PUSD ponders plan to restore $2.7 million in jobs | February 15, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 15, 2013

PUSD ponders plan to restore $2.7 million in jobs

Would move from using specialists to coaching teachers in literacy, math and technology

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton school district is considering adding some jobs that were cut in 2008, including a lead trainer for technology and restoring some jobs on a one-time basis.

All tolled, the one-time job restorations would come to $2.7 million, and restore the equivalent of 37 employees, including counselors and custodians in elementary, middle and high schools, and vice principals at elementary and middle schools,

"We have had a lot of work that we've done in the last few years to mitigate the amount of budget cuts," Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi told the board. Regarding the proposal to bring back the employees, she said, "People may ask, 'Why so much?' People may ask, 'Why so little, why not more?'"

She noted that -- contrary to popular opinion -- Proposition 30 didn't add any money to the district, and a proposal from Gov. Brown to send extra money to poorer districts may mean less money here.

Ahmadi pointed to a March 15 deadline to send out pink slips to some workers.

"I would hate for our employees, who have gone through this every year, to get layoff notices," she said. "This is our chance to look at our needs."

In a brief update on the state budget, Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares said the district stands to get an extra $276,000 a year. She said there remain some unknowns, such as the governor's plan to spend more money in the least wealthy districts and a plan to shift adult education to community colleges.

The plan to restore jobs brought comments from two parents who are also representatives of Pleasanton Partnerships in Education, both of whom wanted the district to consider class size reductions instead. In addition, parent and resource specialist Michelle Verkuilen asked that the board reconsider bringing back reading specialists.

"I'm dismayed at the decimation of the reading program," Verkuilen said. She noted that the district, when making cuts, promised to keep them as far from the classrooms as possible.

"I hope the board makes the restorations as close to the classroom as possible," she said.

The proposal also brought out requests from board members asking the district to consider bringing back different jobs. Valerie Arkin, for example, asked that a high school librarian be brought back in addition to spending $109,350 to bring back librarians at elementary and middle schools.

The idea of replacing specialists with coaches to help teachers make better use of technology and to do a better job of teaching literacy and math also brought some concerns from the board.

"If I could pick between counselors and reading specialists, I'd pick reading specialists," said Board Member Jamie Hintzke.

Odie Douglas, assistant superintendent of educational services, acknowledged that was a shift in how the district has done things in the past.

"We are looking at ways to meet the needs of our students with a different learning model," Douglas said.

He explained that coaches would be used at all schools, "rather than each school developing its own program."

Ahmadi pointed out that in Pleasanton test scores differ by as much as 150 points between schools.

Regarding the request that class sizes be cut, Board President Jeff Bowser pointed out that funding for class size reductions has been cut from the state budget.

Ahmadi said that instead of being eligible for more than $1,000 per child for class size reduction, under the new plan to target poorer schools for extra state funding, the Pleasanton district would receive about $700 per child.

At least one board member sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Chris Grant said there's been job growth in California and that property values are rising.

"I think the worst is behind us, but it's going to be a slow climb back," he said.

A complete list of the proposed job restorations is on the school district's website, PleasantonUSD.net.