Pleasanton school board to launch search for new superintendent in October Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online, on Aug 23, 2009 at 7:54 am
The Pleasanton school board, already beleaguered by multi-million-dollar cutbacks in state aid for the current school year, will take on another challenge in October when it starts the recruitment process to find a new superintendent for the unified school district.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, August 22, 2009, 7:48 AM
Posted by Kathleen, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community, on Aug 23, 2009 at 7:54 am Kathleen is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
In a previous posting, I responded to a question noting the four areas where community participation will be crucial in the next 12-15 months: another parcel tax attempt, the renewal of the teachers’ contract, a possible superintendent search, and the election of board members. The search for the next superintendent will be the first critical step given the announced retirement of the current superintendent.
A superintendent advises the board prior to any action it takes and has a direct impact on the learning lives of students, their teachers, and their principal. Finding and hiring a candidate for this position is the single most important job board members have, and we have four board members who have never been part of this process. As our elected officials, it will be imperative for the public to contact board members about this impending selection, whether you have children in the schools or not. The following lists possible criteria, though it is not all inclusive and not all criteria can be found in one person. I hope others will indicate what their expectations are for the final candidate:
• K-12 experience as a teacher and administrator
• District administration experience
• Budgeting experience
• Current superintendent
• Current district business officer
• Graduate or post graduate degree
• Private sector experience or MBA
• California candidate vs a nationwide search
• Proven record of internal leadership and public communication skills
I am concerned about getting a candidate who can “start on June 1.” This is not likely as most education candidates have contracts that run through June 30 and are not likely to be released by their current district before the end of the school year. Such a statement may indicate an inside candidate has been identified. This concerns me not as a question of qualified internal candidates, but because this could indicate bias from the current administration for someone at the district.
There are several well-known education search firms. One notable difference in process form the private sector is the amount of community input allowed through public meetings and private interviews with interested/key community members. Some will include a community interview panel. I think these last items are crucial in the selection and for the success of the candidate and board as a governance team.
There is significant pressure on board members to vote 5-0 for a candidate because the candidate might not otherwise accept the position. We need to lend support through clear expectations before the board steps into closed session to make its decision. This is no small feat when the public will not know who the candidates actually are.
As I noted, finding a new superintendent is the first of four crucial steps. The second and third, negotiations on a new contract and a second attempt at a parcel tax, will occur prior to this change in leadership and need equal public input. The last of the four will be a measure of success on the first three when the community votes for board members in November 2010. I hope the parents and community members will contact board members with their thoughts on all of these crucial points.
Posted by Mullen, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:14 am
Let's get real here folks. We only have two high school and three middle schools. We need to save here and we should do without a superintendent as they are expensive and we will be paying for his retirement. The money can be better utilized in other places.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:33 am
Mullen, In addition to the five schools you mention, there are nine elementary schools in the district, two additional high school programs, adult education, and summer school serving 14,500 K-12 students. Reorganizing how this is managed, and doing it without someone at an operational level who also advises our elected representatives on the school board, would be an interesting challenge. Many district level business managers are former teachers and principals--maybe that is an approach to consider.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm
I've certainly learned many things about schools over the years, but don't believe I could run one--no teaching or curriculum experience for one thing.
As for compensation, i'm in a position to decline the various health plans, believe mileage reimbursement for travel outside the district is sufficient, would take the same raises everyone else got (not the current built in raises on satisfactory performance and certainly not a built in raise AND the me too clause), I already have a cell phone--so if there were some additional costs created by work, I'd consider being reimbursed, but otherwise wouldn't want to change what I have. I don't know that a superintendent should be compelled to live in the same community, which sets up the housing loans for those who couldn't otherwise afford it. I think people can meet in offices or over coffee, but meals are something I provide for myself anyway--so if everyone at a lunch table goes dutch treat, there's no need to reimburse. Some conferences and memberships are worthwhile, but not all of them and not every event that's offered and not with multiple district employees. Realistically, it will be nigh on impossible to find the candidate that will agree to any of this.
Posted by Mullen, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm
We need to look at ways of reducing cost and doing with what we have or don't have in this case. I find it hard to believe that Casey added value equal to his salary. We share a fire department with Livermore and I feel maybe we need to maybe share services here as well. If you look at the revenue projections going forward they continue to go down and not up.
Posted by Pro kids, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm
I just hope the next superintendent is chosen for their leadership qualities and visionary goals for IMPROVING the school system here in Pleasanton. Not for catering to special interest groups or caving in to community demands that would make the schools here uncompetitive and mediocre.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm
Mullen, I've long been a fan of regionalization of county offices of education rather than one for each county. Getting a SuperSuperintendent to oversee something like Dublin-Livermore-Pleasanton is interesting, but would probably be a territorial battle, particularly after all the work to get PUSD to be a unified district in 1988--it was a high school district and a K-8 district spreading into Dublin with two school boards until 1988, with little articulation between the two for providing a cohesive K-12 experience.
There are examples to look at like LA, which I believe just has multiple superintendents under the SuperSuper, so I'm not sure of the savings. There are high school districts in California and Illinois that I'm aware of that cross city boundaries while K-8 appears to stay local to a community. The question seems to rest on local control, local voice in what is provided to a community's children. But I agree there must be ways to be fiscally prudent. It would take me back to my comments about discovering a community's priorities and then thinking out of the box to accomplish it in new, less expensive ways.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 4:51 pm
I agree and am trying to point out that i believe our current gap is revenue is going to become extremely wide in the coming years unless we figure out a way to get business to come here and start good wage paying jobs and ways of keeping the wealthy from leaving this state. I am very concerned that Pleasanton should develop a plan to run and run well with 30% less in revenue than we currently have. Just think of the money which could be saved by combining and reducing administration, maintenance, outside contract services by combining say Pleasanton and Livermore or possibly even Dublin as they appear to have made some good decisions which will help them with revenue.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm
Mullin, There is/was/are districts that share fields/facilities/maintenance with their city governments. Pleasanton offers services to neighboring districts at what must be less than the county charges (payroll is one) or perhaps with a faster turnaround enabling them to keep more than one position essentially without cost. There are efficiencies to be found; we agree.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 7:41 pm
I have and will continue to contact the board and whomever else I feel can assist us through these troubled times. I just feel that if we sit back and wait for things to roll out then we will be behind the power curves and it will prove difficult to catch up.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm
It is why I posted on this story. I am hoping that through this forum and in talking to others that we all can make it clear to the board what the community wants in this leadership role. I do not expect to be the person to know how the majority feels, but I am lobbying everywhere I can to get in front of this and the other three issues I mention with the intention that the board will hear from as many of us as is possible. It really is so very important. I, for one, believe the timing on this is purposeful.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Danbury Park neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm
Actually what might make sense and reduce cost would be to find out if Sharon Belshaw Jones is still around the area and would be willing to consult on a part time basis. She retired a few years back as Superintendent of the Fremont United School District and was credited with Mission San Jose becoming that national power in academics it is.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm
I've been kicking around thoughts about process with others trying to refine it for further vetting. Knowing there are people in the area who have expertise is helpful. Gail Uilkema, retired from Piedmont, comes to mind as does Bill James, retired from PUSD. Both these former superintendents have done searches for other districts since they retired. Don't know that either could or would take this on if asked, but they certainly would have ideas about process. I realize all we have is the ability to suggest to the Board, but it wouldn't hurt to be credible in our suggestions. Thank you for mentioning Jones as a possibility.
