School board discusses school funds, Wi-Fi expansion, enrollment demographics

PUSD board also approves new Pleasanton Middle School vice principal

Pleasanton's school board decided Tuesday to pursue a state waiver to forgive student absences during a fake bomb threat last month, which could cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The board also discussed a Wi-Fi upgrade, approved a new vice principal for Pleasanton Middle School and heard a presentation on district enrollment numbers and demographics, among other school business.

At its public board meeting Tuesday night, the board approved a waiver application that will attempt to recoup lost attendance dollars after an unidentified person emailed a bomb threat to Amador Valley's principal, forcing the school to close for a full day. The district will seek reimbursement for all students who missed school that day since attendance at all schools was lower than usual on the day of the bomb hoax, district substitute assistant superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa said.

The hoax caused about $170,000 in lost attendance at Amador Valley, plus lost funding at other schools. Pleasanton police are investigating the incident but hadn't arrested the person who sent the email as of Tuesday's meeting.

The school board also heard a discussion on an ongoing Wi-Fi expansion, which will upgrade the district's Wi-Fi capabilities from 25 megabits per second to 252 megabits per second. As of Tuesday night, about 500 of 912 wifi access points were operational. Most of the new access points are at PUSD middle and high schools, said Chris Hobbs, district director of technology services.

Hobbs said among the completed access points, users have been getting download speeds of 400 megabits per second steadily, with spikes up to 600 megabits per second. The full installation is expected to be done by the end of the year.

The total project is estimated at about $900,000 and is being paid through interest via a school fund, money from a school fund and money from a special reserve fund, superintendent Jim Hansen said.

Staff also presented the district's update to its annual budget, which included a future projected deficit.

The updated 2015-16 budget puts the district's revenues at $138 million and its expenditures at $137 million based on the 45-day revise approved at Tuesday's meeting.

However, both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 years are projected to end in a deficit of $974,128, which is mostly because the district must self-fund about $15 million in special education resources due to a lack of state funding in that area, Ochoa said. She said the district will have to figure out a way to balance those future budgets, which will be updated several times before they are finalized.

The board also heard a discussion on the district's enrollment data, noting the city's changing demographics. In the past five years, the district has seen a 9.9% increase in its Asian population and an 8.2% decrease in its Caucasian population.

"It's something we have to recognize as we consider programs and opportunities for parents to get involved in our school communities," senior director of student services Kevin Johnson said.

He also noted the school population at Amador Valley High has been steadily increasing, while Foothill's numbers have slowly been decreasing, saying Amador's central location allows many more families to fall within its jurisdictional boundaries when they move to the city.

In addition to approving hirings, new assignments and resignations, the board also appointed Josh Butterfield, Foothill High band director, to the position of half-time vice principal at Pleasanton Middle School.

Among those personnel changes was the resignation of district spokeswoman Nicole Steward, who has been hired as a social worker at Milpitas Unified.

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