Pros and Cons of different approaches to balancing the PUSD budget Schools & Kids, posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 9:06 am
As suggested by Stacey at the end of a thread:
"I think what may be useful is to develop a list of the pros and cons of the different options."
"For example, money saved (pro) due to freezing S&C has to be paid back (con) iirc."
"Cutting salary on the other hand doesn't automatically include having to pay back (pro) and a compensatory future raise can be negotiated (pro because money is still saved), but cutting salary can affect retirement levels (con)."
"Furloughs affect actual take-home pay (con) but preserve the salary schedule (pro)
And Kathleen followed up:
"There are also unintended consequences/benefits. With a senior staff looking ahead at years of 0% if not less, many may choose to retire now, effectively lowering costs as newer (lower on the salary schedule) staff members take their place."
"Classified staff have retirement calculated on a formula using their highest year of pay; certificated staff have a formula based on their three highest years of pay (pretty sure that's right). So if those three highest years are behind you with little hope for change before 2014, maybe you leave now if you can afford to do so."
"I'm an advocate for cutting by percentage--not lost of staff development, not loss of instructional days. I don't say that as if it is painless. It does, however, keep things that are vital. ... Again, something worth vetting. If parents want longer summers, there are ways to do that which don't require cutting five days because we believe they are for parties. AND you can add days to summer school and maybe make more money there."
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 10:12 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Kathleen wrote: "With a senior staff looking ahead at years of 0% if not less, many may choose to retire now, effectively lowering costs as newer (lower on the salary schedule) staff members take their place"
Some districts give early retirement incentives too. The question would be if this is the right fit for PUSD.
Kathleen wrote: "Classified staff have retirement calculated on a formula using their highest year of pay; certificated staff have a formula based on their three highest years of pay (pretty sure that's right)."
I would consider differences between retirement calculations as an argument against those "me too" clauses. Such a difference means the different employee units need to be treated differently, not the same.
Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Furloughs are probably preferable to straight salary cuts, because at the end of the budget crisis, furloughs can be phased out without too much jumping through hoops. Adjusting the salary schedule upward would probably generate some uproar even if, 2 years from now, we're back in 2005 as far as the economy is concerned.
To the extent that furloughs can be taken without affecting instructional time, then furloughs could have less impact on students directly.
And Stacey -- I agree with you, cutting staff development time has the short-term advantage of reducing costs, but the long-term consequences of teachers and staff not getting ongoing formal opportunities to improve their skills.
Analyzing the pros and cons of alternatives will enable more critical decision making (pro) but may take more time than letting everyone lobby to save their own favorite program (con). Tradeoff may be worth it, though.....
Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm
Why would money saved due to S&C freezes have to be paid back? Are you just stating that once the district is financially sound again they will be re-instated, or are you suggesting that they will have to be backpaid? I see no reason why they must be backpaid, re-instated however I do understand.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm
"which don't require cutting five days because we believe they are for parties"
You are in denial, Kathleen. Whether you want to admit it or not, it is TRUE that the las two weeks of school are party days.
This has been going on for years, in k-8, every school in the district. You keep saying our kids will suffer because of less instructional time.
Did they suffer last year because of party time labeled "instructional"? How about the year before?
If we end the school year 5 days early, our kids would get the SAME amount of INSTRUCTIONAL time, all we are getting rid of is party time. And please do not tell me that watching Disney movies, going to the aquatic center, having parties, and other stuff like that is instructional. You can be in denial of you want, but the reality is: the last week of school is party, fun, and more fun, no instruction, and this has been the case for YEARS
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
It means when re-instated there would be a large increase that has to be paid assuming that the current salary schedule is kept. Freezing Step and Column is kind of like deferring compensation (instead of a $1.6MM increase, if frozen for two years it would be a $4.8MM increase in year three). I thought that'd be more fair than cutting compensation but it might be more complex. The salary schedule is negotiable though and the increase could be negotiated to be smaller, like the sizes between steps and columns could be less or something. I'm not sure a union would go for that though.
Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm
Stacey, thank you for the clarification. My experiences of "freezes" are different than those described. Maybe suspension is a more suitable adjective for what should be done. Until the district is financially sound the S&C increases will be put on an indefinite suspension until the financial outlook supports reinstating them. Thats how the private sector would approach that issue.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm
Common Sense, I am not in denial, thank you. I have an apparent higher expectation for what should happen in the classroom, every day--all 180 days. It's in the best interest of students.
There are a couple of great fables whose punchlines are (paraphrased): "because that's how we've always done it" (this one is about why a woman always cuts the end off her roasts) or "and that's how policy is created" (monkeys, arm bands, banana). Too long for this format.
