School district eyes job restorations, smaller classes | February 14, 2014 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 14, 2014

School district eyes job restorations, smaller classes

Spending plan would bring back assistant principals, custodians

by Glenn Wohltmann

After years of paring down its budget, the Pleasanton School Board is considering bringing back some jobs permanently and restoring others for a year.

The board is also looking at several plans that could lower class sizes for kindergarten through third grade.

Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares told the board Tuesday night that "there have been no significant changes to the governor's budget." since last month. Based on those figures, Cazares has recommended restoring about $2.9 million -- $1.8 million in staff and programs on an ongoing basis and another $1.1 million in one-time restorations for the next school year.

Permanent restorations include $180,000 for assistant principals "to allow for a half-time assistant principal at every one of our elementary schools," Cazares told the board.

Under the proposed spending plan, she said, "every school would have an additional half-time custodian." The total cost for custodians would be about $315,000, with a mix of ongoing and temporary restorations. It would put staffing close to where it was before years of budget cuts.

Cazares' plan would also put $550,000 toward maintenance that's been put off for years.

The district will also have to pay for two school nurses. ValleyCare Medical Center has paid for those nurses for the last two years, but has told the district it can no longer do so. Budgeting $160,000 to restore those nurses, Cazares said, would "maintain our status quo."

Other proposed restorations include:

* $640,000 for instructional coaches in literacy, math and technology, and $24,000 for an assessment coordinator.

* $408,000 to bring back counselors at elementary, middle and high schools.

* $400,000 for a physical education specialist once a week for first- through fifth-grade students.

* $176,850 for library assistants at elementary, middle and high schools.

* $135,000 to bring back technology specialists at elementary and middle schools, and $45,000 for a technology trainer on a one-time basis.

Board members are in the process of tweaking Cazares' recommendations to avoid issuing pink-slip warnings to staff.

"One thing that jumps out at me that I'd really like to take a look at is vice principals," Board President Jamie Hintzke said. She suggested that vice principals be assigned to schools with more special needs students and higher student populations.

The board is also considering several scenarios to cut class sizes at elementary schools.

Cazares has suggested a plan that would keep the 25-1 student-to-teacher ratio for first grade and reduce second-grade class sizes from 30-1 to 25-1 in the coming school year. Third-grade classes would go to 25-1 in the 2015-16 school year, with kindergarten classes dropping to 25-1 the following year.

Class sizes could also change based on fundraising by Pleasanton Partnerships In Education. If PPIE raises another $65,000, that could cut class sizes in third grade from 30-1 to 28-1, and if it raises $175,000, that could cut third-grade class sizes to 27-1.

Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for a 24-1 ratio of students to teachers by 2021. Districts must show progress each year unless they negotiate a different arrangement with the state.

Board Member Chris Grant suggested the district consider dropping all class-size ratios to 25-1 for the upcoming year, and maintaining that ratio, while Board Member Valerie Arkin suggested a plan that would cut all class sizes gradually.

Both proposals brought applause from the 20 or so parents in the audience.

Three of those parents spoke, thanking the board for working on creating smaller classes for early elementary school students and asking that kindergarten be considered for class-size reductions next school year.

"I'd like someone to explain the second-rate standing of kindergarteners for class-size reductions," said speaker Samantha Riegels.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said the district planned to change class sizes for kindergartners last because those students aren't required to attend school a full day and most schools have staggered days that allow for smaller kindergarten classes for part of the day.

The board also heard a presentation on changes to math courses as part of the new educational model known as Common Core State Standards.

The district currently has courses set up so that advanced students can take algebra or honors geometry in eighth grade. Common Core, which focuses on in-depth learning, has a pathway set up that would offer more rigorous math courses for all students, and the district would have to adjust its current pathway for advanced students to allow them to take three or five years of math in two years.

One parent said the district places too much emphasis on advanced math classes, noting the traditional math pathway is known by students as "dummy math."

That's likely to change as Common Core math becomes the standard and more students get shunted toward that path.

The district has two informational sessions scheduled on Common Core math standards. One, on Feb. 26 at Donlon Elementary School, will focus on elementary school math, and the other on Feb. 27 at Harvest Park Middle School will focus on higher grades. Both sessions will be held at 7 p.m.

The district also approved, as part of its consent agenda in which items are voted on as a whole without discussion, agreements with two developers.

The agreements are with Ponderosa Homes and SHAC Las Positas Apartments, a subsidiary of Summmerhill Homes. The firms would pay school-mitigation fees, meant to offset the cost to the district for new students who would move in as new apartments are built.


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