Julie Testa: Still badgering the educators for more schools | November 2, 2007 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - November 2, 2007

Julie Testa: Still badgering the educators for more schools

by Jeb Bing

Julie Testa was back at a familiar place last week--standing at the lectern in the Pleasanton school board meeting room talking about overcrowded conditions in our schools and what could be done about them. A frequent speaker in years gone by, Testa is probably the last of the once-active ROCA group, Reduce Overcrowded Campus Alliance, but she's still not ready to forgive or forget those who kept turning down ROCA's bid for a third comprehensive high school. Last week, she called again for enrollment relief, particularly at Amador Valley high School which she claimed is at 151 percent of capacity, but urged that smaller steps be taken to alleviate the crowds even without building a third high school. Still there was an "I told you so" hint in her voice as she described several new state grants and funding programs she said the district had missed. Needless to say, School Superintendent John Casey and his staff, who are regularly in touch with school administrators in Sacramento, weren't pleased to hear their competence being questioned, especially at a public, televised school board meeting. A phone call or sit-down discussion in advance might have smoothed the waters, which got somewhat steamy as Casey responded to Testa's points.

A bright mother of three, Testa is a household name to a generation of Pleasanton school politicians, district staff and hundreds of parents who have worked with or against her in a number of school board elections. Always a campaigner, but never a candidate, Testa started studying up on local school issues after the district announced it was selling its Del Prado neighborhood school site in the late 1980s. She started attending school board meetings and then, late one night after all but the board and staff had left, was astonished to hear that the district also planned to sell a site on Sycamore Road where a third high school was planned. The board determined the site at the far southwest corner of the city near where Callippe Golf Course now is now located, was too far and that Pleasanton didn't need another high school anyhow.

That was in late 1992, a time she remembers because she was pregnant with her third son Kendall who is now a freshman at Foothill High. That was also a time before the meetings were broadcast on community television, so Testa carried word of the sale to others. Already concerned about rising enrollments at the city's elementary, middle and high schools in a town where houses were being built, ROCA was formed to place caps on enrollment, particularly at the two high schools, and to lobby for more.

At the school board meeting, Testa's statistics raised eyebrows. She's seen at these meetings carrying a huge stack of expanding files filled with current data and usually does her research homework. So when she said our schools are 150-175 percent overcrowded, everyone took notice, particularly parents. It's true that most of our schools have more students than they should under school board guidelines, but they're hardly off by that much. Enrollment guidelines call for 600 students in elementary schools, with acceptable fluctuations up to 10 percent more. Middle schools are set at 1,000, again plus 10 percent, with Amador at 2,000, plus another 200 acceptable for fluctuations. Foothill is slightly lower. Even with 2,500 kids at Amador today, the district considers that a bubble due to a large number of new homes being built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As those "extra" students move toward graduation, high school enrollment should drop. Testa's figures, however, were based on state guidelines that measure school size by campus acreage. Landlocked among office centers and homes, Amador's 2,500 students are in a school on just under 40 acres, whereas the new state guidelines call for at least 60 acres. Foothill, with about 2,300 students, is a bit better off on 43 acres, but still under suggested--but not mandated--guidelines. Build up another story or two as schools in central city locations do, and the student-to-acre ratio improves. Still, Testa's public airing of enrollment concerns and new state funding opportunities, even in a mini-confrontational presentation, is good. I'm glad she's back in her public watchdog role.


Posted by give up, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 7:41 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Posted by I don't get it, a resident of Birdland
on May 3, 2009 at 8:17 pm

So, she's leading the group that is obstructing the parcel tax and meanwhile lobbying for the school district to... build more classrooms? I am saying this in all honesty, I don't get the timing nor the logic.

I suspect this was just a political move to try and make Casey and the school board look stupid, enabling her to cast doubt on their credibility in the context of the parcel tax.

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 8:22 pm

This is an 18 month old story?????

Posted by May, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I admire someone who is brave enough to stand up for what they believe is right. It is a rare quality. "Badgering' is the wrong word and is meant as an insult. Fortunately, the insults of ethically-challenged people don't bother Julie Testa.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 3, 2009 at 8:44 pm

It's nice to suggest a pleasant exchange behind closed doors, isn't it. But if you already know there will be a nod and maybe a wink and absolutely nothing will be done, why would you spend the time? And if elected officials, the people who represent us, are all gathered in one place, why wouldn't you use this to reach them and the public.

Seeing the first response, one would have to believe this editorial was teed up . . . with "an 'I told you so' hint in her voice" to elicit it. Not a surprise given some of the other commentaries since the PW editors decided to favor of Measure G.

As to the parcel tax, plenty of information out here about the district's missteps. Perhaps Julie points to one more.

Posted by John Adams, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

What is WRONG with you "Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online"?

Nothing better to do than dig through old stories for mud to sling?

You must be so pleased with yourself that you inspired some nasty name-calling, and on a Sunday night when it won't be removed any time soon.


Posted by Ann Martin, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

This article is dated from 2007. Anyone can search the PW archives and re-post an old article. When they do, the original posting information comes up. I don't think this is Jeb or any editor at the PW doing this.
If you read through the entire article, it's actually a compliment to Julie Testa's efforts.

Here are the last couple lines:

Still, Testa's public airing of enrollment concerns and new state funding opportunities, even in a mini-confrontational presentation, is good. I'm glad she's back in her public watchdog role

Posted by John Adams, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 3, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Whoever posted this under the NAME of "Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online," my comments stand.

Posted by Julie Testa, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 3, 2009 at 10:53 pm

PW please, please, please don’t clear the first post. If someone got enjoyment from making that post I don’t have a problem with it.