Posted by Yo Mullin, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm
We're not going to screw up our schools or bring them down to the level of Livemore just because you're cheap. Do yourself a favor and stop overdosing on Rush Limbaugh. There is more to life than Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.
We're going to pass a parcel tax to fill the gap. Not any crazy scheme to dumb down education in Pleasanton.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2009 at 11:40 pm
While cutting costs is fine, but you also have to pay the market price for talent. If we want to find a Superintendent with some experience and such, we will have to pay. If we want to hire random people off the street, sure we could save a couple hundred thousand a year. Kathleen seems to have the desire (which is good) and lacks any and all experience which should come cheap (of course experience doesn't determine success) and she's willing to work for cheap - maybe not a bad idea. $30K/year Kathleen?
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:12 am
To Yo Mullen and Kathleen,
I have a grandchild in the schools, first of all. Secondly, every taxpayer, read customer, has a right to speak to this issue--students or not. The point of my comments on this topic is that if pressure isn't placed on the board to get the best person for this superintendency, cutting corners will be the least of parents problems. This position, as I noted in my first post here, is directly going to impact every student, teacher, and principal in this district and what kind of advice is given to our elected officials, board members. To waste $300,000 on one election and to then scrimp here would be criminal.
Me Too, I listed my background before; it certainly is enough experience for this topic. I also said in another thread that I didn't think we'd get true talent for less than $200,000. My comments on what I would do as to compensation are speaking to all the perks. So to be clearer for you: a reasonable car allowance OR mileage, not both; no more benefits than any other employee is entitled to; a cell phone is necessary; no built in raises and certainly not on top of a me too clause; minimal memberships and conferences; and a very limited expense account.
So everyone is aware, current practice is to get a copy of the contract of the superintendent who is believe to have the best in the state and to get the current superintendent's contract and to negotiate UP from there. If someone doesn't start bucking this trend, there will be no correlation to what a district can afford nor what the job expectations are nor the community's needs.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:14 am
I guess my overall point here is that it seems we are trying to keep the status quo and not reflecting deeply on how to improve going forward. Instead of saying we need to replace and hire another superintendent of school's because we have always had one we should be evaluating our overall programs and scope of control and ask do we need everything we have and if not can we give up something in one area to significantly improve the outcome and that is the kids education. What should our template be? Who is the benchmark and how can we be better than them? If we just think that money is going to be our answer we will be sadly mistaken because revenues are going to continue to reduce and if we want to excell we must figure out how to run more lean.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:25 am
Mullin, You'd need org charts for starters. Many districts run lean on administration. I think you build from the classroom up. PUSD has certainly pared down, but I don't agree with at least two of those choices in terms of one that stayed and one that was released. Let me think about what I've seen elsewhere as a starting point.
Posted by Yo Mullin, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:20 am
"If we just think that money is going to be our answer we will be sadly mistaken because revenues are going to continue to reduce and if we want to excell we must figure out how to run more lean."
Rubbish. Revenues will be increasing with passage of the parcel tax. It is coming whether you like it or not. The people of Pleasanton need a parcel tax for all the same reasons PAUSD needed and got one. Leave the money management to the people who understand it. We're not going to hire a part time hot dog stand attendant to run our schools.
Bye the way, if you're going to comment on education, maybe you should start by learning English grammar. Learn what an adverb is.
Posted by Linda, a resident of the Bonde Ranch neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:07 am
So Yo Mullin, Yo Kathleen, or maybe it is Yo Teacher,
do you have any constructive ideas or is your intent just to get people excited about a parcel tax that would never pass nor would the amount ever been enough to satisfy the PUSD. Come up with some creative or original ideas or maybe just scroll over and comment on the Cholo site.
Posted by Yo Linda, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm
I didn't see an "original ideas only" requirement here. Maybe that was something you heard on Glenn Beck.
I would recommend that you spend your time helping with volunteering and supporting your schools with donations. After that, see how you can help getting the parcel tax passed. You can spend time canvassing neighborhoods, and there are many other things you can do to help get it passed.
Posted by Linda, a resident of the Bonde Ranch neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm
Yo Yo Yo,
You are so predictable and not real bright at all. You are so intent with your anti anything conservative and pro parcel tax which will never happen that you are blinded from reality and thought without hate. It has been fun to just toy with you knowing what you were going to come back with and how soon but must go back to work and play with people who really need to contribute. Good luck
Posted by Kathleen ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm
I see the Yo posts as a way to be sure the real topic is avoided and lost in the noise. I hope we skip responding to Yo unless constructive suggestions are made (no matter the opinion). I would like those who read the thread to find good ideas and to feel welcome to post. Tough to do out here!
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm
Has the PUSD ever considered a steering committee made up of business leaders to take a look at the current business model and make recommendations not on education but rather on how to benchmark, develop best in practice scenerios, model economic impact based on revenue projections or things like that? It might prove quite interesting to see it from a different perspective and one not quite as attached as those who work in it from day to day. I really do not know the members of the school board but Arkin seems to approach things with a good mind in terms of investment/return/ and the ability to pay for it. We are working with a very old model and honestly it has not changed much since I graduated from Amador many years ago.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm
Mullin, Why are you talking about "economic impact" and "revenue projections"?
PUSD is not a business, nor will a pure business, for-profit system work for a school system. There is a very good reason why schools are NONPROFIT (both public and private schools)--because if you were to make schools a FOR PROFIT enterprise, then the children would be shortchanged in order to maintain a profit.
I think your intentions are good (to keep costs down) but you cannot take a business-for-profit approach to running a school.
Posted by artlover, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm
Why do people always have to get so nasty in these threads? Why, when people propose different solutions to things they are automatically called names? I don't see the value in all of these labels. Since when is running things efficiently ever a bad thing?
Creative solutions should always be pondered - The parcel tax and the future of our schools depend on constructive dialog and open minds-not name calling!
I have 2 kids in this school system and am not too impressed. I feel from numerous dialogs with friends and relatives with school age children around the country that we can do a lot better. We should be comparing ourselves to the best schools in the nation and stop wallowing in our own little region. Let's see what there is "out there" and start doing things differently. Does this mean getting a lot more money- not necessarily. Status quo got us in the whole budget mess.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm
Rather than for profit maybe it would be easier if I referred to the schools as cost centers as they do add cost initially but long term provide a significant service of education and the betterment of society. I think the school system should be broken down into core and support. Core should be defined as directly impacting the kids and their education like teachers and such. Everything else should be put in the support category and all of that should be up for signficant review as to it's impact on education or if it just detracts from core by diverting funds. Whether we like it or not I believe we are going to need funds because of lack of revenue and if we are already aligned it will make it easier to continue to provide a very high level of education.
Posted by Dominic Di Blasio, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm Dominic Di Blasio is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I applaud you involvement on this issue but many of the skills you list are unlikely to provide to provide an exceptional candidate...As someone else mentioned we need someone with vision and leadership skills...I would add an innovator, and private business experience as either a director or executive with turnaround experience...I am not for the parcel tax, it is another blind leading the blind misinformed decision on how to handle the current shortfalls in the school district...
Posted by next superintendent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm
Now is a great time for the School Board to assess what kind of qualities and skills the district needs in its next superintendent. It is also a great time to restructure the superintendent's compensation packages. Nothing wrong with paying someone a good salary to do the job, but in these times, the extras like interest free home loans, car allowances instead of reimbursement for actual district related expenses, and no limits on how often or how much the superintendent can spend on meals paid for by the taxpayers - that should no longer be part of a compensation package.
