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Is PUSD broke...?

Original post made by tax revolt 2, Country Fair, on Apr 8, 2009

Is PUSD broke...or running out of operating cash?

At the April 7, PUSD Special Board Meeting, agenda item 4.0 reported the reserve fund will end the current year at $40,000. That's $3.8 million short of the reserve requirement.
Web Link

Agenda item 5.2 (which was approved) is to authorize borrowing $15 million dollars using Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes to "act as a cushion to the general fund in the event that we experience temporary cash flow needs". PUSD reports they have "not required this cash flow support for the last few years". The reliance on future revenues to fund current expenses is dangerous territory. (and pay interest - another new expense.) Sure, one might say that 'everyone does it'. But so does the state of California – look at the fiasco they are in.

Is it any wonder the Pleasanton Chamber challenged the school board to address the long-term stability issues of school funding? Even after they supported Measure G? The Chamber had two representatives on the Budget Advisory Committee.
Web Link
These are two well respected CPAs, one of whom participated on the Excellence Committee. What did they learn and share with the Chamber board such that the Chamber issued the strongly worded challenge?

Is it any wonder that Trustee Kernan, when leaving the Board Meeting early, left with a comment that said essentially, the meeting did little to address the number one problem (budget) facing the district?
(I would put a link to the webcast here so readers can hear the exact words, but PUSD hasn't posted it.)

The PUSD fašade is cracking. The evidence mounts further that PUSD is unwilling to do the hard work necessary to put their fiscal house into order. The call is now out to address the long-term stability issues of school 'expenses'. For example, many PUSD employees will receive a salary increase next year. Call it what you will, step and column, contractual obligations, whatever. However you look at it, these are automatic salary increases of approximately $2,000,000 occurring every year. This will total $20,000,000 over the next four years. Stop piddling with cell phone bills and gasoline credit cards and whether teachers can or can not wear buttons in class. Slay the elephant (apologies to all elephants) in the room and get on with really Saving Pleasanton Schools.

This parcel TAX (aka Measure G) remains a "feel-good band-aid on undiagnosed trauma" and does not solve the structural spending issues of PUSD. Until that happens, the bleeding will continue.

Voting NO on Measure G will force PUSD to solve the real funding/spending issues and propose a real long-term solution.

Voting NO on Measure G will truly Save Pleasanton Schools.

Comments (47)

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Posted by Diana
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Apr 8, 2009 at 7:56 am

Salary is 90% of the operating budget in PUSD.
Salary is 100% of the budget problem.
Step and column and all raises must be frozen to save jobs.
Measure G is a salary tax.
No on Measure G!


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:33 am

Sandy is a registered user.

My understanding from the explanation that Luz Cazares gave last night is that the primary reason for the seeking of a TRAN is that the district's cash flow is unpredictable right now. The state government has been holding back funds committed to the district to alleviate the cash flow crisis in the state treasury. The state still owes the district that money, but is not paying it on the regular schedule.

So far, the district has been able to deal with these cash flow issues using its reserves, but because of the magnitude of the problems at the state level, they may not be able to continue to do so. That is why the board voted, unanimously, to create the possibility of issuing a TRAN. That is a very short term loan to give flexibility with cash flow.

It is *not* an indication that the district is anywhere near to broke.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

I couldn't agree more. I have no problem with some sort of parcel tax because I believe maintaining the highest standard of educational excellence in our community is an important goal that benefits all of the community. However a parcel tax should be the last resort after all other cost cutting measures are thoroughly evaluated. The fact teachers are still planning on taking step and column increases is insulting. I personally don't believe they should be forced to take pay cuts, but taking increases during this economic climate while also asking the taxpayers for money is wrong. What I find more disgusting is that our children's futures are being used as the bargaining chip (i.e. if you don't support measure G you don't care about our schools or our children's futures), when in fact, the opposite is actually true.

My support for measure G will only come after all forms of raises/step and column increases/etc. are frozen.


