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By Tim Hunt

Demographics present challenges for Livermore

Uploaded: Sep 23, 2014

Thinking back to the Tri-Valley Mayor's Summit last Wednesday that I moderated, someone in the audience posed a question about poverty in the Tri-Valley and what can be done about it.
The cities, as the mayors answered, are dramatically different. In the San Ramon Valley Danville, with its older neighborhoods, is ethnically much different than San Ramon. Danville, according to the 2010 census is 83 percent white and 11 percent Asian. San Ramon is 54 percent white and 36 percent Asian with most of the Asians clustered in the new homes in the Dougherty Valley.
Danville's household income is $129,000, while San Ramon's was $120,000, up from $96k in 2000.
Poverty is nearly non-existent in terms of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunches. The face of poverty often is a mother going through a divorce or divorced with a dramatically reduced income. The challenge in the San Ramon Valley—one that the Livermore Valley has faced and improved over the years—is the paucity of county services. Residents need to go to Walnut Creek or Martinez to access services—a huge hurdle.
For the Livermore Valley cities, it is different.
Dublin, with its aggressive expansion in East Dublin, continues to grow and evolve. I observed last week that a major Chinese development firm is building a condo project there because of the quality of the schools and the abundance of high-tech jobs. Dublin's Asian population, largely clustered in the new eastside, has grown to 27 percent while household income from 2000-2010 has soared to $129k from $83k and poverty is listed at just 3.6 percent.
The story in Pleasanton is similar. The Asian population doubled to 23 percent in 10 years, while there is a 10 percent Hispanic population. The household income rose from $91k to $115k, a nice gain, but way less that Dublin's in terms of percentage.
Livermore remains the community with the greatest economic disparity as well as ethnic diversity. It's 21 percent Hispanic and 8 percent Asian. Household income grew from $75k to $94k in 10 years, but the percentage of students receiving free and reduced price lunches in some schools (high-performing Marilyn Avenue and a couple of others) remains over 70 percent.
That's the challenge that Mayor John Marchand and the city team face—Livermore has gotten both richer and poorer. Historically since the arrival of the national labs in the 1950s, it's been a broad slice of the middle class. When the City Council decided to ban camping under bridges and step up enforcement, to his credit, the mayor convened a summit on poverty. Just what the results of that effort are remains to be seen, but it was the right move.
My experience at Marylin Avenue with Project Roadrunner, coupled with exceptional efforts by the teaching team, the other staff and three principals, has shown just what can be done to transform an under-performing school to a showcase where students perform much better than their demographic peers elsewhere. Since 2000, the Marylin has seen significant increase in English learning population and the free and reduced price lunch population, but test scores have climbed steadily as the team has cared for the whole student and reached out to the family.
The challenges for dealing with families in poverty vary greatly by community, but can be dealt with by visionary and persistent leadership that doesn't forget them.

P.S. Mike Kufahl, the principal at Hearst Elementary in Pleasanton, spoke to a church men's group that I attend last week. Among the poignant stories he told was about a student who came to enroll while he was living in his mother's car. He attended for two days, was sent away for the weekend with sandwiches provided by Open Heart Kitchen and hoped to return on Monday—mom wasn't sure he would be back because they may have been in a shelter. The Hearst team had reached out and engaged him, but, as Marchand observed Livermore is the only city in the Tri-Valley with shelters for families or women with kids.