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Accountability, priorities dominate PUSD community meeting

Original post made on Dec 3, 2018

Widespread accountability was the theme of the night at the second Pleasanton Unified School District community meeting of the year, from district staff accountability to holding state officials and the Pleasanton community itself likewise accountable when it comes to education.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 30, 2018, 12:51 PM

Comments (27)

34 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 3, 2018 at 10:03 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

First, thank you to the parents and community members who attended. A special thank you for asking about accountability. More nteresting is the comment about tutoring centers and how they skew what happens in the classroom. I found that to be a very important point. I wonder if we can quantify how many students are keeping pace or advancing themselves beyond the school day.

Lastly, the comment from Dr. Haglund regarding the parcel tax shows that he is not clear on why that parcel tax failed. “In this district the community has said . . . yeah, we’re not going to do that” is a blatant insult to the community. Does that statement assume mere reluctance to spend money or that this community does not care about schools—clearly with tutoring having become a booming business; generous donations to the foundations, PTA, schools, and classrooms; and a $270MM bond—those assumptions are incorrect.

The parcel tax failed, Dr. Haglund, because the committee and staff ignored the request that the parcel tax be specific: X number of counselors, the Barton program, class sizes of XX in (name the grade levels), library hours, and any number of people or programs that could have been defined. And it failed at $250 and again at $99 precisely because of what I’ll call the over confidence of staff and their consultants.

Financial accountability was proven not only to be lacking, but illegal, and only was discovered after community members pressured for a review—a report which was presented eventually to the board. Try for a parcel tax—if it is defined to items that can be specifically accounted for and I bet it will pass. This community is well invested in and supportive of its children.


17 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 3, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Jack is a registered user.

Dr. Haglund, Kathleen is spot on. This community WILL financially support our schools, but over the past twenty years, PUSD has proven to be irresponsible, dishonest and/or incompetent. A great example of this, and it has a beginning, middle, and end, is the story of the Neal School...


12 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 3, 2018 at 10:56 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I'm glad I wasn't there. Kathleen is right to say Dr. Haglund's comments are disrespectful to the community. As a newcomer he should have the aptitude to seek answers to why the community may not support another tax given the history of previous taxes, bonds, etc. Not make assumptions on the community he serves.




13 people like this
Posted by LivermoreParent
a resident of Livermore
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:34 am

What a great idea!
Why don't we have a Livermore Unified School District community meeting?
We could ask Superintendent Kelly Bowers:
What justifies your $385,000 compensation package?
Why did you put your son Steven Pangelinan on the payroll?
Why did you divert Measure J School Bond Money out of classrooms for Class A administration buildings in the hills of north Livermore?
Why do you have three assistant superintendents, who with you, cost $1.1 Million annually (not including yours and their relatives on LVJUSD payroll)?
Why did you let go beloved Granada French Teacher Madame Anne Marie Etesse (who is now teaching at Dublin) so you wouldn't have to lay off your son?
Why did you use taxpayer money to hold a candidate forum where you disallowed parents from asking question in order to protect your incumbents?
Why after only increasing enrollment by a mere ten students did you hire 26 administrators?




Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Livermore

on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:34 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Livermore

on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:38 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


3 people like this
Posted by Sammy
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:19 am

I would add transparency to this list. Constant churn of principals at Walnut Grove without any clear explanation shows that PUSD does not believe in transparency. Some teachers I talked to told me that they uave given up that hope long time ago.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:30 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I did reach out to Dr. Haglund and copied the board members (although I do not expect the board to respond—no need). He responded quickly, was very gracious, and provided some context regarding the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that he was addressing when he made the unfortunate comment.

I can’t say a parcel tax will be proposed again or that it would have specificity if it was proposed. I do appreciate the willingness to have the discussion and to see that comment from a different perspective.

