Pleasanton schools chief David Haglund and the trustees agree that a key part of his job is strategic planning -- something they believe has been lacking.
He told a group of retired church men on Tax Day that the district's longtime policy of not paying any health benefits was going to have to change. Haglund cited the district's challenges in recruiting and retaining employees, whether mid-managers or teachers. That's a key long-term issue.
The district has not paid health benefits since 1988 when the Pleasanton and Dublin school districts unified along the city limits. Before unification, Dublin was a K-8 district with Lydiksen and Donlon schools in Pleasanton, while the Amador Valley High School District operated Dublin High, Amador Valley High and Foothill High and there was a separate Pleasanton elementary district.
The unification process, through a provision in state law that no employee could lose wages or benefits, had Dublin maximize its benefits package while Pleasanton maximized salary.
When the unified districts formed, there was about $8,000 in benefit expenses from Dublin that the Pleasanton teachers union chose to put on the salary schedule and pay their own benefits. Remember, health benefits were affordable in those days and it amounted to about a 20% increase with top salaries in the $40,000 range.
With health insurance for a family now between $1,500-$2,000 per month, employer-paid benefits are a key perk that Pleasanton lacks. The superintendent noted that members of the executive cabinet in the San Ramon Valley district average $30,000 more in salary plus another $24,000 in benefits compared to his senior team.
To bring employer-paid benefits back in Pleasanton, Haglund said it must be negotiated with the Association of Pleasanton Teachers. A likely path is a two-tiered salary system that is different for new employees. Pleasanton teachers top at $110,000. After 25 years, San Ramon Valley teachers top at $101,000, plus employer-paid benefits.
San Ramon Valley, which serves San Ramon, Danville, Alamo, Diablo and Blackhawk, is more than twice as large as Pleasanton (31,428 students vs. just under 15,000) and has about $150 more per student in revenue than Pleasanton.
Pleasanton has the lowest per-student revenue of any district in the Tri-Valley at $10,759 (San Ramon Valley, $10,902; Dublin, $11,045; Livermore, $11,098). One difference is the other three districts have parcel taxes providing local funds. All have local bond measures.
Pleasanton voters passed a $270 million bond in 2016 and likely could find a "no new tax" measure on the 2020 ballot. An existing 1997 bond will be paid off so the district could give voters the option of continuing paying the same bill on their property taxes instead of seeing the bill reduced.
From a local revenue standpoint, the district may well consider a parcel tax that voters in other Tri-Valley communities have passed easily and renewed.
Haglund also alerted the guys that the first two months of school at Amador Valley were going to be challenging for students who drive to school.
Starting right after school closes in June, the main student parking lot at Amador Valley will morph into a construction zone. A contractor will be installing large solar panels in the parking lot, a move that will save the district about $2.5 million over 25 years, he said.
The challenge is that the work is scheduled to last potentially into October, so it will be two months without 400 parking spaces.
Haglund said the district has arranged for buses to pick up and drop off students and urges parents to insist their kids leave the cars home.
Given the parking restrictions in Jensen Tract across from the high school, that's advice families would be wise to heed.
The district also launched an online survey to solicit parent and student comments and ideas on how to cope with the situation, and the school board discussed options during its meeting Tuesday night.