S&P downgrades school district's credit rating Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online, on Dec 10, 2009 at 10:53 am
Standard and Poor's Rating Services recently announced a drop in the financial ratings of the Pleasanton Unified School District. The report is a reflection of the district's credit-worthiness, which is essentially moved from "very strong" to "strong."
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 6:08 PM
Posted by Sal, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:18 am
The blame falls on all the anti-tax conservatives in Pleasanton who couldn't fork up $200 per year for the parcel tax, then whine about teacher pay as scapegoat. Well, I guess our kids will suffer so some redneck can use the $200 for mud flaps on his pickup. Can you say “Idiocracy”?
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:38 am
So far it is still a free country so if you feel so strongly nobody is stopping you from donating all of YOUR money if you like. It just seems that many others do not want to pay for teachers raises when they have no jobs of their own. Pony up Sal for those of us not working.
Posted by Warren, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:46 am
The real blame goes to the leadership (or lack there of) at the city and the school board. They inherited a great town built on the foundation of great schools. Their legacy will be a Pleasanton that has young families moving out and property values well south of San Ramon. I guess by doing nothing and having no real vision they are preparing themselves for statewide office.
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:51 am
These ratings agencies are a large reason our country is in the mess we're in financially. They're the ones who gave high ratings to the whole mortgage-backed security "concept" which drove housing prices up and removed much of the accountability from our previous system. Also, there is no regulation of the ratings agancies and no accountability whatsoever.
So S&P dropped an A from the Pleasanton School District? Big deal...
Posted by Warren, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm
I agree the rating is probably higher than the situation justifies. In any case, I looked at the communities with recent downgrades and our rating. I don't think you would be proud of the company we now keep. Let's just say that you can stop mentioning Pleasanton in the same breath as Los Gatos, Piedmont, Palo Alto, etc. Those days appear to be gone.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
"(Dec. 3) -- The Pleasanton Unified School District's general obligation bonds were downgraded to A+ from AA- by Standard & Poor's, which cited a "volatile" financial performance over the last several years. Reserves in and outside the general fund have fallen to levels "we consider only adequate," S&P said. The district COPs were cut to A from A+. The rating outlook is "stable."" Web Link (Also noticed the upcoming sales...)
Posted by Ceasar, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm
This is not a surprise
The board decided not to pay for retirement obligations last year and defer them to this fiscal year. They took a page out of Swarzenegger's playbook. Instead of tackling the problem head on, they kicked the can down the road. Everyone but he taxpayers are happy. The teachers got their step and column raise, Casey got his fat pension and the wacky school board is gearing up to waste another $300,000 shot at a parcel tax. Morons!
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm
The bond rating has nothing to do with the parcel tax or finances from the state. The bond is for facilities which is completely separate from the operation of the district. The reason the bond rating went down is the district got too many loans and hoped that the building boom/escalation would continue before the bubble burst. The district last year had to go to the city to get a loan to help make payments on the COPs (building loans). So the district was using one credit card to make payments on another credit card. The district also spent too much in the previous bond we are all paying for. That bond had specific uses and when we got those things done with more than expected revenue from the state, the district just kept on spending the bond proceeds as it was "free money" to them. Since the COP loans are essentially secured by the general fund, having the reserve go down and giving out post-retirement benefits without any way of paying for it makes the situation worse. The reserve was going down before the state crisis. They were adding programs that they could not afford and borrowing against the future. . Until the district acknowledges it made a mistake and comes up with a real plan, you should not give them more money. They have already proven they cannot manage what they have.
Posted by Brutus, a member of the Foothill High School community, on Dec 10, 2009 at 8:43 pm
Sorry to hear that you are out of work. I hope that circumstances improve soon for you (and for others) who are looking for work.
I support raises for teachers in Pleasanton. At the end of the day, the sad truth is that teachers in PUSD are underpaid professionals.
While no one likes to pay more in taxes, I would support a future parcel tax proposal. Improved educational opportunities simply are not possible in PUSD without the additional revenue. In fact, without the local community stepping up and paying more to support our kids, the conditions within PUSD will continue to deteriorate for our kids.
I don't doubt that there are ways to improve the educational system (and how it's funded) at the local, state, and federal levels. I'm glad that concerned citizens like yourself are working for change. But making those improvements to the system will take time, and the kids who are in the schools now should not be made to suffer while we adults work to fix things.
I hope you and others in Pleasanton will think of our kids first. Please support a future parcel tax AND also continue to work for needed change.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:45 am
I am not sure if you know how much the teachers in Pleasanton make. They start around $60,000 and go to about $96,000 plus they have 3 or 4 months off for vacation. While I would not say that our teachers are overpaid, I do not think they are underpaid. Also, they are still receiving raises now for longevity, and for additional education. The step and column raises are still occurring in these tough financial times. I support our great teachers but in Pleasanton I believe they are paid well. We are also privileged to have a majority of our teachers living right in the Tri-Valley. The district released information on where our teachers and other staff live and a large majority are here in the Tri-Valley. If I remember correctly, only a few percent live out in the valley where housing prices are cheaper.
