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Teachers must play role in budget fix

Original post made by reader, Another Pleasanton neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010

Viewpoint From The Sacramento Bee (well written):

How do you know when you're in a family? When you're asked to clean up messes you didn't make and pay for expenses you didn't incur.

That's what it's like to be a parent in most families. Increasingly, it's what it feels like to be a parent in California school districts, which have lost $18 billion in state funds over the past two budget cycles.

Of course, the budget news is not good throughout the entire state. City and county governments are cutting positions, reducing services, furloughing workers, trimming hours. If your city reduces summer programs and library hours, city residents suck it up. But schools are different.

Schools are where we send our beloved sons and daughters each morning with a backpack full of expectations for their success. We may never attend a city council meeting or even know our county supervisor. But if we have kids, we go to school. We know our principal, and we certainly know our teachers.

We see our individual schools and districts as united in a common goal – providing a better future for the children whose interests we share. We feel like family, and when you're family, you dig deeper. So we provide: hand sanitizer, Kleenex, classroom help and, yes, money from our own pockets, through auctions, fundraisers and parcel taxes, to pay for what the state budget is taking away.

But the budget crisis that is haunting our state and national leaders is eating away at our own paychecks.

Between furloughs, salary cuts and layoffs, we as parents have less to spend. We want to help, but we can no longer do it alone. In districts across the state, we are asking teachers to do what families do in a crisis: help with a solution. In many districts, that means reopening teacher compensation agreements with the view toward making sacrifices like furlough days, salary cuts and freezes in negotiated cost of living.

Some teachers have agreed to pitch in. Salary concessions have come up in the Sacramento City Unified district. Last year, teachers and staff in the San Juan Unified district agreed to cuts in health benefits.

Teachers in the Folsom Cordova, Twin Rivers and Natomas unified districts agreed to furloughs.

Thus far, Davis teachers have not followed suit even as the Davis school board considers layoffs for 80 teachers and credentialed staff. Last year, the Davis Teachers Association said "no" to a 2.5 percent pay cut proposed by the district's superintendent as a way of closing a multimillion dollar budget shortfall.

A one-time bailout from the federal government, two voter-approved city parcel taxes and another enthusiastic round of fundraising by the nonprofit Davis Schools Foundation saved the day. This year, the anticipated budget deficit is up to $5.6 million – nearly $2 million more than what it was last year. Still, Davis teachers have refused to even discuss salary concessions, citing a recent poll among members showing an even split on what is sure to be a polarizing issue.

Worse still, the association's current president explained to school board members recently that the district's teachers "take offense" when they are criticized for refusing to look at salary reductions, even though the jobs of colleagues hired as far back as 1999 may soon be on the line. Teachers, she said, "have been giving all this time" – through long hours, uncompensated prep time and out-of-pocket expenditures.

And those teachers who could face layoffs? "We don't really know them," she told the board. "Do we care about people? Yes. But we're not really a family."

For parents, the issue of teacher compensation is always complicated. We entrust the hopes and dreams of our sons and daughters to professionals who teach because they love kids, but also because they want a paycheck. We are miffed if we sense that the latter objective is emphasized over the first; that the second-most important adults in our kids' lives are doing for money what we think they should do for love.

But in many districts, the relationship between teachers and parents is also colored by the huge role parents play in the public schools. In towns like Davis, we are passionate about education and willing to put time, effort – and yes, money – into what we believe should be top-notch schools.

The teachers who work in our district have to put up with a steady infusion of parent involvement, but they also reap the benefits of all that energy: drivers for field trips, abundant classroom volunteers and chaperones, and all those parental checks that fund educational needs on the classroom, school and district level. We parents believe we are part of a family that wants the very best for our children. We feel betrayed when it seems that some family members are unwilling to do their part.

With all that is at stake for schools, now would seem as good a time as any for communities to have the conversation that comes up in every family when members aren't pulling their weight. It's a conversation about obligation and interdependence. If you take, you're also expected to give. We are all in this together. Those are family values.

Comments (98)

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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:20 am

To 'reader' - Let's be sure to cite:
the source - (Web Link)
the author - Jill Duman


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Great article. Yes, the teachers must be part of the solution.

The biggest problem is the union. If we did not have a union, the problems would be easier to solve, but this collective bargaining and agreements are out of control.

Is there a way to get rid of all teachers and start all over, hire back those who are good and want to work without being in a union?

Charter schools do it. In charter schools, teachers do not belong to a union. Isn''t there a way to do it that way in the regular public schools?


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Posted by Amador Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Good question, Common Sense. Why do we still need unions? They just muddy up the works. The union "tells" the teachers what to vote for, whether they really agree with it or not. Get rid of the union, teachers!


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm

"Get rid of all teachers and start all over." Hm.... I don't think there is currently a way to do that. I'm not sure about in California, but in Ohio, some charter school teachers are unionized, and some are not. In Ohio, the big benefit of charter schools is liberation from nitpicky requirements from the state department of education (equivalent to California's EdCode). As long as schools achieve "results" in the form of improved test scores, the charter school retains its charter.

I do remember something about removing staff or teachers being part of the Race to the Top program, but I can't remember the details. There's definitely something in that program about parents exerting control over a principal in a low-performing school.

But we don't have low-performing schools, so it's probably not relevant for Pleasanton.


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Posted by reader
a resident of Foothill Place
on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The article states that the teachers need to chip in, but it is directed at a union that's made no concessions in a city where TWO PARCEL TAXES have been passed. That is not the case in Pleasanton.

Last year the teachers agreed to get rid of 2 non-student days. This would've cost most teachers about the same amount as the proposed parcel tax. That would have been an equitable contribution. Now people in this town are arguing that the teachers need take cuts that amount to THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS per teacher in order to support programs that the community won't support for its own children. How is this fair? Many of the teachers don't even live in Pleasanton and pay parcel taxes in their own cities!


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Let's clarify something:

Taxpayers pay into the system based on their income.

Teachers receive paychecks from the system based on their seniority and educational credentials.

They also pay taxes, but please show me how you continually draw a line from pay freeze or reduction to "teachers would pay for education". That is just wholly sensationalistic and inaccurate.

By the way, if you look outside of our little pond you will realize that this discussion, to greater or lesser extent, is happening throughout the state. And the overriding opinion seems to be that the unions are breaking us. There will absolutely not be a new tax passed here anytime soon.


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Posted by reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The piece also shows that a parcel tax is not the solution. Cities with parcel taxes are having the same problem. So if we did a parcel tax, we might move the problem out a year but it will be right back to bite us. I am sure those cities were told the same line that our district did that a parcel tax would save all those programs. Now they cannot deliver. Our residents want to see reform and concessions before they give more in a tax; wise move.

Sorry about not including the cite. I thought I had it there but must have messed up the link/cite when I did the paste.


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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Teachers are already a part of the fix. They teach and they get paid for their services!

problem solved...if they aren't doing their part, then why do they receive salary?


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Posted by in the know
a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Teachers are giving. They are currently being asked to give up as many as 15 days over the next 36 months. They know they must give up pay via furlough and since they already agreed to take a day loss last year for the same per person amount as the failed parcel tax last year, don't say they have not tried to give. Thats right P-town, that is 10 days your students will not be in school (including days THIS school year).


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm

The problem is the union. I know of some very excellent teachers who will be laid off, and yet some that are the most horrible teachers get to stay because of seniority.

This is a broken system. Why should our kids continue to put up with teachers that are not good while seeing good teachers they love get pink slips?

Unions are the problem. Parcel taxes will not fix anything, they are just a band-aid: you can see that in San Ramon, Cupertino and other districts that passed parcel taxes and are now using that money to pay for obligations thanks to the unions.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I agree. Why are we as a community so unsupportive of our schools? Why are we asking teachers to absorb all the cuts? The budget shortfall was not caused by them. We, as parents and members of the community, need to step up to the plate as well.


