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What about the PUSD High Schools?

Original post made by Al Cohen, Amador Valley High School, on Jun 4, 2011

This past year I was Chairman of the AVHS School Site Council and Chairman of the AVHS PTSA Grant Committee. I share the concern of those of you that the budget money restored is going primarily to the elementary and middle school levels. If you have a student in High School, you know that these years are extremely critical in your child's academic and emotional development. It always seems like the High Schools are the forgotten child of the PUSD family.

The AVHS PTSA Grant committee awarded 45 grants worth over $25K to teachers, students and student run organizations. The grants ranged from supplying classrooms with well needed basic resources (such as books and disposable supplies) to providing money for school assemblies for greater diversity acceptance and cyber bullying. Many of these grants, although small, DO make a difference. All of these funds come from the PTSA membership money.

The AVHS SSC allocated a majority of its CORE money to upgrade classroom technology, that in most instances were obsolete and unsupportable. I have spent over 10 years working with various school sites on Technology and the monies allocated to the school site has dwindled through the last few years to not even a trickle from the PUSD. The technology continues to decay and the sites have to fend for themselves with no resources from the PUSD

In each of these instances, the monies were generated from parent donations. I recognize that the increasing burden put upon families is unsustainable. However, until the economic situation turns around, I don't see any other sustaining revenue for High Schools. I have always found it ironic, that the respective High School Booster clubs can raise 100's of thousands of dollars annually for Sports, but people will complain about helping fund class room related needs. Arguments can/are being made about diverting monies from this group to that group. The reality is that if your child is in High School you want them to have the best chance for success. I encourage High School parents to be active in their organizations that enable that success. It is clear that the PUSD look at High School needs as an after thought.

Comments (24)

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Posted by Start Afresh
a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

Al -
I'm sure most readers will agree with your observations and comments. From your last paragraph, it seems you believe that only increasing revenue will solve these problems.
Would you support PUSD negotiating three furlough days in order to save $1.5M and dedicate it to technology? This one-time investment could last 3-5 years district wide.
Any other ideas out there?


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:35 am

"It is clear that the PUSD look at High School needs as an after thought."

Yes, and it is not just PUSD but the community as well. They think that having this or that elementary program will make a difference: it will not. In elementary, most of us have to teach our kids the basics as teachers don't since they are too spoled to even teach science on their own (thus the perceived need for the science specialists)

I am pragmatic about the situation and focus on MY child. My money goes to the programs still around that MY child takes a part in, as well as supplementing after school programs that are now gone in HS.

I give donations to MY child's classrooms, booster clubs where MY child is involved, but I will no longer give to CORE - PUSD has the funds but has chosen to misuse them.

HS students must compete with other California HS students for admission into good colleges, but the way this is going, by the time the children of the selfish elementary parents get to HS, they will be lucky to make it to the local community college....too bad.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

"spoled"

should be "spoiled"

Start Afresh:

I support the furlough days as long as teachers do not give more work to the students during those days.


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Posted by Ironic
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

@ my 2 cents:

I think it's ironic that you Refer to elementary parents as "selfish" but in the same post say you only give to programs for "MY" kids. That's not selfish, but "pragmatic." Yeah, right...


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

"I think it's ironic that you Refer to elementary parents as "selfish" but in the same post say you only give to programs for "MY" kids. "

Yes, I started focusing only on MY child when PUSD decided that HS were not important. Before then, I donated a lot of money to pretty much every organization, from PTAs to PPIE, you name it. I even voted for measure G. I am now glad it did not pass.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

"I think it's ironic that you Refer to elementary parents as "selfish" but in the same post say you only give to programs for "MY" kids. "

Yes, I started focusing only on MY child when PUSD decided that HS were not important. Before then, I donated a lot of money to pretty much every organization, from PTAs to PPIE, you name it. I even voted for measure G. I am now glad it did not pass.

At some point, the selfish elementary parents will have regrets. The way PUSD is managing the money is not right, and the need for fundraising and parcel taxes will be there. But many of us will stay in Pleasanton even after seeing our kids off to college, and we will remember to say NO to the now elementary parents when they come asking for money or support for yet another parcel tax.


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Posted by annonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

"Start Afresh:

I support the furlough days as long as teachers do not give more work to the students during those days."

Furlough days are days off without pay.

However students must still receive instruction that will enable them to be successful and allow them to compete.

The furlough days cut down on the number of minutes taught but there is no reduction in what a students needs to know to be competent and competitive.

Competent, responsible teachers are still trying to make sure students are prepared even though they are given less time to prepare and teach and being paid less.

Teachers are held accountable for the competency of their students even after instructional minutes are reduced.

As a community, we need to decide what we value. As a state we need to decide what we value.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm

"However students must still receive instruction that will enable them to be successful and allow them to compete."

Yes, but more work does not accomplish that. Think about it: in college, a particular class meets only twice or three times a day during the regular semester. Our HS students go to a same class daily.