I see two options for teachers salaries and raises:
1) The cost of living adjustments we get from the State go directly to the employees. The advantage is when times are good that the teachers get real good raises. However, when times are bad, there could be no raises, or a decrease in salary. This is how the district does things now.
2) Keep some of the cost of living adjustments from the state in a reserve and give modest raises to the teachers. This buffer allows you to respond to times when things are not great financially. This is how San Ramon does it.
I believe option 2 is better but our teachers union insist that all increases from the state go to the employees. If they want that, they need to settle on no raises when we do not get more money from the state, or even decreases in salary in bad financial times. You cannot have it both ways.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:51 am
I believe it will be hard to swallow for someone out of work or concerned about their jobs to vote themselves a tax increase so that someone protected, who works 6 hours a day, 8 months a year, who makes $98,000 per year and has guaranteed retirement benefits a pay increase.
Posted by unclehomerr.., a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:59 am
Y'all are still discussing how nice the frosting and decorations look without considering that the cake was made with sand instead of flour.
The parcel tax failed, and Standard & Poors lowered the 'credit rating' of the school district because of poor fiscal management. Any attempt to get more money [to mismanage] by borrowing; selling bonds or campaigning for a parcel tax, is wasted effort without correcting the underlining fiscal mismanagement.
Fix the problem.. don't just throw more money at it!
Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of the Foothill Knolls neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm
I agree teachers' pay is questionable, I wish there was pay for performance, but I know for a fact Teachers work more than just 6 hours a day. I get emails from daughter's teacher at 8 to 10pm every evening as she checks her emails plus she grades our children's school work in the evening. Additionally, I know personally I could not endure 30 kids 6 hours a day and then come home meet the family commitments and then grade school work and then check emails from parents. Teachers spend more time with our kids and have more influence over our kids than we do as parents. And for those reasons, I want to make sure we have the best teachers and they are paid relative well compared to others teachers in the local area. I worry about our kids future and community at large!
Posted by Warren, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm
To Concerned parent - well said. Anyone that thinks that job is easy has never done it. I admit I get angry myself and lose track of the real victims, it is not the property taxpayers that have enjoyed the run up in equity produced partly by the brand equity of Pleasanton schools. It is easy to blame the current "deer in the headlights" school board, teachers, state, system, etc., but it is the kids in school today that pay the price.
We are on track to leave them a record national defifit, an insolvent state and a lesser Pleasaton. I guess the real argument for letting the education slip is so these kids are not smart enough to figure out what we did to them.
Posted by full time job, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm
The six hours a day are just the hours required to be in front of children. Planning curriculum, grading papers, answering emails, preparing for lessons takes about 5 more hours a day. I am working daily till 11pm. Over vacation, I will be in my classroom preparing for units when we return, grading, and cleaning. I also have a family to fit in. After 20 years in this career, I am still earning in the $80,000. I have two degrees, which I have paid over $10,000 for to move across the salary schedule. Can't say this is the same for my family members with equal degrees in the private industry. And yet, I love every minute of the job. I wouldn't do anything else given the choice.
Your perception of the job is sad. I'm sorry you don't understand the complexity of meeting the diverse needs of the children in this community.
Posted by Why not cut 10%?, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 7:36 pm
So far PUSD has dramatically increased class sizes, laid off hundred of teachers, custodians, administrators, vice principals, and eliminated COLAs, reduced library hours, counseling hours, intervention programs, school site operational monies by 50% - 75% and on and on. PUSD did this after factoring in last year's federal stimulus money. Come January, when the Governor releases his proposed budget to address a $21 billion state deficit, our kids are in for a real treat. While the adults in this community and state continue to argue one dimensional rhetoric, our children are on an educational path which will see them far less capable of meeting the demands of an information based economy, on an ever warming globe, that will require a level of creative skills our generation has never known. Our $10 billion a year state prison budget will expand proportionately to our reductions in education funding. $40,000 per year per inmate versus $8,500 (and falling) per year per pupil. Yeah.
Public education in this state is highly government regulated, with powerful unions and a financial funding formula that reads, literally, like rocket science. Testing standards are the same in our poorest urban area as they are in our wealthier, safer cities. The state is a partisan, special interest riddled ungovernable mess. So I admit, simplistic observations to complicated issues like "A 5% paycut accross the board" irritate me.
Again, Pleasanton needs to decide if they need a list of prerequisites to be met prior to aiding our troubled schools and how much time we're willing to spend waiting for that list of demands to be achieved. I suspect that while we're going for the elimination of teacher step and column, elimination of the teachers union (so we can fire them at-will), total school funding reform at the state level, a reduction in all employee pay by 5%, elimination of our current superintendent, our schools are going to look very different this time next year. They already look very different from this time last year.
Oh, and after we have to increase classes sizes to 30:1 as we'll certainly have to do, how many elementary schools will Pleasanton have to close I wonder? Should be great for property values.
Personally, I gotta go with pragmatism instead of philosophical stands or plain old "I'm mad as hell" resentment. Good educational system = good property values. Not the path we're going down now. So please, before passing simple statements like this, please get informed so you can offer serious, well thought ideas to a real crisis. Even barbarians can change, if they get educated.