Hopefully the School Board will look for and find someone who recognizes that before asking hard working teachers and support staff to give up some of their income, or burdening an already heavily taxed citizenry with additional taxes, he or she will first look for ways to use taxpayers' funds more effectively and he or she will also want to model leadership during these harsh economic times and be willing to accept a good salary without all the perks. Someone with a real life business/finance background who appreciates the opportunity to work in a great school district in a beautiful city would be a great candidate.
It's time to bring in new blood with no social ties to any current school board members. This should make it easier for the school board to remember that their top priority is to the community and the education of our children, not to staying on the superintendent's good side. It's disappointing that some school board members cannot look at and vote objectively on issues because they either do not want to get on the Superintendent's bad side or cannot separate a personal relationship from a professional one. The superintendent's position is a leadership one, and an important one. But the superintendent is still an employee, and the Pleasanton community is the employer.
The Board's goal should not be to keep the Superintendent happy, but to use the taxpayers' funds efficiently to provide a quality education for our children.
I can only hope that the school board selects a superintendent is prepared to take on the challenges we are facing in California and prepared to give more than lip service to the idea of putting kids first.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 8:36 pm
Kathleen - Have you commented to the school board (and heard a response) about limiting the salary of the new Superintendent and eliminating all (or nearly all) benefits?
I don't oppose the idea, I'm just concerned that when you start slashing salary (and all benefits are included in salary) then you begin to limit your pool of candidates. That does not mean we can't find a good one at a lower price, but it is a concern.
I'm curious about the process. A lot of what I have seen regarding searches for high level employees that take a lot of time is that the board (or whoever is responsible) takes so long to finally choose a candidate that they are basically stuck with the demands of the candidate in terms of salary or they pretty much have to start over again. Wouldn't it be better to tell all prospective candidates what we are offering and let them choose to be in or out of the process?
Posted by Privatize, a resident of another community, on Aug 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm
Mullin, you had the right idea in the first place but we still need to blow some of the cobwebs out.
Here is what I propose. When someone in your PUSD retires (anyone), just do without. You know my guess is that we'll do just fine without them. Eventually we'll just be down to a few security guards to watch over the kids (more like brats). People will get the message that they don't want their taxes spent to raise someone else's brats. Home schooling is the way to go.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm
"prepared to give more than lip service to the idea of putting kids first"
There have been lots of comments about this and that we need to improve as a district, but what is it that everyone thinks specifically needs to be improved? Obviously there is always room for improvement, but without specifics there really is no way to improve. And one persons idea of "Children first" may be different than someone else.
Someone please list some specific where the district needs to improve in the area of "putting kids first"?
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:22 pm
Catching up here; was the site down? Yo, I could support the right parcel tax. We disagree about the majority because the majority of possible voters didn't vote.
Mullin, The district has done a couple of strategic plans, but I don't think either of them speak to restructuring or reorganization. McKinsey did a study on K-12 education: Web Link I don't see why that committee wouldn't work. There is enough community interest. Arkin has been vocal and actually did her homework on the budget. Hintzke also raises questions. They both need support from those who agree or the other three won't feel motivated--although I think Grant listens. I think we agree the system needs to be built from the classroom outwards.
artlover, I totally agree that we need a constructive dialog and a set of priorities before we can expect the board to take any innovative steps let alone be cutting edge.
Dominic, I did mention leadership and business skills and a possible MBS, but the list wasn't comprehensive and I noted that as well. I will try to compile that list as suggestions are made, like vision and turnaround experience. The latter has occurred with superintendencies too.
next superintendent, Bingo!
Me Too, No contact with the Board yet. I'd like to understand why a superintendent is entitled to more health benefits that teachers or classified staff. I think there needs to be a new approach to a superintendent's comp. I don't know what the final candidate will expect; a basic idea of compensation is/can be noted prior to interviews. Putting kids first . . . I would change choosing a PIO over an Assessment/Evaluation position; teachers or resource specialists over providing higher retirement to three employees.
Posted by Max'd, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:12 pm
Me Too said, "Someone please list some specific where the district needs to improve in the area of "putting kids first"?"
My response: Approximately 2 reading specialists or 2 counselors could have been retained, people who work directly with children, instead of spending the $130,000 or so to extend the termination/retirement date for 3 administrators.
Those 3 admin folks had 3 1/2 months to prepare for their last day of work. But then the night before the last day they were given added months based on flimsy reasoning in my mind. Come on, 7+ months to "transfer projects!" Don't tell me that wasn't planned from the get-go.
There have also been other threads discussing the lack of donations this summer and speculation as to why. Well I just gave you the reason we didn't donate. The district and board gave the community priorities for the parcel tax and donations and then came up with totally different items when they were able to 'find' some cash.
Are they really putting kids first? I don't think so!!
Posted by Max'd, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:21 pm
To EM: Kathleen and I are talking about the same thing. 3 of the admin positions that were cut last spring were suddenly back on the table at the end of June. The board ended up agreeing with staff recommendation to extend those individuals termination dates to coincide with planned retirement dates this fall. Presumeably this was done in order for the retirement pay for those 3 people to be at the maximum level. Considerate for them? yes. But what about the 2 or so certificated staff that could have kept jobs for the whole year WHILE providing direct services to students?
Posted by EM, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:31 pm
max'd - i get what you say on the "found" cash....hugely insulting. but two reading specialists or counselors for $130K? hardly.... newbies maybe, but not retaining experienced employees..... not by my look at the salary schedules.
Posted by EM, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm
i agree that the classroom comes first. but from what i gather on the retirements, the extension was weeks/months. not exactly hundreds of thousands. i appreciate a little loyalty shown to employees. i've known many over the years and there are caring, warm people involved. i don't agree with many of the other decisions... found money is an embarassment.... there are huge salaries paid to ensure these "findings" are known before being needed in "crisis." i feel duped on that count!
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 6:22 am
EM, Some several months were added, beginning at July 1 and running into October, depending on the position, and it was over $100,000. The exact figures are in a board packet. I actually know the people and have a lot of respect for them, but even if it was only one middle or high school counselor, resource specialist, or a middle school assistant principal--those are the jobs that impact students. It's my opinion that any money being saved should be returning jobs that impact students, teachers, and principals being able to learn/perform their jobs.
Posted by To Max'd, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 6:30 am
I appreciate that you are pointing out examples of waste (though not technically correct), but these only add up to a small fraction of the budget shortfall the school is facing.
Where would the other millions of dollars come from to close the budget gap? We cannot have an I Love Pleasanton Schools fundraiser every year. There needs to be change from both sides of the spectrum. In other words, the school district will need to do more with less, but the community will also need to realize that you can't get something for nothing.
Posted by status quo OK with me, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:17 am
I hope we find someone comparable to Dr. Casey. This district when from good to even better under his watch. It is all in the API scores. What's more, PUSD was the best run district from a fiscal perspective, considering we went the longest of all high quality school districts without a parcel tax (though the time for the tax has arrived).
People with experience understand that the the Pleasanton school district is doing a fantastic job, and we want to keep up the good work.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:40 am
I'll skip names and just respond. They weren't examples of waste and they are correct in that I was responding to a question about where money could have been spent closer to students or that impact students. It's not like I would suggest a one room school house; other positions are necessary. I've already said I'd support the right process and parcel tax to help close very specific gaps, like CSR, IF that in fact is what the majority of tax payers want to buy and with the community understanding the cost of everything they'd like to keep.
