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Teachers ask for return of reading specialists, smaller class sizes

Original post made on Mar 14, 2013

About 30 teachers showed up at the Pleasanton school board meeting Tuesday night to call for changes to district plans to shift away from specialists who deal directly with children to coaches who train teachers, and to ask for smaller class sizes for young students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 14, 2013, 7:49 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Agreeing Parent, a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm

As a parent who is in and around my kids' classrooms a lot, these teachers have become my friends. I agree that teachers' morale is at an all-time low. They are overworked, underpaid and expected to be superhumans yet they do not even complain for themselves. These group of teachers showed up at the Board meeting because they could not stand anymore how the children are bring short changed with overcrowding and lack of a more individualized attention day in and day out. I hope the Board will heed the call of these teachers who are actually in the trenches and front lines and not listen to some district management bigwig who hasn't been in the classroom for years (or ever).

PUSD, listen to your teachers. Please come up with a sensible, long-term budget that would bring back CSR for grades K-5 as well as bring back the schools' beloved reading specialists.


Posted by Downward spiral, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:00 am

The superintendent's top down, hierarchical management style had demoralized many dedicated teachers. I agree with the speakers-paper pushing bureaucrats are not making decisions in the best interests of students. Ahmadi implements decisions with no consultation with 1) teachers 2) parents 3) the Board and 4) the community.

Rather than have students learn in a small group with a reading specialist, she has increased class sizes and over-burdened teachers who must somehow magically provide small group reading intervention to children in a crowded classroom.

Yet at the same time the administration spends time promoting administrators and taking funds and resources from teachers to bump up the PIO downtown from .8 FTE to full time. Not only that, the PIO is made full time retroactively since the beginning of the fiscal year.

Can we get John Casey back?


Posted by agree, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:31 am

The teachers are right. If I had known they were speaking, my family would have been there to support them. The decisions being made (hiring teachers to teach our well qualified teachers rather than reading specialists or teachers for the kids - please . . .) are not good and why are they waiting until 2014/15 for restoring CSR? They are using CSR money for other things now, despite our huge surplus (partly because of dropping CSR), they are going to make the kids and teachers suffer for another year.

It's a minimum day today again (because it takes two whole afternoons to have at risk only conferences for each teacher - remember the good old days when these were in the evenings so both parents could go and they were for all kids?) and my kids are only losing an hour of their school day because it's so short now. Sad.


Posted by Hear, Hear!, a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm

A 30:1 ratio in the elementary school level is unacceptable. Restoring a reasonable class size should have been the Board's first priority, instead of restoring vice principals and other administrative positions. See Web Link. The playgrounds are inadequately supervised. Most of the school's resources, including the computer lab and all of the books in the library, are PTA donations. The Board needs to spend money on teachers, not administrators!


Posted by When enough is enough, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Geez, so they put a little money away after making high earners pay the price for their union led class warefare campain and the first thing they do is want to use that money to make their jobs easier??

Being a teacher in CA is a really great job! Great benefits,great hours, early retirement, 3 months off in the summer, and they can cry up more money so they can make things even easier when the have it...wow...too bad I took the private route and am actually accountable to an employeer and my family, no gimmies in the private sector. Man, I should have went the public route, could have retired in just 5 short years instead of 15...give an inch....take a mile, teacher's should be the lazy teacher moto.


Posted by Amused, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

@"teacher's should be the lazy teacher moto."

Yes, I feel a great loss that my kids haven't had you in the classroom. Please continue to inform us on how we're all missing out on your 'talents'.

Oh, and by the way, nice punctuation, and good spelling!


Posted by Parent of 2nd, a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

As a parent of a second grader, my daughter just got really screwed. The district has put their hands out for our donations while cutting services EVERY YEAR since my child started school.

Instead of making cuts to class sizes for next year, when the teachers will also have a new curriculum to deal with (common core standards) on TOP of a 30:1 in the class room, they are going to wait until 2014 and then cut to 20?

So when my child is in FOURTH grade (after $10,000 in my donations, hundreds of hours of helping in the classroom and 3 years of 30:1 class sizes, no reading specialists and a new curriculum), they are going to cut class sizes to 20 for K-3... just in time for her to benefit NOT AT ALL?

Seriously? You have enough money to "pay down debt" are hire more administrative staff next year, but you couldn't cut back to even 25:1 for the third graders next year?

PUSD - YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO GET ANOTHER DIME OF MY MONEY AGAIN.

Pleasanton Residents - Watch out for your home equity because 3rd grader test scores in Pleasanton next year are going to PLUMMET like a stone... and that class will be bringing down the averages for the next 9 years.


Posted by agree, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I think they are waiting a year so they can use CSR as a "selling" point for the next parcel tax. They're going to wait until the voters authorise a lower % pass rate. However a parcel tax will pass anyhow with a lower % pass rate, so they should use the "windfall" they have and restore CSR now.


Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm

The model that our superintendent and assistance superintendent bring from Fremont and Lodi did not close the achievement gap there. There were still differences between the highest and the lowest achieving schools in Fremont even after employing literacy specialists. Fremont lost their reading specialists years and years ago, and those reading specialists were replaced with "literacy specialists". My friends there said morale plummeted, children lost direct services, more and more children struggled, and literacy "specialists" became the district's way to police teachers' instructional practices....much of the innovative teaching was replaced by everyone on the same page, on the same day instruction. Parents of GATE and high achieving students should be very concerned. Parents of struggling students will see the services for their children become more drill and kill to "score" better on tests. It doesn't matter if our children actually understand the material as long as the test shows proficiency. It's ALL about the test scores!!! Teachers know this, and that's why morale is down. This administration has added 7 more district mandated assessments this year alone. This assessments are to track readiness for the STAR. Plus that's 7 hours of instruction that has been replaced with testing. I NEVER thought PUSD would turn its focus from instruction to testing. It's sad to think that our board hired from outside the district, and these administrators have come in to demoralize staff and devalue the effective teaching methods in PUSD. The speakers are all highly respectful educators.


Posted by Disappointed Too, a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I agree.

There has never been a point as low as it is now in terms of morale and teachers feeling undermined. Gone are the glory golden days of the early 2000's when PUSD was the much-coveted district for parents to send their kids and for teachers to work.

The new district leadership seem detached from the people who work in the classroom. They make decisions that make teachers and parents scratch their heads in wonder about the logic behind these mandates. Perhaps their intentions are well-meant due to Common Core and PI requirements, but their delivery is disjointed and somewhat disrespectful. This is not only about CSR or instructional coaches. It is a myriad other little operational things that have now created distrust and disillusion of the district leadership.

Parvin and Odie need to have a Town Hall meeting with parents and teachers to establish understanding and transparency, and for them to understand what is going on in the classrooms. Maybe then, it won't be too late to avert ill feelings and miscommunication brewing within the ranks below.


Posted by Babies, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

Teachers in this district are a bunch of whining babies. They are well paid and have clean well stocked facilities. Yes times are tough but why not band together to solve problems? They want the district to work with them but reject everything that comes from the district. Yet we never see teachers at school board meeting a proposing solutions to problems, just more complaining. If the teachers want respect then they need to be proactive about problem solving and stop all the complaining. Just as the teachers say the district does not listen to them the teachers do not listen to the parents. It's all about complaining and asking for more. Do your jobs, teach all of our kids. The teachers my kids have just care about the really advanced kids. Those kids Re much easier than a student who struggles. Lazy whiners.


Posted by Dad of Three, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

Babies,

You've missed the point. These teachers are advocating for OUR kids, YOUR kids, you moron, not themselves. Get out of your negative spewing high horse and show some appreciation.

Geez. I sure wish you are not a parent in one of my sons' classes. Such negativity.


Posted by Dad of Three, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

Apologies to the public for using the "m" word.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

Just commenting on the "overworked" and "underpaid" theme.

When I calculate "in class" time for teachers for the school year I get a total of 991 hours. I'm not counting lesson prep because I think that would be dependent on the teacher and if books haven't changed year over year, then recycling past years lesson plans would take little effort.

Comparatively, the private sector works an average of 1920 hours per year after vacation and 11 days holiday.

Draw your own conclusions.

Now, when I factor in test scores of my local schools since 2009 (through greatschools.net), I don't see a significant change in test scores outside of a decreased math score for 8th graders at the middle school. In fact, most test scores increase slightly, followed by a few that are statistically flat, and a few outliers that decrease slightly. ALL were way above state averages.

Again, draw your own conclusions.

Take what you will from these data points, but "overworked" and "underpaid" is not mathematically (or factually) correct.

Dan


Posted by get a clue, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Anyone who thinks that the "in class" hours are all that a teacher works doesn't have a clue. The class time makes up only about half of teacher's time.


Posted by Clue, a resident of California Somerset
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Thanks Dan for the math. And for Clue, yes it would be great if ALL teachers worked outside of school hours. Unfortunately that is not the case. I am not even sure I would say half do. I am a former PUSD teacher who was laid off and now work at another district so I have direct experience in PUSD. I am not sure how to fix the problem as the union contract rules all. I feel bad for the teachers who do work really hard and get caught in this mess. But really there are many teachers who are only working when the students are in school nothing more. A longer contracted work day would help this way the teachers who work "extra" will at least feel as if they are being supported. I know this will never happen but one can dream.


Posted by Irate Mom of Teacher, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Right, Dan.

My daughter, a 5th grade teacher, magically corrects papers, grades essays, cuts paper, files, calls and arranges for buses and field trips, responds to parent emails, writes weekly class newsletters, attends committee meetings at lunch/before/after school, maintains their class website, attends continuing education classes, researches new technology and innovation to make kids engaged, and many more...

Dan, you obviously are not involved in your kids' education to be so clueless. Teachers can't even go to the bathroom or eat lunch that is not a meeting or working lunch. Appreciate the teachers who are with your kids everyday. I'm tired of parents who do not know what they are talking about and who constantly put teachers down!



Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Irate MoT,

I don't have to defend myself for you. If you can't come up with something better than accusing me of being "clueless" then maybe you should have your teacher/daughter teach you some critical thinking skills, hmm?

I give you statistics that are easily explained and you give me...what? NOTHING! Its because you have nothing except emotional outbursts. Control yourself.

How much time does the average teacher spend in the activities you indicate? To date, every time I ask this I get different numbers. My friends that are teachers usually indicate much less than I hear on these forums. And even for them its still much less total time than the private sector.

I'm tired of low-info voters like you who use "the children" argument as a way to get more money. The facts just aren't there to support you, or your daughter.

If you want to debate the numbers, have at it. Anything else is just stamping your feet and holding your breath. And lets not forget threats and name calling.

Soooo typical.

Good day.

Dan


Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hey Dan,

I don't care how many "hours" a teacher works. I care that we pay them enough so that good ones don't leave for better districts (They have in the recent past, if don't believe me, do your homework), and so that we can hire top performing new teachers. I don't care if they work one hour or ten thousand hours. I would be happy to support a parcel tax to hire more teachers to lower class sizes and to pay teachers more. Not everybody who wants to increase teacher's pay, lower class sizes, or pay a parcel tax, is a "low-info" voter.


And by the way, you say:

" And even for them its still much less total time than the private sector. "

What do you mean by the "private sector"? There is not one "private sector". There are a wide variety of "private sector" that vary in demands and difficulty.



Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

John,

"I don't care how many "hours" a teacher works."

Great, we agree on this.

"I care that we pay them enough so that good ones don't leave for better districts (They have in the recent past, if don't believe me, do your homework),"

Ok...but even if they do, the test results still have not changed significantly for this to matter. At least not in our district.

"I would be happy to support a parcel tax to hire more teachers to lower class sizes and to pay teachers more."

Good for you. I wouldn't.

"Not everybody who wants to increase teacher's pay, lower class sizes, or pay a parcel tax, is a "low-info" voter."

I didn't say that. But you already know that, right?

"What do you mean by the "private sector"? There is not one "private sector". There are a wide variety of "private sector" that vary in demands and difficulty."

You're confusing "private sector" with "markets". These are the privately-owned businesses that serve different markets with varying degrees of labor skills and financed by private investment and sales. The public sector is paid for by tax dollars.

Dan








Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm

"the test results still have not changed significantly for this to matter."

Test scores are only one measure of school performance, and are of decreasing value in the lower grades (like kindergarten).

" The public sector is paid for by tax dollars."

Really tax dollars, personal donations, and private sector profits when a private sector business donates money to the school district, but that isn't my point. My point is you were making some kind of comparison between private sector and teachers' work demands and compensation. I'm saying the category private sector job is way to broad to make any kind of useful comparison, regardless of who is paying.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

John,

Care to source that Kindergarten claim? Is that for the local schools?

And the comparison between private and public was absolutely fair and accurate.

We can just disagree.

Dan


Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Web Link

"And the comparison between private and public was absolutely fair and accurate."

I think it was an oversimplification. All you measured was average hours worked over the vast variety of "private sector" jobs. Private sector workers could include a migrant farmer picking fruit, a fortune 500 CEO, or a professional athlete, or an assembly line worker.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm

John,

The article was a good read. Thanks for passing it along.

I measured hours worked AND test scores. I did this because some defenders say teachers are overworked and underpaid, so our students MUST be paying the price. This simply is not true on all counts, at least statistically speaking. BTW I'm only looking at PSD.

By the way, I should note that I am even more critical at the district level. Its absolutely criminal the waste that goes on there.

Call my argument "oversimplification" all you want, but you have yet to tell me WHY you think teachers need more money other then you are willing to pay for it.

We can just agree to disagree.

Dan


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 17, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

"I think class-size reduction by and large is gone," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "That was abandoned by most schools in the fiscal crisis the last few years."

"But students may have to live with cramped classrooms a while longer. The Democratic governor has proposed allowing districts to maintain larger class sizes for the time being and slowly phase back toward a 24-to-1 ratio over several years. He does not propose returning to the former 20-student cap." Web Link

Class size reduction is expensive, and it appears the state has no intention of going back to 20:1.

A lot of the holes PUSD is trying to dig itself out of were caused by the previous out-of-control governance team that gave three years of unsustainable raises, borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, refinanced bonds illegally, and then the superintendent (who had a 'me too' clause for all the raises he 'negotiated' [on top of raises he got as part of his contract]) retired. And then, the recession hit. Both made it easy for the district to drop CSR.

While I still am not personally convinced CSR is the best way to spend money and help teachers and students (I think there are other, less expensive ways to achieve smaller classes in key subjects), I am glad teachers and parents are speaking up for what they want to happen in the classroom. They will need to continue and to increase the pressure to get this governance team to be creative.


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