Many students were greeted by President Barack Obama Tuesday morning as they were back in the classrooms from the Labor Day holiday. Despite national and local controversy over the President's broadcast speech, the district didn't see many students kept from schools.
Described as a pep talk to encourage students, Pleasanton Unified School District issued a statement Sept. 4 describing the topics to be discussed and linking to suggested lesson plans that were designed to accompany the speech provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Text of the speech was to be made available to preview on Labor Day through the White House website.
Teachers were not required to show the speech and students with notes from parents could participate in alternate activities.
"I think it's an appropriate thing for the district to show an address from the President to stay in school, set personal goals and demonstrate responsibility," said district spokeswoman Myla Grasso, adding that these ideas are in line with the Community of Character and 40 Assets programs currently in place.
Some parents, such as Bridget Melson, a Pleasanton resident who operates a counseling practice and is a member of the Pleasanton TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, chose to keep her children at home and knew of many concerned parents who chose to not have their children participate.
"I personally feel that especially at the elementary school level, children should be taught, reading, writing, arithmetic, and my son's favorite -- recess," Melson said.
In polling her contacts in Pleasanton, Sunol and Livermore, she said she received emails all day and throughout the night of parents intending to keep children from attending school.
"I think it sends a strong message to the schools that they need to listen to us and if they don't, we will opt out which I know affects the district financially," she said.
The California Republican Assembly, a volunteer organization of conservative Republicans in California, also has recommended that local school boards decline "this highly intrusive federal manipulation of our local school curriculum."
"Matters like this need the local school boards to deliberate in open public session and provide for the ability for our parents to opt in," said Ken Mettler, president of the organization.
"There are questions as to where this falls instructionally, especially with the advent of state standards and the requirement of instructional minutes," he said. "Normally, instructional materials are previewed before they are allowed in the classroom. This broadcast will disrupt the normal timeline of instruction."
Prior to the Labor Day holiday, PUSD had been contacted by about 10 parents via calls and emails expressing concern.
The district statement released Sept. 4 encouraged parents to "know the facts," which state that the district loses more than $30 per student who is absent (excused or unexcused) and that students will not be asked to sign any "pledge" related to the speech.
It is not known how many students were absent from Pleasanton schools because of the speech, but Grasso said overall "attendance was slightly better than the day after Labor Day last year."
Grasso also said the district didn't know how many teachers chose to participate in the live broadcast and/or lesson plans.
Video of the speech is available to view on the White House website: www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources.