PUSD won't pursue Valley Trails property for new school site

Layoffs, energy expenditures, teacher recognitions also part of board meeting

After further consideration, the Pleasanton school board Tuesday directed district administration not to pursue acquisition of the Evangelical Free Church of Pleasanton property in the Valley Trails neighborhood for a potential elementary school site.

Trustees gave consensus to interim superintendent Micaela Ochoa after discussing the availability of the property at 6900 Valley Trails Ave. and hearing public comment from residents, most of whom said they opposed the idea of PUSD acquiring that parcel -- which is currently being debated for a new housing development.

The board took up the issue after it was first raised at a joint special meeting between trustees and the City Council April 11.

The church-owned property came up at that meeting in relation to the district’s plan to build a new elementary school to replace portables currently in use on campuses. In February, the school board directed administrators to explore placing the school on PUSD’s Neal property at 1689 Vineyard Ave.

Ponderosa Homes has since gotten its proposal to build 36 new single-family homes on the Valley Trails property through the Planning Commission, which on Wednesday approved the application by a 3-2 vote. It will now go to the City Council for a final decision in May, with the specific date yet to be determined.

But upon hearing from city staff a day earlier at the joint meeting that the district could still formally express interest in the property -- regardless of the commission’s action the next night -- trustee Jamie Yee Hintzke said, “I feel it should maybe be discussed," indicating she wasn't previously aware it was an option.

After the joint meeting, however district administration determined PUSD is precluded from pursuing the property based on a mitigation agreement the board approved between the district and Ponderosa Homes in October.

In the agreement, Ponderosa Homes said it would pay PUSD $775,400 in developer fees for the Valley Trails project. Developers of new homes and commercial properties in Pleasanton must pay a school impact fee to the district before a county or city building permit will be issued.

The developer is not obligated to pay the fees until it has received final project approval and closed escrow on the site, according to the agreement.

In exchange for the revenue, the district agreed to cooperate with the developer in processing land use entitlement applications for the project.

That cooperation “is expressly limited to an expression of the district’s affirmative support for the project together with technical assistance and providing necessary information and signatures,” the agreement reads.

By entering into the agreement, PUSD also concurred the proposed fees would adequately address any impacts the housing project could have on schools.

Ochoa pointed to that language in the agreement Tuesday in explaining why administrators were discouraging pursuit of the Valley Trails property. She also cited a section stating the district and developer agreed not to reopen the agreement, legally challenge it or "raise any issue relating to the impact of the project on the district's school facilities, equipment and programs."

Ochoa added the contract does not give either party the option to terminate it.

It also came up during the board's discussion that as recently as Sunday, Ochoa and Ponderosa Homes representatives had been in talks about a last-minute proposal to make time for an analysis of the property as a school site. But the developer notified the district on Tuesday that the idea was off the table, Ochoa said.

"The developer approached the district and proposed an idea in his effort to try and identify a win-win solution," Ochoa said. "But there was not sufficient time or support among the neighborhood group or church."

Jeff Schroeder of Ponderosa Homes was among several speakers Tuesday night who urged the board to go along with the recommendation of district administration.

"The language in our mitigation agreement says you would support the project, so I would urge you to do that," he said. "The reason you signed that is we agreed to pay you a lot more than required by state law. That's going to generate fees for the school district which could be used in some ways, I'm sure."

He added, "At the last minute this issue has come up, but frankly it's too late. The church doesn't have time, the neighbors don't have time -- this project needs to go forward."

Several residents of the Valley Trails neighborhood expressed opposition to the concept of the church property as a school site, saying it would bring more traffic and noise to the area.

Former Pleasanton City Council member Kay Ayala was the only speaker among 10 who said she supported the idea.

Others, including former school board member Kathleen Ruegsegger, questioned the board's approval of the mitigation agreement.

"The board appears to have signed away its option to explore the Valley Trails site, and just weeks prior to the community passing a $270 million bond," Ruegsegger said. "On the advice of staff and the district's law firm and before the land was rezoned, a project was endorsed explicitly...There was no reason to sign this in October."

