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PUSD Neal School lawsuit ends

Original post made on Jul 21, 2011

After spending $2 million to fight a lawsuit, the decade-long battle over construction of Neal Elementary School has ended, with a little more $350,000 headed back to the district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 21, 2011, 6:47 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Won Hung Lo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

That whole episode was incompetence, followed by more incompetence, followed by more incompetence -- all with the lawyers' meters running up millions in legal fees. Why is it that neither the City of Pleasanton nor the Pleasanton School District almost never come out on top in a legal battle? Incometence, followed by more incompetence ...


Posted by Oops they did it again, a resident of Parkside
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

The District has had such a lamentable performance on their so-called skill at "managing attorneys" and still there is no apology for the incredible waste of public money....

PUSD is a fundamentally dysfunctional organization. When will they apologize to the public?

Web Link


Posted by Mike, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm

And the district needs a parcel tax because. . .


Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Why was Jeff Bowser the only one to attend the hearing? Do the board members parcel out which meetings/hearings they attend? I'm glad this is finally over. Don't blame the current board (exception of Chris Grant) for the issues of previous boards.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 22, 2011 at 12:45 am

How did we get from July 7 to July 21 before hearing the outcome of this? With the district receiving this large amount of money it certainly has an impact on their budget. I hope we don't have to wait until the next board meeting on August 16 to hear their intentions.


Posted by Retrospective, a resident of California Reflections
on Jul 22, 2011 at 6:57 am

It was fun while it lasted!


Posted by Jack, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:27 am

"And the district needs a parcel tax because. . ."

Class size reduction, reading specialists, music, quality of education . . .


Posted by Won Hung Lo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

Jack,

Your point is well taken. Its sad to think about what could have been provided in class size reduction, reading specialists, music and quality if millions had not been whizzed away on this bungled Neal School fiasco.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 23, 2011 at 9:12 am

Here is the key: ". . . when Superintendent John Casey was hired in 2002, [HE] determined that the cost of Neal had risen to $13.5 million . . . Casey said the developers should pay the difference . . ."

Now at the end, the district ends up losing a school, paying $1.6 million (net) in attorney fees (it is possible this was paid from some fund other than the general fund), and had to pay to add classrooms to an existing school (and I suppose this could tie back to the refinancing of bonds done in order to pay for them). And there is a 13 acre site owned by PUSD with little likelihood of ever having a school built on it.

I'm glad this board and superintendent have this hand-me-down behind them.


Posted by Andy, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2011 at 7:36 am

Wow! Somebody's a conversation stopper!


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

Sorry. Certainly not my intention.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm

In reflection, it seems that Dr. Casey was also handed down this problem from a prior superintendent. Didn't that superintendent move on to Palo Alto? It sure is easy to point fingers, isn't it?


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I quoted the article as to the finger pointing, but yes, the prior superintendent was part of the original negotiations for Neal Elementary. The question that would be difficult to answer is whether that superintendent and governing board would have asked Signature for an additional $5+ million, which was what started the three subsequent lawsuits. I know that superintendent was deposed on the topic--perhaps the answer is there.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jul 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Web Link

Mary Frances Callan is the originator of the Neal Debacle, who jumped ship for Palo Alto. Dr. Casey doubled down on a bad deal.

I'm glad to see the end of it at last, and hope the new administration has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm

YAT, "Jumped ship" is an not at all the case. One is recruited, it's a great opportunity, one gets an offer, and then accepts it. Not very sinister.

I'm not so sure the original deal, $8.5 million for a school, was a debacle. It was the determination that another $5 million was owed by Signature to build Neal that sent them to the courts. What would have happened if the agreement was followed? Would Neal have been built? I'd love to hear Jim Ghielmetti's perspective.




Posted by Frank, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Now that this is behind us, maybe it is time to get another parcel tax effort going.


Posted by Monica, a resident of Amador Estates
on Jul 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm

because genuine stupidity is not truly confirmed until someone bangs their head against the wall for the third time.


Posted by I'm not one!, a resident of Downtown
on Jul 25, 2011 at 7:59 am

We need to hire a special agency to do some additional research on this. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. There are still witches living in our midst, and it's important that we cast our stones at the ones who most deserve it. I nominate Kath Ruegsegger to represent the good citizens of Ptown in our quest to get to the heart of this matter.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 25, 2011 at 10:23 am

I use Kathleen because, uh, it's my name. But call me Kathy or Kath or whatever; it's all just fine.

Back with the first parcel tax, these lawsuits were one of many concerns raised that were proven and/or since settled in some manner. I get it though, shoot the messenger. I don't see a need for further research; this is done as far as I can tell--no witches, no stones. Glad this is over for the current governance team (a good team, by the way); said that earlier.

I'm believing the vast majority of Pleasantonians are good citizens, who have already chosen their representatives.


Posted by Frank, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 11:30 am

Mrs. Ruegsegger,

Could you be persuaded to help spearhead a new parcel tax effort? You could help bring to light past issues that some voters may have had with earlier efforts that have now been solved.


Posted by Typical Developer?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

It says the developer loaned the district $8 million to build the school, and also designed it. Apparently his word and the agreements were worthless.*
It sounds like the developer not only got his money back, he also got his costs for the design AND legal fees?
Q. Did he ever intend to provide the school, or just to laugh all the way to the bank?

*How could Pleasanton make such a poor deal?

Are these the same people who now want us to Trust Them, they'll use the new tax money wisely?


Posted by Marie, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I am glad this decade old dispute regarding the building of Neal School is over. Many parties were involved in this fiasco, I.e., board members, developers, legal counsel, the City, and superintendents. Hopefully a situation like this will never arise again. But I do believe that not one of these individuals entered into this agreement with the knowledge that the outcome would ever be so costly for the district. I do not see the connection between a lawsuit (that was against the legal counsel that advised and drew up the agreement for the district) and a parcel tax initiative.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Marie, Some feel the concerns raised during the last two parcel taxes, including these lawsuits, help prevent either attempt from passing. As the financial issues are resolved, some may also feel another attempt may actually reach the 2/3 threshold required for passage.

Frank, I served on the initial committee for Measure E when they hired the consultant and determined the language for the ballot. The latter is still a sticking point for me personally. I would serve again if asked, but I don't see that parents would want me to spearhead it or that the language would be more specific.

Typical Developer, I don't believe Signature ever put out money for the school. Plans, if I recall correctly, were done by the developer because they could get approval faster. The article indicates Signature forgave $2.5 million of the $2.6 million they were awarded as a settlement in the first two lawsuits--may be the only ones laughing all the way to the bank is the law firm. Most likely just their fees from the lawsuit, but it could include their drawings. I'd only be guessing who got the lion's share of this settlement of $1.3ish million. Could again be just attorney fees.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jul 26, 2011 at 12:43 am

"Jumped ship" I said. Mary Frances Callan's tenure as Superintendent of PUSD was quite stormy and controversial. Neal was a debacle from the start, a bad deal negotiated by people who didn't know what they were doing. Casey took a bad situation and made it worse.

And what was Ms. Ruegsegger's professional tie to Mary Frances Callan? Ahem!


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 26, 2011 at 7:14 am

YAT, I could run down a list of superintendents and their tenures. It's not a popularity contest and very few achieve a team that agrees "(name here) was the best." She did not jump ship, and as you point out, I have reason to know that.

An agreement was in place and the last administration tried to play hard ball to get more than was originally agreed. With all the bond refinancing that administration did, why wasn't that money added to the pot of $8.5 million to build Neal? And even if $8.5 million had been enough to build (or Signature agreed to $13.5 million) the $500,000-$600,000 reserve for the initial year of operating funds eventually eroded back into the general fund to cover "other costs," again, during the last administration.


Posted by curious, a resident of Birdland
on Jul 26, 2011 at 8:38 am

Boy, Im having a good deal of difficulty with the language of some of these replies. Can't support them.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

The new superintendent and board are looking for the facts, just like those of us who asked the questions, and I am grateful for the transparency and effort to assure all taxpayers of the positive changes to past practice. Shorter: this has been a good thing.

As to a future parcel tax, I prefer knowing our X millions of dollars will go exclusively to save "fill in the blank." I am happy to let K-12 parents determine what those items will be. Barring specificity, every taxpayer will get one vote on whatever language would be chosen for another ballot. It doesn't have to meet my preferences, it just has to meet the preferences of 2/3 of the voters.


Posted by Cindy, a resident of Castlewood
on Jul 26, 2011 at 10:57 am

Let's look at realitit Steve recommends. Why compare Perry to Bush when you can commparitit Perry with Palin.


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