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New cuts, unfortunately, impact students

Original post made on Feb 3, 2012

On Friday, Jan. 28, a list of proposed reductions was posted on Pleasanton Unified School District's website. After cutting over $20 million the past four years, it is no surprise that many of the programs on the list directly impact students. In 2007, when the current state budget crisis began, it was common to hear, "Keep the cuts away from the classroom." After ongoing cuts for several years, it's unfortunately not possible to keep cuts away from the classroom.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 3, 2012, 12:00 AM

Comments (12)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2012 at 8:16 am

And yet PUSD is bringing drug dogs to the schools. This will have a negative effect in two ways:

1) Parents like myself who have always donated to PPIE, PTSA, will not donate anymore. You have alienated me and showed that we cannot trust the board to make intelligent decisions

2) Money spent on legal fees.

Posted by Anna
a resident of Rosewood
on Feb 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

New cuts unfortunately impact students. But no cuts impacts my pocketbook, and my personal dream places my pocketbook ahead of some nieghbor's snotty nosed kid. If you don't like the cuts, home school you're kids. I was.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

Ms. Ahmadi, “It was common to hear, ‘Keep the cuts away from the classroom.’” That is precisely because it was the expectation of this community that the board and staff would do just that. Yet a new management assistant was hired, the purchasing position was kept at the director level after a retirement, a consultant was hired for $250,000, and the list of cuts for this school year (with the exception of #9), and saved by concessions and donations, are all at the site level.

Cuts do need to be made, but the board has lost the faith of the community in their ability to ask hard questions of staff and to begin the process of building a budget that starts at the classroom level. It is interesting that the unions continue to agree to concessions year after year without also insisting that we begin with building at the classroom level, and if there is little left by the time the budget gets to the DO, the conversation would be different.

Based on the governor’s hopes and the constraints for layoff notifications, the process of turning the budget inside out should have occurred long ago (and in all districts) and even years ago with a five-year plan of what is sacred.

“The state budget process lends itself to turbulence and uncertainty.” Yet, as if this is a surprise every year, the approach is to give big raises and benefit increases in the fat years (which impacts the budget for decades into the future) and then say “how can we continue to nip/dig at the edges and appear to hold the education of the community’s children dear” during the lean years. That cycle needs to be broken, and forever.

“We must work together to advocate for our students and for public education by actively seeking long-term solutions and changes in public policies that have resulted in such drastic cuts to education.” This is throwing the state under the proverbial school bus without taking responsibility for one’s own actions year after year.

The truth is we should be cutting assistant superintendent positions to director levels or at a minimum cutting their work year (and pay), cutting car allowances and expense accounts and most, if not all, conferences (these are often attended by multiple people rather than one person who comes back and teaches others). Teachers, students, curriculum, materials, clean and safe learning environments first. For any K-12 budget, absolutely nothing is more important than the educational experience of students.

Posted by Jill
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

"Cuts do need to be made, but the board has lost the faith of the community in their ability to ask hard questions of staff and to begin the process of building a budget that starts at the classroom level"

This is the biggest problem I see. The Board and Administration has lost the confidence of a lot of people in the community. I am appalled at the rubber-stamping that goes on at the board meeting (typically by 3 members). Then when one of the other two members ask good questions, or question the whole thing, the "gang of three" shoot them down. I have lived in this community for 30 years and have never seen the dysfunction of the board and administration that I see now. They are destroying what was one of the best school districts.

Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I have been in this community for years as well and am shocked that the "good old boys club" that used to be running the district was considered acceptable. The only change is that the community was never asked for anything- they virtually ignored the changes being made. Not until the economy tanked and the community was asked to help support the schools did anyone care.

For once I would like to hear you all show your knowledge about the workings of the district by sharing WHY the additions and cuts have been made. Seems you are missing this piece of information and continue to post based on your opinions and speculations. This is not how the district works and the real shame is that you continue to work to shape this belief among the community members. In the process, you avoid the real issues and affects that $20 million in cuts have already done to our schools.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Avila
on Feb 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Lawsuits and legal expenses, unfortunately, impact students too.

Ahmadi has put together a less than compelling, somewhat rambling guest opinion piece.

When will PUSD finally rid themselves of their legal firms that continue to perpetuate a culture of litigation vs. education?