Unless the superintendent was taking the tests, the API scores have everything to do with parents, teachers, and principals (curriculum is obvious). I will completely disagree on PUSD using fiscal responsibility for all the reasons I have posted before. The district was not well run and didn't avoid a parcel tax--there was no support for one any of the times it was discussed prior to Measure G, and not enough voters then. That's an important distinction. And despite not being able to get that support, the governance team gave unsustainable raises and ended up on the state watch list. Maybe the county will have to take over before people see how thin the line is between PUSD and that possibility. I don't understand who you are referring to when you say people with experience. Can you tell me who that is?
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:59 am
To all of you,
What I am really struggling with is the complete absence of original thought or new ideas. The system as we know it must change if there is expectations of us performing at the same level as current because of absence of revenue and that revenue will continue to decline even more in the future. We need to make sure that our teachers are capable and motivated and everything else should be up to review. My niece is a teacher in Pleasanton and she told me that the principal missed a major portion of the year and was not missed nor did it impact the ability of the teachers to perform. That tells me that maybe just maybe this is a position which could be combined with others. I voted for measure G but would not do it again as I do not believe that a parcel tax is what is needed to prop up a very inefficient model. There are a lot of weapons in our arsenal but unfortunately we are stuck trying the same things over and over. Einstein said something along the lines of "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity". Possibly the change agent we are looking for could be the new superintendent and I feel we should bring in someone from outside the system rather than inside of it and he must have an "extra set" to be effective and change the system otherwise it will just be more of the same.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 2:24 pm
Like To Max'd said, you need to have support from within the system (PUSD staff and administration) and without (the community). When you mention a decline in revenue from the state gov't, which is very likely next year and the years after that, some of that can be made up by cost reductions and some by outside revenue -- i.e., a parcel tax and fundraisers.
You also mention an absence of new ideas. I would like to know your new ideas for reforming the school system WITHOUT changing the level of education. Remember, we are talking about a budget gap of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
Livermore, Dublin, and San Ramon all have parcel taxes. Even then they are facing budget pressures. The parcel taxes there have made a difference. Both Dublin's and San Ramon's K-3 class sizes are smaller than Pleasanton's (both are around 21-22) and they have more administrative staff per student. They also did not have to cut as many specialists, counselors, and other critical staff.
To drastically overhaul the system would take years to implement. How are you going to deal with the current budget crisis? Are you OK with letting the children become the unintended victims in the meantime? In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that K-3 education is CRITICAL to a child's academic future. Kids who succeed academically in grades 1-3 tend to maintain that success through their adolescent years, and vice versa (kids who are underperforming during that period are more likely to drop out or get poor grades later on). Society will be paying for years for the lack of support during early childhood.
If there was the possibility of overhauling the system in the future and if PUSD reduced their costs as much as possible without drastically impacting education, would you even be willing to meet them halfway with a parcel tax? Or are you just anti-tax? Also, you didn't answer a previous poster's question: do you have school-age children in PUSD?
Posted by Not True -- Fact Check, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 2:46 pm
As usual Kathleen R is playing fast and free with the facts. She says:
"The district was not well run and didn't avoid a parcel tax--there was no support for one any of the times it was discussed prior to Measure G, and not enough voters then"
There were some surveys, just as there were from the other districts that were close, but inconclusive about support. As is many other districts, and as is typical, two tries were needed to get the parcel tax passed. Pleasanton could have done this in 2003 and 2004, but PUSD opted for fiscal prudence instead. That is why with the passage of the new parcel tax we will be better positioned than many other school districts and able to support new programs and even stronger academics.
Posted by Kathleen Rueg, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm
First to Mullin, I had begun reading a book, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation will Change the way the World Learns” (Clayton Christensen), but haven’t waded far enough into it to know if is a good model for change. A teacher can say they didn’t miss a principal until a student needs discipline or a parent’s concerns need attention beyond a classroom. There are front office issues going on all day long that teachers may not be aware of, and it could be they just didn’t miss an already ineffective principal. There are value tradeoffs that need to be determined. Walnut Grove was once 1,100 students with a principal and assistant principal. Classes were at least 30:1. Fiscally prudent, yes; but not something I would support today, although my children managed well enough.
People from outside education have been tapped before as superintendents. I’m not sure they were successful (see news stories for Navy Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III, who was recently bought out of his LAUSD contract, or for Roy Romer, also LAUSD). After all, there has to be some understanding of achievement and accountability that reaches into the curriculum. One of the purposes of the board is to bring that business acumen to the table. Unfortunately, it’s not above cronyism, and the longer a board member and superintendent work together, the greater likelihood of this happening. (I’m in favor of an unwritten rule of eight years on the board and then they step down to allow for a fresh perspective.)
A candidate, male or female, predisposed to shaking up the status quo and getting back to all aspects of customer service would be a couple of worthy attributes to bring to our board’s attention. My worry is how entrenched everyone already is. Look at Arne Duncan who is an insider pushing for change; NEA is bucking him every inch of the way and you can’t say AFT is showing more than lukewarm support.
I started this thread by pointing out that there were four crucial areas for community involvement—getting people to see how intertwined they all are is also important and is evidenced by how this thread is going, discussing superintendents, parcel taxes, models for change, etc. I personally feel strongly that the change will begin only when the community realizes these are our schools and when the governance team realizes they are accountable to the entire community.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community, on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm
Concerned, I agree with some of what you say, but have to respond later so I can do so without giving it short shrift.
Not True . . . skipping a parcel tax two times saying "let's not run a tax because we aren't sure" and then later running a tax with no evidence for its support or failure isn't sound thinking. Nor was marching ahead with no map in order to give large, unsustainable raises over a three year period. The key word is "unsustainable," the district committed general fund money forever without increasing the reserves (yes, above the required 3% as was planned), with a faltering economy for at least the last year of those raises, and with very little buffer when the well dried up. Nobody I know would call that fiscal prudence.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:29 pm
First off I have had four children graduate from the PUSD and currently have two grandchildren attending and have a sister in law and a niece teaching. There are twenty one of my clan living in Pleasanton and I have been here for a very long time although I am only 50. I am all of ISF or intregrated single function and it is used in business now to reduce cost and increase productivity. Say for an example you took Livermore, Dublin, and Pleasanton and took the functions of Accounting, Human Resources, Maintenance, Information Technology etc. and intregrated them into one functional area with an eye towards standardization and elimination of redundancy. The cost saving would be staggering. Less trucks, computers, office space etc. I am not saying it will happen over night but the journey needs to start somewhere. Let me ask a question here for everyone to sit back and consider. Where are the growth industries in California, how will jobs be created here, by whom. I think we are in for a very very very long row to hoe and I am not talking a couple of years but rather until such time as our government is remade in the state and we are more friendly to business and people with money. I am not against taxes at all and pay tons of them because I make a good income and my home is paid for so I have no write offs. Do not mind paying taxes but do not want ot see it wasted.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm
Concerned, I am responding to some of your issues, but most of this was directed to Mullin who has responded to you. I’m not sure we can wait for the support for change to come from the inside; it will most likely have to come from the community, and for a revolution, from beyond Pleasanton’s borders—not unlike what Arne Duncan is doing now to pressure California and certain other states on using testing results for evaluations.
We share some efficiencies with the city and other districts already, and there may be more to be found where positions can be subsidized by fees paid by other entities, lowering costs for all entities involved. I don’t think any district or city will make a move that hurts children or their education. If there were horrors to be seen from a lack of support in early childhood, they would be apparent in our generation and the children we raised. Our generation didn’t really have pre-school and certainly not CSR. Our children had pre-schools available, but no CSR. Both generations have accomplished remarkable things. Every journey begins with a single step, so it not now, when? I say this without knowing yet what we believe the priorities actually are.