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Posted by To reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm

"reader"

There is "a reader" who posts on these forums quite often, and you two are obviously not the same person. Do you mind posting under another name? Thank you!


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Posted by Teacher, Too
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:11 pm

It is bothersome when parents assume teachers haven't done our parts and aren't willing to do more. Our site budget monies are frozen, so there are no funds to reimburse teachers for materials paid out of pocket.

Last year, I spent $1572.00 of my personal money on my classroom.
Then, changed grade levels due to the loss of 20-1, and am nearing that amount this year.
I donated $1,000 to PPIE campaign last summer.
Donated to my son's PTA.
Donated to my son's classroom fund.
Donated supplies to my son's classroom.
And the teacher's association is in the process of being part of the solution.
Please don't always assume the worse about teachers. It's really counterproductive.
Try to remember that the large majority of us have children too, and we don't want any child to go without educational experiences due the budget. Most of us are trying to shield the children from noticing any difference because it's not their faults.
Parent volunteering and donations are way down which is to be expected in these economic times. I only have one parent who volunteers on a regular basis. Years ago, I would have been turning parents away.
And please don't question my family values when you don't even know me. My family has gone without a lot over the past two years, so I could supplement my classroom. My family has been tremendously supportive about my desire to provide enrichment activities, books, music, posters, art and math materials, xeroxing, memory books, memory DVDs......so that my students wouldn't miss out just because the SLIP funds are gone.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I was agreeing with "in the know" not Common Sense!


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:24 pm

In the know: "Teachers are giving. They are currently being asked to give up as many as 15 days over the next 36 months."

That's interesting... does sound like things are moving, behind the stage. Perhaps there will be an update in time for next Tuesday's board meeting?


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Posted by Teachers are giving
a resident of Dublin
on Feb 4, 2010 at 8:36 pm

You'll get an update soon and the teachers will be giving plenty.

Teachers don't mind being part of the solution-at all. But it would be helpful if people would realize that it's not entirely the fault of the teachers (or union). How in the world could this entire situation be one groups' fault?

If you really think that the teacher's union is causing this problem, then you do not know education at all. I suggest you get involved and be part of the solution instead of blaming a group that is not in charge of the budget.


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Posted by What?
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Feb 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Great, 15 days means most likely 10-12 instructional days? I will now just have to pay for child care on those days. I would much rather have my kids in school than pay for child care on those days.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Parcel taxes are helping in those other communities. Anyone who says that a parcel tax is a panacea, and will prevent a school district from ever making cuts isn't being truthful. Districts like San Ramon are doing better than Pleasanton partially as a result of their parcel taxes. They are making cuts, but their cuts aren't as deep because the have the revenue from their parcel taxes. We are currently dealing with the worst recession since the great depression. This cause of this recession was mainly a Washington and Wall Street, not the PUSD. And as others have pointed out, teachers will be making sacrifices.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link

"The San Ramon Valley school district has released two budget recommendations reflecting expected cutbacks — one with increased class sizes and another with even larger classes and bigger cuts if the district cannot negotiate concessions with its employee unions.

Proposal A has elementary classes going to 26 students per teacher for 2010-11 and 28 students for 2011-12. The ninth-grade classes would increase to 28 students for 2010-11 and 30 students for 2011-12.

Proposal B has elementary classes going up to 28 and ninth-grade classes going to 30 student for both those years. It also prposes increases in middle and high school ratios, as well as cuts in the number of library workers, custodial staff and counselors."


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I really don't like the idea of reducing the number of instructional days. Learning / retention / development are all directly related to the number of days our children are in the classroom learningl. This is the wrong approach. Why are union and administrative contracts more "concrete" than the number of instructional days our children receive.

This is wrong.


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Posted by More Common Sense
a resident of Gatewood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm

A cut across the board would be better for one year but this will affect our kids and I totally understand. I am in the private sector and have two weeks unpaid now. That's two weeks of not working so the company saves money.

I would not expect the staff to do the same work for less money.

The thing that nobody mentions when they make comparisons between the private sector and schools is that in the private sector when cuts are made it's most often because of decreased workload. Why be open and hiring if there is no business? In the case of schools that workload never decreases. So we are expecting teachers to do the same (extremely hard) job for less pay?

We can't expect everything from these people!

I do hope we see some concessions from the PUSD staff because it is then my hope that the community will finally step up and help solve the problem too.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm

To Stacey,

"Proposal A has elementary ..."

Both better ratios than we will have here in PUSD.


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Posted by Teachers Are Giving
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Very well said, More Common Sense. Thank you so much for your support. It is wonderful to know that you understand a cut in pay means we will not be able to carry the same workload.

I hope the community is more understanding about the workload of PUSD teachers, once our concessions are announced. We cannot be expected to do the same amount of work when we have a cut in pay. As it stands now, I will have to find a 2nd job to make ends meet after the dust is settled. I don't mind, if it means keeping services that will help everyone in the community. But a little understanding from parents is always nice (and not "it's the union's fault").


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

A reader,

Better by one or two students?


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm

More Common Sense:
" I am in the private sector and have two weeks unpaid now. That's two weeks of not working so the company saves money. I would not expect the staff to do the same work for less money."



My management doesn't feel the same way. Salary reductions across the board, forced time off each quarter.....no change in what is expected of me though. In fact, I'm asked to be more productive now than previously.


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Posted by "old tenured" 30yr old
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:06 am

The greatest insult comes from those in the community who think no concessions will take place. I can guarantee, no matter what is offered, for many posting here, it will never be enough.

The "shared sacrifice" is a line I have heard too many times and I no longer trust this community to share in this piece. What is your share? I live here, I pay taxes- it is not enough. That's what you are telling teachers, so what is your share going to be? This town benefits from the quality schools, you've been capitalizing off of them for years. Surely, you share in the responsibility as well. What are you planning to do to offset the lack of OUR tax money that the state is no longer sending to fund the schools. Just continue to place blame?

You want teachers to feel the pain. How is it that my family isnt feeling the affects of the recession the same as you claim to be? My spouse has been out of work for a year. And yet, your rally cry is that it is time we feel the pain of the private sector? I have been frozen on S&C for two years, and have more years of the same to come, while my medical benefits have risen. For two years, I have had a signifcant pay cut, and yet you claim we don't feel the pain of the recession?

The least you could be is polite, grateful, and appreciative for the excellent quality schools your children are currently attending with 11 MILLION less this year- how you can't even notice the difference is a testement to how hard we are all working to compensate. And not a single positive thread has been posted on this blog about this since September. Yet, you have plenty of time to post complaints, bashing, speculation, and judgement. The least you could do is notice.


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Posted by Pleasanton Sky Is Falling
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:21 am

I have personally asked our San Ramon friends about what is expected of them. San Ramon parents are expected to pay almost $500 per child at school registration. Not in PUSD. Pleasanton parents have the option to opt out, even out of the lesser "A Dollar A Day" contribution.

It seems like if we are asking these teachers to "share the sacrifice (and boy, they surely will, just wait)," parents should also start doing the same come 2010 school registration in the fall. Pay $500 per child and help keep the great reading specialists, teachers in PE, Music and Science Lab specialists, class size reduction, etc.


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Posted by Caesar
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 5, 2010 at 4:17 am

Screw furloughs and even more days off.

They have too much time off as it is.

I want pay cuts and more teaching days.
Don't like it teachers? Bye bye. Next.

Get rid of "staff development days"
I call those payed days off.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 4:53 am

Stacey: "Both better ratios than we will have here in PUSD."
a reader: "Better by one or two students?"

How can we know yet what the ratios we will have here? It's possible that the union could generate enough of a sacrifice that the board will take increasing CSR for K-3 and 9th grade English and math off the cut lists. Right now we don't have enough information about the size of teacher concessions.... nor has the board prioritized the cuts.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:47 am

Sandy:

It was "reader" who said the ratio of students to teachers would be better in San Ramon because of the parcel tax. It was "Stacey" who pointed out it was only by 2-3 students.