If the dog sniffing actually starts, there will be a case just like this one in Pleasanton (this is from the Shasta Union court case):

"In December of 2008, plaintiffs, two high school students and their parents as guardian ad litem, brought suit to declare the District's expanded random drug testing program unconstitutional both facially and as applied. The two student plaintiffs were Benjamin Brown and Brittany Dalton. Brown was a senior at Enterprise High. He took five music classes, had a 3.75 grade point average, and was on the Honor Roll. Dalton was also a senior at Enterprise. She took four music classes, had a 3.5 grade point average, was on the Honor Roll, and had a job.

Plaintiffs alleged the random drug testing program violated their rights under the California Constitution to privacy, to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and to equal protection. They also asserted a taxpayer action for illegal and wasteful expenditure of public funds. They sought a preliminary and permanent injunction and a declaration that the program was unconstitutional on its face and as applied."

Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm

"When will PUSD finally rid themselves of their legal firms that continue to perpetuate a culture of litigation vs. education?"

How can they in this litigious day and age where blogging anonymous members of this community threaten lawsuits before any illegal action even takes place? I commend the district for adding one more method of drug prevention on our school campuses. The real sham is the protection of kids bringing/using drugs on campus, which is against the law.

This is so backwards to me. The district cant win no matter what in this community, that is one thing that is evident.

Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm

" I commend the district for adding one more method..."

And I commend myself for threatening to sue. The dogs are nothing more than a feel good effort that may end up destroying the reputations and lives of entirely innocent kids. I have a personal friend who got caught up in a policy like this. He had never tried any illegal drugs in his life. The "drugs" they found in his car turned out to be bird seed, just like he said. His car was impounded and he didn't get it back until a week later. He never totally cleared his reputation.

Why does the administration continue to ignore me when I ask how they can prevent a situation like this from happening? I started with friendly, constructive questions that got ignored. It seems like lawsuits is all this district understands. Well, if they want a lawsuit, they're going to get one.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Avila
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:50 pm

In the discovery process for any such lawsuit, I am certain that irrefutable evidence would be put forth proving that PUSD has a pattern over time of the violation of the constitutional right to privacy and that the serious of the invasions give rise to the a cause of action for invasion of privacy that is egregious, and certainly not minimal and not negligible.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

Really?, I’m not sure I understand the point you are making, so I’ll apologize now if I’m missing your intent or if this was directed to another poster. “. . . by sharing WHY the additions and cuts . . . “ The state level? The district level? The best unbiased explanations about the state are provided by EdSource: Web Link For PUSD, what is occurring at the state level to impact our district has been compounded by a lot of documented missteps by the governance team.

“This is not how the district works . . .” I can’t determine what “this” is or the “how” to which you refer. For myself, I spent years taking minutes of (or being on) school boards and working with six superintendents/interim superintendents and their senior staff. I’ve worked with the best and those who were not so great, and often they were the same people. Even those who made me grit my teeth I admired for having the highest expectations for those around them and for asking the tough questions.

“. . . you avoid the real issues and affects that $20 million in cuts . . . ” I don’t believe I have avoided any issues. I do have strong feelings about what should and could be done differently. I continue to volunteer and donate at the classroom level because I believe that is where the important work happens. If there are specific questions you have for me, I am happy to respond here or by phone.

Posted by curious
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Feb 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

For me, I lost confidence in the district with the vote to spend $250K on a facilities master plan study. While I agree, this would be useful to have, given the state of the budget it seems like something that should be delayed. While I recognize that money isn't going to make or break balancing the budget, its more symbolic of the underlying perception that the district is not really looking hard at how every dollar is spent. Its sort of like a dollar here, a dollar there and pretty soon you're talking real money!!

I also would feel a lot better about the district if i saw open discussion/questioning of staff recommendations instead of what seems like rubber stamping. If the questions/discussions are going on before the meeting--that's wrong as the board meetings are supposed to be conducted in the open not have predetermined outcomes.

This is about perception by the public. Regardless of what the staff or board members think, its how the public perceives their actions and frankly its disappointing. To get full community support, the district is going to need to change the way they are perceived by the community. And it should start with the superintendt taking a leadership position in creating a more open environment.

Posted by a fly on the classroom wall
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I'm curious as to how others might suggest we deal with students actually doing drugs, selling drugs, and getting high on campus, or the "innocent" as some might say.

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