School district agrees to pay Signature, Standard Pacific $2.6 million to settle suit Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online, on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:43 am
The Pleasanton school district announced Tuesday that it has agreed to pay $2.6 million to local developers Signature Properties and Standard Pacific Homes as part of a court-approved settlement of a seven-year-old dispute over financing Neal Elementary School in the Vineyard Corridor.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 8:02 AM
Posted by Joe Hartley, a resident of the Ruby Hill neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 1:37 pm
These developers should be ashamed of themselves. They collected fees from the homeowners and told us they would build a school as part of their sales pitch. They should give collected monies to the school district so they can at least build a park on the land. The school district should fire anyone associated with this botched agreement as well. I agree with Jan, its clear these developers don't care about Pleasanton and should not be allowed further development opportunities here.
Posted by Vince, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm
Jen and Joe
The developers should be banned from ever doing business in Pleasanton? Are you serious? This exhaustive legal process resulted in the District losing at the trial level and at the appeal level and the result is a $2.6 million judgement and you think that the district has no culpability. This whole exercise was a way for the district to avoid building the school that they had concluded years ago they did not need. I can't imagine what you would suggest happen to the developers if they had lost. You want to run them out of town and our legal system completely vindicated them. It should be a crime to squander resources like this. The District could have done a lot of fine improvements to our schools with these millions instead of wasting the money on frivolous lawsuits.
Posted by shocking, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 5:47 pm
And a double dip for the law firm that represented the developer and now the school district? I think we know who will win the most out of this one. Ok, B,B & B give the school district a price break here....yeah right.....Unbelievable! Nice mess you've left some new board members. good grief.
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 6:28 pm
"Our legal system completely vindicated them"????
As anyone that was in the meetings and heard Signature Properties representative, Jim Mckeehan (newly married to our City Manager) promise to build that school for 8.5 mil or pay ALL overruns, would know the verdict says that Signature out-smarted the District and they have smarter lawyers.
The District was duped by unscrupulous developers and misrepresented by bad lawyers.
Signature Properties has a long history of being bad for Pleasanton.
Took back 1.5 mil in park mitigations by finding an unintended loophole.
Never paid School fees on 28 homes. District never explained this to the public.
Never paid their share of Vineyard Rd improvements?
There is a large unpaid water bill.
Refused to honor first 1991 school fee agreement when a shortfall was declared. Then coerced them into signing this agreement with promises of building the school for 8.5mil. The cost was estimated at being over 11mil from the start but Signature said they could build it for less because they are builders, they were willing to take the risk.
They did not win because they are right or noble!!!!
Posted by Here All Along, a resident of the Ruby Hill neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm
When a home builder goes to pull a building permit for a home in Ruby Hill, not only do you have to pay the School District directly, in my case, I had to do it in person, and then walked the receipt to City Hall to pull the final building permit. Ruby Hill never touched the money, the district and the city got paid directly. Now where the money went from there???
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:45 pm
The homes that were never paid were Signature production homes, ten years ago. The district acknowledged they had not been paid for, under pressure from the public the district wrote a letter of demand to Signature. There has never been an explanation to why the fees are still not paid.
Posted by Fire incompetent staff, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 9:36 am
I would like to see on the PUSD website a full disclosure of who made what decision. District staff needs to be held accountable, and those responsible for this mess should be fired, simple as that. And I don't want to hear that this money will result in the loss of programs that will affect our children. If anything, all those high paying staff members that obviously do not think very clearly, should give up their bonuses, stipends, etc... better yet, they should be fired.
Posted by Be Clear, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:28 am
The PUSD with its own justification made the decision to not build Neal Elementary based on bad demographic data. Ruby Hill was originally thought to be more of an older community, with few families and therefore few school aged kids.
Quite the opposite of what actually happened with the great majority of the 800 plus home being families with kids. The demographers gave bad information to the school district, and the district in turn made a bad decision to not build the school in a timely manner.
To think that Signature or any developer would hand PUSD essentially a blank check (which is what is implied by the so called commmitment to build at any cost) is simply laughable. Plesantonians should be thankful for the tax base that Ruby Hill has added to the community and be thanking Signature for being forward thinking risk takers by building in Pleasanton, instead of complaining that they somehow have cheated the community for being unwilling to give PUSD an open ended check. BTW, the legal system supports this! All anger and frustration should be directed solely at PUSD and their incomptetent legal advisors.
