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School Volunteerism: What does Alum Rock know that we don't?

Original post made by Al Cohen, Amador Valley High School, on May 11, 2010

When I left the Budget Advisory Committee in the fall, I was pushing the issue of parent volunteers offsetting the impact of the budget cuts. Several people told me this was not possible due to legal and contractual obligations. A CSEA representative on the BAC showed me a portion of the Ed Code which I recollect as basically saying you can't replace certificated or classified employees with volunteers. Something about not being qualified.

When I encountered this push back, I was amused by the fact that during my years at the school site, I have seen parent volunteers performing many activities to help the school and classroom work more efficiently. Ranging from grading homework to helping clean up the school yard. I decided to stop banging my head against the bureaucratic wall and move on.

Fast forward to this week where there is a proposal at the Alum Rock School District making parents sign up for 30 hours of mandatory volunteerism (is this an oxymoron or what?). This proposal "seems" to fly in the face of what I was so ardently told at the BAC. It will be interesting to see if this proposal survives and what broader implications it may have. At the end of the day all parents want to provide the best possible education and environment for their children. Hopefully this remains the objective of all school boards, school administrators and educators.

Comments (42)

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Q - "What does Alum Rock know that we don't?"


A - How to stand up for their children in the face of union pressure.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I saw this earlier. I don't think they can require volunteering to be mandatory. You raise good questions though about volunteering in general. There's some related news, "Schools look to partner with businesses": Web Link The reason why it is related is because the schools are not only asking for donations of money, but labor too.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Birdland
on May 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm

There are programs, such as those in Mountain View that also require a minimum of parent participation hours. It can be, and should be, done in any evonomictimes but especially now.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I am not against parent volunteerism, as long as it isn't interfering with actual instruction. It's very disconcerting to the kids to have a rotating group of "mentors" with different teaching styles.

I know you Tea Partiers really don't care what kind of education kids are getting, as long as it doesn't cost YOU anything. Lets turn the tables and ask you a question: Don't you think healthcare costs are out of control? Volunteer doctors anyone?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm

This really doesn't have anything to do with the Tea Party movement. It has to do with parents putting their kids first, while the business interests of the education industry fight to retain the status quo. It's pretty clear which side you are on however.


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Posted by Interesting
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on May 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Alum Rock is one of the worst districts in the state. Not sure we need to take any cues from them.
You can not force parents of public school students to work at the schools and frankly we can't be sure that will solve more problems than it would create.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm

"parent volunteers offsetting the impact of the budget cuts. "

To do what exactly? If there are volunteers in the classrooms now, how would anything change? Are you talking about replacing teachers with full time volunteers? Or maybe one teacher would be replaced with several part time volunteers. I can't see how you would do that without impacting the quality of education. Maybe you were proposing something else, but I'm having a hard time seeing what it is.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm

You're funny, resident. Everyone on PW knows the only side you're on is your own.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on May 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

How about parents/community volunteering in the school libraries?


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

Parents could certainly run the computer lab in elementary, the libraries, and even the Science lab.

My child went to a parent participation school in a different school district. Over there, I was in charge of the Science curriculum, with a group of other parents. We rotated so that we only had to take time off from work once a month, since each of us worked at the school on different days and weeks. Likewise, a group of parents was in charge of the computer lab and another of the library.

The same could be done in Pleasanton. I know some stay at home parents who have asked their schools here in PUSD if they could help, but they have been told no because they need a certificated teacher or something at all times with the class. But if you think about it, there is no good reason why the main teacher cannot be present during say, computer lab time. The main teacher can just sit in the room grading papers or whatever while the volunteer takes care of the curriculum for the lab.

This would save the money we are currently spending on a computer tech and science specialist as well as a librarian.

For those who don't want anything but a specialist: OK, but at least the library can be cared for by volunteers
Get creative, Pleasanton!


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm

My 2 cents: unless parent volunteers are computer technicians, parent volunteers would not be able to run a computer lab. Would a computer lab parent volunteer know how how fix the computers should there be a problem?