In siding with the recommendation of PUSD administrators, multiple trustees expressed regret for how things had transpired.

"It's unfortunate the way things happened, but I think we are precluded from doing anything else at this point because the agreement was signed," trustee Valerie Arkin said. "I feel like we let down the kids in our community and future kids, and I wish we could have done things differently."

Arkin and trustee Steve Maher also suggested that district staff reconsider some of the language used in the mitigation agreement in such future contracts.

"The language in the mitigation such as 'the district's affirmative support' -- we're not in the business of affirming or endorsing, that's the city's role," Maher said.

In other business

* The district is planning on more layoffs at the end of the school year.

The board authorized additional classified services to be reduced or eliminated -- four special needs assistants, one special education assistant, one health technician, five behavior technicians (one part-time), and a part-time employment training specialist.

The employees who would be affected are not named.

Assistant superintendent of human resources Dianne Howell said Tuesday that every school year the district considers layoffs to special education staff due to fluctuating student needs.

"There is always a little bit of fluctuation regarding special needs aides because the child's IEP (individualized education plan) says we do or don't need that aide anymore," Howell said.

The move Tuesday follows the board's decision in February to sanction laying off of a full-time lead student information specialist, along with part-time special education account specialists and a part-time computer operations technician.

Three full-time teachers, one part-time Japanese teacher and the district's full-time coordinators of human resources, facilities and transportation, and special projects and program improvement were also notified that their hours would be reduced or eliminated at the end of this school year.

* Trustees also ratified the district's 2016-17 energy expenditure plan Tuesday.

PUSD will receive $1.5 million from the California Energy Commission for that plan, money that will largely go toward new light fixtures across district campuses.

The funding is made available through Proposition 39, which sets aside $550 million annually for five fiscal years toward energy efficiency efforts in K-12 schools.

* At the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, the board recognized two Pleasanton teachers who recently won awards for their work.

Mario Hurtado, a Village High School U.S. history, economics and leadership teacher, was honored for being named PUSD's Teacher of the Year. Hurtado will now advance as the district's representative in Alameda County's Teacher of the Year competition.

PUSD teacher on assignment and instructional technology coach Lisa Highfill was also recognized for being named a "20 to Watch" educational technology leader by the National School Boards Association. Honorees were chosen for their ability to inspire colleagues to explore innovative technologies and ways of teaching.


4 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 21, 2017 at 9:38 am

Why can't the school district consider selling the Neal property and buying something in the northwest quadrant of town, closest to where the expected population growth will occur? Aren't Donlon and Lydiksen the most overcrowded elementary school campuses right now?

5 people like this
Posted by EBurke
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:01 am

Developers snookered the district, and bribed the neighborhood who are too selfish to consider the best interest of the Pleasanton community. Kids lose!

7 people like this
Posted by Positive
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:08 am

Many people who post here in the weekly and same ones have negative..take your opinions elsewhere, you will still not be happy.. .pTown rocks as far I am concerned

2 people like this
Posted by Amador mom
a resident of Las Positas
on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:19 am

I had heard that these funds were actually supposed to be spent on revamping the high schools in Pleasanton - voted by Pleasanton residents on the last ballot. Both Amador and Foothill are sorely needing funds for various programs. Does anyone know if this is true and if it is, how can Pleasanton city council funnel the funds elsewhere?

12 people like this
Posted by Explains a lot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2017 at 11:01 am

This proves the Board needs to resign, because it does not actually read the material that they vote on. The agreement the Board authorized was approved in October 2016 at a school board meeting. Then several months later, their actions prove they have no idea it was ever approved by them.

This goes a lot toward explaining why the Board just needs to resign. They seem to be disengaged from reality, the community at large, and this example clearly shows they seem to vote on items they have never bothered to spend 5 minutes to read.