Posted by Tim, a resident of the West of Foothill neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 11:17 am
What is laughable is suggesting that Pleasanton should thank Signature. They made a tremendous profit in this community as they were entitled to do. But they have an obligation to honor their commitments and pay their agreed on mitigations which they have not done.
They were very clear that they were committing to build the school for 8.5 knowing the estimate of cost was already over 11.5 mil. This was in exchange for getting out of the 1992 contract that was going to cost them much more when a shortfall was declared. Keep in mind none of these contracts were charity but made in exchange for the fact that they have received a two dollar a square foot discount on every home they built.
If they had built the school for 8.5 the district would have merely broke even for the millions of discount that Signature benefited from.
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm
Jack were you there?
Many of us in the community were, and we know what was said. I do believe the district's lawyers were incompetent in making sure the contract reflected what was said. So that brings me back to... Signature misled the community and has better lawyers.
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm
Yes, and many in the community appealed to the district and school board not to enter into the agreement. There are not many left in the district that were there at that time. It was a different superintendent and deputy superintendent. The only remaining and most responsible board member is Pat Kernan, if he could be fired he should be as he is a lawyer and strongly supported the agreement.
The lawyers that the district is going after deserve to be sued for malpractice for their incompetent representation.
Posted by sad really, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 5:36 pm
The biggest losers in all of this.....the kids. How sad that not only the State of CA is letting the schools down, and now this.
The question still remains.....how much is this suit against the law firm going to cost PUSD? And what retainer has been promised? And, maybe I just don't get it, why would PUSD use the same law firm that worked so hard for the developer who just sued PUSD? Now that sounds fishy to me!
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 5:46 pm
Is my wife's name "Mary Frances?" Probably not, but I have followed this pretty closely...
Here is the disconnect for me: Let's unwind all the contracts and all the years. If Signature put a tractor out there on the Neal sight tomorrow and started pushing dirt around, would PUSD be happy? No! Not at all. They would run for the hills, and probably back to court! PUSD does not want the school. Never has. So how can they (with integrity, honesty, and all those other words they hang on signs) accuse Signature of violating their agreement?
The lesson here appears to be, we shouldn't sue people for things that we never wanted in the first place...
Posted by Stephen, a resident of the Castlewood Heights neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm
Enough is enough! Look at the big picture. The state is in a mess, the PUSD board needs to make cuts. Why spend more money on lawsuits and give money to lawyers? Do administrators want to cut long term benefits or salaries for them to pay for this. We have at least one board member with a conflict in voting for cuts. So does that mean we could have a deadlock vote of two to two? While he is the elder on the board and this community owes him a big thank you for the hours spent and his dedication to this community. How can he legally vote for cuts when his own kids work in the district? He has refrained from voting in the past on issues that were related to his children working for the district. If he votes to cut the Reading Specialist Program and not class size reduction, is it because his daughter works is a class size reduction program and could loose her job? We donít want to see the elder on the board leave, but he can not vote if his family has a financial interest because of employment in the district. So what are the choices? Can the Pleasanton Weekly publish all administratorís salaries and long term benefits, including the PR person for the district? It is public record! I understand that a Principal retired last year and gets paid health insurance by the district until he turns 65, is this true? I understand that another administrator retired two years ago and got a lump sum payout, is this true? How much did the Business person get paid when she retired a few months ago? It is public record to know this. Pleasanton Weekly it is your duty as a news organization to publish this for our community. Is it time for a change in district leadership and a complete overhaul of his cabinet? Isn't this what Obama is doing to change the direction of America?
For the superindentent 2007 This was before he got the big raise.
In addition to the salary of $227,000 per year he receives:
10 holidays per year (more if another state holiday occurs on a weekend)
24 days of vacation per year (5 weeks)
$5,000 per year for life insurance
$10,000 per year into a tax sheltered annuity
$1,000 per month as a transportation allowance for use of his personal vehicle
Once retired receives taxpayer paid medical, dental and vision insurance for himself and his spouse until he reaches 65.
