Jan 31 2015

 Do not open your door to strangers!

Suspects enter homes on the pretense of a “water main break. ”

The Piedmont Police Department urges residents to be vigilant to a recent scam.

1/27/15 at 1330 hours, 200 block of Highland Avenue – 

The victim described the subject as a Hispanic male adult, 30’s-40’s wearing a white/grey “plumber” shirt that had “CP” on it and he was wearing a red baseball cap.  Introduced himself as “Anthony”.  He told the victim there was a “water main break” and he needed to check the bathrooms. Suspect was followed around the house to each bathroom, no loss, info report.

1/28/15 at 1053 hours, 400 block of Moraga Avenue – 

The victim described the suspect as a male pacific islander 6’3″ 250-275 lbs with a blue “work” shirt which read, “Mora” plumbing on the left side of the shirt, above the front pocket.  The suspect said he was there due to a “water main break”.  Male victim allowed entry to the house but when the female victim confronted the suspect, he left.  Loss was money, presidential coins and jewelry.  Suspect got into front passenger seat of a newer white pickup truck that fled eastbound on Moraga Ave.

As always, be vigilant about any individual that comes to solicit for services and do not let them inside your home.

If you see any similarly described individuals, please immediately contact the Piedmont Police Department.


Jan 31 2015

The following resident letter questions why Piedmont’s garbage rates are 62% higher than some surrounding cities.

Jan. 29, 2015

Piedmont City Council

Re: Feb. 2 2015 Billing & Performance Audit of Republic Service Inc.

Honorable Council,

My sister lives in Alameda and her 3 full size bin weekly service through Alameda County Industries is $108.21 for 3 months or $36.07 monthly. Alameda is not topographically comparable to Piedmont but significant parts of Oakland and Berkeley are similar with narrow, winding and hilly streets. Berkeley 32 gallon 3 can service weekly is $36.93 monthly. The Chronicle reports the 3 can weekly service in Oakland as $36.82 monthly. but a current Oakland bill shows the rate at $22.36 per month.  A friend in the narrow, steep streets of Montclair states their rate at $30.

In Piedmont my last 3 month bill for 3 full size cans is $176.47 or $58.82 monthly.

As part of the City audit of RSI, I ask that a survey be done of surrounding city rates. RSI should provide justification for charging a rate in Piedmont that is minimally 62% higher than surrounding cities.

Generally, I find RSI service reliable and the company responsive.


Rick Schiller, Piedmont resident

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Jan 31 2015

How should the new Superintendent be evaluated?

The District Superintendent is the Chief Executive of the District reporting to the School Board.  Any school is as good as the quality and dedication of its teachers and principals, and the Superintendent commands these resources, hiring teachers and principals, giving or denying tenure, and making assignments within the constraints set by the California Education Code. The position commands a substantial compensation package.

The hiring and management of the superintendent and the setting of education vision are the prerogative of the Board. The public has every right and responsibility to hold the School Board accountable for hiring specific public employees and producing appropriate results. It is clear that the selection of the new superintendent is the most important decision that the Board has to make: it will have a direct impact on the quality of education for years to come.

The District web site home page publishes a set of score cards under the banner “educational success and student outcomes”. The cards currently cover academic performance, finance, student community service, and student participation in extracurricular activities. We can only encourage the District to expand the set to include adult education, special education, counseling, and any other area where the District delivers services to our community.

In the private sector, it is common for enterprises to assign yearly goals to the corporate score cards and to tie these goals to the parts of the business each executive controls. For example, a Vice President of Engineering in a High Tech company may have reliability, availability, and a measure of customer satisfaction assigned to each new products. He/she typically parcels the score cards and goals to his/her direct reports, and ties their bonuses to them. It is an effective process to ensure accountability. The goals are often overambitious, and failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve. These score cards and goals are public to all employees to ensure that everybody is on the same page.

It is my understanding that district and assistant superintendents are employed at will by the School Board, typically in increments of four years. Why not have the Board assign goals to the score cards so that the community, administrative staff, and teachers are clear on the Board’s impetus and can all pull in the same direction? The superintendent could then parcels these goals among its assistants, ideally all the way down to principals and heads of departments. In addition, the Board could survey School Alumni every year to give a solid basis on its continuous improvement policy. Clearly the implementation of such a system would have to stay within the law, as California public employees have a right to non-public evaluations of their performances.

The superintendent candidates’ interviews could be focused on whether such a system would work in a public education environment and what rewards compatible with the California Education Code should be considered to entice and further motivate staff and teachers.

