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Community Forum on Budget

Original post made by Beth, Valley View Elementary School, on Jan 6, 2010

I was so surprised at how many attended the meeting. I counted about 180. Luz gave a very easy to understand presentation and people asked a lot of questions and got answers. I learned a lot. This was a good format and not at all like past budget workshops where I left more confused. It felt like people were heard and treated with respect. People had very thoughtful questions. They will be posting all the questions asked and the answers on the web site. They ran out of hand outs but all available on the web. It will be interesting to hear what comes out of Sacramento on Friday and how this will effect PUSD. It doesn't sound good.
It is all so overwhelming. There is so much to understand. Another forum is planned for the 19th.

Comments (92)

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 6:20 am

I posted a response to a former teacher on another thread, but thought I would respond to Beth with most of it.

What is frustrating for many is tied to the union contracts. Many of the answers at the forum included "we have to negotiate that."

I also am concerned many don't realize that when budget figures for step and column are presented as costing an additional $1.6 million per year, it is cumulative. So this year it was $1.6, for 2010-11 the previous year's $1.6 is already built into the budget and an *additional* $1.6 million is added, and so on. For the four years presented at the forum, that means step and column will cost something like $16 million.

I can understand why it is presented as $1.6 million per year; it softens what the real costs are when you are thinking about asking the community for more money.

I did attend last night's meeting (I left after the first round of questions to the consultant). Having the governance team (board members and the superintendent) as part of the audience removed the tension that four of them create for the other two. Kevin Johnson, Luz Cazares, and Glen Sparks deserve credit for making the meeting non-contentious.

I have seen Larry Tramutola's, the consultant, work and the work of his staff. I appreciated his candid responses. Had he been brought in before Measure G, the survey and the guidance he would have provided could have pushed the vote to the required 2/3 approval. I sincerely hope that staff and/or the community will be sure his firm is part of any future attempt to pass a parcel tax.

It is clear there is a need. I don't agree that it can all be laid at the feet of the state. Fixing it usually is a three-legged stool--concessions, new income, reserves. It will be more painful for PUSD, because the prediction is that one leg, reserves, is already gone for 2010-11, and Mr. Tramutola cautioned any campaign could take six months to a year.

I think the teachers union and the administrators are going to have to give back some percentage of their current salaries. I think that means an agreement to take a percentage cut for the life of the tax. It acknowledges this community has been very generous and they are willing to share the burden of this additional cost to the community.


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

Kathleen, thanks for reminding people on the cumulative cost of step and column raises being something like $16 million over four years. Another way to look at this is we have to lay off over 20 new teachers _per year_ to pay for the step and column raises (assuming a teacher cost of $80K per teacher). The step and column continuing almost guarantees that classroom size reduction goes away. The unions and management are going to have to be a big part of the solution.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

Good meeting in spite a huge contradiction.
Many good questions and informative answers.

Kevin Johnson stated there was no decision to move toward a parcel tax and promised to answer all questions from the community. They distributed index cards to allow a more sensitive way to ask questions, good move.
But then he stopped the meeting with many written questions still unanswered to allow a professional parcel tax consultant to speak, shifting the meeting to a discussion of a parcel tax, unfortunate move.

Some members of the community expressed that it was premature to discuss a parcel tax before all of the questions were answered. The already formed parcel tax parent/staff committee was eager to hear the consultant. Mr. Johnson responded by allowing a limited discussion of a parcel tax but then brought it back to the written questions which were then answered.

Kevin Johnson, Glen Sparks and Luz Cazares do deserve credit for a non-contentious productive meeting.

When the questions, asked and answered, are published I hope the community sees that a parcel tax is not the only or best solution.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

The way the Step and Column figure was presented as 1.6m, instead of its more relevant cumulative amount of $16 million, jumped off the page at me as well.

Superintendent Casey misinformed the community in the past saying S&G was not negotiable. Last night it was clearly stated that it is negotiable. It was also stated that a 4% across the district salary reduction would cover the shortfall amount without a parcel tax.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2010 at 11:36 am

Thank you Kathleen and Linda.
The point has been made, so many times, that until the entire staff (that means you too teachers) gives back something a parcel tax is unwarranted. If Linda is correct that a 4% reduction would equate to the dollars from the parcel tax then I say what is stopping you from doing that? I am more than willing to help but I will not ever support a parcel tax, no matter the amount or the reasons, until every person in the district has taken a cut. Teachers have every evening, every weekend, every sshool holiday and every summer off. Be reasonable, that is not by any definition full time work. They get a full time wage, higher in Pleasanton than nearly anywhere else, and benefits. Yes I have read the argument about paying for health care and I also know that it only applies to a miniscule percentage of teachers as the rest have insurance via a spouse. They opted to take more wages with the offset of a very few teachers paying the actual insurance costs. Their choice.
We have some good teachers in Pleasanton but also some very bad ones. Reducing the pay would not pre-determine who, if anyone, would leave the district. I am sure that "a reader" will jump in here with the usual rant about how we will lose the best and brightest, every other city has a parcel tax ("would you jump off a cliff if everyone else did it?" -- from Mom, applies here too) and how the world will simply stop turning if we do not pass an unrestricted parcel tax right now. Baloney. Show me the cuts before you try to steal more money from my wallet. This well has about run dry and I will make it my highest priority to stop any new tax until there are significant and long term cuts in place.


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Posted by Katheryn
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Another item that was discussed was shaving off school days. Luz stated that 1 day = $450K. If the school year started one day later, add an extra day before Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break, and end the year a day earlier that equals a total of $2.5 million in savings. But, as we are seeing, every solution, no matter how simple, goes back to the collective bargaining table. It appeares the Parcel Tax, if it happens at all, is 6 months to 1-year away to be placed on the ballot and the funds won't even be available until the 11/12 school year. My interpretation is that any sort of "stable funding" is in the hands of the two unions.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Resident:

I teach in PUSD. I also coach a sport during evenings, during weekends, during school holidays, and during the summer. I also am an advisor of a program on campus where I am busy during evenings, weekends, school holidays, and the summer. So no, I don't have all that time off. Please do not assume that is what all teachers do and please don't insult me by saying that I do not have a full time job. I also am single and have to pay for my health insurance through the district which is a huge sum of money. Please understand why it may be difficult for teachers in this district (like me) to simply give up part of our salary that is not very large in the first place.

I believe that many teachers are willing to negotiate step and column. I would certainly be willing to negotiate some sort of freeze for a year and I know many others that would. It seems like many people in this community are shocked that teachers won't automatically give up some of their salary to help with this unfortunate circumstance. Put yourself in our position: is the entire Pleasanton community commenting on YOUR salary on a daily basis??? Saying that YOU don't put in enough time in your job, or are not very good at your job?? Do people constantly discuss how much money YOU make, how much YOU spend on your health insurance, how much YOU are supposed to get a raise? NO.

