School board brings back all elementary, middle school librarians

Site technology specialists set to be reduced through layoffs

Pleasanton's school board chipped away at approved layoffs yet again last night, restoring more librarians whose jobs were scheduled to be cut.

Over the past few months, Pleasanton Unified School District has been adjusting its budget to cover a shortfall in one-time state funds that were fueling dozens of positions.

After voting at its last meeting to reduce certain parts of the budget such as furniture expenditures and food purchases for meetings, the board voted 4-0 Tuesday night to use that money to add 2.6 FTE (full-time equivalent) employees that will allow elementary and middle school library assistants to work five hours a day.

Board member Chris Grant was absent Tuesday night and did not vote on the measure..

District staff is searching for ways to fund the remaining 7 FTE that will be laid off at the end of June, and a proposal could be brought back to the board at the next board meeting on June 28.

The remaining jobs that aren't funded -- which are all fueled by one-time funding that didn't get renewed -- include site technology specialists at elementary schools (2.25 FTE) and middle schools (.75 FTE), library assistants at high schools (2 FTE), one lead trainer and one coordinator of maintenance services.

As a result, it is expected Pleasanton's public schools will have rotating technology specialists, who resolve computer problems and maintain the district's wireless network.

Foothill and Amador Valley high schools will each have one site technology specialist, who will work eight hours a day for 12 months. The district's three middle schools will share two technology specialists, who will work six hours a day for 10.5 months a year.

Lydiksen, Donlon and Walnut Grove elementary schools will share two technology specialists, as will Alisal, Mohr and Fairlands and Hearst, Valley View and Vintage Hills. Those specialists will work six hours a day for 10.5 months.

One technology specialist will work at the district office and at Village High and will provide assistance to the other specialists.

Two additional specialists will also provide back-up assistance to other specialists. These staff members will work eight hours for 12 months a year.

The debate over how to fund the remaining positions brought up the question of why the district has been funding jobs with temporary funding.

The district began funding positions with one-time dollars after the 2008 recession, assistant superintendent of human resources Dianne Howell said Tuesday night. Some jobs such as librarians have been funded with state attendance dollars or funded by community fundraising organizations such as Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation ever since.

"We have never been able to crawl ourselves out of that dark hole," Howell said.

The current one-time funding model spreads one-time dollars across three years, which school district spokesman Patrick Gannon said will provide some cushion while staff works out a way to fuel these jobs with more stable funds.

Several technology specialists spoke at Tuesday's meeting, or wrote to the board separately, asking that it prioritize the technology maintenance services the specialists provide.

"It is shameful where we are today," wrote site technology specialist Cheryl Vangundy in a letter to the school board. "Shameful that with all the current talk about the '21st Century Classroom' that you have led us to this position of cutting over 25% of the technology services staff. There must be another solution."

Board members brought up the idea of borrowing against a district fund, called the Sycamore Fund that was created by the sale of property, to fuel these positions for multiple years or possibly for one year. However, trustees emphasized they could not use the district's reserves to pay for these positions because it could put the district in a tricky financial situation.

"(Site technology specialists) are vital to everything we do at our sites," said board president Jamie Hintzke. "That's not in question."

Staff also noted that the district's $230,000 budget for athletics is currently unfunded, which requires parents to raise the funds to keep sports teams going.

The district also needs $550,000 in one-time funds to fully fund its deferred maintenance budget to last year's funding levels, which means regular maintenance fixes won't get made until they've become an "immediate problem." The district is making a $820,000 contribution to this fund, staff stated.

In other school news:

*Board members heard a presentation on the 2016-19 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is part of the state's funding plan that requires public school districts to create a plan to provide all their students with access to credentialed teachers, Common Core implementation and other benchmarks. Tuesday's presentation was a first reading on the plan.

*Board members heard a presentation on the 2016-17 proposed budget. The total revenues are estimated at $142.9 million, and expenditures are estimated at $145.4 million. District staff noted Pleasanton Unified's payments into employee retirements per CalPERS and CalSTRS will increase by $2 million per year due to a change in state law.

*The board appointed Ethan Cheever, principal at Parkside Intermediate School in San Bruno, as Harvest Park Middle School's new principal. Five new vice principals were also appointed Tuesday night.

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34 people like this
Posted by PTownMom
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

How is it possible when we live in a town that requires people to spend $1 million or more to live in a three-bedroom ranch and with our proximity to Silicon Valley and all the innovative technology there that we cannot find money to fund technology in our schools?? We lack funds for too many things in our schools. This is a disgrace and it is not fair that we have a mediocre school system in a city that is ranked in the top five in the United States. Something is not adding up and the children are the ones getting cheated.

