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PUSD Budget Gap is now $8M and a Proposal for debate

Original post made by Dark Corners of Town, Country Fair, on Jan 26, 2010

PUSD has distributed an updated budget gap analysis showing a need to reduce expenditures by $8M. PUSD's proposed reductions contain significant impact to our children and the quality of education they receive.
Here is a proposal that solves the $8M gap with no impact to the children.
- Suspension of Step and Column increases ($1.6M)
- Reduction of five instructional days @ $450K each ($2.25M)
- Modify service provider in warehouse/graphics ($250K)
- 4% across the board salary reduction for all employees ($3.6M)
- Summer school proposed changes ($200K)
- Eliminate one staff development day ($450K)
Total expense reduction of $8.35M, without touching a single kid-facing service or program. Budget deficit solved.
A proposal that saves teacher jobs, possibly adds up to five teacher jobs, preserves all counselors, aides, specialists, librarians, administration, custodians, music teachers, maintains current CSR levels and more. A proposal that Puts Kids First. A proposal that keeps the high quality of PUSD education!


Comments (83)

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Good start. We need 10% plus cuts for the top administrators. In private industry the top brass take the biggest percentage cuts. That is needed here.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Correction, problem created.

News flash, all the other high quality school districts such as San Ramon, Palo Alto, Cupertino, and the like don't slash their programs or their teacher's pay. Their school systems continue to provide high quality education. The continue to attract and keep the best staff. But Pleasanton schools are cheap, cheap, cheap! Like a Yugo. Not the highest quality, but the lowest price, but hey teachers and schools don't make the slightest bit of difference anyway! We can close down all the schools in Pleasanton tomorrow and education quality will not suffer in the slightest. In fact it will improve!

Meanwhile, our API scores slowly, but surely drop. Parents begin to choose other districts to raise their children. Many leave. Home prices fall. Crime rate rises. Some people will look around and ask what happened here? Others will sadly answer, we neglected our schools. We wanted to be the cheapest, not the best. If only we could turn the clock back...


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Of course Pleasanton actually pays the highest salaries around. And if you look at the scattergram, you will see that we are flush with top of the ladder pay earners. Were not hiring or recruiting. And no one is leaving a system that guarantees employment unless they marry a Kennedy or win the lottery. However if we are ever in the market for a drama teacher, you should be our first call.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I would not want my kids to learn that type of drama.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:23 pm

"Of course Pleasanton actually pays the highest salaries around. "

Are you comparing apples to apples? PUSD doesn't cover health benefits for teachers. These can be well over $1000/month. Factor that in, and you'll see that PUSD salaries don't look quite so high.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Reader - likewise the pension payout for employees in other districts receiving health benefits is lower. Furthermore, this was something teachers voted for - for that exact reason, to maximize their pension pay. This made sense as over 2/3 of teachers receive health benefits through their spouses employed in the private sector.

Your argument is weak, tired, and irresponsible.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm

DCOT, I posted this on another forum but here it is again. Here is my proposal:

I think we should look at San Ramon as a good example. They have a parcel tax, and they ask each parent to "donate" $600 per child when they register. (They put STRONG pressure on parents to donate, so it's not really a donation but a fee.) This is in addition to other fundraisers during the course of the school year.

I think we need to do something similar in Pleasanton. Since the community doesn't want to help, parents and teachers will have to shoulder most of the burden.

I believe there are about 14,000 students in Pleasanton. If we got parent contributions of $600 per child, that would be $8.4 million. However, you do have the problem of affordability for low-income residents. I'm not sure how San Ramon handles this, but they have a parcel tax as an additional funding source.

Or we could have a combination of staff concessions such as a salary freeze and lower parent contributions of about $450 per child. The low-income problem still exists, but it's a bit more manageable.

Or there could be lower parent contributions, staff concessions in the form of salary freeze, and a lower parcel tax of, say, $99.


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:12 pm

"Your argument is weak, tired, and irresponsible. "

But consistent!


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:37 pm

"I think we should look at San Ramon as a good example. They have a parcel tax, and they ask each parent to "donate" $600 per child when they register. (They put STRONG pressure on parents to donate, so it's not really a donation but a fee.) This is in addition to other fundraisers during the course of the school year.

I think we need to do something similar in Pleasanton. Since the community doesn't want to help, parents and teachers will have to shoulder most of the burden.

Or we could have a combination of staff concessions such as a salary freeze and lower parent contributions of about $450 per child. The low-income problem still exists, but it's a bit more manageable.

Or there could be lower parent contributions, staff concessions in the form of salary freeze, and a lower parcel tax of, say, $99."



We do have a parcel tax, does San Ramon have multiple parcel taxes? The primary problem I have with your initial proposal is that it is completely one-sided and it isn't sustainable.

I disagree with your statement that the community doesn't want to help. I think the community is more than willing to help if the solution is equitable, sustainable, and fiscally responsible ensuring our schools remain strong for years to come.

Your later proposals are much more in line with what I think is going to be required to gain enough support from the community.


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of Danville
on Jan 27, 2010 at 3:59 am

Raise class sizes. It is the single greatest bang for the buck, because it doesn't really effect the kids and will save just your district more money than any other cutback

Do not be brainwashed into taxing yourselves even more


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:31 am

To PP,

"irresponsible"?

To tell the truth is irresponsible? Make the comparisons. Do the math.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

Pleasanton Parent: Pleasanton does not have a parcel tax.


