http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/06/07/pusd-will-hear-plea-for-smaller-2nd-grade-classes


Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 7, 2013

PUSD will hear plea for smaller 2nd-grade classes

Change unlikely without more information on state funding

by Glenn Wohltmann

About 20 parents hoping for smaller classes for second-graders were out again at the Pleasanton school board meeting Tuesday night, and they will get their request for an agenda item on the issue.

Even as they agreed to discuss it as part the district's priorities, board members made it clear that adding the teachers needed for smaller classes is unlikely.

"The possibility of us being able to change things," Board President Jeff Bowser said, "is slim to none."

He said the district is "still in cardiac arrest."

Susan Case was among the nine parents who spoke at the meeting asking for smaller second-grade classes.

"We're a handful of people that are here today, but behind us there are 10, 12 people willing to put their money behind it, their hearts behind it," Case told the board.

Emmeline Chin said her grassroots fundraising effort begun last month has raised $42,000 for smaller classes in second grade, along with $7,000 for smaller kindergarten classes and $5,000 for smaller third-grade classes.

"These numbers communicate the high value priority of CSR (class size reduction)," she said.

Last month the board voted to contribute $112,000 to reduce class sizes in first grade after Pleasanton Partnerships in Education donated $213,000 toward the reduction.

While the board is barred by law from commenting on non-agenda items brought to meetings by the public, it added a discussion of bringing the issue up at its June 18 meeting.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said the district will probably not be able to make budget decisions at that meeting.

"We expect the budget to be approved in June," Ahmadi said. "That doesn't mean it will get passed. On June 18, we won't have any more information, I believe."

Bowser and Board Member Valerie Arkin said they support the idea of smaller classes. Member Joan Laursen said she wanted to see the impact of a new state funding formula before making decisions, and Member Jamie Hintzke said she wanted the board to look at all its priorities before making a decision about smaller classes. Board Member Chris Grant was absent.

The June 18 meeting is the last before the school board breaks for the summer. Its next meeting is set for Aug. 20, eight days before school starts, Hintzke said.

"There's no way we could add another grade level (for smaller classes) even if we wanted to," she said.

In other issues at its meeting, the board learned that the bulk of its students are college ready. Some groups, including African American and Hispanic students are less prepared for college than their classmates, with 67% of black students and 47% of Hispanics deemed unable to do college math, for example.

The board also discussed the possibility of eliminating class rankings. Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services, said high achieving high schools are already doing away with rankings, and that many colleges consider activities and service among other things in deciding whether to take an applicant.

In addition, some students are disappointed when they learn that, for instance, someone with a 4.0 grade average at Amador would be ranked 92nd in the class.

"The bottom line is this -- more of your students will get accepted to four-year schools if you eliminate class rank," Johnson said.

The board also heard about a plan to make students more fit, by making the district's physical education standards more stringent, by more closely monitoring student fitness, and by better communication with parents.

PE teacher Terry Drain told the board that 19% of students fall into the category "needs improvement, high risk," which means they could be at risk for diseases later in life. Drain said only 32% of fifth-grade students are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

The board also heard a report on maintenance that's been postponed for years. The current estimate is that it would take more than $2.7 million to do the repairs that are needed.

Director of Maintenance Larry Lagatta said the highest priorities at the moment are to replace carpet at a cost of $245,000 and to do $145,000 in roof work.

"We've been trying to hold the ship together, but it's getting kind of rickety," Lagatta told the board. "If we have money, we need to put it into roofing and carpeting."

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