10 people like this
Posted by Henry
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 15, 2016 at 10:19 am

These budgetary constraints on what would usually be considered necessary and reasonable spending to provide a sound educational environment for students are being driven by the unacknowledged elephant in the room - the constantly increasing pressure of payments to an unaffordable and underfunded teachers retirement system. An immediate first step would be one taken by the federal government years ago, giving new teachers and employees social security and a 401-k type retirement plan and retiree health coverage that ends when the person enters medicare at age 65. Current teachers and employees would keep their plans for legal reasons, but they should be required to fund the shortfalls with higher employee contributions. The alternative to not acting will be greater and constant cuts in basic services needed to keep the schools viable and afloat over the next decades. The final alternative may be bankruptcy of the school system and a total restructuring of salary and benefits.

Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 15, 2016 at 11:14 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Contributions to STRS and PERS are increasing, particularly on the district side of the equation. I'll see if I can find the report, but it will be (is) unmanageable. The state needs to return at least what it borrowed and more (call it interest).

3 people like this
Posted by Community Member
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2016 at 11:55 am

Why does the district need to provide snacks for meetings, especially to the tune of $50,000 per year. Yes, it was decreased from $80,000 - how wonderful of you.

I doubt there is a person in this community that would prefer to have a snack or lunch provided for them instead of bringing a granola bar or going out at their own expense if they are starving. It is unconscionable to spend that kind of money at the expense of losing ANY library time for students.

5 people like this
Posted by Meredith Bauer
a resident of Dublin
on Jun 15, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Meredith Bauer is a registered user.

To Community Member: Pleasanton Weekly reporter here. Just a clarification to your comment. The PUSD school board voted last month to reduce the budget for meeting snacks to $0, and that $50,000 (not $80,000) is being used to fund more library assistants.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ummm....
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

During that same meeting the contract for Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources was up for approval. Written into the contract is the line item "Salary 1.5" that in part states: "In addition to the annual adjustment of salary referenced in 1.2.1, Board may also consider an additional bonus based on performance."

Bonus? How many other upper management positions have this in their contract and how many total dollars are given out in bonuses each year? Seriously?

4 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Happy Valley
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:47 am

Anna is a registered user.

I'm so glad that the Librarians will be included in the budget. As a retired Librarian I know that we are often the first to be laid off because we're considered "dispensable."

1 person likes this
Posted by Affluent
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

It is a shame that the top level personnel at PUSD make hundreds of thousands of dollars, get bonuses, get other perks, come back from retirement and double dip. No wonder they are still cutting staff.

How about giving up some of your salary and perks to keep the people that are truly close to the classroom and students on the payroll.

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Affluent, we'd have to get contracts to know if bonuses are paid to other administrators--easily done through a request and may already be online. What are those other perks? Come back from retirement . . . there is a limit to what a retiree can earn without stepping out of retirement. Additionally, they are filling in for someone who has left their position. This doesn't cost the district more. If they do step out of retirement, as Mr. Hansen did, they stop withdrawing from STRS (or PERS) and have to restart their contributions to STRS (or PERS).

More importantly, these people have made transitions easier, apparently have put the district on a better path, and arguably were all experienced and reliable. From Hansen to Howell to Maher, Puppione, and Whitney, all are great individuals who made this past school year better for their presence. A bargain at twice the price after all the mahem of the past two administrations.

2 people like this
Posted by Affluent
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 17, 2016 at 9:52 am

Kathleen - I have no doubt that the district is better off bringing in former/retired personnel in the interim people to fill holes. Experience and familiarity with the district can be better for the district. I also have nothing again any of these people, past or present.

I guess I am just frustrated that these cuts seems to happen year...after year...after the same job classifications. Just seems like we should be over the hump by now.

With regard to bonuses, I was only referring to the contract for Ms. Howell that was on the last board agenda. Just seems that bonuses should not be written into contracts when a district is in layoff mode. Sends a bad message in my opinion.

1 person likes this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 17, 2016 at 10:28 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Affluent, it's a one year contract, there is no salary schedule (automatic increase year to year), and there is no "me too" clause written in. Howell was brought out of retirement and may not want to stay. A year gives our new superintendent time to look for a replacement if that is the case. I don't think giving a bonus is out of line--a bonus doesn't permanently increase the salary should Howell stay. There is a provision to increase the salary by vote of the board.

The positive to bonuses is one time money can be used. I much prefer the method of small salary increases (particularly on salary schedules) with bonuses if money is available. You will see boards and staff refer to 2% on and 1% off--that is the impact on and off the salary schedule. I have argued for smaller on schedule increases (which are permanent) and bigger off salary bonuses, which are one-time funds. Sorry for the explanation if you already know how that works.

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

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