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

Straight from my property tax bill:

Voter approved debt service:

School Unified: Tax Rate = .0809%
School Com Coll: Tax Rate = .0195

Looks like a parcel tax to me. In fact it looks like two.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

At least one is to pay down the facilities improvement bonds. The other, I believe, is what you automatically pay to support schools (which is essentially collected by the state and then is doled out all over, not just Pleasanton). A parcel tax, as the term is used, is for funding that remains in Pleasanton. There is no parcel tax in Pleasanton.


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Posted by sam
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

Last September during the school board meeting and someone asked the superintendent about the budget. guess what he said about that?

he said not only we have enough money to cover all the expenses right now, we also have enough money to open a NEW school!

what had happened in the last three months? now all of the sudden we are 8M short?!!!


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

DCOT-Wanted to comment on your original posting.

-Depending on how long S&C could be suspended, the savings multiply year over year. $1.6 million from 09-10, in 10-11 is $3.2 million, in 11-12 and $4.8 million, in 12-13--a total of $9.6 million. That commitment continues until there is another raise. That math is important when you look back at the impact of previous raises. Raises added to the salary schedule in 05-06, 06-07, and 07-08 compounded over time as well . . . so if you just used the $1.6 million example, that would be something like $16 million for 10-11; twice what the district predicts they need to cut.

I mention this not because I don't want to pay teachers well, but to point to a problem that gets buried in how budgets are presented. To see a row of rollover costs of $1.6 million year after year doesn't seem so bad. But the previous year's $1.6 million is rolled into the bottom line--if you aren't watching the bottom line, you aren't seeing the long-term impact of unsustainable raises. (The $1.6 million can change based on teachers retiring and new teachers starting at lower pay, staff reductions, staff increases, and raises. It is a rough estimate for budgeting purposes and is usually flushed out in what is called the first interim report when payroll is set for the given school year--mostly.)

-Reducing instructional days/staff development: I think this is easy to do and short sighted. Professional development, collaboration, articulation are vital to what is presented to students. 180 days of school is also already one of the shortest school years in the developed countries. We could talk about fewer field trips and time spent watching movies, but that's a philosophy, not a money saver.

I think a one year pay cut is reasonable. I would do that just to not have a total loss of CSR (for a teacher, it saves a coworker and there aren't 30 or more students in the room). It can be revisited for the 11-12 school year. By then challenges could be different or gone (not likely, I know). It gives the new superintendent time to grab the reins and for the community to grapple with a possible parcel tax. And I absolutely believe that takes a consultant and a survey. Just looking at the various opinions being posted shows there needs to be a vision of what consensus looks like.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:27 am

DCOT--Didn't mean to imply you don't know all this.


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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

I took a close look at the budget. Once again, slashing every conceivable program; but the option of freezing step and column raises is buried in the footnotes. Once again, the district (the union??) wants to fire 26 young teachers so the older ones can get raises.

Here's an alternative:
- freeze step and column. - $1.6MM
- cut 9 teachers (1 per elementary)and raise classes to 27 kids-- 0.5MM
- cut 5 instructional days plus another work day (as proposed). $2.7MM
- leave all the reading specialists, counselors, music programs,libraries, remaining vice principals and tech maintenance at current levels -- they've already been slashed enough.
- miscellaneous administrative, printing/graphics,reclassifications of discretionary funds, summer school, etc. -- $1.5MM
- Request that each family donate $500 per child or $1000 per family. Not all families can or will donate, but if even 1/4 of the families were to step up we could close the gap. (assume 600 kids per elementary, 1200 per middle and 2000 per high school - 25% is 3,250; times $500 is $1.6MM
- We used to live in a district that had this type of strong request and about 1/3 of the families actually stepped up (even though about 90% could afford it). It may sound like a lot of money, but it is just a fraction of the money they were spending on preschool or day care before their kids started school!


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of Danville
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

The whole state needs to go to more than thirty kids a class. It is necessary. The parcel tax is useless. They siphon money away to misappropriate immediately. None of our tax dollars go to where they belong. Don't let yourselves be fooled Pleasanton, like we were momentarily here in Danville.

You teachers unions do your polls, cause this time your push polls will be met in kind


 +   Like this comment
Posted by P-town Dad
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

NO NEW PARCEL TAXES! PLEASE - ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!


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Posted by discouraged
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:54 am

Don't worry, P-town dad. They aren't even going to try and pass a parcel tax. The teachers will take pay cuts, programs will be cut, class sizes will get bigger, and parents will be nickeled and dimed for donations for everything from sports and summer school to classroom supplies and graduation ceremonies. Wow! What a great solution to save the community from a having to shell out a couple hundred bucks. We really are a community of character!


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

To 'discouraged' - No need to be discouraged. Don't let the PUSD Board hurt the kids. Ultimately, the decisions to cut all the kid-facing teachers/programs/services are in the hands/minds of the five Trustees. They are the ones who hurt the kids last year (and protected the teacher's salary raises). Demand education excellence of the Trustees! Demand that they Put Kids First!


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Posted by dcq
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

discouraged your sarcasm is not warranted in this thread. It just inflames a very sad situation. If you are a parcel tax supporter, then just say so. Don't try to demean those who don't support it.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

"parents will be nickeled and dimed for donations for everything"
Oh, get over it. Do without your daily latte (to quote another smarta** poster), give up a manicure or pedicure, do the botox only once a year not twice, drive something other than a gashogging SUV, make your kids EARN their $200 shoes/cars/Ipods/iphones and pay the fees. Quit trying to make the rest of us pay a parcel tax so that you can indulge yourself and your kids in every other way -- you had the kids, you can pay for them. Enough whining. All of us support the schools through property taxes already whether or not we use the system. If you are so adamant about adding more taxes, with no salary reductions by the district employees, then you and "a reader" can just start writing checks. Only you should not expect your money to go anywhere other than more raises and more wasteful spending.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:53 am

To 'a reader' - you said "News flash, all the other high quality school districts such as San Ramon, Palo Alto, Cupertino, and the like don't slash their programs..."
Here is the real news flash from Cupertino on Jan 11, 2010 (Web Link). They are taking CSR to 30:1 AND they have an annual $4M parcel tax.
Fake news flashes prevent the community from having an honest debate about the issues facing our children.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

And Cupertino USD is proposing a 1% salary reduction and furlough days (Web Link).