I think many teachers in this community would appreciate a little more compassion from many people in this community. I have felt supported by 99% of the Pleasanton community, but that 1%, like YOU, resident, make me not want to give up anything.


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Posted by To everyone
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm

There you guys go again, blaming everything on teacher salaries. You all sound pathetic. I guess you *forgot* to mention things like class sizes are definitely going up to 30 next year with or without a parcel tax. Great, within a year we've gone from the best district in the Valley to the worst!

And what's this about cutting teacher salaries 4% is going to solve the budget shortfall? Were you attending the same meeting I was? Yet another malicious lie from the anti-school group.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Teacher -- if you want to comment on my salary please feel free. I took a 50% pay cut 10 years ago and have not had one single cent of a raise since that time. My spouse has lost 100% of income due stupid management descisions that caused a business to fail. We live within our means and are not complaining about our financial situation. However, for you to refuse to give up something while asking me to give you more is unreasonable and arrogant. You would so graciously offer to take "some sort of freeze for a year". How very generous of you. Had I asked you to do what I have done you could complain. No one has asked that you take a 50% pay cut with no negotiated raises in sight.
My support will be permanently withheld from any increase in taxes until there is MEANINGFUL giveback from each and every person in the district. That means you too, teacher.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

There needs to be something fair to both taxpayers and employees. I've never been an advocate for cutting salary. Temporarily freezing *at least* step raises is fair. It isn't a pay cut unless you're playing funny with the baseline number (current salary). None of that has to be dependent upon a parcel tax passing.

I mean, if this is truly Education Armageddon, there will be a serious look at these options.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Resident:
You must have mis-read my post because I said that I WOULD be willing to give something up, just as you quoted me saying. There is absolutely no need for you to be so sarcastic and rude back.

I don't care to comment on your salary because it is none of my business and I am sorry to hear about you and your husbands's loss.

I have done my part, wish more people would...


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Posted by To resident
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

If you are going to call attention to your plight, maybe you should be more respectful of others' plights. Teacher is single, paying their own benefits.

Since you're going ahead and making your situation public, I recall reading awhile ago that you said your property taxes were something like $12K per year. That means you have a million-dollar-plus house, which from last I looked means you are pretty wealthy. You also say you're living within your means. Well, good for you to be able to afford a million dollar house on one salary.

I doubt someone like Teacher is a senior teacher. I'm assuming this person is young because they are single, so they are probably just starting out in the world. Teacher is probably making about $50K. A 10% paycut, which you've been asking for, takes Teacher down to the $40Ks, which from last I looked means Teacher is not wealthy. Teacher could not even afford to buy a house here in Pleasanton.

Many postings here on PW seem to point fingers at teachers getting wealthy at our expense. How dare they get promotions! (yes, that was sarcasm). By the way, teachers in PUSD have not had a raise since the 2007/08 year, only what everyone refers to as step and column, which are promotion based, which also means that not every teacher has received them.

I don't know in what other occupation can you get a promotion and not get a raise.

And no, not everyone got pay reductions. Quite the opposite, in fact. Average salaries in the U.S. have risen, even in this economy.


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Posted by David
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm

You are mistaken about step and column being promotion based. It is not. It is based on longevity and education. There is no promotion involved in step and column. Just need to work the years. So step and column is a raise as there is no more responsibilities that need to be done to get the increase. $16 million in four years is a lot to pay during these economic times.

I for one believe the pay that teachers in Pleasanton receive is good. I am not asking for a decrease but the raises (yes including step and column) need to be put on hold.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I think it is probably a significant mistake to assume there is only one (or only 10) that chooses to post under the anonymous moniker of "resident".

That aside, I (a different resident) strongly agree with those that feel a 5% cut and wage freeze are in order and will solve the problem. I think it is safe to say that EVERYONE in private business has felt the negative effects of the economy, and most to a far greater degree than this plan represents. Even if a business employee has not suffered a pay setback, they have certainly seen an increased workload and/or higher pressure to increase performance with less support. Public employees are just a few years behind the curve and have been merrily chugging along the ever escalating pay path. And that is just not acceptable under the current circumstance.

By the way, teachers and other district employees, you are not alone. Other public employees will likely face the same pressures and dilemmas very soon. You just represent the largest and arguably most emotionally volatile piece of the pie, so the pressure from the taxpayer has arrived on your doorstep first.


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Posted by To David
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:11 pm

And I think teachers should get promotions based on experience. Teaching is a profession that relies heavily on experience. They already know the subject material--that is not the challenge of teaching. The challenge of teaching is the students, and that changes every year. Every year a teacher becomes more adept at handling problems and problem children, learns to adapt teaching techniques to the multitude of student personalities, and learns which teaching methods are successful.


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Posted by To resident
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:13 pm

You said: "That aside, I (a different resident) strongly agree with those that feel a 5% cut and wage freeze are in order and will solve the problem."

Where are the stats for this? Give me proof that a 5% wage cut is going to close the budget gap. I want to see the real numbers behind your statement.


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Posted by Another resident
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

It doesn't make sense to me that teachers, many of whom do not live in our town, should take a pay cut to subsidize programs for our kids. If we value CSR, etc. we should be paying - either through donations or a tax.


Also, am I the only one who finds it ironic that people who refuse to pay to support education in their own community have been characterizing teachers as greedy for not taking a pay cut? They provide a service. If we value it, we pay for it. If we don't, we allow the cuts to happen.


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Posted by problem solved
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Dear Board of Trustees,

Freeze step and column until end of budget crisis

2% classified and certified salary reduction

15% administrators salary reduction

Eliminate administrator perks

Request $100 voluntary annual per student use fee

Do not give away the store when hiring the new superintendent

Respectfully a Parent




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Posted by To problem solved
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Again, see my comments to resident:

I'd like to see real numbers behind your suggestions. How will this close the budget gap?

It's OK to make suggestions, but to claim that the problem is solved is irresponsible.

The budget shortfall is larger than any reasonable salary freeze the district could implement.

And I agree with what "Another resident" said: "Also, am I the only one who finds it ironic that people who refuse to pay to support education in their own community have been characterizing teachers as greedy for not taking a pay cut?"


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Last night Luz stated that a four percent reduction of all district employees would eliminate the budget shortfall as it exists today. They said they would be posting all Q&As on the district site.

A salary reduction would have in past and will in future avoid job losses. Salary reduction is a reasonable response to this economy as many of us have experienced it already. It is also a reasonable correction to the irresponsible unsustainable raises that cost us the reserve fund that should have been in place to get the district through this crisis.


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Posted by Rita
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I will vote against any tax to reward teachers by giving them raises. I have taken a 15% paycut this year and my husband more. Teachers should take at least a 10% cut. 180 people came? Out of 70,000 it is not much. Most I have personally spoken with will also vote against a tax of any kind. Do not waste money putting it on the ballot in this economic depression. Consider a use tax.


