Piedmont Neighborhood News

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Archive for December, 2007

Today the Chronicle Finds The Half Full Blog

Posted by drewbendon on December 30, 2007

The cover article in the SF Chronicle Magazine this morning is about raising happy kids, the Half Full blog and the Greater Good Science Center.  Read it here:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/30/CM95TK0I2.DTL.

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Freakonomics Hits The Half-Full Blog

Posted by drewbendon on December 18, 2007

Our friends at the Half Full blog have had a visit from Steven D. Levitt and his Freakonomics blog on the NYT website.  As is typical in the blogosphere (and I’m not immune) his comments seem only to scratch the surface of the issues raised in Half Full.  He riffs on the  blog’s ideas about raising “happy and emotionally literate kids” and doesn’t dig into the deeper concept of doing so by creating a “growth mindset” (as pointed out by Christine in her comment).  On the other hand, maybe this is just a suggestion to Half Full to re-frame its content and get back to the core discussion.  In any case, Mr. Levitt has some interesting comments to his thoughts.  I especially enjoy the one from the Dave Grohl aficionado.

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PUSD Community Workshop

Posted by drewbendon on December 15, 2007

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the PUSD Seismic workshop on December 8, 2007.

A summary report of the discussion from the workshop is available on the PUSD Bond website:  http://pusdbond.org/public/community.html.

Below are Dana Serleth’s notes on the presentation made by the meeting facilitator to the School Board at their meeting on December 12, 2007.

Review of 12/8 Community Workshop: feedback plus co-vision data plus electronic version of the workbook will be posted at the bond web site in the next 48 hours. June recapped goals for the meeting, conveying her feeling that they had been met: understand community priorities, allow the community to understand the issues and trade-offs inherent in decisions going forward. Gina Bartlett presented a power point summary of her observations. It was not distributed, but here’s what i captured from the slides and what she said

  • 85 attendees + 15+ others from board, TAC, staff, consultants
  • participants absorbed how much work the district has done and the complexity associated with bond decisions
  • participants enjoyed workshop and provided rich input. outreach ensured good representation of community interests (parents from dif schools, staff, students, neighbors, seniors, residents w/o children) — participants were mixed at tables
  • community supports a moderate to moderately comprehensive approach to the bond work, and urges prudent use of funds
  • safety, post-quake use of buildings (preparedness) and educational program were the most important issues to community members
  • next set of issues: adhering to measure E bond language, cost, (mitigating ?) structural deficiencies / earthquake prep
  • support to “do red (coded) buildings now”
  • some ambiguity about maintenance buildings — built beginning of understanding about link to responding after a quake
  • community supports strengthening Group 2 (yellow coded) buildings NOW rather than after a quake (72%) … 12% say wait, 16% unsure
  • maximize state funding and minimize cost escalation but continue a phased approach to minimize disruption (cake and eat it too!)
  • lacking consensus on Havens. Most favor a non-rebuild option, but significant support exists for exploring the rebuild option.
  • came out in the comments that community participants support “master” planning for the district and tying City and School District planning together (my editorial: this surprised Gina, because it is the one thing that came out int he comments that wasn’t on the list in the workbook — and there were a significant number of comments in this regard. She was unclear what kind of planning was being advocated — for individual buildings, the district …. )

Several board members and members of the public commented that they hoped this would be a starting point for a new level of community engagement, rather than a one-time thing or finishing point. One member of the public (who has made several past comments wondering why Havens presents such a big issue), noted that this “elephant in the room” keeps coming up and needs to be resolved. He suggested to the board that there be some kind of a meeting to flesh out what are all the issues with Havens, and expressed a sincere lack of understanding about why those closest to Havens are not simply satisfied with a retrofit option. Another speaker also suggested a meeting (like the 12/8 meeting) be focused explicitly on the issue of Havens.

Project Process/Schedule Presentation: John presented possible timeline scenarios for three levels of projects in the program, a simple one, a more typical one, and a complicated one. Havens was the sample complex one. IT is labelled a “replacement project” and John’s sense of the timing is: shortest possible = 4.5 years, longest = 6.5 years. I didn’t understand fully what was happening here, because this was NOT about building a new school. He indicated that would add to the 6.5 years — for financing and increased role of the state.

