State of school facilities: 'Outdated and in some cases obsolete' new superintendent says

Outcome of Measure I1 will have lasting impact on Pleasanton schools

"Outdated and in some cases obsolete."

That's how Pleasanton Unified School District Superintendent Rick Rubino summed up the state of the facilities that serve approximately 15,000 students and hundreds of teachers and staff.

It's the conclusion reached by district officials years ago that prompted research into local schools' infrastructure needs and how they could be addressed. Years of consideration culminated with the school board's unanimous vote in July to place a $270 million facilities bond measure on the ballot for the Nov. 8 General Election.

That initiative is Measure I1, also known as the "Pleasanton Unified School District School and Classroom Safety, Renovation, Construction and Modernization Measure," and it's asking voters this central question:

"To repair and upgrade aging classrooms and facilities at local schools; provide 21st century learning technology and facilities; improve school safety and security; update science labs; improve energy and water efficiency; renovate, construct, and acquire classrooms, equipment and facilities, and construct a new elementary school, shall Pleasanton Unified School District issue $270,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with independent citizen oversight, annual audits, all funds used for local schools, and no money used for administrators' salaries?"

If more than 55% of Pleasanton residents who vote on the measure check "yes," the bond measure will pass, imposing a new tax of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value on Pleasanton property owners.

For example, a family that owns a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would pay an additional $245 in taxes each year. A property with an assessed value of $800,000 would see $392 in taxes each year resulting from Measure I1. Senior citizens would not be exempt from the tax.

If Measure I1 succeeds and all the bonds are issued and sold, the current best estimate is it would cost the district $540.5 million to repay the bond debt, according to the ballot measure.

With the tax rate determined, the school board whittled down a list of possible projects to fit within the $270 million in revenue that such a bond is expected to generate.

The projects fall into four categories: modernizations and new infrastructure at a cost of $139 million; safety and security with a roughly $29 million allocation; creating 21st century learning environments including new science and technology facilities for $97.8 million; and energy and water improvements that would cost $10 million.

Projects range from the installation of site fencing and video cameras at all schools to modernizing Lydiksen Elementary School to the construction of a new elementary school on a site to be determined.

While the board's final approved project list contains budgeted amounts up to $270 million, the ballot measure itself does not include cost estimates. It states that the final cost of each project will be determined "as plans are finalized, construction contracts are awarded, and projects are completed."

It also notes that the school board cannot guarantee the bond will generate enough money to complete all listed projects. Regardless of funding availability, inclusion of a project on the list is not a guarantee that it will be completed, but only projects on the list could be funded by Measure I1 revenue.

As of June 30, the district reported it had an estimated $5.7 million available for projects, most of which comes from developer fees.

It's been 20 years since Pleasanton voters passed Measure B, the last school bond, which generated $70 million for facilities improvements. Roughly $42 million in outstanding general obligation bond debt remains from that measure. That debt will be completely paid off in 2023, according to the district.

In the two decades between the two Pleasanton bond measures, neighboring school districts have seen funding come in from multiple bond initiatives.

Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District voters have passed three school bonds in the last 20 years, as have San Ramon Valley Unified voters. Dublin Unified has seen two such measures pass. During the June election, Livermore passed a $245 million bond with 67% voter approval and Dublin passed a $283 million bond with 60% approval.

That fact plays into Rubino's rationale about the need for bond funding. Pleasanton school facilities and infrastructure in their current state are not meeting the needs of students and teachers, Rubino said, putting youth at risk of not being able to compete adequately in the workforce.

"It's clear if the bond doesn't pass, our students are not going to have a competitive advantage," Rubino said. "They're not going to have the tools they need to prepare for college and careers in the 21st century."

That concern is part of what's driving proponents into action.

The ballot argument in support of Measure I1, authored by five local residents, encourages voters to "keep Pleasanton schools among the best." A Yes on I1 campaign has also been launched with a Facebook page and a website that includes a frequently asked questions page and links for volunteering and donating. PUSD employees can participate in the campaign, but not during work hours and not using district resources.

No ballot statement was submitted in opposition of Measure I1.

While bond proponents schedule precinct walking and phone banking, district officials are doing what they can to educate voters about the need. Next month, they will start giving school tours to interested community members who will learn about the current conditions of schools, items on the bond project list and taxpayer information.

District officials took this reporter on a tour of Amador Valley High, Lydiksen Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools to demonstrate some of the changes that would be made with bond funding.