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Posted by MK
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm

A use tax cannot be implemetned without changing the state constitution. For the first forum I would say turnout was great.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Teacher, I realize this is personal for you and other employees; I think most posters don't intend to be hurtful. For some in the community, I believe, the questions are how to address the monetary needs of an organization where the majority of the budget is personnel. Freezing step and column, cutting days out of the work year, temporary salary rollbacks, releasing only the poorest performing employees--are all solutions locked inside contracts that cover nearly every employee.

There is a desire to help, and a sense of frustration that the only answer is for taxpayers to pay more--taxpayers that have already been very supportive through volunteering and donations and who quite often themselves have suffered in the current economy.

I preaching to the choir, but there has to be a way to meet in the middle, and that will mean short term concessions by all the employees being met with additional short term contributions by the community. One will not happen without the other, but I for one feel the ball is in the court of the employees. I appreciate that you and some number of others are willing to contribute. I hope there will be a push on leadership to take the next step.

"To" Step and Column is (down or across depending on the chart) awarded in one direction for longevity and in the other direction for additional education received. You can march in one direction (step by step) and never jump to the other (column) or you can jump as you add units and then add steps again year by year until you make another jump. The problem some have with this system is it is a given. It isn't tied to goals or performance, and in the good years, raises are given and it changes every step and column compounding the expenses for future years.

As one brave parent pointed out at the meeting last night, this was a wonderful and successful and financially sound district when classes were easily at 30 and at least one school was at 1,000 students. This is Lake Woebegone, CA where all the children are above average. 30:1 is certainly less than ideal; so is 25:1, but I will be surprised is CSR is where our values will land on a survey. Also pointed out last night, CSR essentially pays for K-3, and there are a lot of 4-12 parents and other community members who will not believe this is how to get the best bang for our bucks.

About your accusation about lies regarding the numbers: $98.4 million for salaries/benefits (posted on the DO web site); 1% is $984,000; 4% is $3.92 million. Before you cry wolf about someone crying wolf, you really should check for yourself.

Freezing step and column would save $1.6 million next year (it's too late for the current year) and $3.2 million for 2011-12--not enough to address the predicted shortfalls in what was presented as "not the worst case scenario."

This is long enough. I will post what I sent to the budget@pleasanton.k12.ca.us email address that was handed out last night. It's the community's chance to make suggestions directly to the administration. I encourage everyone to do so.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm

What I sent to budget@pleasanton.k12.ca.us. Again, I think everyone should submit any and all ideas . . . you never know what may tip the scales out of the red.

Thank you for last night's forum; it was facilitated very well, and I appreciate that Luz Cazares spent a great deal of time responding to questions with honesty and a sense of humor. It was equally refreshing to have a forum that eliminated the board tension and asked that participants present their better natures. My request is that this breath of fresh air be continued with all reporting and availability of responses and documentation.

Specifically, I would ask it be more clearly spelled out that the step and column implications are ($1.6 million for those FYs listed) cumulative. It should be clear to the public that the initial $1.6 million is automatically included in the next year's budget and an additional $1.6 million is added. I want to be certain the community clearly sees this figure, over the fiscal years being noted, is more in the range of $16 million, not $6.4 million. It should also be clear this would increase with any raises or increases to staffing that may occur in the future.

Also in the spirit of transparency, and more in keeping with the Public Records Act, I am suggesting that materials be provided electronically (simple scanning) and that questions be responded to directly--not a pile of documentation being provided with a "go fish" approach to the person making the request.

Additionally, as there are BAC meetings being scheduled, I believe there are several issues to address. First, the balance of this committee (16:11 board/staff to parents/others I believe) is unwieldy and favors the school district so that little concensus is possible. Second, the meetings should be set at a time that is more accessible to working members of the community (4:00 p.m. is difficult for observers and community committee members alike). Third, and most important, is to allow the committee to provide input and to make suggestions regarding the budget--emphasize the "advisory" part of the committee name. Rubber stamping or prioritizing lists generated by staff is not a broad enough scope.

It is my hope the district or the community will hire Larry Tramutola's firm and conduct a survey of the community before any attempts at a future parcel tax are attempted. I don't believe passing a parcel tax will be possible without further concessions from across the board, be that freezing step and column or a percentage cut for the life of the tax. It will be easiest, in my opinion, to stand before the community acknowledging how generous they have been and conceding that in a poor economy, everyone needs to contribute.

Others and I raised some of these issues prior to the decision to move forward with Measure G. I believe Larry Tramutola was clear that engaging all taxpayers is necessary for success. I would like the new superintendent to be able to begin in this position having regained the community's trust. (I did fix the last sentence; it wasn't clear.)


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I liked the suggestion a couple people made about being more aggressive about asking parents for donations, like San Ramon does, when parents register students. We could even include a dollar amount, and like one person said, we "could ask even more forcefully than San Ramon does." I am missing something? Isn't that a good idea. Wouldn't that be a way to get more money for the coming year, since it is pretty clear we won't be getting any from a parcel tax for the 2010/2011 school year?


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm

To Kathleen,

"It is my hope the district or the community will hire Larry Tramutola's firm and conduct a survey of the community before any attempts at a future parcel tax are attempted. "

I agree. I think that money will be well spent.

"but I will be surprised is CSR is where our values will land on a survey."

You may be surprised. We'd be putting our district at an obvious disadvantage in that regard if we went to 30 or higher in K-3. There may be some controversy over just how effective on aggregate CSR is for K-3, but as someone pointed out, the district has seen steady improvement in performance since it was put in place. It can also be have a disproportionate effect on some individuals -- some may need more attention.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

To Linda,

"But then he stopped the meeting with many written questions still unanswered to allow a professional parcel tax consultant to speak, shifting the meeting to a discussion of a parcel tax, unfortunate move."

But they did come back to those questions and read and answered them all after the parcel tax session.


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Interesting to see the rude comments and "campaigning" for teachers pay cuts before hearing any of the consessions from the teachers. It seems to me, when many here assumed there would be a parcel tax election and you were going to be asked for money, the objections went unleashed and said you wouldn't vote for it because of "the way it was handled".