Posted by MOM, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Dec 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm
With four kids in PUSD over the last 20 years, we have had many excellent teachers for whom I am grateful.
Teaching is not a full time job.
Most of my kids teachers used parents to grade papers or the kids graded one anothers papers. My kids shared being humiliated by others students taunting over a bad grade.
Most teachers work six hour days (some new teachers give more time) they work 185 days and get 180 days off. There are a few teachers that put in a lot more time but that is not the norm, we always laugh about the teachers racing out of the parking lot while we are caught in traffic to pick up our kids.Teachers are well paid in Pleasanton.
Posted by MOM, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Dec 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm
Our Board are told they can not play a role in Union negotiations.
The Superintendent does not want to ask the Unions for pay cuts because it would force administrators to do the same. We know Casey is planning to leave this district with every penny he can when he retires next year.
Most of our trustees are bobble-heads that only support Casey and are beholden to the unions for getting elected. If a candidate has the Union's endorsement do not vote for them!!!
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm
Hey "Why not cut 10%",
Quit throwing out these false statements. It is obvious where you stand but that lies are not needed. Classroom sizes has not "dramatically increased class sizes." Lower grades went from 20 to 25 students. That is not dramatic. My kid was in school here when we had 30 to a class for the lower grades and she got a great education. Hundreds of teachers, custodians, administrators, vice principals were NOT laid off. Although COLAs are not here because this comes from the state, our teachers still got their step and column raises. Counseling hours have not been affected and I have not seen any reduced library hours. Intervention programs are still there and far superior to other districts. School site discretionary operational monies have been reduced, but those were a small part of the finances of the schools.
While you want a parcel tax so badly, you do not need to lie about the circumstances. You must be somebody who will benefit directly by the tax and lost control.
I also agree with MOM. The majority of the teachers union represents the school administrators and not the public. They are afraid to come off as being "unsupportive" of staff. We do have two good Board members, the most recently elected ones, but we still need a majority that can analyze the data and make the best decisions for the public and not staff. Does not mean you have to be disrespectful to staff but they were elected to represent the people and not the staff and unions. And MOM is right by saying that Casey does not want any reductions as any reductions now will go to the top and directly affect his retirement pay. "Bobble-heads"; I like that description.
Posted by susie q, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:49 pm
OH, how the mighty have Fallen! Pleasanton schools are in for the shock of their sheltered little rich, snobby lives....The $$ is drying up faster than Obama can spew his lies....
Why not get rid of some of the 'dinosaurs' who make $100k + salaries who are WAY past their prime...truly just sucking off the tits of the state....Time to go, Grannies! Please, do it for the children. My kids cannot take another year under the adled tutelege of an over 65 yr. old teacher who can't see straight and literally is falling asleep as the children romp around the room!
Of course, the Union will come to the dinosaurs' rescue...EVERY time...Get me the heck outta Ptown....NOW!
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:04 am
All of the high quality school districts in the Bay Area currently have parcel taxes in place. A parcel tax for PUSD can play a part in restoring some of the programs that have been cut.
I also think "long term resident" makes a good suggestion above about keeping a larger than required reserve in good economic times that can help blunt effect the downturns.
I don't think 5% pay cuts for teachers are what Pleasanton parents want. We don't want to take away an incentive for the best teachers to teach in Pleasanton by paying a less than competitive salary. I don't think anyone want to get into a race to the bottom with the poorer districts in the Bay Area.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:33 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Ceasar wrote: "Veteran teachers drop from 96k to around 91k per year....Still higher than average for this area."
One thing you have to take into account is that benefits are "on the schedule" so a straight dollar comparison of salaries with other districts isn't so simple. It would be worthwhile to learn what the average total compensation costs are to the district per employee, not just what the raw dollar amount in pay is, compare that with other districts in this area, and make sure we're still higher.
Furloughs are one way to obtain a similar effect as a 5% or 10% pay cut. Furloughs let the employee keep their gross salary to retirement calculation purposes. I think the cost to the district over time would still be higher doing a furlough than an actual pay cut because of those retirement costs, but it would be less than doing nothing. Reduce the number of school days to whatever was allowed by the State (by 5 days I think it was?). The State has given districts the ability to reduce the number of school days to save money.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I'm trying to propose something that is more equitable to employees. They are unpaid days off, but don't cut into the retirement calculations. That isn't to say the system for compensation and retirement couldn't be better.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 5:37 pm
It just means that our debt to equity ratio is going in the wrong direction. We should not be giving raises nor hiring anyone in a time when revenue is currently down and expected to go down even further. We should actually request parent volunteers to teach in the classroom. My understanding is that we have a large number of parents in town who have passed the CBASS test and are eligible to teach as substitutes and would volunteer their time to teach but the teacher union blocked this by requiring a california teaching credential to protect against bringing qualified people in who might displace the return of a laid off teacher. I guess this is what we can expect from Unions.