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Posted by Marcia
a resident of Gatewood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:56 am


Kernan was in a bit of a hurry last night but can you blame him he has a long drive home to Camino. You have got to admire his dedication to continue commuting to protect his daughters jobs.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of California Reflections
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:58 am

Step an Column raises cause most of the "guessed at" budget shortfall. S&C must be frozen or we are filling a bucket with a hole in it.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:04 am

Defeating Measure G will only anger the "elephants" in the room and result in them trampling over the school programs, hurting our children. They have offered to take more vacation days as a form of concession so just be happy with that. No amount of arm-twisting is going to get them to put education and our children first.

As for Kernan, say what you want about his intentions. YOU, my friend, voted him into office. And if you didn't even bother to vote, you shouldn't even be complaining.


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Posted by Kathleen
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Any chance Kernan ran unopposed last time?


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Posted by doglover
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm

doglover is a registered user.

Did the School Board ever direct PUSD administration to ask the union to freeze step & column?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Sandy is a registered user.

Kathleen,

a quick search revealed that Mr. Kernan ran unopposed in 2001:

Web Link

The voter turnout in that election was very low.

Presumably he was reelected once after that (are the board seats four year terms?)

Marcia,

my impression is that Mr. Kernan was frustrated that the clarification of legal issues had been placed on the agenda for the meeting, which was originally intended to only have the budget items on the agenda. I'm not clear on how the agenda was changed. The discussion of the legal issues did take up quite a bit of time -- more than an hour, I think, possibly as long as an hour and a half.

Mr. Kernan stated that he had a conference call scheduled for 7 pm, but he did not say where. Did you follow him after he left the meeting, or are you just making an assumption about where he went?


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Posted by Rae
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Sandy,
The point regarding Mr. Kernan is that once he sold his family home in Pleasanton in 2006 and moved with his wife to Camino, he should have been ineligible to run for/retain any Pleasanton office - most especially one where he is making recommendations on a tax he won't have to pay.


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Posted by doglover
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Watched the meeting on webcast and the legal debate did go on longer than anyone could have anticipated.
It was disappointing that more time wasn't given to budget discussion/workshop.
But Sandy, weren't you one of the speakers who spoke on the legal issues?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Doglover,

Indeed I was. I was not aware at the time of Mr. Kernan's frustration, or of his time constraints -- and I don't know if it would have tamped down my impulse to speak or not.

I do hope his request, that an additional budget workshop meeting be scheduled, is honored.


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Posted by doglover
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Agreed....PK expected to have two hours to do a budget workshop; hopefully another date can be scheduled; there are lots of questions to be answered and Luz C. didn't get enough time to really go into details. Don't blame PK for being frustrated.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Sandy is a registered user.

I can certainly understand the source of his frustration.


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Posted by jim
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

The problem was the lawyer the district hired to come in and speak. I cannot believe how long he spoke for and what nonsense he was talking about. He started out by taking a position in the legal ramifications in elections, explained what the district should not do, rambled for a long time, and then concluded by saying the opposite of what he opened on. I believe he was getting body language from the staff or board that they wanted to hear something different than what he originally said, so he changed his message mid-stream. I can't believe us taxpayers had to pay for a lawyer like this. I can see why we have such bad legal representation in the district (e.g., Signature) when our staff hires people like this.


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Posted by step and column
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm

I really have no problem with the column raises given that teachers have to go to school at their own expense and during their own time to earn them. I don't really see them as "raises" as much as an incentive plan for teachers to continue their education (it does take time away from their own families at night and on weekends and it's not cheap to get post BA/BS units, so if there's no economic incentive I imagine very few will do it).

Does anyone know how much the step raises make up of the deficit? And is that amount offset by the furlough days they've agreed to?


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Posted by Russell
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I have no problem giving raises to Pleasanton teachers, even in these tough times. They are doing a fantastic job. Pleasanton schools rank among the best in California. As I've said before on this forum, the Pleasanton Unified School District has spent money well. They have earned my trust.

Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel Corporation, is fond of saying that you don't save your way out of a recession. I think that applies here. For those of us who value education, keeping our school's standards high is vital. Investing in are children's education is investing in the future.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of California Reflections
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Many good teachers will lose their jobs because of the Step and Column. Reasonable raises when there is funding available for them is fine. Continuing to give raises when the state has mandated salary freeze and stopped the funding does not justify asking me to tax myself to pay their raises.
Step and column is over 1.5 million each year, nearly half of the "guessed at" shortfall. Over the term of the Salary tax step&column is more than 6 million, the unions extortion offer is around $700,000 over the term of the tax.