Let's not forget 200K loan to purchase his Pleasanton house (he has more than one home), interest free until 18 months after he leaves the district.
Items like expense accounts, travel, cell phones would not be part of a contract so the only way to find these is to look at the budget for the superintendent's department. You should also be able to get a detailed report of those types of expenses if you contacted the district. That is all public information and through the public information act the district has to give this to anybody who asks.
The superintendent budgets $13,000 for travel, $1660 for meals, $7000 for office supplies. For superintendent communications, which includes the public information officer, travel, office supplies and such is $175,150.
If you look at the complete charges for travel and conferences for the whole district there is about $510,000.
Posted by Explorer, a resident of the Mission Park neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2008 at 10:14 am
Next time the school board wants to pursue a parcel tax for whatever reason they want, think about the dollars lost on this lawsuit. Could have paid for a lot of school materials. Who was on the school board at the time this all began? I'm happy that so many ran for school board seats this year to give some new direction and public mandate. We have had too many appointed to the board in the last few years. The legalities of continuing to spend on this case should be explained to the public. Can't change the past, however we can influence the future. Any thoughts?
Posted by Give it a rest, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2008 at 10:32 am
I agree with 'Judge Bean' above who says Pleasanton's lynch mob is at it again. Many of these posts are so short-sighted. While dialogue about issues is healthy, let's be reasonable.
John Casey, our superintendent, has done an excellent job with our school district. PUSD is one of the top performing districts in California. What's the point of listing his salary and benefits? He earns what all superintendents earn for districts our size. If we fire him, do you mob of folks holding torches at the gate really think we'll get a new superintendent who is willing to earn less? No, in fact, it's likely we'd have to pay more to recruit a good superintendent away from another high-performing district. We're lucky to have Casey. He has introduced many innovative programs to our schools and has hired an excellent management team that is doing an awesome job for our youth. He inherited the Neal School fiasco. Don't blame him for making business decisions to try to protect the district's best interests.
And can we give it a rest about Pat Kernan? Yeah, he's a lawyer, but he wasn't hired to write the agreement and he's not a specialist in education law regarding contractors. Also, the district attorney looked into Julie Testa's claim and was fine with Kernan's residency in Pleasanton. He lives here, folks. While he owns a second home where he spends weekends and will eventually retire, is that a reason to tar and feather him?
And who says PUSD is spending ANY money on this new lawsuit against the lawyers who assured them over and over the contract with Signature would hold up in court? Maybe the case is on a contingency. Ever consider that?
Oh no, you're all too busy lighting your torches and getting your ropes ready to string up the very people who have given us one of the best school districts in California. Our schools are why a lot people move here. PUSD is a key reason our housing prices have held up much better than many cities and why we have a vibrant economy relative to other communities.
Please, be reasonable in these posts, or give it a rest.
Posted by Give it a rest, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2008 at 11:04 am
Your post came in as I was composing mine. Couple thoughts:
Parcel tax: According to your reasoning, we should make our kids suffer as state funding is slashed by NOT passing a parcel tax because it's worth it to send a message to the school board that they shouldn't have defended themselves in court. Remember, four of those board members weren't even on the board when the Neal lawsuits first started. I don't get it.
Board appointments: On the one hand you want to punish the board because they spent money to defend our children's rights in a lawsuit (remember, Signature sued PUSD first), but you think we've had too many board appointments? Note that PUSD would have had to have a special election every time we needed a new board member, and those elections are very expensive. The board was prudent to go with the appointment process to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, not sure if you realize that every board member currently sitting on the board has been through an election cycle. If the voters wanted them gone, they could have been voted out. So the people in those chairs were all elected.
In fact, with this last election, THREE board members were elected, including two new faces, so maybe we can finally 'give it a rest' about board "too many" appointments.
Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm
" Give it a rest",
I disagree with many of your statements. Once an appointment always an appointment (won the election with the incumbent advantage). No special election is ever needed as was demonstrated most recently by appointing a temporary person that committed to not run for the seat.
Reading the facts it is clear Kernan does not live in Pleasanton. You can fool some of the people some of the time, if you live in Illinois maybe.
Anytime incompetency, cuts or special taxes are discussed everyones salaries are relevant. Heck it's our tax dollars..... it is always relevant.