This is one of my favorite articles that the PW has written (even though it is not completely accurate) and it is nice that “give up” went back a year and a half to find it. The poster is far from the only person to not always appreciate me. John Casey was very angry with me at the meeting mentioned in the article, he probably would have called me a few names if he could have also.
What I found disappointing is that the PW never did the follow up on this story to report that because I continued to push the board to apply in the second round for the grants, Trustee Weaver directed staff to apply. The district was awarded nearly 7 MILLION dollars that they would not have otherwise had. The superintendent of finance later called the money “manna from the heavens.”

7 Million…how many lattes is that?


Posted by registered user, Emily West, a resident of Pleasanton Weekly staff reporter
on May 4, 2009 at 2:42 am

Hi John, just to clear up your question, we did not repost this. The "posted by editor, Pleasanton Weekly" is simply what happens when a story is commented on. Once a comment on a story is submitted, it starts a new thread in the forum. Technically, news stories are posted by editors when we upload the weekly paper or daily content. I hope this clears up any confusion.

Posted by Julie Testa, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 4, 2009 at 8:54 am

This article is surprisingly relevant today and since a fan of mine (“give up”) took the trouble to find it I would like to address it.

Two years ago PUSD was preparing to go to the community for a parcel tax, they said the money was needed to create Career Tech programs. I did some simple research and found that the State was offering a number of grants, the Career Tech grants looked exciting. There was also a grant to create a small high school that I hoped could be combined to create a career tech high school.

I spoke to people at the district as well as board members but they were not interested and they did not apply, saying PUSD would not be eligible. I continued to follow it up and after speaking to the person at the State I was certain that not only would PUSD have been eligible but I learned that many of our neighbors, Livermore, San Ramon, Fremont, had applied for the career tech grants and were awarded millions.

There was a second and last application deadline only weeks away so I went to the board meeting and shared my information at the podium. I told the board it was wrong to ask the community to vote to tax ourselves for these programs when there are millions of dollars worth of grants that we, as taxpayers, are already paying for.

John Casey was angry saying that I was trying to embarrass them. I was not trying to embarrass them I was trying to get them to apply for the grants instead of asking the taxpayers for the money. They did have reason to be embarrassed, but that was not my fault.

The applications were submitted and PUSD was awarded $6,714,500, nearly seven million dollars from the state that they had not wanted to apply for.

Now the interesting thing is, they said they needed a parcel tax to create much needed career tech programs. When they learned they did not need to use the grant money on new programs but could instead use it to pay for costs that already existed, freeing up money to be used elsewhere, the new programs (that the parcel tax was needed for) were no longer needed.

To the poster “give up”, I would be proud to be forever known as the b**** that helped our district get $6,714,500 and saved Pleasanton taxpayers nearly 7 million dollars.

Julie ; )

Posted by Had enough, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 4, 2009 at 9:19 am

Julie, keep up the good work. It's too bad you have to put up with name calling and insults for trying to hold our elected officials responsible. It really amazes me that so many people seem to be willing to attack anyone who questions the validity of requests for more taxpayer money; the defenders of inefficiency and waste in government are quite zealous and don't question anything but the character of anyone who dares challenge our representatives or the bureaucrats behind the scenes.

Posted by bobbi, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 9:28 am

THANK YOU Julie! we need you!

Posted by Frank, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 4, 2009 at 10:08 am

So does anyone know how much John Casey makes per year?

Posted by James, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on May 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

Julie, keep up the good work! We need more people like you to be constantly challenging the status quo.

Posted by Give us the facts, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Although none of us can control who posts here on the forums one has to ask themself if the Save Pleasanton Schools/Yes on G (Pleasanton Weekly?)folks are getting so desperate that they have taken to attacking people personally in order to deflect away from a rather convincing No on G message.
Kathleen Ruegsagger first, Steve Brozosky (a $900.00 opinion "ad" in the Weekly) and now Julie Testa (has she even written anything that leads people to believe she's heading "the charge?").
Who's next Ann Martin? She's been out here on the blogs after being "outed" by the Weekly a month ago. You've got to wonder if someone is sharpening the knives for an attack on her.
Stacey could be next too.

Granted it is hard to fight well researched facts from legitimate sources such as the State of CA, ED-Data, and PUSD itself, with innuendo and emotional pleas "for the children," but more effort should be given to matching fact with fact-instead of shooting the messanger.
We're listening.......

Posted by Russell, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

@Had enough

I agree that we should be grateful that Julie got the district that money. But when I see your remarks, there aren't any specifics. It is just things like:

"... defenders of inefficiency and waste in government ... or the bureaucrats behind the scenes ..."

That is what turns a lot of people off. It sounds just like boilerplate Howard Jarvis tax = bad, government = bad, private business = good speak.

There are plenty of us out here who want to see a more active government telling bank holding companies, hedge funds, and financial services companies what to do. We need to put back the regulations that had been working many decades (like the ones banning many derivatives, and consolidation of financial services). We see the current economic mess caused, in a large part, by insufficient bureaucracy and regulation.

Please say something about Pleasanton and its schools specifically or you may just end up alienating people who may agree with your opposition to Measure G (I'm assuming you're against it).

Posted by Alison, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on May 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Julie, you freakin' rock.

Posted by Had enough, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 4, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Russell, I didn't make any argument in favor or against PUSD or Measure G so why post specifics? I made a comment about the attacks against Julie Testa and others who have expressed their opposition to Measure G. Questioning the wisdom of the "government" seems to be off-limits. Why is that?