Jul 23 2017

The Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District, Randall Booker, has announced that Victor Acuna will no longer be serving as Athletic Director.  For protection of both employer and employee, the reasons for the separation have not been publicly released.

Below, Acuna is highly praised in the School District “Press Release.” Acuna had been repeatedly, publicly criticized for various issues related to the athletic program and his initial selection.

The School District has announced the intention of filling the vacancy with a replacement athletic director through a widely publicized recruitment.  See the end of this press release for details.  The District announcement is below:

Office of the Superintendent – 760 Magnolia Avenue – Piedmont, CA 94611 – 510.594.2614

PRESS RELEASE

July 22, 2017

On July 22, 2017, the Piedmont Unified School District announced the departure of Director of Athletics Victor Acuña, who has served with distinction since the Spring of 2016. Superintendent Randall Booker noted, “His dedication to our students and coaches has been exemplary and he improved every aspect of our athletics program, particularly in the areas of budgeting, coach development, and communications. Most importantly, he improved the overall student-athlete experience, and he will be sorely missed.” Mr. Acuña’s last day of service will be July 31, 2017.

Many high school athletes are already preparing for Fall sports, and the District is working to have a new Director of Athletics in place before the start of school. PHS Principal Adam Littlefield and MHS Principal Shannon Fierro, who have extensive experience with administration of student athletics, will coordinate the recruitment and selection process. Administrators, members of the PHS Athletic Boosters, Recreation Department, coaching staff, and several student athletes will participate in the interviews. Assistant Athletic Director Megan Hernandez will continue in her position for the next several weeks to help ensure a smooth transition.

The District’s Director of Athletics is responsible for: recruiting, hiring, supervising, and evaluating 175 coaches; developing and overseeing the Athletic Department budget; monitoring student eligibility; serving as the school representative of the Western Alameda County Conference; partnering with the PHS Athletic Boosters; coordinating team schedules, transportation, equipment, and supplies for 49 teams; and ensuring a safe and supportive program for over 500 student athletes. Over the past five years, the athletic program has grown to meet the increased interest of our high school students and community, adding three additional sports to serve over sixty students.

The Director of Athletics, which is a full-time administrative position funded jointly by the District and the Piedmont Education Foundation, requires a coaching certification and has a base salary of $74,068. The position will be broadly advertised, including posting on Ed-Join and the North Coast Section websites.

“We are looking for an exceptional candidate to continue the excellent work started by Mr. Acuña and Ms. Hernandez,” said Superintendent Booker. “The District will be searching for a new Director of Athletics with tremendous communication skills and who can support coaches to instill sportsmanship, teamwork, and self-discipline in our student athletes.”

For candidates interested in the position, visit www.edjoin.org and search under “Piedmont Unified School District”.

*Updated July 24: Contacts for the PUSD are currently unavailable and on vacation. Administrative representatives should be available by either July 28 or July 31.  

Contact: Ms. Sylvia Eggert at 510.594.2614 or seggert@piedmont.k12.ca.us

*****

The Piedmont Unified School District is located in Piedmont, California, a city of approximately 11,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. The outstanding staff provides a remarkable education and learning environment for all students. The residents of Piedmont demonstrate a strong sense of community and are committed to maintaining and enhancing educational programs, services and facilities.