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Posted by Marcia
a resident of Gatewood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Anytime there has been an open seat on the school board there are large numbers of candidates eager to run for the seat. Sadly PUSD's pattern of hand picking board members through repeated appointments, giving the incumbent advantage, discourages potential candidates.
Kernan did not disclose his move out of Pleasanton to the public when he ran for reelction.

Sandy I don't need to follow him, public records shows his primary residence is 4515 Superior Dr, Camino, Ca.. Map Quest says the distance from PUSD to his home is 142.52 miles, 2 hours 25 minutes. Looong drive.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 12:25 am

Russell, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community

"Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel Corporation, is fond of saying that you don't save your way out of a recession. I think that applies here. For those of us who value education, keeping our school's standards high is vital. Investing in are children's education is investing in the future."

Intel reduced salaries for 20,000 employees this year and they aren't even asking taxpayers for money. Furthermore, Dr. Barrett's comments are directed towards R&D spending, not employee benefits. What additional educational value are our children receiving by paying step and column increases to faculty?


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:00 am

Russell, The corporate side (Intel and anyone else) can also raise the prices of their products. Customers then have a choice to purchase or look elsewhere. Not the case with public schools. Customers can go elsewhere, true, but they still have to "buy" the product they aren't using.

The parcel tax debate isn't about the schools; it's about what is happening at the district office with taxpayer dollars. So while the schools may have earned your trust (and mine), for me those making the decisions have not. Their actions have placed great schools and their students in peril. There is no excellence in that.

Measure G needs to be pulled off the ballot or fail so that those accountable at the district office will allow the Budget Advisory Committee and the community to find long-term, systemic change. Throwing more money at a bad situation for four years isn't a solution, except for a few people in control who might retire or leave the board.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

Kathleen, "the parcel tax debate isn't about the schools"? Really? If the parcel tax is not passed, won't the schools be affected?

I know you think that we should "fix the district office" first, and then perhaps pass a parcel tax to support high-quality education for our students.

I cannot separate out those two issues. If the parcel tax does not pass, it is possible that the district office and the board will need to change more quickly. It is ALSO true that the schools and their students will be negatively affected.

To use an analogy, the district is moving children through school on a schedule. They are driving the bus, so to speak. If the bus drivers (the district office and the board) are not taking the most efficient routes, or maybe eating a donut or two while they drive, at least the bus is still moving children along. Those children have had the benefit of small class sizes, counselors, intervention programs for children at risk, excellent librarians.

Then the state legislature spread glass all over the roadway. They cut $8.7 million from our district's budget. The children on the bus are headed into a situation where the "tires" on their schools could get blown out. Class sizes increasing, counselors laid off, reduced hours for librarians.

Those children still need to learn. We can blame the bus drivers for eating donuts, and say we have to stop the bus for six months while we hire new drivers (fix the district office).... or we can do our very best to sweep the glass off the road, patch the tires on the bus, and keep those children moving along in the educational process.

If we insist on "fixing the system first" and only later, perhaps, restoring the revenue that the state has taken away from the district... we will be having a negative impact on the schools.

Our challenge is to fix the wheels on the busses, keep most of the drivers in place so the bus can keep moving, give the drivers a better map, and monitor them more closely to make sure they aren't eating donuts on the job. All at the same time.

We do not have the luxury of dealing with any possible problems in the district office, while ignoring the effects of state budget cuts on the schools. The parcel tax is about both. We need to solve both problems in parallel.

The parcel tax is about BOTH the schools and the district office (and the board). The outcome of the parcel tax will affect them all.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:05 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy wrote: "It is ALSO true that the schools and their students will be negatively affected."

How does the District identify up to some $15MM in cuts, they only need $9.7MM, and then they want a parcel tax to alleviate the $9.7MM?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 9:28 am

Sandy is a registered user.

The parcel tax cannot alleviate the full amount of the cuts. The revenue per year of the parcel tax is estimated at $3.8 million, I believe.

The district has considered slightly more than $10 million in cuts (I have not seen that $15 million number -- what's your source for that?)

