First budget crisis forum slated for Jan. 26

Superintendent, senior staff to discuss funding shortfall facing the school district

Informative meetings about the budget crisis and its impact to the school district have been scheduled for Jan. 26 and Feb. 4. Superintendent John Casey and senior staff will discuss the current budget proposal from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to district spokeswoman Myla Grasso.

These forums are an attempt to educate the community on the issues facing the district, which was a goal brought up at last Tuesday's school board meeting. Casey had referenced comments by readers on the Pleasanton Weekly's website, saying there is "a disconnect from what they're saying to reality."

Both forums will begin at 7 p.m., with the first meeting in Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room, 1155 Santa Rita Road. The second will be held in Foothill High School's multipurpose room, 4375 Foothill Road.

In addition to the forums, the budget will be discussed at the following school board meetings, which meets the second and fourth Tuesdays at the district board room, 4665 Bernal Ave. By the end of February, the board will need to make decisions on the impact to staff, so pink slips can be sent by March 15.

For more information on these forums, call 426-4304 or visit

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Posted by nana
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2009 at 11:01 am

I truly hope Stacey and Frank will show up for these and ask questions.

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Posted by Roger Manning
a resident of Happy Valley
on Jan 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Cutting programs, teachers and classes is not a solution. Perhaps restructuring the curriculum for the 21st century is. Lets take high school for an example. With computers the district could schedule students on a UC bound program to be completed in three years. We know what UC requires and it can all be scheduled in three years. Students not planning on a UC track could still meet exit exams and plan further studies at a JC. I would suggest an eight period day offering classes from 7:30am through 10:00 pm depending on what the student needs. Students (and teachers) could structure their classes in the morning, afternoon or evening working around sports or jobs. Classes run for one and a half hours beginning at 7:30; then:9:00, 10:30, 1:00, 2:30, 4:00, 7:00, and 8:30. Such a schedule is similar to many universities. If the State has a problem with this new approach then let them come through with the funding for their current 19th century approach.

In addition, the Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton and San Ramon School Districts should start to explore a central campus for a vocational center allowing many of our students to run a dual track curriculum that will give them a leg up in the job market if they don't plan to move on to a University.

The district needs to start thinking outside the box and come up with an approach that brings all of our kids up to a competitive level with the rest of the world. Don't look to the State to fix this problem, they can't get out of their own way. We must do it!

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Posted by Kyle
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jan 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Let's start a list of questions and requests to submit to the district.

I would start the list with asking what funding PUSD has compared to other districts, State, bonds, parcel taxes and other.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 21, 2009 at 3:42 pm

"Casey had referenced comments by readers on the Pleasanton Weekly's website, saying there is "a disconnect from what they're saying to reality."

I think the only disconnect here is Casey and his staff with reality. He needs to realize that the community will NOT tolerate him running things as-is anymore, not in these tough times. If he's still insisting on cutting programs and teachers instead of his overly compensated contracts with for him and the union, then he truly needs a reality check. If Casey thinks he can manipulate us into supporting his cuts and parcel tax by using scary tactics, it's not going to work. You're NOT going to hold us hostage by threatening us with cuts in programs. The only cut you need to make is the spending on you and the union. Give back the money that belongs in education and not in your pocket.

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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Are we not attempting to transfer knowledge from one group to another? I ask,Community Leaders to come forward who can,with comprehensive understanding and communication skills-Teachers who represent a child/student standpoint with the understanding that a child's earliest experiences in school often affect their future success in life-Administrators willing to share any affective way to illustrate/clarify any reasonable solution to our Community.Isn't this process for Pleasanton? Education is a product that can facilitate an aspect in your life, to come to life. Reform could start today and we would lead, by example. I don't have a series of questions that are required,with answers to secure our future revenues, but to avert chaos and cost with after the fact restructuring.I have to believe that by bringing about our strengths, our roles to simplify and lead in this downturn will be successful.I enjoyed listening to Juanita Haugen. Now we need to buckle up. Later

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Happy Valley
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

Whether you like it or not, we're all in this together.

Bad Schools = Plunge in Home Prices.

Passing a parcel tax is critical. Pledging more monetary donations to the district to save our schools, our community, and our home prices is not optional.

Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 22, 2009 at 7:31 am

We don't need another tax, we need good leadership.

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:16 am


As Pleasanton residents, do we already pay a tax that goes directly to PUSD or do our existing taxes for education get allocated to PUSD by the state?

Like this comment
Posted by Informed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Good question Ann! As a matter of fact, it looks like we are the ONLY community that does not have a parcel tax that goes directly to the School District. I think we are spoiled, other towns pay as much as $1200 on this.