Posted by Brutus, a member of the Foothill High School community, on Dec 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm
Good to see you my friend! I appreciate your concern for our community. The discussion here in the Forum is good. But remember, Brutus loves Pleasanton more. ;-)
I am not advocating a future parcel tax as a cure all. The future parcel tax is necessary because needed reforms will not be in place soon enough to prevent our children in the schools NOW from suffering. Without a parcel tax class sizes will continue to increase, and educational opportunities will deteriorate. I don't want to lose a generation of kids while we work to fix things on the local, state and federal levels.
My impression is that many who favor a future parcel tax also are working to reform PUSD. I agree with you that teacher salary structure should be reviewed (along with many other aspects of PUSD). In fact, I'm happy to work with you and others on that. But in the same spirit of cooperation, I would hope you and others would soften your opposition to a future parcel tax, for the sake of our children.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 7:57 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Reader wrote: "A parcel tax was also a factor called out by S&P as a reason for the improvement in their bond rating."
A parcel tax is a pot of unrestricted and discretionary funds. It means that, in a pinch, the district can divert money raised by a parcel tax to pay off debt. All those nice little programs you think are ensured by a parcel tax really are not.
It is my guess that the parcel tax isn't an overriding factor in the credit rating. One would have to look at the actual report. Draws on reserves are much more a concern than the small percentage a parcel tax would make up of the entire budget.
From above: "Standard & Poor's, which cited a "volatile" financial performance over the last several years. Reserves in and outside the general fund have fallen to levels "we consider only adequate," S&P said"
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 8:43 pm
We need to reduce at the district office and do not be fooled those who want the parcel tax are only interested in more money to waste. There will be absolutely no reform or cost cutting. My opposition is more firm now than ever especially after reading many of these posts.
Posted by full time job, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 9:57 pm
I'm curious how parent volunteers "teaching" in the classroom will improve the quality of education in Pleasanton.
Were you aware that the DIstrict Office was cut by 33%. Do you have an understanding of the effects of those cuts. They are more than a number on paper, the effects have and will continue to trickle down to the classroom ultimately affecting the children. This is no longer a threat, since it has happened. The cuts were made and will continue, is that what we want for the education system in this community?
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 10:06 pm
"It is my guess that the parcel tax isn't an overriding factor in the credit rating. One would have to look at the actual report."
And it is just a guess. S&P won't tell you exactly how the rating was assigned any more than Equifax will tell you exactly how they came up with your credit score. I just said that the parcel tax was one of the factors cited by S&P that went in to an improved bond rating.
Posted by susie q, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:22 pm
Does ANYONE care that the dinosaurs are roaming the schools??!! Collecting FAT, 100k + paychecks when 2, even 3, fresh-as-a-daisy teachers could be hired in their place? Ones who might actually have the stamina, sharp, critical thinking skills to implement high quality, 21st century approaches in the classroom....vs. the 1960s mode that they replicate each day? WAKE UP people!
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 12:59 am
To susie q,
Do you know anything about Pleasanton school? Pleasanton is known for its high quality schools and teachers.
All the other high quality school districts in the Bay Area, like Palo Alto or San Ramon, have parcel taxes in place. They are performing well and seeing great results. We can do the same in Pleasanton.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 10:17 am
Hwo about this for starters in terms of cost cutting. All district employees take each Friday off under state workshare program, raises for teachers should go away until such time as the economy turns around, district employees go on an immediate pay freeze, special election to replace the existing school board with individuals qualified to run a large dollar entity, no more district supplied cell phones, cars, district employees including teachers required to work 8 hour days, 12 months per year. Do you realize that a tenured teacher in Pleasanton at $90,000 per year makes the equilivant of $135,000 per year if they actually had to work a full year like most other people. Lots of opportunity for cutting before even considering a tax of any kind including a use tax. In addition, all of our tax dollars should go to core classes like reading, writing, and math. All other discretionary items like drama, band, cooking, sewing, athletics etc. should be funded 100% by those participating in those activities.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 10:50 am
Saw this today:
Arcadia rated best Cal city for raising kids
The Los Angeles suburb of Acadia is the best city in California for raising children, BusinessWeek magazine says, "because of its low crime and excellent schools."
I did some fact finding and found that in 2007/08 (last year reported finances in ed-data website), Pleasanton school district received $6,347 per student in state funding while Arcadia only received $5,788 per student in state funding and they still made number one city in California for raising kids. Arcadia does not have a parcel tax either.
Also, last June, their teachers voted to roll back pay to save jobs. The Arcadia Teachers Association approved a 1.25% rollback. Now this sounds like a district that really cares about the students.
To reader (above), you keep forgetting to mention that Pleasanton receives significantly higher state revenue per student than San Ramon. Even with San Ramon's parcel tax, their income is a little less than what Pleasanton has to work with, per child. San Ramon receives even less than Arcadia in state funding with $5,725 per student.
I feel that we have real good schools in Pleasanton but when I see other districts doing better than us with less money, it does not seem that adding more money is our solution. We should be looking at these other well performing district to see how they do it. Our district is trying to take the easy way out but asking for more money. I want them to work smarter instead. Unfortunately, I think this will only happen with a shake-up in the Board and the top administration. It is possible some of the top administrators do have some solutions but the superintendent and/or board could be holding them back because if they have a solution, they cannot scare the community into giving more money.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm
I'll reply here the same thing I replied on the other forum.