They will choose which cuts to make sometime between now and June 30, based on community input. You favor that, I think. My sense from your past comments is that you'd like to see more cuts come from administrative expenses. If the board responds to that community input, then fewer cuts would be needed in other parts of the budget, and yet it would still be balanced.

Board members have discussed the need to consider more cuts than might be necessary based on the current estimates of what school funding will come through. The estimates will almost certainly change after the May 19 ballot. There will also be a May revise of the state budget, based on actual numbers of state tax dollars collected. The state may reduce further the amount of money it will make available for next year for our district.

Is there a plan out there anywhere to balance the budget without layoffs? That lists specific cuts to the budget, that total $8.7 million? I'd really like to see a copy of that plan. Where can I pick one up?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:48 am

Sandy, You would make a poor administrator. Fire the driver eating the donuts!!!!!!


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy,

If you add up _all_ the proposed cuts, remove from that list the parcel tax funded items, you still end up with somewhere around $10MM (more than $9.7MM). And that's before any salary reductions. Do the math yourself.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I understand, Stacey, but we cannot yet remove from that list the parcel tax funded items. We do not yet know if the parcel tax will pass. If it fails, it will not provide any of the needed funding. The board will need to finalize cuts identified to balance the budget.

In the same way, we cannot be sure that salary reductions can be implemented. I understand that many see that as a possible way out of this crisis, but right now, no one has the authority to unilaterally impose them. As I have said before, I would expect the board to reopen contract negotiations immediately after June 2, if the parcel tax does not pass.

Ken,

If you think someone should be fired, make your case to that person's supervisor. If you think that fraud has been committed within the district, talk to the county DA about filing charges.

Are you familiar with employment law? It is of course possible to dismiss an employee for cause. That means that as an employer, I would need to be certain that the employee was violating policy or in some other way failing to perform his job description. If he is "maybe" eating some donuts, I would give a written warning, possibly a suspension, and increase monitoring. The minute I could document wrong-doing, I would fire him.

I have done it before.

I have also seen companies tied up in wrongful termination lawsuits because a manager fired someone on suspicion of wrongdoing, and then could not document that suspicion with fact.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Sandy, I was responding to a specific posting. So, yes, schools could be affected, but it isn't clear that CSR will be lost. Many of us in the community have wonderful children who have grown to be wonderful and productive adults that "survived the dark days" when there was no CSR. I'm not willing to be taken in by the anxiety the district administration is wielding on behalf of its cause.

Back then, teachers were just as wonderful and dedicated, parents volunteered, PTAs (or similar organizations) held fundraisers, PPIE was started, there was a group who worked on state legislation and met and lobbied directly at the state level, and that same group worked on helping to pass unification in 1988. At the time, some of us were known as the "Walnut Grove queens." There was a core group of about 30 and our school (now torn down and brand new thanks to a bond we helped to pass) housed over 1,000 elementary (K-6) students. (Drive by that campus today and try to imagine 1,000 five to eleven year olds. All three of our children were visibly upset when they tore the school down. Their memories of how great a school it was were still that strong, despite its size.) Three of us from that group became board members (with apologies to Pat Kernan, but the reference to queens wasn't mine).

Funny that you would use busing as an analogy. I was on the board when it was cut; in fact, if I recall, all we did the three years I served was cut to keep the district fiscally sound. That fiscally sound district was passed on to the next administration and passed on yet again to the current one. There was no reason for that to stop being the case today.

There is more than one way to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round. There is a proposal to keep CSR next year from one Board member, it's been ignored. The BAC has ideas, but has not been allowed to voice them. Are you suggesting that you keep paying a bus driver even if he gets the kids to school late, sells the fuel to put money in his pocket, and lets the bus fall into disrepair because the funds went to buy the donuts? (By the way, you make it sound like the driver is an addict . . . "can't blame the driver for eating donuts." I don't think we should ignore that kind of behavior in people entrusted with the care of our children.)

Children are held accountable, teachers are held accountable, principals are held accountable, the district administration and the board need to be held accountable. It doesn't have to be a mass firing. These are bright people who cheated; now they need to do the work. It should begin now; there is still time. In the absence of a parcel tax and real solutions, I sincerely believe the children will adapt and parents and site staff will rise to the occasion as they always have.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Kathleen, you asked

"Are you suggesting that you keep paying a bus driver even if he gets the kids to school late, sells the fuel to put money in his pocket, and lets the bus fall into disrepair because the funds went to buy the donuts?"

No, I am not.

And if I took your response to Russell out of context, I apologize. I am still concerned that many are trying to solve this problem sequentially, when working on several different fronts at once is more likely to yield robust solutions.

I believe that alternatives to the cuts identified when pink slips were issued are still being sought. On Tuesday, Luz Cazares identified some new possibilities based on the increased flexibility the state has granted to districts this year. I'm sure that the board will continue to explore different options.

I hope that you will continue to make constructive suggestions to board members via email and phone. And I hope I'll have a chance to meet you in person at a future board meeting! I understand that we share a common goal of supporting high quality education for our students.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

The flexibility things have only been identified this week?! What are they? Like the flexibility in CSR? This has been known since before pink slips were handed out!


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Posted by Archie & Jughead
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm

We are not happy. We usually get special treats on Thursdays, but today we just got the same old dried food we get every day. No more tasty bits of chicken, no more going out to get hamburgers with Doglover.
Doglover says we need to "cut back" because taxes are going up, and she's making less money than she did a month ago.
Doglover says even though she's making less money, she still needs to save for a rainy day.
"Look out the window!" we told her - "it's raining." She said that's not what she meant. She said her rainy day is one when she doesn't have a job, that could be any day, and when that happens, we will need everything she's saved just to have dried dog food.
We want to know why we have to give up our special treats for taxes.
Doglover says the schools didn't save enough for their rainy day. We asked why they didn't and Doglover says she doesn't know, but it's a good question and many people are asking it, but no one seems to have an answer.
We hope whoever has the answer will give it to us - we've been very good, we don't jump on people, and we don't bark when Doglover says we should be quiet.
We are asking nicely for an answer because if we have to give up treats, and have to see Doglover so worried about rainy days, we think we should at least know why.





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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Those of you who want a freeze of the step and column truly haven't done your homework.
Teachers with 20+ years experience with 75 units above their B.A. are already "frozen" on the salary schedule. A teacher doesn't move up and over on the salary schedule once reaching 20 years and 75 units. Taking two days off of all teachers' work years means that all teachers take the pay cut especially those at the top of the salary schedule.

I believe that beginning teachers should still be encouraged and rewarded for going back to school and increasing the amount of college units beyond their B.A. and credential. Unlike corporations who directly reimburse employees for continuing education, teachers are moved across the salary schedule for completing these units on their own time with their own money.

As far as why there isn't a huge reserve, it appears that many of you just got involved in educational spending this year due to your support or opposition to the parcel tax. The district suffered budget cuts last year as well. They used reserves to maintain programs like reading specialists, AVID, Barton reading program, math and reading interventions, coaches stipends, and other programs last year. Many parents were at those meetings last year trying to save these important programs.

Underfunding by Sacramento didn't start this year. Take some time and read the board meeting transcripts of the 07-09 school year.



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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 12, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I don't understand the argument. What does step and column freezes have to do with 1) teachers already at the top of the salary schedule and 2) furlough days? A step and column freeze has nothing to do with furlough days nor does it affect teachers at the top.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Wake up and smell the roses. The PUSD budget is short $11.2 million. Did this happen overnight? Remember when we heard that they were short about $6 million a few months ago, now it has almost doubled. What has the District Administrators been covering up. The state only caused about $4.2 million of the problem. What about the other $7 million. I have it on a good source that at least $2.5 million was a budget error. It is time that PUSD Board stops the cover up. I guess if they do not come clean, then it is time to get the Jarvis group involved. They exposed, Richmond, Compton and a host of other school Districts with budget problems. Don't just blame the state!


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Posted by no salary tax
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 8:30 am

Most of the money that PUSD needs from the parcel tax is future raises. They say that the state is shorting them but the truth is the state says it is not right to give raises now so they wont give PUSD the increases for raises.

They are saying they will cut programs to continue their raises.

Say no to this salary tax, no on G.


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I see, Kathleen, it has been okay that I have paid the bond tax for many, many years so you "Walnut Grove queens" had a beautiful school which your children attended because of tax money in the form of a bond. I paid this tax for years before I had a child. My child now attends a school that didn't benefit from a full scale remodel, but I have never begrudged the other school communities for getting huge slices of the bond pie. So, it's a bit ironic that now that other children (not your own) need programs like reading specialists, class size reduction, intervention, band, smaller class sizes, librarians, technology specialists, you are very vocal against the parcel. I can guess my your comments when your children attended Walnut Grove, and I can reassure you that school demographics at all Pleasanton schools have changed since those days of "Walnut Grove queens". There have been more needs and I have been pleased that the school board hasn't turned a blind eye to the children who need math, reading, and English development support.


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Posted by Mom of three
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 6:31 pm

It is sad the PUSD has successfully frightened parents into believing that this tax is about programs for our children and teacher jobs.......that is a lie. This parcel tax is about paying continued perks and raises. It is a big shell game where money is being moved around to continue Car allowances, cell phones (used for personal use), step&collumn raises in an economy that can not support them.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Mom2: Couple of things--my children attended the school long before the new Walnut Grove was built--they never benefited from that project and from few others, and I have paid those taxes the whole time too. They didn't have CSR, counselors at 400:1, or many of the other things you mention.

I've said I'll respond to questions as best I can. Why not ask? We arrived in California in 1985; we had one in fifth, one in kindergarten, and one three years old. We made the choice for our kids to the benefits of a stay at home mom. The "queens" were so called because we pushed for the right things for schools. Our family fought for the higher costs because we have always valued public education. We value it today for all kids, including our grandchild who is in a PUSD school.

I will not compromise those values when there are glaring issues that need to be addressed by the district. I will, if it comes to that, work for the right tax. Wholeheartedly, as I have in the past.


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 12:05 am

Kathleen,
During the times your children attended schools I don't believe reading specialists, technology specialists, librarians, band instructors were in jeopardy of being eliminated. PUSD has maintained these programs without a parcel tax long after other districts cut these programs or passed parcels to maintain them. I do believe you when you say that your own children might not have needed CSR, but there are many children who benefit greatly from more instructional time, additional interventions, and smaller class sizes especially children for whom English is their second language and/or struggle to learn to read, spelling, and write. Just as the "queens" pushed for the right things for schools and children, I hope you realize that teachers and parents continue to push for interventions and smaller class sizes knowing that a great many children have benefitted from the improved classroom environment of a smaller class size. The Board has been very responsive to passionate parents who fought to keep interventions and counseling in place, but it is expensive to provide these safety nets. The state used to supplement reading specialists' salaries (about $35,000 a specialist) through a program called Miller-Uhruh. About eight? years ago, the state pulled that funding away (no surprise), but PUSD decided to maintain reading specialists at full capacity whereas many districts simply dropped the program. These reading specialists not only deliver instruction to struggling students, but have been instrumental in training teachers in the areas of spelling, reading, English Language Development, and writing instruction. All children benefit when their teachers are given training in reading instruction. I believe Pleasanton is a well run district and until the state started pulling money back midyear, was meeting its budget obligations with a healthy reserve. Last spring, the Board decided to dip into the reserves for the 08-09 year to save positions. Maybe many of you believe the Board should have cut reading specialists, Barton, counseling, AVID, Language!, coaches' stipends, nurses, and Assistance Principals last year, but the Board responded to parents asking them to save these programs. Now, all these successful programs, along with class size reduction, are on the cutting block again this year because of additional cuts from the state. I can't see how the district could have avoided this budget shortfall without taking intervention programs away from children. Please explain how you think these shortfalls could have been avoided. I haven't been able to see where else the district could cut.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 7:09 am

Mom2: I've stated numerous times that I support CSR. I haven't said my kids didn't need CSR; I said they survived and thrived without it. There weren't technology specialists--they barely had computers at the elementary level. Counselors were few and far between and I believe were cut K-5 or drastically reduced at some point.

I don't believe CSR needs to be cut by the district either. Again, it's the heaviest emotional hammer in their tool box and they are using it to hit parents and teachers like a nail.

I can go point by point on your comments, but here is the crux of things: the enhancements you mention have a value and a cost. Choices were made to give raises (via COLAs and/or step and column) that created a situation where those enhancements (people's jobs) were placed in jeopardy. The district knew the risk and forged ahead with the hope that future COLAs from the state and enrollment growth would cover the bet. They were wrong. They cut $2 million last school year, a year in which they gave $4 million in raises, and that doesn't count about $1.5 million in step and column increases. In the two years prior, they chose to give large raises (about $10 million, not counting step and column) and abandoned a goal for building reserves for a rainy day.

I don't think I can be clearer than that one example--the district elected to spend about $5.5 million in raises and had to cut $2 million in services in one school year. Why would anyone believe that behavior will change with a parcel tax?

The Budget Advisory Committee was not allowed to make suggestions for cuts, but they and others have ideas and they all save CSR and many other jobs. Real change needs to occur; the community needs to decide what has value and what they are willing to pay for. The information is out there for you to see; it just isn't coming from the district. Read the post by Huh? (toward the bottom) at Web Link or see what's on www.pleasantonparceltaxinfo.com


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:20 am

Kathleen,

You mention the District allowed all of these things to happen, yet the school board of elected representatives has final say. The board has always pushed to keep Pleasanton's salary schedule competitive with neighboring school districts. I believe the community has always supported paying our teachers a wage that would keep them in the area if possible. Over the years, a competitive salary has helped draw experienced teachers from other school districts and recruited some of the best and brightest out of college.

Those of you who are still confused about step and column, the salary schedule is public information on the PUSD web site. Teachers are rewarded column increases for continuing their educations. A teacher cannot advance across the salary schedule without taking addition college units. These units are paid for by the employee and the reimbursement/reward is an increase across the salary schedule. After a teacher completes a masters program, the District rewards that teacher $500.00 more each year.
( In Fremont, the increase is an addition 3% on the salary schedule amounting to about $3,000 a year for their top earners). Personally, as a parent, I am glad their is an incentive for teachers to return to school and improve and expand upon their teaching strategies.

Secondly, teachers do move down the salary schedule based upon years service. If a teacher moves from another district, PUSD only grants that teacher 7 years experience. PUSD has many teachers who have come with 7-25+ years of experience, and yet are paid at Step 7 when they begin their careers here. You could say we are gaining a lot of expertise for a bargain. That's also why a teacher with 25 years of experience can get a pink slip because that teacher came here and now has fewer years in Pleasanton than a teacher who started his/her career in PUSD.

The salary schedule is designed so that beginning teachers advance on the salary schedule faster, so they will stay in teaching and area, and possibly, be able to buy a home. At one time the District has so concerned about beginning teachers and their low pay, they were considering sponsoring "teacher housing".

Once a teacher reaches 20 years of experience with the district and/or combined with the 7 years granted upon arrival, that teacher is "frozen" on the salary schedule. During the years of no COLA which will obviously be the next 4-5 years, those teachers do not receive any raises. There are a couple of spots on the salary schedule where teachers do not advance for 4 years.

When teachers at the top of the salary schedule retire, the cost of salaries to the district will go down. However, one of the results of the economic downturn and spouses of educators losing their jobs is that many of the educators at the top of the salary schedule arent' able to retire as planned. I have friends who were planning on retiring this year until their husband's jobs were either eliminated or redefined.

The high cost of health benefits have also kept teachers in the profession into their 60s. Teachers health care benefits do not continue after retirement (like some public employees), so many teachers are now staying until 65. And although teachers have received raises and step and column advances, health care costs have advanced beyond COLA. Like all citizens, health care is placing a burden on most families who don't have continuing coverage. Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy has had a domino effect that was hard to predict. These are the "worst of times" for education in California. I really don't see how the district could have forecasted that the governor would short them of $8-$10 million dollars. He isn't planning on paying back money he has borrowed unless his propositions pass in May. Already, the polls show their passing is very unlikely. After his defeat in May, he will deliver another blow to public education. He has "stolen" from the mouths of babes and will get away with it because citizens are turning on each other instead of him and the fools in Sacramento. The Gov is ruining public education and yet, Pleasanton citizens are bashing each other.

I actually expected Pleasanton citizens to come together and raise money to save the band/string teachers. It's only $120,000 a year. I expected our local businesses to come forward and provide grants to keep librarians, technology specialists, and reading programs. But, no, all the energy has gone into "finger pointing" and children are getting caught in the cross fire of angry, educated adults that could be "doing" so much more with their time. Even if it is someone's fault, don't we teach our children to move on and get busy with solutions. It sounds like "the queens of Walnut Grove" need to reunite and fight for your grandchildren. PUSD's school children need champions for their award winning programs. Even if these programs didn't exist when your children attended school, I hope you can see their value for today's children.

However, Kathleen, it is clear that you aren't going to be happy until teachers and administrators roll back their pay to a point you find acceptable. I guess the two days of pay for teachers isn't enough? Three to five days for administrators?

The anger towards teacher's salaries is so perplexing to me since I truly don't see these as high salaries ($53,000-$55,000 minus health costs = $41,000-45,000 a year for a college graduate with an additional fifth year to earn a teaching credential). A teacher making this salary can't even qualify for a condo in Pleasanton anymore. About ten years ago, when the condos were still in the $200,000 range, they could. A huge salary cut for some of these young teachers would either force them out of the area or out of a newly purchased house. Personally, I don't want my child's teachers under that type of pressure.
Already, more and more teachers are living in Tracy and beyond.

Once again, the "freezing of the salary schedule" will hurt the beginning teachers the most. Those at the top are already "frozen" on step and column. The two days off the calendar year was developed to ensure that all teachers received a cut in pay. Beginning teachers lose less than teachers making more.

I do respect your opinion, insight, and your desire to halt taxes. With your fine writing, I hope you are writing to all of your representatives in Sacramento. It is obvious that you were a champion for education when your children attended Walnut Grove. We need "grandparents for education" to be heard in Sacramento. I know I have encouraged my own parents to write their representatives to protest the misuse of our tax dollars. My parents raised us when California's education was one of the best, and now, they are very discouraged to hear about the conditions for most California school children.

We are fortunate in Pleasanton. Let us remember the school children over our hills in Oakland, Richmond, and areas of greater San Jose which attend schools without any "extras". I have had student teaching candidates tell me of broken toilets, bullet holes through windows, no heat, very few materials, and dirty, smelly campuses. So, please, everyone, write your representatives. It is disgraceful that children living in California have to attend substandard schools.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:22 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Salary schedules ensure that the worst performers get a raise.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

Mom2: You are running guard rail to guard rail here and it's impossible to respond to all of it and probably not necessary. I am not angry at teachers; I know three board members are culpable; and still, one shouldn't spend what they don't have, no matter how well intentioned (again I highly recommend the explanations by Huh? on the other thread). I am not against all taxes; I do write to my representatives from Pleasanton to DC. I would support the right tax.

It doesn't change the fact that bad decisions were made and that until a fundamental change in practice occurs, I will not vote to spend more of my money (or others') to fix it.


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 11:29 am

Kathleen,
I haven't been following your comments. Which bad decisions are you referring to?


Stacey,
I think your statement "salary schedules ensure the worst performers get a raise" a bit of a generalization and faulty. So, if someone is a great teacher, a salary schedule ensures he/she doesn't get a raise?


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Posted by Patty
a resident of California Somerset
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Freezing Step & Column will benefit the newer teachers the most.......they will not lose their jobs!!!!!!

"I actually expected Pleasanton citizens to come together and raise money to save the band/string teachers. It's only $120,000 a year."
Why should citizens step forward with this money when the district could come up with it by eliminating the excessive car allowances and cell phones, that the district admitted at their last meeting are routinely used for personal use.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

How is it faulty that when a so-called bad teacher is on a salary schedule they are entitled to a raise just for working year to year? No skin off their teeth! Many of you are parents like me who have certain expectations of achievement level for your kids. You want them to bring home As, right? Shouldn't they earn those As and not be handed them? It's a disservice to the child if you just hand them an A for showing up to school.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 17, 2009 at 7:11 am

Mom2: Rather than repeat, all the threads can be found on PW at:
Web Link Or you can search on the Weekly (be sure the button for Pleasanton Weekly is on under the search box) using my name or parcel tax and get a list of postings. Hope that helps!


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