Administrators pointed out an array of what they say are necessary improvements, some of which the schools shared in common, such as replacing heating and air conditioning systems from the 1980s and modernizing science labs.

There are also signs of aging and disrepair evident in the nooks and crannies of campuses, from dry rot outside the kindergarten pod at Lydiksen to water intrusion at Pleasanton Middle.

One of the marquee items on the bond project list is the proposal to demolish Lydiksen's pods, the five circular buildings on campus that house the school's classrooms, office and library. In their place would go a two-story structure, as outlined in the district's facilities master plan.

The estimated $30 million overhaul would free up more playground space and lead to a better learning environment, according to Jacob Berg, Lydiksen's principal.

"It would be quite drastic for Lydiksen," Berg said.

Pleasanton teachers and school administrators say the current facilities inhibit them in a number of ways. The Lydiksen pod classrooms, for example, are pie-shaped, meaning one end is significantly narrower than the other. That makes furniture configuration tricky, according to Berg.

The Lydiksen classrooms also have limited storage and thin walls, so students can get distracted by a noisier classroom next door, said Kylene Calvo, a fourth-grade teacher at Lydiksen.

"(The space) is very limited," Calvo said. "My kids either have their desks or they're on the floor."

For science teachers at Pleasanton Middle School, living with the current facilities has meant making do.

Andy Su, who teaches sixth- and eighth-graders, uses water pitchers and buckets for students' experiments because his classroom lacks sinks. Jad Gaytan, an eighth-grade science teacher, eliminated an experiment from her curriculum because it requires the use of gas and her classroom has dealt with leaks in the past.

These problems, Rubino said, will not remain stagnant if the bond fails. There are no alternative funding sources identified aside from Proposition 51, the $9 billion public school facilities bond on the California ballot this fall. PUSD would have to provide matching funds to qualify for state assistance should Prop 51 pass, according to Rubino.

"We would continue to decline, and all the effects of a deteriorating school and the absence of a 21st century education for our students are bound to have a negative impact," he said. "Our wonderful teachers, staff and parents do the best they can to provide for our children, but we are now in a desperate time."

For more information on Measure I1, visit the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office website at or the PUSD website at

Board-approved bond project list

Safety and security: $29 million

* Upgrade fire alarm systems at all schools for consistency and student safety: $7,647,500

* Install site fencing at all schools: $6,181,250

* Install video cameras in main areas at all schools: $2,250,000

* Implement VOIP phones, bells, clocks, and intercom/all-call: $4,609,200

* Install exterior lighting upgrades: $1,900,000

* Upgrade security system and door key/locks: $6,468,750

21st century learning environments including new science and technology facilities: $97.8 million

* Upgrade electrical service/infrastructure district-wide: $12,937,500

* Upgrade HVAC district-wide: $22,500,000

* Provide classroom technology district-wide (1:1, classroom audio visual): $15,000,000

* Middle school science labs: $17,388,000

* High school science labs: $16,560,000

* Replace and upgrade district wired network, MDF and IDF closets: $13,394,625

Energy and water efficiencies: $10 million

* Install solar structures: $7,000,000

* Install water efficient toilets and fountains (including new hydration stations), plumbing and sewer system upgrade, install isolation valves: $3,000,000

Modernizations, renovations, replacements of existing facilities, former leases: $139.3 million

* Remove temporary portables and build a new school: $35,000,000

* Roofing replacement/repairs to address years of ongoing roof leaks: $8,041,950

* Build, modernize, and upgrade existing school buildings and classrooms or replace portables, including FF&E: $81,000,000

* Build new classrooms and facilities at Lydiksen Elementary School to replace removed circular buildings: $30,000,000

* Payoff certificates of participation: $15,247,527

* Note: The Pleasanton school board approved a final bond project list in July. Project costs are estimates, and inclusion on the list is not a guarantee the project will be completed, regardless of available funding.


7 people like this
Posted by Raymond Grant
a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:18 am

Meanwhile... there is currently 4 openings for new students in the ENTIRE district, the teachers are about to sign a contract that not only allows expansion of class sizes, but includes either a pay cut or no raises for 3 a district that already has retention problems. AND Pleasanton keeps adding housing. Try asking Rubino how much of that money goes towards retaining the teachers that ACTUALLY made this district great???

New paint on the walls won't help keep teachers in a City where they already can't afford to live.

2 people like this
Posted by D
a resident of Foothill High School
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:20 am

What on earth does "Payoff certificates of participation" (a whopping 15 million!) mean?

8 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

res1 is a registered user.

