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PUSD passes Measure I1 audit with flying colors

Also: Proposed student cellphone policy could raise concerns in light of state privacy law

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The Pleasanton Unified School District passed a recent audit for management of Measure I1 bond funds with flying colors, according to the Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee tasked with completing the annual review.

Expenditures for more than half a dozen Measure I1-funded projects were scrutinized in the report, which will be presented at the Board of Trustees' regular meeting on Tuesday night, starting 6 p.m. in the PUSD headquarters, 4556 Bernal Ave.

In 2016, Pleasanton voters approved the $270 million bond measure, which levies an annual property tax of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value on local homeowners to pay for renovations, upgrades and modernization projects at all 15 PUSD sites. Another $323 million bond initiative for similar purposes called Measure M will be on the March 3 primary election ballot.

Expenditure reports reviewed by the committee found that the district “is in compliance with the requirements of Article XIIIA, Section 1(b) (3) of the California Constitution” and “bond proceeds have been expended only for the purposes set forth in the ballot measure,” according to Arne Olson, committee chair.

The scope of the audit focused on the first bond issuance for about $70 million of budgeted Measure I1 projects, including the Lydiksen Elementary School rebuild that broke ground on construction last Friday and future portable classroom replacements at Foothill and Amador Valley high schools.

Of the seven projects audited, the "21st Century Learning Environments" category used the most funds at 28.9%. Modernizations, renovations and replacements took just over a quarter (25.2%), followed by safety and security (16.5%), a study of the planned new “E10” school at Donlon Elementary (13%), the Lydiksen rebuild (11.1%), and payoffs for certificates of participation (5.3%).

The board will hear a report that evening about Measure I1 funds used to finish upgrading the entire voice over internet protocol (VOIP) network for district-wide phone and voicemail service. Network cabling in classrooms and offices throughout the district needs upgrading before new clocks, phones, bells and public announcement speakers can be installed, according to PUSD.

The first phase of the project, which involved adding new switching and inter-building cabling, started last spring and is almost finished at all sites.

The district “anticipates significant operating cost savings from the general fund” of about $70,000 annually as a result of transitioning their telecommunications infrastructure, according to staff. Phone services for PUSD currently cost around $120,000 each year.

Administrators also received an e-Rate grant “to offset approximately $468K of the Measure I1 costs that were associated with the Phase 1 Network upgrade project,” and added that “anticipated costs for the VOIP project are lower than were estimated.”

Vaping sensors that utilize “Internet of things” (IoT) devices, which would require physical network cabling to provide power and network to the endpoints, have also been requested for installment in PUSD middle and high school restrooms. The district said there is no increase in Measure I1 budgets for the VOIP or telecom/network upgrades projects anticipated from an expansion of project scope.

One-time costs for the second phase of the telecom and network project are anticipated to be between $9.5 million and $10 million. The final project costs will be presented at the March 10 board meeting.

In other business

Among the consent agenda items for Tuesday, the trustees will consider a proposed policy regarding students’ use of mobile communication devices.

Students would be allowed to “use cell phones, smart watches, pagers, or other mobile communication devices on campus during non-instructional time as long as the device is utilized in accordance with law and any rules that individual school sites may impose.”

Cellphones would need to be turned off or set to “Do not disturb” during class time but special accommodations for a student’s health plan or individualized education program could be made.

The policy also states that “when a school official reasonably suspects that a search of a student's mobile communication device will turn up evidence of the student's violation of the law or school rules, such a search shall be conducted” in accordance with the district’s search and seizure policy.

But according to the California Electronic Privacy Act (CEPA), which went into effect four years ago, no government entity, including school districts, may legally “access electronic device information by means of physical interaction or electronic communication with the electronic device” without a signed warrant, wiretap order, subpoena, or the express consent of the device’s owner.

The law does allow an exception for emergencies, which are defined as a situation “involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person (that) requires access to the electronic device information.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s website also states that schools cannot require students to sign a waiver allowing faculty to search their phone at any time, and that students may refuse to show their phone content including text messages, pictures and social media usage to administration.

CEPA also prohibits government officials from searching mobile devices, even if a student causes a disruption with their phone, breaks a school rule or uses their phone when they’re not supposed to. According to the ACLU, school officials may not search a student’s phone to investigate another student’s misconduct either.

PUSD has not replied yet to request for comment as of noon Monday.