And, no, I could not imagine a parent volunteer teaching science! Well, according to some parents, the earth is only 6,000 years old and we walked alongside the dinosaurs! C'mon, how cheap are you guys?


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Downtown
on May 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

The point of the post, I think, is that why can't PUSD be more creative like other school districts in utilizing other resources? Alum Rock is not demographically similar to PUSD at all. However, someone over there has a vision for what is possible. Does Pleasanton?


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Posted by More Questions
a resident of Birdland
on May 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

1. Having parent volunteers in the library would require training, with the belief that each parent will do everything the same (i.e., put books out, not allow kids to check out a certain number of books).

2. We found out at my school that we could not trust parents to correct papers. They were talking about student grades in the hallway, where students from other classes and teachers were walking by. Completely inappropriate and unfair to the child.

3. I would LOVE to require parents to volunteer when their child is not participating in school. I think it would really open up a parent's eyes.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

To expand upon More Questions's #3: we should ask the Tea Partiers to volunteer. They are the ones who are calling for draconian cuts at our schools. Let them see the devastation they are causing firsthand.


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Posted by Alum Rock Parent
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Our school district got this idea from three small schools - L.U.C.H.A., Adalante, and Rennaissance. Concerned and decidcated parents and community members within the Alum Rock School District opened these schools 5 years ago.

These three small schools were all opened with intention of being autonomous small schools of choice. Schools where the families, students, community, and staff make the decisions - and within this came the idea that every family volunteer a minimum of 30 hours a year.

I was one of those original families - since that summer almost 6 years ago when I got involved in opening the small schools our school district (Alum Rock) basically raped and pillaged the foundations these schools were built upon.

Despite that our schools thrived and survived with some of the highest test scores in the state, (during our first 3 years).
In the fourth year our school district drove away our principals- the principals took over half of the staff to open charter schools and the conditions and moral of the small schools deteriorated to the sad pathetic levels they are at today.

Alum Rock administrators and the school board are finally jumping on board an idea that was so successful until they tore it down.

That orginal idea worked - very successfully.

I hope they don't ruin another opportunity by mis-managing it, if they do decide they have the balls to run with it district wide.

Unfortunately I decided to remove my son from his small school and the district due to the 5 years of turmoil, uncertainty, and struggle.

Although I think it is a great idea to have parent parents volunteer a minimum of 30 hours, I am frightened to envision the quality of parents who will be forced to come into a classroom in a school where they have not chosen to invest their time or their belief. For a great majority of Alum Rock families - school is just day care.


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Posted by ben
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 8:21 am

c'mon Anonymous- grow up
You are obviously a kid(at least mentally) with a chip on his shoulder and no, they are not "draconian cuts"


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Posted by Diva
a resident of Canyon Creek
on May 13, 2010 at 9:09 am

Surely there are a lot of talents in P-town, given all the individually successful people that live here. In my children's previous school district, parent volunteers run the music, art, science, and tech programs. 4 of the 8 parents who taught science have a PhD in science and were working in the biotech field. 6 of all 6 parents who were volunteering in the computer lab held a Masters in Engineering or Computer Science from reputable colleges and were actively working in the high tech field.

Given the diverse population we have in P-town, I wouldn't be surprised if our parent volunteers can a lot of value-add to the curriculum in which they specialize.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

Stacey is a registered user.

The concept of adjunct professors is not popular with teacher unions. Bush tried to implement it. We saw how far that got.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 13, 2010 at 10:58 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Adjunct Teacher Corps: Web Link


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Posted by Educated
a resident of Foothill High School
on May 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

To "Anonymous"

Your ignorance is showing. May I make a few suggestions:

1) Actually attend a "Tea Party" event before you make judgements. The media coverage of this movement is VERY slanted. I think you'll be surprised at what you see and hear there.

