Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 22, 2011

Letters

Administrative bloat

Dear Editor,

I am writing in opposition to Measure E. I voted for Measure B in '97, but no more. We will not vote for any more measures to increase our property taxes until the Pleasanton Unified School District has shown that they have already made the hard choices to live within their means. They have not.

To help illustrate my point, in 1987 my wife and I had a meeting with Steve Maher, then the principal of Alisal Elementary. Our daughter was starting kindergarten and we wanted to get acquainted.

During our conversation, I showed him the roster of staff at Alisal. I compared it to the elementary school I went to in Southern California that was built the same year as Alisal and looked like it was designed by the same architect. In 1956 we had: one principal, one full-time secretary and one part-time secretary, one full-time custodian, one part-time nurse and no teacher's assistants. Besides the teachers, that was it.

There was a long pregnant pause after this communication. Clearly it was out of Steve's hands. The 1987 roster indicated that extreme administrative bloat had become the norm.

The fox is in control of the hen house.

Gary Kinsman

We need Measure E

Dear Editor,

Although I no longer have children in the Pleasanton Schools, as a 30-year resident and business owner I know how important great schools are to the community.

Pleasanton schools need our help. State funding reductions have resulted in nearly $19.4 million in cuts to Pleasanton schools. With millions more in new state cuts looming, classroom instruction and teachers are all that remain to be cut. This is the core of the education our children need to succeed.

The fine reputation of the Pleasanton Unified School District is a major attraction to new families relocating to the Bay Area. This helps maintain the value of our homes and keep our business community strong.

We need a stable, local funding source for Pleasanton schools now more than ever. We need a funding measure that supports core academic instruction designed to improve math, science and reading skills. In short, we need Measure E. To learn more, visit SupportPleasantonSchools.com.

Judy Wheeler

Vote Yes on E

Dear Editor,

I am writing to encourage all Pleasanton residents to vote Yes on Measure E. When we were transferred to Northern California some 16 years ago, even though our sons were college graduates, we elected to purchase a home in Pleasanton based upon the reputation of the schools' excellence in education. As a former employee of a neighboring school district and a seasoned citizen, education is the underscoring path to a bright future for Pleasanton that requires strong community support.

The outstanding schools that we have in Pleasanton need the support of stable funding that Measure E will provide. It is becoming increasingly clear that the state Legislature will not pass a budget with adequate financial funding for quality educational programs that exist here.

Not only will Measure E help support core academic instruction that improves math, science and reading skills, but also there will be an oversight committee to ensure that the funds are used as described in the proposition.

Prior to the May 3 deadline, I implore you to mail in a Yes vote on your ballot for the passage of Measure E.

Mary Ellen Huey

E won't help programs

Dear Editor,

Measure E supporters claim the proposed Parcel Tax will not fund raises during this fiscal crisis. However, the funds it generates will free up district money to support raises. In fact, during the term of this parcel tax, the district will give out raises totaling $15 million. This parcel tax will not even cover those raises.

There will be no new money available for instructional programs, libraries or minimizing class size increases even though those are the items advertised by the measure supporters. (For the real facts on Measure E visit www.PleasantonParcelTaxInfo.com.) Most residents are unaware that some specialized instructional programs are not paid for by PUSD. For example, for the last two years, private organizations such as Pleasanton Partners in Education (PPIE) have funded music programs at the elementary level.

We do not want another tax. To really help the children of this community, PUSD needs to show the courage to make the structural changes needed to avert bigger problems down the road, which have to be addressed. Given the facts that PUSD's income has actually increased $18 million over the last three years, and that we are still paying off the last PUSD bond to the tune of about $866 per year per parcel, and that the proposed tax increases are not being paired with true budget reform, it is not fiscally responsible to pass this tax. I urge PUSD and the union to propose real reforms prior to seeking more money from over-burdened taxpayers. The solution they have shown so far -- a willingness to fire new teachers to protect raises of senior staff -- is unacceptable.

Reg Beer

We voted Yes

Dear Editor,

We have voted to support the four-year $98 per annum parcel tax.

All local school districts in California will be paying a larger proportion of school costs for years to come. We should get ahead of that curve and address the issue head-on. Local funding will increase regardless of cost-saving measures by the districts.

Excellent local schools increase the value of homes and businesses.

We are voting for our near term local economy as well as long term leadership skills by today's students.

We are eligible for the Senior Citizen exemption, but we will contribute the $98 per year to the schools for classroom supplies.

Brad and Sandra Hirst

Need real reforms

Dear Editor,

Since the last parcel tax attempt I have spoken with school administrators and school board trustees about my concerns of unsustainable financial practices, partially responsible for our current problems. Two years later, the district has another tax on the ballot while no fiscal reforms have taken place.

The main fiscal problem of the district is giving out automatic raises for longevity. Teachers receive pay increases through what is called "step and column raises." These are typically 3% each year, costing the district an additional $1.5 million each year. Through compounding, these raises will cost $15 million over the period of the parcel tax.

