Donlon Elementary parents, teachers say they want longevity in new principal

District vows to have new principal in place for 2015-16 school year

Some Donlon Elementary School parents, guardians and teachers met with district staff Monday and emphasized they wanted longevity with the school's next principal.

The 15 people who attended an informal meeting at the school Monday evening said they want a principal who will stay put, a contentious issue since the school has had five principals since 2009.

Lynnette Chirrick recently resigned as the school's principal to take a job in the city of Alameda's Unified School District. She announced her resignation to parents and guardians in a newsletter posting last Thursday.

Mark McCoy, the district's director of human resources, told the group gathered yesterday that the district plans to have a principal in place for the coming 2015-16 school year that starts next month. Qualified candidates will meet with panels of district staff, school staff, parents and PTA members, among others, who will provide recommendations about which candidates show promise.

The district has received inquiries in the position from several strong candidates already, he told parents.

Those who attended Monday's meeting also said they hoped Donlon's new principal would be familiar with running a large elementary school, have strong ties to the Pleasanton community, have a warming influence toward students and be visible and available to students and parents.

They also hoped he or she will build communication between teachers and school administration, respond to urgent inquiries, be familiar with the Individualized education program and emphasize a relationship with the special education community, among other attributes.

Vintage Hills Elementary School is also searching for a new principal.

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1 person likes this
Posted by sidnee
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Jul 21, 2015 at 9:21 am

sidnee is a registered user.

I totally agree. Longevity is important as is familiarity with running a large school. I hope they find someone who fits all the criteria the parents want.

4 people like this
Posted by Complainers
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 11:18 am

15 people??? I do not want to hear anyone complaining about anything the district does with regard to a principal at Donlon if only 15 people show up to something like this.

11 people like this
Posted by Annabelle
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

I imagine it's rather tough to hire first class principals in Pleasanton given what happened with John Vranesh, who was an amazing principal, and because of the revolving door we have all almost every principal position in the district. We just don't have a great reputation right now in this category. The Jon Vranesh fiasco along with the harm done by Ahmadi will haunt us for some time to come. The impact of these will be far reaching and beyond just the initial penalties.

If you were in high demand as a principal, would you want to come to Pleasanton?

8 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Longevity in a principal is hard to ask for and get. Opportunities come, like the one in Alameda that apparently is attractive to the former Donjon principal. She may have intended to stay as a principal for many years, but got an offer she couldn't refuse.

Many principals get promoted to the district office as well, so their good work will affect more students. There are at least ten, by my count, former Pleasanton school administrators now serving in the district office. But Jim Hansen served many years at Harvest Park, and Mike Kuhfal served twelve, I believe, at Hearst. It's easy to point out those who left early, but these are good examples of longevity, and no one has mentioned them.

Promotions and moves happen, and more frequently than in the past. It's part of education these days.

And Pleasanton gets good administrators. It is a good, well-paying destination, and many people in and out of district apply for every vacancy. Don't believe it when people say otherwise.

15 people like this
Posted by Andy
a resident of Valley Trails
on Jul 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

How about Jon Varnish

7 people like this
Posted by Hogwash
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jul 21, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Over 70 administrators have up and left or gone on medical leave or have had some other issue where they disappear. The union is filing grievance after grievance, teachers don't teach and tell parents to hire tutors, and it is no wonder with the mess that Ahmadi caused that there is a huge exodus. Administrators that are disgruntled are the ones applying for out of district jobs and are leaving as soon as they can. 95 percent of the administrators have left in the last 5 years with some positions turning over 3 to 5 times.

24 people like this
Posted by Pusd parent
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Oh hogwash, I must disagree. I have two students in PUSD and I find the opposite. Most teachers offer lunch and afterschool help. I have found teachers to be helpful and dedicated. While My kids haven't taken advantage of it, the district has also offered evening help to students in middle and high school. Some people are just difficult to please.

12 people like this
Posted by Registered Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 5:24 pm

It would be very tough to be a principal, especially in our district. A principal has all the responsibility for the school and is in most ways its face to the world, but has almost no authority to hire/fire/discipline/reward the staff. There is no merit for good teachers and a very strong union in the Association of Pleasanton Teachers to stop any kind of meaningful disciplinary action. This is all even more true for the support staff, represented by their own union for classified employees.

Prime example - Look what happened to Jon Vranesh when he attempted to take on members of both unions. At the end of the day, it was deemed easier to throw Jon under the bus than to confront the unions, and after that failed, and Jon decided to litigate, it was easier for the superintendent to pack up and leave for another distrct, rahter than face and try to fix the problems in her own.