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Reader,
"To tell the truth is irresponsible? Make the comparisons. Do the math."

What truth? You present an opinion, your argument is a classic slippery slope fallacy. (By the way, excellent choice of a point in my statement to single out for discussion as its the only one that can be subjectively argued).

You compare our schools to that of a Yugo.....really? Pleasanton schools are currently ranked among the highest.....yet you've selected a Yugo as your basis for comparison. You warn of a mass exodus of talent, yet fail to recognize that the total compensation is amongst the highest in the state. If you want to gather support for your proposed solution (a parcel tax) I highly recommend you put together a sound argument instead of relying on 4th grade argumentative tactics. I think you've greatly underestimated the critical thinking capacity of the audience you're trying to address.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Reducing instructional days does impact children directly -- but at least it impacts all children at all levels equally. I would support this as part of a solution, and I hope that teachers and the APT would support it as well.


To ask teachers to reduce pay by 6 days, and to suspend step-and-column, and to take a 4% salary reduction as well -- that seems quite dramatic to me. They would be "contributing" over $7 million in solutions to an $8 million dollar problem.

However, I hope that APT and CSEA understand that they must complete negotiations by Feb. 23 if they want to avoid the pink slip process. Timing is also important -- every week that the contribution to solving this problem from their members remains unclear, the way the community perceives the unions will continue to decline.

I would like to see another fundraising effort, with a focus on meeting a fixed target (greater than $450K, but less than $2.5 million) once by March 1, and again by next Dec. 31. I'd like to involve more than just parents in the process -- how about some corporate donations from local employers?

Reducing instructional days seems like a less painful alternative than many of the other proposed cuts. I think it will be easier to reverse in 2-3 years. It's not enough by itself, but it's a good place to start. I hope the idea gets serious consideration


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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Sandy, I agree with your suggestion about reducing days and aggressive fundraising, especially the idea of adding business involvement.

Unfortunately, we still need to freeze salaries if we don't want to lose all enrichment or fire teachers to feed the raises. Step and column are raises, pure and simple. Freezing them is not a pay cut.

Part of the resistance to freezing step and column is that it impacts final pension amounts. How about allowing an adjustment to pensions "as if" step and column were in place, without actually having to pay the raises in the interim? Would that help the unions get this through?


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of Danville
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Sandy, what you and the unions don't get is that this latest budget crisis merely woke up the masses to the governments wasteful spending, much of it being on education. We're thus not asking you to shoulder this crisis, we are saying that we've been shouldering teachers- and for far too long.

We need to raise class sizes. The class size reduction was a made-up issue constructed by teachers unions to get us to hire more teachers. You see, it's basic math really. If you have the same amount of students in the state, yet must decrease the fraction taught per teacher, well then you must increase the amount of teachers. The teachers unions also fight hard for illegal immigration, because the illegals have far more kids per family and they fill up our classrooms so that we have to hire more teachers! And all paid for by you

I would rather California spend billions of dollars reeducating the laid off teachers to actually do something in the private sector- you know, the real world.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

School Unified: Tax Rate = .0809%
School Com Coll: Tax Rate = .0195

That's the voter-approved general obligation bonds for facilities. One is for Los Positas and the other is for PUSD. Ask PUSD for the details on the bond refunding....


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Kathleen wrote: "To see a row of rollover costs of $1.6 million year after year doesn't seem so bad. But the previous year's $1.6 million is rolled into the bottom line--if you aren't watching the bottom line, you aren't seeing the long-term impact of unsustainable raises."

Like how last year the total budget was something like $124MM and this year its $136MM.


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm

School Unified: Tax Rate = .0809%
School Com Coll: Tax Rate = .0195

That's the voter-approved general obligation bonds for facilities. One is for Los Positas and the other is for PUSD. Ask PUSD for the details on the bond refunding....

Thank you Stacey for the clarification.

Again I think not titling this property tax as a "parcel tax" is once again arguing semantics.

My points of contention are as follows:

#1) California's aggressive tax system is killing off jobs at an astounding rate in our state. I am all for our taxes supporting the school system, but adamantly disagree that any additional taxation is a useful solution for any problem currently facing California.

#2) From an admittedly self serving point of view, I am offended by the suggestion that I should pay a third special tax (call it whatever you like) to support the local school system when he renter on Vineyard with five children in the public school system would not (or at least if they did indirectly, it would be highly disproportionate to those in single family homes. And there are more than 4600 apartments in Pleasanton).

#3) The district has spent the last year shouting from the rooftops that they do not have enough money to continue to offer the services to which we have become accustomed. Yet there has been no significant salary concession, the auto raise system remains in place, and the contracts of several district administrators recently sailed through without a thought of renegotiation, and there has been no effort to raise funds through any other source. Frankly it is hard for me to take much stock in the crisis, when others who are far more invested in the outcome than I am have remained void of any significant action. And I have my own hurdles to clear at the moment.