No more work is needed.

Elementary students get so much in the way of assemblies and half days off, that furlough days should not mean more work for students.

Eliminate the busy work given during furlough days, because it is just that: busy work. Instead, students can read ahead or review concepts on their own, without the need for some busy work that won't be graded by the teacher and if it is, will be returned weeks later,if at all.


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Posted by Please explain
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jun 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Could you please explain what middle school programs are being saved? I see none, which is typical. Elementary 1st, high school 2nd, middle school dead last.


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Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm

"Eliminate the busy work given during furlough days, because it is just that: busy work. Instead, students can read ahead or review concepts on their own, without the need for some busy work that won't be graded by the teacher and if it is, will be returned weeks later,if at all."

What you see as busy work may not be that at all. Even the most focused students will not read ahead or review unless they think there is some accountability to it in the form of a grade. College is different, you are right. You don't do the work, you don't pass the class and the Prof believes that the student is an adult and will manage his or her time.

High school kids are still learning how to study. Even when THEY think it is busy work it is not. Parents can't make that judgment without seeing the entire picture and that includes what goes on in class.

I once had a parent come in because she was furious that her child received a failing grade on a paper written over a break. Her contention was that the paper was well written, which it was. However the paper did not answer the question posed by me. It was a summary about something vaguely related and provided no evidence or analysis. The parent wanted to know how she would have known that. She would not have because the assignment was explained to her 16 year old son in class and posted on the website, not given to the parent.

Her point was that she and her son had worked hard on the paper. (No doubt.) And that he should get some credit because it really was only busy work that someone could have looked up online. He did get some credit, it just wasn't passing credit.

My perspective was that he should have looked at the class notes and the prompt, used the evidence from his notes and the book and analyzed both parts of the prompt. It was a writing exercise that was meant to measure critical thinking. I didn't expect the parent to help the son write a paper in an Advanced Placement class.

It is unreasonable to think that a student is going to school less time and get the same or similar results. Many schools start the first part of August and all students take the AP test for whatever class on the same day throughout the country. California schools are already at a disadvantage because of when we start.

I also tell parents that I will make a deal with them. I won't believe everything they say about them in class if the parent will give me the same courtesy!


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Posted by Winston S
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I'm interested in understanding more about the "technology that continues to decay" that was mentioned. Does anyone know what type of stuff this is referring to? Maybe we have folks in Ptown with equipment that could be given to the school that is better than what the school has right now. Also the cost of computers has fallen a lot, so it might be possible to get high priority items donated.


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Posted by AVHS Parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Thank you Al! We need more parents to step up and say it like it is. So many parents say they are burned out from volunteering and donating to the schools by the time their kids are in high school. You and your wife are willing to give so much of your time and I'm pretty sure a bit of your cash, you are excellent role models for the parents in this community.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Please explain- do explain specifically what programs have been cut at the middle school? Every year the cuts focus on elementary and high school with elementary annually taking the brunt of it. Also please explain specifically what the middle school parents have done to help this situation?


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Posted by To really?
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:01 pm

To really?

I can honestly tell you that no middle school programs have been intentionally cut this year because there are no middle school programs left to cut - NONE!!! There are no academic support classes during the day, no pull out programs during the school day, no math skills or English skills classes, no class size reduction in any of the classes - NOTHING!!! The only way a middle school in our district gets additional support is when it is in PI. Other than that, they are out of luck.

You can't cut something that has the bare minimum. As for the parents, they have done nothing and you are correct to mention their attitude. I've said it on this site before and I will probably say it again - In elementary, parents are concerned about their child's education because they believe it lays the foundation for future success. In high school they raise questions because they are concerned about college. But in middle school, they do not demand that the DO offer them more support. It is tragic because hands down, middle school kids are the most emotionally needy of any of our students.


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Posted by Blossom
a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:51 am

Before this conversation goes any farther, we need to look at sustainable pathways to prosperity by eliminating selfish self-centered activities like public school teaching and the Marxism that is being shoved down our kids throats. It gauls me to know end that my kids have to sit in a classroom with an unfunded liability loudmouth at the head of the class spewing eelitist left wing garbage. Why don't teachers take furloughs and use there high salaries to go visit Cuba where there idyll Fidell Castro lives? I personaly am preparing my kids for the upcoming tsunami. GET ready People!


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Posted by Winston S
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

One thing is becoming quite clear to me from this and other discussions -- we are ripping our community apart by squabbling over who gets what for each type of school just like we got divided over the parcel tax. We've fallen into the trap of attacking each other instead of attacking the system, and the folks in the DO must be just laughing at us! I think everyone is correct and wrong in some aspects. But the theory that elementary gets attention because of early intervention, high school gets attention because of college, and middle school gets nothing is probably correct. The DO and Board are deeply responsible for this state of affairs that has been around for quite a while. But lack of parent unity is sending us all to a place of zero results. There was talk of getting some public forums scheduled so parents could develop a community plan to deal with hot spot issues like CSR, counsellors, and technology. I think this the way forwards because we're getting weak leadership from our paid and elected officials who seem more comfortable bragging about how smart they are than listening to us and getting results. At the end of the day, results matter, not talk.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

"and middle school gets nothing is probably correct."

