Keep class sizes low in Pleasanton Schools & Kids, posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm
Hi everyone, a few people asked me to post this as a stand alone topic so here we go! I hope as a community we can make a difference.
Below is information on the effort to keep class sizes from going from 25:1 to 30:1 next year in Pleasanton:
A group of parents is exploring the feasibility of keeping class sizes at 25:1 next year, but we have to act fast! We've been quite honestly overwhelmed by the positive response so far!
We propose the following:
Gather pledges - We don't want any money yet - just a name, contact information and an amount that would be donated for keeping class sizes in K-3 at 25-1 for next year.
We plan to set up a website so that people can input their information privately and we'll provide information on the amounts required to move forward. Any pledged amount would be great, we are aiming for a high participation rate.
Based on the amount pledged, we can determine with the PUSD to what extent we can save CSR. Regardless, if there is not enough "pledged contribution" or the pledges cannot be guaranteed to save CSR at any level, we do not move forward and no one has paid anything towards this effort.
This effort is in addition to CORE (please go to www.ppie.org for more information) and we hope people can contribute to all the proposed fundraising efforts.
Just email our group with "I'm in" if you'd like more info or would like to get involved!
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm
Our current plan is K-3 as the class sizes are going from 25 to 30:1 next year (after going up from 20 to 25:1 in 2009/2010). Do you know if high school class sizes going up again next year or are they keeping the increase they made for this year?
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Look into the K-3 CSR categorical funding rules for other options too. K-3 is not an "all or nothing" program. For example, you may end up raising enough to fund CSR for grades 1-2 or 1-3 in all elementary schools (there are grade level priorities, K comes last). See questions 4 and 5: Web Link
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:29 pm
Thanks for your feedback Stacey and thanks for the links. I think we'll need to fund all the levels from K-3, since parents at all levels will be contributing, but there may be the option of going from 25 to 27 or something like that if we don't get all the way to 1.3 million (though I understand this is complicated because of different penalties along the way - we're going to work out the specifics soon).
I hope we make it though - it's so beneficial for the kids and it's also quite cost effective because of what the state contributes. We're losing 26 teachers to save 1.3 million.
Posted by frank, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:25 pm
26 teachers divided into $1.3MM means that the 26 full time teachers must average $50K per year in total compensation costs (salary plus benefits). Yet the January 2010 salary data shows there are only 4.5 full time equivalents starting at $55K-$57K, 7.5 FTE at $60K-$63K, 26.9 FTE at $60K-$73K, and so forth to higher salary numbers. The 26 teacher number and $1.3MM does not make any sense unless each "teacher" is a part time position. So, saving $1.3MM cannot mean 26 full time teachers are let go.
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm
The numbers are right, that's why this is a cost-effective program and one we should try to save if we can. The state partially funds CSR and there are penalties for withdrawing, so when the numbers are all worked out it's losing 26 really good, well qualified and wonderful teachers for a 1.3 million savings.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
K-3 CSR costs more than $1.3MM. That's just the amount the district pays out of the General Fund towards it. The rest comes from the K-3 CSR categorical funding program, which was never designed to fully fund CSR. The State wanted districts to front some of the money too.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:18 am
Is this a one-year funding you are looking for or a plan to keep it alive for a certain number of years? Having CSR for only one year does not do a lot, in my opinion. If you want to fund this for multiple years, you need to factor in the step and column raises for these additional teachers. Their salaries will be going up each year so if you can keep CSR this year, you will need to raise the same amount the following year plus more money to keep on top of step and column costs.
Posted by concerned parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:11 am
I don't know what we can do about step and column, but if we can keep the student teacher lower by any amount, it will help in my opinion. I'm hoping we can save a decent number of teacher's jobs until the revenue from the state eventually picks up to make up the difference. That is why I pledged my money to this cause.
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:36 am
Parent, we can make a huge different to the lives of 4148 children who are in Kindergarten - 3rd grade and 26 teachers in Pleasanton if we try. As a side benefit we will help preserve our reputation as a great school district.
This is an extremely cost effective program, the money pledged will go towards something very specific IF we get to the numbers we need in a short period of time. We'll try.
It is a one year fix for sure and ideally a longer term sustainable fundraising approach will take it's place in the future. There is no way that the problems CA faces will be fixed overnight.
But right now is a time that parents and community members can stand up and say that they helped one of those 4148 children, who are just starting their education and who are just forming the connections in their brain that will serve them and us for a lifetime. Nobody has to make a pledge or pay into this - it's a choice.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:46 am
As an alternative for parents to consider, we have a child at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin. Yes, it is expensive and we are sacrificing a great deal to afford it. We do not take expensive vacations and we have dramatically cut other expenses in order to pay QL's tuition.