I also shared a LinkedIn post by one of my former bosses, Dr. Kevin Skelly—now superintendent in San Mateo high school district about classroom dynamics:

“I have a great job, in no small part because I have the chance to see great teaching and learning take place every day. While veteran teachers are, in general, more skilled, I find special joy in seeing new teachers "crush" a great lesson.

“What does it take to be an exceptional teacher? I used to think that the best teachers knew their subject and loved their students. As time has gone on, however, I think there are somewhat different talents necessary to be a fantastic educator. It's not enough just to know and be passionate about that which one teaches. ***Instead, teachers must create in their students an energy that raises the interest of the most reluctant learner. Further, it is crucial that the teachers create in their classroom an ecosystem where each and every student is appreciated and respected by every member of the classroom community.*** Deciding who will be part of the district for their entire career is a big responsibility. I hope you see staff members deserving of this honor in every encounter with the District.”

I added asterisks around the part that struck me. It would be amazing to incorporate/promote/support this kind of thinking in our schools (and I am certain we have teachers who already do). With that goal in place, moving that philosophy outward and to the district and board, I feel all discussions would be more focused, productive, and beneficial to our 15,000 students.


8 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 10:54 am

Here are links to our neighboring districts parcel taxes:

Livermore: Web Link)

Dublin: Web Link)

San Ramon: Web Link)

You can look at the verbiage of these taxes, all of which passed by their communities, and compare it with Pleasanton's. It's very similar.

Here's Pleasanton's 2nd failed parcel tax: Web Link)

I think Mr. Haglund was factually correct to say our community decided, "yeah, no, we're not going to do that." with that meaning to pass a parcel tax to financially insulate our schools from budget cuts coming from Sacramento. Kathleen and others can give their reasoning as to why the community said no, but the reality is that we did say no... twice... and our school have have suffered relative to our neighboring districts as a result.


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Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 10:55 am

Sorry about all my typos above. That's what I get for typing on my phone!


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

JC, there were two reasons—past infractions with budgets/refinancing bonds and lack of specificity. Yes, the language is common and purposely flexible. What I have seen in practice is, let’s say, class size reduction in K-3 with no numbers attached to that. Suddenly a loose promise of 23 students is 24 then 25 and it keeps going up. Programs get cut even though there are vague promises there as well. But budgets are hydraulic; save a few dollars, cut a program, raise class size, and then give a raise. I would rather put a parcel tax out that pays benefits or merit pay or whatever for teachers than see promises broken and raises given. Yes, we should be competitive, but not to the detriment of everything else.


11 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Yes, I’ve read your reasoning. Again, Pleasanton opted not to fund its schools with a parcel tax while our neighboring communities opted to do so. You’ve already made clear over the years that you wouldn’t vote yes unless the money was spent exactly the way you think it should be spent. No raises. Only merit pay. You’re entitled to your vote and your opinion that funding sources should be leveraged to revamp how teachers are paid. I get it.

The thing is, PUSD is now unable to fund many of the specialists and support programs it used to fund. The 7 period day is gone. Sports programs are now funded by the athletes. Our facilities have deteriorated due to maintenance budgets being cut. Meanwhile, we have a chronic sub shortage and a hard time filling certain positions at the high school level, such as science, math, and foreign language, because there are so few qualified candidates in an area where you can’t pay rent on a teachers salary and at a district whose pay scale is only competitive if you don’t need medical benefits. So, it’s about choices and consequences. The community made a choice and the consequence, as Mr. Haglund pointed out, is that parents have to pay out-of-pocket for things we wish the district could provide.


1 person likes this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Dec 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Here we go again...

Pleasanton citizens have twice voted no on a tax increase.

Guess what happened to education in our district? NOTHING!! Absolutely no decrease in test scores or student graduation rates.

Funny that the lack of funding hasn't impacted our children, isn't it?

Go ahead...convince me otherwise all you tax and spenders.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

JC, I don’t think you have all of the facts or are considering the complications. And the lists I have provided are just what I knew were issues—as long as the list is specific and the spending can be tracked to those items, I don’t care what the items are. For example, I am not a fan of class size reduction (very expensive; limited positive results), but I would vote for K-3 classrooms of 23 (or whatever number—12-16 has positive results) if they could not go above 23 during the life of that parcel tax.

I’m not against raises, but it would be impossible to fund permanent raises with a parcel tax. Parcel taxes expire. What happens if the next vote is not renewed? I use merit pay as an example; you could also provide off the salary schedule bonuses for all. It isn’t an ongoing, forever cost. I would vote for that as well.

Sports have always been supported by Boosters and families. My personal preference would be for funding to go to the curricular day where it would benefit the majority of students, but I’d be glad to understand why sports should be in a parcel tax.

Maintenance budget cuts were a choice made at the same time as large raises were given. Our facilities paid the price. Deferred maintenance should never have been cut and all district managers know that.

Benefits, a nearly unsolvable problem now, was a choice made in negotiations. Parents had no voice in that decision and might have warned against it knowing what was happening on the corporate side. Yes, those negotiating that choice all retired and left current teachers and staff holding the bag. If you have a plan that can split out benefits (millions in funding) to be negotiated separately again, and still keep salaries where they are presently, I’d love to hear it. Even if that could be done through a parcel tax, it is the same as salaries; what happens if the parcel tax to pay that cost does not renew?

Ultimately, and my opinion, many bad faith decisions were made and students are the ones who lost and parents are paying. And community members and businesses donate. But it is not correct to say the community doesn’t care or won’t help. We do. We are making up for where that governance team failed all of us. Maybe the statement should be, “yeah, we are not going to do that unless you can account for every dollar you are requesting (millions in funding).”

With absolute guarantees of where the money can be spent, I think the community would consider a parcel tax. Would funding larger stipends for those jobs that are hardest to fill be possible?

What are your suggestions?


5 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:42 pm

@livermoreparent. I would love to hear the response to your questions from your school district, it sounds like they may be as slippery as our school district and our group has been practicing deception for years and they have gotten really good at it! Maybe if the PUSD puts down in black and white exactly what they will spend parcel tax money on then maybe it will pass next time, unless that new school doesn’t get built with money from that last parcel tax then all bets are off on another tax getting passed.


6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Map, just to clarify, the school is to be built out of bond funds, not parcel taxes. We didn't, as you know, pass the parcel taxes.


8 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:57 pm

Well, Kathleen. This is my last post. I've read your posts long enough to know that you don't let people who disagree with you get the last word in, so at some point I need to disengage. I do have the facts and I have considered complications. In the end, I believe that not passing a parcel tax was detrimental to our district and our community. DKHSK, it hasn't shown up in test scores because the community has grown wealthier and many have the financial means to hire private tutor, which many are unhappy about having to do. Test scores aren't the only things that matter. It has shown up in a loss of funding for anything "extra" like the things I mentioned previously: support staff, facilities, and extracurriculars.

I know you like to say "If_____, then the community might pass a parcel tax" but I really think that ship has sailed. It costs too much money to try and get one of these even onto the ballot, and it's pretty clear after 2 failed attempts that this community doesn't support it. You did your part to convince lots of people to vote "no", so you can feel proud about that, I guess.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I’ll minimize my response by saying it’s easy to make me the proverbial scape goat. Then you don’t have to look any deeper. I’d be glad to talk to see if we can find common ground. Your call.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:44 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

JC,
The community didnt make those cuts or decisions. All the items you listed could have been preserved at the expense of different choices.

Dont tell me i dont care about education when the decision makers choose other items over those core to education when theyre forced to make priority decisions.

Stated differently - why should the community fund decisions that arent focused on the students and education first?

Im not. I hate supplimenting through outside resources, but at least i have direct control over its use.


5 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 5, 2018 at 9:12 am

Jack is a registered user.