Mullin, I can agree there are changes needed, but dramatic change just for the sake of change does present a whole host of problems. I don’t think that’s your proposal or that you are suggesting forging ahead while jeopardizing children. How do we cause change, where first, and how quickly?
I agree with you about any proposed tax being used wisely (specifically earmarked).
Posted by About Christensen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:32 pm
I don't think Clayton Christensen gives enough credit the role that companies like IBM and AT&T played in improving our lives and raising the standard of living in the US. The culture in their research labs provided an environment where researchers work want as tied short term goals as they are today, and that is unfortunate. There is a lot more to this than I can write about here.
I believe schools need the kind of stability and continuity that businesses don't need. We generally know the formulas that work well for education. We just need to apply them. Schools don't need disruption innovation. I hope no one suggest that we need more corporate advertising and commercials in classrooms. We could probably easily make up the funding gap just by selling adverts and having kids watch two hours of TV every day at school, but I wouldn't want to do that.
Posted by Optimist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm
" Where are the growth industries in California, how will jobs be created here, by whom."
Just look at what's happening in Silicon Valley. The next wave of innovation is on its way. I have a very positive outlook. Venture capital firms are opening their wallets again. Sand Hill road is buzzing with activity. Huge advances in nanotechnology, massively parallel computing, and biotechnology are brewing right here is the Bay Area. The companies making these innovations will need to hire more of the brightest and the best. That will ultimately increase Pleasanton's tax base as well as that of the Bay Area as a whole.
During the recession of 1990 to 1991, how many people saw that Internet revolution was just around the corner? I think what we'll see in the next decade will make that look like small potatoes.
Posted by Mullin, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:53 pm
I am sorry but do not share you optimism. I would bet anything you will hear that the auto plant in Fremont, NUMMI is going to close and that would put 5500 out of work there and another 50,000 statewide. If you want to spur industry think tax reductions not tax increases.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:50 am
As I said, just started the book, but have had competing demands and interests. I'm not for advertising in the classroom or around campuses and I haven't seen that suggested in the book. What I have seen so far is a discussion of the need to change the scene of 20 or more kids sitting at desks. Many people are kinesthetic learners and seat time is brutal. I think of the Charlie Brown cartoons where the teacher is at the front of the room going "wah wah wah wah wah wahh." No slam to teachers either, because it's the model they grew up with and that was reinforced as they became teachers.
I know another reader who didn't like the emphasis on computers, but as someone else pointed out, students today are digital natives. There must be a balance that can be struck, the first being dumping heavy textbooks to lug around that have no way of being updated without a seven year adoption process. Good place to save millions in California.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 1:37 pm
Kathleen, I did not make up the studies about the impact of K-3 education on academic success. It has already been proven, and the school district recognizes the importance of it too via their (former) CSR policy in grades K-3.
You cannot compare the education of the past to the present. I am a Gen X'er, so I know on a personal level that what the kids are doing in kindergarten today was what I was doing in first grade and so on. Children haven't changed over the years, but schools have. Today's kids are not only competing with the kids in their neighborhood but also with kids from around the world.
Surely, you would not want the outcome of Pleasanton's schools to be children who are unprepared and unable to compete on a global scale? The times have changed, Kathleen.
Posted by Johnny, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm
do you really believe what you said about the work which is being done now in kindergarten you were doing in first grade? I am older than you but when my kids were going to Amador and Foothill I used to laugh at the level and complexity they were working at. I think the schools have been dumbed down starting with the "Tribes" program. A true lets slow the whole class down for one individual rather than working extra with the child who is not getting it.
Posted by What classes were they in?, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm
"I am older than you but when my kids were going to Amador and Foothill I used to laugh at the level and complexity they were working at."
Were you kids taking the college prep classes like Calculus, AP Biology, AP chemistry, AP physics and the like? Did you think the level of those tests was too "dumbed down"? What are you comparing to?
Anyway Concerned was talking about K-3. I was K-3 in the late 1950s, and I have to agree with Concerned. We didn't start actually reading until grade 1. Now the are doing that in kindergarten. The same applies to the level of math they're doing. Maybe things were different in the 1930s or 1940s, I don't know. What years were you talking about?
Posted by Johnny, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm
what classes were they in?,
All my kids were college prep, two graduated from Cal with degrees in microbiology, one is going to McGeorge law School, and the last is graduating from Cal State East Bay and plans on being a homemaker and a teacher.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community, on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:31 pm
Concerned, I really wish you would go back over what I have said. CSR does not equate to academic success until you get down to 12, 13 . . . 17 students. Research negates success once you hit 20:1 (there are links if you would like some). BUT, I am not against CSR because it does have management benefits for teachers, but we must understand what it costs and determine if we are willing to pony up via taxes. (Loose math is K-3 CSR at $2,000,000 spread over 20,000 households is $100 per household per year—realistically that will be forever—with increases in costs as the teachers stay and their salaries increase. It is wise to also consider those likely to file for an exemption, because you will need to add the cost of opting out onto those who do not have that luxury to ensure there is no deficit for the program or a hit on the general fund.) We can’t answer whether this is the community’s priority—and that is the ENTIRE community if you are asking them to pay—because there has not been a comprehensive survey indicating a program and its cost per household per year, be that reading specialists, counselors, assistant principals, assessment directors, custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, or more teachers. So, I’m FOR the right parcel tax determined via a thorough process.
Being younger doesn’t give you any special insight to current education. I still work in education, always with superintendents and school boards. I actually read everything that is presented to the board. Being older doesn’t mean I know it all either, and so I follow other education experts who study education.
As to the comments about what is being taught at what grade level, IF moving the curriculum down is something 5 year olds can do, fine. What has really happened, however, is that more and more parents see the curriculum and hold their youngest five year olds back a year.
All we have accomplished is that 6 year olds are doing first grade work in kindergarten instead of 6 year olds doing first grade work in first grade. Either the state has to move the December 1 date to August or September to coincide with school (like other states) or parents should be enrolling their children in accordance with the law. So, yes, the curriculum moved down, and so did many of the children. Nothing has significantly changed; we just like to think they're accomplishing more at a younger age.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:52 pm
Kathleen, you are exaggerating your statistics. In my son's kindergarten class, only 2 out of 20 were "redshirted" (that is, held back a year). The rest of the students were in accordance with the law. 2 out of 20 is hardly a majority, much less "many of the children". Sure, this is only 1 classroom, but it is doubtful that a majority of classrooms have a majority of redshirted kids. The kids who tend to be redshirted are those with fall birthdays (or summer birthdays in other parts of the country). So statistically if all the fall birthday kids were redshirted in an average California classroom that follows a normal distribution, then the ratio is only around 25%. And that's on the high end of the spectrum. Yes, today's kids really ARE expected to perform at a higher level.
The studies I have read about class size say nothing about success dropping off precipitously after you reach the threshold of 17:1 (or 20:1, per the studies I have seen). Are you saying that a class size of 20:1 is no different than a class size of 30:1 or even 25:1? Try adding 5 or 10 or even 2 more people to your family and see what impact that has. I think we could all agree that the closer you get to 17:1 or 20:1 is ideal for the kids and teachers.