Back to parcel taxes. This is a comment for the person posting under "reader" that is an advocate for a parcel tax:

You talked about San Ramon and Cupertino in previous posts. You used them as examples of districts that will be better off because they passed a parcel tax. Well, having 28 kids in a class (San Ramon) is not that much different than having 30 (Pleasanton). And for Cupertino, their board of trustees already approved going up to 30 students:

Web Link

Parcel tax or not, it looks like most districts are looking at 28-30 kids in a class.

About the comment that San Ramon parents pay 500 dollars at registration: this is not true for all parents. Many choose not to donate, and many have taken their kids out of school mid-year to go to private schools.

PUSD also asks for money at registration time, and other donations throughout the year. My family has spent more than 500 dollars already in donations. Most parents donate at registration time, but you cannot force anyone to donate.

I am personally re-thinking the donation stuff. I do not agree with what was done with my donation this year. The ILPS effort led people to believe that you could designate what your money was going to be used for. This was not the case in the end. The district even chose to pay for elementary school counselors with that money, something I would never have agreed to.

So you want donations? Make sure the district knows they have to use the money for the designated cause OR give it back to the people who donated that money.

The parcel tax failed for many reasons here in PUSD, but one reason was that what they were proposing to finance was not welcome by some.

We do not need elementary school counselors, etc. Those who think we do, I ask why. Counselors in middle and high school help with class selection. A kindergartener does not need this kind of help. Those in need of psychological services, therapy, should do so through private health care or use the government services.

Schools are here to educate, not to be everything for everyone. They do not need to provide counseling for troubled kindergarteners anymore than they need to provide flu shots. We do not have the money to provide even basic educational programs, why are we trying to keep things that are simply not needed in schools and people should be taking care of through their health insurance and private doctors?


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:12 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Just as "old tenured" 30 year feels insulted at the idea that the community may believe teachers don't sacrifice, many parents are insulted by the idea that they don't already sacrifice a lot. That's the whole point of the opinion piece written in the SacBee and was posted above by the original poster.

The quality of Pleasanton schools is not the sole result of teacher effort, but that of teachers AND community working together.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

Stacey is a registered user.

The education community recognize that parental involvement is a strong influence on the success of students. When students are successful, ya can't take sole credit for that.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:19 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Common Sense: Thanks for pointing out that I reversed the quotes. Sorry to both of those I quoted for that!

You also ask why elementary counselors are needed. "Counselors in middle and high school help with class selection. A kindergartener does not need this kind of help. Those in need of psychological services, therapy, should do so through private health care or use the government services."

My understanding is that counselors do refer students to private therapy or government services. Of course, the number of students in need of referrals has been going up, because more students' parents are experiencing layoffs, and government services are overloaded. With no counselors, those kids could go weeks or months before they get to see a social worker. In the meantime, counselors provide a bridge, to minimize the impact of stress on those kids and on their classmates.

They are also an important part of the conflict resolution and disciplinary team at the elementary school Elementary teachers can send kids to the counselor if there has been a fight in class or a kid has melted down for some reason, and the principal is not available (at an SST or other required meeting with parents, for example). After all, teachers cannot send two angry elementary kids to the office by themselves... the fight could easily escalate between classroom and office. Without counselors, teachers are in a bind -- they cannot leave the other students in the class alone, and they may wait a long time with two kids who need individual discipline before the principal can come to collect the kids.

This is already becoming an issue this year, because elementary schools (other than Donlon) no longer have vice principals. Counseling hours and FTE were already cut for the current year -- the counselor at Alisal divides her time between Alisal and Walnut Grove. That means that on some days, the only disciplinarian available to back up the classroom teacher is the principal. With 15+ classrooms, it's possible to have the principal's day entirely eaten up with just fighting fires.

Next year, 2.5 FTE of elementary counselors who were paid for with one-time funds are on the cut list, as well as another 2 FTE in additional cuts. I think that leaves only 2 or 3 elementary counselors to cover 9 sites.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

"Reader" has also used Palo Alto as an example. I found an article that talks about cuts to that district as well, from september 2009:
Web Link

"For Gunn, this affected the class size reduction fund, which had previously been used towards minimizing class sizes in freshmen math classes and freshmen/sophomore English classes. "The class ratios were increased from 22 students to a teacher to about 25 students to a teacher," Principal Noreen Likins said."

So parcel tax or not, even Palo Alto increased class size in 9th grade, to 25, which is what Pleasanton also did (and Palo Alto has a 400+ per year parcel tax)

And look at this more recent article about the Palo Alto School district (december 2009):

Web Link

Even with their very high parcel tax, they are looking at cuts, from furlough days to increase in class size. But at least over there they are talking about CUTS.

So parcel taxes do not seem to be the answer. San Ramon, Cupertino are both increasing class size despite their parcel tax. And read about Palo Alto. Those are the three district that "reader" has used as an example of why parcel taxes are a good idea. I think parcel taxes do not solve anything, there needs to be a smart way to look at the expenses and get rid of all unnecessary items.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 10:01 am

Sandy:

thanks for the explanation about elementary counselors.

I still think we cannot afford them, and children must go through other venues for counseling services. If a child is too disruptive for school, he/she should be suspended or something. Parents need to take responsibility for their kids.

Growing up, my parents got divorced and my mom had to go back to work. We had some tough times, but it never occurred to my parents to make it the school's problem. We were given the support we needed at home, from our family.

Just because parents are going through tough times, it does not mean that an entire school and school district should suffer.

The district is talking about eliminating educational programs, from reading specialists to less periods in high schools. Yet we worry about how to keep elementary school counselors? I think schools should understand what they are here for: to educate kids.

As far as helping teachers deal with disruptive children: the parents should be immediately contacted and expected to pick up a child that is too disruptive and cannot be dealt with by the teacher.

I have been reading about these cases. A student can even be expelled altogether from a school district and sent to another district that has the schools for problem children.

Just like we parents expect teachers to do their part and expect administrators to be fiscally responsible, parents should be expected to do their job: deal with your child, get him the support he needs, get him counseling on your own, don't expect a school to have to deal with a child that is too disruptive to be in class.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

Common Sense, can I ask how much time you have volunteered in an elementary school classroom lately? I would then ask where and when? And don't lie. I believe that if you have seen an elementary school classroom recently, you would have a different attitude. It pretty easy to sit on the sideline and criticize what others are doing when you could chip in and help some yourself.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 11:57 am

"...and yet some that are the most horrible teachers get to stay because of seniority."

Common Sense - could you please ost the names and schools of the horrible teachers? It would be helpful to many so our students could avoid those teachers. Thanks!


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

"I have been reading about these cases. A student can even be expelled altogether from a school district and sent to another district that has the schools for problem children."

I'm not sure, but I beleive that the original school/district is still responsible to pay for that child (and perhaps pay for transportation).


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Letsgo, are you sure? I thought that was only for special education students whose needs cannot be met in their home district, not for expulsions.

I'm concerned that if reading specialists are let go as a short-term savings measure, in the long run the district's costs for special education could skyrocket.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"Teachers must play a role in budget fix"

And the rest too. Web Link

"School Board, administrators get pay cut
The 7.25 percent reduction is same level employees are being asked to take"


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Why do board of trustees get stipends? I thought it was a volunteer position. PTA presidents, PPIE board members do not get a stipend, so why does the board of trustees get one? I know many people who would gladly be board members, and for free, but they do not have the resources to run a campaign during election time.

Shouldn't board members get rid of that stipend altogether? Or are we going to start also giving stipends to PTA members? to PSEE members? to PPIE members? to anyone who volunteers a lot at school?


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

"Common Sense - could you please ost the names and schools of the horrible teachers? It would be helpful to many so our students could avoid those teachers. Thanks!"