2) Figure out that Sacramento makes cuts where it is most visible and painful to the average taxpayer so that we'll be more willing to give in to the tax increases they want/need to maintain their control over our lives? That's why the first cuts are to things like schools, police, and prisons. There are thousands of bureaucrats in Sacramento whose jobs could be cut and nobody would even notice. That's the problem...nobody would notice. And then there's the outrageous welfare payments CA makes...they're high even for a liberal state. When CA starts cutting things like this is when they'll have some credibility to me.

3) Comparing teachers and doctors? Are you kidding??? I am quite confident that I could do a better job than SOME of the teachers my children have had. For example last year my daughter had a horrible 7th grade math teacher. She would be struggling with her homework, so I would take a look. I'd explain it to her, and then she'd say something like "Why didn't my teacher explain it like that. This is easy!" Why do we keep these teachers around?

4) The biggest problem our schools have is with the teachers union. If we could lay off the worst teachers instead of the newest ones, the schools would save money and the children would get a better education. My experience has been that is the teachers who have been around for 20 or 30 years (i.e. the most highly paid teachers) who are the worst. More than once my children have come home distraught that their favorite teacher got a pink slip, while the horrible ones get to stay. If we could change just this one thing, I would be happy to make significant donations to the CORE campaign. Until then, no dice.

5) As a student, I worked in my college library. I would be happy to volunteer in the school library. From what I've seen, I could do most of what the school librarians do, as could most parents. The district could have maybe one librarian at each level of school to supervise volunteers and save a ton of money. Please don't interpret this to mean that I don't like the school libarians...it's just that much of what they do is just not that hard.

6) Look at all the volunteers at elementary schools. When my kids were that age, I volunteered in the classroom grading papers, recording scores, helping children who needed extra help, assembling Wednesday envelopes, helping with craft projects, etc. There were times that I would come and the teachers would have nothing for me to do because they had so much help. This is a good thing, and makes me think that most teachers (the good ones anyway) could handle a few more students just fine with good parent support.


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Posted by The The
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

From Stacey's article
A White House proposal to bring math, science, and engineering professionals
into public high schools to teach those subjects could bypass the "highly
qualified" teacher mandate under the No Child Left Behind Act, while only
temporarily easing the shortfall of mathematics and science teachers, education
observers say.
Do we have a "shortfall" of math and science teachers in P-town?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

The biggest budget problem this country faces right now is social security and medicare and pensions. These programs will soon be using more money than they are taking in, if not already. Yet, I never hear any Tea Partiers say that these benefits should be cut. Instead, they blame teachers, children, welfare recipients, etc...EVERYONE BUT THEMSELVES.

Since you have all these suggestions for our schools (and I'm noticing that many posters here don't currently have kids in school) I would like to know why aren't you proposing cuts to these unsustainable programs?




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Posted by Another Anonymous
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I'm a Tea Party supporter, and I believe Social Security and Medicare should be cut as much as necessary to become sustainable.


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm

"These programs will soon be using more money than they are taking in, if not already."

Happening already:

Web Link


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Posted by heads up
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 14, 2010 at 8:55 am

Heads Up:
Pleasanton schools DO NOT have official LIBRARIANS in the school libraries anymore. Our schools have "library clerks" who are typically parents/grandparents of students in our district. The kids may mistakenly call the position a librarian they same way they refer to the band-aid lady as the school "nurse." (Actually a "health clerk" in our schools these days, not an RN)


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on May 14, 2010 at 9:56 am

To 'heads up' - Then why is Daniel Bradford listed as 'Librarian' on the Foothill Faculty website? Is he really a clerk and a parent/grandparent of a student?


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Posted by WRonSutton
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

Participating in LivermoreVJUSD's Principal for a Day program, I saw the need for more Library hours at Del Valle-Phoenix HS, so that students had a place to research, write, and do projects during school hours. The restricted hours are the result of multi-year budget cuts and managed priorities.
When I asked if a "private-volunteer" solution similar to Information booths at airports could work to "expand the library hours," I was also informed that it is always difficult, if not impossible, to replace "official, union-bargained positions" with volunteers.
But, because there is literally no money for such positions, now and the forseeable future, the Principal will try to see, "this time," if such a plan could receive approval from all parties.
Bargaining groups have been the biggest force behind the formation of a middle class with discretionary incomes in America, but, these same groups must look forward and note that world-wide competitive pressures have squeezed all parts of the economy. If bargaining groups cooperatively participate in these changes, as they have started to do in PUSD, recently, everyone will bear the costs and benefits more equally. For the benefit of students at Del Valle-Phoenix HS, I, too, hope, "this time," that volunteers can serve them.


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Posted by Thomas Paineful
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Excellent point about volunteering. Maybe this is a solution to high health costs--instead of having those fancy M.D.-degreed doctors treating us, we can get some volunteers who have watched lots of episodes of "House".

Good way to cut airfares, too. I think any kid who has played a lot of video games can probably fly one of these modern jetliners.


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I'm so amazed that the concensus seems fine with having volunteers teach...those with no experience in the classroom. Is your perception of teaching that you only need to know the material? To be honest, thats the easiest part of the job.

How do they plan to handle the rest, collaborating with other staff members, attending IEP meetings in order to know how to differentiate for all the specific learning disabilities in the class, parent contact for behavior issues during instruction time, EL requirements (which require a special credential that every PUSD teacher currently holds), staff meetings where there is mulitple school wide issues and news needs to be taken care of. What about classroom management, behavior plans, assessments, grading, lesson planning....do they know the grade level standards that are required to be covered?

I hear comments from those of you who think those with 20 yrs experience are the problem, and yet it is ok for a volunteer to do it? Someone with no experience? This is something the poor recession hit private sector is implementing? Firing the most experienced and hiring volunteers to do the job?


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

"If we could lay off the worst teachers instead of the newest ones, the schools would save money and the children would get a better education. My experience has been that is the teachers who have been around for 20 or 30 years (i.e. the most highly paid teachers) who are the worst."

I'm curious about the logic you use with your assumptions about the teaching profession. I have taught in this community for over 15 years- that is over 300 families! Are you saying that I am to be the perfect fit for every child in this community? That is what is best for kids, that we should all be alike- new, fun, inexperienced?

If you do not like my policies, teaching style, or assignments, I am deemed a terrible teacher that should be fired? For every one child that doesn't match my teaching style, there are multiple others that do match. Yet you have the freedom to have me fired over your opinion of my program?

What have you done to understand my objectives and rationals in the curriculum I have presented? Are you scheduling a conference to review my curriculum and hear the purpose behind the work I assign? Or do you just make assumptions about my ability because your child is upset with the work? Do you plan to do this for the rest of your child's life- make sure that future professors exactly meet their learning style? Many times my own children do not understand or like what I ask them to do, does that mean I am a bad parent?

Over the past years, I have added a masters degree, hundreds of hours of specialized training, thousands of hours of hands on experiences in the field, and yet a new teacher without any of this is a better choice?

I remember when I first started, I was BULLIED by many families thinking that I am young, without a backbone, and willing to bend the rules for their child because they didn't like a policy I had. I also remember that it was the senior members of the staff that taught me everything I know. This is a profession where experience is crucial.

I appreciate the diversity of teaching styles my own children are experiencing. Whether they like one teacher's binder policy or not, the real lesson comes from following directions whether you like it or not, looking for the purpose and meaning behind tasks, and overcoming their issues without my intervention all the time.

Learning is about so much more than simply mastering concepts. Do you know what else is involved?


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

There's been no consensus reached here. Most comments above have been about volunteers working in the library. The idea that volunteers are going to be replacing teachers in classrooms is a straw man argument meant to knock down the idea of increasing areas where a volunteer could make sense. No one is buying the melodrama.


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

"The idea that volunteers are going to be replacing teachers in classrooms is a straw man argument meant to knock down the idea of increasing areas where a volunteer could make sense. No one is buying the melodrama."

What melodrama? Why not replace them with volunteers? Couldn't get any worse.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on May 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hey Al - Please run for school board!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Paineful
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

We don't need consensus, Stacey. We need YOU to tell US what to think.