Thank you for serving our community as Board Members,

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association. 
Jan 31 2015

The Piedmont School Board has approved extending hours for public use of certain school facilities until 9 pm.  Facilities considered include multipurpose rooms. auditoriums, and gymnasiums.

Non-profit groups are allowed under California law to use school facilities and to be charged only for incidental cost associated with the use.  Ongoing maintenance of school facilities cannot be charged to users.

Political and non-profit organizations supporting or opposing candidates for public office and/or ballot measures through contributions are specifically prohibited from using public facilities – state, county, city, special districts and schools.

As of January 1, 2014 legislation approved October 12, 2013, prohibits campaigning nonprofit organizations from using public resources and facilities.   (CA code Sections 54964.5 and 54964.6)

This bill would prohibit a nonprofit organization or an officer, employee, or agent of a nonprofit organization from using, or permitting another to use public resources received from a local agency for campaign activity, as defined, and not authorized by law. This bill would define, among other terms, “public resources” to mean any property or asset owned by a local agency and funds received by a nonprofit organization which have been generated from any activities related to conduit bond financing by those entities subject to specified conduit financing and transparency and accountability provisions, and “nonprofit organization” to mean an entity incorporated under the Nonprofit Corporation Law or a nonprofit organization that qualifies for exempt status under the federal Internal Revenue Code of 1986, except as specified.  (Legislative Counsel’s digest)

Read a news report on usage.



Jan 31 2015

Following the November 4, 2014 agreement with the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD),  the new Piedmont Turkey Trot (PTT) corporation began paying the District $30,000 from proceeds of the prior year 2013 Turkey Trot race.  The agreement requires PTT to pay $20,000 to PUSD each January following the annual Thanksgiving Day race through January 15, 2019, the end of the five-year agreement.  In January, 2015 PTT paid PUSD $20,000 to aid the Piedmont High cross-country and track and field programs, the original purpose of the fund-raising race when it was organized by parents and students in 2003.

The City of Piedmont has unreimbursed traffic control and public safety expenses for the Turkey Trot. For two years PTT agreed to pay “excess profits” from the race to the Piedmont Athletic Facilities Fund.

Read a news report  for additional details.

Jan 24 2015

It was an extremely active and productive week in the superintendent search. HYA partners, Bill Levinson and Barbara Young conducted interviews and hosted over 40 meetings with various school and community groups exploring key characteristics for the new superintendent as well as gathering input on the perceived qualities and challenges of the district. Thanks to them and all of you who participated.

There is still time to contribute opinions and suggestions to the consulting team as it was decided to extend the survey period. Originally scheduled to close today, the deadline was extended to this Sunday Jan. 25 in recognition of busy post-holiday schedules and the long Martin Luther King holiday and semester break. Access can be found below or on the district website and the Piedmont Portal.  Click link below to participate in the survey.


The next steps will be for the HYA team to collate the input from the surveys and the interviews to create their Leadership profile of our model superintendent. That profile will be delivered at the Feb.11 Board of Ed meeting. From there, they will narrow down the candidates for review by the Board with subsequent interviews of the qualified applicants. The full calendar of events is available on the PUSD website.
Thanks to the community for all for your active participation and we look forward to a successful outcome.
                       Doug Ireland, School Board Member
Jan 21 2015

Piedmont Resident Bernard Pech noticed the Piedmont Schools statement on the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) home page that Piedmont schools rank first in Northern California and fourth in the state, but to him the scores were not the highest if all public schools are considered. Pech explains in his opinion below:

I was pleasantly surprised to see the ranking of PUSD advertised on the District’s home page. It is true that the District is ranked number one in Northern California as a Unified School District among other Unified School Districts, and number four in the State, based on the Academic Performance Index (API) as advertised on the District’s home page. But there are in California twice as many non-unified Districts (Elementary districts and High School districts) as there are unified.

Three types of school districts:

Unified Districts cover grades K-12.

Elementary School Districts cover K-8 or K-6.

High School Districts cover grades 8-12.

There are 5998 elementary schools, 1441 middle schools, and 2493 high schools in the State.

On a school by school basis across all district types, the data shows that, for example, Beach Elementary ranks 37th among Northern California elementary schools and 73 among all elementary schools in the State. The Piedmont High School ranks 19th against all other high schools in Northern California, and 44 against all the high schools in the State, whether in Unified or non-Unified Districts.The fact is that Piedmont High is ranked 44 in the State among other high schools, and 19 in Northern California. Havens Elementary is ranked 203 in the State among elementary schools, and 97 in Northern California.