Also, CSR costs about $400K-450K per grade level, so we're looking at a figure of about $1.6-$1.8 million spread over 20000 households, which is less than $100 per household. Some people will be exempt, sure, but when you look at the average household income of Pleasanton, it is among the highest in the country for a mid-size city. And you probably know that Pleasanton is currently being sued by Jerry Brown for not providing enough affordable housing. The percentage of those who would be exempt in Pleasanton is small as it is. There will be teacher salary increases, granted, but there will also be teachers leaving or retiring. Salaries in the general population also increase over time.
I agree with you that any parcel tax should have specific language. There should be stipulation that monies cannot be used for administrative salaries or should only be used for CSR, etc.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 6:40 am
I think anybody who thinks another run at a parcel tax are not thinking things through. Unemployment is over 11% in the state and most are unsure of their jobs so why do you think people would vote to pull more money out of their pockets. Give up on this idea and come up with another.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 6:59 am
It would be interesting to get the real numbers. It was not my grandchild's experience. The teacher at the time actually thought the birthday was for 7 years old not 6. Perhaps the district can provide a breakdown for each grade level across the district; they certainly have that data. Like birth rates, I am guessing that this can statistically ebb and flow from year to year. It doesn't change the fact that there is no evidence for higher academic success at 20:1 or that I support CSR, where affordable, for other reasons.
Here are two links I was able to grab yesterday. Web LinkWeb Link One states there is no appreciable difference in classes of 20-40. Even I find that a bit strong--no one I know would support 40 as a reasonable class size for elementary.
I would go with language that says it will buy teachers for K-3 CSR, and/or anything like counselors, reading specialists, assistant principals, music instructors, etc. The survey is key for me--and so easily done that I wonder what the reason has been for not doing it. There could be an argument for purchasing the latter examples across the district rather than CSR. If enough easily identifiable positions are supported through a parcel tax, it can take enough pressure off the general fund so that CSR is guaranteed. I think you will get a rebuff again if it doesn't say no raises for anyone, not just administrators, for the life of the tax (there still is step and column). You then make it a three year tax. The community sees the outcome in the short run, and there is serious reconsideration before reupping the tax just because we already are doing it (times could be rosy again and a tax not necessary).
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 7:04 am
I should have added that when a parcel tax supports any raises, the argument to continue that support never disappears because the raises continue until, and if, there is a significant shift on the payroll from experienced to newer staff. As most districts fight for retention of staff they have invested in, I think the change in staff tends to be in small percentages over a long period of time.
Posted by To Bob, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 8:30 am
A parcel tax is the answer, as was shown in many other posting, including the PAUSD paper, and why their parcel tax worked. With proper marketing and get out the vote efforts, we can get the necessary support.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 8:43 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I'll turn down any regressive parcel tax that is structured as a flat dollar amount per parcel. The district can do their research and come up with a uniform rate per square footage per parcel instead. It is still unfair to those with large parcels that may have a low value, but it is fairer than the flat dollar amount per parcel.
Posted by Parent, a member of the Fairlands Elementary School community, on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:11 am
Whether a parcel tax is part of the solution to the budget problems or not is irrelevant.
It has been voted down in spite of massive and very good marketing efforts by the Save Pleasanton Schools organization, and PUSD administrators.
It's a dead horse that we should stop beating because another parcel tax measure will once again be voted down. To waste resources to initiate another costly parcel tax measure would be irresponsible.
We should be focusing on ways to cut out all the expenses that do not directly relate to educating our children and using the funds we do have to support the programs that insure a quality academic education.
We need to stop living in what once was and live in what is. Very few people have not had to make adjustments to the way they live and the way they spend money. The school district must do the same.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:23 am
We need to set an example by lowering the salary and the fringe benefits (Equivalent to private sector) for the new Supdt. We do not need a brain surgeon for this job. Only by cutting at the top can we lower the costs below by setting an example. California is still bankrupt with big cuts coming for schools next year. We are in the eye of the hurricane being propped up by trillions of debt that we have to pay. Starting next year interest rates will go up and the economy will slide again. We need to cut spending for public sector unions.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 10:05 am
what in the world are you thinking? The people with the bigger parcels are ones who are older and whose children are out of the schools so you would tax them at a higher level than those whose children are in school? No wonder the thing would never pass.
Posted by To Parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:48 am
This is the usual pattern, just look at what happened in surrounding communities. The first attempt at a parcel tax fails. Then, with some important refinements, the second attempt passes. Let's work together to put a parcel tax on the ballot that we can support as a community.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm
Changes to the contract definitely are needed, such as me too clauses, automatic salary increases, benefits, cars, meals, memberships, and other contractual obligations that can be adjusted. Other districts who are fighting the escalating costs of superintendents might also appreciate someone turning the tide.
Don’t underestimate the ego of those who will apply. I don’t mean that in a negative way; we will need someone who is up to the challenge. I would argue that it needs to be someone who has superintendency or CBO experience. With a difficult 2009-10 ahead, we do not need someone who will be cutting their teeth in this job.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:41 pm
Kathleen, the first web link you listed was a study for higher education -- that is, college level. Of course the difference between 20 and 40 college students in minimal. I took classes in college that contained 500 people. There is a BIG difference between college and elementary school.
The second web link doesn't say anything about success rates dropping precipitously after 17:1. And regarding the hiring of inexperienced teachers and such, that doesn't pertain to Pleasanton at all. We already had experienced teachers and the facilities to handle them. What the failure of the parcel tax succeeded in doing was laying off experienced teachers and emptying classrooms.
I don't expect you to have any sympathy for other people's children, nor anyone else who refuses to help the schools in any way. But I just attended my child's Back to School night, and the atmosphere there was depressing -- not enough reading books, the dire need for more parent volunteers as now the music and science and PE teachers are teaching 2 classes at a time (50 kids!) due to the staff cuts, the cramped classrooms with children sitting against walls and with their backs to the teacher, and I could go on. This is going to sound harsh, but my opinion is that any parent who doesn't support donating to the school or a parcel tax or volunteering time has got to be cold-hearted.
Posted by To Parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2009 at 10:30 pm
The pattern runs within the same year or two. Look how it played in the other towns. I think we need to work together so that we can get the best proposal on to the ballot that meets our communities needs and continuously improves our schools.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 7:24 am
Those were two quick links; I'm sorry they weren't on target. I could look for the experience level of the 60 teachers, but whether their record was long or short doesn't change the reason for this happening, and that is a dissatisfaction with the stewardship of tax dollars by the current governance team and poorly written ballot language.
The last paragraph is just another attempted insult. The education I wish my grandchild to receive is the same I wish for any child in this community or any child anywhere. You have no idea what I do in support of schools or what anyone else did, yes or no on Measure G, so you really should back down on these kinds of accusations. Who took the reading materials away? Why are parents suddenly not volunteering? Money was raised for elementary music, but I can't say whether it was enough to maintain smaller classes. I'm a bit less concerned about PE, but definitely worry about science. I know about the crowded classrooms, but from what I have seen, there still is room for improvement. These classes held 30 students not so long ago (and no I don't think they should hold 30 again).
Many families have very tight budgets and can't afford a tax; many work more than one job or work at hours that don't allow them to be in the classroom. If Toyota really pulls out and the wave is the loss of 50,000 jobs, that will impact this and many other communities. There will be even less support for a tax or at the schools or in time as everyone scrambles to find other work. I think anyone who believes that each parent isn't doing as much as they can through donations and time has their head in the sand.