Now you *expect* the teachers to take a "meaningful" pay cut, before even hearing the results of negotiations, and you expect them to agree, with the way you are handling it? Calling them greedy, selfish,unreasonable and arrogant? Why is it ok for you to be rude and demanding? How did you react when those supporting a parcel tax demanded it of you? And this is to be understood because they are frustrated?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

for Birdlander:
You make far too many assumptions. "I'm assuming this person is young because they are single". Older people never get widowed or divorced? Being single is not reserved only for the young.
"Teacher is probably making about $50K." Hardly likely when the median salary is in the mid-eighties.
"Many postings here on PW seem to point fingers at teachers getting wealthy at our expense". Where is any posting that claims teachers are getting wealthy? What many of us have said is that they need to take a cut before expecting us to cough up more money. These S & C raises that have no end in sight are simply not reasonable in view of the fact that so many people who will be paying the tax have taken substantial pay cuts.
"That means you have a million-dollar-plus house, which from last I looked means you are pretty wealthy. You also say you're living within your means." Well, you finally got one right, more or less. I do have a million-dollar-plus house that I fully paid for when the times were good knowing that things could turn bad at any time. It's called planning ahead and not expecting someone else to bail me out.
Teacher was enraged that people discuss his/her salary and benefits. Well, when you are paid by the public your income is very much our business. We are the ones signing the checks.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Get Educated, Some of this mystery could be resolved with open negotiations. It should be public information--it is taxpayer dollars being bartered without our knowing the outcome until it's done. Even with "sunshining," public input is not likely to change what's already been determined in negotiations.

Be fair; those who opposed the tax, with solid information, were called many things. It wasn't acceptable then or now. My comments about frustration, which you know, were not to excuse bad behavior as being acceptable due to frustration.

I'm sorry that anonymity allows a few to not speak at their best, as was accomplished at the meeting last night.


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Interesting that "a reader" was insulted for his "one tune" yet it is acceptable for you to sing one as well?

It is also interesting how many times your requirements change...if only they would have... now it is blamed on negotiations not being public?

It is acceptable for you to assume that important teacher concessions won't be made before the fact?

Anti parcel tax posters are bashing teachers and demanding "meaningful" concessions and that is acceptable?

You continue to post S&C information about "the fiscal years being noted" for what, to further fuel their bashing and that is acceptable? Luz spoke to NEXT years budget, she was very clear, your point is very clear also...it is evident in every teacher basher that posts after you.

I have listened to your long posts on how the district should behave if they are asking for the community to contribute, and yet you demand that the teachers pay for this budget deficit? You were outraged over this very subject, repeatedly posting how they should be handling it, and now this double standard is acceptable? And you tell me to be fair?

Interesting.







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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:14 am

GE, No. We're not communicating very well. I have indicated many, many things on these blogs all along. This is not the first mention of public negotiations. I've talked about the budget, the new superintendent, step and column, give backs, CSR, parcel taxes, November board elections, etc.

It is clear when what I write is information (try to post sources) and when it is opinion. Stating what I would like to see in negotiations is no more than that. Given that they aren't public, how do I know what is going on? I don't have access to that information. Imagine if we did! If concessions are being negotiated, I feel very strongly it will help toward getting the community to step up with more funding--be that donations, fund raisers, or a parcel tax--and really, the first two happen already.

I said it WAS NOT acceptable for either side to bash--and anonymity makes that far too easy. Please read what I write. Asking for concessions is acceptable--demanding is too strong, but I'm not twisting on that kind of phrasing.

GE, Luz was open, honest, and clear to a point. You and I and some others understand the budget, others do not. Look at what I sent to the district and posted above. I have asked them to be clear about the long term impact of S&C and raises that increase the impact of S&C. It's the largest part of how the district started to have trouble. That was all discussed in Measure G AND confirmed (how S&C works and the cost) by Luz.

I haven't demanded; it's your term. Yeah, I do see that concessions have to be made; as I just said, I see that as a nod to the community's past support and a path to getting a parcel tax. I also believe (personal opinion of mine) those who did the negotiating years ago on all sides of that equation are to blame for the chickens coming home to roost now. YES, the state complicated that even further, no doubt about it.

How things should be handled are my thoughts on the subject. Just because we aren't seeing eye to eye on causes or solutions, doesn't mean we can't agree about a parcel tax. I have provided information the public needs to have that isn't being presented in full scope elsewhere. Transparency can be my one note song.

Don't pick one word (in this case fair) out of context and try to make it a thing. I'm happy to meet and continue to look for common ground.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:38 am

GE, I am hoping to have a constructive dialog out here to seek solutions. Prior to Measure G I "did the right thing" and looked for information and contacted board members with mixed results listing heavily toward the bad. I came away with the sense of the lack of customer service most taxpayers in this community receive from the district in general.

I don't control what others have to say on these blogs. If I present solid information and others are shocked to learn it, I certainly think that is exactly because that information is not being presented by those who own it.

Without a holistic approach, I think the district will continue to atrophy. This can't glad handing (my terminology); it has to be a genuine interest in including all members of the public. It's an organization for education, after all. What is to be lost if that extends to all?




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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:53 am

Suggesting district employee salary reductions is NOT teacher bashing!


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:06 am

Stacey is a registered user.

A reader wrote: "You may be surprised. We'd be putting our district at an obvious disadvantage in that regard if we went to 30 or higher in K-3. There may be some controversy over just how effective on aggregate CSR is for K-3, but as someone pointed out, the district has seen steady improvement in performance since it was put in place. It can also be have a disproportionate effect on some individuals -- some may need more attention."

The issue of K-3 CSR from a property owner perspective is that the existence of CSR is one of the "measurables" considered valuable by buyers. That won't change until CSR as a fad (as opposed to CSR as only a single part of a comprehensive program addressing specific needs; i.e., gains in CSR being sensitive to teacher quality) is finally out of people's minds. So while the program remains a popular trend, I believe it will continue to be indicated as high on a survey.

The other thing mentioned, about steady improvement since CSR was implemented, was discussed here in the past. There isn't any data that can support such an assertion. The reason is because at the same time California implemented new standards and the API and NCLB accountability systems. There's no way to tell if it was CSR or the new standards, API, and NCLB that is responsible. The other reason is that, if I recall, K-3 CSR was implemented in PUSD in 1998. API data only goes back to 2000/2001. So yes, PUSD's API scores have been improving since API was implemented. That can mean two things. Either the schools have truly improved student outcomes or the schools have just gotten better at meeting the required measurables.

It reminds me of some other data I once looked up. In one year, only roughly 20% of the graduating class qualified for UC/CSU system. In the very next year, roughly 50% qualified. What changed? UC/CSU requirements.


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Posted by the best?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:58 am

We all pat ourselves on the back about how great a school district we have in Pleasanton but how come 50% of our students that go to UC have to take remedial english?


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:26 am

I wasn't "enraged" that people discuss my salary. It is public knowledge so anyone can find out how much we make. My point is that my salary is constantly the topic of discussion and I think anyone out there would get a little defensive if people in the community, that they didn't even know, were discussing how much everyone should be making and how much everyone should be taking a cut. Especially if your profession and salary was currently being criticized left and right.

I "sign the check" to keep other people employed as well..does that make their salary my business? See my point at least?