Jul 1 2017
In case you missed it, there was an interesting pair of front-page headlines in last week’s Piedmonter. City Council: “Budget OK’d; municipal sewer taxes rising in July.” Education: “District withholds teacher raises.” Let that sink in for a minute and then ask yourself – which would you choose, paying more for sewers or paying teachers what they are owed? To answer that, you need to know a little about Piedmont’s sewers and a little about the teacher retirement fund.
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Like Piedmont overall, our sewers are the best in the East Bay. That was not true 20 years ago but after EPA made all East Bay cities replace their old lines, Piedmont increased the Sewer Tax and every few years replaces sections around town – this summer’s work will take the city to 80% completion, 8 years ahead of schedule. The Sewer Tax increase amounts to about $25 per parcel and raises an additional $60,000 to bring annual sewer revenue to $2.4M. Piedmonters rejected a 50% increase in the Sewer Tax a few years ago, and it’s a good thing they did – the need was not there.
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The need is there for the School District. At a recent School Board meeting, the business official said that District teachers will not get their 2017-2018 salary increases in order to maintain educational programming. The reason – school districts must increase their annual contributions to the underfunded employee pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS). The state has mandated these annual increases from the districts going forward and they represent a real problem for maintaining the School District’s current programming – read Rick Rausenbush’s assessment at http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/31/piedmont-my-word-increased-pension-payments-threaten-states-schools/ to see how bad it could get for the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD.)
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So back to the question, sewers or schools? That seems like a no-brainer given the condition of our sewer system and the PUSD projected deficits but it’s not that simple. City revenues and School revenues are two different pots of money and they don’t share. That’s too bad because the mantra of any resident, new or old, is that they came to Piedmont for the schools and stayed for the community. With the robust housing market, the City’s revenues are at all time-highs, thanks to the home sale transfer tax and property reassessments. In addition, the City benefits from state revenue increases more than PUSD – the new gas tax will increase City funds for street paving (TBD) and permanent funding increases to state public safety funds will bring $100K to Piedmont. As a result, the City has added two positions and is giving out 2% raises. The picture is not so rosy for the School District – the school has cut positions and programming and, according to the Superintendent, more cuts may be needed. For more details, see city and school budgets at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2017-06-19/1718budget.pdf (City) and www.piedmont.k12.ca.us. (School.)
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Another way to understand this funding disconnect is to look at how the City and School District maintain required annual reserves. Each is required to maintain reserves as part of their budget – for the City, it is up to 25% of the General Fund, for the School District, minimum 3%. For the past several years, the City has met this cap by transferring over $1M in General Funds to special accounts – this year $800,000 to Facilities Maintenance, $400,000 to Equipment Replacement. For the School District it is just the opposite – the school budget had to be reduced by over $400,000 this year in order to meet their reserve requirements.
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The Piedmont City Clerk recently proposed removing the 25% cap written into the City Charter so even more reserves could be held by the City. Instead, Council directed staff to undertake a review of the City Charter and address the 25% cap and other ambiguous Charter provisions. Perhaps there can be new Charter provisions so the City and School District can “share the wealth” so to speak. Such language won’t be forth coming from City Hall so residents should weigh in when this City Charter review comes to Council.
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Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 29 2017

On Wednesday, June 28th, the Board of Education of the Piedmont Unified School District voted unanimously to appoint Ms. Shannon Fierro as the new Principal for Millennium High School and the Piedmont Adult School effective July 1, 2017.

Ms. Fierro will succeed Sati Shah, who resigned his position as MHS Principal in June of this year to become the High School Principal & Associate Superintendent at Mt. Shasta High School in the Siskiyou Union High School District.

Ms. Fierro brings 20 years of experience as a teacher, administrator and coach across the US and overseas. Born and raised in the East Bay, Ms. Fierro went east for schooling, earning a Bachelor of Arts in French and Teaching Certification from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, a Master’s Degree in French Studies from New York University, NY, a Master’s Degree in International Education from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Administration from Pace University, NY.

“We are elated to have Ms. Fierro lead the Millennium High School community,” said Superintendent Randall Booker. “Her varied experiences with diverse populations, curriculum development, instructional coaching, and special education will all tremendously benefit our students,” commented Booker. “Her ties to the community, organizational skills, and attention to detail will also serve our strong Adult School Programs.”

Ms. Fierro began her career as a founding member of Tech Boston Academy, a technology-focused public high school supported through a Gates Foundation grant. In addition to teaching ESL, Spanish and French, she built a drama program and helped write city-wide language curriculum. She then moved to help grow a new public high school in New York City called the Bronx Academy of Letters. There she served as a teacher, mentor, special education coordinator and vice principal.

Her professional journey has also included over 7 years of district-level and teacher development work, including leading training for hundreds of new teachers with the New York City Teaching Fellows; building a formative assessment department for 5 years in San Francisco Unified and directing a team of instructional coaches with Aspire Public Schools in Oakland.