Like this comment
Posted by Harry
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Tax and spend, tax and spend.....This is not the answer. Maybe we need a parcel tax, maybe we do not. Before we even propose this we should be fiscally responsible and spend time evaluating where every $ spent is going. Our Disrict is in-efficient in it's spending compared to other quality Districts. Also-much like most businesses-top officials should be taking pay cuts and giving up perks (i.e. Casey's mortgage that the District funds). It frustrates me to see an answer so quick as a parcel tax (which will also hurt re-sale values) while I see waste in spending. Also-another thought-maybe the city should kick in a bit. A "Downtown Stimuls Plan" vs. School funding? Where are our priorities? And why do we have 5 to 6 workers vacuming leaves off of the street every other week? Tax and spend, tax and spend....

Like this comment
Posted by *42*
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm

“Tax and spend” and “big Government vs. little government” are outdated concepts. Spending wisely and government that works are concepts of this era. Sacramento is not working. This move to a parcel tax has not been made in haste.

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Harry, what specifically are the ineffiencies in PUSD ? You mentioned high-salaried administrators . . . what else?

I'm just trying to gather info in order to form an educated opinion and specifics are more helpful than generalities in this matter.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Who cares about the PUSD? Let them sort this mess out themselves. I don't have kids and certainly would not live here if I do. If you're smart and have kids, move elsewhere and be happy.

Pleasanton is NOT a family-friendly city.

We should be focusing our efforts and money on things that really matters like improving our downtown, curb appeal, roads, and highway. I find it a pain commuting to work down 680S everyday. While we're at it, free up some fundings to make the water softer too! I hate that white residue in my glass and coffee maker.

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Posted by Kelly
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Ahhh, Jerry, trying to create some controversy . . . here's one of my favorite quotes . . .

The most important things in life, are not things!

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Las Positas
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:46 pm

We should all know by now that once you see a post from Jerry, skip it. As Kelly says, all Jerry is trying to do is create controversy. For someone to say that Pleasanton is not a family-friendly city, they either DO NOT live in Pleasanton, or its their extreme attempt at sarcasm. Either way, those comments are irrelevant.

The bottome line - whether you have children or not, if our education system fails us, WE ALL fail. Our home prices drop, businesses leave... it's the snow-ball effect. Need an example of that? Go to Hayward or Oakland. And yes, we are the only city without the Parcel Tax. The Parcel Tax is not permanent, but it is necessary right now.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Obama grew up in a crappy neighborhood with crappy schools. He was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He still got himself into Columbia and then Harvard Law and is now the prez. That a perfect example of why we should just let PUSD deal with the mess they created. Spend our money wisely to improve out lives instead. Softening our water would be a good start.

Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Yes, we are already paying a bond measure to PUSD and another bond tax to LPC college.
I would support a bond over a parcel tax because there is some accountability with a bond.
Our neighbors parcel taxes still do not get them to the of dollars per student that PUSD has to work with.

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Ann, is the PUSD bond measure money used for capital improvements within PUSD or for PUSD operating costs?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident again
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Here is some information PUSD released about class size reduction and funding:

Web Link

"Isn’t class size reduction funded by the state?

Since its inception, class size reduction (CSR) has never been fully funded by the state. The number of teachers it takes to meet the requirement of 20 students per teacher has always cost more than the funding received from the state. In Pleasanton, we receive about $4 million to support the program for grades K through 3. The actual cost is $5.6 million. By eliminating CSR for these grades, we would save $1.6 million from the general fund. The unfortunate part is that we would also lose the access to the $4 million from the state. At this writing, in order to realize a savings, we would have to eliminate CSR at an entire grade level—there is no option to increase class sizes a little (like to 25) and still receive funding."

It looks like PUSD would save 1.6 million and lose 4 million in funding. What they don't say is how much the regular program, without class size reduction, would cost, and how the loss of the 4 million dollar would affect the schools in those grades.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident again
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Here is the link:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Toni Hume
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Enough! Do some of you not understand English? Attend the meeting and voice your concerns there. Why do you insist on using this medium to behave so inappropiately? Attend the meetings and be a part of the solution. Blogs like this are why I caution students (yes, I am a teacher) to stand up for what they believe in or else they will fall for anything. So many of you need to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Or maybe you would prefer to hide behind your personas.

Like this comment
Posted by An involved AVHS parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Toni, could not agree more with your post! I can not believe the useless posts I've see here and under the Schools & kids heading.....wholly cow, are these posted by responsible Pleasanton adults.....if so, I'm scared!

Let's get real and deal with the issue: What is most likley needed to fix this budget crisis (and it is a crisis whether it was created by an irresponsible school board or by an economic situation larger than the PUSD or a combo of both) is a parcel tax (probably smaller than PUSD wants) AND cuts to the PUSD budget.

