A persuasive voice for a school parcel tax Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online, on Nov 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm
If the Pleasanton school board is going to ask voters again next year to pass a parcel tax, as is likely, it can count on its new superintendent Parvin Ahmadi to be a persuasive advocate. Ahmadi is winning praise both for her early leadership in the district and at board meetings but also for her frequent public appearances before community forums. Just last week she won loud applause from the Tri-Valley Realtors' Network and with good reason. She said what every Realtor likes to hear: Pleasanton schools are among the best in the state and her goal is to make them even better. In these depressed housing market times, when people move, they look for communities such as ours that have ongoing business and retail development and, above all, top ranked schools for their children to attend. Ahmadi praised community support, especially the fund-raising efforts by organizations such as the Pleasanton Partners in Education (PPIE) Foundation and the Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE) organization. Without those contributions, reading and science specialists who Ahmadi considers essential for a high-achieving district might have been dismissed. But the district's economic woes are not over, which is why the district's budget is among her four main goals for her first year as superintendent. Right now the district is looking at cuts of about $7 million in fiscal year 2011-12. A parcel tax, which failed to garner the necessary two-thirds plus one votes last year, would help. An outside advisory group recommended asking voters again to approve a parcel tax, a proposal that will go to the board for a vote in January.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 12, 2010, 12:00 AM
Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm
If Superintendent Ahmadi wishes to maintain this apparent good-will, she will need to immediately explain how PUSD is facing ‘cuts of about $7 million’ for the next school year.
An astute observer of the 11/9/10 school board meeting would hear that $5.2M is a result of the expiration of the 1 year MOUs with management, certificated and classified bargaining groups. A simple extension of these agreements would not result in any ‘cuts’ for the next school year, and the budget deficit is effectively $1.8M.
Then PUSD said there is a $1.6M ‘Step and Column Salary Increase’ for next year (and they acknowledged that there was a *gasp* $1.6M salary increase cost for the current school year. All those who donated to CORE to save specialists, were actually covering salary increases for everyone else. But how funds are fungible can be explained later.) So, if the salary increases were eliminated for one year, the deficit is now $200,000.
‘Nomad’ recently showed how eliminating employee paid ‘Birthday Holidays’ along with two more from the generous benefits package would save a minimum of $200,000.
Preliminary research shows additional opportunities for local control of school district budgets including reducing or eliminating the merit-less ‘longevity bonuses’, eliminating step 6 of the management salary schedule, and taking maximum advantage of the flexibility in instructional time requirements. Implementing these changes would create funding to restore student-centered programs.
When you have an educated community, playing games with misleading budget language in order to instill fear to get a parcel tax passed is a sure recipe for failure. Certainly, Ms. Ahmadi would not like her first year as superintendent to end on that note.
The Pleasanton Educated Voter Coalition believes that 10,000 informed voters will vote NO on any PUSD parcel tax in 2011. Game On!
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm
Oh but DCOT, I thought the MOU was not a real cut? Why in the world would the teachers vote for that again when your coalition is busy spreading the word that no real cut was made.
Where is the shared sacrifice you demanded for the past year? PUSD did their share, what is your coalition's plan?
Which employees are you speaking of in your report that receive the birthday benefit? It seems from your writing that you mean all teachers are taking the day off when its their birthday. This is not the truth that you seem to want the community to believe. Playing games with misleading budget language is ok for you to partake in? You're lying to the residents of this town then you say -Game on? Really?
What else are you misleading this community about for your own personal gain? I can't believe anything you say.
Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 6:40 am
To 'Susan' -
Here is where 'Nomad' provides the details (Web Link).
The best part is "I can see the anti-parcel tax flyer, with a picture of PUSD employees celebrating with a birthday cake and adult beverages, while the adjoining picture shows middle school students standing outside the darkened library with a 'CLOSED' sign."
Posted by Burd Tlossom, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm
You get 'em, DCOT! Don't rest until every qualified teacher is too disgusted with this community to even try any more! Give the unions a documented antagonist as well, so they have an excuse to entrench themselves on salary and benefits!