10 people like this
Posted by @pusd parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 5:26 pm

@pusd parent:

I mean you no disrespect, but if your teens are telling you that PUSD teachers offer evening tutoring, they are pulling your leg and going out with friends. I've had mine in this district since kindergarten and two have already graduated with a third being an incoming senior. Evening tutoring doesn't happen, nor should it, to be frank.

The issue is about our inability to keep principals within the district. Our turnover record will turn many candidates away. I wouldn't come to a district knowing about the Jon Vranesh situation, with such high turnover and knowing that the temporary superintendent may or may not be my boss in 10 months.

I'm glad this is our last school year here. I've had kids in this district for the last sixteen years and this is the lowest I've ever seen things get.

20 people like this
Posted by PUSD Parent
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 21, 2015 at 7:14 pm

@PUSD Parent,
What I said was that the teachers offer lunch and afterschool help. My kids haven't participated in this, but the DISTRICT has sent out several emails about free tutoring in the evening at the schools. So don't worry, I know where my teens are in the evening - home doing homework with confidence because they were taught well during the school day. :)

3 people like this
Posted by Another Pleasanton Mom
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jul 23, 2015 at 2:43 pm

@PUSD tutoring was offered this year at both Pleasanton Middle School and Foothill High School in the evening, by teachers. I don't know about other schools.

14 people like this
Posted by The_Truth
a resident of Val Vista
on Jul 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Pleasanton won't keep people in place because it is one of the lower paying districts. It used to be amongst the highest if not the highest paying. At the time in the early 2000's the district gave each employee their benefit costs upfront as part of their salary. This in turn gave PUSD the highest starting teacher pay in the Bay Area. However, as the cost of benefits has increased and raises became scarce in the big recession, the district failed to provide their employees with regular raises. In theory the PUSD employees should be receiving bigger raises year in and year out to keep up with other districts that add to COLA raises and also contribute additional funds to benefit caps to go along with it. Now if you look around at other districts, when you factor in that many districts give 10K or more in benefits along with starting pay similar to that of PUSD and you get a recipe for people leaving. Take San Ramon for example, they pay their elementary principals 125884 at the top end. PUSD pays 132584 but provides no benefits. San Ramon pays an additional 9000 or more for benefits depending on the employees number of dependents. Fremont pays no benefits but pays their principals 155944. You can almost pick any district around and compare total compensation and the plain fact is that PUSD has not kept up and now we stand to lose people to higher paying districts. People might stay despite our poor pay IF they were supported properly but anyone following the Vranesh case can see that principals are not well supported here. So if Donlon or any other school in PUSD wants to keep their people, the district better catch up with the times AND support our leaders better or we will never have anyone in place for longer than a year or two.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton was nice forty years ago
a resident of Castlewood
on Jul 23, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Right because it's not about the kids it's about how much money I can get. Welcome to public education run by self servants
Hey kids here is a free education wanna get rich in America get a government job and milk it milk it milk it

22 people like this
Posted by The_Truth
a resident of Val Vista
on Jul 24, 2015 at 5:18 am

People work to live. People expect school employees or live for work. Do teachers make enough? Most would say no. I used principal salaries as an example because of this article. Chirrick was the CEO of the school. She managed all staff and provided overall leadership for a large school. She managed the budget, operations, maintenance, food service health office, students and dealt with parents that think she should work for nothing like the person who commented.

If any public school admin went to private industry and managed a similar multi million dollar organization the would surely be compensated better.

Personally I want PUSD to be able to attract and retain the very best principals and teachers, I would like to see us take people from other districts with proven success and be able to pull them away as this is what other districts are doing to us. When did PUSD become a district where people start but don't stay. Look at our turn over in PUSD. We are a destination district for families but not for our school's employees.

We can't do anything about crazy people who think teachers and principals should work for free while dealing with a superintendent and cabinet who don't support them. What we can do though is at least pay them what they are worth. Personally I would be honored if my kid came home and wanted to be a teacher or principal to earn their living but I would hope that after getting his Masters in public administration he would go to a place that compensates him for his work.

12 people like this
Posted by Sasha
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2015 at 10:07 am

The_Truth has explained our situation with 100% accuracy. As a current PUSD employee and a parent in our district for 14 years, I believe I have a good sense if what is happening. I love teaching and would do it for free in a perfect world..... However, it is basic economics. I have children to raise and pay for college. Economics, economics, economics.