While the district probably needs some money for renovation (i.e., real capital projects), I am concerned that much of the money will go towards maintenance that is supposed to come out of operations. It makes absolutely NO sense to do 20 and 30 year long loans to pay for painting and other maintenance items. The life of those projects will be less than the loan period, Only an idiot would finance things that way.

As for "Payoff certificates of participation", the certificates of participation are previous loans the district took out for adding onto Foothill High School, the daycare center at the district office, and infrastructure for the Neal Elementary school. All loans that were taken out a long time ago, and then refinanced at a tremendous cost to the district, and now they want to refinance again. The district said they would only refinance the certificates of participation if it is a better deal than what they currently have but there is nothing requiring the district to make this determination. So you better have a ton of trust in the district to do what they said so they will not screw the taxpayers out of even more money like they have done before with these loans.

You might not also be aware that we are already paying for previous school bonds on our property taxes. Those bonds ended up costing more than the district said they would during that election, and the district refinanced those which extended the payoff period PLUS they did some illegal cash-outs, meaning they issued more bonds than the voters legally allowed the district to issue.

When the district tells you that the cost of the bonds on your property tax will be $x/$100,000 valuation, that is just a prediction. There is nothing in the bond measure that restricts the district from issuing bonds that will cost more than that (we saw that in the other pleasanton school district bond we are currently paying).

Although we have a new superintendent that we hope is more trustworthy than our past ones, I wish the district had some time to prove themselves first before asking for money than us just blindly trusting that "things will be different"

26 people like this
Posted by Informed
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 30, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Informed is a registered user.

I think we have to be diligent and informed here. My children have attended schools in different school districts in the area. Pleasanton Unified definitely has some teachers, dedicated parents who devote a lot of time to school and therefore the students need the right kind of support to succeed. Please look at the details here and PUSD has among the lowest tax rate of all K12 public schools in the county even if the bond measure succeeds. Also, the previous measures attempted were parcel tax, but this is a bond measure with $49 per 100k of assessed value so longtime homeowners who may no longer have kids in school are not burdened much. Many of such neighbors have said, they will be glad to pay that much for the schools and also the property values goes up if the school does well.
Please take time to look at this in detail include Slide 22 (TAx payer information
Web Link

8 people like this
Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

"Meanwhile... there is currently 4 openings for new students in the ENTIRE district..."
This is not true, there are more than four openings at my school alone. The district has to take any school aged child who moves into Pleasanton, this is a public school district and cannot turn anyone away.

"...the teachers are about to sign a contract that not only allows expansion of class sizes..."
Not true.

"...but includes either a pay cut or no raises for 3 years..."
Pay cut: no. No raises for three years: no. No raise this year: correct. No money coming in from the state for raises, so we will be biting the bullet his year, as we have in the past. But raises are open to negotiation every year.

" a district that already has retention problems."
We don't have retention problems here, at least not more than other districts. Pleasanton pays more at every level than any district I know of, last I checked.

"New paint on the walls won't help keep teachers in a City where they already can't afford to live."
The bond, though it will help teachers as well, is more for the education of the students than it is for teacher retention.

6 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Oct 2, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Sandy Piderit is a registered user.

The bond proceeds may be used for maintenance of specific types, though not painting -- that line item was among several that were removed from the list of projects before the board officially approved it.

I am glad to see the district rejecting the notion that everything has to be brand new -- in many cases it is cheaper for taxpayers to renovate (for instance science classrooms) rather than tearing down whole buildings and starting from scratch.

While the state used to designate a portion of school funds for maintenance, there was a waiver put in place for several years to allow districts to get through the recession and budget cuts by choosing to defer maintenance. Now the categorical funding process for school districts has been significantly streamlined. To suggest that all maintenance has to be paid out of the annual budget is no longer consistent with state law.

The district can issue bonds and repay them in a shorter time period, and at the meeting I attended, the current board members all indicated a willingness to follow this principle with respect to technology projects. A bond doesn't have to be for 30 years -- certain bonds can be issued for 3 or 5 year time periods.

Here is the link to the board-approved list of projects:
Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Carolina
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 3, 2016 at 10:54 am

Carolina is a registered user.

What about validating those students who are in our school district coming from areas outside our boundaries i.e. from Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, etc. whose parents use a friends or they get a local address in order to have their children use our schools without paying into it.

I have been paying school taxes for the past 40 years in this district, my children attended school here, and I had absolutely no problem paying my fair share of taxes to support the district. But what about those who don't use the system any longer having to continually pay for what they don't use or need! Why not have those who use the system and services pay for using it!