I would love to do that, but I do not think it would be wise legally speaking. It is not a secret though, in each school parents know who to avoid, but unfortunately many times requests are not honored because after all, someone has to be in that teacher's class because the union rules make it impossible to get rid of said teachers.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm

"Common Sense, can I ask how much time you have volunteered in an elementary school classroom lately? I would then ask where and when? And don't lie. I believe that if you have seen an elementary school classroom recently, you would have a different attitude. It pretty easy to sit on the sideline and criticize what others are doing when you could chip in and help some yourself."

I have volunteered enough to see what goes on. If I told you when and where it would be easy for you to know my identity, wouldn't it?

Whether you believe it or not, I know what goes on in PUSD schools. And so do all parents who volunteer in any capacity.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:59 pm

"I would love to do that, but I do not think it would be wise legally speaking."

Curious as to why you think it would be a legal issue? I'm not sure what legal action could really be taken if there is enough evidence to show that these are really bad teachers.

I don't think anyone knows your identity, so it's just an anonymous post anyway. (if you're worried, just go to a public internet place and go through a proxy server and they will never find you)


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Quote from the article Stacey posted:

....Board member Paul Diffley said pay cuts are better than layoffs.
"We want everybody in this district working," he said. "We don't want brown lawns. We don't want repossessed cars.".....

Who else believes pay cuts are better than layoffs? I wish that a PUSD Board Member would say this and make it part of the 'what does the community value' survey.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

To "common sense",

" I think parcel taxes do not solve anything, there needs to be a smart way to look at the expenses and get rid of all unnecessary items."

I agree that parcel taxes don't solve everything, but I can't agree that they solve nothing. If we had the benefit of a parcel tax, we could preserve some, but obviously not all programs. This, to me, is better than nothing.


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Posted by Horrible Teacher
a resident of Deer Oaks/Twelve Oaks
on Feb 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I think it's interesting that parents want the names of the "horrible teachers". Who decides that they are horrible? You? Believe me from what I see and hear in this community, at least at the high school level, as long as your kid gets a decent grade you could care less about the quality of the education. Some teachers are billed as "horrible" because parents can't push them around and get them to change grades.
I do agree overall that administration does nothing to improve the quality of teaching and that teachers do get away with some pretty unethical things. But again, that's administration dropping the ball.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:25 pm

"I'm not sure what legal action could really be taken if there is enough evidence to show that these are really bad teachers."

You cannot be talking about someone in a forum or something. By giving names, that is considered difammation of character unless you are a public figure.

Besides, what I and many others consider a bad teacher you might consider a good teacher (although I doubt it, it can happen).


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:28 pm

"Who decides that they are horrible?"

What do you call a teacher who yells at the kids and does not teach the material properly? There is a teacher you could hear yelling from a good distance from the class, and as soon as she saw an adult parent nearby, she would act all sweet.

There are many bad teachers and it has nothing to do with grades. Good students get good grades despite bad teachers. And the standardized tests are something the teachers cannot alter, so the good students score high even if the teacher would like otherwise.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm

"I agree that parcel taxes don't solve everything, but I can't agree that they solve nothing. If we had the benefit of a parcel tax, we could preserve some, but obviously not all programs. This, to me, is better than nothing."

San Ramon is going up to 28 students and has a parcel tax that was supposed to be for protecting CSR.

Cupertino is going up to 30 students and has a parcel tax that was supposed to be for protecting CSR.

Palo Alto already increased class size in 9th grade to 25 students (same as Pleasanton) even though they have a 400+ parcel tax. They are now trying to get more money and talking about increase in class size. They have a parcel tax.

How does the parcel tax help again? The only thing it did, it seems, is give this district the money they need to keep catering to the unions and their contracts. They are not using the money for what they promised the community.

The way I see it, these districts with parcel taxes seem to be getting ready to have cuts similar to PUSD. At least in Pleasanton, we are not paying extra taxes to be able to fulfill the union's and administrator's wishes.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm

"I don't think anyone knows your identity"

I know, but I am not about to give names of teachers, schools or volunteer work I have done. That would not be a wise thing to do.


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Posted by Commmon sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Correction:

I wrote: "that is considered difammation of character"

should be: "that is considered defamation of character"


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Parent attacks teachers, teachers attack against parents, and the cycle repeats -- no one can remember "who started it". And fewer and fewer people remember how how to have a respectful debate.

I hope this community can regain some self-control and find mutual respect. Even if there are justifiable reasons for some of this animosity, we will not be able to discuss them and resolve them without recovering our capacity for civility.


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Posted by Civility?
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Sandy is correct. And please remember parents that there are way more of us than there are teachers. Also remember that they are under our microscope we are not under theirs. It's almost not a fair comparison since there are maybe 600 teachers in the district and over 20,000 parents. That's a lot of people telling other people how to do their jobs.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm

"San Ramon is going up to 28 students and has a parcel tax that was supposed to be for protecting CSR."

The link I saw said that San Ramon planned to go to 26 students, and only to go to 28 if there were further loss of revenue, so that is better. Also, there was a lot more on the list of programs to be saved than CSR. I don't see that it makes sense to say that all the money is going to cater to the unions.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 6, 2010 at 7:58 am

To 'Civility?' - Last I checked, the 65,000 residents pay the salaries of the 776 teachers, the 469 classified staff, and the 49 managers. What's not fair about expecting the best education for our children with the resources available?


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

I think Civility might have been saying that we should also expect the best from our parents.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 6, 2010 at 9:33 am

To 'a reader' - I don't think Civility? was saying that at all. They were comparing group sizes and concluding that it was unfair. The reality is that the larger group happens to pay the salaries of the smaller group. Who really has the power to set the terms of the employer/employee relationship?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 9:59 am

The link and quote from the san Ramon Superintendent says that they will only be able to go to 26 students with significant concessions from the union. But I am sure you actually know that.

Web Link

"Major differences between Proposal A, which takes into account employee concessions, and Proposal B, which does not, include class sizes. Currently kindergarten though third-grade classes are capped at no more than 22 in each class, while ninth-grade English and math classes cannot average more than 22 students per class.
Proposal A has elementary classes going to 26 students per teacher for 2010-11 and 28 students for 2011-12. The ninth-grade classes would increase to 28 students for 2010-11 and 30 students for 2011-12"

Web Link

Time to ask you directly. Please divulge your interest in this matter. Are you a paid consultant? Union representative? Teacher? District administrator?


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:10 am

There is no need to make any of this personal to teachers or parents--there are bad players on either side of that equation. What has happened is the system is not serving us well--again, either side of that equation--particularly in Pleasanton.

Our family had up and down years with teachers and with our children. Teachers who don't make tenure usually aren't obvious to the greater community; tenured teachers who are removed--well, I can't think of m(any).

Tenure and S&C--I have heard educators say that any teacher can look good enough for two years to make it to tenure--the bad ones then coast or worse, the great ones continue to be great. Yet they both get the same reward each year (step). Even the bad ones find reason to get additional education units and they and the great teachers, who have different motivations and experience, move across (column) to increase compensation. And if there is a COLA, all boats float up regardless of performance. Removing the now obviously bad teacher is nearly impossible, and the great teacher thrives, but with little recognition.

The punishment for a child who makes a bad choice, however, is swift. The rules don't bend. And for our children, our attitude was . . . you have to pay the piper if you make a bad decision. We backed our children when the teacher was wrong too. One teacher who was proven to be incompetent is still a teacher for all we know, despite the investigation. But I have seen parents who fight detentions and suspensions even when they knew their child was wrong.

Our school system--PUSD--has lost something in the last few years, fiduciary responsibility (and that was before the state fell into a crisis). And now everyone is paying the price, bad and good teachers will have to make sacrifices--again equally; classified staff will just lose jobs--they always are the lambs; students who were in danger of slipping through the cracks will now fight chasms; parents will hear endless pleas for donations and bigger than before. And at some point the community will be asked for a parcel tax.

For me, I think the focus needs to remain at the top, not at the classroom level. Very short-sighted, self-serving decisions were made from the board to the superintendent to the union leadership. Keep the pressure there until the necessary changes are made. That should mean a leaner contract for APT and CSEA; it means sacrifices from management, new contracts or not; it means a new superintendent (in the works); and, IMHO, three new board members. With a few exceptions, I hope that means an internal revolt and no loss of jobs.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Reader:

I don't really see that much of a difference between the class size San Ramon is about to go to and what Pleasanton is planning to do. San Ramon passed a parcel tax saying it would protect class size. How can they now say it cannot? The cost did not go up that much. What happened is San Ramon did NOT honor what their promised. They got the community to agree to a parcel tax with the promise to keep CSR and now they are using that money for something else.

Read what "resident" posted. It is an article and this caught my attention:

"Proposal A has elementary classes going to 26 students per teacher for 2010-11 and 28 students for 2011-12. The ninth-grade classes would increase to 28 students for 2010-11 and 30 students for 2011-12.

Proposal B has elementary classes going up to 28 and ninth-grade classes going to 30 student for both those years. It also prposes increases in middle and high school ratios, as well as cuts in the number of library workers, custodial staff and counselors."

Even if Proposal A is implemented, which requires concessions with the unons, by 2011 they are looking at 28 students in k-3 and 30 students in 9th grade. Again, 2 less students in k-3 is not that much help, and 9th grade will be about the same as Pleasanton.

Yet San Ramon has a parcel tax that is misusing.

And what about the other two districts you used as example? Have you seen what Cupertino parents are saying? There is a blog in the Mercury News. They are seeing class size for sure (board already approved it) going up to 30 and they feel they were lied to. Many parents ask why the district told them they would save class size if the parcel tax passed. It looks like many districts were less than forthcoming with their communities in order to pass parcel taxes.

And what about Palo Alto? They already increased class size in 9th grade this year 2009-10 to the same number as Pleasanton, and they have a 400+ parcel tax! And they are talking about increasing class size again, and asking the community to renew the tax for more money (500+ per year).

Parcel taxes are not the solution. In fact, they seem to hurt the overall effort to get districts to come down from cloud 9.

They are a band-aid for a year or so and not that good a band-aid (look at San Ramon and Cupertino, even Palo Alto).

What we need is for things to change: districts need to start getting rid of so much staff, so many unnecessary expenses, perks for administrators and unions. Unions need to understand that teachers must WORK, no more teacher "work" days (grading can be done after school), no more half days for conferences (conferences can be done between 3 and 5 for as many days as needed), etc.

We need to reform the way we do things. Once PUSD trims expenses, there may well be a deficit, but trust me it won't be 8 million. At that time, they can come to the community and ask for help.

When I see Casey still getting 1K per month for car allowances, when I see teachers getting so much paid time off, when I see so much staff doing very little at the school offices, etc, it is hard for me to support a parcel tax.

And my donations this coming year will be little to none unless I see some true change.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 6, 2010 at 11:00 am

In a healthy school system, both parents and teachers recognize that they need to work together and they depend on one another. They both have some power to make Pusd better (or to make it worse). Arguing about who does or should have more power, who is or isn't lazy, who is or isn't acting selfishly, who is or isn't acting in the best interests of the community as a whole... That just kgets in the way of us using our power to solve tough problems together.

Please excuse ttypos - writing from my phone


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 6, 2010 at 11:31 am

Sandy Did we say something different from each other? I don't think so. But "using our power to solve tough problems together" has to be aimed at those who will ultimately make the decisions, right?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 6, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Kathleen, my comment was not directed at you. It was more of a follow-up on what I wrote last night (originally in response to Common Sense writing about "bad teachers", and the response from Horrible Teacher writing about high school parents saying "as long as your kid gets a decent grade you could care less about the quality of the education") and to what DCOT wrote this morning asking "Who really has the power to set the terms of the employer/employee relationship?" I was trying to express a fundamental belief of mine -- solving tough problems is not about figuring out who has or should have the most power. Power in this context is not a zero sum game.

I know it's not helpful for me to say a person is bad or horrible, or even irresponsible. *Actions* can be horrible or irresponsible, or ineffective, or hurtful.... but to watch even a pattern of actions and decide that a *person* cannot change their actions, or is inherently a bad person -- that's something I try really hard to avoid. When I fall into the trap of saying that someone else is all wrong and I am all right, I limit my power to influence that other person, or even to understand where they are coming from. I set myself a trap, to "win" the argument, when my real objective is not to argue -- it's to work with others to find a solution.

I know that the board members have the authority to make decisions that you or I do not have. But the board cannot solve these tough problems on their own. Parents and community members can raise money, they can raise awareness, they can influence the board through phone calls and emails and public comments, and ultimately they can decide who they will vote for in November. If another parcel tax is ever put on a ballot, they can vote their conscience. If parents and community members do none of those things... the board does not have the power to solve these tough problems on their own.


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Posted by In defense of some administrators
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I can't speak about all the school principals, but I have first hand knowledge of the way some of them respond to parents complaining about bad teachers.
Don't blame administrators because they cannot get rid of bad teachers - not easily.
As Kathleen said, it only takes 2 years for a teacher to get tenured. Many start out great and stay that way, some don't.
School principals know who the "bad" teachers are. By bad, I mean teachers who are verbally abusive to students, show outright favoritism to particular students, are consistently late to class, and are so disorganized that the classes they teach lag significantly behind those same classes taught by other teachers. Except for being late, none of these other issues are considered valid for terminating a teacher.
Principals know who these teachers are because they get complaints about these teachers every year. They will switch your student to another class if possible. They will talk to the teacher - as much as they safely can without the union rep coming after them.
But their hands are tied because of tenure.
Even parents who take their complaints to the school board will find that unless the teacher has alcohol or drugs on campus or molests a student, there is nothing the school board can do unless the school board is willing to getting into a multi-million dollar fight with the teachers' union.
The problem is not the administrators not wanting to do their job or not wanting to staff their schools with the best teachers. The problem is administrators don't have the same freedom other bosses do - they can't fire the bad employees - they are stuck with them.
If there's one concession we should all demand from the teachers' union, it's the right for PUSD to choose which teachers to keep, and which to let go.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 2:56 pm

To "resident",

"Time to ask you directly. Please divulge your interest in this matter. Are you a paid consultant? Union representative? Teacher? District administrator? "

None of the above. My only involvement with the district is to have two children attending the schools. I'm just a lover of knowledge and a believer in learning and education. I believe that the study of mathematics and science is vital to future of humanity. The United States and California already have some of the best colleges and universities in the world. This helps attract the brightest and the best from all over the world to our shores and to our state. I believe that education is one of the most important things we spend our tax dollars on. It is really an investment in the future of mankind. Here in our community, I think we need to everything we can to provide the best education experience possible. If that means implementing some kind of merit pay system, then so be it. If a parcel tax helps, I'm for that as well. As of now, PUSD is among the best school districts in the Bay Area. I think we need to at least do no harm and not make the schools worse. I also think we can do better than just standing still. I think we should do anything we can to improve the schools.

I don't think current financial crisis that we are all experiencing has much to do with unions, taxes, pensions, or over-paid state government workers. The current crisis emerged from totally misguided government policies in Washington regarding the mortgage market and wild speculation and an improperly regulated derivatives market on Wall Street. Those are the reasons for a downturn which was so profound in size and scope. The problem of far to generous pensions for state workers (including teachers) is part of what will make it hard to pull out of this downturn. I think we have to find a way to change the terms of current contracts that allow a teacher to retire in her mid fifties with a large portion of her final salary as a pension. There is just no way to make that math work and not bankrupt the state. I believe that goes for all state workers.

Okay resident, do you have any affiliations you'd like to disclose? What is your opinion of the Howard Jarvis Tax Payer's Association? Do you work for them? Do you live in Pleasanton? Do you think Prop 13 is so well tuned and such a good law that it should not be altered in any way? Do you think the 2% or inflation cap on increases is just right?


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm

"If there's one concession we should all demand from the teachers' union, it's the right for PUSD to choose which teachers to keep, and which to let go."

