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Big decisions to be made at tonight's board meeting

Original post made on Feb 24, 2009

The Pleasanton Unified School District board will face two hot issues tonight: budget cuts and a parcel tax.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 6:26 AM

Comments (20)

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Posted by Cliff
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

For those that are too busy trying to keep their heads above water to follow this controversy, I offer the Cliff Notes version of the next few months …

The crowd will gather and stomp their feet. Shouts will be heard throughout the room. There will be emotional speeches about how the children must be saved and everyone will revel in the atmosphere and cheer.

Then the parcel tax proposal will be placed on a special election ballot.

The measure will be soundly defeated because it requires a super majority and anyone that has bothered to read a newspaper or watch a TV newscast in the last year realizes that every public organization is in the same boat. And the voters know that they are going to have to foot the bill through numerous taxes and fees that will be assessed without a vote, so they won't choose to tax themselves further. Then some enterprising reporter will investigate and find out that the cost of the election vastly exceeded the estimates offered to the public. And everyone will publicly claim shock and dismay that these things could possibly happen.

Next two things will happen:

The community will come together and raise part of the projected shortfall.

And.

The unions that represent the workers of the PUSD will renegotiate their various packages to keep most or all of their affected members employed. Because, frankly, what choice will they have? And it will still be a better deal than most have in the private sector.

Of course there will be the usual outraged cries … 'we are doing this for your kids!' and 'I only work here to serve the community'. But anyone who is old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus knows there is more to the story than altruism.

The reality is that working for the PUSD is not a volunteer position. It's a job. It's a job that comes with a pay check, a benefit package, and a pension. And like every other job in the world, it is subject to the restrictions of economics and the rule of supply and demand.

But public appearances must be upheld, so sit back and watch your tax dollars at work.


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Posted by J the Kid
a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Times are tough and this is probably the worst time to be laid off. So my heart goes out to all those who are affected or will be affected by the current budget crisis.

One door closes and another opens.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Cliff,

Appreciate reading your comments and insight. I am a parent of children who will be entering Kindergarten in the PUSD this fall. I'd also note that I, myself, am being laid off from my job. Unfortunately, I can't attend tonight's school board meeting.

That said, I've read many comments for and against support of the parcel tax. Myself, I have mixed feelings about it.

For me to vote for it, and encourage others to, I would want to see the following enacted by the school board (and keep in mind I'm a parent that will have 2 children in the PUSD system starting this fall). I've previously posted some of these suggestions. Some of those that I previously posted I was subsequently advised by others more 'in the know' on educational rules and regs can't be enacted, so I've deleted those that I've been told aren't allowable under current laws governing school district operations. Again, I don't have all the answers to this situation, but if I was at tonight's meeting, this is what I would stand up and propose to the school board to consider as cost-saving ideas/suggestions that are worth seriously considering, with or without passage of the parcel tax:

1. Public Information Officer position eliminated. This is a luxury for PUSD that can no longer be justified paying a full-time salary for. PUSD can certainly survive without a PIO.

2. All vice principal positions eliminated, and any and all support (i.e., assistants, etc.) and administrative positions also eliminated. These are also luxuries that can no longer be afforded in these unprecedented, lean economic times. Maximize funding for retaining as many as those possible on the front lines, the teachers.

3. Mr. Casey's entire contract, including his salary and perks (i.e., allowances, housing subsidy, etc.) to be renegotiated by the school board. His salary alone, at $227,000 annually, should be reduced by $75,000, with all other perks, aside from insurance and pension (presumably CalPERS) benefits, including his special housing subsidy, eliminated. If he feels that he and his family can't live on $152,000, then I recommend he find employment elsewhere. If he refuses to have his contract renegotiated, pursue whatever legal action is required to either get him to the negotiating table or to fire him. The Pleasanton City Manager, Nelson Fialho, makes approx. $155,000 annually, plus benefits, and I would argue that Mr. Fialho has as much, if not more, responsibility and workload as does Mr. Casey. $75,000 saved by PUSD from paying Mr. Casey I think would fund at least 1 full-time teacher position, or 2 part-time ones. Mr. Casey's sacrifice is a small price to pay, I think.

4. No more funding of political campaigns by the California Teachers Association. I believe they contributed approximately $1.8 million to fight passage of the recently passed Proposition 8 in last November's election. While I understand that teachers elect to contribute into the CTA's fund, the CTA should either discourage those contributions entirely, or better yet, redirect them right back into the California school system as a donation from teachers/the CTA, with each school district in the state getting 100% of the portion of the money donated from teachers of each respective school district that otherwise would be spent on this political lobbying.

5. If Sunol and Castlewood residents, or any other residents/property owners (besides seniors) outside of Pleasanton are exempted from paying the parcel tax, if it passes, and they have children that would be or are attending/assigned to a PUSD school, based on PUSD rules, then they MUST agree to pay the exact same parcel tax amount assessed to all Pleasanton property owners, which would be a special fee billed to them representing the exact same amount of the parcel tax, in lieu of them paying the parcel tax through their property tax bill.

6. Owners of rental units in Pleasanton who rent to parents of children attending PUSD schools can raise those specific renters' rent to an amount equal to the approved parcel tax amount, so those parents are also, in effect, paying the same school-related tax. The property owner would then be required to pass along that additional amount to PUSD. In lieu of the property owner assessing and forwarding that amount, the renters themselves would have to agree to pay an amount equal to the parcel tax directly to PUSD. No free ride/exemption for them.

7. 100 percent of the parcel tax, if passed, to be used for retaining as many teachers as possible. The funds raised from the parcel tax cannot be spent on any other purpose. The school board to approve an exception to parcel tax funds being put into the general fund in order to allow this to happen. This would help retain Class Size Reduction, and again, maximize funding on the maintaining the front lines, the teachers.

8. No pay raises/pay freeze for anyone working in PUSD until 2011 at the earliest.

Again, I don't have all the answers, and I wish I could present these ideas in person, but by putting these out here in this forum for discussion, I hope that perhaps they'll at least be shared by others with the school board tonight for their serious consideration.


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Posted by Silent Majority
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Concerned Parent:

No Naysayers are going to speak up tonight, as was the case in all the prior meetings. The silent majority has taken an oath of silence in public and only reliefs their anger and frustrations on this message board. They're waiting for a leader to rise up and spearhead this revolt against the almighty Casey and his powerful teachers' union.

Until then, don't expect anyone to deliver your message for you. If you feel so compelled to do so, please attend and speak up tonight. It's now or never.


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Posted by julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm

julie is a registered user.

I'm curious about something that I apparently don't understand. I've heard comments about how renters wouldn't have to pay a parcel tax and how, especially if they are parents, that it's unfair. Wouldn't the owner of their building pay the parcel tax? It's not like somehow that building is exempt, is it? Wouldn't property owners of all types (single family, apartment complexes, etc.) have to pay a parcel tax, or would it only be levied on single family dwellings? Thanks.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Julie, I think someone pointed out in another thread that as businesses and apartment complexes are treated as one parcel, they would pay whatever that tax is: you pay $150, they pay $150, people who own property and don't have kids in the schools pay $150.

Here's what I'm hoping staff will explain tonight (from another thread):

• The district was talking about $8-9 million in cuts.

• CSR cost $6 million for PUSD, $4 million of which was provided by the state, and $2 million from the district's general fund (an ongoing cost the district should be budgeting for into the foreseeable future).

• If the original request for a parcel tax was to cover the entire $6 million (assuming a total loss of revenue from the state), and now we aren't losing the $4 million—that amount should not need to be covered by a parcel tax to maintain the program.

• AND, if the district has budgeted the $2 million for CSR from the general fund, as it should have, that amount, too, should not need to be covered by a parcel tax to maintain the program.

- Someone else replied that there is also $4 million coming to the district from the federal programs.

So for $6 million of the $8-9 million in proposed cuts, I don't see the need for a parcel tax. And the rest could be covered by the feds.

There are cuts coming, of course (excerpted from Frost, Davis & Donnelly): "Current year K-12 funding cuts eliminate the current year .68% revenue limit COLA. However, this agreement does not make the entire cut through a revenue limit reduction. The remainder of the reduction is split 50/50 – with half coming from revenue limits (a little over 1% additional cut) and the remainder through a 15% cut to over 50 categorical programs (Tiers II and III)."

I can't list all 50, but ones that most likely affect PUSD are adult education, ROP, library programs, professional development, deferred maintenance, instructional materials, and high school CSR. And while there are 15% in cuts, the state provides "maximum programmatic flexibility . . . including transfer to the unrestricted General Fund to the districts for this year and the following four years." (FD&D) So, loosely, the district could spend funds from all those programs only on high school CSR.