After several years at QL, we are extremely pleased with our child's progress and development. The class sizes at QL are also 15:1 or less. I know the "school fit" depends a great deal upon the student's personality and expectations, not to mention the parent's. However, our decision to go to QL was a huge success. Also, for students who have particular academic talents, QL offers an "International Baccalaureate" program which is a dimension above AP courses.
Just something to consider...tho I know the PUSD schools are (or have been) rated high.
Posted by Mike, a member of the Mohr Elementary School community, on May 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm
We also had a child at Quarry Lane school and found the experience less than optimal to say the least. She has since moved to Mohr and we've found the teachers at Mohr to be much more responsive to our child's needs than Quarry Lane. The seem to have a one size fits all mentality there that just doesn't work for a lot of students. One of her teachers had very little experience and surprisingly little training. Maybe the high school is better, but I'm be very careful about assuming you'll get more just because you pay more.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm
From our experience, our child was in grades 2 thru 5 in a PUSD elementary school. The entered Quarry Lane in 6th grade. We quickly learned that our child was a full year behind the QL students in Math. The QL middle school teachers are outstanding, especially science. Further, last year QL had their first high school graduating class (13 students). The colleges that accepted QL students were remarkable, including Stanford, Columbia, Rice and other quality schools.
Again QL is not for everyone...but it is a fit for us and I wanted other parents to have it on their radar at least.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm
I think trying to raise the amount of money needed for CSR for the whole district is a pretty large task.
You might want to do this at the site level if allowed. People are more apt to donate to their own school, and donate more. If each school site did this fundraising at the local school level, you might make enough to fund CSR at all schools.
Christina, have you looked at what the cost of CSR is just at your school? I believe it is easier to raise smaller chunks of money than one huge amount. If the number looks huge, people feel that it is too big of a task and their contribution is not going to make a big difference. If the amount is less, say for a single school, each parent's contribution to that school is a larger percentage and the perception is getting to the goal is feasible.
At the site level you have better communication since more people know each other. they can all work together. If you do this at the district-wide, you now have people reaching out to people that are not in their social network, making it more difficult.
Food for thought. I understand the goal. Just brainstorming on how to best make this happen. If the district did not run the election this year, this process could have been started some time ago. It is harder to do a big fundraiser like this so late in the school year.
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Old Towne neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm
Hi parent, thanks for all the ideas - they've good points. We did check with the district last year about whether we could do this on a school by school level, but the answer is pretty much no because it wouldn't be fair for schools to have different class sizes if some did better than others. It would also be difficult to manage on a practical level.
We are going to try to have a good campaign with leaders at each school site to raise the pledges for 1.3 million. You're right - it is a lot of money in a very short amount of time! Shoot us an email if you think you can help, we'd love to hear all ideas: email@example.com.
We'd also love to hear from anyone who can help reach out to different groups in Pleasanton - pre-schools, mom's groups, local businesses . . . Anyone who can help with printing materials (for free?!), anyone who can help at the various school sites etc.
Several more very generous pledges have come in today - thank you!!
Posted by yet another resident, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm
Can anyone tell me what the class size ratio was for K-3 in 1994-1998? Just kind of wondering. That's when my youngest was in elementary school in Pleasanton. I'm seriously trying to understand if there is a cost-benefit analysis that supports going from 30:1 to 25:1. I'm not trying to make a point either way - just would like to be more educated about the research supporting the issue of CSR.
Posted by Christina Hicks, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm
By the way, just to clarify, we aren't trying to reduce class sizes. We're trying to prevent them from going up again. They went up in 2009 from 20:1 to 25:1 and next year they are expected to go up again from 25:1 - 30:1.
Posted by Teacher too, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm
Class size reduction started half way through the 1996-1997 school year. For years, CSR K-1 teachers were given training on Best Practices in early literacy instruction. In the beginning the training was delivered by St. Mary's until PUSD's reading specialists took over the training saving the district money. So, besides small class sizes, training and support was provided so children were instructed at their level, struggling or above grade level. Another fallout of the budget has been the lack of this valuable on-going training and a classroom size which allows a teacher to meet with children in small group each day. With 20 children, a teacher could meet with 4 groups of 5 children. In a class of thirty, a teacher will have at least 6 reading groups, and the children will meet with the teacher less often. In the early 90s, PUSD had very few English Language Learners. As Pleasanton has become more diverse, the number of ELLs have grown substantially. Teachers continue to need materials, support from reading specialists, and training to effectively teach all the diverse learners from remedial, ELLs, and gifted which enter a typical classroom each year. Whether some of the Pleasanton bloggers like it or not, teachers now try to reach and teach all learners. Teachers take them from where they enter and bring them as far as possible within a year. I'm sorry so many on this blog have such a low opinion of teachers. I have seen first grade teachers tirelessly plan as many as 7 different reading lessons from beginning letters and sounds to third grade level comprehension. I challenge any of the teacher bashers to teach 30 six and seven year olds to read much less stay in their seats. I am not a first grade teacher, but a great fan of the primary teachers.
