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School board approves more cuts

Original post made on Feb 24, 2011

The Pleasanton school board asked staff, at its last meeting, to come up with other cuts as a way of saving reading programs and specialists.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 8:27 PM

Comments (49)

Posted by Michelle Flanagin, a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

Nice article. If we really want to save the reading programs- vote yes on Measure E as it states in the measure: To protect local schools from State budget cuts, provide local funding that cannot be taken away by the State, and preserve quality education by emphasizing core academic instruction that improves math, science and reading skills, attracting and retaining highly-qualified teachers........... see the whole measure at supportpleasantonschools.com


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 24, 2011 at 8:55 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Where in Measure E does it say that X amount of money is going to be devoted to the reading programs and cannot be used for anything else?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Public money is pretty fungible. The only way to truly protect specific programs is to have someone else control the money, not the school district.


Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

What is wrong with Reading, Writing, and Math. If you have these three basic elements a child can do anything! Now you want to cut reading programs?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

Yep, they could have voted to accept the perfectly valid substitutions that menagement came up with protect reading programs, but chose not to. The pink slips and threat to reading programs will happen every year until the state is doing better. It is designed to make people vote for a parcel tax, pretty cynical if you ask me. But don't worry it will come back in the end.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:23 am

These cuts are designed to scare parents into supporting the salary tax. The salary tax will not save student advantages it will save salary increases.
They will say 'sorry you did not make the tax big enough to share with the students, give us more if you want student advantages also'.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

No decision about budget cuts is final until the board approves the 2011-2012 budget. I don't expect the board to do so until early June, when several uncertainties will be reduced. The decisions made last night prepare the district to send out preliminary notices of potential layoff, which state law requires to be done by March 15.

I do understand the perspective of Joan Laursen and the others who voted to issue these preliminary notices. It is the board's fiduciary responsibility to prepare for the worst case scenario: that measure E does not pass, that the Governor is not able to put the state tax extensions on the June ballot, that negotiations with APT and CSEA are not concluded quickly or favorably, and that the state legislature ultimately votes for steeper cuts to education funding than the governor has currently proposed.

There were differences of opinion among the board members about the reasons they had asked the superintendent and cabinet to recommend additional items to be listed as potential budget solutions. Joan Laursen clarified that she had asked for items to be added to the list so that they could plan for worst case scenarios. Valerie Arkin indicated that she believed it was possible to remove some items from the list of potential cuts. It is a big deal to vote against a recommendation coming from the superintendent and cabinet, and I know that the board does not like to have split votes.

Stacey is correct that we cannot know, until we find out whether measure E passes, how the funds will be used. There are some items on the list of potential cuts which I do not believe fall within the stated purpose of the measure E language (e.g., counselors, PE specialists). Others on the list could be funded through measure E, but the total list of cuts proposed exceeds the amount that could be gathered if measure E passes. Reading specialists, Barton, and remedial summer school for grades 1-5 might be prioritized, or the board might choose to focus on class size reduction, or do some of both.

I was heartened by Chris Grant's pledge that he would work to ensure that reading specialists, Barton, and remedial summer school could be removed from the list before May 15. It is not a commitment, but the spirit of his remarks show his commitment to providing core educational support for students who need specialized reading help.

At the meeting, March 10 was identified as a meeting of the negotiating teams of APT and PUSD. I hope that a quick negotiating process will also help to reduce uncertainty about the budget.


Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

Suspend all raises, including step and column, and all those programs come right back.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

To clarify my last sentence in the second to last paragraph -- Chris Grant's pledge is not a binding commitment made by the entire board in a vote, but I believe he has made a personal commitment.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Has anyone seen yet, CA's Republicans are already lining up pension reform bills that would remove pension benefits from collective bargaining? You can be sure that they will want support for their bills in exchange for support in putting the tax extension measure on the ballot...


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm

It looks like union reform is going to happen, even in California:

"(CNN) -- The fight over public union benefits and collective bargaining is spreading across the United States. Here is a state-by-state breakdown:"

"California

Lawmakers introduced a bill that would do away with collective bargaining of pension benefits for the state's public employees. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown had imposed a statewide hiring freeze across all government agencies."

For the entire article, go to:

Web Link


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Reading the Tri Valley Herald article about this. They say K-3 classes going up from 25-1 to 32-1 - this is a typo right? Isn't the max 30-1?

48.6 jobs were cut by the way acccording to this article.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Class sizes in K-3 could go to 30. Ninth grade English and Math could go to 32.

Here's PDF of the final list that the board approved Tuesday night:

Web Link

As I said before, these cuts are not finalized until the board approves the budget as a whole, which I expect to happen in June.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Thanks so much for clarifying the 30-1 and providing the link Sandy!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm

CSR costs 1.3 million, and step and column is 1.6 million. OK, what is wrong with these people? Why don't they at least initiate the conversation about freezing step and column? (btw, Bowser should be excluded from all this since there is a huge conflict of interest given his wife role in the union and as a teacher)


Posted by Resdient, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Sandy:

I don't see the cost of the 7 period added to the list. My understanding is that it costs about 440K, and if it is being brought back, that means the 440K is coming from somewhere. What is PUSD cutting in order to restore the HS 7 period?


Posted by Another Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Did anyone else notice the Health Services Clerk Liason job they are cutting too? Guess our kids health does not matter either. I also wonder if these are the reccommendations of the Budget Advisory Board or once again the School Board did not use this committee. Sorry if these have been answered before.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

So class sizes go up from 25-30 and 26 jobs are cut for a cost savings of $1.3 million. This equates to $50,000 per teacher (I guess including benefits as this would have to be factored in).

Given the average salary here is about $85,000 excluding benefits, we are losing over $2.2 million in teacher value by this move. This doesn't even sound like a good financial move taking aside the obvious bad inpact it will cause in early learning given some kids are just learning English etc.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

School health clerks and school nurses are not being cut, but a District administrative "liaison" position. This is not a licensed/credentialed position, is it? If so who is it and what is their license number?

If the school district is having a non-licensed/credentialed person performing medical services on students, can you let the Town Square forum know? I do not think that is legal.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm

My understanding is that the cost of the seven-period day at the comprehensive high schools is currently included in the planning for next year, in part because the current contract with APT specifies that each school will have collaboration time (when teachers can meet across departments or across the whole school for curriculum planning). Collaboration time and a seven-period day are closely connected for logistical reasons.

I believe that because work hours are among the topics to be discussed in negotiations (next meeting, March 10) that it is possible that collaboration time might again be suspended next year. (Disclaimer and caveat: This is entirely my speculation, and I'm not convinced that it's a good thing for student learning.)

However, it was clear from the meeting last night that the board wants to pursue at least a "no additional cost" option to stagger the start and end of the school day for at least some students -- primarily those who want to take a band class. This approach would be workable if there are teachers who express their willingness to teach an early or late section.

There's also the possibility of adding a few sections for an additional cost, but less than the total cost (over $400,000) of the full seven-period day as it existed last year and in previous years.

Here's the link to Cindy Galbo's presentation on seven-period day options:

Web Link


Posted by DB, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm

By cutting critical things like reading, the district is indeed trying to use scare tactics to induce parents to support local taxes.

Instead, district should cut administrative staff, and top-heavy salaries like the newly hired superintendent. Cut her, and her staff, and her perks and you'll save allot more than by cutting reading programs.

Cut Physical Eduction: that will reduce school budget by about 15%.
Who needs PE when virtually all kids are in after school programs?
Stick to the basics: reading, writing, and math.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Heck, let's go to 40-1 and outlaw retirement for anyone younger than 75. Chevron, Goldman and Bart Hughes need more tax breaks.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

DB, you are hilarious. Don't you know that providing the "basics" are exactly what low-performing schools do (and sometimes barely at that)?!?

High-performing school districts like ours provide extra activities like PE and science and computers so that our kids will have *better* knowledge than just the basics.

Is that really what we want Pleasanton to become: another Oakland?


Posted by Jane, a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Pleasanton COULD become another Berkeley with outrageous spending of $20,000 per student, the district that spends the highest amount per student in Alameda County, double that of Pleasanton. But are Berkeley schools twice a good as Pleasanton's?


Posted by PE is being cut, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Elementary PE is being cut by half -- it's one of the items on that list.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Jane, Oakland spends about $10K per student... BECAUSE they have more disadvantaged students than other schools. Same with Berkeley, due to disadvantaged and EL students.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 6:28 am

Berkeley's schools are outstanding. Pleasanton's superior schools are one of the reasons we choose to move here instead of any other Bay Area city.

As with all things in life, you get what you pay for.

Incidentally, these are the kinds of things that support our community's premium home values. If you start cutting school and city services to "the basics," people stop putting a premium on living here.

Food for thought.