Posted by Johnny, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 8:51 am
NUMMI is shutting down and it is a done deal and what people are not realizing is that those 50,000 are high paying jobs not some 10 dollar per hour. I think that parents of children in school should either be paying more out of their own pocket for their childrens education or if unable to pay should volunteer time in the classroom, fundraisers, maintenance etc. It should be like playing sports in one of the elite soccer programs in town either you pay extra or you volunteer your time.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 10:44 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
That kind of parcel tax has passed in other districts and people believe it to be a fairer form of taxation. Why wouldn't it pass here? Non-residential commercial property tends to get taxed higher than residential because the square footage is larger, thereby restoring some of the subsidy to homeowners that used to exist under pre-Prop 13 funding. That means the tax burden isn't proportionally higher on single-family residential homeowners anymore. Check out the one for Mountain View Whisman school district: Web Link
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm
Kathleen, you're right, I don't know what you've done for the schools, and I think you would support the right parcel tax, but your continued nitpicking at every single detail is doing the kids no favors. All you are doing is stirring up resentment, and not all of it is justified, such as your attempts to negate the benefits of CSR.
The monies raised via the fundraiser went towards elementary band and strings, which is different from music education. And it's not that there are fewer parent volunteers this year, but rather that the need for parent volunteers is greater this year since there are fewer school staff. And I am not making up the fact about the classrooms being crowded. The classrooms may have been built for 30 kids, but some classrooms currently have 26-27 kids in them, so there's only a few feet of wiggle room.
I encourage you to take a look at your grandchildren's classrooms, maybe even talk to the teachers to find out how the children are coping. After all, this IS about the kids and figuring out ways to maintain quality education in Pleasanton, not just about cutting benefits to teachers and administration.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 1:19 pm
I am having a bit of a difficult time understanding your proposal so please clarify for me. Are you saying that a couple living in a home on a lot of 20,000 sq ft. would be paying more than a couple with 3 school kids living in a house on a 10,000 sq ft. lot are am I miss understanding?
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Yea, that's right. Think of it working like an ad valorum tax (which isn't possible under current CA law). It works on the assumption that the 20,000 sq ft parcel is worth more than the 10,000 sq ft parcel and that the couple who can afford the 20,000 sq ft parcel has a higher income than the family with the 10,000 sq ft parcel. Also, the 30,000 sq ft office building parcel would pay even more than both the homeowners. (Whew these are big parcels.) There'd still be the senior exemption.
To turn your statement around, under a flat dollar amount tax, the family trying to raise three children with the smaller parcel (and thereby lower income/lesser ability to pay) ends up with a higher tax rate than the couple living in the higher valued house.
Or are you leading into the idea that people with children in school should pay for it?
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm
Concerned, I haven't negated the value of CSR, just trying to make it clear that it is an option, for multiple reasons, none academic.
I am an advocate for great teachers making more than principals; for cutting a lot of perks at the top; for dumping tenure. Here's what I wrote on another thread:
Where is the outrage about the leadership skipping through the halls of the DO sprinkling our tax dollars around like it was (OPM, other people's money) available in an endless supply? Where is the outrage about the wasted funds spent on the campaign or the poorly crafted plan, language, and execution of that campaign? Where is the outrage that the fundraising campaign was run over the summer, at the least convenient time of year making the goal impossible to achieve?
The current system for supporting schools is devolving--there needs to be a solid plan in place to address it. Just giving money without purpose is not reasonable.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 9:12 am
So in your view a couple who maybe work hard and save and as such have a larger parcel but no kids should have to pay a higher amount than say you to educate your children because you have a smaller lot is right? Good luck with that one because the vote will be even less than it was last time. On another note I think anyone who believes throwing another $300,000 down the drain to get a parcel the ballot is wrong in thinking it has any hope of passing and honestly no amount of money will ever been enough to satisfy the teachers above who are blogging here. Get rid of the union and tenure and then come back to us when you are truly having performance evaluations.
Posted by Get Educated, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 11:21 am
You state your opinion as fact here, I guess you would like to spell out the performance evaluation process for the community? You do realize there is a very detailed, complicated process that involves a lot of work on both the administrators and teachers part many times through out the school year? To think that there is not a professional system of evaluations in place in PUSD is very naive.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 11:47 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
So I did guess right. You were leading into an argument regarding taxation to pay for education of other people's kids and you didn't care at all about fairness of the tax burden (whether a parcel tax is regressive, proportional, or progressive). Why do that? Why not come out up front and state your point? What if the family with three kids is putting their children through private school and still has to pay the tax? Let's go ahead and make up all sorts of hypothetical situations with no basis in any actual real-life data and then conclude that such a parcel tax would get no support.
(That's what random surveys are for, which PUSD board chose not to conduct this time around.)
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Mary doesn't need to spell out any performance evaluation system that would work for teachers. There's already ones out there, made by teachers. They're usually hybrid systems that don't totally rely upon test scores and parental input, but include those to some degree.
And yes, the system is very complicated. It's a highly bureaucratic system designed to discourage action from being taken.
Posted by Get Educated, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:18 pm
First of all public education is not a for profit business. They are not run the same, as they shouldn't be. Comparing your work environment to that of a school staff (cutting the bottom 10%) is disparate. Do you find it effective in your work? Do you rehire to fill the role of those who were cut? What about the training costs and investments made with employees? Do the new one's get the same training repeated? Schools spend a lot of time, energy, and (used to have funds) to train teachers. This is an investment of many people's time and effort. It takes time and experience to see the training put to effective use, along with evaluations to keep it ongoing and regulated in the classroom.
Second, every temporary teacher (first years of teaching) is given a pink slip in March. They must go through the rehiring process in order to come back the following year.
Teaching is an art, a skill that is refined and mastered through experience. If you are being critical that there isn't anything happening in terms of evaluations, then I encourage you to get to know the extensive evaluation process in place. It is designed for education and for training teachers to make sure they are following the strict guidelines and expectations PUSD has in place.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Here is part of the current agreement on teacher evaluations. If the link doesn't work, the agreement is on the district web site, search on APT agreement--it starts on page 46. I believe the negotiations should be held in public, more now than ever because this will be for a three year renewal and is the best opportunity for change. At a minimum, the community should be familiar with this document, like veteran teachers are only reviewed every four years if I understand it correctly. It also mentions "unsubstantiated parent . . . complaints" not being the basis for a formal evaluation. What would be unsubstantiated?
Posted by Get Educated, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm
The community should understand the process, since it is easily misinterpreted, as it was above.
New teachers are evaluated every year. Veteran teachers are formally evaluated every other year and follow the process of self-assessment and inquiry on off years. What is stated as a minimum requirement could in reality be much more according to school sites, including multiple informal evaluations.
There are different requirements spelled out for those who are "highly qualified" as NCLB specifies that would change the evaluations to every four years and are not the case for the majority of veteran teachers.
Posted by Funny, a member of the Harvest Park Middle School community, on Aug 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm
Funny how some posters continue to comment how the school district isn't a business and shouldn't be expected to operate like one.
But when it comes to the perks, the district does operate like a business. The top administrator, Dr. Casey, gets an annual bonus, not tied to performance, not tied to the district's financial stability, but just for showing up. He gets a car allowance which is no allowance, but a salary perk unless anyone can prove that it costs him $1K a month to operate his personal car on school business. He's received an interest free loan to purchase a home in Pleasanton. Administrators have an open checkbook at PUSD for going out to lunch on the taxpayers' dime. There are no restrictions on how much can be spent, no board policy requiring oversight on this type of spending.