Posted by Burd Tlossom, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm
Way to switch up your argument. First, you're talking about step and column (teachers), then you (following Nomad's lead) *suggest* birthdays off for certificated employees with the image of a closed library (run by a certificated librarian), then, when challenged, pretend as if you only meant CSEA.
Now are you saying you want to reduce the salaries of janitors as well? Is there no low too deep for you to stoop to? Why so much antipathy? Where does all this stem from?
Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm
Is PUSD looking at $7M in cuts?
Or is PUSD facing expiring 1-year MOUs with the bargaining units which will increase expenses by $5.2M, and the annual $1.6M in step and column salary increases?
Which way of stating the situation will bring forth educated, fact-based, adult conversations to produce serious long-term solutions? And which way will cause uncertainty, fear of 'cuts', and short-term kick-the-can band-aids?
Ms. Ahmadi is a bright and intelligent person and some say politically savvy as well. She can either choose to talk about 'cuts' or lead the community to solve the ballooning expense line in the PUSD budget.
Posted by GX, a member of the Foothill High School community, on Nov 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm
DCOT - valid point. It is this "less than direct" communication that has turned me off and made me suspicious of information coming from PUSD.
I am one of those parents that have donated more money than expected every year my kids have been in school and made the "equivalent parcel tax" donation the last couple of years. But not anymore ... PUSD has shot themselves in the foot with communications like this.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm
So I guess you are fine with our Federally Government stating they are not raising taxes, they are just not continuing the tax cuts.
PUSD is facing the need to cut $7 million. That is the current situation, no matter how you want to put a spin on it or who you want to blame.
Of course if you froze step and column would the teachers be equally just in saying that they are taking a $1.6 M pay cut?
Of course would phrasing it this way be better: PUSD is facing expiring 1-year MOUs in which the bargaining units voluntarily took a pay cut of $5.2 million last year in an attempt to maintain the excellence in our schools during severe budget crisis across the entire state.
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2010 at 7:06 pm
Of course DCOT is phrasing posts this way Burd Tlossom- just as GX complained " "less than direct" communication" Only its coming from the community!
It was on purpose that he posted:
"Nomad’ recently showed how eliminating employee paid ‘Birthday Holidays’ along with two more from the generous benefits package would save a minimum of $200,000."
The purpose was to make it look like more waste, more hiding of the truth. Even IF he had posted CSEA, as if the whole community knows that does not include teachers!
Then comes the classic denial and turn it around to make anyone who calls him on it look like they are emotional. Oh and I forgot, the change the subject tactic, like his last post. Same old pattern, same old deception. The "game" that he claims is "on"- this is exactly it. I'm sure now he'll go into the phase of "I'm being attacked".
My point is that the majority of what DCOT posts are worded the same way. Always has been. He just can't stand it if anyone 1. disagrees with him and 2. calls him out on his "less than direct" communication"
Posted by Burd Tlossom, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm
When you said "Reducing the number of paid holidays does not reduce someone's salary" you gave yourself away. Now we KNOW you're not really interested in it because it would reduce the budget, which up to now has been your cover story for attacking educators.
Were you the kid who always felt "they" forgot your birthday, and now it's made you a grinch?
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm
The persuasive voice needs to be an honest voice. The people of Pleasanton simply do not trust the leadership of PUSD. Until they do, a parcel tax has no chance. PUSD leadership cannot continue to talk down to the people and fudge the truth as they have on several issues, the easiest to point to is the Neal School debacle.
New leadership on the other hand has an opportunity to erase much of this distrust. It begins with honesty, which earns some trust, which might lead to a parcel tax having a chance...
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 9:31 pm
It would have been nice had you read the second half of my post, before repeating it in your own...
My hope is that the new superintendent and new blood on the board will lead from a platform of honesty and integrity. If they do, I think they will fare better when it comes to the community providing the support and resources they truly need to keep our schools where they belong...
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm
DCOT: Absolutely! Because the salary schedule is not a stand lone document - it is tied to the contract. The schedule is based on hours worked and therefore would have to change if the hours changed. If the salary schedule did not change and hours (in the contract) were increased (with the same salary schedule) than the hourly rate of said employees would decrease. What part of that is so confusing to you??????