Given the maximum score is 1000, one could consider that the middle and the elementary schools are ranked number 1, rather than 11, 37, 70, and 97 in the Northern California. But the high school is 10% below the best high school and ranked 19 within Northern California behind: San Francisco Lowell High, Santa Clara Lynbrook High,  Oakland Charter High, Saratoga High, Miramonte High, Owens Gilroy, … and 13 other bay area schools.
The District focuses on marketing itself the best way possible, which is understandable.
API State Ranking Northern Cal Ranking
Beach Elementary 966 73 37
Piedmont Middle 964 17 11
Wildwood Elementary 956 136 70
Havens Elementary 948 203 97
Piedmont High 908 44 19
 2013 Academic Performance Index (API).  A 2014 API report will not be prepared by the State.
PUSD Homepage

PUSD Homepage

< Information from PUSD website






Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident 

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association. 
Jan 20 2015

Community Forum on Superintendent Selection 

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7:00 p.m.

Piedmont High School Student Center

All members of the public and school community are invited to attend and participate.

With the HYA survey (open to the public) having opened Monday, January 12, we are happy to share some preliminary numbers with the community. HYA received roughly 350 completed surveys and another hundred are in progress or unfinished. The cross section of contributors includes parents, staff, teachers, students, and broader community members. As would be expected, parents represent more than 200 of the early responders. We are delighted with the participation and encourage more from all parties.

The survey is a critical step to help the consultants formulate a profile of the key characteristics the community is seeking from its new school leadership. In addition to ranking those skills you think most essential, there is room for personal comment and candidate recommendations.

We will have a busy week around the district with Bill and Barbara from HYA Search Associates in town Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We have arranged meetings across the district to get more direct input from various community constituents. Number one on that list is the community ­wide event at 7:00 at the PHS student center Wednesday night, January 21.  Everyone is invited to participate in this community forum.

For more information, please refer to:  http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/board­of­education/search­for­new­superintendent/.

Thank you.

Submitted by Doug Ireland, School Board Member 

Jan 20 2015

For reader clarity and continuity, School Board Member Rick Raushenbush’s comment to the recently published opinion of William Blackwell on the voter defeated changes to the high school auditorium are re-published here, along with Blackwell’s response.


Blackwell’s original opinion article:

Six months ago, Piedmont voters defeated the $13.5 bond measure (Measure H) to rejuvenate the school district’s Alan Harvey Theater, a major disappointment to its ardent supporters. In hindsight, the results might have been different if the school district had been more forthright in its communications and thorough in its planning. There was no lack of public outreach. But information and advice provided to the Board and public by the district’s staff, committees, and consultants all too often was incomplete or misleading, resulting in flawed decisions. Among other items, the Board was persuaded to authorize $360,000 for the preparation of design development drawings without waiting for the outcome of the election, a high-risk decision with marginal benefit.

What began in 2005 as a $5.4 million renovation was changed in 2012 into a $9.8 million theater remodel plus a whole new wing, based on a plan volunteered by designer Mark Becker. A 17-member committee supported the expanded program and declared that “Piedmont High School should be thought of as a performing arts high school”, meaning that performing arts would become the academic focus.

The new wing included a corridor with wheel-chair access to the auditorium, an elaborate instructional classroom, and improved backstage facilities. The balance of the project consisted of remodeling the existing theater. In all of the district communications, there is not a single meeting note, resolution, letter, or ballot measure statement that informed anyone that seating capacity would be reduced from 500 to 320 seats, a loss of 180 seats. This meant three school assemblies instead of two would be required for student body presentations and a smaller audience capacity for theatrical productions.

About 50 good seats were necessarily lost in providing a cross-aisle for wheel-chair access, but over 100 were lost in changing from “continental” (no center aisles) to conventional seating and in moving the control room into the auditorium instead of in a loft above the lobby. Forty-five temporary seats would have been above the orchestra pit with very poor sight lines. A smaller audience capacity would have resulted in loss in rental revenue, which partially offsets the cost of theater management and other operating expenses.

Curiously, the program committee did not mention improvement in acoustics (nor did the ballot measure), but the theater consultant in an appendix suggested adjustable acoustic draperies for the glass windows. The consultant did not, however, recommend the installation of plastic “clouds” in the ceiling as shown in the architect’s illustrations. No concern was expressed for the destruction of architectural symmetry in the auditorium or in the 50% loss in the windows that provide daylight when the curtains are open.