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Posted by To resident
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

You have made many assumptions in your arguments as well: that people paying taxes have all taken large pay cuts. We haven't. I know of many who haven't either. Again, where is the proof of this? If you look at salary statistics, they have not fallen over the years.

I'm not sure you properly understand the term "median". It means half the salaries are higher, half are lower. Again, you cannot make the assumption that teacher makes $80K. $50K is a starting salary in the district.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:42 am

for Teacher:
"I "sign the check" to keep other people employed as well..does that make their salary my business? See my point at least?"
You bet it makes their salary your business! Any employee paid by the taxpayers -- cops, firefighters, congressmembers, teachers, etc -- should be prepared to have their salary, benefits and retirement packages thoroughly disected in public. That's part of the bargain. That's also much of the reason for the anger toward the PUSD for the unreasonable wages and benefits for many on their staff. Car allowances, cell phone allowances, those items may not amount to huge dollars but they are like the burr under the saddle to those who pay the bills and watch the waste.
For those of us who spend only what we have and do not ask others to bail us out it is unbearable to see the district (or the City, or the fire department, or the police department, etc, etc) come to us for more money while allowing the waste to continue. As I have said in nearly every post, show me the cuts and show me that the waste will stop before asking me for more money.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:48 am

Stacey is a registered user.

It isn't the median salary. It's the average salary. It means that the total cost in salary (minus other compensation costs) to the district can be averaged to roughly $80K per teacher. BTW, the number (for 2007/2008) comes from Ed-Data which hasn't posted 2008/2009 financial numbers yet. Expect the number to be higher for 2008/2009 given step and column raises and possibly lower in 2009/2010 given staffing changes.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

While I would say show me that the waste and excess will stop before asking me for more money, I agree.

During measure G there were lists of local companies that have all announced, 10 and 20% across the board, salary reductions to save jobs. The information has been public and common knowledge no one needs prove it further .


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Taxpayers are like investors, stakeholders in a private company. The management is basically selected by the investors, who have a vested interest in how the money is spent.

Someone who simply "signs a check" can either be a taxpayer or a consumer. It wasn't specified which was meant. A consumer doesn't have a vested interest in how the money that runs the company is spent. Therefore a consumer doesn't really have a right to that kind of information. Taxpayers do have a right to that kind of information, as investors in the company.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

Kathleen, you can quote all the statistics you like, but until you have actually taught 30 kids in the classroom, you should not readily dismiss the effect of higher class sizes. Ask any teacher, and they will tell you that cramming 30 kids in a class for K-3 means you will spend much of the time doing crowd control.

If you've ever volunteered in a classroom, you would notice the difference between 20 and 30 kids. A BIG DIFFERENCE.

In fact, there aren't any reputable studies done on larger class sizes (only on the impact of smaller class sizes), so how can you say CSR doesn't matter? Again, a bad assumption on your part.

And I've said it many, many times: the education a child receives in their early years (K-3) affects their school performance for the rest of their school years.

And that is an undisputable fact. Studies have shown it over and over again.

All the people I've talked to say CSR matters highly to them. Out of all the programs that is the one they would save. In fact, during the meeting, parents were saying they'd rather cut sports than cut CSR.

I am finding this community to be really callous and narrow minded. They are OK with dooming a generation of children to be poor performers in school because they want to punish our teachers and because it is in their own self-interest.

And you have the nerve to call teachers selfish?


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:01 am

Stacey is a registered user.

This is exactly the point I was trying to make about how to look at the budget. Figure out what is a priority to FUND before looking at what is a priority to CUT. If a budget is a reflection of what is valued, then looking at what to cut first is the backwards way of doing it.


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Posted by Alisal Mom
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

I just finished reading through all of the comments and want to thank Kathleen for communicating her thoughts both clearly and respectfully. I agree that anonymity tends to make people rude on boards such as this one. I would like to make two general points that I feel need be understood by the community:

1. Attempts to find funding for the 2010-2011 school year should be addressed as a separate issue from the source(s) of the problem (i.e. why and how we got into this mess in the first place). Obviously there are much larger issues at work (the cost of special ed, the fact that the unions are on BOTH sides of the bargaining table, , etc). But we need to work together to find funding NOW without getting caught up in the argument how do we change things for the long term. That discussion DEFINITELY needs to happen but for now we need to focus on how to get out of this hole.

2. As a former teacher, I would also like the community at large to realize that negotiations regarding benefits and the pay scale S and C is not an "attack on teachers". We all value and respect our teachers very much but don't let the CTA off here. Make no mistake, the CTA is a power structure that has deep pockets (as teachers' have dues automatically taken out of their paychecks, regardless of whether or not they want to be a part of the Union). The CTA buys legislators by paying for and supporting their campaigns for re-election. In turn, they get their way. Essentially they are on both sides of the bargaining table along with other unions in this state. This is a HUGE part of the problem.

Have you ever noticed that the CTA has never offered to reduce its size and administrative costs in order to save teachers' jobs? No way, they might lose power in the process.

One more thought / suggestion. We should really require that a Union rep. be present at the next forum (the 19th?) to answer any negotiation questions from the community. I, for one, would love to hear what he/she has to say.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:12 am

Median salary is a considerably less relevant number when unemployment is at 12%.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Concerned Parent wrote: "In fact, there aren't any reputable studies done on larger class sizes (only on the impact of smaller class sizes), so how can you say CSR doesn't matter? Again, a bad assumption on your part."

The converse is true, how can you say CSR _does_ matter? The fact is that this is an area of research that is still debated and studied. It isn't a settled question. Even if you look at the sites that are in support of CSR, they all say that it is best for minority students and the "lifetime" gains are not reflected in things like test scores in higher grades (but in something like an increased chance of going to college). Is that the typical Pleasanton student? The problem of CSR is that it is treated as a fad instead of as a tool to apply to specific problems. Just because a class has CSR, if the teacher is poor then all the gains are shot. Moreover, it is an expensive tool to use.

It reminds me of the issue of "closing the achievement gap". Focusing on closing the gap as a goal makes people forget that the real goal is in increasing all student outcomes. If you close the gap by lowering high-achiever levels and increasing low-achiever levels, nothing beneficial has been done. If the goal of CSR is just to have less students in class, then that's another waste of effort.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:19 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Alisal Mom wrote: "The CTA buys legislators by paying for and supporting their campaigns for re-election. In turn, they get their way. Essentially they are on both sides of the bargaining table along with other unions in this state. This is a HUGE part of the problem."

This is the big difference between public employee unions and private employee unions. Private employee unions do not get to pick and chose who manages the company (unless the unionized employees wholly own the company as investors). Public employee unions have the ability to do this through such activity as lobbying and campaigning, etc. It is a huge conflict.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

I agree with Stacey. Even the latest Freakenomics book points out that it is really a quality teacher that makes the biggest difference with student achievment, not the size of the class. That said, I also think it's ideal to have fewer students. It's a no-brainer. Having fewer students in a class means that they will receive more attention from their teacher.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Kate wrote: "Having fewer students in a class means that they will receive more attention from their teacher."

