Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 11, 2011

More cuts loom for PUSD

Board looks to slash more than $3.1 million; CORE funding ends

by Glenn Wohltmann

A snafu with a posted date kept the Pleasanton school board from "sunshining" negotiations with its teacher's union, but the board did hear about yet another round of proposed cuts at its meeting Tuesday.

Sunshining is when each side states the part of the contract they want to discuss, according to Myla Grasso, Pleasanton school district public information officer.

While school funding has yet to be finalized by lawmakers in Sacramento, the Pleasanton board is eyeing $3.1 million in cost-saving measures, including increasing class sizes in both kindergarten through third grade and ninth-grade English and math. Under the proposal, class sizes would go from 25 to 1 for the youngest students and to 32 to 1 for the high school freshmen.

That would save the district $1.3 million in the elementary grades and another $400,000 with the ninth-graders.

This change would mean sacrificing state funding for keeping class sizes low. Currently, the classes are staffed at 25 to 1 and the district would be lose about $800,000, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services.

Another $400,000 in savings could come from cutting one specialist section each week for grades 1 through 5. The proposal would move a teacher preparation period to the end of the day, shortening the day by 45 minutes once a week for those students, with the net effect of losing five full-time employees.

The district is also considering cutting the number of elementary school reading specialists in half, dropping from nine fulltime employees to four and a half, at a savings of $360,000.

Also being considered are:

* Cutting the number of support staff at schools and the district office at a savings of $180,000. The four positions that would be eliminated have not been determined;

* Reducing the number of middle school counselors by one and a half overall, bringing the number of fulltime counselors at each middle school to two and saving $120,000;

* Cutting the work year for management. Currently, management has agreed to eight furlough days over two years; this would bring the total of unpaid days to 11 over a three-year period at a savings of $90,000;

* Eliminating the equivalent of one fulltime high school counselor. That would bring the student-to-counselor ratio at Foothill and Amador Valley high school to about 518 to 1, saving $80,000; and

* Reducing the funding for the Barton Reading Program by $53,000, cutting district funding for the program in half.

The district is also working to get an additional $150,000 in one-time funds from the Regional Occupation Program.

Board members were adamant that these cuts were not necessarily the ones that would be implemented.

"These are just possible solutions," said board Chairwoman Valerie Arkin. "They are not necessarily the ones we are going to take."

However, gearing up for those cuts would clear the way for pink slips to be issued to the employees whose jobs are on the line. By law, the board must issue those to employees by a specific time, depending on whether the employee is a member of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT) or of the California Service Employees Association (CSEA), and preparing for these cuts would provide the time needed.

In addition to funding cuts, the board also learned that jobs restored through the CORE (Community OutReach for Education) campaign will end this year. That means the loss of technology specialists in all grades and a cut in the number of library assistants in elementary and middle schools.

The budget plan also includes spending $5.3 million in reserves, including $2.7 million in one-time federal funding for jobs and $700,000 in state fiscal stabilization funds, along with $1.9 million from the district's undesignated reserves.

It does not include new money that could come in if the parcel tax is passed or from another fundraising campaign such as CORE. It also doesn't include savings that could come from negotiations with employees. The board is expected to discuss the state of the negotiations at its next meeting

On a related note, the board members, Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi and APT President Trevor Knaggs all received emails asking that negotiations between the district and the APT be wrapped up by March 22.

"This will provide the parcel tax voters a clear understanding of whether PUSD will increase salaries or benefits for this employee group," said the email, from Pleasanton Parcel Tax, a group opposed to the parcel tax. That group's website calls for, among other things, 5% cuts in salaries for management and certificated employees like teachers.

Attendance at Tuesday night's meeting was low, possibly due to what Board Member Joan Laursen described as "budget fatigue."

However, Marilyn Palowitch, best known as an Amador Valley High School music booster, expressed her frustration about not being able to get a slot on the board's agenda. Palowitch told the board she has a plan that could save seventh-period music programs, but despite contacting the board more than two weeks ago, had not heard a response.


Posted by John, a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Cut the "crisis counselors" from the education budget.

Seeking advice from immediate family, relatives, or friends is far more effective and personal than some so called "mental health expert."

Posted by AD, a resident of Mohr Elementary School
on Feb 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I wonder what percentage of the PUSD budget is spent on human resources in general. Aren't there other ways to reduce the budget as well - like other capital and operating expenditures, re-negotiating contracts with suppliers, optimizing operations and so on!

Easy solutions to cut headcount and increase class sizes are just that : EASY.

I am not pointing fingers - as I am not familiar with the education industry value chain -- but do feel that sometimes there is too much focus on the easy rather than the right size solutions.

Would be really helpful if Pleasanton Weekly could publish some expert analysis on this topic.

Posted by Helen, a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 16, 2011 at 10:18 am

The counselors and psychologists are absolutely needed in our schools. The pressures for kids to excel are overwhelming nowdays. Often the pressure and expectations come from well-intentioned parents and family members! Having school counselors available and accessible to students is critical to keeping kids in school. Kids who drop out aren't likely to be able to get jobs and become productive members of society. It's much more logical and cost-effective to prevent kids from spiraling downwards rather than helping them get direction and resources as they get older - that's if they even seek help at that point. There is a relationship between crime and dropout rates; our entire community benefits by keeping kids in school.

Posted by No more fat to cut, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

PUSD HR and Admin. staff has been the first to go in every cutback. Last I heard there is very little to cut there without closing the administrative offices all together. Unfortunately, we are at the point that there is no extra fat to cut. All cuts are going to hurt all students from library, class size, remedial help, counsellors, GATE, Special Ed., etc. Our school board has very little choice, our teachers have very little choice...what WILL help is passage of the $98 parcel tax, but it will not solve the problems.

Posted by Start Afresh, a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm

The school board has many choices that they are not revealing to the public. They are hiding behind 'CUTS' and pain to student programs and services so that you will vote yes on a parcel tax.
See the list of options PUSD has to prevent layoffs and new taxes from happening.

Web Link

Posted by Capsized by Illegals, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

The first thing the Pleasanton School District should do to help the budget shortfall is to call ICE in to determine how many of the children in the Pleasanton schools are illegals, or the children of illegals. Then they should contact some media outlets that would actually cover the issue to put heat on ICE to actually deport the illegals. Once all the illegals are cleared out then they should look to see how many positions could be eliminated because of few students and all the money wasted on things like ELD and special aids needed to service the illegals.

This is just a precursor of what is to come. By 2014, virtually all the schools in the Tri-Valley will be "failing" schools, even though most of them are in the top 10% in the state. No Child Left Behind is a very ill-conceived law that needs to be overturned. The best thing that could happen to schools is to enforce our immigration laws and to get the state and local governments out of running schools. That's a function that is much better done at the local level.

By the way, when is the City Council (dominated by the 3 stooges) and the City Police going to do something about all the illegals in Pleasanton. It took the Feds to smoke out the illegal immigration scam going on at Tri-Valley University (Wow, the dolt Napolitano actually did something!)

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