Posted by Spyglass, a resident of another community, on May 13, 2011 at 1:36 am
I'm really happy at the news that some are trying to minimize the Meaure E setback.
I gotta tell ya, though. If I earned an advanced degree in the sciences from an Ivy League school, then moved to Pleasanton and paid top dollar for a home, and THEN learned that my kid's kindergarten class was about to go to a 30:1 ratio, my hair would be on fire.
Then, to learn of a nest of tea party vipers ensconced in the city, hellbent on destroying the city's school system -- and partially succeeding with the Measure E vote -- smoke would be coming out of my ears.
And then, adding insult to injury, to be told by local yokels that it's okay because they themselves came from school systems with 30:1 ratios, I'd start calling realtors about relocating to Stockton. (Compare, for example, Stockton's Brookside with Pleasanton's finest.)
What a crying shame, and a real outrage, that America's wealthiest small city refuses to offer even minimal support to the city's kids.
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 11:47 am
I think a lot of people in the lower range of house sizes and house prices were some of the strongest supporters of Measure E. I volunteered for the Measure E effort and found that more of the lower cost homeowners supported Measure E. They were also more likely to have children in the district. I don't think they minded that the tax was "regressive". There are also large numbers of voters who think our taxes are already too progressive today. People site numbers saying that something like 40% of people don't pay any income tax at all. Seems like a tax that is more regressive would be a good thing from that perspective.
Posted by yet another resident, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm
Okay - just trying to ignore all the hostility, and focus on the issue that is the subject of this forum. Christina has a good approach - raise money for a specific purpose - retain CSR at 25:1. So in order to sell that, it makes sense to consider who benefits. How do the children benefit? Since CSR was instituted in 1996/97, what are the results? Since this was an action that required an investment of money, it is reasonable to assume there has been some tracking of the benefits. Maybe a plot of test scores over time? According to Teacher too, there have been some demographic changes amongst the students - more ELLs - so that information should also be available somewhere? I know some people just really want to vent here, and not deal with boring facts. But I think we need to stop that, and care about each other enough to have honest, respectful communication. Maybe this is not the venue for that.
Posted by Teacher too, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm
Teachers were required to assess primary students, track progress, and data was collected and analyzed each year. The state required CSR teachers use effective assessment tools and design instruction to meet each child's needs. Reading, writing, and spelling instruction was improved and yes, the district has the data. Now, so much of that won't work as well in a class of 30. The district also has all the ELL data.
Posted by Resnica, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on May 17, 2011 at 2:46 am
I love the left leaning "tax the rich" comments. Why? Because you are jealous. Such comments are not only motivated by total envy, but are clearly the product of ignorance. If it were not for the rich, as you put it,taking risks and pursuing income generating enterprises, there would be no producing jobs. Note that I said producing because government jobs do not produce anything with respect to the economy. I believe the current economic reality that has hit all levels of government clearly demonstrates this. So, continue to tax the rich, overregulate business and slowly find yourselves without any ability to fund government, including education, be without decent jobs, have no money for decent housing, food or clothing. Ignorance and stupidity at its best.
Posted by optimistic, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on May 17, 2011 at 7:55 am
This thread is not about taxing the rich, and whoever brought it up first should go comment on a different thread dealing with politics. This thread is about saving class size reduction through donations.
Posted by Keep class sizes low team, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm
Thank you for your pledges optimistic and concerned parent!
You're right, the CORE and the CSR efforts are something everyone can get behind. They are both very specific and protect our investment in our great schools.
What is the point of having technology if the kids can't use it, a library if kids can't access it?
The CSR program is cost effective because we get money from the state for it and having a class size of 25:1 compared to 30:1 is a big deal for students in K-3 when they learn core reading and math skills. If the children don't learn this at a young age, there is a big chance they won't ever catch up in future years.
Thanks to the whole community for stepping up here - we've just launched the PleasantonCSR.org site on Sunday and in the first day we raised close to 50k and have over 200 facebook supporters! A great start!
We've had contributions from parents, community members, teachers and grandparents - it's wonderful seeing this level of support for our schools - thank you!!
Posted by retired citizen, a resident of the Bonde Ranch neighborhood, on May 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm
I worked for and supported measure E. Members of the tea party are like eveyone else who wants a voice. I am not rich but I'm not poor either. I do not support tax increases but do support pleasanton schools and will put my money where my mouth is--I'll give $98 to class size reduction. Will a parent or citizen please tell me the difference between PPIE (tax id #94-3046738) and PSEE (Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment Foundation, tax id # 94-3324407) and CSR and CORE? I think I know, but I also think that fundraising in Pleasanton may be going in cirles because they don't know exactly where all the other monies have gone. Does the district pay any part of an employee/someone to work for PPIE?
Posted by keep class sizes low team, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm
Hi retired citizen,
I can provide some of these details for you.
CORE is fundraising for elementary, middle school and high school. On the elementary level and middle school level, the funds are for tech support and library support, both absolutely essential to protect our investment in technology and to keep the library doors open. High school is a little different as there are different needs there and you can choose which level you would like your funds to support. For full info see: Web Link
Save Class Sizes (CSR) is another fundraiser specifically designed to raise money to keep class sizes in K-3 at 25:1 rather than go to 30:1. Two years ago the class sizes were 20:1 - they have gone down since the 90's and the expectation of what will be taught in these grades has gone up. Small class sizes are important for the young children as this is when they learn to read and learn core math skills, but there are also "crowd control" issues for this age as they are just entering school, so smaller class sizes make it easier for the kids to learn.
The way that the CSR fundraiser has been designed is that we are collecting pledges to protect class sizes, but if we can't do this, we won't ask people for the money. It is being run by concerned parents in the community.
PPIE will be collecting the funds for both CORE and CSR, however the money is going into different accounts. The money is tax deductible for both fundraisers.
Hope this helps. We're on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to ask us any questions at all or www.PleasantonCSR.org if you would like to get more info or pledge.
Posted by retired citizen, a resident of the Bonde Ranch neighborhood, on May 20, 2011 at 10:35 am
Hi keep class sizes low,
I've already sent a pledge for CSR. I am concerned that PPIE/CORE did not have CSR on their list, thus the need for another splinter group. As a community we need full transparency from PPIE and it doesn't appear as though past leadership for fundraising has understood how critical CSR is to the learning of elementary school children and how important CSR is to parents. Thank you for understanding that pledges will not necessarily come to fruition if CSR is not the target. Could you pass this on to PPIE and who is PSEE?
Posted by Hemi, a resident of the Avila neighborhood, on May 20, 2011 at 11:32 am
The way to go here is to target specific grades in elementary school for CSR. For example, go with goals like full CSR funding for Kindergarten, then first grade if there is money left over, etc. Don't fall into the trap of spreading it out across too many objectives because then you get achievement in none of them. Us parents who are donors out here have been burned enough times by PUSD admins to need really tight objectives and accountability which is what a focused effort like this project will deliver.
Posted by keep class sizes low team, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm
Hi Hemi and retired citizen,
This is a parent led effort. We will save class sizes across K-3 evenly as we have people pledging from all the grade levels.
If we fall short of 25:1, we will see if we can aim for 27:1, so there are different goals we can meet as we go along.
We have raised over 100k in four days with a $0 budget and a lot of enthusiasm and support from other parents and community members who have designed a website, written a beautiful flyer which we're printing out ourselves - many from their home computers! We have to do this to help our kids and community.
The money - which we will only collect if we can save class sizes at some meaningful level - will go into a separate account for CSR only. This has all been agreed upon with the district and PPIE.
Posted by optimistic mom, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on May 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm
To answer the question asked above about whether the district pays for staff for PPIE or PSEE -- the answer is no.
PPIE is the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education, is staffed by Debi Covello (email@example.com) and has its own board of directors. The PPIE website is Web Link
PSEE is the Pleasanton Schools Education Enrichment Foundation, is led by Denise Watkins (firstname.lastname@example.org) and also has its own board of directors. PSEE has a website at Web Link
It can be a bit confusing to figure out exactly what different fundraisers help to pay for, especially since there are also school PTA's/ parent clubs that do fundraising, as well as music boosters and sports boosters. It's good to do your homework before donating so that you know how your dollars will be spent. Just know that funds donated to PPIE before June 15 will be used to make decisions about staffing levels for next fall in the libraries.... you can donate at any time, but donating now will have an immediate positive impact!
Posted by Winston, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on May 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm
You will need like a separate bank account for the CSR money plus a guard dog team to look after it. As many others have said already, the track record of PUSD on using citizen funds appropriately is dismal. I have had people in my street talk about this. They will give but not with the current management. There has to be some way to guarantee the money for the classrooms so it doesn't go MIA.
Posted by retired citizen, a resident of the Bonde Ranch neighborhood, on May 22, 2011 at 10:31 am
Thanks for the info. on PPIE and PSEE but if they are staffed by Debi Covello and Denise Watkins, how much are they paid (salaries) out of how much money raised? As the above Winston stated, there is distrust in the community that may or may not include many parents. So, does anyone know how much money was raised in 10/11 (or in any year) for PPIE and PSEE and for what did they spend the money?