Folks, if only the student board member reads what is given to them, but the elected board members can't be bothered to read a short agreement, that means they aren't screening candidates, they aren't reading proposed instructional materials, and they are blindly voting Yes on agenda items without bothering to open up and read the materials given to them to read as part of their jobs. In other words, the elected board members aren't actually doing the jobs we elected them to do.

They are simply going through the motions to turn up at the televised Board meetings and vote Yes on everything.

Like this comment
Posted by FalseNews & AlternativeFacts
a resident of Mission Park
on Apr 21, 2017 at 11:28 am

Amador Mom...

Thanks for posting.

Could you please clarify YOUR understanding of the Bond?

My understanding is proceeds of the bond are to pay off existing debt, repair/replace dilapidated buildings, possibly construct a new school, and build "21st Century" classrooms.

I don't think any funds from the bond are to fund "student programs".


5 people like this
Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

Amador mom, the city council has nothing to do with the bond funds and how they are spent. They are school district bonds with a bond oversight committee to ensure that the bonds are spent against the items that were identified prior to the election in November. None of the bond proceeds are to be used for operating expense such as salaries and programs.

6 people like this
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Our future students loose again big money developers and politicians win. No plans for a new school in prime property area, let's teach our future leaders in old modules, after all it's worked for years and don't plan for future schools just keep adding those new housings. When will we wake up ?

13 people like this
Posted by KGM
a resident of Valley Trails
on Apr 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm

EBurke - Valley Trails residents did not accept bribes, and should not be characterized as being "selfish." A lot of people in this neighborhood put a great deal of effort over the course of several years into determining the best outcome for the land in question, with the details finally being settled fairly recently. That the elementary school option should just now be brought back to the table after all these years, and then again dismissed, is not the fault of the residents here. This is a wonderful neighborhood to live in, full of families who of course care about the children in the Pleasanton community.

17 people like this
Posted by Former resident-Woodthrush
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I have nothing but sympathy for the Valley Trails neighborhood for having to deal with the school district for years and years. They (the school district) are the worst form of neighbor and a nightmare for everyone. They have plenty of money and have squandered it for years.

My father and mother spent years on weekends mowing the grass at the school district's abandoned and neglected school site next to Woodthrush Park a few blocks north from Walnut Grove. Instead of spending their time with their children or going on trips on weekends, guess what? Parents and their children in the entire neighborhood had to basically maintain between 9 to 10 acres that the school district abandoned.

I hear the same thing happened to families around the Brockton site in Pleasanton Meadows.

You would have to wonder in this community why the school board always blames the developers for issues that the school board owns. Own it school board. You created the problem. Stop blaming the developers.

9 people like this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 21, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Valerie Arkin said. "I feel like we let down the kids in our community and future kids, and I wish we could have done things differently."

Yep... YOU DID!

It is idiotic to continue to push the enrollment at Donlon to total insanity without any relief in sight. The city builds and the school district sits on its hands.

Shame on you!

4 people like this
Posted by AV parent
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 24, 2017 at 3:16 pm

How big will Amador get before we start talking about another high school? It's creeping up to 3,000 students! Even if there was enough physical space at the school, there's only 1 team for Comp Civics, baseball, soccer, DECA, etc. That means lots of kids can't participate in these programs at the high school level because of the number of people they are competing against just to get on the team.

2 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Valley Trails
on Apr 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

EBurke: I live in this neighborhood. No one bribed us, or convinced us of anything. I would rather have a school there. PUSD pulled out of their own reasons -- not because of us.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Valley Trails
on Apr 25, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Aaron, would you be one of the homeowners affected by the traffic of 600-700 cars barreling up and down the streets twice a day?

Even if the school was not close to the freeway and SB-352 never passed, in order to build any school, the sidewalks that were removed/eliminated for most of the entire Morrison Homes development on the inside of the streets leading to and leaving the site would have to be built, meaning:

1. many residents would lose part of their front yard
2. it would cost millions in public works improvements to build miles of sidewalks that were eliminated when the tract plan was altered after it was in the process of being developed

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

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