The district implied that the theater could not continue in use if the bond measure failed. Although it is not wheel chair accessible, the theater can legally continue in use as long as the community is willing to tolerate its various deficiencies, many of which are matters of deferred maintenance, such as the leaking roof. If the theater were unsafe, it would have been shut down.

Many voters were concerned about the cost of the project. District staff, aided by consultants, added essential items such as fees and contingencies to the original estimate of $9.8 million ($560 per square foot) and arrived at a total budget of $14.5 million. When the cost of debt service is added, the total project cost came to over $20 million —about $1,200 per square foot. Cost comparisons made with three other school theater “renovation” projects were virtually meaningless because the other theaters had twice the seating capacity and very different scopes of work.

Vila Construction’s construction cost estimate, incidentally, was 15% lower than the architect’s estimate. Had the Vila estimate been used, the bond measure would have been $11.5 million rather than $13.5 million. The “hybrid” bond option chosen by the Board deferred payment on the principal for six years in order to reduce the immediate impact on taxpayers, but added over one million dollars to the debt service.

It would have behooved the district at the outset to establish a project schedule that started construction promptly at the end of a school year, rather than in the middle. This would have allowed two full summer months for site preparation and demolition in good weather with minimum disruption to campus activity. Rental of interim theater and classroom facilities would then have been during one school year rather than portions of two years.

There is no pleasure in calling attention to these missteps. However, the needless loss in time, money and human energy over a two-year period cannot be ignored. The next election in November 2016 gives the district ample time to review its internal procedures and take corrective steps. The district has everything to be gained by thorough planning and full disclosure of issues to a generous, involved, and supportive parent community.

William Blackwell – Piedmont Resident and Retired Architect


Comment by School Board Member Rick Raushenbush in response to Blackwell’s opinion:

While the Alan Harvey bond measure failed to garner sufficient support, it is past time for those who attacked it to stop making inaccurate attacks. The School Board has embarked on a year-long effort to ascertain what the community wants and is willing to support in the Piedmont schools. There will be plent of opportunity for everyone to provide their thoughts.

Mr. Blackwell’s opinion is inaccurate (or, in his terms, fails to provide “full disclosure”) in the following respects, among others:

(1) The Board authorized spending $360,000 on design drawings only after having guarantees of more than that in donations for Alan Harvey. The District ultimately received $560,000 in donations, which are and will be used to make interim repairs in Alan Harvey to extend its life a bit longer. Not only did the District gain in donations more than it spent (no loss at all), if the bond had been approved, the design drawings would have expedited completion of the work significantly (the hoped for benefit). This issue has been discussed and disclosed repeatedly–including before and after the decision to proceed with design drawings.

(2) Mr. Blackwell contends the plan included a “whole new wing” and a plan to make performing arts “the academic focus.” The plan included one performing arts classroom, which would have been the ONLY performing arts classroom, which otherwise must use the theater itself, adding to its wear and tear. Further, “the academic focus” of PHS is education–having a performing arts program does not detract from any other academic efforts.

(3) Mr. Blackwell expresses concern about the reduction in seating capacity and implies some would have been unnecessary. Yes, seating would have been reduced, which the District and performing arts staff considered relatively low impact compared to the gains from renovation. Having a center aisle enhanced safety by providing faster exit during a fire or other emergency, and the control room would have been at level to allow required ADA access and provide more room in the lobby. QKA was asked to work primarily within the existing space. An entirely new structure could provide more seating, but will cost more.

(4) Mr. Blackwell asserts that the District “implied that the theater could not continue in use if the bond measure failed.” That is not true. The District pointed out that the structure is not in compliance with the ADA and a lawsuit could force its closure. That remains true today. This was fully disclosed and discussed in an FAQ on the District’s website, as well as public meetings.

(5) Mr. Blackwell asserts that a Vila Construction construction cost estimate was lower than QKA’s estimate. This is not accurate, as shown in the District’s FAQ on its website. Moreover, Mr. Blackwell then suggests the amount of the bond could have been $11.5M rather than $13.5M. Mr. Blackwell ignores the need to include soft costs (architect’s fees, permit fees, etc.) and contigency funds in the budget, and hence in the bond amount. The District cannot make up cost overruns from its General Fund, which is devoted to running the schools, and thus must have an adequate contingency.