Posted by reasonable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

The 7 period day is necessary for kids wanting to take band or another music program. Without the 7 period day they would have to forego other "electives" (which aren't really elective at all, since without these you cannot get into a 4 year college) such as foreign language or science. Unless you let band kids forego PE you have to allow them a 7 period day.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Reasonable, it's my understanding they are only concentrating on "have to" state mandated things for the classroom right now. That's why class sizes etc. are going up. I think they've worked out a cost free option for 7th period, which could be a good alternative.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Jane - all of the talk is not (whether parcel tax or whatever) is not increasing spending, it to fill in some of the gaps left by state funding.

Anonymous also makes a great point, that Pleasanton schools try to offer many different options for students well beyond the basics - these are the types of things that make good schools. There is a minimum requirement by the state and anything above that is technically a bonus. For example, there is no state requirement for our school to offer AP Classes.


Posted by Cuts Stink, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

In addition to the cuts on the table as outlined in Sandy's link, the positions/hours that were reinstated for this year with the CORE fundraising money are also no in the budget for next year. Which means, 9 elementary schools and 3 middle schools will lose their site computer technician as well as loss of librarian hours. I am not sure of the dollar figure the district will save with the elimination of these positions/hours but these positions will be relying strictly on CORE fundraising dollars again for the 2011-12 school year IF the CORE group decides to raise the money for this group.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm

"For example, there is no state requirement for our school to offer AP Classes."

Interesting, my understanding was that the cuts are mostly being made in elementary because that is the only place we could cut . . .


Posted by s, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Pleasanton receives $540 more per student from the State than San Ramon. Our district already has extra money and does not know how to manage it.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm

"Interesting, my understanding was that the cuts are mostly being made in elementary because that is the only place we could cut . . ."

No, that is not the only place they can cut. They do it because the elementary parents are more likely to support a tax out of fear.

I have HS kids, and would love to see the 7 period back, but it does cost about half a million dollars.

CSR for 9th grade is another half a million.

Neither one of those is necessary (again, I have HS kids and do not want to see the HS programs cut, but I want to see informed parents, from elementary to middle to high school).

Middle schools right now have the A period so band and orchestra can be taken. That is why you see a late start day on Wednesdays. That could be cut to. I do not advocate for cuts, but elementary parents need to know that cuts to elementary are not the only possibilities. Let's be fair and put the information out there, complete and thorough information about what is being cut and why.

And other things that are not programs, step and column, if frozen would subsidize CSR and have 300K left for something, maybe a few PE teachers?

Something to think about....the board is playing games. Laursen is involved in the measure E campaign. Bowser is married to a union person. We the taxpayers and parents lack representation and therefore the board does what the administration and union tells them even if it is not in the best interest of the kids.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm

"Our district already has extra money and does not know how to manage it."

Agree, they only know how to spend it foolishly. 600 per month on car allowances for the new superintendent? And the previous board re-hiring a few of Casey's buddies after they were laid off in order to boost their pension?

I had hopes when Arkin got elected, but after Bowser and Laursen were elected, I honestly have no faith in our district.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for your feedback resident.

Folks, is there a way we can financially support our kid's schools more directly whether a parcel tax passes or not? I know we can write a check directly to the school, but is there something that we can band together to do to make a difference without the politics, maybe on a grade by grade level, as parents tend to know what is needed most at different ages?


Posted by DB, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Feb 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Responding to "Anonymous" comment that "High-performing school districts like ours provide extra activities like PE and science and computers":

Computers in our schools are a joke, giving kids the opportunity to play games and distracting them from learning. It would be one thing if they actually taught them how computers work or how to program, but they don't: it is just word processing, powerpoint, and surfing the internet.

Our schools only teach and perform to the test. The only thing the administrators care about is the scores and certifications they get from the state for test performance. The proof of that is the fact that when our district graduates get to a university, even with all their AP credit, they have to take bonehead English and math.

PE is a waste of time and money.
You can't learn real science unless you have the fundamentals of math and reading down.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm

"I know we can write a check directly to the school, but is there something that we can band together to do to make a difference without the politics, maybe on a grade by grade level, as parents tend to know what is needed most at different ages? "

If you are talking about fundraising for specific grade levels and programs, make sure you get it in writing and board approved before you raise the money.

When measure G failed, the I Love Pleasanton Schools raised money, and most of the elementary parents who donated did so to support CSR. In fact, some wrote that on their checks.

But since not enough money was raised, the board and Casey decided what to do with it, and used the money for other things like counselors. Around that time, since there was money, Casey suggested that a few employees who were laid off be hired back on a temporary basis (for a few months) in order for their pensions to not be affected.

So whatever you do, make sure there is a contingency on the money you raise and give to the district with the understanding that if it is not used for what it was raised, that the money must be returned.

It can and has be done before. PSEE successfully raised money to keep elementary band and strings going last year, and they did so with the board knowing about it, and every penny they raised for that program went for that, nothing was taken for other purposes.

