Piedmont Neighborhood News

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Posts Tagged ‘Piedmont Measure E’

School Board Calls for Public Input on Budget Options

Posted by Len Gilbert on September 19, 2010

On Thursday, September 16, the Board of Education held a special afternoon meeting in the City Council Chamber in City Hall to discuss the District budget.  The District projects a budget shortfall of $5 million over two years, starting in 2011-12.

This meeting, which can be seen on KCOM or the City’s video archive http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video/, is the first of a series of public meetings on the District budget, and the Board members urged the public to participate in these meetings and provide input on how to address the shortfall.

Superintendent Connie Hubbard presented an overview of the budget, including historical information about State education funding as well as Piedmont’s parcel taxes and community fundraising.  The District, along with all school districts in California, is facing an unprecedented budget crisis. The projected $5 million shortfall is the result of sharp reductions in State education funding, as well as the escalating costs of salaries and health benefits.

Hubbard explained that the Piedmont community currently contributes more than one-third of the District’s budget through local parcel taxes and private contributions.  Even the extraordinary financial support of the Piedmont community has not kept pace with the increases in cost and decreases in State funding in recent years.

Board member Ray Gadbois noted that, since 2008, the District has resorted to one-time, temporary increases in revenue (such as Federal stimulus money, the emergency parcel tax and contributions of reserve funds from parent clubs) and decreases in cost (such as teacher, staff and administrator furloughs) to stabilize and balance the budget. These “one-time fixes” have made it possible for the District to avoid the significant program cuts that are being made in other school districts.

The Board members thanked the community for its financial support for education, including the emergency parcel tax, but all agreed that relying on private funding and temporary fixes is not sustainable — a more permanent solution is needed.

The Board presented a menu of “budget options” for public consideration that attempt to distribute the burden.  For example, by raising the basic (Measure B) parcel tax assessment by 5%, the District could raise an additional $1.2 million over two years.  By freezing health benefit costs at the 2010-11 level, the District could reduce expenditures by $1.25 million over two years.  By making changes to the educational program, such as increases in class size and reductions in support services, the District could reduce expenditures by an additional $1.5 million over two years.

The complete range of budget options presented are available for review on the District website at http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/board-of-education/meeting-materials.

Board member June Monach urged the public to review the options and provide input on how to combine some of the options, or identify new options, to close the $5 million budget gap.

Representatives of the Parcel Tax Advisory Committee, which has divided into subcommittees to study different aspects of the District’s budget, presented the Committee’s findings.  Mimi Felson presented charts and graphs showing dramatic decreases in State education funding, and the equally dramatic rise in local contributions to make up the shortfall.  Ken Jensen and Matt Lifschiz presented a comparison of employee compensation and benefits in a range of districts.

During the public comment period, Andrea Swenson, the Chair of the annual Giving Campaign, the schools’ most important fundraising event, noted the difficulty of finding sustainable solutions.  This year, the Giving Campaign is asking each family with children in the schools to contribute $1,500, an increase of $300 over last year.  Although the Giving Campaign may succeed in raising more money for the schools this year, Swenson noted that the $5 million budget crisis cannot be solved by private fundraising.

Mary Ireland, President of the APCP and PHS Parent Club, noted that many of the budget options would directly and negatively impact teachers.  She emphasized that this is not a reflection of community dissatisfaction with the service and care the employees provide our children–this merely reflects the magnitude of the budget crisis.

Amal Smith, President of the Piedmont Educational Foundation, echoed these points, and emphasized that the burden of balancing the budget cannot be borne by the community alone, or by the employees alone, but that the pain and sacrifice must be shared.

Board President Roy Tolles stated that Piedmont’s exceptional educational program was created and maintained through a partnership among teachers, staff, administrators, families and the Piedmont community, and that the same spirit of partnership is needed to address the funding crisis and develop sustainable solutions.

Tolles concluded the meeting by asking the public to provide input, in person at any of the upcoming public meetings on the budget, or by email addressed to the Board and Superintendent at: rgadbois@piedmont.k12.ca.us, rtolles@piedmont.k12.ca.us, mjones@piedmont.k12.ca.us, jmonach@piedmont.k12.ca.us, rraushenbush@piedmont.k12.ca.us, chubbard@piedmont.k12.ca.us.  Some of the upcoming meetings include:  Budget Advisory Committee meetings on September 23 and December 2; and Board of Education meetings on September 29, October 13 and December 8.