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm
But a $98 parcel tax does almost nothing to address the actual issues. Its almost an insult to those who want a parcel tax to fund the additional programs the community wants (the parcel tax would have to be in the $400 - $500 neighborhood) and a slap in the face to those who feel we should make do with what we are given (i.e. we will pass a parcel tax just to show you).
A parcel tax will not fix everything...will it help? Certainly, for a limited number of students because $98 will only restore very specific programs. Will not passing a parcel tax of $98 cause our schools to suffer? Maybe slightly, but nothing noticeable for most students.
Should our schools be compared to schools that have millions of dollars in parcel tax income? Now that's the real question...
Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm
The schedule is not based on hours worked. Read the print at the bottom of each page which says "hourly equivalent computed on a basis of 2080 hours per year". Also note that the hourly rate is the same whether you have 6 furlough days or 3.
You don't see different salary schedules for the various levels of paid vacation time, do you? Nor will this salary schedule change if the paid Birthday Holiday were to be eliminated. Hence, it's not a salary cut as 'Burd' suggests.
Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a member of the Hart Middle School community, on Nov 14, 2010 at 11:09 pm
We could end school at the age of 14 and just turn the kids out to find jobs. If we closed all three high schools (Amador, Foothill, and Village), we'd save millions.
Sure, the kids wouldn't get an education that would prepare them for college--but Pleasanton property owners might even get a tax cut out of the deal, and we all know that short-term gains are worth more than long-term gains.
By the way, classified employees get a paid birthday holiday; teachers don't.
Quit wasting your time arguing about the amount of the parcel tax. The community of Pleasanton has made it abundantly clear that they aren't going to pass a parcel tax of 98 cents, let alone 98 dollars. Just leave the schools to die a slow, quiet death, will you?
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm
DCOT: It appears that you lack any actual knowledge of economic principles, so I will end this thread here. Feel free to post your ramblings and random phrasings in an attempt to persuade the feeble minded, its seems to be working well for you.
Posted by Alan Pogue, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 16, 2010 at 7:21 am
Wow that is a very impressive site. Personally, I think our teachers do need raises. We need to have the best paid teachers. I think more people need to visit that site. I'm afraid some people don't realize how good we have it here in Pleasanton.
Posted by are you kidding?, a resident of the Amador Estates neighborhood, on Nov 16, 2010 at 9:11 am
That website doesn't mention one teacher's name. It is completely about the kids. Isn't that what this community wants? For it to be about the kids? And then teachers deliver, and once again, you make it NOT about the kids. What is wrong with sharing stories about the cool things that students in this community are doing in education?
Posted by Gone Rogue, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm
I will never vote for a parcel tax in this town. Per pupil funding is at the highest levels in decades and yet we have the lowest performing students in my lifetime. Yes Pleasanton is a great district but only when compared with mediocre and downright awful districts. My kids (6 of them) have been through the system and most of the teachers are fine, a few are a disgrace to the profession and a few are stellar.
The website is an example of what Pleasanton (and most of it's teachers) does best, toot their own horns. From my many years of experience there are so many kids that are not served. Our teachers are well paid but do not "deserve" a blanket raise in a bad economy. I would be willing to pay more to the teachers that actually work more. Maybe we can pay the teachers who work 12 hour days a stipend for staying after and working with our kids? I certainly will not pay a parcel tax to give a raise to the teacher who beats the kids to the parking lot every afternoon.
Posted by Gone Rogue, a resident of the Canyon Creek neighborhood, on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm
Alan Pogue is certainly a teacher based on the posts. Test scores - nationwide - are not high at all. Pleasanton is high compared to other mediocre districts. What is shocking to me as a parent is that even though we have these "high test scores" MANY kids are not prepared for college. 3 of my kids graduated from PUSD with honors and were SHOCKED to be put in remedial classes in the state College system. That is not okay in any way shape or form. As a parent I see high standardized test scores and think my kids are fine when in reality they are not.
We are not providing these kids with all that we could and should and it starts with the teachers.
The teachers are well paid and in this economy do not deserve more just because they survive another year in the profession.
Posted by Alan Pogue, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm
"Alan Pogue is certainly a teacher based on the posts."