#4) While there was some support for a parcel tax in the special election, the total raised via the post election donation drive was pitifully low. This leads me to surmise that those who have been most vocal about assessing a tax are either the direct beneficiaries of the potential windfall or non-property owners that have little investment in the community and were adamantly promoting a fee that they would not have to face.

I could go on, but what would be the point? Go back to the table. Decide how to best divide the funds available over the workers currently in place and get on with your lives. Many of us that have spent our lives in the private sector would be THRILLED to have same choices currently available to the district and employees.


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Posted by June
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I like the ideas from Dark Corners at the beginning of this thread. Again, salary freezes and 4% cut is not out-of-line in these tough economic times. Can someone clarify for me . . . I understand Pleasanton tenure teachers earn in the low 70,000.00 for 9 months and if you prorate that to a full-time 12 month/year job, that makes it low $90,000.00 per year. ?


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Posted by Caesar
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Dark Corners,

I endorse your idea. It is bold, simple and effective.
It is.....very Roman.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm

The pay is based on a system that rewards longevity and optional training called Step and Column. The appropriate pay grades for PUSD can be found at the link provided below. The dollars are not prorated. They are for the regular school year.

Web Link


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

PUSD deficit for next year = 6.9 million, but:

Elimination of teacher work days (5 non-instructional days) would save
2.25 million

Shortening the school year would save 450K per each day, so shortening it by 5 days would be 450K X 5 = 2.25 million

NOTE: PUSD does NOT lose ADA because of shortening the school year.

Freeze step and column = 1.6 million

The three items above is already 6.1 million.

If we get rid of items here and there: car allowances for all admin staff, elimination of the public information officer position, elimination of at least 2 clerical positions for each school (walk into any school office and you will see how many people are there doing duplicate work or just sitting at their desk, this is especially true in middle and high schools). I am sure with cuts here and there, AWAY from the classroom you could come up with another .8 million, and problem solved.

Why is the district not doing what is in the best interest of the students and district?

Those who advocate a parcel tax should really go and be advocates for fiscal responsibility and pressure the board to do the right thing. Casey will be gone soon, his recommendations should NOT be taken into account.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

June - the certificated employees salary grid is located here (Web Link)


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

To 'Common sense' - Yesterday PUSD announced an updated projected budget gap for 2010-11 of $8M. A document was sent out by PUSD. I don't see it posted on the PUSD website.


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Posted by Bryan Moran
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 27, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Common Sense,

The elementary schools only have 2 clerical positions, typically one principle, one secretary, one attendance clerk. This is to run what is essentially a medium sized business with 600 customers (students) 30 to 40 employees (teachers) and all the myriad tasks that go into providing a working school system (do you want to be responsible for the welfare of 600 of your neighboors children for 6 to 8 hours a day? it looks like a really high liability environment for a skeleton crew). Lets be honest it is actually a big job, and an important one for our own long term interests (educated population, property values, future of America really). We need to take our selves seriously. The "low hanging fruit" and simple easy fixes are done. What is left is what is hard to do. The teachers do have it pretty good in many ways, they need to give. The COMMUNITY has to pay more, not just parents, this is important in a profound way. The district has to be very prudent and responsible with the resources it has and needs to get creative. We have an obligation for us all to take ourselves seriously and to be responsible to each other. What we do and say here matters.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Sandy, I am surprised that you would support cutting instructional days and professional development. Yes, it would affect all children in Pleasanton; it's effectively a dumbing down, K-12. Maybe we tack the days onto summer school and let the community's children--all of them--enroll, at a cost I'm sure, in order to claw back the lost learning time. This is not how you keep cuts away from the classroom.

Of course, this won't get vetted and in the community as a priority (or not) before the decision is made.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:28 pm

By the way freezing S&C and a salary cut is the only way that you get a real reduction in the cost of staff without losing them. The drama was inevitable when the district set off on its path several years ago.

DCOT--Why isn't the public information position on your cut list?


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Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Take a look again at the propsed cuts. Aside from Vice Principals, where are the administrative cuts? Weren't some jobs brought back in June last year with one time money? Why are all the cuts at the school level? On the Other Funding page noticed the PIO is listed as ".2". What is that? Wasn't that job brought back at .4? AND, 3 high paid district jobs GUARANTEED for 3 years? With no pay cuts? Again, PUSD doing math according to the special interests of the Sup and Board.


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Posted by Support Common Sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Cutting instructional days isn't a big deal. My kid has 6 field trips scheduled this year, two of them for ALL DAY. One of those trips is to the Oakland Zoo. How many of these Pleasanton kids haven't been to that zoo at least once in their lives already?

And how many "minimum days" are built into the school year? Consolidate those to make up for the 5 cut instructional days.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Kathleen:

What facts support your statement that cutting instructional days would "dumb down" k-12?

I do not know how long it has been since you had kids in school, but these days, there are a lot of days that are simply wasted.

The last week of school is a party week: there are day long field trips, parties, and when the students do have class, they have a movie or other fun activity. The students in fact, have to return their textbooks before finals! Beginning June 1, you can easily find 5 days to eliminate, they are supposed to be instructional days but there is no instruction taking place. Sure, it is nice for the kids to use the time to socialize with friends, but it is not necessary and that can be done through play dates.

In elementary school, there are those half-days for conferences, and countless field trips. Some of those field trips are educational, but many are not needed, like a trip to the aquatic center - again, fun and nice for the kids, but if we have to cut something, let's cut the 5 days that all parents know are not used for instruction. I would rather do that, than having to increase class size again, or getting rid of reading specialists, or canceling enrichment programs.

Freeze step and column, get rid of the 5 non-instructional days, shorten the school year by 5 days - right here we have 6.1 million.