Anyone who purports to tell us that there is no fat in the budget to cut is outright lying! On an equal note, if anyone purports to say that the amount of state budget cuts that are going to happen can be handled by budget cuts alone are unrealistic! Come on.....we all know there is fat, but I, for one, do not believe that fat represnts $7M which is the number I've heard is the estimated shortfall over the next three years.

As a parent of a PUSD student AND a Pleasanton homeowner, I feel a huge responsibility to make the right decision to protect both my child's education AND my property values in this great community. However, in order for me to wholeheartedly support a parcel tax, I need to feel confident that the PUSD budget is as tight as it can be (I mean I want to hear squeaks!!) with the LAST RESORT cuts at the student/school levels!

I do not want to hear "threats" of doom from the PUSD, as that is not going to cut it! I also do not want to hear that a parcel tax to cover the entire shortfall is the ONLY way to go! I want to hear practical, fiscally responsible and student centered policies for getting back on tract. I've seen the list of proposed cuts and if the budget is really "4 inches thick" (as has been posted) this list was pretty short and many, many, many "pet" programs or expenses did not make the list......why is that? I will be the first to support a parcel tax if that needs to be PART of the solution, but that better be in conjunction with some major fat cutting!!!!

I'll be at the Budget Community Forum on the 26th at AVHS to give my feedback AND hear out the ideas of others and I urge everyone else to do the same. This problem effects us all in one way or another and we all should assume the respoonsibility to help resolve it.

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Resident again,

That is because CSR is one of those special spending categories. See Web Link

PUSD's Budget FAQ hasn't been updated to mention that the Governator is offering to remove restrictions on CSR funding so that schools won't lose the State CSR funding if they go over the 20:1 ratio.

If CSR is so important, it should be made into part of a base grant instead of via categorical funding.

Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Castlewood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm

I agree. Go to the meetings and voice your concerns there. Whether you like Casey or not, there is a real economic crisis happening for all schools in the state! Wake up!

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Cutting programs and people/staff including administrators are not the answers. Cutting salaries or having furlough days is. What needs to happen is less pay with the same great programs and great staff that help to make Pleasanton a top performing district in the state. Someone should contact the union reps in Pleasanton and pass these messages to them!

Like this comment
Posted by Gene
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 22, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Enough is enough. Say "NO" to parcel tax for PUSD. The money can be better spent in other public projects and services.

Like this comment
Posted by mom of 3 students
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 10:33 pm

In PUSD, as with our state budget, compromises are needed. Perhaps a parcel tax is in order to keep programs but belt-tightening is not a bad thing either. I too, plan to be at the meeting at AVHS on the 26th to hear how the district proposes to reduce the 'nice but not necessaries.'
I have read what the district has thus far proposed and am extremely disappointed to see academic intervention programs and elementary class-size reduction on the proposed list of cuts. Yet salary rollbacks are only listed as "negotiable items for consideration." Excuse me, but HOW can staff have the audacity to propose cutting half the reading specialists (again) when they are not proposing a salary rollback. Last year's 4% increase and dip into reserves that administrators received was unconsciounable given the fact that the board knew what was on the horizon.
I would like to see the board ask for a 3% approximate roll-back (but take more from administrators) so that $3M is saved first of all. Then discuss where else to cut BEFORE coming to the community to talk of a parcel tax. I will support a parcel tax only after significant roll-backs are made and key intervention programs are left alone.
I often do not agree with Stacey but to say she does not have kids in school she is very astute in her understanding of PUSD. Her proposals for criteria and limits are right on in my opinion. The district and most trustees have been wanting to get a parcel tax passed for years; long before we were in this budget crunch. If we had already approved one in the past would we be in better shape? NO. It would have been spent, cuts to essential programs would still be threatened and they would be looking for reasons to come asking for an increase. To give them another pot of money with no strings attached will accomplish nothing long term.
And before anyone jumps on me for suggesting a salary roll-back, let me explain that it has nothing to do with performance, hours worked, etc. I simply believe that we are in a DEflationary time. On the radio report today I heard an expert talk about company earning announcements saying that "flat is the new up." Businesses everywhere are having to cut bids, fees, prices, salaries, hours, etc. And President Obama asked Americans in his inauguration speech if it isn't better to cut a few work hours so that your co-worker doesn't lose their job all together. A friend of mine in a sales position with a significant part of compensation being commission isn't working any fewer hours or putting in less effort but is still bring home a much smaller paycheck.
Another poster wrote that government must share in the burden and I agree. Other school districts will be making cuts too so PUSD officials like Mr. Kernan should not threaten that we are going to slide to the bottom of the pack if we don't pass a full parcel tax to save us. Make cuts first, then talk to us about a tax.