Board Initial Discussion of Program Approach and Direction to Superintendent: There were very good comments from the board — too many to list here. Roy presented a decision tree idea to the rest of the group — I missed this (following out of the meeting the two who spoke abotu more input on HAvens) so I will have to ask Roy for more info and get it to you later. Cathie suggested creating some sort of decision matrix. She also expressed her concern about a two track strategy: if some red/”no-brainer” projects are started immediately (before determining a scope and sequence for the whole program) while important projects requiring more planning are put off until planning can be completed (i.e. Havens), we need to have some way of making sure we reserve enough money to get all needed work done. Ray presented a list of four questions he’d like posed to the TAC for their feedback — that also serve as a way of looking at the big decisions (perhaps a start to a decision matrix). Ward was struck by the high level of agreement about the “yellow” buildings, and lack of consensus about Havens. He wondered why people are not moved by the current hybrid solution, which he sees as a good compromise, and wonders if we could develop a more compelling hybrid solution (I commented that I thought this and the planning issue were linked). June did a great summary and linked all the conversation back to the “guidelines”.If there is anyone else who did attend the workshop, please comment.


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GATE Program

Posted by drewbendon on December 14, 2007

There is currently a very interesting discussion going on in the GATE Advisory Council meetings and e-mail list. I am not able to attend the meetings, so I’m not certain of the genesis of the discussion, and am somewhat at a loss to describe its particulars, but here goes. If there is anyone who can shed more light on this, please comment.

It appears that in order to run a GATE program one needs to identify the GATE students. The educators are reluctant to do so because 1. The identification process leads to conflict between parents and teachers and 2. it negatively impacts school climate and student self concept. I don’t know if this is entirely correct, but it appears that the discussion is essentially asking the question of whether we should have a GATE program at all.

On one side of the discussion are the ideas that the philosophical decision not to differentiate is the right one and that State funds for the GATE program total $20,000 and that it is not worth this sum to create the kind of division that identification of GATE students would create.

One the other side of the discussion are the ideas that the district should do what it needs to to meet the educational needs of all students and that we are all different and that recognizing one another’s strengths and weaknesses (and presumably our own) is just part of life.

I think that this is a fascinating and important discussion and I hope the members of the GATE Advisory Council will permit PNN to host this discussion.  PLEASE comment.

My own inclination is towards the second of the two arguments. We are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And the kids already know it. I’m certain that your own experience will bear this out. It makes no difference whether the school formally recognizes it or not, the kids know who the “GATE students” are, just like they know who the best athletes are or the best artists. Parents will, of course, fight to have their children included in the GATE program, but they do that whether or not there is a formal program. If we increase communication, respect our teachers, administrators and neighbors and work together to improve all of the district’s offerings, having a GATE program will just be one effort to provide our children with the best possible eduction the district can offer.


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More Garbage

Posted by drewbendon on December 14, 2007

UPDATE: Councilmember Keating confirms what Councilmember Friedman tells me: you can have as many recycling and green waste containers as you want. (He couldn’t explain why the footnote and the separate table 5 and why the numbers don’t quite match.) We should commend City Staff and the City Council for including this provision in the RFP.

Here is the most recent Staff Report on the proposed Garbage/Recycling contract.

I gather from the staff report that the contract includes more recyclables than before:

“a number of Piedmonters who expressed their support for the contract service option that would expand the list of materials required by the hauler to be recycled. This list includes plastic bags, plastic film, aseptic containers and polystyrene, and adding these materials would increase the monthly fee slightly ($.31 per month under the RSS proposal, and $.78 to $.92 per month under the WMI proposal).”

I can’t tell if this larger list means that all potentially recyclable materials are included in this contract, or if there are still items that we are disposing of that could be diverted from landfills. It is also not clear what would happen if during the contract technology makes it possible to recycle more/different things.
One of the interesting ideas in this report, and this was addressed by Tim Rood in his comments to an early garbage post, is that the recommended default collection is backyard, but one can subscribe to street collection. This is clearly a bow to those who find garbage cans on the street to be unattractive. Why would we choose to make the default the more expensive service? Why not make the default the least expensive service and let those who wish more service to pay more subscribe to backyard service? One more GREEN thought on this issue. The greenhouse gas report prepared for the City shows that the bulk of greenhouse gases come from transportation in the city. Surely having curbside collection as the default would reduce the amount of time the garbage trucks spend idling on our streets spewing exhaust into the atmosphere. It is not clear from the staff report that this was taken into account.

As always, we welcome your thoughts.


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