Most recently, Ms. Fierro has served as a Vice Principal of Berkeley High School, overseeing 900 students in the Berkeley International High School Program. As a Piedmont resident and mother of young PUSD students, Ms. Fierro is “humbled and excited to be able to bring [her] broad professional experience to serve my community and support the individual growth and success of the young people of Millennium High School”.

*****

Millennium High School is located in Piedmont, California, a city of approximately 11,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. MHS serves a broad cross-section of approximately 75 students with diverse learning styles, proficiency levels, and personal needs. Students at MHS complete the same graduation requirements as students at Piedmont High School.

The MHS curriculum is aligned with Content Standards for California Public Schools, and our courses satisfy UC “a-g” admission requirements. MHS prides itself on building an educational community, with an array of educational options and instructional strategies not readily available in traditional classrooms. Most MHS graduates pursue higher education at community colleges or four-year colleges and universities.

 

Jun 4 2017

Piedmont Post Claim about Measure H1 Plan is Inaccurate –

The May 31, 2017 Piedmont Post headline asserts: “School Board to spend $57 million on one building; Balance of $9 million from H1 bond not enough to pay for theater.”  Apparently, the Post reporter or editor failed to read the memo to the Board setting forth what was included in “Option 2B,” which the Board approved.

The memo is available online as the supporting material for the May 24, 2017 Meeting Agenda, Item VIII.A,> https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=44038&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False

Among other things, it clearly states: “OPTION 2B 3-Story Main High School Building on Magnolia + New Theater.”  And it includes: “Modernize the vacated 20s building, converting antiquated science labs to general classrooms.”  And further: “($526,500 in FFE for 27 new or modernized classrooms),” which are the classrooms in the new STEAM building, new AHT [Allan Harvey Theater] and modernized 20s building.

At this point, these are all estimated costs.  However, Piedmont residents should understand what is actually included in Option 2B.

Richard Raushenbush, Former Member, Piedmont Board of Education

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 4 2017

May 24, 2017  – 5 reports  including opinions –

By Anna Schacker, Piedmont High School Senior –

On the evening of May 24, I attended a Piedmont Unified School District School Board meeting. The School Board meets every two weeks, with representatives from the Piedmont and Millennium High Schools’ ASB. The meeting begins with the representatives updating the School Board on recent events that have taken place at the high schools, such as sports games and ASB organized events. Then there is time for anyone who has submitted their name on a speaker card to speak in front of the Board on topics they want to draw attention to. In this specific meeting, the principal of Piedmont Middle School addressed all the teachers who were retiring at the end of this year. From Piedmont High School, both Ms. Simmons and Mr. Mahoney spoke about their retirement and were given gifts and a large round of applause.

Next, a middle school girl scout approached the stand to give her pitch on having shade over the bleachers at Witter Field. She felt that the bleachers get too hot during the day and cause fatigue and dehydration in athletes and their audiences. The Board happily heard her proposal, but also acknowledged that it may be unlikely due to the cost and time of the project.

Randall Booker, Superintendent of PUSD, spoke next on the school climate at Piedmont High School and Middle School. He brought up the concept of a ‘red line’, or a personal boundary, that some students fail to see or are passing without realizing it. Mr. Booker suggested that students need to both talk about their red lines and know how to protect them. He thought that starting a conversation in the classroom would encourage students to think more about theirs and others’ boundaries. In addition to students not always knowing how to discuss these topics, he noticed that teachers also feel uncomfortable discussing topics such as race in the classroom. So, over the summer, some of the teachers will take part in a training program that instructs them how to teach difficult topics in age-appropriate ways.

Once the floor was opened up to the speaker cards, a man named Samuel Daffner walked up to the stand. He had written a short speech addressing the recent acts of anti-semitism at Piedmont High School, where he has a daughter, who is a junior. Mr. Daffner was concerned about the degree of security at PHS, and people only treating the symptoms of the problem instead of looking for the root. Upon being interviewed by me, Daffner articulated that he was “concerned about how the School Board will handle the current situation of anti-semitism at PHS” and felt so strongly about it that he wanted to personally voice his concerns. He additionally stated that “there are certain decisions that the school has made over time which [he believes] have enabled an environment where anti-semitism is more likely.” While he felt that there are many “caring” and “concerned” people involved, and the School Board seemed “invested,” he also noted that he was surprised that “some of [the School Board] did not speak on the record at all.” Daffner is a big believer in having a community where he feels free to share his opinion alongside many others. However, to get his word out further, he plans to meet directly with School Board members, talk to his contact at ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and continue planning his move to Israel.