It will be interesting to hear where they ended up on this.


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Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

To Silent Majority,
Unfortunately, only those community members who don't have children in the PUSD system can truly feel safe publicly expressing any anti-parcel tax comments. While we parents of school aged kids don't mind taking the heat if we express any concerns about the parcel tax, or PUSD spending decisions, many of us know from personal experience that if you dare to complain, it's your child that suffers.
Since there are board members who choose to ignore the PW blogs, which you are right, are the one place where people can vent their frustrations and anger (in addition to sharing information and provide some input on ways to reduce the budget) those board members aren't hearing what the community has to say - the silent majority. So they will be quite surprised when the parcel tax measure fails, and be saying that based on meeting input and emails received, they felt they had community support - and they'll have been mistaken because they refused to use all the resources available to them to determine community opinion.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I have had this thought knocking around of how to look at a parcel tax—no more than five years, maybe three is better—strictly for rewarding excellence in teaching and school site administration. It's difficult because I don't think you'd want to tie it to test scores. A teacher can have an exceptional class one year and a less exceptional another year, but s/he is still a good teacher.

I'm skeptical enough that it would require having an oversight committee, but cannot include union leadership or district administration (okay, maybe the head of human resources). It could be a one-time merit pay or for support of an educational program. The idea would be to let great ideas have a chance to flow—to have teachers work together at a grade or department level, to have schools work together, to allow for innovation--good old fashioned brainstorming or a way to foster excitement in the classroom for students and teachers.

The committee can be inclusive of parents, teachers, principals, and/or other experts from outside the PUSD community—former superintendents or board members, retired teachers or principals—I'm open.

The language to the community would be specific enough: To establish a committee for the review of meritorious awards to teachers and principals for excellence in the classroom and/or to support innovative programs at the site level. (Needs work, thinking on my fingers here.) It cannot be used to supplant general fund programs (i.e., it cannot pay for K-3 CSR costs not covered by the state; $2 million).

My idea, in a nutshell, is to find a way to reward those going above and beyond in closest proximity to students and to give teachers and principals support from the community that will inspire them and, in turn, our children.

Have at it!


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Mohr Elementary School
on Feb 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm

The whole "we parents who disagree with the parcel tax must remain anonymous or the teachers will go after our children" theme is just a ridiculous cop-out. Fine, you don't want to be hated by teachers for not wanting a parcel tax. I understand! I wouldn't either! However, no decent human being is going to sabotage a 6-year-old's education to get back at his or her parents. Quit implying that we are vindictive and petty just to rationalize protecting your own reputations in the community!


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Posted by teacher2
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 24, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Teacher
I couldn't agree more. This is an absolute insult to those of us who came into this profession because we love children and want to give them every possible opportunity to experience success in their lives. It's sad to see the reckless babble on this forum directed towards teachers. Sad, very sad.


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Posted by A Resident
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm

OK --- I know this is really off topic, but I just turned on channel 28 and was treated to an out of calibration camera shot of Chris and Dr. Casey that made them look green. It is really hard to take the conversation seriously when they look like Herman Munster and My favorite Martian. Or perhaps it is a Wicked audition? Anyone else getting the same picture?


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Posted by Not Suprised
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I find it interesting that after the initial rush of votes from every on site computer in the PUSD system, the votes on the PW site have been running steadily back to NO on the proposed tax. Hardly empirical evidence, but it does seem to be a strong indication of opposition to a new, and most likely permanent tax.


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

California has sunk to 50th in the nation on per pupil spending. This is not due to the teacher's unions or Dr. Casey. This is what is wrong with Sacramento and how they fund education and toy with schools each and every year, this year being one of the worst. I hope that all of the bloggers that are anti-parcel tax have written letters to each of your legislatures and the governor expressing your anger at the use of your tax dollars. I have! If Sacramento would place education first as voters wanted with the passage of Proposition 98, this wouldn't be happening. The cuts last week were the worst education has ever suffered. This is truly ridiculous to be the world's 8th largest economy with the poorest per pupil spending. In New Jersey, the per pupil spending is over $14,00 per year. We are nearly 1/2 of that. So, that's why over 70 parcel taxes have passed in the state of California in the last calendar year. Communities have taken the control of educating their youth into their own hands knowing that educating the children of the community is vital to its growth, reputation, and yes, property values. I am so frustrated that our schools which have been struggling for years will finally fall apart. School children K-5 in most states don't have to "bargain" for smaller class sizes because their states know that cramping 32-33 students into a portable classroom isn't acceptable. If you ever get the chance, watch the PBS special, "From Best to Worst". You might open and change your mind a bit about what is really happening in California. Write the governor and your legislatures! They raised your taxes and then still hit K-12 education a blow it can't handle. Cutting everything but a classroom teacher in a room with 33 students isn't providing a quality education.