Release a list of expenses (how much for car allowances, etc) and I am sure we will find the other 1.8 million we need to cut (thanks Dark Corners for pointing out the deficit is projected at 8 million)


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Cut the salaries of those at the top of the pyramid, Supdt.,Asst. Supdts. etc. before moving down the scale. They have to lead by example with the biggest percentage cuts. That is the way it is done in private industry. At Hewlett Packard the CEO took 20% cuts and the senior executives took 15% while the rank and file took 10%. That is the equitable way.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm

To everyone contributing new ideas, proposals, thinking and thoughtful replies.....Thank-you.


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Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm

To 'Kathleen Ruegsegger' - Regarding the PIO, I don't have enough knowledge about that role's job description to have an opinion. I'm sure if the Board found administrative positions to eliminate (like the PIO) in order to bring back more teachers/funds, the community would support it.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Kathleen,

I'm surprised that I support the idea too. It's not something I would recommend based on my values, but I also realize that there's friction between my values and the current fiscal reality.

I'm not thrilled with the idea of cutting school days. But I do prefer it over some of the other proposed cuts. I'm certainly open to hearing that my POV is in the minority in the community -- like you said, we're not going to have a formal vetting process for these different ideas, so the best we can do is share our individual reactions.

How would you generate $2.25 million in cuts, without affecting education quality? And then where would you find the other $5.75 million? (I'm still pondering that second question, myself.)

I think that there would be momentum to reverse the shortening of the school year in no more than 2 years... while some of the other cuts might not get as much broad support across the entire community of parents. So part of the reason I think it's worth considering is pragmatic.

I'd like to hear your constructive suggestions as well.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm

To Dark Corners,

"Here is the real news flash from Cupertino on Jan 11, 2010 (Web Link). They are taking CSR to 30:1 AND they have an annual $4M parcel tax."

That is just proposed. But if it becomes a reality, then Cupertino too is in the same danger as PUSD.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

To June,

"I like the ideas from Dark Corners at the beginning of this thread. Again, salary freezes and 4% cut is not out-of-line in these tough economic times. Can someone clarify for me . . . I understand Pleasanton tenure teachers earn in the low 70,000.00 for 9 months and if you prorate that to a full-time 12 month/year job, that makes it low $90,000.00 per year. ?"

You have to define out of line. In 2009, the average worker saw a raise of 1.1%. It was the smallest raise in many years, but it was still a raise. You also have to remember that Pleasanton teachers don't get paid health benefits. These can cost well over $10,000 per year. We have to remember to make apples to apples comparisons. Also, regarding salary, we have to ask if we are paying a competitive salary. We need to do comparisons that are properly adjusted for total compensation including benefits.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Reader

Funny how even the President mentioned household income fell over the past year in his State of the Union address, yet you're still suggesting otherwise.

Pleasanton teachers don't get paid health benefits because they voted to increase their salaries so that when they retire their pension payout is higher. Additionally, over 2/3s of them get benefits through their spouses employed in the private sector.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm

"yet you're still suggesting otherwise."

It is a fact. I have posted the links. The president was talking about income after it is adjusted for inflation. We are not payed in inflation adjusted dollars, so you have to stick to unadjusted dollars when talking about raises.

Pleasanton Parent -- Do you deny that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 1.1% increase in average salaries for 2009, when not adjusted for inflation, and a 1.6% decrease when adjusted for inflation? It is right there on the web site. It has been reported widely. What is the possible point in stubbornly denying this? It is not a disputed matter. Anyone can look it up. You have to understand what it means to adjust for inflation.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I have a grandchild in the system. Not a fan of field trips and have horror stories just from last year. Cutting instructional time isn't going to help children. It seems this is an accountability issue for what is occurring in the classrooms. If there are five party days; I'd want a principal explaining that waste of time. I feel the same about field trips and movies.

I could support cutting days if the school day looked different--longer. If you said students have a five hour day (K-5) and you cut five days, thats a loss of 25 hours. Spread that over the remaining 175 days, and you'd only have to add 12 minutes a day--with the requirement that it be instructional time. The union could argue they are still working that time and should be paid, but I don't think it's a stand they can take and win.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:39 pm

". The president was talking about income after it is adjusted for inflation. "

He also talked about jobs "created" - He gave the example of a kindergarten teacher with two kids who thought her job would be lost, and thanks to the recovery act, she kept her job... but he FAILED to mention that those were one time funds, and that same kindergarten teacher who managed to keep her job last year is about to get laid off this year. (and how if the rest of the teachers agreed to no raise, perhaps that kindergarten teacher would keep her job)

Reader, don't you see that facts are being manipulated?

The president is obviously living in lala land, and so are you. Jobs have not been created the way he says it, just like income has not gone up like you say. Unemployment is in the double digits here in California, people continue to lose jobs, take pay cuts, lose homes. And the recovery act has not helped people, perhaps one time funds helped temporarily but it was not a permanent thing.

The fact is: most people do not feel richer today, and most are not willing to give more money to keep a system that needs some urgent reform.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:42 pm

"I have a grandchild in the system. Not a fan of field trips and have horror stories just from last year. Cutting instructional time isn't going to help children. It seems this is an accountability issue for what is occurring in the classrooms. If there are five party days; I'd want a principal explaining that waste of time. I feel the same about field trips and movies."