Ridiculous, my career is writing software for embedded systems. What a rude thing to say. What should we assume you are, based on your posts?
"Test scores - nationwide - are not high at all."
Show me the statistics. That isn't true at all. Pleasanton schools consistently rank well above average when compared to schools nationwide. For instance, both Pleasanton high schools were rated silver medal status by US News and World Report ranking of best high schools in America.
"3 of my kids graduated from PUSD with honors and were SHOCKED to be put in remedial classes in the state College system. That is not okay in any way shape or form. As a parent I see high standardized test scores and think my kids are fine when in reality they are not."
OK. How does this claim make any sense? On what grounds were these people placed in "remedial classes"? Did they take a test? Was it a standardized test? You say they had "high standardized test scores", yet they were placed in remedial classes. Strange. It sounds like you're leaving something out of the story. Or maybe you're making the whole thing up. That seems more likely to me given your statement that "Alan Pogue is certainly a teacher..."
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm
"3 of my kids graduated from PUSD with honors and were SHOCKED to be put in remedial classes in the state College system."
Not to put anyone down, but it depends on which classes your kids took. I know someone whose child is in special ed classes and makes the honor roll every year: an A is an A, so this child will probably graduate with "honors" but will be in remedial classes.
Also, many students do well in classes but fail when it comes to SATs. Again, I am surprised your kids graduated with honors and ended up in remedial classes, but your kids are not typical. Most kids that I know who graduated with honors (that took regular and/or AP/honors classes) are now at Ivy league schools or other top universities, and doing well. It depends on the student, the classes they took and how they scored on the SATs. Aren't remedial classes offered only in community colleges? I don't think UCs accept students just to place them in remedial classes.
Your kids' situation does not speak of PUSD in general because as I said before: I know PUSD graduates who are now in top universities, many with academic scholarships.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Anyone who has gone to a large university like a UC knows that the general requirements classes are HUGE. I'm talking about 300+ students in one class. There's no classroom size reduction to coddle students.
Posted by interesting, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm
Stacey, I hope you're not comparing first year university students with 1st grade children. In University, children are vetted to make sure that they're all at some comparable level. That is not the case in lower school where some kids are reading chapter books and some are learning English.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:52 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Not at all. I'm specifically addressing the other poster's claim that their children graduated with high honors then ended up in remedial university classes cross-referenced with programs like CSR that occur as late as ninth grade. To me the claim sounded like the students hadn't developed the study and learning skills they need. We should ask, why is that? Certainly we need more information from the other poster.
On a slightly related note, this article may be of interest to readers: Web Link
"Unfortunately, we found that the percentage of students in the U.S. Class of 2009 who were highly accomplished in math is well below that of most countries with which the United States generally compares itself."
"It is frequently noted that the United States has a very heterogeneous population, with large numbers of immigrants. Such a diverse population, with students coming to school with varying preparation, may handicap U.S. performance relative to that of other countries. For this reason, we also examine two U.S. subgroups conventionally thought to have better preparation for school—white students and students from families where at least one parent is reported to have received a college degree"
Posted by To Stacey, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:45 am
"this is a true story about how i, as a kid, and a baby, enjoyed school!I sure hope you enjoy this.
once, as i walked to school on a monday morning, a bully just came up to me and bullied me by taking my lunch away. during lunch, i had no lunch, and my friends didn't even care. what friends i had. i felt so bad for myself. i should've stood up to him and told him: "BACK OFF!" maybe then, i wouldn't have lost my lunch. my stomache was starving! my brain was moving back and forth. i didn't know what to do. my friend, cade, was the one who happened to help me later that day. he comforted me in every way he could. he said it's okey, dont worry. and that actually made me feel much much better! suprisingly, the bully was my friend, michael. he just dressed up as a bully and came up to me and bullied me. they planned this!!! i could not believe this! oh well..."
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
You're not making any salient point. I said the other poster could certainly provide more information yet whether said poster is lying or not is completely irrelevant. What the poster said highlights the very real problem of the falling behind of American students and that is not a lie (see the weblink in my last post). We have an educational system geared towards helping the lowest achievers to the detriment of the highest achievers so that at the end of the education stream, we've turned out graduates that are both behind their global peers in skill level and unqualified to work in high-skilled jobs. That's no kind of investment to make in our future economy.