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Posted by Sunolian
a resident of West of Foothill
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:29 am

Concerned Parent -

Sunol Glen (K-8) has 65% transfer students - some from Pleasanton. We passed a bond several years ago to add modern classrooms, and the residents of Sunol are paying it off. The transfer families do not help pay off this bond.

Yes, Sunol resident kids go to Foothill High starting in 9th grade - about 5 kids per grade level per year. I don't know how the funding is transferred between districts, but I assume there is some transfer of funding. However, it seems unfair to place a parcel tax on all Sunol residents since the tax would benefit all Pleasanton schools, including Pleasanton K-8 schools.

Sunol residents also don't get to vote on your proposed parcel tax. Isn't this called "taxation without representation"?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 25, 2009 at 10:22 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Concerned Parent, regarding your point number 2 (eliminating assistant principal positions) -- I believe that all but 1 of the elementary school assistant principals will be eliminated with the cuts that were made tonight.

I encourage you to contact the board directly about point number 3 (renegotiating the superintendent's contract). I believe they have the power to ask him to change the terms, above and beyond what he has voluntarily offered. I assume that he has the right to quit, if he's not able to negotiate something with the board.

Point number 4, about the CTA contributions to political campaigns, is not a decision that our school board can legislate. Contact your state assembly member or senator to ask them to put this up to a vote.

Point number 7, about using parcel tax funds to retain teachers -- this is the intention, although some funds might also be used to retain PE specialists, technical support people, and custodians. The draft language for the parcel tax explicitly states that revenue from the tax will not be used for administrator salaries at all.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:24 am

"My kids that did not have CRS were also doing multiplying & dividing in 2nd grade (love those multiplication timed tests). In fact the curriculum was pretty much the same for CRS and non-CRS until middle school math (no CRS there)."




As a elementary teacher for 11 years now here in Pleasanton, I can certainly tell you that the standards are much more difficult than then were pre-CSR days! So the fact that your children did just fine going through elementary school without CSR and beyond is frankly comparing apples to oranges. It is different now than it used to be. That is fact. Compare the standards from several years ago to now. You will see the difference. The trickling down of standards happened in all grades - not just at the middle school level. Ask any teacher if they are teaching the same standards that they used to be. They will tell you no. I now use many materials with my 2nd graders that I used to use with my 3rd graders! Standards are much more rigorous than they used to be. This is fact. This is why losing CSR will be devasting to our elementary school kids. Harder standards, more kids per classroom, loss of programs/specialists.....it's going to be just terrible for all of our kids. This is fact. Yes on a parcel tax!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:41 am

Teacher,

Since we are cutting and pasting…
"Of course there will be the usual outraged cries … 'we are doing this for your kids!' and 'I only work here to serve the community'. But anyone who is old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus knows there is more
Ask your union to make concessions. It will keep you and your coworkers employed.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:44 am

Of course there will be the usual outraged cries … 'we are doing this for your kids!' and 'I only work here to serve the community'. But anyone who is old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus knows there is more to the story than altruism.


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Posted by Liz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 12:15 pm

"Of course there will be the usual outraged cries … 'we are doing this for your kids!' and 'I only work here to serve the community'. But anyone who is old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus knows there is more to the story than altruism."
Ask your union to make concessions. It will keep you and your coworkers employed.

Resident,
One of my favorite reality checks...........
Sadly some parents are naive enough to buy into it.
I appreciate the good teachers but they are not volunteering their time, they are well compensated.


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Posted by Jeb Bing
editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Mar 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

We're intentionally giving topics pertaining to the June 2 parcel tax measure and teacher layoffs a rest because the postings have become repetitive and, in some instances, accusatory and hurtful to teachers and other employees of the school district who are unable to respond to postings, most of which are made under the cloak of anonymity. The postings online will remain, but future postings to these threads or new ones dealing with teacher layoffs and the parcel tax can be made only by registered users of the Pleasanton Weekly forum.


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