Frankly, now is not the time for further debate about the QKA plan. The community needs to express its views on whether Alan Harvey is an appropriate venue for the PHS performing arts program and community events, and, if not, what should be done. But repeated attacks that are inconsistent with the facts are corrosive to constructive community discussion, and should stop.

Rick Raushenbush, Member of the Piedmont School Board 


Blackwell Rebuttal to Raushenbush Comment of January 16:

No one is infallible but the information in my report came almost verbatim from the School Districts own records as noted below.

(1)  Mary Ireland said her fundraising group “has been clear with potential donors that if the bond does not pass, their donation will go toward HVAC, seating, and roof work on AHT” (10/23/13 Minutes). She did not say their donation could be used to repay the district the $360,000 paid to QKA for the 127 sheets of design documents (at $560 per square foot of drawing) that may or may not be partially salvageable. There were also other fees and expenses the district may need to absorb.

(2)  The plan did include a whole new wing with an area of “about” 3,500 square feet (Mark Becker 5/23/12) and a cost of nearly $800 per sq. ft. (FAQ 3/28/14). The project cost as a whole was $560 per sq. ft. The Programming Manual (2/11/13) states “Piedmont High School should be thought of as a performing arts high school,” which is not the same as saying the performing arts department needed another classroom in order to be on a par with the eight other high school departments.

(3)  Assistant Superintendent Booker told the board “that there would be slightly fewer seats in the new theater” (12/11/13 Minutes). However, the end result was a loss of 180 seats — from 500 to 320 — although the Programming Manual had said the remodeled theater should have at least 400 to accommodate two assemblies. Rearrangement of the seating in fact added to the travel distance to an exit, and the relocated control room was lowered 35 inches, which resulted in vision windows easily obscured by anyone standing or walking in the back rows. In short, the theater could have been easily remodeled within the existing space without the loss of 180 seats.

(4)  Superintendent Hubbard implied in her letter of March 28, 2014 that the theater could not continue in use because of non-compliance with ADA and current codes. This was clearly a misrepresentation because these codes do not require upgrade until other major changes are made. Neither Hubbard’s letter or any other school record mentioned a possible lawsuit.

5)  Assistant Superintendent Brady told me in e-mail (July 16, 2014) “the variation between hard construction cost estimate was $9.77 million from QKA, and $9.64 million from Vila Construction.” However FAQ (March 28, 2014) said Vila’s analysis included cost escalation and contingencies that were not in the QKA estimate, and its cost of construction was only $8.4 million. District staff aided by Villa added 48% in additional contingencies, escalation, FF&E, etc. to the QKA estimate and arrived at a project budget of $14.5 million. Had the staff added the same 48% to the lower Vila estimate, the project budget would have been $12.5, and, because $1 million was available from other sources, the bond measure would have been $11.5 million instead of $13.5million.

There are other items that Mr. Raushenbush ignored in his response. My purpose was not to attack but rather to point out a rather casual attitude toward facts and figures by the district that led to misunderstandings and faulty decisions. As Mr. Raushenbush pointed out, there is time now to make internal improvements so the next time around the same errors will not be repeated. On a larger issue, if integrity is a virtue, the district in this case has set a poor example for its students to follow.

William Blackwell, Piedmont Resident and Retired Architect

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Jan 15 2015

The City Council meeting of Tuesday, January 20, 2015 starts at 5:15 p.m. with interviews of applicants for the new volunteer Information Technology (IT) Committee to advise the Council on technological directions. This segment of the Council meeting will likely not be televised, but will be open to the public in the Council Chambers at 120 Vista Avenue.

The Council will adjourn to the City Hall Conference Room for its closed session beginning at 7:00 p.m.

b. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – Existing Litigation (Gov Code § 54956.9(a)

Case Name: City of Piedmont v. Harris & Associates, Robert Gray Associates

This case concerns Piedmont’s long time litigation against engineers in the undergrounding debacle that cost taxpayers over two million dollars when rock was discovered while digging trenches.

At 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, the Council will appoint Michelle Marchetta Kenyon as City Attorney of the City of Piedmont under a  contract with her and her law firm Burke, Williams, and Sorensen, LLP for City Attorney Services.

In a change from prior arrangements for legal services, City Administrator Paul Benoit is recommending a retainer contract rather than an hourly charge for services.  The cost is $240,000 per year for the retainer.

Read the entire City Attorney recommendation and contract terms by clicking below.


Click here to read the entire agenda.

The Regular agenda segment of the City Council meeting will be televised on Channel 27 KCOM, live streamed and archived on the City website.  Click the link below to view the Council meeting:  http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video/