That may be true. Again it goes back to the teacher and what is being done with the time. Students can get more time for individual attention other ways like less periods/longer classes on alternating days, longer school days, longer school year, etc. Giving more time for individual attention is still dependent upon what the teacher does with that time. If all they fill up that time with is busy work, that's a waste!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

Here's the website of an organization that's gaining popularity in regards to unions being on "both sides of the bargaining table". These benefits and retirement packages of teachers, firefighters, etc, etc are not sustainable and are the reason our state has a 42 billion dollar deficit. PUSD is just feeling the trickle-down effects of the larger problem.

unplugthepoliticalmachine.com


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

Stacey is a registered user.

And the reason I point out the effects of teacher quality is because after knowing that, it is really frustrating to see the way the legal system has been influenced by the union and set up to protect the stinkers and not reward those that merit it. One can point at the law and say, "Oh look! There's a process for getting rid of bad teachers." all the while ignore the statistics on how the system doesn't work in the interests of children, only in the interests of the employee. The L.A. Times has a feature out on that subject...


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

The simple reality is that Casey et al gambled that the revenues would never decrease while implementing unsustainable positions and salary increases, and then raided the reserves and played accounting tricks to cover the loses. There was a time when other options could be considered, but that moment has passed. Salary and benefits make up more than 86% of the district operating budget. That is where the correction will come from. It really isn't a matter of choice at this point.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:33 am

Interesting that a teacher is concerned about crowd control in their argument for CRS.
PUSD used to have paid non-certified TAs as a second teacher in the class of 32-34 students bring the student teacher ration to 16 to one. The union negotiated to dump the TA so the teachers could pocket the money themselves.
PUSD teachers also used to have paid benefits but voted to pocket that money as well.

A high school teacher just shared with me that CRS has more benefit for the teacher than the student. The HS teachers are concerned that CRS has allowed the needs at the upper grades get lost.

The unions hold the solutions.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

Linda makes a great point ... "PUSD teachers also used to have paid benefits but voted to pocket that money as well." They chose higher salary over a lower cost of benefits probably because most of them were married and could get cheaper benefits through their spouse's job. If I were a single teacher in Pleasanton I'd be annoyed about this, but once again, not the community's fault, it's the UNION who negotiated this fiasco.


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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I think there is plenty of room for everyone to make some reasonable concessions:
- There is currently little if any inflation. Automatic pay increases for time/experience generally follow inflation. So unions should be able to freeze step and column without dire consequences to their employees.
- CSR is wonderful at 20 students, but 25 is still better than 30. Why not aim for that? All this Armageddon talk about classrooms of 35 kids did not come to pass. And yes, I do volunteer and I've seen what 20, 25 and 33 kids looks like. 25 is fine.
- Our family used to live in a district where every elementary teacher also had a paid aide and lots of parent volunteers. One year, my son got a teacher who had moved from a low income area and was accustomed to handling 30 kids solo. He didn't know what to do with all the volunteers. He eventually gave them jobs to do so they could come and participate, but really didn't 'need' them. Other teachers had a fit when budget cuts threatened to eliminate the aides. By the way, he was also under 30, the kids loved him and he was one of the best teachers my son every had. Years of experience, CSR, and aides are not the whole story. Let's reward effort, ability and creativity as well as years in the job.
- It is not in the student's best interests to cut extracurricular and enrichment activities just so teachers can get raises. All the discussion tends to center on cutting music, athletics, etc. etc. rather than raises.
- If pay cuts and freezes are not palatable, how about shortening the year by a few days? The difference in education quality is small, and at least the teachers' cuts/freezes are compensated with additional time off.
- A parcel tax would still be a good idea (as would better state funding). But we need all parties to work together. The unions do not get a hall pass on this.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Stacey, even good teachers get overwhelmed by too many students. There are no studies to refute this fact. Some of the benefits of fewer students include:

--More one-on-one attention from the teacher

--Less time spent on "crowd control" and more on instruction

--Teachers can get to know each student better and understand their strengths, weaknesses

--Teachers can better tailor instruction to each student's needs, instead of having to resort to lumping everyone together in one boat because there are no resources and time to differentiate instruction.

And to Linda: I am not a teacher, just a parent with children in school. Regarding your comments about TAs, not sure exactly if all that's true. It's actually more costly to the school to hire an aide in every classroom than it is to enact CSR and hire the extra teachers needed to accomodate it. In PUSD's case, that would involve hiring back the teachers who were laid off. There would be no need to add more classrooms or other resources because they already existed as of the previous school year, when we had class sizes of 20.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Concerned Parent,

There's no need to list what you believe are the benefits of smaller class sizes because there are plenty of websites like ed.gov or greatschools.com listing the actual benefits and who benefits the most, when and where CSR is most appropriate. I haven't seen crowd control listed as one of the benefits. I don't understand the crowd control argument. If a class has 20 kids and half of them are being unruly, it isn't because of the number of students in the class. The other benefits listed are not unique to CSR.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:28 pm

"And to Linda: I am not a teacher, just a parent with children in school. Regarding your comments about TAs, not sure exactly if all that's true. "

I had a kid in the district back then and have kids in the district today. It is true! CRS was not even a real consideration when they voted to pay themselves instead of the TAs. They knew they could get the free labor in the classroom from parents and wanted to increase their salary......it is all about the salary and retirement.

The benefits converted to salary also increased their retirement calculation.

I don't blame them for these choices but then don't complain about the consequences.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I found a great article discussing all the problems regarding studying class size and determining effects on student achievement. Web Link


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Posted by question
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I understand that step and column raises are additive and that is why the district has to shell out more money each year for them.

What I don't understand is why this isn't offset by retirements? Is it just that we have a district full of teachers that are disproportionately young(ish)? My understanding is that teachers don't get step raises after a certain point, so it must be the younger teachers who are the recipients of these raises, right? Aren't these the same people who'd be getting pink slips?

If anyone can explain this to me I'd appreciate it.


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Posted by another teacher
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Here is my fear about CSR going up. I may not win any popularity contests by saying it, it it's the truth.

I am a high school student that teaches 165 students everyday. Every year, I get 5-10 students that require an extraordinary (disproportionate) amount of my time and energy. Maybe they are special ed. Maybe they are ESL. Maybe they are GATE (not usually, though). Maybe they have behavior problems. Maybe they have extremely high maintenance parents who want daily progress reports... I think every teacher experiences the dilemma of "how do I meet the needs of this one student without it costing the kids in the middle?" My fear is that when class sizes go up, it's not the kids at the top and bottom that will suffer, it's the ones who fly low under the radar, pass their tests with B's and C's but could do so much more if I only had the time to spend on them. Teachers are mandated by law to follow IEPs. They are mandated by the district to close the achievement gap for low performing students. There is also legal liability for not meeting the needs of GATE students. So, when a teacher cannot humanly meet the needs of all of their students because their class sized are too big, who gets overlooked?