I've witnessed personally the frustration of university-level professors at students who were said to be qualified, but really weren't. Past education threads on this site also bear testimony to the claim that professors are dealing with unqualified/unprepared students.
Posted by To Stacey, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm
"We have an educational system geared towards helping the lowest achievers to the detriment of the highest achievers"
"so that at the end of the education stream, we've turned out graduates that are both behind their global peers in skill level and unqualified to work in high-skilled jobs."
" and unqualified to work in high-skilled jobs."
So the American univerisities are turning out "graduates that are both behind their global peers" too? UC Berkeley is not doing a good enough job teaching math compared to foreign couterparts? Which one?
The original poster was talking about Pleasanton schools, which are highly rated, and specifically top students from Pleasanton schools who have high test scores having to take remedial classes in state colleges. That is probably a lie.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
You know well that I'm referring to the educational system of the US in turning out American students that are falling behind their global peers. Changing the frame on this one doesn't change the point. Readers are not naive enough to believe that Pleasanton's schools operate somehow outside of that system. What is the purpose of No Child Left Behind? It certainly isn't for helping high achievers get better. Pleasanton is also subject to NCLB rules and we'll see in the coming years the increased and frenzied focus on getting the bottom of the bell curve meet proficiency in standards as we need 100% of the students to do so by 2014 (Ed-Data shows relatively flat proficiency rates for PUSD since 2005!). Instead of a system that helps all students achieve their personal best, we have a system that punishes for not helping low achievers become proficient and rewards for high achievers meeting their personal minimum. NCLB has been good for putting focus on an area where traditionally those students have been given up for lost, but now is the time to re-evaluate it before the impossible ideal damages us any further.
That isn't to say that one end of the bell curve should not have extra support, only to say that it should not be done at the expense of the other end. Just go look up that GATE budget or ask what happened to tracking. Remember, one way to close an achievement gap is to hold back or drag down the high end.
OK, so here's an idea for the school board. Negotiate NCLB goals into the employee contracts. No raises for administrators and teachers unless proficiency climbs.
Posted by Darth Vader, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm
You all make good points. As a teacher in the district I can tell you that we do send kids to college unprepared. Grades are often inflated to appease parents and keep administration off our backs. I have personally had conversations with colleagues who told me they will change a grade rather than deal with a parent taking a complaint to administration. That can not be good for the students.
Pleasanton is a great school district in a sea of mediocre school districts in California. But we do not ask enough of our students. We do not expect enough of our teachers and we certainly have no mechanism for working together to achieve goals. It's only about test scores. While test scores give you some information these kinds of tests are inherently flawed. Our students are lacking the problem solving abilities that they need to achieve in math and science. To truly achieve, not just pass tests. There is a difference.
Stacey points out some great data and it is spot on. We are slipping in this country and NCLB did nothing to help us. Progress can not be made until some changes are demanded from teachers, administration and the union. Teachers are on the front lines, they are the ones who really make a difference for the kids. A bad teacher for just one year in a students educational career has been proven to have monumental negative consequences. We can improve the quality of education here in Pleasanton. We just need to have some honest and candid conversations about how to do so. We have to stop protecting the status quo and stop protecting the comfort of the adults in the business. Kids have one chance at an excellent public education. It's imperative that we continue to improve.
Posted by Nomad, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm
@a reader, Do you have anything intelligent to contribute to the question of whether voters can be persuaded to approve a parcel tax, or are you going to use name calling and personal attacks to achieve your goal. It didn't help for Measure G and it certainly won't help *if* PUSD attempts it again.
Posted by Nomad, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm
Another idea in review by the PEVC is to increase the number of duty days for the administration. Similar to reducing vacation days for classified, increasing PUSD employee productivity is another way to reduce the cost structure.
Posted by a reader, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2010 at 11:09 pm
I was just scolding the "Dark Corners" person for not understanding the issues and that he sounded just like those people I named. Saying things like "she will need to immediately explain how PUSD..." is ridiculous. Who is he/she to make demands like that? That is not name calling.