http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/05/31/pusd-declines-smaller-class-sizes-for-second-grade


Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 31, 2013

PUSD declines smaller class sizes for second grade

Board members refuse to add agenda item as requested by parents

by Glenn Wohltmann

With their successful campaign for smaller class sizes in first grade behind them, about 10 parents came back to the Pleasanton school board Tuesday night, this time asking for smaller second-grade classes.

The new campaign was begun by Emmeline Chen, one of six parents who asked for an agenda item addressing second-grade class size reductions. As in their last campaign, parents cited studies that show smaller class sizes are among the biggest factors in student success.

Parent Sharolyn Borris said she's had two children who had very different experiences after class sizes were raise to 30-1. Borris said with larger classes, there's no room for things like a cash register that her older child and classmates used for educational play.

"It is a disservice to these children to have larger class sizes," she told the board.

Chen has raised $34,720 from 84 individuals and families for smaller second-grade classes, but the request made by her and other parents didn't fly with the school board. No one on the board requested the item be added to the next agenda, set for June 4.

Earlier this month, the school board contributed $112,000 on top of $213,000 donated by Pleasanton Partnerships in Education to shift class sizes for first-graders from 30 students per classroom to 25.

In other items Tuesday night, the board heard a budget update that shows the district stands to get an extra $2.5 million from the state to help pay for Common Core, standards that are being implemented across the country. Common Core focuses on depth of knowledge and requires students to do more critical thinking, and was designed so that students could transfer to any other school in the country without difficulty and so that all high school graduates will be college ready.

The district also may receive $976,000 for energy efficient projects, and, according to Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares, will probably not have to do short-term borrowing as it has in recent years when the state delayed distributing money that was due to schools.

The board also heard a lengthy report on possible development on the city's east side, near the chain of lakes by El Charro Road. Brian Dolan, the city's director of community development, outlined four scenarios for growth that ranged from 1,000 housing units, mostly single-family homes, to 1,700 housing units, largely multi-family housing.

Dolan wanted school board members to consider whether the district would want reserve space for an elementary school in the area, and if so, where it should go and how long the city should hold the parcel.

Board Member Chris Grant ran through some quick numbers and came up with 738 potential new students, based on the average number of children per household and the average of about 1,300 homes in the area under consideration.

"That would create the need for a new elementary," Grant said, adding he'd like to see an update of the school district demographer's report, due out in mid June.

"I think we need to look at a new school site," he said, with general agreement by other board members.

Board President Jeff Bowser pointed out there's no immediate need, since the housing wouldn't be built all at once.

"It's all dependent on how many units are built," Bowser said, "As we go through this process, I think we can come to a reasonable conclusion."

Other board members questioned whether a developer could be persuaded to donate land to the district, as has been done in the San Ramon Valley school district.

The board also named new vice principals for elementary and middle schools. Jessica Brooks from Amador Valley High School will spend half her time as vice principal and the other half as teacher, both at Hart Middle School.

Jill Butler, from Pleasanton Middle School, will be a fulltime principal, dividing her time between Harvest Park and Pleasanton middle schools.

Jake Berg of Lydiksen Elementary, Julie Berglin of Fairlands, and Elias Muniz Rodriguez of Valley View will each become fulltime elementary vice principals, although which schools they'll be at has yet to be determined.

The board also accepted two $18,000 matching grants from Google to participate in a program designed to help close the achievement gap and get minority and poor students on track to take more advanced classes. One grant will go to Amador and be used in the 2014-15 school year. The second will go to Foothill, beginning in 2016.

The grants, Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said, are "just to find kids that are capable and supporting them."

Both grants will also focus on middle school students who should be in tougher classes.

The program will include, among other things, outreach to parents after specific students are identified.

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