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Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I have been a regular volunteer in the classroom for elementary schools. We have a fantastic amount of parent volunteers in our district and that eliminates some of the benefit of CSR. Where they have done studies on CSR, they have been comparing classrooms of 20 or 25 vs 30 or 35. They did not study parent volunteers that I have seen. Pleasanton is real fortunate to have so many parent volunteers. If a teacher wants it, they can almost always find parent volunteers for most of the school day, every day. I have been at back-to-school nights where teachers have asked for volunteers. The classroom at back-to-school has almost all the parents for every student there and a large percentage volunteer. I have seen teachers overwhelmed with volunteers and did not know what to do.

I know that parent volunteers are different than credentialed teachers but the volunteers can spend one-on-one time with some of the students that are having trouble, or can assist the teacher when there are a bunch of kids asking questions asking for help for specific topics the teacher needs assistance on.

If part of the problem is "crowd-control", there might need to be better communication between the school, student, and parent on acceptable behavior, with consequences of not following directions. Although I think most teachers are pretty good in maintaining control of their classroom and demanding respect from the students.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm

To those who attended Tuesday night's forum: I had to leave by 9 p.m. and was unable to hear the answers to the questions that they weren't able to get to before the speaker. Did they answer those remaining questions? And didn't they say those questions and the District's response would be posted on the PUSD website? Thanks.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Hi Kate,

most of the questions were answered by the end of the forum. Answers have not yet been posted online, but I think they will appear here, on the PUSD "Budget Information" page (not the easiest one to find on the website):

Web Link

Is there a specific question you had been hoping to hear answered? I didn't take immaculate notes, but it's possible that someone else who contributes here might recall how a specific question was answered.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm

To another teacher.

I agree with your statement, and it would be unrealistic for the community to expect the same level of attention with an increase in numbers. IMO it is the responsibility of the parent to pick up where ever the school drops off. So if a mid range student getting Bs and Cs isn't getting enough attention in the classroom it is the responsibility of the parent to either directly or indirectly improve that student's performance.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Catching up with Concerned Parent: I have not dismissed CSR—I've said raising a parcel tax solely for CSR ignores grades 4-12; I've said it's a great classroom management tool; I've said we should look at how to get 25 or 30:2 for core classes (resource aides rather than certificated teachers), which would reduce class sizes effectively to 12-15 students in reading and math.

And, I apologize if you missed this, but of course I volunteered when it was 30 and when it was 20. Parent; grandmother. I'm also the oldest of 11, so I can extrapolate because that was 24/7/365 for a lot of years.

The assumptions, I fear, are on your part. Stacey is better at these kinds of questions than I am, but if there is no appreciable data supporting CSR at 20:1, it's saying that it is not much different than some larger number to 1. I'd have to go digging, but is that 22 or 25 or even 30:1? 30:1 is the number where we started reducing from.

"And I've said it many, many times: the education a child receives in their early years (K-3) affects their school performance for the rest of their school years." And this says to me our best hope is to have only the best of the best teaching at the K-3 grade level. Of course, I would like the best of the best at all grade levels. PUSD is fortunate; we do have many excellent teachers.

"And that is an undisputable fact. Studies have shown it over and over again." Yet you do not cite those studies, making it an unsupported statement.

"All the people I've talked to say CSR matters highly to them. Out of all the programs that is the one they would save. In fact, during the meeting, parents were saying they'd rather cut sports than cut CSR." I don't know who "all" of them are: K-3 parents, K-3 teachers? One parent suggested cutting sports; people I sat near were not happy with that suggestion.

"I am finding this community to be really callous and narrow minded. They are OK with dooming a generation of children to be poor performers in school because they want to punish our teachers and because it is in their own self-interest." Dooming the children? Did you hear the consultant; there's a generation of children right in front of yours (and their parents) who didn't have class size reduction. Parents have a role to play in education, perhaps the larger role. And we aren't punishing teachers and I keep hearing self-interest, but I never see what those are supposed to be.

"And you have the nerve to call teachers selfish?" Show me where I ever said that! I have friends, coworkers, an aunt, and a sister in K-12 education. They are awesome on every level and have my respect.

People choosing to rail at me seem to think I'm trying to shoot down some method of supporting the schools. I would support a parcel tax, just not blindly. I'm asking for transparency and surveys and a serious look, as Stacey says, at what we are willing to support so we can determine what additional amount we are willing to pay. I'm not the first or the only person to have suggested this prior to Measure G and since.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Alisal Mom, Point 1 has been a concern for several of us. Why didn't the foundation start fundraising in September? It's daunting; they're burned out I'm sure, but it looks like they could be the only hope of limiting the strain for 2010-11.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:02 pm

To Kathleen or anyone who remembers,

Did I hear correctly at the meeting, or was their talk of taking K-3 class sizes larger than 30, to something like 35 or 37? It seems to me that at some point it doesn't matter how good a teacher is, if there are simply too many students in a class room, no teacher can be effective.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Reader, I didn't hear anything over 30, but I left after the consultant responded to questions and the floor went back to questions on the cards. I could only hope if that were suggested that teachers would fight to save more of their own to not have that kind of working condition.

One parent did state her children were in classes K-3 at Walnut Grove in the '90s at 35, but my kids were there then (I couldn't see her from where I sat), and while 4, 5, and 6 got to 35, I don't think K-3 ever did.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm

"Did I hear correctly at the meeting, or was their talk of taking K-3 class sizes larger than 30, to something like 35 or 37?"

I stayed for the full meeting, I did not hear anything like that and I think it is absurd to start that kind of fear mongering.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm

My recollection is the same as Kathleen and Linda's. No one mentioned anything about K-3 class sizes going above 30.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:28 pm

"fear mongering"?

It had to have been that parent I heard. It was hard to hear in there. It was just a question. I thought I heard 37. If it was a parent recollection, then that's what it was.


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 12:49 am

another teacher wrote "Maybe they are special ed. Maybe they are ESL. Maybe they are GATE Maybe they have behavior problems....."

I appreciate you bringing this up, it is a significant difference between classrooms today and those pre-CSR twelve years ago. I would also add the additional number of children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, OCD, tourettes,ADD, ADHD, and auditory processing difficulties. These kids were in the classroom then as well, but undiagnosed without IEPs that mandate specific modifications required of the teacher in the classroom. I know of one school that this year had 50% of the kindergarteners coming in speaking English as a second language.