That is not true. Middle schools kept their music program intact last year, when HS saw it gone due to the elimination of the 7 period. THat is because in middle school, students taking music have the A period.

Also the collaboration period (Wed) for middle school teachers, stayed intact, no change. HS teachers, on the other hand, had to give up their collaboration period, thus eliminating the 7 period.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

"What you see as busy work may not be that at all. Even the most focused students will not read ahead or review unless they think there is some accountability to it in the form of a grade. "

That is the mistake teachers make: assuming that all students are not self-motivated. Most kids are, and if teachers want to motivate those who need it, give THEM the work, and leave the rest to do review and/or get ahead on their own during furlough days, without stressing them out with work that will receive a grade.

Most of the work I have seen given during furlough days was busy work. Yes, some teachers assigned meaningul work, like finishing a novel and writing a paper on it, but some teachers truly just assigned busy work that if not completed would lower the grade, and if completed, did not contribute to any real learning.

The student you speak of obviously has some issues. No parent should help a 16 year old to write an essay! Much less complain about the grade. I let my kids deal with their grades and talk to their teachers if they feel something was unfairly graded.

Back to furlough days: I am OK with them as long as no busy work is given. If any work is given, it should be with the goal of learning new material or review old material in a meaningful way.

"It is unreasonable to think that a student is going to school less time and get the same or similar results."

Why? Many kids are self-motivated learners and would appreciate the day off and would use the time to catch up and/or get ahead. That is true preparation for college: no one there will treat you the way these kids are being treated. I was shocked to see how some AP classes are run: they treat the kids like middle schoolers, and that does NOT prepare them for college.


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Posted by Winston S
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

If some students are self motivated and others are not maybe we are missing some coaching in time management at middle school and high school. Everyone knows the outcome in college and work without this skill. Could we get experienced parents to give classroom talks about time management and study strategies if the teachers don't feel able to deal with it?


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Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:29 am

@My 2 Cents

I guess you are right. My decades of experience in this area doesn't hold water to your experience with your children. I have kids, mine fit into both categories, but not in all subjects.

That is the problem with people making decisions based on the emotional connection one has with ones own children. You can't generalize an individual experience to an entire school or system.

If the child is that motivated and needs NO direction from the teacher to excel, put them on independent study or directly to college. If the student is that bright and focused, a high school diploma is not necessary.

Furlough days hurt teachers and students. Some parents currently don't mind them because they view them as a three day weekends.(Let's put them in the middle of the week and see what happens!) The material still has to be covered if one is doing a responsible job. A parent's perception of busy work does not cut it for me.

Happy to see that your child is self motivated.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm

"If the child is that motivated and needs NO direction from the teacher to excel, put them on independent study or directly to college. If the student is that bright and focused, a high school diploma is not necessary."

You are WRONG. No child should have to skip grades or high school just because they are good students.

Teachers could use differentiated instruction: give work on furlough days to students who need the motivation, and leave the rest alone. That would actually make the teacher's work load easier And it is not that hard for a teacher to know within a couple of months, which students need constant supervision.

But do not penalize every student just because some students refuse to do what is expected of them. You know? Once you go to the work place, being able to work without supervision is a must.

Most kids who are college bound do what needs doing WITHOUT the need for "motivation" from a teacher.


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Posted by Winston S.
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

My own observations are that a high school student can only skip one grade and get away with it if they have sufficient life skills in place already. In my college classes there were 16 year olds at the low end and 30 year olds at the high end. The 16 year olds were the sharpest academically but they crashed and burned within two semesters, but all the 30 year olds passed with A or B grades despite having families. The moral of this for me is that each high school student is in transition to adulthood and will acquire different skills at different speeds, and that skills matter. We have heard a lot about counsellors, mainly in the context of personal stress or tragedy, but we could sure do with some inputs from counselling resources on the tools our youth need for survival. One of the opportunities we have in high school is to teach independent study and project management skills. My high school did that for the final year with voluntary class attendance and self-managed study and assignments. All that was required was to be on campus to comply with state truancy law. You might expect no one to do any work, but students skipped few classes and >80% successfully thrived because they were treated as adults and told what was expected from them.


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Posted by Collaboration at MS
a resident of Avignon
on Jun 6, 2011 at 8:31 am

Collaboration at the middle schools was kept because middle school teachers have more duties. It was a bone that the DO threw a few years ago to make up for it.


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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

"Collaboration at the middle schools was kept because middle school teachers have more duties."

Can you explain this a little more? Which duties do middle school teachers have that HS teachers do not?


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