Additionally, the district has been awarded numerous bonds over those years, some of which still have funds available to consume for what they were issued to provide for, and if they need/ask/want/demand more from the tax payers, how about making how those funds were spend, and consumed, totally transparent to everyone, in great detail because some of the funds designated for a specific usage have been reallocated to meet another area, without voters awareness, approval or review.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim Hansen
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Oct 3, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Jim Hansen is a registered user.

While it is true that the $49/$100,000 AV tax rate is an estimate that is based on current interest rates, the District is limited to selling no more than $270 million in bonds.

Paint was removed from the bond project list. Many of the larger items on the project list are for capital and improvement projects such as providing 21st century learning facilities, modernizations/upgrades of several of our schools, the renovation of Lydiksen classrooms (from those built over 50 years ago), new science labs at all middle and high schools, replacing portable classrooms.

The legally binding project list dictates how funds from the measure must be spent. An independent oversight committee comprised of local residents will review and report to the public each year on how funds are spent. If Measure I1 is passed by voters, the oversight committee formed would consist of at least seven members including individuals representing the following groups: parent active in parent-teacher organization/school-site council, senior citizen organization, at-large community members (2), parent of a district student, business owner, and taxpayer organization. Annual independent financial and performance audits are mandatory, as well.

The bond project list and bond resolution, which includes the information above, can be found on Pleasanton USD’s web site here: Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

res1 is a registered user.

If I look at the full text of the bond from the link provided by Jim Hansen, I see "Modernize, upgrade, renovate, rehabilitate, re-configure, expand and/or upgrade
classrooms, classroom buildings, labs, restrooms, common areas and school
support facilities (including library, multipurpose room/auditorium, food storage,
preparation and service, cafeteria and office/staff support facilities, whether
permanent, portable or modular, including interior and exterior (as applicable)),
doors, windows, door and window hardware, roofs, rain gutters and downspouts,
walls, ceilings and floors and finishes, paint, siding, insulation, casework,
cabinets, secured storage, carpets, drapes, window coverings, infrastructure,
lighting, sinks, drinking fountains, fixtures, signage, fencing, landscaping,
furniture and equipment"

That has paint in the list. Is the full text of the measure on the link that Jim provided inaccurate?

The only legal document for the project list is the full text of the measure we are voting on. Any other document is informational/advisory but is not enforceable. Anything not part of the text of the measure can be modified by any future school board vote.

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Oct 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Jim, where is the site specific list, sans actual dollar estimates, that was promised to the Board by staff? Which schools will get new roofs, new air conditioning, etc.? Any truth to the rumor that Lydiksen will be built as a two-story facility (I have no problem with two-stories UNLESS the intention is to house more than 600 students on the campus). Thanks much!

2 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Oct 3, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Sandy Piderit is a registered user.

In an earlier board meeting in July, there were line items specifically related to repainting buildings without doing any other improvements on them. Those line items were removed and the board will not approve any projects with painting as their sole purpose. For projects where other significant remodeling will be carried out (for instance, science classrooms that will be stripped to the studs and upgraded, or the new building to go up at Lydiksen) then the project will involve painting as well as a lot of other improvements.

While you make a fair point that the board project list can be modified by future boards, the purpose of the Citizens' Advisory Committee will be to audit the projects approved and ensure that they are consistent with the intended purposes specified when the board and the voters approved the bond. If a future board decided that they wanted to renovate the football bleachers instead of the science classrooms, for example, or build a new middle school rather than a new elementary school, that would not be permitted and would be enforceable.

5 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Oct 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

res1 is a registered user.

"Citizens' Advisory Committee" sounds all good but here are my concerns:
1) The committee members are appointed by the board so little chance of the committee members going against the board. I want people on the committee who are critical and watching for items. Wish there were some arguments against the bond, then I would suggest those people should be on the committee. Without that, got to be some way to find some members of the community who have been critical of the district spending and have them on the committee.

The current bond measure we are paying for had an oversight committee. However, the district refinanced the bonds and cashed out, and used the cash out money without ever going to the oversight committee. There was a citizen committee that was established a few years ago that brought up this issue. If the cash out was brought to the oversight committee, they most likely would have had problems with it.

5 people like this
Posted by Jim Hansen
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Oct 5, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Jim Hansen is a registered user.

"PUSD has posted an updated project list detailing applicable school sites for each item on the project list. It's available to view on their web site here: Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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