I agree 100% with this. Can it be done? Is it actually possible to ask the union for this type of consession? I know the governor (not my favorite person) is trying to get the seniority system reformed and I like that, but the legislature (democratic majority, in favor of unions) will have to agree, and what is the chance of that?

So does anyone know if PUSD can ask this kind of concession from the teachers' union? Pleasanton certainly needs to get rid of the bad apples and keep the good teachers on board.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

"I don't think current financial crisis that we are all experiencing has much to do with unions, taxes, pensions, or over-paid state government workers. The current crisis emerged from totally misguided government policies in Washington regarding the mortgage market and wild speculation and an improperly regulated derivatives market on Wall Street. Those are the reasons for a downturn which was so profound in size and scope."

California was in bad shape even before the current national recession hit.

Davis implemented a "for unions" policy with great pensions. How can you say pensions and unions are not the problem?

Where have you seen a police chief retire at the age of 50 with a 200K per year pension? That would not happen if it were not for the pro-union stuff Davis passed. He was recalled for a reason, but Arnold did not succeed or try hard to undo the damage.

Yes, Clinton's 1999 "mortgage for all" is at fault for the current recession, but independent of that, California was acting in a dumb way, spending more than they needed to. This is the welfare state, many illegals use and abuse the system, get free healthcare. Others do so too, octomom sounds familiar?

And the pensions are simply killing the state. Many cities (Vallejo is an example) are so overwhelmed with pension obligations they have to consider filing for bankruptcy.

Yes, the housing crisis is the huge problem in this recession. But even without that, California would have eventually crashed because how can you pay so much in pensions, to the unions? Where do you think the money comes from?


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 6, 2010 at 4:56 pm

If we could work with the APT and the CSEA local to develop a stepless salary scale plus a variable amount for recognition of accomplishments -- say a differential of 5-10% for those who succeed in meeting goals set individually, with their colleagues, and schoolwide, compared with those who do not succeed -- I think that would be progress on the issue of financial rewards for teachers and staff who perform exceptionally well.

Extending the tenure period, and including periodic formal performance appraisals post-tenure, are ways to make sure that teachers are continuing to meet expectations.

From my experience, peer pressure on teachers who are drawing complaints can be as effective (sometimes more so) as formal disciplinary action from a principal.

Peer support can be even more powerful than negative peer pressure, and perhaps the best kind of support that union members can provide for one another is ensuring that a member who is not performing up to his or her potential gets constructive support.

If a teacher is getting behind schedule on curriculum, can he or she safely ask for help without penalty? Is there a master teacher who can come observe in his or her classroom, not with the aim of evaluating performance, but with the aim of coaching the teacher about things to try to help get back on schedule? If a teacher is yelling at students, does the teacher need counseling about more effective ways to establish authority in the classroom? Does that teacher actually need some PTO to deal with the stress of a divorce, or a parent who is terminally ill?

I know that there are cases where no amount of help will address the situations others describe as occurring with "bad" teachers. I also know, from experience, that almost all teachers who are struggling in the classroom *want* to get better. It's no fun at all to be doing something every day if you don't feel like you're having success.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Dark Corners - just a clarification - the 65,000 residents of Pleasanton don't pay our Pleasanton teachers. The 7 million residents of California pay the CA teachers.

Somebody made a simple yet complex statement - let's get rid of all the uneccesary things. Easy on the surface, but who decides what is necessary? There is all the talk about cutting programs, but are these programs necessary? The schools have given the students many opportunities, but maybe its time to take away those opportunities. How many different band or choir classes do we need? What about AP courses? Thos are not necessary for a high school to provide - all it does is possibly save parents money for college. Do we need to offer 6 different foreign languages? How many different science classes or history classes are there? It comes back to the simple question, what is necessary.

Sure, the teachers may be taking a pay cut, but what happens next year, and the year after? Are we really going to make the teachers take a pay cut every year until the state gets out of the financial mess? There needs to be a certain level of pay for teachers and we can't always look at cutting teachers salaries as a way to keep the unnecessary stuff. Yes, teachers will lose job, but every industry loses jobs as the world changes.

Students take the high school exit exam in the spring of 10th grade. Approximately 97% of Pleasanton students pass it on the first try. I'm guessing at least half of the students have enough credits to graduate after junior year. Let's mandate these students graduate as juniors then we have less students and need less teachers. We save money and everyone wins. Or maybe they take online classes senior year.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

sorry, that's 37 million (not 7 million)


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:25 pm

"If a teacher is getting behind schedule on curriculum, can he or she safely ask for help without penalty? Is there a master teacher who can come observe in his or her classroom, not with the aim of evaluating performance, but with the aim of coaching the teacher about things to try to help get back on schedule? If a teacher is yelling at students, does the teacher need counseling about more effective ways to establish authority in the classroom? Does that teacher actually need some PTO to deal with the stress of a divorce, or a parent who is terminally ill?"

These are excellent points and ideas with one thing in common - more spending. That is unless you can get teachers to volunteer more time or you can get those outside the schools to volunteer for this type of position.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 7, 2010 at 8:35 am

Letsgo, I absolutely agree. Based on where we are now financially, more volunteers and unpaid overtime are the only way to ensure that high quality teaching and support for others who are struggling can be maintained.

My experience from working through downsizings like the one going on in PUSD is that professionals will pick up the slack, and work harder to keep the same quality of service as they provided before the downsizing.... but those efforts can only go so far. Burnout and people quitting go up.

Let me illustrate -- At the business school where I taught for ten years, there were almost 120 professors when I started, and 75 when I left. The number of students had gone up in that timeframe. Some retired, some were not rehired, and some of the best were recruited to go elsewhere. Of the 12 new professors who started in the same year as me (bright, high-potential, exceptionally well-qualified people) only 2 of 12 remained 10 years later. And then I too chose to leave.

There are long-term consequences to these cuts, so thinking beyond the next fiscal year is important. We need to keep making cuts now, but we also need to understand their effects on the system, so that the downward spiral can be dampened, and eventually, reversed.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

"Let's mandate these students graduate as juniors then we have less students and need less teachers. "

Interesting idea. is that allowed within California's EdCode?


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

Letsgo—This is so much more complex than 37 million taxpayers pay CA teachers. It misses the fact that the contracts with teachers are local and the pay is different.

And "butts in seats" more formally known as ADA is how we are funded. So cutting the senior class means fewer teachers, but it also means less funding. 30 students=one teacher=$X. 0 students=0 teachers=$0 You don't save anything really.

Education Code determines the minimum credits for graduation AND the CAHSEE. The highest performing high schools are also trying to meet the a-g requirements for UCs. They actually require more credits to get a diploma. I'm not sure cutting options here is in the best interest for the most important component—students. There certainly are debates about whether German and French are the best languages to be learning; should it be Mandarin?

As to Sandy's point about teacher support, there are models. One is Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) who cover a textbook adoption and/or a particular grade level to support teachers. There is staff development that addresses a lot of classroom management issues. There are principals who could be supportive if they aren't stuck in their offices or at meetings "downtown." There are other ways to cut class size that would be less expensive. Tenure plays a bigger role. Supporting a teacher going through a rough patch or who has a particularly challenging class one year should be done with ease. But a teacher who has made tenure and is bumping guardrail to guardrail year after year despite interventions needs to make a career change, and without a long convoluted process.

How do we rethink/reorganize from the classroom out? What does a successful student have when they leave PUSD? What should a classroom look like at each grade level? Should we consider a rolling block schedule at middle and high schools? Should school begin later in the morning (big issue at the high school level)? There's the sticky wicket of homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping. Did we lose something in dumping early bird/late bird? And I personally think the answers here vary from school to school and district to district because the people they serve varies. I'm a big fan of magnet schools, for example.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that K-12 public education is taking on every child and trying to deliver a particular set of skills (which themselves can't change quickly enough to meet the future), with little flexibility on how to deliver it, via an agrarian calendar, shackled by union contracts, whose district administration's own best answer to taxpayers seems to be, "Feed me Seymour!"