Posted in School | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Portable Problems

Posted by Len Gilbert on August 25, 2009

I received this letter from PUSD superintendent Hubbard a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t write anything about it. I was too mad. The Piedmonter and the Post have covered the issue if you’d like more detail.Beach Portable

The short version: The school district has, yet again, made a Measure E related planning blunder, this one costing thousands of dollars to fix. I love adages, proverbs, saws, and maxims and “measure twice, cut once” is the one that comes to mind in this situation. Too bad the Measure E project managers don’t know that one.

As you read the letter below, keep in mind these points:

  • Who made the mistake on the gas line “abandonment”? Why was this not verified before the portable was moved and installed?
  • Who is paying to put an additional portable on the Beach blacktop because of this mistake?
  • Is the entity who made the error paying the costs? If not, why not?

Given that the replacement portable is already in place and all the traffic is now going to stop at the top, rather than the bottom of the hill, it seems now is the right time to put in a mid-block stop sign and cross walk. It’s overdue. The play field and the dog park both would benefit and it would slow traffic to the posted 25 mile an hour speed limit.

–L

Here is superintendent Hubbard’s letter from August 7, 2009.

—————————–

Dear Beach and Havens Families,

We are writing to provide an update on the plans to relocate Havens SchoolMates, and to provide assurance that the School District and City are working together to ensure that  SchoolMates for Havens and Beach students is in a safe and appropriate location and ready to operate its program starting August 26, the first day of the school year; and there will opportunity for parents, staff and neighbors to get information and provide input concerning the location options to accommodate all of the children in the SchoolMates program.

As you may know, the Havens SchoolMates building was scheduled to be relocated for the next two years to the far end of the Linda Beach Playfield, next to the Oakland Avenue bridge. The building will be used first by Havens SchoolMates, then Wildwood SchoolMates, during the time that the Havens and Wildwood Schools are relocated to Emeryville (the following year, when the Beach School is relocated to Emeryville, the Beach SchoolMates program will either relocate with or close to the Beach kindergarten classes). However, the School District confirmed that a 12″ high-pressure gas line below the site, previously identified as “abandoned” by PG&E, is in fact “active” and therefore makes the site unsuitable for the SchoolMates program.

In order to ensure that the SchoolMates program is ready for all students at the start of the school year, a SchoolMates building will be relocated, at least on a temporary basis, to the Beach blacktop. Although this change will reduce some of the play area immediately outside Beach School, we will work to best accommodate this change with minimal impact on our students and instructional programs.

The City and District are in the process of identifying options for a “permanent” (two-year) location for the SchoolMates building and will consider the options following the legally-required public notice and opportunity for comment by parents, staff and the neighbors. Many options have been explored and proven to be impractical or cost-prohibitive. Possible permanent locations still under consideration include, but are not limited to, leaving the SchoolMates
building on the Beach blacktop or moving the building to the City-owned tennis courts that are between the Beach School and the Beach field. The City and District will work together to reach a decision that is in the best interest of the community and makes the best use of community resources.

Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we look forward to seeing you and your students on August 26th.

Sincerely,

Constance Hubbard

Superintendent

Posted in City News, School | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Revisiting “Fair and Equitable”

Posted by Len Gilbert on November 30, 2008

piedmont-measure-e-portablesI’ve had some positive comments on my post about a fair and equitable solution for placement of portables during Measure E construction. Overall, I think the Piedmont community agrees that we need to do what’s best for the educational needs of our children.  And not just “our children” (my own children) but “Our Children” being all the kids of Piedmont.

It’s hard to decide what is the best solution, when clearly each of the solutions has problems and affects someone or some group that another plan might not impact as greatly. However, we must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each proposal with the goal of giving our children the best educational experience possible, even during construction.

In my mind, I’ve narrowed the decision down to a few key factors.

  • What is best for the educational needs of the children?
  • Which option is the most cost-effective? (let’s spend the money on school repair and improvements, not portables). Remember to consider the costs for restoring to it’s current state the site when construction is complete.
  • Which option is least disruptive to the entire community and individual neighborhoods? Of special consideration here are programs and facilities outside the scope of school-aged children. Recreation dept programs, schoolmates, tot lots and preschool facilities, etc.
  • Which location provides walkable options? A walkable location can encourage families who currently use the car to start walking to school. Some options may contribute to congestion or inconvenience, but congestion issues are different that children’s safety issues. If we alter traffic, adding to already busy traffic areas, safety becomes a consideration.
  • Which option can be implemented in time for students to “move in” for Fall 2009 classes? PUSD properties seem to offer the fastest options for setup of the portables.

The joint Piedmont city council/Piedmont Unified School District board meeting is Monday, December 1st, 7:00pm at City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue.

–L

Please leave a comment on this issue.

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Where to put the kids? What is fair?