19 people like this
Posted by The_Truth
a resident of Val Vista
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Sasha, I don't know if you are one of my child's teachers but I thank you and all of our dedicated teachers and principals regardless. I have shown that you could go anywhere for better pay and arguably better treatment and more respect from parents who actually think you deserve what you are worth. A great teacher if priceless. Please let me apologize for those who think that education should come on the backs of your free labor or at the expense of your family. I personally know that every one of my kids teachers already give our undeserving community more free hours of labor than we deserve. Just know that while I am one of the them...I am not one of them.

28 people like this
Posted by Dose of reality
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm

To "Pleasanton was nice forty years ago" do you think teacher's don't have families of their own and mortgages to pay?! Yeah us teachers sure know how to milk it. 14 years in PUSD with a Master's degree and after paying for our own medical and dental which comes out of our checks pre-taxed we walk away with barely $70k/year! A family of four costs us nearly $2000/month just for the low Kaiser plan! Yeah teachers really milk it! Oh but wait, all those summers "off" let's see those days are used working second, third, fourth jobs just to keep above water. One net check is probably less than most people's mortgages but oh how we milk it! Get off work at 3 pm? But home all night grading and planning with no pay. Yes we milk it. Every spare minute used working at tutoring centers to try to make a little extra money to squirrel away for our own children. How dare we! Just a bunch of blood sucking teachers daring to take money to survive as we teach and shape the next generation. So sorry we need to pay mortgages and bills and buy food and clothes! How about our city manager that is now making over $200k plus full benefits , a $400/month car allowance and 5 weeks vacation?! No one complains about that?! I've never owned a car that comes close to costing $400/month! Why can't teachers be paid for what they do which is arguably one of the most important jobs in society?!?! People like you are the problem in our educational system! You can't have it all! You want the best teachers but don't give anything back! No successful company treats their employees the way teachers are treated! Horrible people like you make a lot of teachers reflect on the future of our careers in this community especially!

4 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 27, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Thoughts on some of the above posts: principals are not CEOs; maybe vice presidents or division heads, but not CEOs. They do have responsibility to review their staffs. They need first to not recommend a teacher permanent (tenure) status if they are ineffective (and there are some teachers who obviously are not capable during those first two years). Principals also are responsible for reviewing and writing up teachers who need additional training or need to retire or need a new career. An arguably lengthy and costly route when it is a tenured teacher, but still the job of the principal and with help from HR.

PUSD teachers' current issues with salaries/benefits were caused by a very senior union leadership/staff who did two things: (1) rolled the benefits onto the salary schedule to pad their retirement calculation and (2) took a lump sum raise and sprayed it at the top of the salary schedule, again to pad their retirement calculation, leaving the less tenured teachers out in the cold, who, if I recall correctly, were told by their leadership that they too would "eventually see that gain." I believe the chant, literally, was "30 (starting pay), 60 (top tier pay) by '90." Also, the years where raises occurred essentially also raised the benefit amount because it is on the salary schedule. None of this is the community's fault. Nor is it the fault of incoming teachers who did not vote for the system.

That said, those teachers who come early, stay late, work nights and weekends and through lunches or who are just exemplary by any and all measures, need to be acknowledged, and with pay. But that means teachers who do not do those things also need to be acknowledged, with no extra pay. I have yet to see the will to allow those changes. So again, not the community's fault; and the youngest teachers rarely have any clout with their leadership to push for change.

As for this community, many families go the extra mile for their child(ren)'s teachers by volunteering, donating, and fundraising. It's not just current parents who are willing to do more, but the needed change has to come from within the district. I wish Mr. Hansen all the best in moving the culture in a more positive direction. After two weak leaders in a row, and some still on staff, it will not be an easy task.

1 person likes this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Oh Thank God we have the voice of Kathleen to set all truths straight in Pleasanton, someone who doesnt work for the district. That is what we need. Because it is always truthful and never has another agenda/purpose attached.

1 person likes this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 27, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

@Really? Tell us what part of my post isn't true.

As to an agenda, keeping the record straight about benefits? Pointing out this community has always been supportive of its schools (forgot to mention voting to unify and the bonds for facilities)? Rewarding the best teachers?

5 people like this
Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

PUSD has hired its new principal for Donlon:

"Donlon Elementary

I am very pleased to announce that Sebastian Bull will be the new principal of Donlon Elementary School. Sebastian has been a vice principal of Amador Valley High School since 2010 and is widely regarded by his co-workers as being a thoughtful and caring educator who is an incredibly hard worker. Sebastian has committed to providing longevity to the Donlon position, and we know that his leadership will provide support and stability to Donlon's educational environment."

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