As for CORE for libraries and tech specialists, I would try to get approval to raise the money on a per school basis. I did not like how they did it last year, with all the money going to one pile and divided among all schools. Some schools gave more money, some gave little to none but all got the same.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Would a teacher aide funding initiative be a good idea for those affected by higher class sizes? What do you all think?


Posted by AD, a resident of Sycamore Place
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm

CSR costs 1.3 million, and step and column is 1.6 million.

Focus on this. Rest will take care of itself. Market forces should dictate the growth, learning and such -- not union contracts --especially in this day and age where most private workers havent received raises for years!!


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm

By the way, what exactly does "minimising class size increases" mean? Have we been given a definite commitment that if the tax passes class sizes will remain the same or go up to 27 or some set number under 30 for elementary? If we haven't, when is this going to be decided? Is there a guarantee for the duration of the parcel tax? What else is the parcel tax going to be spent on exactly? If elementary are getting the most cuts, do they get the most funding when it gets through?


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm

DB, since when is PE superfluous? I don't know where you grew up, but when I was in school way back, we had PE everyday. Kids in Pleasanton and elsewhere do not even have daily PE, and you propose cutting it even more??? Studies show that kids *benefit* from physical activity, which also translates into healthier bodies and minds.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm

PE and science can be taught by the regular teacher. There is no need to have a "specialist" at the elementary level for P.E. or science.


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I think part of the problem is that losing PE means that the day will end earlier for the students and they will lost that amount of instructional time for reading etc. The teacher will be using the 45 minutes to teach PE, this 45 minutes used to be prep time for them, they will move this prep time to the end of the day and therefore the day ends early once a week with less instruction.

Also, on the PE side, these classes are good. My kids have come back with information about how their bodies and heart work, besides the instruction - it's not just kicking the ball around.


Posted by Refocus, a resident of Sycamore Place
on Feb 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Solve the root cause. We have money. Cost cutting can only get us so far.

This is not about eliminating teacher jobs. Its about paying teachers what the market perceives. So unrealistic step-and-column union contracts are the issue.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Jane, again you are trying to bring Pleasanton schools down to a lower level. A reason Pleasanton schools are considered *good* because of the specialists they offer in PE, science, and technology.

Of course, we could raise class sizes up to 30 plus, eliminate PE, science and computers, and just "teach the basics" like someone suggested, but then we wouldn't have a top-ten school district.

I don't really understand the "race to the bottom" mentality of posters like DB, Jane, and Resident. Are you proud being an underachiever?


Posted by Jane, a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Actually, it is the unions that are focused on having kids "race to the bottom" while their teacher salaries and pensions continue to "race to the top."

The California Teachers Union, opposing reforms to K-12 school districts, opposed "Race to the Top" so that California lost out on any chance of $4.35 billion dollars of Federal dollars to come to California. Only one-third of the active unions supported it

"One thing that definitely went wrong was the attitude of the state teachers' unions. Union leaders fought the reform legislation at every turn and managed to water down the package that eventually passed in January. Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, even said he wasn't sorry that California lost the first round. And in part because of these kinds of feuds within the education community, lots of California school districts opted out of participation in Race to the Top." Web Link

They opposed "Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance." So California lost out and Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island got the money instead.


Posted by Band parent, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Why did they eliminate the seventh period in the first place?

They severely limit the opportunity for kids to take music/band classes, yet the District seems to somehow have the budget for Pleasanton USD administrators to run around recording music and making hip-hop videos Web Link


Posted by Cuts Stink, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2011 at 12:13 am

To the person who thinks the kids just "play" on the computers you are definitely out of touch. The schools utilize many online instructional products that the district has PAID for! Therefore the ocmputers need to be used.

Also, if you think that messing around with word and powerpoint aren't "necessary", then what are businesses using? Pen and paper? Students these days need to have the necessary computer skills in order to make it in the world. Learning them young - in elementary school is vital as once they hit middle school reports and presentations are done via computer most of the time.

Yes...teachers can teach the students the necessary skills but the computer techs are the ones that maintain the equipment at the sites also. If they are gone, any trouble with equipment used in the classroom (smart classrooms) or anywhere around the school will take days possibly to fix. That cuts into teaching and learning time.

How can a district have so much money invested in their computers but not have anyone to service them? So 9 elementary schools and 3 middle schools will have to rely on 3 or 4 people at the district level to maintain them.

And don't get me started on "why can't parent volunteers help out?" As a parent I surely don't want just anyone to have access to my children's school records.


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