I personally feel that while the school has certainly taken huge steps in addressing the anti-semitism issue, there is still a lot more to be done. As a Jewish student at PHS, I have often felt like my experience is overlooked. I, along with several other Jewish students, have discussed an adjustment to the curriculum in regards to The Holocaust and other Jewish historical events. In my time in PHS history classes, I have felt like the curriculum was designed to make students feel distant from the events of The Holocaust, instead of feeling like America played an important role in harsh anti-semitism. It has become clear to me over the years that the history of Jewish Americans has not been taught sufficiently. Anti-semitism may seem to be less taboo because students are not aware of the horrid past of anti-semitism in America. With these slight alterations, we would hopefully be able to foster a more empathetic environment at PHS.

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 By Sally Abel, Piedmont High School Senior – 

     On Wednesday, May 24th, the Board of Education gathered at the City Hall to discuss recent events and topics relating to the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD). The meeting is open to the community and is held in order to keep the public informed on what is going on around the different schools. The School Board holds these meetings one to two times a month and the meetings seem to be well attended with many different parents and members of the community flowing in and out throughout the meeting.

    The major topics that were addressed during the meeting on Wednesday, May 24, 2017,  were surrounding the recent issues that Piedmont High School has encountered regarding the topic of hate speech, discrimination, and general misconduct among students. Additionally, as a celebratory measure, teachers within the PUSD who were embarking on their final days of teaching within the School District were honored by the School Board. Both Alisha Lewis and Max Miller, who are high school students involved in ASB at Piedmont High School and Millennium High School, talked about what had been recently going on at each of the schools, what the student body was up to, as well as things that the schools were looking forward to as the end of the school year approached.

    The major topic of hate speech and discrimination at the high schools was addressed from a multitude of perspectives. Many government officials spoke regarding the topic, and it was touched upon by a significant amount of the audience who chose to take the floor and share their thoughts regarding the recent events that have taken place at the high school.

     Superintendent Booker started off the conversation by telling a story that really opened his eyes to one of the major underlying issues contributing to the hate speech and insensitive language that has been going on throughout the School District. When driving his son to school one day, his son spontaneously asked him who Michael J. Fox was. Mr. Booker answered the question, seemingly satisfying his son’s curiosity, and his son continued to scroll through his phone. When Mr. Booker inquired as to why his son was wondering, his son answered, saying that he saw someone comment on social media “you type like Michael J. Fox.”  Mr. Booker asked his son if he understood why that was an insult, and his son answered no. In order to clear up the situation, Mr. Booker translated the insult to something more personal to his son, asking him how he would feel if that same person was making fun of a family member’s’ disability. This made his son mad.  Ultimately, what Mr. Booker took away from this conversation was the fact that within our society today, kids, teens, young adults, and even adults struggle to establish a “red line” within their social atmosphere. He believes that if we somehow as a district can work to help children create a “red line” and learn how to stand up and defend that “red line,” we would solve a lot of issues within the community. Ultimately, student education regarding topics like the ones that have recently surfaced at the high school level would largely be beneficial to avoiding any sort of discrimination or hate speech within the community.

    Kirby, co-president of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Club (PADC) brought forward the fact and idea that this hate speech that has recently been encountered is not just a problem that the school has to deal with, it is a community wide problem that everyone needs to be aware of and needs to address. Looking at the issue from the perspective of the diversity club, Kirby also believed that diversity education would help to solve many issues. Ideally, diversity education would: 1. Support the development of the whole child, 2. Provide students with the language and tools to discuss topics of diversity, and 3. Develop a K-12 curriculum focusing on race/ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation/identity.