Ranting about it's been this way for years does nothing for the argument. Parents should expect more--the community should expect more.
Posted by Yes so true, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm
I agree that there is much instructional time wasted. My high schooler regularly tells me of days that certain teachers let him out early and of the video game sessions that go on in AP classes after the tests are taken. Who controls this? I say the principal, obviously he is not doing his job. He needs to tell the teachers that this is not ok. It is a waste of my children's time and of our tax money. I don't blame the teachers if that's the norm who are they to fight it? I feel badly for the teachers who try to maintain high standards and have to be the "uncool" ones who are expecting the best from my kid. The principals need to manage properly or be fired. The district seems too lazy to do that.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:41 am
"I am not in denial, thank you. I have an apparent higher expectation for what should happen in the classroom, every day--all 180 days. It's in the best interest of students."
So why have you not said anything for the past years about this party time?
The point is this: we have a budget deficit that can be eased by ending the school year early (reduce it by 5 days). So far, our kids have received X amount of instructional minutes, and those 5 days of school at the end have NOT BEEN INSTRUCTIONAL. All we would be doing is getting rid of PARTY, non instructional minutes that so far have been labeled as non-instructional.
Is is weird that you pick this time to try to get the district to eliminate fun minutes and use them for instruction. If you really are so concerned about the students and their instructional minutes, why didn't you complain about these fun minutes before? You say you have a grandchild in the schools, so I am sure you know about this.
It seems to me that you may be an advocate for teachers, administration, classified and not kids.
The kids WILL NOT see their instructional minutes reduced. They will receive the same NUMBER of INSTRUCTIONAL minutes as they did last year, or the year before or the year before then. Cancelling 5 days of school will not affect the amount of instruction. What it will affect is the teachers', administrators', classified staff salaries because they will NOT GET PAID for those 5 days.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:47 am
I wrote: "that so far have been labeled as non-instructional."
should have been: "that so far have been labeled as instructional."
And another comment I wanted to make: Kathleen, you have been very vocal about a lot of stuff including measure G. But I have never seen you complain about the non-instructional minutes labeled as instructional. For years we have had that. Any parent will tell you the last week of school is a party week. Kids do not even bother to bring their back packs to school, students have by then returned all their textbooks, no instruction goes on.
Yet you choose this time of budget deficit to complain? Again Kathleen, for YEARS our kids have received less instructional time than the 180 days. Why? Because of non-instructional minutes that have been falsely labeled "instructional"
This has happened for YEARS - why do you act so surprised now and claim to have the best interest of the kids in mind?
You are only complaining about the PARTY minutes because you don't want the school year to end earlier. I can guarantee you that if we did not have a budget deficit that is trying to be somehow eased by ending the year earlier, you would have never brought the issue up of party time. Oh yeah, it wasn't you who brought it up, you were not even aware that it was going on, were you? And if you were, it did not bother you because someone as vocal as you would have certainly complained about it
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:51 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Common sense wrote: "why didn't you complain about these fun minutes before?"
Actually, I vaguely recall brief discussion here during the Measure G campaign about school days and the wasted instructional minutes. The State allowed districts last year to cut days too. Some discussion came up about if we did that then there would just be another 5 days wasted. I don't recall anything specific Kathleen addressed about it, but that's probably because most people's minds were focused on Measure G.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 8:28 am
I am all for the reduction of days to relieve the budget deficit, but letís not fool ourselves into thinking that will eliminate the party atmosphere of the last week of school. Slacking is a very flexible skill set with a well established tradition. Iíll bet it was even around when you went to school ;-)
Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm
IMHO, since we are not in school all day with the kids during that last week, we cannot be sure whether the entire week is a party or not. And since we are not fortune tellers, we cannot be certain how cutting back on instructional days would affect the pace of learning during the shortened school year.
As for parties (and field trips)... all things in moderation. We took 20 minutes the other day to celebrate a birthday in my daughter's class. I don't consider that wasted time. The children were learning how to be considerate of others, how cultures different from theirs celebrate birthdays; and, the teacher was reinforcing important character lessons. I don't believe those lessons can be separated out from academic learning so neatly. If a student does not feel that others at school care about him or her, then it's going to be much harder for that student to focus on the science experiment, the long-division algorithm, or the Spanish vocabulary.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm
"IMHO, since we are not in school all day with the kids during that last week, we cannot be sure whether the entire week is a party or not."
