School board spares 2 librarian jobs from layoffs, seeks funds to save others whose positions are on chopping block

Foothill band director Lydia Lim resigns; Leslie Heller named principal at Hart Middle School

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.

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10 people like this
Posted by PTownMom
a resident of Highland Oaks
on May 25, 2016 at 9:36 am

I read a lot of the stories about resignations, new hires, reassignments, and the like. I'm happy to say in the years my kids have been in school, we haven't had more than a slight "bump" here or there with faculty and staff. However, what I have noticed is Pleasanton Unified doesn't seem to want to extend open positions to candidates from outside the district. Principals and assistant principals are shuffled around, or retirees, however beloved, are brought back into the mix when fresh minds, hands, and hearts are applying for these jobs to no avail. It saddens me to think that we are so insular, perhaps to the detriment of our students and teachers. Maybe thinking outside the box, or in this case, the district is what we need to do to bring in new ideas and enthusiasm?

10 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 25, 2016 at 10:18 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

During this year, those retirees saved the schools. I don't see how their presence prevented applicants from trying for the jobs; the retirees don't want the jobs permanently for themselves. Just want to be sure we give credit to the retirees and, if there is a problem for applicants, point to ithe source directly.

Like this comment
Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 25, 2016 at 10:19 am

The board has not said how it will spend the $ saved last night. It might be a combo between Library and Tech.

12 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 25, 2016 at 10:25 am

Parvin is the gift that keeps on giving :/

I have faith in the district they'll do the right thing going forward. So far, so good with the interim superintendent and other powers that be.

This is still a top notch school system and will get back to its glory days as we undo some of the mess that's been created in the last few years.

2 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 25, 2016 at 10:32 am

Also PTown Mom: Vintage Hills has a new principal from outside the district and I believe the current VP is also a new hire. I happen to think that most of the shuffling of VPs has been really positive for the district. Three of our recent VPs are now principals and is testament to the fact we are growing from within and retaining these talented people. Galletti, Berg and Connor all went from VP at Vintage Hills to Lydiksen, Fairlands and WG.

I know what you mean about new and fresh but in my interaction with the promoted in recent years from VH they were very energized and fresh and all three were very different from each other.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon E Mouse
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 25, 2016 at 2:57 pm

> "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."

Come on. You won't speak to the reasons why because they are still sitting on the Board. Every time administration brought prudent recommendations for using those funds the Board added more positions. Go back and watch the videos of Cazares warning the Board that they were overspending. That the "one-time" moneys were just that wasn't a surprise to anyone, and anybody claiming now that they didn't know that layoffs would be the result is lying.

Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

This will be a regularly recurring story over the next decades until the underlying problems are addressed in a realistic manner. Teachers' and other state employees' retirement funds - to say nothing about city and county funds - are grossly underfunded due to the required use of unattainable assumptions. Continual annual increases in payments to these funds will squeeze all current spending. Retired workers' pension payments are guaranteed. Current jobs are not.

Our school board should obtain a realistic accounting and estimate of its true liabilities for retirement costs and build them into their budget. One too obvious solution would be to follow the federal government and for new employees replace the current pension plan with Social Security and a 401k-type Thrift Plan. But it's too easy to bury one's head in the sand and let the damage slowly and steadily occur and have Pleasanton's schools face constant deterioration if not collapse. Not unlike our country's refusal to seriously address guaranteed future trauma from climate change.

11 people like this
Posted by IWouldlove2C
a resident of Birdland
on May 26, 2016 at 8:48 pm

If Cazares was warning someone of over spending she was warning herself as she and the Superintendent were the chief architect of the budgets. The Superintendent and cabinet make the budget, then the go to the board for approval. Of course we all hope there is some collaboration with all the stake holders before hand. But from what I have witnessed the Superintendent basically sells the budget to the board.

That being said - Prior to Jeff Bowser being voted off the board 18 months ago. He, Grant and Laursen were a voting block that always voted the way Ahmadi wanted them to vote, so if you have an issue with previous instances of one time funding used for salaries I suggest you take it up with them. Or head over to Castro Valley and ask Ahamdi why she wanted to spend in that manner.

The board is simply a bunch of community members that should provide some direction on behalf of the community as well as some checks and balances. The board only ends up being as good as the Superintendent they hire so hopefully this new boss will do better than the last.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on May 27, 2016 at 9:42 am

We might want to go further with these layoffs and cost reductions. Anyone looking at the budget and economic forecasts coming out of Sacramento lately? It's not good news.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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