It makes me want to pull it up by the roots and shake. And I'd need to wear kevlar.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

"How do we rethink/reorganize from the classroom out?"

Kathleen:

I know people who go to prestigious private schools. What I found attractive (we are moving our oldest kids to private schools in the fall 2010) is that for a particular subject, students only attend class 2 or 3 times a week, instead of every day like they do in public schools. So a student taking Calculus goes to Calculus class Monday, Wed and Fri. Then for Chemistry, he goes to class tuesday and thursday (longer lectures than the mon,wed,fri classes).

There is a lot of busy work done right now during class, from elementary all the way to high school. Private schools somehow find a way to use the time in class more productively. Elementary schools (private) do not demand kids to be there for more than 6 hours. They sometimes are but that is because of the after school enrichment classes and daycare settings most offer.

So it is not a matter of mandating students to graduate by their junior year, maybe it is a matter of making the school time more productive when the students are there. I see my kids overwhelmed with so much busy work. The material and homework for learning is important, but the busy work is for what?

Think about college. In college, if I took a Probability class, it was on monday, wed and fri. An Art class might have been on tuesday and thursday. I never had a class that met every day except during summer school.

Public schools should perhaps start using the example of both the private schools and colleges.

After all, you talk to a counselor and they say take this AP this or Honors that to prepare for college. What they are forgetting is that if that AP class were to be taken in college, the student would only be required to be there 2 or 3 days per week, not every day for one hour each day!


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

CS: What you are describing is essentially a rolling block schedule. Our kids had this in Texas--called red day, green day there. Key classes were longer (great for labs, for example) and they only had homework in three classes any evening or to study for tests the next day. It can also accommodate seven or eight periods. There also is the new interest in online textbooks and online classes, at least the last year or two of high school.

There are great examples of better delivery all around us. Making it happen is like trying to tip a steamroller. Not impossible, but it will take a lot of will power and leverage.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Common Sense - Cal High has block scheduling. I don't think the data has shown any difference as far as test scores and things. Just as a normal schedule, there are pros and cons to everything. I'm not convinced one way or the other, I think block scheduling would be just fine, but I'm not sure how a block schedule is going to save money.

If block scheduling does somehow save money, I don't think it would take that much to convince the schools to adopt it. If it doesn't, then, yes, it will take a lot of work. I'm not sure, but I would think that teachers might prefer it as they have less students to see each day and as Kathleen said, there's more time for labs in science and various activities in other classes.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Letsgo, I was muddling more about putting a classroom as the central focus and building out from there--I doubt that block scheduling saves money, but for students and teachers there are many advantages. I wouldn't let test scores be the deciding factor either. It's about addressing the needs of the consumer, and in that case, I've seen first hand what a block schedule can provide for students.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm

"I'm not sure how a block schedule is going to save money. "

Right now, the district put the 7th period on the chopping block (high school). This will save about half a million dollars but will make it more difficult for students to take more classes.

In private schools, block schedule like Kathleen calls it, the students can still take 7 classes without having to be in school for so many hours. So they go to school from 8-2 instead of 7-3 (no A or 7th period) and still get the 7 classes.

I know this because of someone I know in private schools. Her child takes 7 classes but only goes to school from 8-2.

Yes, it would save about half a million dollars.

Right now, at Amador students who want to take 7 classes must be in school from 7 to 3, the ones who take only 6 start at 8.

Not only does it save money, it also reduces student stress and allows them more time for sleep and homework and extra curricular activities.

There is no wasted time in private schools. No party time, no busy work. The students learn and yes, they score high and get into the university of their choice.


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Posted by To common sense and the other
a resident of Avila
on Feb 7, 2010 at 7:40 pm

"If there's one concession we should all demand from the teachers' union, it's the right for PUSD to choose which teachers to keep, and which to let go."

As a teacher in PUSD for 20 years I can tell you that an administrator has stepped into my classroom exactly ONE time.
An administrator has never had a conversation with me about educational pedagogy.
No administrator has ever asked me what I am teaching on a day to day basis.
I have had administrators in my tenure who, I am pretty sure, did not even know my name.
How can PUSD decide who comes and goes if they can not hire management that will actually do the job of managing?
Is it too much to ask that the district hire educational leadership instead of people who got tired of teaching and wanted a pay raise?
I realize that not all administrators suck but, in my experience most of them do.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 8, 2010 at 12:06 am

To common sense and the other(Avila community),

Finally a post that, in my opinion, every one can agree with...

Well said...


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

"Is it too much to ask that the district hire educational leadership instead of people who got tired of teaching and wanted a pay raise?"

That is a valid request when appropriate. I know an excellent principal and another one who could not care less.

Administrators should evaluate teachers, visit classrooms frequently, but have you thought that this may all be related?

Not that I justify it, but if an administrator knows there is nothing that can be done when a teacher is not performing as expected, due to union unreasonable rules, what is the point?

I know a teacher who has had so many complaints from parents, and the principal is sympathetic but all they can do is that, sympathize and try to make it work for the student, whether by transferring to a different class or really put the teacher on "notice" (meaning the teacher knows not to mess with that one kid but also knows she cannot be fired or disciplined because her union protects her)

Let's start fresh: let's keep only the good teachers and let's demand that administrators do their job to make sure they know what goes on in the classroom.

If only one parent complains about teacher X, you cannot do anything because it may be the parent is just being difficult.

But when many parents complain about a teacher to the point that said teacher has to be moved to a different grade level because NO ONE would be in her class and made that very clear to the leadership, I would think said teacher must go, don't you?


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Posted by Amador Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 9:13 am

Common Sense,
There's a teacher at Amador who parents and students have been complaining about for over 10 years, including complaints to the school board.
She's still there.
Parents who request their students be moved to another class get their requests honored, no questions asked.
Administration knows what is going on in the classroom, but there is nothing they can do but transfer students.
This teacher is active in APT.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 8, 2010 at 9:57 am

Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm

"I don't think anyone knows your identity"

I know, but I am not about to give names of teachers, schools or volunteer work I have done. That would not be a wise thing to do.



I understand you are not willing to name names. Even if the principal agrees with you that a teacher's behavior is abusive, inappropriate or not in keeping with school policies, the principal can't do anything about it. If you file a complaint about a teacher, the teacher doesn't change her behavior, just badmouths you and your kid to every other teacher.
I won't name names either, but I will give Amador parents a hint. Don't sign up your kid to take classes with an Amador teacher related to administration. That teacher has classroom policies not in keeping with Amador policies. Your child could be home sick with swine flu - a legitimate excused absence. She doesn't care. In her classroom, there is no such thing as excused absences. Miss class and she deducts significant points from your student's grade. You could have an accident on the way to school and be late for class - another legitimate excuse for tardiness. She deducts points.
Administration can't or won't override her.
Since she teaches an elective course the best things parents can do is not sign up their students for her class. If she doesn't get enough students, maybe then she will be forced to go elsewhere.



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Posted by Interesting
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 8, 2010 at 11:33 am

Figured out who the Amador teacher is and checked the rate my teachers website just to see what comments were posted there. Seems like this teacher got some positive comments when she first began teaching, but comments in the last year or so have been negative. Makes me wonder if the teacher's attitude towards teaching and the students changed after she got tenure.
People say the school district should not be run as a business, but there's one way it should definitely mirror the way businesses run - if it's not a family business, related employees shouldn't work at the same site.
How can anyone expect a school principal to discipline a teacher if the principal has to work every day alongside the teacher's parent? It makes the principal's job even harder.
PUSD should have a policy that prohibits employees to work at the same site where they have a family member who is a supervisor at the site.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm

It looks like PUSD has already decided to cut programs before cutting expenses that do not affect the students.

Go to the PUSD website, on the home page there is a Draft Survey for all three grade levels. Take a look. It seems like PUSD is already planning to go to the community, ask what they value and how much money they are willing to give.