Other top school districts that compete with Pleasanton to hire the best teachers have not frozen there step and column type raises. Pleasanton doesn't want to get into a race to the bottom and give the best teachers an incentive to work in other districts. Those districts also have the benefit of parcel taxes. COLAs have already been frozen in Pleasanton in addition.
", district employees including teachers required to work 8 hour days, 12 months per year. "
That sounds like you want to do away with summer vacation. Am I reading you right?
"no more district supplied cell phones..."
The amount saved would in no way be enough to restore the lost programs.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm
"To reader (above), you keep forgetting to mention that Pleasanton receives significantly higher state revenue per student than San Ramon. Even with San Ramon's parcel tax, their income is a little less than what Pleasanton has to work with, per child. San Ramon receives even less than Arcadia in state funding with $5,725 per student."
That is all changing now that San Ramon is increasing property taxes. They appear to be putting children first, and cost cutting second.
"but when I see other districts doing better than us "
I would hardly say that either of those school districts is doing better than us. Arcadia's API scores are slightly lower, San Ramon's slightly higher, but they are roughly comparable districts, in my opinion.
I don't think you can make funding comparisons to "Inland Empire" districts like Arcadia, and Bay Area districts. The cost structure of everything is lower there. In the Bay Area, all high quality school districts have parcel taxes. Pleasanton is currently at a disadvantage compared to those. We have seen programs cut already, and we see many more cuts if we don't get a parcel tax passed.
Posted by Diana, a member of the Hart Middle School community, on Dec 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm
Teachers are only required to work 6 hour days, 185 days a year. Pleasanton teachers take teacher work days (no students) and attend conferences on school days instead of during the summer. The district pays for substitute teachers and the learning environment in the classroom is disrupted on those days.
Teachers should be required to work more days and a 5% pay cut is reasonable.
A freeze of S&C and a 5% pay reduction for all PUSD employees would go a very long way to saving all programs.
Posted by Diana, a member of the Hart Middle School community, on Dec 13, 2009 at 1:24 pm
Pleasanton is not at a disadvantage. They have always had more money than San Ramon and the other districts with parcel taxes. They have used the wealth and resource of this community for self interest not our kids! We would be fools to give them more money!!!!!
All of the facts were made public during Measure G and will be brought forward again to defeat any future Parcel tax attempt! There is no obligation to do so now, go back to past Measure G threads.
Stop demanding more money to mismanage. Instead demand that the Board get the Unions and administation in line!
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 3:53 pm
To "a reader",
Don't have the exact amounts in front of me but even with San Ramon's new higher parcel tax, their income is about the same as Pleasantons. With their old parcel tax, their combined parcel tax and state funding was less than state funding, and the new higher parcel tax puts them near what we get from the state directly.
I take back about my statement about other districts "better than us". I should have stated "equivalent to us". Some magazine ratings think the others are better. Minimally you can say we are equivalent to theirs.
Did you also see a few months ago where the district moved some pay for the Superintendent from deferred compensation to regular compensation so his retirement pay can be increased. This is all going on with the "financial crisis" we are in. Talk about arrogance. Only two Board members questioned it but the other "bobble heads" (not my words but used by another poster) gave the superintendent what he wanted. Even if we are talking about a minimal increase, this is a retiring superintendent so you cannot say we are doing this to keep the best employees. The school board actually made the changed from deferred income to regular income, RETROACTIVE to two years ago, so that the 3 last years of employment were higher for better retirement pay. It is obvious that this group cannot be trusted with more money from us. I heard that the current superintendent wants to also give new long-term contracts/benefits to the executive staff before they bring in the new superintendent; thus tying the next superintendents hands. This will be a real test of our school board.
Posted by Caesar, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm
Long time resident,
You really nailed it. A parcel tax will NEVER PASS as long as this board panders to the Teachers Union.
I find it interesting that the Union is represented at every board meeting by its representative. He sits there to monitor board behavior I gather. WHY ISN'T SOMEONE REPRESNTING TAXPAYERS GIVEN A SEAT ON THE BOARD since the elected board has abandoned this responsibility.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm
To long time parent,
"Did you also see a few months ago where the district moved some pay for the Superintendent from deferred compensation to regular compensation"
I agree, that doesn't look good. I wish the board was perfect and infallible. But I don't see evidence that they are completely corrupt or incompetent either. We are getting good outcomes in the district, but the recent cuts in programs have more to do with a particularly severe economic downturn than financial mismanagement by the board. That is one reason I think a parcel tax is a good idea at this time.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm
To a reader,
While the board may or may not be corrupt (although I think going retroactive for three years is border-lining on that), their actions show they do not have the expertise to manage OUR money. As a taxpayer, I am outraged at that latest action and it proves to me that they cannot be trusted with even more money. If the local taxpayers really knew about this action, they would be as outraged as we were on the bank executives getting large bonuses after receiving taxpayer money.
On San Ramon, I believe that San Ramon and us are now equal on funding now that they have their increased parcel tax.
Also, has anybody heard if Casey paid back his interest-free loan from the taxpayers for his house? I heard he sold his house, and now lives in Brentwood, so that money should have come back to us and available to the general fund. Also, now that Casey lives in Brentwood, I sure hope he is not charging us for his gas to get from home to work in addition to the $1000 per month car allowance he receives.
When I see mismanagement like this, I take it personally. The board is there to represent the taxpayers, I thought (although I think a majority of this board prefers to keep the staff and the unions happy as their primary goal). When they spend any money, they are spending the money that you and I gave to them in taxes. Anytime you hear the phrase "the District is spending money on ..." you should think of it as "the District is spending your money on ...". They are not spending their money, they are spending my money.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm
This is truly amazing and in my mind fraud! That pension which was fraudulently increased will be paid at that level for the rest of his life. Our board should all be recalled and I believe we should be able to file suit against them personally to recover our funds. Parcel tax? Not a chance unless we get rid of them and get our money back.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm
"This is truly amazing and in my mind fraud! That pension which was fraudulently increased will be paid at that level for the rest of his life. "
Not fraud. There is no one alleging that anything illegal was done. I don't agree with the decision either, but I would bear in mind that the amount is small compared to the shortfall in our school budget that we are facing due to the global financial crisis. I didn't agree when George Bush bailed out the banks and didn't put any stipulations in the law to limit bonuses on bankers getting bailed out. It was a mistake, but I don't think it totally discredited the Republican party.
We have to remember that PUSD is an excellent school system. The schools are safe and effective, and the API scores are high. No district is perfect, and ours is very good. Every other high quality school district in the Bay Area currently has a parcel tax in place. We can do the same here. Too many programs have been cut due to the effects of the global financial crisis that in no way was the fault of the PUSD. A parcel tax can help us restore some of what was cut.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:47 pm
I have no idea what George Bush and the Republican party has to do with our school board members throwing away our hard earned money but I guess your comments about George Bush and the Repubs might speak volumes about your ideals and values in life and how you feel about working for what you believe in rather than taking from others who do not even have jobs but let me leave it at that.
A parcel tax is just a major flushing of taxpayer money without reform. I have never heard you intelligently debate why Mission San Jose is in a district with no parcel tax and yet they are ranked 36th nationally and their teachers make far less than ours. If this is the case why arent our high paid teachers making us better than them?
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 10:09 pm
To a reader,
I guess it is ok for you for the board and superintendent to skim a little of our taxpayer money for executive retirement. I don't care if this only cost us $15 over 30 years (it is much more and for the life of Casey); they took money away from our kids's education to enhance an already generous pension plan, and now they are asking the public for more money. They should be ashamed.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 10:15 pm
Get this through your head: Fremont Unified School District is a lousy school district. API scores are mediocre. That one school is an anomaly, an accident of demographics.
"George Bush and the Repubs might speak volumes about your ideals and values in life and how you feel about working for what you believe in rather than taking from others who do not even have jobs but let me leave it at that."
Oh, it might "speak volumes", but you are incapable of explaining what my "volumes" speak. I would suggest that you try putting your accusations in words if you want to be taken seriously. Better yet, why don't you come out and support a parcel tax.
A parcel tax is can play an important role in stemming the cuts to our education system. All of the other high quality school districts in the Bay Area have a parcel tax in place. We can do the same here.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 10:51 pm
To "long time parent",
"I guess it is ok for you for the board and superintendent to skim a little of our taxpayer money for executive retirement."
I can't see where I ever said that. I said that I support the idea of a parcel tax in Pleasanton.
"they took money away from our kids's education to enhance an already generous pension plan, and now they are asking the public for more money"
Are you suggesting that all money spent on compensation is taking money away from our children? I'm saying this school district is imperfect. To expect perfection as a qualification for passing a parcel tax makes no sense to me. People were accusing all the other districts, like Palo Alto, Piedmont, and San Ramon of wasteful behavior, but those communities still managed to pass their parcel taxes. Those voters recognized that the children come first. They didn't want to see more and more programs cut. They wanted to strive for excellence. We can do the same here in Pleasanton.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:15 pm
That is fine if other districts don't mind wasteful behavior; I do not. Money used to enhance retirement pay is being taken away from our kids this year, and every year that Casey is alive. Casey is retiring at age 57 so he could have quite a few years ahead of him where extra money is being taken away from our children. It is one thing to negotiate deals like this when you start with a new employer but to make these changes after you announce retirement, and have a school board accept the increases, shows that the foxes are watching the hen house. This board is so blatant about doing this at the time of financial crisis and while asking for more money from the residents. The Board should rescind that action and apologize. That will show that they are starting to "get it".
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 7:00 am
You can paint the picture anyway you want to but doing something like the board did with Casey's retirement is a signal that they cannot be trusted with handling the finances of the distict so to trust them with more money via a parcel tax would be like giving a loaded gun to a 5 year old. My question which I have asked you multiple times without an answer is why is Mission San Jose in Fremont such an exceptional school in a district with no parcel tax? The teachers at the school make less than ours so it cannot be teachers salaries? Could it be parental engagement? Do you have any idea other than we need a parcel tax here in Pleasanton or are you just repeating the same thing over and over?