Julia Baum is a staff writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. Reach her at jbaum@pleasantonweekly.com or 925-600-0840, ext. 111.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Livermore P
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Notice how it always says on the ballot that proceeds (borrowed money) can not be used for administrative salaries but then the citizens bond oversight committee (CBOC) says that borrowed money can be used for district administrators "working on the bond program" (which means any administrator that has been reclassified as a "bond administrator").

That is why you should never vote for school bonds. They are never for the children. CBOC's are worthless.


6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:08 pm

In that report, nearly $500K for new administrators. Doesn’t make them bad, just very costly. The board set aside $7.4MM more for overheads for the life of the bond (allowed). Also, the CBOC essentially confirms the audit report. They do not look at actual payments to confirm funds go where they should; they rely on the auditor.


10 people like this
Posted by Livermore P
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:26 pm

The Citizens Bond Oversight Committee is supposed to represent the taxpayers and voters, not the district leadership nor wall street banks and accounting firms. If you rely on the auditor then why have a CBOC other than for looks?

Let's look at the language in the new March measure:
"raising approximately $21,300,000 annually with rates averaging $43.10 per $100 of assessed valuation while bonds are outstanding, with independent oversight, audits, and no money for administrators"

Can we agree that "no money for administrators" is a lie? If they can freely lie about "no money for administrators" then what else in the measure are they lying about?


12 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 24, 2020 at 3:34 pm

I was disappointed by the latest mailer (are they only being mailed to PUSD parents?). A few of the supporters don’t live here and won’t pay—why isn’t that disclosed. Also, one person is listed as a superintendent, but was an interim. If they can’t get the small things listed correctly and honestly, I worry about the bigger things.


4 people like this
Posted by skynet
a resident of Mission Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 6:10 pm

The bond oversight committee can only confirm if the bond money was spent per state law (which includes not only capex, but what is considered opex in the rest of the world). They can't comment if the money is spent efficiently, in the best interest of students, or to the greatest need. Just a rubber stamp.


2 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 24, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Agree. Compliance does not mean fiscal responsibility


7 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 24, 2020 at 7:32 pm

Regarding fiscal responsibility:

Friday over night the football field lights at Foothill Highschool were on all night. They were on all day Saturday, they were on over night Saturday, they were on all day Sunday, they were on all night Sunday, they were still on 0530 hours Monday morning. They are on now as I write this. That was a seventy-two hour duration with the lights remaining on, now approaching 96 hours.

I have emailed board members regarding this issue over the years, the response was, the janitor left them on.


10 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 25, 2020 at 6:47 am

As a parent of both a middle schooler and elementary schooler they have left me with no choice but to vote down any future bonds. They have proven to have no responsibility for spending the money and only care about lining their pockets. The amount allocated to even fundamental, basic renovations is consistently way higher than anyone would pay outside of government associated work. This is the equivalent of our city taking their car to the dealership for an oil change. Someone with actual real world knowledge of project management should be given a voice in awarding these bids and managing the funds.


5 people like this
Posted by Willy
a resident of Old Towne
on Feb 25, 2020 at 9:48 am

I would strongly recommend a NO vote on M and any other bond issue for the PUSD. They have proven themselves untrustworthy time and time again.


3 people like this
Posted by Amador Lights Too
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 25, 2020 at 10:45 am

Hmmmmmm…...Amador football field lights were on as well. Not sure about all night but pretty darn early Sunday morning (5am or so)


2 people like this
Posted by Naveed Khan
a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Feb 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm

PUSD is scurrying to put out positive image so the Measure M would pass. The entire process of funding School Improvements with Bond money is a ridiculous idea. PUSD should rely on its budget allocation. They get funding from State, County, City, Lottery allocation and yet every 3-4 years they come back and tax the residents. It is not fair and responsible. Audit Committee report is carefully worded statement to hide their lack of fiscal responsibility. Vote NO on Measure M. PUSD is wasting your money.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark G
a resident of Gatewood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Oh, the 2008 market crash lives on! Every school bond since CALPERS bet wrong on the market back then has been proposed for everything but the real reason they are needed--the billions in unfunded teacher pensions that "have to be honored". By diverting funds from existing budgets to begin attacking the unfunded problem, normally budgeted items, (i.e., building retrofits, maintenance, anything but salaries, etc.) have gotten shortchanged and "require" additional bond funds. This dishonesty alone is the main reason to vote no on M and any other school bond until the pension problem is resolved. Another is the absence of a senior exemption.


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