Talk to your kids, it is a party week. As a parent, I know these days are not for instruction. I have helped in these parties, they take the whole day. From bbq's to field trips to the aquatic center, to watching movies. And we all get the notes from the teachers, explaining the activities and asking for help for this or that party or field trip, for food, for games, yes, it is a party week and you can choose to ignore it or pretend it is not there - but that does not change reality.
Like I said before, the kids don't even bother to bring their backpacks to school, and textbooks (both for middle and high school) are collected before the last week of school.
"We took 20 minutes the other day to celebrate a birthday in my daughter's class. I don't consider that wasted time"
I don't agree that this is a good idea. Are you saying then that ALL the kids have the 20 minutes to celebrate their birthday? At 30+ kids in 4 and 5 grades, that can add up to hours of non-instruction because birthdays are celebrated to make the child feel appreciated? I am sorry if I do not share your opinion. IMO, birthdays should be celebrated outside of school, and if you are going to make the exception for ONE child, then why not ALL the kids? Again, add it up, much time will be taken from instruction if every child in school takes 20 minutes to celebrate his birthday at school.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm
Common Sense, First posting. I suggested that IF five days are cut, that those minutes be moved into the remaining daysóit amounted to something like 12 minutes. Without higher expectations for how time is spent, days 171-175 will be the party days and then, yes, you will have lost five days of instruction and still have a party week. I also suggested other ways to shorten a school year, and maybe extend and make money on summer school. Again, unfathomable that this needs to be defended.
Any personal issues I have had for my children or my grandchild have been raised with the appropriate staff member, parties or otherwise. You assume Iíve been silent, but you actually donít know. Nothing more to say.
Gee, Iím pretty sure Iím an advocate for a solid education, from students to the board level.
Iím not against a percentage cut for everyone as an alternative way to save money.
Your second posting:
Complain? Like the governance team has not been good stewards of taxpayer dollars, that the district has been put on life support by that team (and the stateís yanking on the plug), that unsustainable raises were given, that the reserves were spent and borrowed from and money moved around like a shell game. Yeah, I complained precisely because without change I wasnít unwilling to give the same comedy team more money.
I am stymied by this rant about five days being cutóIím not making the decision, just commenting with my thoughts. Not against using this method to save money as long as ALL unintended consequences are considered/mitigated and an education befitting the ďpromise and talents of our studentsĒ (heard elsewhere) is provided.
And now youíre just trying to get my goat with ridiculous assumptions and accusations about what I say or do in the many other vocal or non-vocal hours of my life. Foolish.
Posted by Teacher, a resident of the Mission Park neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm
In regards to "party days"--
My husband works in the private sector and occasionally when his crew meets a goal, they have a celebration with food, prizes, and pats on the back. These celebrations build a sense of accomplishment, recognize teamwork, and give praise where praise is due.
I think a few people have loss sight of the fact that we are talking about children having parties to build friendships, experience downtime with their peers, and often experience the "reward" of their hard work. Most of the Pleasanton school children work extremely hard during the school year, and probably have more homework than the average Californian school child. So, having a few celebrations a year isn't destroying their chance at a stellar education. But, these special times do create a bond with their classmates, teachers, and provide a sense of community. Traditionally, celebrations bring people together. Children need to feel part of the classroom and school community.
And a little secret parents - teachers truly give the parties for the children. Parties are a lot of work and do raise the energy level of little ones pretty high. Most teachers aren't giving parties to slack off...by any means. Two of the toughest teaching days of the year are the days of the Halloween and Valentine's Day celebrations (which by the way are about 45 mins., not all day). But, teachers provide these celebrations to create a sense of community and create memories which often provide for great narrative writing. Children who feel part of a community of learners (and friends) are more excited about learning.
I do agree; however, that we don't have time to have mini-birthday parties, and most times, it's the parents who "bring the party to school." Many teachers encourage "birthday books" not "treats" especially with the various food allergies that children suffer from today. So, parents, I agree, please host your birthday parties at home, so teachers can keep your children engaged in learning. Teachers are only to host 3-4 parties per year. If this is happening more, and it bothers you, speak to the principal about the party policy. Many of us hold to this policy, and truly try to keep learning alive until the last day of school. But, it is a challenge because frankly, they are children excited about summer!
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm
My point is that shortening the school year by 5 days will in no way interfere with the kids' learning or achievement. By the time June 1st comes, all the learning for the year is done, all the tests have been taken, teachers have by then evaluated the kids and made recommendations as needed.
Ideally, we would keep all things the same. But we are experiencing a severe budget deficit. We are in a recession, and things are not improving as fast as we would like. Unemployment is high, taxes are about to become higher, and the state continues to spend and spend without reforming items like pensions.