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 8:06 am
"My question which I have asked you multiple times without an answer"
I'll be happy to answer that yet again when you answer my question about what "volumes it speaks" and also offer retractions of the above statements that were clearly wrong. Are you incapable of answering questions? If I say something wrong, I am happy to admit it. What about you? Are you incapable of admitting mistakes?
I'll state again that a parcel tax is needed in Pleasanton to help meet our funding needs going forward. All of the other high quality school districts
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 8:09 am
-- Continuing the above --
All of the other high quality school districts in the Bay Area have parcel taxes in place. Pleasanton is at a disadvantage and programs have been cut. It is time to stop the bleeding and support our schools.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 9:40 am
You keep forgetting that Pleasanton receives a much higher per student funding from the state than surrounding districts. The way the financing is set up, they had to raise local parcel taxes to bring themselves up to Pleasanton's finances.
There is major item that San Ramon does and that is community donations. They are well organized in that and bring in millions of dollars each year that way. I guess if Pleasanton cannot do that it is only because our parents are not as smart as San Ramon? I don't think so. The reason our administrators do not want the donations like San Ramon is they put more control of the schools into the parents hands as the parent groups at each school get to decide which programs they want to support.
Posted by Don, a resident of the California Reflections neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 9:48 am
I agree that the move by the board was tantamount to theft of public funds. This kind of foolishness should not be tolerated. And it certainly demonstrates that throwing more cash on the fire would be an incredibly stupid move.
Posted by Johnny, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 9:50 am
She is not forgetting that we receive more money. She (reader) is just the typical liberal tax and spend person who got us in this mess to begin with. She wants to spend more money to solve a non problem. To much spending is what has created all of these problems and she wants to spend more and when confronted with opposition just attacks. No ideas just "we need a parcel tax here now". Sounds a lot like "hope and change". BS is what it is.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 2:32 pm
Well now let's see. No cost cutting, reduction in fraud, no members or few members of school board have business experience, one does not even live in the staten they have spent the reserve, etc. And let's reward these abilities with a parcel tax????
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2009 at 7:19 pm
"No cost cutting"
Wrong. There has been significant cost cutting.
"reduction in fraud"
"no members or few members of school board have business experience"
It is a school, not a business. They are totally different. There is no profit motive for a public school.
"And let's reward these abilities with a parcel tax?"
Yes. We should reward excellence. Are schools have high API scores and our campuses are safe. Pleasanton schools are widely regarded as very high quality. A parcel tax will help us prevent further cuts in programs that result from the global economic crisis.
Posted by einstein, a member of the Mohr Elementary School community, on Dec 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm einstein is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Ok now any ideas for raising funds and reducing costs other than a parcel tax? I have been reading some of what has been written both for and against and seems as if there are so possibilities if further costs are reduced, waste eliminated, sweetheart deals like the ones described eliminated and previous agreement mitigated or withdrawn. A level of trust should be established before going forward with any initiative. I am surprised that some of the board members do not reside in the city or even state for that matter. If they have character they should resign immediately. I would suggest an independent group of non affliated executives be brought in to create clear direction going forward.
Look toward the bottom of the above link. You are claiming to be the CEO of Google, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, or Intel.
IGNORE = TRUE
All of the other high quality school districts in the Bay Area already have parcel taxes in place. Districts like Palo Alto and Piedmont have high API scores and high quality education. A parcel tax for Pleasanton will help PUSD prevent further cuts in programs and maintain the high quality education system that citizens of Pleasanton demand.
Posted by Jerry, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:32 am
"no members or few members of school board have business experience".
"It is a school, not a business. They are totally different. There is no profit motive for a public school"...
I beg to differ. The profits of public schools are well educated students...
Also, which could best understand the financial dealings of a school district, a person with business experience or a day laborer. Both play an important part in our society but which would you choose to lead your school district in times of financial difficulties???
Posted by Einstein, a member of the Mohr Elementary School community, on Dec 16, 2009 at 8:24 am Einstein is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
First off I suggest that you read your own link. If you read thoroughly my messages and what you assumed you will see that I listed many more companies other than the few you referenced. Yes, I am CEO of one of those companies but not the ones you referenced. Read my messages thoroughly and you will understand or at least I hope so. I have been reading your blogs from time to time even when I have no time to respond and have noticed that you seem to get a thought in your mind and no matter what anyone says to you nor how much sense they make you stick to the same fundamentals.
“We need a parcel tax here in Pleasanton now”
“All the school districts who excel have one”
“We cannot run schools at 100% efficiency in terms of cost”
“It is against the law in California for a school use tax”
Obviously, I/we cannot get you to deviate from your very rigid thought process of ‘everyone else does it so it must be good and will work here” but would like to point out a few things for consideration in terms of going forward in Pleasanton.
1) Annual expenses of the district should be made visible on the internet for all to see including details of expense reports.
2) Long term contracts and agreements need to be clarified to the community ie. Union contracts, landscaping, maintenance of facilities, vehicle maintenance etc. it is important for everyone to understand.
3) Union contracts with teachers including benefits and salaries including contractually agreed upon wage increases, cola.
4) Compensation strategies including adjustments for salary compression issues.
