Monday marked the first day of Pleasanton school district's school year with new leadership, new bond money to fund needed facilities work, new principals and a new sense of optimism.
David Haglund started learning about the district and community months before the first day of instruction.
The 29-year educator, who most recently worked as deputy superintendent of educational services and chief academic officer for Santa Ana Unified School District, officially took over from interim superintendent Micaela Ochoa on July 3. He moved to Pleasanton the day before and started immersing himself in the community and connecting with the residents.
Pleasanton Unified's fifth leader since spring 2015, Haglund is a realist about where the district is now in terms of public relations.
Instability in leadership has been an issue at the superintendent level and among the site administrators. Ten of the district's 15 schools have had new principals since the start of the 2015-16 school year. This year, there are new principals at Foothill High and Valley View Elementary. This turnover, unanswered questions about the termination of Rick Rubino after only six months as superintendent in 2016 and how other personnel situations have been handled have led to negative perceptions of the district.
We feel Haglund's realism and understanding of the current situation is healthy, and his willingness to address the issues and create an atmosphere of support, transparency and solid relationships with stakeholders will help reunite the community.
"I'm hoping that in this time of transition, we can establish some stability for folks, that we can let go of everybody's tension and relax and take some time to get to know each other," Haglund said during a recent interview with the Weekly. "If we all really care about what's best for kids and we're all going to be committed to doing what's best for kids, we're going to all end up in the same place."
Another aspect to this new surge of optimism is the overwhelming support by Pleasanton voters of the school facilities bond Measure I1 passing last November with a roughly two-thirds of voters in favor, and the unanimous vote last week by school board trustees to authorize the initial issuance and sale of bonds.
This is the first step in starting work on a number of projects this school year. This accomplishment was appropriately summarized when school board president Joan Laursen said, "We are moving ahead!" after the vote at the Aug. 8 meeting, the first of the 2017-18 school year.
The district anticipates proceeds from the $72 million initial bond series will be available in October. That will allow the district to start work this school year on a list of projects set by the board in June such as the Lydiksen Elementary School rebuild; certificates of participation debt payoff; modernizations qualifying for state funding; infrastructure, safety and security projects; staff and student technology; and a new elementary school feasibility study.
A committee comprised of district stakeholders is being formed to prioritize remaining facility projects, creating a Measure I1 and facility master plan that will include timelines, budgets and project details by school.
We look forward to a year of returned stability, focus, productivity and continued academic success.