@ JC Love the fact that you're posting here in a respectful and sophisticated manner... I'll speak for myself: The Neal School debacle is where PUSD lost me, and forced me to start paying closer attention to the goings on. Signature Properties was going to build Neal School, soup to nuts, done deal. Then John Casey arrived and thought, "Free school for me, I'll take six of those and five of those and a dozen naked-lady-tees!" They delayed and delayed and delayed, coincidentally, right up until the final lot at Ruby Hill had been sold, then and only then did they announce their intent to NOT build the school. Meanwhile, all residents of Ruby had paid huge fees to PUSD. It ended up in court, where Casey and his staff decided not only to sue Signature, but two of their officers personally! PUSD lost so embarrassingly, that they tried to sue their own law firm! And we paid for all of it!!!
We still don't have a school, and all of our campuses are jammed up with portables. Go back and look up the records! The demographers lied, and when they did say the district would grow, Casey responded, "That's just one year, the long term trend is for student population to stay flat or decline."
And then how about the lies involved in the calendar issue a few years back? They sent out a five option questionnaire to the stake holders, only to be told by Ahmadi in the hearing where the vote was taking place that they could only vote on TWO of the options!
These are two examples, but there is such a lack of transparency, that's all I have. But what else are they mismanaging? What else are they lying about?
We passed the Bond... Prove that you can handle the Bond Proceeds honestly and effectively, and I'd be happy to pass a parcel tax too...


3 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 5, 2018 at 3:08 pm

@Jack: I hear (or read haha) everything you’re saying, and I’m also hoping PUSD and Haglund renew the community’s trust by managing the bond money well. It looks like construction costs have gone up dramatically, undermining the districts ability to deliver on all the things in the bond measure. I predict people will be unhappy for that reason.

I do hope at some point the community can move on from the problematic Casey and Ahmadi days. We’ve had 2 superintendents since then. I know they did a lot of damage (Casey to community relationships, Ahmadi with employee relationships) and the recession magnified things.


3 people like this
Posted by Jimmy The Jet
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Jimmy The Jet is a registered user.

This all reads like all sides had noble intentions. But… in reality Pleasanton voted down 2 parcel taxes because they were taxes that could be used for staff. Pleasanton didn’t want a tax that would go toward the Union teachers and other personnel. Many on these message boards stated reasons like I read above. What is comes down to is that these were excuses for not supporting union teachers. Some may have held a bit of a grudge against the PUSD staff and people at the district office as well. The Tea Party Movement also had something to do with it. A bond could be passed because it can’t be spent on staff. Dr. Haglund told it like it is.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 6, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Jimmy, The lack of specificity meant money could go to unintended places--any unintended places. If we want to pay teachers differently and are clear about how and how much, I'd be fine with a parcel tax for that specific thing, and any other specific thing(s). Maybe others felt differently. Can't speak to your perceived notion of grudges or the Tea Party's involvement.


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Posted by Sidenote:
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 6, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Kathleen - does every post about PUSD that isn't aligned with your perspective need to be "corrected" by you? It's odd. Ive never seen one person commandeer a blog to this degree.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 6, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Isn't this a conversation? Should I let some of the comments stand as if they are fact (Pleasanton didn't want a tax that would go toward the union teachers . . . ). I don't expect everyone, or maybe anyone, to share my perspective. And if you think no one person commandeer's a topic, you have missed most of DKHSK's posts on politics. This just happens to be where my experience is, and I have some historical background (maybe DKHSK's is politics). I read a lot of the threads and find many interesting perspectives; I may disagree, don't generally post, but always learn.


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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:02 pm

I dont see eye to eye with Kathleen on everything but i think shes very credible and accurate in her assessment on why 2 parcel taxes failed.


5 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 7, 2018 at 8:49 am

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."
Winston Churchill

It might not be fair or right, but Haglund did not arrive with a clean, fresh start. He has inherited a mess! He'll do better if he understands that, and perhaps even acknowledges the sins of his predecessors, as he addresses the tax-payer's willingness to support the school district.


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