Posted by Len Gilbert on November 24, 2008

The issue of Measure E interim student housing has become a bit of a hot topic around town. Various ideas for the location of temporary portables are being floated, including Witter Baseball field, Hampton Field, Coaches Field/Blair Park, Havens plus tennis courts (possibly throw in 801 Magnolia), and Beach Field. Each of these locations has a positive and negative side.

Measure E was positioned to retrofit our schools, not to build new ones. The Becker plan found a way to rebuild Havens using those funds and I think that’s a good thing. It is visionary to take what could have been functional, but uninspiring and figure out how to do something great for the community. However, the direct benefit, and therefore the bulk of the hardship, should be borne fairly and equitably.

So where should the portables be? What is fair and equitable?

Let’s look at Witter Baseball field. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m very pro-baseball and as a PBF board member, I know that losing Witter Baseball for 3-4 years will have a huge impact on the older players, but also ripple through community baseball and soccer programs of other age groups. However, when I take off my baseball hat and consider the issue as a Piedmont resident with school aged children, it seems to be not such a bad idea. It’s central, has plenty of room for portables, and keeps students (except Beach) generally close to their original schools. Witter baseball field adjoins Wildwood, PHS, and PMS and is about 4 blocks from Havens. (see this map to get an idea of the relative location of Havens, Wildwood, PMS, and PHS to the Baseball Field.) The main baseball diamond could be retained for practices as well as student use during the day. And while direct drop off via automobile is problematic, the central location means that walking to school is viable from most of Piedmont. Overall, this plan is better than many of the others. It keeps each school together in a centralized, walkable location.

Another option is Beach field, however this seems to be extremely weak proposal and not well thought out. This location is not easily walkable from most of Piedmont, so cars will be blocking Linda every morning and afternoon. Already there are traffic safety issues on Linda during school hours or soccer or baseball games. How would this be improved by adding to, possibly more than doubling, the student and teacher population there? Drop off and pick up would be a traffic nightmare. It also seems extremely unfair for Beach, which has the smallest amount of repair work needed, funds allocated, and improvements planned, to have to take the brunt of the interim housing effort for 3-4 years.

Hampton field is a decent choice, at least at first glance. It has four streets that come into a drop off point, has a large, contiguous field that could house portables, and also would allow for a small playground and basketball courts on site. Again, there are negatives. These include that the four approaches all meet at the same corner, so drop off would need some traffic coordination. Also, Hampton is very highly used by youth baseball, softball, soccer, as well as community tennis and basketball. If you think losing Witter baseball has a big impact on youth sports, imaging losing Hampton. The impact is much greater and directly affects a large pool of children aged 6-12.

Whew, what’s left? It seems there are still three or four options that won’t totally crater youth sports or put the burden on a school community who isn’t the primary beneficiary of the bulk of the Measure E construction. First is Witter Baseball Field, mentioned above. Aside from youth sports impact, it seems to offer the best location if the goal is to provide some continuity and community for displaced students. The field impact primarily affects 3 baseball teams. Second is Crocker Park. Yes, it’s not been considered, but it appears to be about as big as the Beach location and its temporary use would displace no youth sports or overburden one of the smaller elementary schools. Third is Coaches Field/Blair Park. The big negative here is traffic. However, the housing density is low compared to the other proposed locations, and if school walkers cross at Highland Avenue at the light, there is a separated sidewalk directly from Highland to Coaches field. The space to be considered should be all parking lot areas, the baseball field’s deep right field, and the corporation yard. Those three spaces alone allow for a huge area for portables, the baseball diamond as a field for school use, plus baseball, softball, and soccer could still use the field evenings and weekends. Parking for staff would be across Moraga in Blair park.

The final option is the one Drew mentioned in a previous post. “Flatten 801 Magnolia and put the PHS portables on that site and on Bonita from Magnolia to Vista. Once the Havens rebuild is complete, move the WW kids, and then the Beach kids, to the Havens portables.  Since there are (I think) about 40% fewer kids at WW and Beach than at Havens, there would be a need for fewer portables, so instead of portables taking up the whole play space, they could build the new field and all the kids would have a big field (and the brand new MPR) for PE, etc.”

None of these proposals are perfect. Each has enough drawbacks and problems to take it out of the running. Yet, we need to figure a way to get this work done quickly and safely, and most of all, fairly. I encourage you to participate in the discussion at two upcoming community meetings.

Dec 1, 7:30 pm, City Hall, Joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Education
Dec 10, 7:00 pm, City Hall, Regular meeting of the Board of Education

–L

Feel free to comment on this post. The purpose of this blog is discussion and debate for the Piedmont community and you are encouraged to participate in the conversation.

Posted in City News, Parks, Recreation, School, Youth Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »