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PUSD - Budget Advisory Committee

Original post made by Dark Corners of Town on Dec 20, 2009

The Budget Advisory Committee members have been posted on the PUSD website (Web Link) along with the schedule of meetings and agendas. The next meeting is January 7, 2010 with no agenda posted. It is hard for the public to tell what this Committee has been doing (or will be doing). Are these committee meetings open to the public? What are the key budget drivers this year? What will be the role of the committee stakeholders? How were the committee members chosen? (I don't recall a public announcement for applicants.) Will the parents be soliciting input from the community? Here are the list of members (from the website) so the community can provide input on their own:

Pat Kernan Board Member
Jim Ott Board Member
Jeff Bowser Parent
Lisa Campbell Parent
Gina Carter Parent
Al Cohen Parent
Dan Copenhagen Parent
Steve Jeffrey Parent
Steve McCoy-Thompson Parent
Jim Pease Parent
Joan Laursen PTA
Joyce Senechal PFC/PFA
John Sensiba Chamber of Commerce
Ed Arndt APT
Peggy Carpenter APT
Lisa Hague APT
Trevor Knaggs APT
Cal Fenolio CSEA
Mary Huk CSEA
Bonnie Kassan CSEA
Pat Mitchell CSEA
Bill Coupe Site administration
Marc Schweitzer Site administration
John Whitney Site administration
Suzy Chan D.O. administration
Jane Golden D.O. administration
Dianne Howell D.O. administration

Comments (15)

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 20, 2009 at 10:23 am

It appears to be a board sub-committee, which means it is subject to the Brown Act . . . posting of agendas, open to the public, and minutes to be recorded and available to the public, along with all materials presented to the group. Those may be in place, I haven't followed this group closely.

What does strike me is that there is a lopsided representation by staff/board members vs parents (16:11) and only one at large position. It will be difficult to keep the interests of all taxpayers in the forefront.

Posted by longtime parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

This is business as usual. The Budget "advisory" committee is controlled by staff. In the past, parents have made some suggestions and their ideas were turned down by staff members. It this was a real advisory committee (like what the city does), there would only be staff members on it to assist the committee members. This committee, as it is, will be representing the administration and teachers, and the parents/taxpayers will not have much say. Hum, sounds like board meetings where staff and the union presidents control it.

Posted by McFadden, a resident of Birdland
on Dec 20, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I wonder if these people have been indemdified by the city? The way things are going with mismanagement it is only a matter of time before they get sued personally.

Posted by Colin, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Dec 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm

You might be on to something there if these people were held personally aCcount they might be more careful with our money.

Posted by Al Cohen, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:32 am

Just to clarify, I have resigned from the BAC. My tenure did not prove as effective as I had hoped. The parents role was essentially to be an "ambassador" to the community. This is not what I was led to believe by the school board member who asked me to join.

It was clear that "parents" were there to just rubber stamp the districts position. This was not what I was trying to accomplish. I was led to believe that bringing 30+ years of business experience, coupled with a decade of service at the school site level, I could lend a different perspective. While I was allowed to give my views, it was clear they were not received well judging by the body language in the room. I know that a number of other "parents" have walked away from this committee and have not bothered to even resign.

IMHO to make this forum really effective, you need to reduce the size of the group, make it more balanced (strongly skewed for the status quo) and give it a real mission and allow out of the box thinking. Al Cohen AV School Site Council

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:55 am

Stacey is a registered user.


Thanks for trying. Your experience sounds similar to another one I heard.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:25 am

Stacey is a registered user.

As I understand, the BAC was given a list of items already identified as to what could be cut from the budget. Then they were asked to prioritize and otherwise rank these items. That was apparently the maximum extent of their advisory role while it has been represented to BAC members as something more substantive. Is that normal for a budget advisory committee?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:26 am

Stacey is a registered user.

I'm under the impression that the BAC didn't even look at an actual budget.

Posted by longtime parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:42 am

Al, than you for speaking up and using your name. I have heard your experiences from others on this committee but having somebody who was on the committee use their real name, really helps.

Posted by Another parent, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

Your comments about your tenure on the BAC are the same I've heard from others on the committee.
Thank you for sharing them on this forum.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:07 am

I don't know many of the parent members, but I do know Jeff Bowser and Joan Laursen. I can ask them for more details about their experiences -- but I think the most direct route would be for those who are interested or concerned to call them.

Al, I would love to meet you at some point if you would be willing. I'm on my first year in site council at Alisal, and I'm definitely interested in getting the budget process to be more genuinely participative. If you wouldn't mind getting together after the holidays, could you give ma a call? My number is 523-3278.

Kathleen, I know we haven't talked since August, which is my fault. Will you be around in early January? I'd love to talk before the workshop on Jan. 5. (I'll send you an email.)

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Dec 22, 2009 at 7:18 am

The following was recently posted on the PUSD website. (Web Link)

Budget Advisory Committee Info
The Budget Advisory Committees' goal is to educate families as to the importance of attendance and to urge them to, further, think twice about taking elective absences. Click on the link to view the BAC Elective Absence Flyer.

So, this is a Family Advisory Comittee?

Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:37 am

Elective absences cost the district over 2 million dollars annually. This is a way to educate the community about the affects of taking a trip during school time. It happens all the time and maybe families are not aware of the cost to the district.

Your comment on another thread asking what other options are being discussed other than asking for public funding seems premature. Seems like this is a lot of "fat" that can be trimmed through unexcused absences. Looks like alternatives are being explored. Isn't this what you wanted?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

OK, back to this topic...

Al Cohen wrote: "The parents role was essentially to be an "ambassador" to the community. This is not what I was led to believe by the school board member who asked me to join."

Let's get to the fundamentals. For whatever the reason, it seems that BAC members and Board members may not know the primary function of the BAC or the rules are being played fast and loose. So I tried a little to find out because the public should know too. It appears that advisory committees are defined and regulated by Board policy. There's both a policy and a regulation related to "Appointed Advisory Groups". Here's the policy document: Web Link and here's the regulation document: Web Link The information I couldn't find (someone would probably have to request it) are the documents related specifically to the BAC like its by-laws (if any), purpose, objectives, scope of responsibility and authority, membership and participating organizations (things which are supposed to be on a document which is supposed to be given to prospective members).

In the regulation document, it details the functions of appointed advisory committees. Advisory committees "perform one or more of the following services". If you look at the list it looks like both "being ambassadors" and "goal is to educate families" match. The missing documents should provide greater details as to functions specific to BAC.

Continuing on...

As Kathleen noted above, the representation looks lopsided. There's 14 paid employees on the "community participation" committee of roughly 30 "citizen and parent groups" members. That means that those who consume roughly 85% of the budget have nearly 50% representation.

DCoT asked about public attendance at the BAC. The regulation states: "Meetings of parent and citizen groups shall be open to any interested persons who may wish to attend. Visitors may be brought into deliberation at the discretion of the chairperson." You might also be interested in knowing that you can make an audio or video recording as this committee is subject to the Brown Act.

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Dec 24, 2009 at 8:49 am

Stacey - Thanks for finding the policy and regulation documents. It is reasonable that 'educating families' can be an activity of the BAC. My observation is that anyone going to the main PUSD website will see in the top/first entry, "The Budget Advisory Committees' goal is to educate families as to the importance of attendance...". And back to the original post, that if they find the BAC webpage, will find it lacking in mission, content, and structure.
We are entering a critical budget cycle for 2010-2011, including possible revenue reductions this year. The apparent lack of an organized/contributing BAC is not a good sign for PUSD.
Al's honesty, authenticity, and transparency is greatly appreciated. I hope he considers a position on the school board in 2010.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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