In an ideal world, we would not have to reduce the school year. But this is not an ideal time and cuts must be made. Making the school year shorter is a way to reduce costs, save money without a huge impact to the students. Sure, the downtime that Teacher speaks of might be gone, but kids will find a way to celebrate their achievements outside of school.
Most kids these days understand what is going on. Just ask any high school teen right now what they are going through because they are not allowed to have that extra class they looked forward to take. I am sure that if given the choice, they would gladly agree to do the party stuff outside of school and keep their programs, than keep one full week of party time and see programs they love gone.
Reducing the school year by 5 days is better, imo, than some of the cuts so far proposed.
Teacher: I am not talking about the Halloween party here and there. I am talking about the entire last week of school. As a teacher, you know what I am talking about. The kids do not need that week, and all the celebrations of that week can be done outside of school.
Posted by Dom, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm
Common Sense: " I am talking about the entire last week of school. As a teacher, you know what I am talking about. The kids do not need that week, and all the celebrations of that week can be done outside of school."
Posted by teacher, a resident of the Foothill Knolls neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:37 pm
For everybody's information, if the school year was to be shortened, it would not be during the last week of the year. Graduation dates/events cannot be altered. These days would be taken within the existing school calendar;to be determined by the district. They could be taken in the middle of a week, or at the beginning of a weekend.
Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:13 am
Wow, it's good you cut the other thread which was so off-topic, to make a new thread so you could talk forever about parties. Good work Sandy. If you want to banter on about only what you want with two other people, you don't need a blog thread to do it. Needless to say, you're mindless chatter here has done nothing to convince the masses of readers. You and yours are some of the least inspiring and convincing speakers I've ever read. People like myself actually manage to engage readers. Then, people like you get jealous that I'm motivating the community, so you shut down my and their words and try to contrive that that wasn't the grassroots talking. That was, and you and the PW royally pissed them off.
Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm
I could 11 different people who have participated in this thread so far. It has gone deep into discussion of one approach to balancing the budget -- that approach involves cutting instructional days. There have also been extended discussions on other threads in the Town Square about the pros and cons of suspending step and column, about the pros and cons of fundraising from the community, about the pros and cons of increasing class sizes in elementary and grade 9.... so perhaps we have "talked out" the pros and cons of those ideas.
There's also another thread going on simultaneously about the pros and cons of reducing the seven period options at AVHS. I believe that is an approach that may currently being discussed in negotiations, since it was only recently added to the district's list of negotiable items. I also believe it only saves about $448,000, so other cuts would still be required.
Other approaches we could evaluate in terms of pros and cons:
-delaying another OPEB payment
-reducing school site discretionary funds with deeper cuts than cabinet has recommended
-increasing class sizes in the middle and high schools (also a negotiable item, that could save $900,000)
-anything another thread participant wants to weigh in terms of pros and cons
Again, I'm not advocating for or against any of the proposals discussed in the thread.... but I am brainstorming and asking for different perspectives so that we can critically evaluate the ideas we generate in brainstorming.
Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm
Let's not forget the option of an across the board salary reduction of 4% to reduce expenses by $3.6M. See proposal here (Web Link) that maintains CSR, saves Barton, keeps specialists, prevents all teacher layoffs, and keeps all kid facing programs.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm
"Graduation dates/events cannot be altered"
Yes they could. When I graduated from College, my commencement ceremony was a week after school ended. So we had the last week of school with finals and all, were on break for a week and came back on campus for a Saturday to receive our diplomas and celebrate.
That can be done here too. Graduations can be done the weekend of the last week of school.
Posted by Common sense, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm
Other options besides shortening the school year, which keep cuts away from the students:
- freeze step and column
- pay cut across the board (classified, teachers and administrators) of 5%
- get rid of all perks for administrators (car allowances, etc)
- get rid of teacher work days and do not allow teachers to have those half days during conference time (conferences can be done between 3 and 5 for as many days as needed)
- get rid of staff development days
- do not give students the week of thanksgiving off (only the two days most districts give)
- just like the district is asking students to stop the elective days off, the same should be done for teachers: limit days off for valid reasons such as illness and eliminate elective days off. If the teacher wants an elective day off, make her pay the cost of the substitute and the cost of the staff or system in place for securing that substitute. This is only fair since the district is now pushing for parents to pay for their kids' elective days off.
- get rid of so much staff. It is amazing when you walk into a school office and there are so many people doing absolutely nothing. One person can do the work of the other two sitting there not doing much.