Ah, life is so much easier after that full frontal lobotomy.


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Hey Al,

What kind of "business" do you run anyway?

Hey Stacey, once again, what do you have against replacing teachers with volunteers? If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers, why isn't it good enough for us?


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Posted by Thomas Paineful
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Whoa, Patriot, are you telling us that the American Revolution was fought so we could replace paid professional teachers with parent volunteers?

Hm, I missed that page in my "history" book--but it was written by one of them college-edumucated perfessors, and you know what THEY are all about (advancing their Socialist agenda).

Can't we just dynamite all of the schools in PUSD, collect the insurance, and set the children free to learn on their own? It's so crazy it just might work.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I don't think anyone is considering replacing teachers with volunteers. However I know many well trained "ex teachers" who could go into the classroom once per week and teach a unit that follows the curriculum while the teacher grades ie...English essays. I also know of many very successful women who would like to volunteer ON A REGULAR BASIS in perhaps the library or the office or in the district on projects. Perhaps the school could have a few positions that could be done with one or two trained volunteers. I'm certainly not suggesting a revolving door. This however is what the Union will not allow. They will not allow volunteers being used because they want to preserve as many jobs as possible. I believe volunteers used in a very structured sense could work beautifully if the Union would allow it. I'm not an advocate of forcing volunteerism because you will not get quality consistent performance if the persona doesn't really want to do it. After-all haven't we used very bright and talented volunteers to organize huge fundraisers, essay contests, the marketing of information through beautiful websites and newsletters. They run scholarship program materials and are the backbone of our athletic groups. This is not about quality - or the inability to capture long term volunteers - this is about the Union preventing volunteers to help out. Let's not be fooled....it could work.


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Posted by Thomas Paineful
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Schools already have volunteers supplementing teachers and clerical staff, have had for many years in PUSD. An affluent community means that there are lots of parents (usually mothers) who have time during the day that they can donate to help out the schools.

But to Hell with the facts! Those have never held us back before! I say we implement a new plan of volunteerism that will violate state and federal labor codes RIGHT NOW and let the lawyers settle the whole thing in court over a period of 5-10 years, costing both sides millions of dollars and returning us to Square One at the end of it all.

The way Pleasanton did when it fought the state's affordable housing law (and lost, after a lengthy and expensive legal process). It's the Pleasanton Way, and the Way of the American Race who have found their last stronghold here in the bucolic hills of P-Town.


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Posted by friend
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 17, 2010 at 8:24 am

Tom P
I'm ever in a fight and need help - don't sweat it, would never think of asking for help from you.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on May 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

Regarding some earlier comments regarding the librarians and their classifications. To be able to use the term "Librarian" you must have a Master's in Library Sciences. Both head librarians at each high school have this degree. All other library personnel do not and are therefore library clerks. Students use the term Librarian because they don't know any different and just see that that is the person working in the library every day.


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Posted by Amy
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on May 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

This is an interesting thread. While I believe you cannot compel people to volunteer or donate to the public schools I believe it is one way our community can continue to support our children while necessary cuts are in place. It can help the schools function even if we do not secure additional funds from other public sources. While the current legal structure does not seem to allow volunteers to replace certificated teachers in the classroom, it can extend the available pool of expertise. I, for example, am a degreed, experienced teacher but am not certified in this state. However I have donated nearly 50 hours this year teaching art to my son's second grade class while the certified teacher was present. Our elem teachers are still expected to cover all of California's standards even when the specialists are no longer available to them. If my teaching style had been too different from hers she retained the ability to discontinue my sessions with the children. Teachers at all levels are being asked to stretch beyond their own areas of expertise but many of us in the community are available to assist.


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Posted by Thomas Paineful
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I don't think a lot of people realize that volunteering in a school is an EXCELLENT way to gather gossip about not only the teaching staff, but about their neighbors' children. You people who don't volunteer are passing up a golden opportunity.


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