If you have a grandchild in the system, then you would know that this has been going on for years, and if you want the principal to explain, you would need to ask the principal of EVERY school, because this goes on in every school, and has been ongoing for years. Field trips, party days, movie days are a common thing of the last couple of weeks of school, but especially the last week.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm

"The fact is: most people do not feel richer today"

And their feelings are true. I'm not denying that. They have effectively lost 1.6% of buying power for the wages. Their inflation adjusted income has dropped. I'm not denying that. It is the same for teachers in Pleasanton. Those who saw no step increase lost 2.7% of buying power from their wages. Those who saw step increases (2.5% - 3.5%) effectively broke even, but were slightly ahead of the average worker for 2009.

"living in lala land, and so are you"

Why do you say something like that? What is the point? I was only stating the facts about average family incomes for 2009 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is not opinion it is fact. I was not giving an opinion.

Also, where did I ever say I endorsed the President's economic programs. Are you implying that I do?


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Common sense (and Sandy), No argument--it needs to be addressed. I think it is an easy fix.

More importantly, what do you think about spreading the lost time over the remaining school days so that instruction time is not lost?


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

"just like income has not gone up like you say"

I am saying that WHEN NOT ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION, FAMILY INCOME ON AVERAGE WENT UP 1.1% IN THE US ACCORDING TO THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS. It is not an opinion, it is fact.

You can say that the statistics are wrong if you like, but the statistic reported by the Bureau are what they are.

And please don't post the inflation adjusted numbers and then compare them to numbers that are not adjusted for inflation. It is not an apples to apples comparison.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Reducing the days in the school year (and thus the take-home for teachers) and then fitting the instructional minutes lost into a longer school day.... definitely sounds like an idea worth exploring.

I'll start thinking about ways to feed these ideas to the board/district negotiators... perhaps others can also feed them to the APT negotiating team?


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 7:26 am

Kathleen:

No, I do not agree with extending the school day, Pleasanton kids already go to school for more than 6 hours.

So far for years Pleasanton kids have done just fine with the instructional minutes they have had.

Remember, the last week of school has been a party week for years, and the district has counted those days as instructional time when in reality they have been social and fun time, nothing to do with instruction or learning (academics).

So shortening the school year by 5 days would only get rid of "fun" minutes, not instructional ones.

For years it has worked and has had no negative effect on the test scores, why would you think that getting rid of 5 party days which the distric labels as "instructional time" would affect the students? I fail to see how this can be.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 7:38 am

Reader:

Yes, I think you probably agree with the president (my opinion only, of course).

And like the president, you give incomplete facts. Obama said yesterday that thanks to him, a teacher kept her job - but he failed to mention that the same teacher will lose her job this year because last year her job was save with one time funds, a very temporary "solution."

You continue to say that income went up, but you conveniently omit the statistics about unemployment. Sure, some may have gotten raises, but unemployment did not hit the two digit mark by having everyone getting raises!

As for teachers: are you suggesting that family A who saw a meager raise shares that money with Teacher X so both can get some sort of raise? Isn't that what the president wants to do with many of his policies? Take money from the person who has it and share with the person who does not? (and no, I am not republican, in fact I voted for Obama)


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 7:47 am

Reader:

I forgot to post a link to an article you need to read:

Web Link


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Posted by Support Common Sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 8:48 am

To Kathleen Ruegsegger re:

"I could support cutting days if the school day looked different--longer. If you said students have a five hour day (K-5) and you cut five days, thats a loss of 25 hours. Spread that over the remaining 175 days, and you'd only have to add 12 minutes a day--with the requirement that it be instructional time. The union could argue they are still working that time and should be paid, but I don't think it's a stand they can take and win."

First of all, Kindergarten is more like a 3-hour day. Second, it seems like the older grades have time built in that one can easily supplement at home/outside of school. Don't forget that one 5-hour day includes time for lunch (30-45 minutes? not sure on the number), plus TWO 15-minute recesses. On top of that, my child gets PE twice a week, goes to the library and has art or music. So don't tell me that cutting one week out will lead to a loss of "25 hours of instructional time". Lunch and recess alone accounts for 5 hours of that week. If you're that concerned, take your kid to the town library, pull out the crayons & chalk to make a painting and go to the park for a bike ride.


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Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

To "Common Sense",

"Yes, I think you probably agree with the president (my opinion only, of course)."

OK, to set the record straight, I think Obama's first year in office was one of the worst in recent history. I fundamentally disagree with his priorities and his approach to handling the financial crisis. Until recently, he completely neglected the "too big to fail" issue, and even made it worse. I thought Bush's handling of TARP and bailouts was bad, but Obamas was worse. I think his handling of the economy from stimulus, TARP, cash to clunkers, and the other programs were wrong headed and minimally effective.

"Take money from the person who has it and share with the person who does not? "

What? Public school teachers are paid with tax money. The only way to change that is to take the schools private. You take money from people through taxes and pay teachers (and other government workers) with that money. How else could it work? Sounds like you are arguing that government workers should never get a raise? I don't think that is what you mean.

"You continue to say that income went up, but you conveniently omit the statistics about unemployment. Sure, some may have gotten raises, but unemployment did not hit the two digit mark by having everyone getting raises!"

You're confusing two issues here. I was talking about wages as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to shed light on some arguments that teachers should take pay cuts because "everyone else has taken a pay cut". The statistics from BLS show that that is factually false. Of course many people have lost their jobs, as have many teachers. That is a different statistic, and I was not disputing that at all. What I was distputing was that of those who still have jobs, average pay rose 1.1% in raw numbers in 2009. That is a fact, not an opinion. I'm not saying that everything is fine, far from it. I'm not saying that freezing step and column would be a disaster either. Maybe teachers in PUSD got raises that were too generous in the 2004 - 2006 time frame. It is worth considering. I just don't like to see arguments thrown around that really aren't true.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 28, 2010 at 9:46 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Reader,

The LAO has information on State COLA in 2004-2006. The LAO shows how the State COLA calculation doesn't reflect actual district budgetary pressures and how it results in too high of a COLA during a good economy and too low of a COLA during poor economy. In addition, you can compare the COLA from those years with what PUSD gave out. In one year it was even more than the COLA from the State.