This is all fine, but how can PUSD even know how much they need to cut when they have not even looked at expenses that can be trimmed? Ie, tell us what the true deficit is AFTER

1) Casey no longer gets his 1K per month in car allowance, and the new superintendent does not get it either

2) assistant superintendents no longer have the ridiculous perks they enjoy

3) Casey has paid the home loan back

4) step and column has been frozen

5) the list goes on and on


Once we know the TRUE deficit, then we can talk about what should be cut and how much the community is willing to give to avoid those cuts.

Unbelievable! PUSD is getting ready to do what San Ramon and Cupertino have done: ask for money for valued programs, then say oops it was not enough because unions must be paid first, Casey must get his check.....Well, I hope people say NO I am not willing to give you a dime until you show me some fiscally responsible decisions.

Board member who went through personal fiscal crisis of their own should be excluded from any financial decisions in this district.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Let's see.... I'm not speaking on behalf of my district, these are just my estimates:

"tell us what the true deficit is AFTER

1) Casey no longer gets his 1K per month in car allowance, and the new superintendent does not get it either"

$12,000 saved annually

"2) assistant superintendents no longer have the ridiculous perks they enjoy"

$12,000 each for 5 people? = $60,000 annually

"3) Casey has paid the home loan back"

Is it paid back already? If not, $200,000 (one-time)

"4) step and column has been frozen"

$2 million annually (I think the current estimate of savings is lower, but I'm trying to skew the numbers in your favor....)

$2,272,000 maximum per year saved through your (1) - (4).

Current estimated deficit: $ 8 million, minimum.

Still to be cut:

$5,728,000

I invite you to spell out (5) "the list goes on and on".


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Well Sandy, just with the above we already have reduced the deficit to 5.7 million - a more accurate picture than the 8 million the district is talking about.

That already is enough to keep CSR and even reading specialists, and something more!

To that add:

"Reduce Site and District office classified Support Positions" - 450K
(this is from the document on PUSD's website, and trust me, there are too many people at the offices, most doing well not much.

"Modify service provider in warehouse and graphics" - 250K
(again from the district's document)

Eliminate two teacher work days, at 450K each, total is 900K

That right there is an additional 1.6 million - substract from the 5.7 million and you now have only 4.1 million

4.1 million, half of what the district is threatening with. And we don't even have the entire budget.

I am just a community member with limited information. If the district releases a budget (and I mean not just numbers but put a category next to the expense) I bet we can get it down to lower than 4.1 million

More:

"Reduce District Office Professional Services" (shredding, etc0 - that is 72K

Reduce the number of ELECTIVE (you know when like that teacher that posted that she had the right to go to her kids' assembly and therefore took the day off costing the district the substitute salary for the day - this should NOT be allowed) = do not have the savings but I bet they are at least 1 or 2 million (going by estimate cost of student elective absences per the district)

Here's another: hire outside janitors, get rid of the union ones, savings? Again, the district has the answers.

But just with what we have so far, we have gotten it down to 4 million (about half the projected deficit)

So you see, the district needs to go through the list of expenses (which only they know the true amounts and waste) and get rid of stuff, then tell us the TRUE deficit (which is less than the 8 million they claim)


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Forgot to write:

The district has identified some of those expenses, but here they are in the "identification" mode only. They should have cut them because they are clearly not needed and do not affect the students.

Also:

Last year they did something funny and kept two part time HR people in ADDITION to the assistant super of HR

THe surveys do not at all consider that once they eliminate the 4 million we already so far identified, they would NOT need to go to the community and ask if they value CSR

Just with the Math you did, you can see than CSR should be off the table, yet here we are, with threats from the district to cut valuable programs but perhaps still choosing to keep step and column, the PIO, etc


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm

About the survey . . . at least it's a survey. I'm not sure what the goal is. Polling parents is only helpful if only parents are going to pay for what they want. It shouldn't be used to determine support for a parcel tax or the amount of a tax either.

Casey paid the loan; well, the bank repaid the loan as required with its sale.

As to the list of cuts suggested. You have to start somewhere and then build. For me, freezing S&C is not the ideal solution; percentage cuts across the board are.

Wonder if they are surveying employees?


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm

"Wonder if they are surveying employees?"

I believe there is a straw poll underway among teachers -- not sure if CSEA employees are also being polled.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I agree, Kathleen, employees have to be surveyed.

I wonder what they all think about the 400/month car allowance each assistant superintendent just got into their newly renewed 3 year contract! (that information I read in another thread and I am just taking it at face value, since I have no way to verify it)

May sound like lunch money to some, but add it up, it is 4800 per year per person. And that is just car allowances, unless we have the contracts in front of us and released to the public, we do not know the cost of other perks.

I agree a paycut across the board would be fair, but try to implement that. I don't think employees will go for that.

As for step and column: I think it should be in a "freeze mode" until the economy recovers, and until we can figure out how to reform the unions and seniority system - the whole education system needs reform.

After interviewing many private schools and seeing how efficiently things are run over there, I am more than ever convinced that the public school system is in big need for reform.

The high school 7 day period is an example. Students do not need to be in school every day for an hour per class. No private school does this and their kids get into prestigious colleges and take many classes in high school, including AP classes (and successfully pass the AP exam).

Colleges do not have classes that meet daily. 2 or 3 times a week, and those with lab get the extra day, so why are public high schools wasting students' time with every day classes full of busy work?

So many things to reform, from the way they teach to how much wasted time in class there is, to unreasonable union rules that give priority to seniority regardless of performance, to administrators like Casey retiring with fat checks even after all he did is bring a district down with his poor leadership, to janitors who make more money than any janitor in the private sector, to clerks who sit there doing nothing and collecting a bigger than earned paycheck for their level of skill, so much to change...


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Posted by wow
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Feb 9, 2010 at 9:47 am

Wow this forum has hit a new all-time low. Describing in detail a teacher that some parents/students don't like?? Shame on you. I know this teacher and I know a TON of students who LOVE this teacher. This attack on Pleasanton teachers has got to stop. You all wonder why they won't give up anything when they have to deal with attacks like this.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2010 at 10:00 am

To Wow,
Sounds like the posts you reference have to do with one specific teacher and one post in particular has to do with changing policy so that teachers don't work at the same schools where they have family members who oversee teachers. That sounds like a reasonable request.


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Posted by wow
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Feb 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm

really?-

I don't disagree with you on that, that's why I didn't mention that in my post. I'm disagreeing with that post that specifically targets a teacher. Find somewhere else to publicly bash the teacher. Would that "poster" take those comments directly down to the Administration (without the family member there) or even take those comments directly to the teacher?? Doubtful. For some reason, people can hide behind their "name" on this forum while publicly bashing specific people in this community, when I doubt they would do it to their face. That is wrong.


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Posted by In Process
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm

A friend of mine is a teacher at one of the high schools. He told me if parents would stop bullying teachers into changing students grades (when they don't deserve the change), threatening lawsuits, stop excusing their son/daughter's bad/lazy behavior and calling SST meetings right & left, the administration would have TIME to actually concentrate on the good and bad teaching that goes on.

Most of their time is running interference with parents because most parents have forgotten how to contact a teacher and talk about what is going on...they run straight to the principal and demand demand demand and throw a tantrum until they are satisfied. What horrible examples those parents are for their kids and for our community.

It will be interesting to see what will happen (if the rumor is true) when one of the high school principals retires at the end of this year. Maybe a new superintendent and new principal can reign in some of these hostile parents of the community and start to hold bad teachers accountable.


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Posted by Insider
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 14, 2010 at 6:55 pm

We can only hope for a change in admin. The current regime has been nothing more than incompetent & blatently intimidating to certain staff (and the intimidation has nothing to do with the quality of these teashers but rather the mere fact that they dare to question instances of gross inequity) all while bending over for every parent with an unreasonable request. It's been horrible for moral and that in turn affects the kids. This school used to be a great place and a lot of us hope that a change will allow that greatness to flourish once again.


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