Like this comment
Posted by 20 years PUSD
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jan 23, 2009 at 6:57 am

Mom of 3 students,
Well said, but I will still not support a parcel tax. As you correctly said, if they had already received the parcel tax that they have been fishing for for the past three years, with false justification, it would have already been spent. We have all acknowledged their manipulation of the parent community by taking raises while threatening emotional cuts. PUSD has not earned my trust or respect.
PUSD has a lot of money to work with it is time for them to be more efficient with it.

Like this comment
Posted by Melissa
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Jan 23, 2009 at 7:18 am

Cut the salaries with the 3% or 4% rollback of their raise from last year. That alone would save many programs and keep key staff!!! Why aren't they trying to negotiate this with the union?

Like this comment
Posted by PJ Fan
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jan 23, 2009 at 3:49 pm

To quote P J O’Rourke: “Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” It would be difficult to support a parcel tax without exact limits for the expenditure of the money, an oversight committee of community representatives, and an outline for what efficiencies will be put in place for the general fund.

Things PUSD staff and board members need to be cover include:

• how they will ensure the influx of parcel tax money won’t allow for wage increases and adding staff from the resulting savings to the general fund (a hydraulic of the proposal).

• whether senior citizens will be exempted? Those exemptions can be substantial enough to require the general fund to cover the shortage to programs already guaranteed by the parcel tax. (i.e., a parcel tax program costs $1 million, but after exemptions, only $900,000 is collected, with an unintended cost to the general fund of $100,000.)

• an explanation of K-3 class size reduction funding and the substantial loss in funds provided by the state. Is the parcel tax going to support CSR in order to keep the state funding? If the parcel tax isn’t passed in time for the 09-10 school year and state funding is lost for that school year, will the state restart the funding in a subsequent year once they have withheld it? A genuine concern given the state of the state.

I will add my voice to those who feel current management is culpable for the mess and my belief that they were headed for this disaster because of the bad decisions they already made which now are only exacerbated by the problems at the state level. We hold teachers and students accountable in multiple ways. It is time for management and the longest standing board members to be held accountable.

Pleasanton has great schools (and good housing values) and high performing students because of the community makeup, not because of district staff—who can only support or get in the way of what happens in the classroom. The closer you are to the student—teachers, resource aides, principals—the more important you are to the learning process of a child. This is not where the cutting should occur.

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Posted by Al Cohen
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 24, 2009 at 9:49 pm

SHARED SACRIFICE has to be the common thread in any solution to the PUSD budget crisis. At the recent Budget Advisory Meeting, I proposed that all parties be involved in SHARED SACRIFICE for the good of our education system. It was met with a positive response. The major constituents at the meeting felt that all issues were on the table to solve the crisis. There were no sacred cows.

In industry during a down business cycle, a strategic organization looks at the type of company they want to end up with. Once that has been agreed upon, the stakeholders need to determine what sacrifices need to be made. Invariably there is pain, but the pain is shared by the people who have a passion to deliver a quality product and ultimately build a better organization.

In the case of our PUSD crisis, the stakeholders are the district, the union employees and the community at large. I believe that the only tenable solution to this massive problem is for each constituency to share in the pain to ultimately solve the problem. The administration has to do more with less. The union employees need to understand that perhaps taking a "haircut" in their salary will enable some of their colleagues to continue to work and still deliver a quality education. The community has to realize that the prior two constituents cannot solve the fiscal problem alone. We need to step up and realize that the quality of life that we have in Pleasanton is very closely connected to our safe neighborhoods, active sports programs, academic excellence and overall concerned citizenship. These are in large part due to our great school system.

As someone who dislikes paying taxes as much as anyone, I cannot see how we can avoid some sort of parcel tax. One that is focused and limited to solve the critical programs that we would otherwise loose in this down business cycle.

SHARED SACRIFICE is a plan that we should all get behind. I invite all of the usual naysayers in the blogosphere to come out from behind their computer screens and particpate in the process. Several community forums are scheduled and it is time to really engage in a meaningful manner.

Like this comment
Posted by Just Say NO To Bailouts
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 25, 2009 at 7:32 pm

While it is always unfortunate to have to scale back any business or government service I believe it is important to recognize that we are just in the beginning of a tax revenue downturn that will be with us for years. Every agency that depends on these revenues will resist contraction of expense by pleading for special exemption through any means available. Only when these methods of coercing additional revenues are exhausted will the hard decisions that must be confronted start to be addressed. Be careful assigning yourselves additional taxation. It won’t solve anything and you will be having the same argument next year (or the year after) in a different form of fee or taxation. In the next few years we are all likely to be paying more, but earning less as a result of forces that are well out of our control. So if you feel like giving your money away without solving anything, play the lottery and leave the rest of us out of it.

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