- stop hiring full time janitors. They are costly because of the unions. Instead, hire freelance maintenance people to clean schools and take care of the landscaping
- perhaps we can have secretaries that are NOT part of a union? I bet they would be cheaper. The clerical work is not that hard, and with so many unemployed right now, I am sure we can find highly qualified people who would work for less than the cost of a union employee.
Those are just some ideas. They do add up and keep the cuts away from the students
Posted by S & C, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm
Pleasanton parent: I don't think suspending S & C is a good idea. How long would you stay in a job with no opportunity for promotion? (most teachers don't see becoming an administrator as a desirable promotion because they'll no longer work with kids).
If you want to see S & C go away, then it will need to be replaced with some other incentive system. As it is, most teachers don't stay past the first 2 or 3 years. It's a field where burnout is a major problem. We should ask ourselves why that is.
Posted by More Common Sense, a resident of the Gatewood neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm
Freezing step and column is not a viable option because the district would then later be required to catch up. This would be a huge obligation later.
A cut across the board would be better for one year but this will affect our kids and I totally understand. I am in the private sector and have two weeks unpaid now. That's two weeks of not working so the company saves money.
I would not expect the staff to do the same work for less money.
The thing that nobody mentions when they make comparisons between the private sector and schools is that in the private sector when cuts are made it's most often because of decreased workload. Why be open and hiring if there is no business? In the case of schools that workload never decreases. So we are expecting teachers to do the same (extremely hard) job for less pay?
We can't expect everything from these people!
I do hope we see some concessions from the PUSD staff because it is then my hope that the community will finally step up and help solve the problem too.
Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Common Sense -- that's a great summary of ideas that have been brought up on other threads. It's helpful to have them all in one place, so that we can weigh pros and cons, instead of having to hunt through all the different threads. They certainly seem to have the potential for cost savings, although there are potential drawbacks as well.
Quick comments on the last three approaches:
-"get rid of so much staff. It is amazing when you walk into a school office and there are so many people doing absolutely nothing. One person can do the work of the other two sitting there not doing much."
My comment: there are clerical staff on the cut list, I believe from the middle and high schools. There were clerical staff on the cut list last year as well, both from schools and from the district office.
Also, because of the state reporting requirements for ADA, it is only possible to cut so far. Someone has to do those daily reports, and maintain attendance records, or the district will not get its money from the state. The principal would be completely unable to perform his or her job without support.
- "stop hiring full time janitors. They are costly because of the unions. Instead, hire freelance maintenance people to clean schools and take care of the landscaping"
This would be the same kind of approach as is on the list of negotiable items already regarding the outsourcing of graphics.
I do see some significant drawbacks to using freelance maintenance people on school grounds without completing background checks. After all, janitors have keys to all the rooms in a school. I don't want temps with access to all that computer equipment (not to mention to the kids!) There are probably insurance issues with outsourcing janitorial work. (Save money on wages, but pay more in insurance because of higher risks... thus, potentially no net savings).
- "perhaps we can have secretaries that are NOT part of a union? I bet they would be cheaper. The clerical work is not that hard, and with so many unemployed right now, I am sure we can find highly qualified people who would work for less than the cost of a union employee."
The drawback I see to this approach (even if it was possible, and I don't think union laws are weak enough in California to make it possible) is in hiring a whole bunch of new people at the same time. Who will train the new, cheaper workers? I'm not sure whether this would make the people hired into those existing positions more productive, even if they are more qualified. If everyone is at the bottom of the learning curve together, productivity will be reduced at least in the short term.
And More Common Sense -- I'm still trying to understand the point you made about step-and-column. "Freezing step and column is not a viable option because the district would then later be required to catch up." Wouldn't that depend on the form of the agreement with the union? It's not a legal requirement of freezing step-and-column, is it? (I know this came up once before, and perhaps I didn't fully grasp the nuance the first time around.)
And last, Stacey -- that stepless pay schedule idea from Arizona in the link you provided is interesting. Don't you think it would merit its own discussion thread?
Posted by Get Educated, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:38 am
" get rid of teacher work days and do not allow teachers to have those half days during conference time (conferences can be done between 3 and 5 for as many days as needed)"
From your comments, I am thinking you dont see the value in the parent conferences. I spend 30 minutes with 33 families during that conference week I already meet late two nights out of that week to accomodate parents who have to work late. Now you feel I should do all of the 990 minutes on my own time? I say cut the conferences. Since you dont see the value of our half day times, yet you expect me to take my personal time, I vote to just send home the report cards. Where is your shared sacrifice-less information perhaps?