Cell phones were handed out, with no restrictions limiting usage to school district business only, to too many employees. Car allowances have been given to employees as a salary perk, not because the amount they have been given corresponds to the actual costs these employees incur doing school business.
Has anyone asked the school district to provide a list of all those who have cell phones and what their individual monthly bills are? How about those who have car allowances? We've heard total numbers, but the school district seems very secretive about providing specific information. Are they worried that when the taxpayers discover that someone's assistant has racked up monthly cell phone costs of $300 or more in personal phone calls, the taxpayers might resent that their money is being used that way and that until questions started being asked, the district never provided any oversight of these expenses?
Didn't someone ask for this information?
So to say that PUSD should not operate like other businesses - please, get real - it already does when it comes to perks. It already does when it comes to concealing what it doesn't what the taxpayers to know.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm
Funny, Someone did ask for the information. Much of it was posted out here during the Measure G campaign. Maybe that person can shed some more light on what was provided--all in hard copy at five cents a page . . . despite asking for it to be scanned and emailed.
$1,000 a month would cover a car payment on a very nice car and any school business. For the superintendent's contract, I believe there is $10,000 paid toward a retirement benefit, built in increases with a satisfactory review, and a me too clause for whatever the unions negotiate. This latter practice means the fox is in the negotiations hen house; there's no incentive to hold the line when you directly benefit. I personally think this is how it was easy to give 14.5% in raises from 2005-2008, particularly for someone who is beefing up their three highest years of pay before retiring. Stopping that practice alone could probably save millions, assuming it would mean someone would ensure any raises were sustainable.
You can eliminate the housing loans if you don't require the superintendent to live in the community. I don't see the benefit to the person in the job or for the community as being worth what many districts are shelling out.
Meals should be dutch treat and at the person's expense. Wouldn't they be eating lunch at their own expense otherwise? Maybe the meals would start happening at Mickey D's or 360 Burrito. There should also be a limit on memberships and conferences and overnight stays.
Cell phones are different. I suspect the real problem is how many people have the phones, not the personal use. Most would have some kind of plan that covers all calls, although they may be higher plans/minutes than what would be needed strictly for district business.
Get educated: It wasn't misinterpreted...I said IF I understood it correctly, leaving it to someone to elaborate (more below). How about explaining 8.1.5, 6, or 7? Is 5 so those days can be spent on parties . . . 180 days of learning, except party days. While 6 seems innocuous, it is key to why bad tenured teachers get to stay, no matter how well a complaint is corroborated. I know this from personal experience. Number 7 plays against parents as well. I'd like to think it isn't common practice, but there are cases of teachers being moved from school to school for any number of reasons. If they are moved consistently and never evaluated, they stay no matter how little the call to teaching means to them. Yes, we saw this happen too.
As to NCLB, why wouldn't highly qualified teachers have yearly evaluations? And it says teachers with ten years in the district and having scored "applying" in all six areas of CSTP also change to four year evaluations. A lot can change in a four year stretch of anyone's life, and for teachers, it could mean 20-120 students/year have a less than stellar learning experience. In your last sentence, are you saying most veteran teachers in PUSD aren't meeting the requirements for highly qualified under NCLB?
And while I don't agree with some of the items in these contracts, I still believe the best teachers she be rewarded with higher pay.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Someone had asked about a previous attempt at a parcel tax in 1996. Here is what I found:
Measure A: ALAMEDA 3/26/1996 Pleasanton Unified School District Measure A Fail (2/3 required)
Shall the Pleasanton Unified School District provide funds for a District-wide class size reduction by levying a qualified special tax of two hundred and four dollars ($204) per year per assessor=s parcel, increasing annually two percent per year, excluding property exempted by law, owned by citizens over 65 years of age or over who apply for such exemption, and Governing Board Resolution, for a period of five years, beginning July 1, 1996 and ending June 30, 2001? Shall the State Appropriations Limit be increased accordingly?
Posted by Parent, a member of the Fairlands Elementary School community, on Aug 29, 2009 at 5:56 pm
Thanks KR for posting the information about Measure A. I thought I had remembered a previous parcel tax failing in Pleasanton. So we've had two parcel taxes that have not passed, and a survey indicating insufficient support for a parcel tax.
It doesn't sound as if putting another parcel tax on a future ballot would be sensible.
Posted by Fred, a resident of Livermore, on Aug 29, 2009 at 7:49 pm
Sure are a lot of teachers on this blog and communists like Stacey. You people need to wake up as the world is bigger than a parcel tax. The California economy is collapsing and you are dogging 233 bucks
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 8:31 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
That's real rich talking about the collapse of the California economy but then turn around and call people like me who try to prevent the kind of fiscal abuse of public money by government (cf. California) communists.
Posted by Steven, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 2:15 am
I heard Mr. Casey speak a few times. He always sounded arrogant. I have been a resident of Pleasanton for a long time, and the schools were good before Mr. Casey, during, and will be after him.
Want to know why the schools are good in Pleasanton? Demographics. Already educated parents that demand and expect the same from their children. I don't care how many superintendents you have, or how much you pay them, if you DO NOT have a mom or a dad that are involved with their children every day, then you WILL NOT have a good school district.
I learned that the Pleasanton school budget is $120MM. WOW!!! That is the budget for a small country. Come on voters and parents, we do not need to tax the people of this city for more money. We moms and dads are already doing a great job.
And as for Mr. Casey, I say good riddance, cell phone and all!!!
Posted by Patriot, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 9:27 am
I suggest those posting take a long look inside themselves and asking what they are standing up for. No one knows when the next attack will come. The question isn't if. The question is when. Communities need to come together at this time of great need and great crisis. We need to support our schools and our communities now more than ever.
Have some faith in our economy. We have a strong economy. Let's go to some of those shops we have around town and buy what you can. Let's support our schools with both donations and a new parcel tax.
Posted by Juan, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 10:22 am
How do you figure that. unemployment in this state is over 12%, real income is down 32% and as evidenced most recently by the NUMMI announcement we have chased out all major business and sources of revenue so where do you expect the money to come from for your handouts? If you have kids you should support and not expect those of us who do not have kids to help you raise yours.
Posted by Patriot, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm
Public education, funded by property taxes, has been guaranteed by the constitution of the state of California for well more than a century. It is part of our duty as citizens to educate children, whether we have children or not. This is not a handout, this an important function of our government.
Yes, the economy isn't where we would like it to be, but at its root the economy is strong. If we keep a positive attitude, and keep buying, keep starting new business, and keep buying homes, we can really turn things around and get them growing again. We can tell OBL that despite the attacks, we will grow even stronger. Let's work together. We can do this.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm
I started this my comments on this topic with:
"In a previous posting, I responded to a question noting the four areas where community participation will be crucial in the next 12-15 months: another parcel tax attempt, the renewal of the teachers’ contract, a possible superintendent search, and the election of board members. The search for the next superintendent will be the first critical step given the announced retirement of the current superintendent."
If every thread about PUSD issues devolves into every other issues (and there are plenty of other opportunities to voice those opinions at PW Weekly and elsewhere), we won't resolve anything at any level. Let's at least start one step at a time with what is truly local and has the biggest impact for our community, our children, and our future.
Finding a new superintendent will be the key to how this school district moves forward on the other issues. If we can find common ground and work together, the next battle (schools, city, state, etc.) could be easier because we will have found a way to look past our differences.
Contacting the board members about this replacement, or any other concerns about our schools, is important. You can do so at the emails found on the district's web site under Board of Trustees: www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us