5) Sources of revenue both statewide and locally. Historical ratio of revenue to expenses tracking.
There is more required but you get the picture. Once this information is available I believe it will become obvious that there is still much cost cutting to be done and difficult decisions but at the end of the day once this is done properly and the community understands what has been done and what is left if some source of additional revenue is required it will be much more understandable and easy to justify. Items 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 will be a painful process because we would get significant resistance from the district, teachers, teachers union, and the board as it would expose some very terrible decisions and some very terrible agreements but this is what true leadership is about if they and we are truly interested in significant and positive change.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm
Mary and Einstein,
You both have interesting views on how to solve our education crisis. Well, there is a school board meeting tonight at 7 pm. Why don't you say what you've been saying here to the board members? Hope to see you there!
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm
Is it this evening? If so, I will be there. I have already forwarded a letter detailing my opinions and ideas to 2 board members and personally discussed with one of them. I will say that I am a bit concerned with their abilities to manage.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm
"Did you also see a few months ago where the district moved some pay for the Superintendent from deferred compensation to regular compensation so his retirement pay can be increased. "
This really bothered me, so I wrote to the board and was contacted by three of them yesterday. The shortest version of this is tied to the superintendent's original loan to buy a home in Pleasanton, his contract that includes $10,000 for an annuity, his decision for the two previous years to use the annuity to pay down that loan, and the sale of the home which triggered an automatic payback to the district of the $200,000. So there is a contractual requirement and the district was paid twice for a portion of the loan. Three years, including this year, is $30,000 and cannot be used for his retirement calculation with STRS.
This is my interpretation of what I was told, but Luz Cazares at the DO or any board member can verify/explain it.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community, on Dec 17, 2009 at 7:12 am
Doing this from a phone. Yes, the annuity was used to pay down the loan. An interest free loan. A loan that repays upon the sale of the home. I don't get that either.
But the dollar amount is contractual, like it or no, and the board has been assured it cannot be used to up the supts retirement. The supt apparently used the annuity for two previous school years to pay the loan down and the sale of the house triggered full payment of the loan directly to the district, meaning the district owed those two years and this year, I believe, or $30,000.
Posted by Einstein, a member of the Mohr Elementary School community, on Dec 17, 2009 at 10:09 am Einstein is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Is it common to include home provisions as part of an employment agreement for a new Superintendent? I have negotiated them in the past in business but it requires that the individual stays for a set period of time otherwise they pay off the note rather than me.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm
More districts are providing loans because they are requiring the supt to live in the community. I believe they are secured by the house and not contractual. I don't know that there would be a need to require a specific length of stay. Standard language is repayment occurs automatically upon sale of the home or 18 months after leaving the district. It could be a side agreement. The annuities have been contractual.
I'm not in total agreement with requiring the supt to live in the community.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 18, 2009 at 7:47 am
I think it began elsewhere and was tied to a superintendent with school-aged children. The "logic" being with kids in the schools, you'll be motivated to do the right thing for all kids. I understand the thinking, but disagree that it motivates a superintendent beyond possible curriculum choices. There's a longer answer in there about how curriculum works, budgetary decisions, negotiations with "me too" clauses and so on.
I've talked with superintendents who think living in the community is important because you run into parents everywhere and project a different image. I think superintendents are at schools sites anyway, attend PTA coffees and other events, participate in various community organizations, etc. and should be allowed to have a private life. What if the person already has children in a similar or better school system--why uproot a family? What is wrong with commuting? By the way, by virtue of working in the district, the children would be allowed to attend our schools anyway.
A loan ties up money that is covered by an asset, so it balances on the books. The home is required to be insured, so the asset is safe. I think the real issue is how many of us are getting up every morning and driving to our jobs outside of Pleasanton? It isn't so much the expense as the question of why this has become a requirement.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Hrm... Is this a requirement or an option? I think we should be offering options to live here, not requirements, and provide a loan with a low interest rate as an incentive. Now if it were a requirement, I could see why the loan was interest free. You're making someone move to get the job. It seems like a disservice to the public trust to be giving interest free loans when you're also paying a salary of over $200K. That's well above Pleasanton's median income level!
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm
Actually state law does not allow an agency to require any of their workers, including the superintendent, to live in the community. So that cannot be part of a contract. However, they are allowed to give an incentive to live in the community, like low-interest loans. As a parent I have gone to a lot of high school sporting events and music events and have not seen our superintendent there. Maybe our superintendent needs the $1000 per month automobile allowance so he can leave the city after work. During his 3 months of vacation time he does spend a lot of time in his house up in the mountains.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2009 at 7:35 am
All districts try to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers. I don't believe Pleasanton has a corner on top teachers; they exist in Dublin and Livermore and districts large and small all around the state. And like a lot of districts, there are some clunkers here too. It is a steep hill, no doubt, but if you or your children are having trouble, keep a record and keep talking to the principal.
The "better" schools, the "better" classrooms, have an environment of nurturing and encouragement and helping students to be successful in learning. That doesn't always translate on a test. It's hit or miss in each school or district.
Most communities are naturally proud of their schools; most have invested money and time on behalf of children. It doesn't make them snobs.