Although, I am not a believer that CSR is the only way to improve performance, I do know that it is one way the needs of these special populations can be more effectively met. For example, by the time these EL students leave elementary school, they are being reclassified as fluent.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

You all tout class sizes of 30 as something to be proud of.

Did you also know that during the time you were talking about (the 1990s), California had the LARGEST class sizes in the country, with 30 or more children per classroom in elementary schools? And you are proud of that?

Subsequently, California also had among the lowest test scores. Oh yeah, something else to be proud of. Which is why Pete Wilson enacted legislation to reduce class sizes in California.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 11:04 am

I should have added at the bottom of my post: "And now you want to take us back to the 1990s, pre-CSR?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 9, 2010 at 11:13 am

I love it. We are now quoting Pete Wilson's era, but no one wanted to support him when he called for a crackdown on illegal aliens in the state. Does anyone (other than myself) see a correlation to NOT wanting to support him in that arena and today's financial crisis in our schools?

Perhaps if we weren't educating so many illegal's kids, we'd be more financially solvent.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 11:29 am

Volunteer,

I also volunteer at school on a weekly basis, and my child's teacher is top notch, with more than 10 years experience. Even with a class size of 25 young kindergartners, she relies on assistance from parents to help the children.

For those of you with children not in K-3, I would like to ask you a question: you are asking those of us with young children to do less with certified teachers and more with parent volunteers. I would ask you if you are comfortable doing the same with your older children? Would you prefer a volunteer with no teaching experience to teach your older children math or science vs a certified teacher?

Teaching younger children is not only about ABCs and 123s, it is also about teaching problem solving, understanding social cues, sharing and listening skills, motor skills, among other things. It involves an understanding of child psychology that teachers take classes in. Most parents I know do not have this kind of expertise. Most, like me, get a bit flustered when faced with a group of rowdy kids, each of them doing their own thing, arguing, not listening, etc. A good teacher knows how to handle this with aplomb, and it is something no parent volunteer should be responsible for.

I am not against parent volunteers, but we should not be relying more on them. I am not against teacher aides either, because they, too, are trained in child psychology, if that is our only alternative. Of course, the best solution is a certified teacher.

Of course, I'm going to hear people post about bad teachers and blah, blah, but you cannot say there aren't bad parent volunteers either. Many classes have children with learning disabilities, english-language learners, etc. Unless they have children of their own like that, parents are not trained to deal with these children and will often ignore them because they do not know how to teach them.


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Posted by Accountability
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Teachers should take a 10-15% paycut immediately. We should also sue Casey personally for his sheer incompetence.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

To "Accountability",

Where do you get the 10-15% from? At the meeting a 4% cut for all employees was given as an amount that would close the funding gap. If we get other sources of funding, such as aggressive funding drives, that amount could be a lot less. Please give some kind of analysis and reasoning before you just throw a number out there.


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Posted by Ceasar
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 10, 2010 at 4:22 am

To the teachers,

We are currently in a depression, not a recession.
The public is suffering enormously. The employment outlook is bleak and tax reveunes are plummeting.

TEACHERS MUST NOT BE INSULATED FROM THIS ECONOMIC DEPRESSION. TO CLING TO THEIR STEP AND COLUMN, AND COLA'S IS AN OUTRAGE.
THE PUSD BOARD IS A JOKE. DO SOMETHING DAMN IT!


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

To "Ceasar",

Little heavy on the capital letters. If you remember from the meeting last Tuesday, Step and Column increases were currently under negotiation. They may be cut or eliminated. COLAs aren't being giving currently, and aren't even being considered. Why are you talking about COLAs? What are you talking about?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Actually if the teachers and administrators did take a 10 to 15 percent paycut would make sense because in addition to balancing the budget it would allow us to build a surplus or rainy day fund and afterall they only work 8 months a year and not even full days at that.


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Posted by DW
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I'm sorry for what is happening in Pleasanton that is affecting so many families. I am a Dublin homeowner, but work and shop in Pleasanton, so hopefully I'm helping to support the community indirectly. I'm a parent at Hacienda Elementary in Pleasanton. There are so many happy children and happy families there. If you're looking to make a change for your elementary or middle school child, there are open houses in Jan. 2010. There are financial incentives for 2010/2011 enrollment by early Feb. 2010. The cost of Hacienda may not be that different from what parents would pay to make up for PUSD budget shortfall.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

"The cost of Hacienda may not be that different from what parents would pay to make up for PUSD budget shortfall."

Ha Ha! So Hacienda would cost about $200 to $400 per year per child?

Web Link

I'm calculating $1355 per month * 9 months = $12,195 for elementary per year.

and $1355 per month * 9 months = $13,455 for middle school per year.

A little false advertising there?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Caesar
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm

reader,

You say step and column is "under negotiation". That implies they will get something in return. Bull crap. Just take it away!

Did you notice they are considering deferring pension expenses again?
The reason is PUSD can't afford this burden. This would be the second year in a row Casey and his clowns (the board) have pulled this stunt. Un frigin believable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Just forget a tax in this depression or whatever you want to call it and reduce PUSD teachers and administrators salaries by 10% or have parents pay 200 a head tax for their kids extras since we already have tax money paid for school and also a bond. Enough is enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

The District needs $3.6MM. Personnel costs make up 87% of the pie. 87% of $3.6MM is $3,132,000. Cut $3,132,000 from personnel expenditures and the rest from other services, operating expenses, supplies, etc. Simplistic, but fair. Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 9:57 pm

To Stacey,

A fundraiser could also help close the gap.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Hmmm, last year everyone said that the teachers should take a 15% pay cut and that would solve all the problems. The teachers didn't, programs were cut, teachers laid off. The issue is that even if the teachers had taken a 10% pay cut last year, there would still need to be anotehr 5 to 10% pay cut this year. Are we really expecting the teachers to take a pay cut every year?

I guess its good to see that there is still a vocal crowd that thinks teachers don't do much of anything and don't deserve the low salary they receive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I keep getting that sinking feeling that I should be following the crowds that are leaving this state.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Look, a parcel tax isn't going to fly, just as getting a straight reduction of 10% pay from the teachers isn't going to fly. And the state budget isn't going to get any better next year. Without more money, things need to be cut. There are many things are schools provide that are not mandated, but are what set the good schools apart. Sadly, these are the things that need to be cut. Class sizes will continue to get bigger and many students will suffer. Yes, the best students will still do well. The low end students will still get extra help. Its the kids in the middle that will suffer.

The School District has to try to do what it thinks is best. If they put a parcel tax on the ballot, its not to punish the citizens or to try to make teachers rich, its what they think is best. You then get to go to the polls and tell them what you think - a pretty good system.


Additionally, the (federal) requirement for annual testing needs to go away. Is there really that much more information about school performance that we get by testing these kids for a week every year versus testing every other year...every third year? Is this something that Obama has addressed?


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