money for reading.

Grant said principals, reading specialists and teachers should "come together and say, 'With a limited amount of resources ... how can we have the biggest impact on kids and help them advance?'"

Board President Joan Laursen pointed out that the Barton program was one of the tools those experts would consider when putting together what Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi asked for: a "district-wide, centrally located" reading program.

The board had less disagreement in its decision to bring back other programs and jobs, which include the equivalent of 5.1 full-time counselors at a cost of $408,000, although Arkin said she would have like to see more counselors added.

Other restorations include $400,000 for the equivalent of five full-time physical education specialists at elementary schools; $64,000 for added sections at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools; and $100,000 for the regional occupational program that offers career-based courses at both high schools.

The board is also considering an additional $213,750 in restorations as a result of the CSEA agreement. Those would include an extra hour per day of technology specialists and reading specialists at each elementary school at a cost of just over $101,000; $65,500 to bring back some custodial services at middle schools; and the equivalent of a full-time maintenance worker at a cost of $45,000.

Eight of the middle school library specialists turned out to stump for extra hours at middle school libraries, which the board could consider adding at its next meeting June 19.

Meanwhile, in other budget matters, the board learned that Prop 98, which was designed to protect school funding, "has become meaningless," according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services. Cazares said a recent court ruling allowed the state to use accounting techniques that basically invalidate the law.

The board also approved the hiring of five mental health clinicians. Recent changes in state law put the responsibilities for handling student mental health in the control of school district, without money coming from the county.

In other actions at its meeting Tuesday, the board accepted a donation of a new state-of-the-art video scoreboard from the Foothill High School Athletic Boosters, valued at $210,000. Board member Jeff Bowser, a Foothill graduate, quipped, "It's bigger than the one at Amador."

The board also:

* Introduced its new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Odie Douglas;

* Approved a schedule for school board meeting next year;

* Heard a report from the Pleasanton PTA Council, which has added PTAs at Hart Middle School and Valley View Elementary. PTA Council President Jodie Vashistha said PTA volunteers contributed 99,994 hours over the last year. At $20 an hour, she said that would have come to $1,999,880.

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