When the economy was doing well, the district received additional money from the state which paid the automatic raises. With the economy not doing well, we do not receive money from the state for these raises; but we are still giving raises. What does that mean? To pay for the raises of some teachers we must fire newer teachers with less seniority, increase class sizes and cut programs.

There are several solutions to this problem and not all require approval from the unions. However, the district is not dealing with this problem. The future of our children's education is in jeopardy unless real reforms are done now.

While the automatic raises are my biggest concern, please read the ballot arguments or go to www.PleasantonParcelTaxInfo.com for other issues like the district's outrageous pensions.

I am voting No on Measure E and once again ask the district for real reforms.

Steve Brozosky, former PUSD trustee; former Pleasanton City Councilman

Teachers' concessions

Dear Editor,

Last year, the teachers union in Pleasanton approved eight furlough days, which resulted in a nearly $1.9 million savings to the district. But the concessions did not stop there. Teachers also agreed to bigger staffing ratios at the middle and high schools; suspending the seven-period day at high school; suspending voluntary staff development hours; and suspending support and training of new teachers.

Their concessions for the current fiscal year alone total $3.6 million. Administrators and staff also agreed to concessions. With those funds, many programs were spared. Yet the opponents of Measure E continue to quibble and nitpick, as if the teachers have not sacrificed enough already.

Measure E shows that we as a community recognize that we must play a part in sheltering students from the worst of the continuing cuts. We cannot ask less than 800 teachers to bear the burden. We must do our part - vote Yes on E.

Carol Kato

Education matters

Dear Editor,

I urge the Pleasanton community to vote Yes on Measure E. Like many others, my husband and I chose Pleasanton for its schools and its family friendly environment. California's budget deficit has hit hard and even wonderful places like Pleasanton have been adversely affected.

The money obtained from Measure E will go directly to Pleasanton schools. It is not contingent upon the overall California budget -- an unreliable and shrinking funding source. I realize that many are concerned about where the money the state receives for education actually goes. I, too, share these concerns. That is exactly why I believe we need to provide a local, stable funding source for our schools. Passing Measure E helps ensure we can provide our children with the best possible education. And the quality of Pleasanton schools should be of utmost importance to you, since better schools mean increased property values and a better community for all of the people who live here.

We have the opportunity to show our children that education matters and that a community working together can affect positive change and improvements for the greater good of its people. It's time for Pleasanton to stand up and vote Yes on Measure E.

Kelly Bayani

Concerns about Measure E

Dear Editor,

Before deciding on Measure E, voters should consider whether Pleasanton Unified School District's financial controls are where they should be.

Being an internal controls auditor by trade, I dug deep into the district's 2010 audit report available online. It described significant deficiencies for handling cash, credit cards, attendance, reporting fraud, and inappropriate expenditures (otherwise satisfactory). If this was for a business where the acceptable number of significant deficiencies is zero, I'd be looking for the alarm button.

A big control gap described how the District lacked procedures for personnel to report fraud and unethical behavior without fear of repercussions. The auditors found that the district had not thoroughly communicated ethical values, and guidance on illegal or negligent behavior. This was less than acceptable. An anonymous ethics hotline is a key part of Sarbanes-Oxley for businesses, and the school district should have had something similar in place a long time ago.

The district's financial and internal controls deficiencies should have all been fixed before the Measure E tax was requested. I'm recommending a No vote until this gets done with a clean audit report.

Richard Pugh

Support Measure E

Dear Editor,

Having had the wonderful opportunity to serve thousands of families in this community over a bunch of years, I want to encourage all to support Measure E. Please do this not only for what it means to our community but for the message it sends to our children.

It takes a significant majority not a simple majority and the process involves mailing the ballot in on time. This is one of those times where we have an opportunity to set an example for our children, to take responsibility in thinking of others, make an extra effort, and to do it right away. Thanks for all that you do. It's a great community.

Greg Thome, retired CYO

Children pay the price

Dear Editor,

In over 10 years as a PTA volunteer at the local and state level, I can honestly say I've never seen things so dire. As a result of recurring state budget deficits and cuts to education funding, our school district has lost nearly $20 million in two years, and more cuts are ahead of us.

To cope, the Pleasanton Unified School District has already reduced spending by $19.4 million; eliminated 67 teachers, 25 staff and 17 administrators; increased K-3 class sizes from 20 to 26; reduced the school year with unpaid furlough days at all schools; cut course offerings at high schools; and reduced support for art, libraries and music.

Whether or not you think the district has made the right choices, the facts remain that more state budget cuts are looming, and the group that will pay the price is our children. Our children need stable local funding that can't be taken by the state. Our children need us to protect the quality of education in Pleasanton schools.

Our children need Measure E and since they cannot vote, we must do so on their behalf. Please join me in supporting Measure E by marking Yes on your mail-in ballot.

Debbie Look

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