    Many voices of the community were heard throughout the duration of the meeting, including Mr. Daffner as well as Mrs. Griffith. Mr. Daffner strongly believed that it was important to acknowledge the historic problems that Piedmont has encountered regarding race and religious issues, as well as how these issues are perpetuated within the community. Mrs. Griffith said she hoped to raise her kids with values that emphasized the importance of treating everyone equally, and fostering the idea that everyone within the community is worth fighting for and understanding.

    Personally, I agree with all four of the perspectives listed above. Kirby, co-president of the PADC and his thoughts on diversity education really made a lot of sense to me. In my personal opinion, I believe that if people are given the tools to discuss sensitive and unknown topics, such as those of race, religion, and gender related topics, then individuals will have the ability to speak about them with a sufficient knowledge base. This could ultimately avoid language that can be deemed hateful or discriminatory because hopefully, people will have the proper education to talk about things in an adult manner. Additionally, through education, I think that we could address Mr. Booker’s point of the importance of kids establishing a “red line” and learning how to stand up for that “red line.”

    Following the meeting, I talked to Hillary Cooper about her incentive for being at the meeting. Hillary is a representative of the Piedmont High School Parents Club.  She recently “attended to show support for the District and what they are doing to address the recent hate speech incidents at the high school.” Though Ms. Cooper did not talk during the meeting, she came and “listened so that [she] could be aware of their needs and their issues.” Additionally, Mrs. Cooper plans to continue attending School Board meetings in order to support “plans to improve the facilities at the high school.”

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by Nick Price, Piedmont High School Senior –

On Wednesday May 24, 2017, I attended a Board of Education meeting in the City Hall Council Chambers. This panel of elected officials and Superintendent, Randy Booker, meets every other week to discuss all facets of the Piedmont Unified School District.

During this particular meeting, a number of important topics were discussed. To start the evening, Max Miller, the Vice President of ASB at Millennium highlighted a few of the activities going on at his school. A few notables: the annual Fun in the Sun service learning day, ASB elections, and upcoming graduation in the Veteran’s Hall. Alisha Lewis, a representative of Piedmont High School’s ASB, talked about the recent senior service learning trip to the Oakland Zoo, Day on the Green, and a successful prom.

Following the school reports, the School Board and fellow teachers honored the retiring staff members with words of praise before Superintendent Booker began speaking on the current climate at the High School. With the recent surfacing of discriminatory behavior, Mr. Booker stressed the importance of establishing a “redline”. He continued by saying that we not only need to establish a line that cannot be crossed, but also have to have the courage to stand up for it. He added that the school district needs to work to support students and equip them with tools to protect their redline. Before inviting up Dr. Wozniak, he ended by acknowledging that a transition to a more positive school climate will be a long term change and reiterated the importance of finding the District’s redline along with that of the students.

Dr. Cheryl Wozniak, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Curriculum, then outlined the actions the District is taking in order to combat the recent racism. The projects include: professional development to support the teachers, student engagement and education, and a more efficient online form to report issues. Wozniak then invited the Director of the Wellness Center, Michael Brady to speak.  He spoke about the Wellness Center’s role of providing emotional support for students. He said that the Wellness Center is devoted to revamping the Youth Educators program, as there have been reports of discrimination at the middle school.

The School Board then opened up the conversation to a well-attended audience of parents, students, community leaders, and officials. Three students involved with the club Voco at Piedmont High School reported on the success of a forum that they held. In addition, the co-president of Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Club focused on the importance of celebrating diversity. He added that an appreciation of diversity supports the development of the “whole” child and that the school district has an obligation to implement curriculum focusing on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The School Board received praise for their handling of the situation by numerous attendees, including those of whom gave the most criticism. Both the Police Chief and PRD Director offered their joint support for the school and the community.

I found the conversation to be very constructive, offering people more insight into different perspectives around the community. I think it is essential that children are taught elements of diversity at a young age. In 4th grade around MLK Jr. Day, my teacher had our class make a wreath of hands. All of the hands resembled a different skin tone. The fact that I still remember this activity today is a great indication that teaching diversity early is, in fact, effective.

Overall, I found it very impactful to see so many different people attend the meeting and offer their point of view. It was a great experience to be part of.