Some posters here write about one-time Federal monies being used to fund some Kindergarten teacher's position. Well, elementary science specialists were hired with a one-time give-back of a COLA raise by certificated staff.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Instructional time is only as good as what a teacher does with it. Increasing a school day and cutting CSR could allow a teacher the time to give the same amount of attention to students that they would get in a reduced class size and shorter school day, but only if the teacher does something effective with the extra time.

Any salary cuts could be negotiated along the lines of offering restoration of cut amounts keyed to restoration of a certain State funding level.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

To Support Common Sense: you wrote "don't tell me that cutting one week out will lead to a loss of "25 hours of instructional time". Lunch and recess alone accounts for 5 hours of that week."

Actually, Kathleen had already taken recess and lunch into account when she said 25 hours. Grades 1-3 are at school for 6.5 hours for four days each week, and 5.5 hours for the fifth day (at Alisal, we have late start Wednesdays -- other schools do it differently). That totals 31.5 hours.

Of that total time in school, as you pointed out, some is not instructional time. 75 minutes are for lunch and recess. PE is twice per week for 30 minutes, I think (note that the state of California does consider that instructional time -- kids learn about anatomy, nutrition, and other health topics, PE is not just about running laps and playing games.) So lunch, recess and PE make up 7.25 hours of the 31.5 hours, leaving 24.25 hours for actual instructional time.

Kathleen's number is accurate. We may disagree about what that number means, in terms of its impact on educational quality -- but she did already take non-instructional time into account..


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Posted by Support Common Sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

To Sandy Piderit:

Okay, point taken about the total instructional time. Thanks for the clarification.

I still don't see how missing 24.25 hours (5 days) is going to harm the kids. I've seen too many families pull their kids out of the normal school week for ski trips, vacations, etc.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

To both Common Sense posters:  First, I'm looking for solutions; you appear to be set on griping.  Okay, I'm feeling a little appalled at the moment. Second, cut five days and don't add instructional minutes . . . oh, and believe that days 171-175 won't be the new five party days while you're at it.  Moving instructional minutes—and I used an example, I realize it varies depending on kindergarten, or middle school, or high school—and holding teachers accountable for the time being used for instruction (not nonsensical field trips or movies or parties) is a step in a healthier direction.  If you think cutting five days will have no impact, why not cut all 180 and do home schooling? I don't see the common sense. U could be wrong.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Sorry, used my phone! I could be wrong, not u. That's what I get for being peeved.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm

We can resolve this budget shortfall without cutting instructional days or staff or any programs.

Why not *require* parents to chip in more money during registration for their child? San Ramon asks something like $600 per child upon registration. We can do the same. We have 14,000 students here. Assuming 10% are poverty level, if we get $600 per child for the remaining students who wouldn't be exempt, that's $7.6 million right there.

The rest can be made up by a small parcel tax or aggressive fundraising or freezing salaries for a period of time.

If you look at nearby charter schools, for example, they "ask" (or more like strong-arm) parents into giving more than $1000 per year per child.

Even if you have 2 kids in school, paying $1000 per year for a quality education is much cheaper than private school.

Why is this not being considered? Why do we even have to cut programs, staff, or the school year?


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Kathleen:

So far the reduction in instructional minutes due to parties, field trips, etc, has not affected the students' performance.

Again, if you just shorten the school year by 5 days, the students would continue to receive the same amount of instructional days they have been getting for YEARS, minus the fun days the district labels "instructional."

You may have a grandchild in the system, but being parents and seeing the day to day stuff that goes on, volunteering in the classroom is very different. Unlike parents, you don't get to see the amount of time these kids spend doing everything but getting instruction, this is very true of the last couple of weeks.

The students have done fine so far. I never saw you complaining about the party time. Why are you so against eliminating the party time at school while at the same time saving money?

It is a no brainer imo.

By the way, this happens at all levels. In elementary, there are those half days off and many field trips. And the last week: fun, fun, fun. As a parent I know, we even have to bring stuff, from food to drinks to you name it.

In middle school, students' tests have been interrupted to go listen to a fundraiser assembly (yes, that is true). And the last week of school: field trips, parties, movies, more fun. Students don't even bother to bring backpacks.

In high school: it may be different. But some students go to school at 7 am and some at 8:15 or so. Maybe in high school you need the instructional time, I do not know. So you could just extend the school day here, everyone gets to school at 7, problem solved.

For middle school and lower: just end the school year five days early, no need to extend the school day, no harm, because the time you are taking away is the time that has been wasted for YEARS and called "instructional"


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm

"Why not *require* parents to chip in more money during registration for their child?"

They already do in PUSD, during the registration process. Many people do not like to donate, and it cannot be required. Charter schools know this, that is why they label it a donation. Charter schools know that if they push too hard or take action against a student for not donating, their charter can be revoked if the parent complains to either the county or the state (whichever granted the charter).

It is a good idea, but good luck implementing it.


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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

To Concerned Parent --

There is an effort underway, that will become visible soon, to strongly request donations from parents. And I expect that it will continue (we will not just be asking for one-time donations). Your suggestion is not just being considered, it is already being implemented.

However, it is illegal to *require* parents to pay for instructional activities offered by a public school.

