Pleasanton's school district Tuesday scraped together enough money to fund another two library assistants, and the school board has instructed staff to comb through the finances again to search for more funding for staff whose positions are on the chopping block for layoffs.
After the May revise to the state budget was released, board members approved a plan to cut some district services and use one-time student attendance dollars to fund for another 1.9 FTE to pay two more elementary/middle school library assistants.
School District administrators and board members have been struggling to find enough funding for dozens of positions that were previously funded with $3.7 million in one-time state funding that wasn't renewed.
Over the past months, fundraising donations and funding adjustments made it possible for the district to rescind all the layoff notices for permanent certificated staff and some of the notices for classified staff -- but 12 classified employees' jobs are still in jeopardy.
In general, the debate over how to fund the remaining positions brought up one big question: Why has Pleasanton Unified been funding positions with one-time funding?
The district began funding certain positions about three years ago, district spokesman Patrick Gannon said in an interview. Since that time, certain jobs have been funded with state attendance dollars, and others have been funded by community fundraising organizations like Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation.
But since nearly the entire cabinet has changed over the past year, it's unclear as to why the decision was made during former superintendent Parvin Ahmadi's administration in the first place to fund ongoing jobs with inconsistent funds.
"This practice began under the former administration, and we cannot speak to the reasons why," Gannon said. "Moving forward, however, the administration and board believe it is essential to provide more stability district-wide."
As a result, the current district administration decided to take the one-time funds that were coming to the district this year and spread them out over three years, an operational move that was approved by the board in April. That led to more stability for some positions, but a complete lack of funding for others.
"All positions on the one-time list are critical," Gannon said in an interview. "However, it is our strong belief that we must fund positions in multi-year budgets."
Based on the most recent budget updates from the state, the school district will receive $237 per student in one-time discretionary state funding per attendance day, as compared to about $600 per student attendance day last year, deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa told the board.
Given the remaining funding gap, the board decided Tuesday to reduce the district-wide furniture budget and to eliminate the district's budget for food provided during meetings. Staff is expected to present how that funding can be divided among remaining threatened positions at the next board meeting in June.
The district eliminated some unstaffed positions, kept school-specific budgets static for next year and made other adjustments after going through the budget with a fine-toothed comb to find the money for these two library assistants, Ochoa said.
In addition, the board voted to eliminate food for all-day interview committee meetings and pre-board meeting meals and to reduce the furniture replacement budget to an emergency reserve of $60,000. The impact would be that schools wouldn't be able to replace furniture unless it is broken and unusable.
Ochoa also said staff has been told to be careful about how often it uses the district's legal counsel to curtail legal expenses, and requests for proposals have been sent to counsel, which the district hopes will result in lower hourly rates.
Several parents, teachers and staff urged the board to find a way to fund both the elementary/middle school library assistants and the technology support specialists, noting that libraries are a safe haven of learning for students and that technology support specialists ensure the reliability of systems the district has spent a good deal of money to purchase. One example, staff noted, is the new wireless internet system, which cost Pleasanton Unified more than $1 million.
The board also voted to forego spending $10,000 to host the annual PUSD Education Summit in order to use that money on salaries instead.
The board acknowledged about $60,000 will have to be set aside for district elections in the fall since three seats are up for reelection and a bond measure may be up for voter consideration. The district is obligated to pay for the cost of public elections.
In other school business:
*The board also appointed Foothill vice principal Leslie Heller as Hart Middle's next principal, succeeding Terry Conde. Heller has been with PUSD for 17 years and has been Foothill's vice principal since 2012.
Conde will continue as principal until July 1, at which point she will be reassigned due to an unspecified personnel issue, Gannon said.
*Foothill band director Lydia Lim's resignation was accepted by the school board Tuesday night. Lim was chosen as director of the competitive high school band in February. No reason was given for her sudden resignation, which will take effect June 10.
"The position is posted and we're actively pursuing the best candidate to fill the role as soon as possible," Gannon said.
When reached for comment Wednesday morning, Lim said she is leaving to take a head band director position at Clayton Valley High School in Concord.
"I'm sad to leave the amazing Foothill students, but I'm excited for this new adventure," she said.
*District administration had hoped to have a new principal chosen for Harvest Park Middle as of Tuesday's meeting. However, the district still plans to have a principal in place before the start of the next financial year on July 1, Gannon said.