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by Nicholas Lee, Piedmont High School Senior –

The beginning of the May 24, 2017 School Board Meeting was used for congratulating retiring teachers such as Ms. Simonds and Mr. Mahoney (38 years at Piedmont Schools). Many people gave speeches about these retiring teachers to honor them for their service and dedication.

Next, a Girl Scout wanted support for her project to provide shade at the Witter baseball and softball bleachers. However, the cost would be an estimated $50,000 and take 5 years. How can building shade for the bleachers take 5 years? I believe I could round up some friends and do it in 1/10th of that time and cost.

A former Piedmont Post employee said he received emails that a Piedmont Post manager made inappropriate actions and only hires female interns. This speaker stopped his comments as School Board President Sarah Pearson said the time limit was up.

Superintendent Randy Booker wants students to not be bystanders when they witness acts of discrimination. He wants students to find their red line or moral line and clearly define it. Booker suggested three steps to help combat discrimination: 1. Conversation about redline 2. Community engagement, not just the students 3. Student Education.

A security consultant is reviewing each Piedmont school to install more safety measures in case of an emergency.

KTVU [Channel 2] interviewees on discrimination at Piedmont High School have received backlash and threats. The police are investigating whether this is a hate crime.

Richard Raushenbush, former Member of the School Board, was there because he serves on a facilitating committee to upgrade the security of our schools. They are continuing to work on ways to provide a more secure learning environment.

The School Board meetings are for community members to stay informed about the schools and also participate and give suggestions.

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by Olivia Creighton, Piedmont High School Senior –

On May 24, 2017, I attended a meeting of the Piedmont School Board, The main topics of the evening were the retiring teachers from the elementary schools, middle school, and high school as well as the recent acts of anti-semitism and racism at Piedmont High School.

The meeting began with Gabriel Kessler, the vice president of APT, speaking to honor this year’s teacher retirees.  Kessler made a touching speech about the teachers dedication to their profession and their students.  Following Kessler, Max Miller and Alisha Lewis, vice presidents of Millennium High School and Piedmont High School student government respectively, spoke about recent activities at the high schools.

Miller talked about the recent service learning at Millennium in which all Millennium students participated in putting together toiletry kits with positive notes for homeless teenagers.  Millennium students found the experience to be fun and rewarding, especially when they got to go to Fun in the Sun afterwards, an afternoon at the Piedmont pool with food and games.  Millennium also had teacher appreciation day recently when students signed cards for their teachers to show their gratitude for all the hard work they do.  Millennium held their elections and elected a new secretary, vice president, and two co presidents.

Next, Alisha Lewis, Piedmont High School’s vice president, explained how the school has been very busy as the year comes to an end.  Piedmont High School also had teacher appreciation day and teachers received flowers from their students.  Some of the seniors went on a service learning trip to the Oakland Zoo where they helped to clear invasive species from a hillside and then spent free time exploring the zoo.  ASB hopes to continue the tradition of service learning.  After the zoo, the school had Day on the Green where ASB provided food, music, and bouncy houses for the students to enjoy and celebrate the end of the year.  In anticipation of finals stress, ASB brought in a therapy dog for students to relax with, a method they hope to implement more widely in the future during more stressful times of the year.  Lewis also spoke about how several of the retiring teachers have had a significant impact on her high school career and thanked them for their work.

Following Lewis’s honoring of the retiring teachers, Superintendent Randall Booker presented each of the retiring teachers with gifts.  Speeches were made in honor of Leslie Estrada, a first grade teacher, and Ms.Beverley, an occupational therapist, both retiring from Beach Elementary School.  Next, Ryan Fletcher, the principal at the middle school, spoke in honor of Ms. Cartusciello.  Then, Eric Mapes spoke in honor of retiring calculus teacher Ed Mahoney and ceramics teacher Susan Simonds.  After all the teachers had been thanked for their service, the meeting moved on to different topics.

Sophie Eng, a Piedmont Girl Scout working towards her silver award, spoke about her proposed service project.  Eng hopes to build shade over the bleachers at the Witter softball field.  Eng is concerned with the possible consequences of softball fans spending too much time sitting in the sun and heat.  She hopes to remedy these issues with her project.

After Eng spoke, Scott Prosterman, an ex-reporter for The Piedmont Post, delivered some unsettling information about its management practices and issues involving teachers, coaches, athletic directors, interns, and student athletes.  School Board President Pearson cut Prosterman off because he had exceeded his three minutes of allotted speaking time.  Prosterman was the only person asked to stop speaking during the meeting.

Superintendent Booker pivoted the conversation to the topic of the recent acts of anti-semitism and racism at Piedmont High School by telling a story about how his son is not fully aware of what is offensive and what is not offensive, concluding that parents, teachers, and administrators need to play a greater role in teaching children what is okay and not okay to say.  Booker announced the creation of a “working group,” which will be comprised of members of the community and will meet four or five times a year to discuss issues of discrimination and possible solutions.

Carol Wozniak, the Title IX coordinator for the District, followed up to echo Booker’s statements.  She outlined professional development efforts being undertaken at the elementary schools to help teachers and administrators better cope with issues of race and gender.  She also talked about the implementation of restorative justice at the elementary schools, actions that can be taken after a discriminatory incident which are not punitive, but aim to bring justice fairly for both the victim and the perpetrator.

Remaining on the topic of positive responses to the issues, high school students Nina Adarkar, Kay Sibal, and Maya Guzdar spoke about the recent Share Your Voice event they had planned and executed, where high school students were provided with a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings on the issues of discrimination at Piedmont High School.  The club they run, Voice Cooperative, hopes to work more closely with the School Board in the future to bring in more diverse speakers for the students.

Kobi Ashani, Co-president of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee, spoke on the importance of diversity training and acceptance.  He admonished Jewish students for forming factions at the school at a time when the student body needs to come together.

Following Ashani, Mr. Daffner spoke, stating that racism and anti-semitism were old problems in Piedmont, and, at the moment, it is unclear which issues need to be addressed.  Daffner believes that the District must identify the true problems, eliminate any actions they may be taking which contribute to or create discrimination in the community, such as the annual Christmas concert and the Community Church. He asked that the schools make stronger efforts to ensure the physical safety of students at school.

Sara Lillevand, the Director of the Piedmont Recreation Department, affirmed her support for efforts being made to combat discrimination and offered the assistance of the Recreation Department in any way possible.

Jeremy Bowers, the Police Chief, reaffirmed the Police Department’s support of efforts being made and stated that the police do not want to seek criminal action against the perpetrators of the anti-semitic or racist acts but instead want to find educational solutions to the issues.

Jen Cavanaugh, a member of Piedmont City Council, was in attendance at the meeting.  She said she was there “to show support for the community, administration, and School Board.”  She says she knows the incidents were not a one time thing and she hopes to be part of the ongoing effort to end discrimination in the Piedmont School District.

The issues of anti-semitism and racism at Piedmont High School certainly were not a one time thing.  Even after the assembly and awareness campaign, anti-semitism is still occurring on campus.  It is important that the administration makes it clear that there will be punishment for anti-semitic acts.  Awareness training should continue to make students aware that their actions cause harm to others and empathy should be at the heart of each decision made.

There are varying degrees of discrimination occurring at Piedmont.  There has always been unspoken discrimination and alienation of Jewish students and students of color by their peers and the community at large, but now it seems that the discrimination has escalated to something far more vicious than the District has seen.  When students are learning hate from home and the media, they are choosing to subscribe to the hate over the education received in school. It is imperative that clear punishment be outlined for these vicious acts so that at the very least, Jewish students and students of color do not have to endure this abuse.

The Piedmont Unified School District’s School Board is a government body focused on addressing issues in the Piedmont School District.  The School Board meets every two weeks. 

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

To view and/or listen to recordings of the entire May 24, 2017 Board of Education meeting, readers are directed to the City website at:   http://piedmont.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1617

May 24 2017

Reports on May 10, 2017 School Board meeting –

by Joseph Chu, Piedmont High School Senior –

The Piedmont Board of Education convened on the evening of May 10, 2017. The meeting commenced at 7:00 p.m. The general purpose of board meetings is to make decisions regarding the School District and include public input as a part of their decisions such as: the budget, education policies, setting District goals, and forming a local education vision. Participating members of the Board for this meeting were Andrea Swenson, Cory Smegal, Amal Smith, and Doug Ireland along with Superintendent Randall Booker and Finance Manager Song-Chin Bendib.