I have found these post to be informative and very reasonable.
Who are you to tell us what to post or not to post? I hope the last poster is wrong because it is the school boards job to welcome input from the public, not tell them to shut up.
Posted by Pleasanton Mom, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm
Pleasanton schools are over-crowded and there are people moving here from other areas just so that their children can attend Pleasanton schools. There is a waiting list at most of the schools too so you know that the School District is aware of it. Pleasanton schools happen to place high in the nation so I would not discount that.
I agree that the district should not have pursued the legal fees look at all the money they have spent. We need another high school -
As far as the Developers; they do pay up front for school fees in order to pull permits and many times they donate land for parks such as the one by Mohr Elementary School, standard Pacific Homes has donated many land parcels for Parks.
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2008 at 9:38 am
The lesson here appears to be, we shouldn't sue people for things that we never wanted in the first place...
I believe John Casey came into this district with a dysfunctional Board but saw the need for the tenth elementary school and tried to move his short sighted board in that direction. Due to the incompetence of the board there were delays and if the legal verdict was based on the delays it would be hard to blame Signature alone.
However the verdict was based on that the contract did not legally require Signature to honor the commitment that they made to the community, District, and City Council.
So again, that brings me back to... Signature misled the community, has better lawyers, and the districts lawyers should be sued for incompetence.
Posted by Blame, a member of the Pleasanton Middle School community, on Dec 13, 2008 at 10:47 am
Blaming developers for this fiasco is the equivalent of blaming someone for taking an opportunistic job with a start up and reaping the benefits when the company does well. When Ruby Hill was originally proposed no one I talked to thought it had a prayer of getting to buildout and that was at a time when you could build a custom home for $650K including the lot!
There is an enormous speculative risk in taking on a development of this magnitude and it requires confidence vision and money to execute. I'm not proposing putting up a plaque to honor Signature, but Pleasanton should be proud to have Ruby Hill and its tax base (especially in this economy).
If PUSD would have agreed to let Signature build the school as the original agreement stated all would be fine. PUSD NEVER had any intention (once Casey took over), to build Neal School. They were simply looking for the money to help out the district budget. Signature agreed to build as school, not make a monetary donation.
Can we please place the blame where it SOLELY belongs..... Squarely at the feet of Dr. Casey.
Posted by Public Trust, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Dec 14, 2008 at 9:06 am
"And can we give it a rest about Pat Kernan? Yeah, he's a lawyer, but he wasn't hired to write the agreement and he's not a specialist in education law regarding contractors."
Pat Kernan repeatedly stated publicly that he was needed on the board because of his legal expertise. The public questioned whether he should step away as the districts board liaison representing the district in the Developer Agreement, due to his conflict of interest as a land use attorney. Kernan furiously stated that his expertise as an attorney is why he should be representing the district.
School trustees can be sued for poor stewarship of the public trust.
I think this board needs add Pat Kernan to the lawsuit for misrepresentation.
Posted by Ptown mom, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:03 am
Signature and the Ruby Hill development folks have gotten away with a great deal no matter how you look at it. Most neighborhoods are required to build a park to be used by the community - Ruby Hill and Signature properties were allowed to build a park INSIDE the pearly gates which is not open to other community residents. It is not a public park as is the case with other development supported parks. Now there's the deal where they are not required to pay school fees because a designated "Ruby Hill School" is not being built. Those students who live in Ruby Hill are still attending other Pleasanton schools. Why in the world should the city of Pleasanton be paying money back to this wealthy developer of an exclusive Pleasanton community. As far as John Casey....it's probably time to move on. Our Pleasanton schools have not improved because of John and his administration. Test scores have improved because of the large number of Asian students that have moved to Pleasanton. They are a bright, dedicated group of students who excel despite what is not being taught in our district. They are the students that are improving the test scores - not the teachers or John Casey. The teacher's union in Pleasanton is so strong that it will eventually be the demise of our school district as is the case with General Electric union communities and the unionized auto industry. Take a look at what is happening at Foothill High. That school is on a downward trend due to the "good old boys" network. Again, the Asian students are inflating the overall test scores. The fiasco with the $2.5 million that has been robbed from the school district is indicative that it is time for a change in the school administration. However it is not the only reason.