We are talking about cuts, and asking for concessions from the unions, because the state government continues to send us less money per student for this year, compared with last year, and they plan to reduce our per-student funding again for next fiscal year (FY2010-11). We are fundraising to try to minimize those cuts, but I think it's unrealistic to expect to raise $8 million (or $6M, or even $2M) when it has never been done before.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm

While in theory it sounds good to eliminate 5 "party" days, don't you think parties will just get moved up a week to when instruction is supposed to occur? Look at what's happened in the workplace. Even though Christmas Eve, the days before Thanksgiving, and New Year's Eve are not holidays, people take those days off anyways.

And from what I've observed in my child's classroom is that the kids play educational games during holiday parties--it's not just chaos. Also kids learn exciting new things during field trips.

When you shorten the school year, parents either have to take the time off from work to watch their kids, or extend day care time. This affects a much larger aspect of society. We can save the school year and not require people to take time off from work if we increase parent and community contributions.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Sorry, I wrote the last comment without seeing Sandy's remarks. Point taken.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

"While in theory it sounds good to eliminate 5 "party" days, don't you think parties will just get moved up a week to when instruction is supposed to occur?"

I would hope this does not happen. The only reason I even suggest shortening the school year is because I see the waste in the last couple of weeks. I would not even dream of suggesting it if I thought that a shorter school year would mean less instruction for the Pleasanton kids.

As far as parents having to take time off from work: come on, get a summer camp or something, you have to do it anyway for the summer months, one more week is not going to make a difference.

Your suggestion of fundraising is good. But public schools can NOT require donations, they can only suggest them, as it is already done at registration time here in PUSD - and from what I have seen, not every parent donates.

Shortening the school year by 5 days saves about 2.25 million. Last year, the ILPS campaign tried to raise about that much and failed at it, it only raised 450K. Why? Because donations are voluntary, nothing can be required.

You may think that during parties there are educational games. Well, you can play those games with your friends at home. Invite kids over, join a girl or boy scout troop, the options are many.

Would you prefer to keep the school year as is and cut CSR, reading specialists? With the shortening of the school year by 5 days, you can save CSR (1.3 million) and reading specialists (360K), isn't it better to play the educational games during playdates than having to go through more cuts to CSR and no reading specialists?


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

It looks like even districts with parcel taxes are about to make some cuts and/or ask their communities for more money. This is true in Cupertino and in Palo Alto:

Web Link

Livermore, also with a parcel tax, is getting ready to increase class sizes.

So for those who advocate a parcel tax and blame the failure of G for PUSD situation: chances are even with a parcel tax, we would be looking at CSR in danger, and other programs in danger, and the teachers would still want their step and column.

Why? I talked to an acquaintance who is an HR person in another school district. They are using the parcel tax money (earmarked originally for certain items, CSR included) to make up for deficits form the state (COLA included)

So districts can ask for money and promise to use it for X, but when money for step and column and COLA is not quite there, they have to get it from somewhere. They get it from the programs (general fund), then they go to the community again. PUSD, if I understood correctly, is going to take money from an Arts Grant and put it in the general fund. This should be illegal but is not. The grant was given for the arts, not so Casey could put it in the general fund and do as he wishes.

Read the link to the Palo Alto online, even over there, they had an "informal" and mild class size increase, even with the 400 dollar parcel tax! And now they want to go to the community and increase that to over 500 per parcel. All to make up for an expected 5.1 million deficit.

It looks like school districts do not have their priorities straight, and no matter how much money they get their hands on, they will always find a way to have a deficit, come for handouts to the community.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm

"So far the reduction in instructional minutes due to parties, field trips, etc, has not affected the students' performance."

So let's keep doing the same thing; no room for improvement; no accountability. Where is the common sense?

I pointed out, someone else did as well, party days will be moved to days 171-175 instead of 176-180. Now you're saying a couple weeks is wasted and that's okay?

I spend a lot of time being PC out here and would appreciate that this not be personal. I know what goes on in classrooms—I do work in education. This isn't some secret society with special handshakes, "wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean."

The students are fine "so far." What happens when the students aren't fine? How soon will you be able to identify that it's happening, after test scores drop? And when was I supposed to bring up party time—no one was talking about cutting five days before.

What I suggested was moving the five days you want to cut and spreading it out over 175 days. This is so difficult? Adding minutes of instructional time is a problem? I can't fathom why this idea has to be defended.


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2010 at 1:59 am

I agree with you Kathleen about spreading out the days over the whole school year, and I was under the assumption that it would be done that way through cutting all teacher inservice days during the school year. ( Including the three that occur before the students begin school)

I do warn those making assumptions about "party days" and field trips. Many of you may not see the value in having closure with a group you have built a community with, you may only see it as punch and cookies, but you are missing the point.

Many elementary teachers have created amazing closing activities that combine standards and character traits in creative ways that the children will always remember. These are little children and there is a purpose to celebration and reflection.

Some of the greatest learning comes from bonding with classmates- confidence, acceptance, communication, cooperation and feeling cared about are all integral parts of a child succeeding in school. These are not measured in API scores- just come talk to the kids at this time of year, see the tears of saying goodbye, and see the excitement of celebrating a year full of hard work and achievement.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 29, 2010 at 7:14 am

GE: We'll see how others respond here. I would love to think the model you describe is in every classroom. What a wonderful way to close a school year on the last day.

But there are too many party days, too many movie days, too many field trips where teachers sit in a cafeteria at the Oakland zoo and let parents shepherd students around (yes, this happened at a first grade level and apparently did for many years, and maybe still)--no academic/bonding value whatsoever.

It would be sad to think yours is a unique school not replicated elsewhere in the district.


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