Posted by Mark, a resident of the Vineyard Avenue neighborhood, on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:33 am
I could not agree more with you more on every point except you must distinctly separate Signature the greedy developer from the residents of Ruby Hill. The homebuyers paid every dollar of the fees and got no refund. Signature took the money that the home buyers paid.
John Casey should not get credit for the accomplishments of this community but he does not deserve the majority of the blame for the Signature fiasco.
The teachers union is the worst thing that has ever happened to our students.
Posted by Have you Ever?, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:14 am
I don't completely disagree with some of the comments here, but I have to ask the question? Have any of you commentors EVER worked or volunteered at the district office before? If you haven't, then you don't know what you are talking about. It is hard work dealing with the parents in this community and all the special needs and requirements and mandates. I could go on and on...The people in administrative management positions and their colleagues at PUSD work very hard, take a LOT of crap from parents, and most of it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. If you don't believe me, go volunteer for a month, or even a week, and you'll walk away with a huge amount of appreciation for what they do. Go ahead...walk a mile in their shoes as the saying goes.
Posted by frank, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm
I believe Have You Ever? and think Bad Parent is NOT credible. To think that "Educators" are simply criticizers of parents doesn't ring true based upon my experience raising two children who both went entirely through the Pleasanton school system into adulthood and now have children who will soon enter the same system. Hey, teachers and staff are people like yourself and they do take a lot of crap!
Posted by frank, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2008 at 6:52 pm
Tom's attitude is that everyone takes "a lot of crap", therefore this is supposed to be ok. Particularly if you work in a taxpayer-supported job, you are to expected to take 'a lot of crap". Personally, I have higher standards of behavior and find it unfortunate that many like Tom have his attitude toward teachers and staff of our public schools. This thread is full of evidence of which I speak. Keep in mind this thread started about the lawsuit and soon everybody who works in the public school system was painted with a black brush.
Posted by Tom, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2008 at 8:53 am
Frankie my friend.... you miss my point completely.
My point is what someone might refere to as crap is their job of dealing with imperfect kids and concerned parents, with the natural concequence being human emotion. (note: I said working "with" the public not "for" the public)
My point is that they should know that dealing with human emotion is part of the job and they are lucky to work in this community with far fewer challenges and crazies than other communities.
My point is, it is tedious hearing Pleasanton parents bashed when what I have seen in the last 20 years is a community of caring involved parents that are the reason the schools are good, the reason we have imperfect but good kids, and one of the reasons this is a great community.
My point is this thread is about accountability of the public trust and has stayed on topic addressing the administrators, from whom we are all demanding higher standards of professionalism and accountability.
You are the only post that has mentioned teachers and staff...try to stay on topic.
Posted by Tommy, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2008 at 11:12 pm
Where did I or BP say anything about teachers or staff? The discussion is about PUSD administration.
You on the other hand said, in your often self-righteous manor, "I have higher standards of behavior and find it unfortunate that many like Tom have his attitude toward teachers and staff of our public schools. " You are the only poster talking about teachers and staff.
Posted by Scott, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2008 at 6:12 am
The best thing this school district does is pat themselves on the back and talk about how great they are. People talk and criticize alot but fall short of going into the eye of the hurricaine and serve. Little bit of volunteering here and there occurs, from my observations and experience, at the elementary and maybe some at the middle school level. At the high school you see less unless it is sports or band or drama. Drugs are out of control in the high schools and Casey does not seem to want to recognize or do much about it. My years of watching school board meetings find them usually "rubber-stamping" staff reports. We look back at the successes of the PUSD when we should be unsatisfied and drive the Board, Dr. Casey and his Staff to do even better. The State Test
Scores are a fallacy. All you have to do is read about the state universities having to teach remedial math and english to get students to a college level. I say kids should go to school from 9a.m. until 4 p.m. with alot less time for breaks--the rest of the world does this now and more. I think it is tragic whenever a school district gives interest free loans to an administrator. Give it to teachers instead--they don't quite make the $227,000 base pay that Casey gets or got. Now go ahead and tear into me--I give a rats....
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Jan 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Another perfect example why Casey and his accomplices have got to go. That's money taken away from educational programs for the kids. This is just plain W-R-O-N-G! Are we going to do nothing about this?