This meeting’s agenda included presenting the 2017 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award to Hillary Cooper, hearing about the recent reports of anti-semitic, racist and other forms of hateful speech and conduct at Piedmont High School, and the assembly that was held at the high school to initiate student discussion and awareness about these issues. Other items included on the agenda included conducting a second hearing for approving the proposed levy of current School Support Tax Measure A, conducting a second hearing for approving 2017-18 Contract Openers between the District and Classified School Employees Association, a presentation for new math courses that are being proposed to meet the Secondary Math Pathways’ requirements: Integrated Math 3 and Honors Math Analysis, and finally reviewing and discussing the recommended concept designs for Piedmont High School’s new STEAM facilities, auditorium changes, and its projected costs and other concerns regarding its construction.

Announcements of the graduation dates for Millennium High School, Piedmont High School, and 8th Grade Graduation. The Millennium High School Graduation will take place on May 31st at 1:00 p.m. in the Veteran’s Hall. The Piedmont High School Graduation will be held on June 1st at 5:00 p.m. in Witter Field. The 8th Grade Celebration Ceremony will be held on May 31st at 5:30 p.m. at Witter Field.

The most heated items of discussion during this meeting surrounded topics that were not on the agenda of the meeting.  These topics were the recent events of anti-semitic, racist and other forms of hateful speech and actions, the newly appointed Athletic Director, Vic Acuna, and the firing of the former coach of the PHS Men’s Basketball Team, coach Lavdiotis.

Dr. Kalamas, a Piedmont resident, expressed concern for incidents of racism and anti-semitism at Piedmont High School and discontent at what she said was a “delayed and anemic response” on the part of the school board regarding these issues. Kalamas also addressed her own concerns about nepotism and cronyism in the school administration. Board Member Swenson responded with a statement that she was “horrified by the systematic assassination of [the current] Athletic Director, Vic Acuna”.

Among the other members of the Piedmont community who offered their own concerns and questions regarding the incidents of hateful speech and actions at Piedmont High School, Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers said that the Piedmont Police Department is committed to working closely with the community to address this problem and to continue investigating these incidents.

Several coaches and athletic professionals voiced their support for reinstating coach Lavdiotis and some expressed their disapproval of Athletic Director Vic Acuna.

Piedmont High School students Victoria Hou and Shannon Yan gave their opinions on non-agenda topics, as well.

Hou addressed the high school assembly that was held to initiate discussion and awareness for high school students regarding the incidents of hate speech and actions. Hou said that she hoped that the School Board would provide more clear and specific information regarding those incidents because she felt there was a general sense of confusion in the student body regarding this topic.

As a senior at Piedmont High School this year, I agree with Victoria Hou in terms of the feeling that the information that was given to students about those serious incidents was not clear and I have heard various stories about what actually happened. I would appreciate it if the school gave out an official statement about what exactly happened so that students and other members of the community can be on the same page about their understanding of these issues.

Yan proposed that the School Board allow high school students to be able to take more classes in  economics and government, since there is currently only one class offered for each of these subjects, both being only a semester long and strictly offered to seniors. Yan said that there are other students who hope to be able to pursue these subjects more fully through additional classes.

After the session for addressing non-agenda topics had closed, the Board moved to its agenda topics.

Hilary Cooper gave her acceptance speech for the 2017 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award. Piedmont High School AP Art student Tong Zhou presented a ceramic tree that she made to Mrs. Cooper for her service.

Next, the Board approved the tax level increase of 2% for the School Support Tax Measure A, and 2017-18 Contract Openers between the District and Classified School Employees Association.

Following these actions, a presentation was given to the Board about new math classes that would fulfill the Secondary Math Pathways’ requirements: Integrated Math 3 and Honors Math Analysis. Integrated Math 3 would replace the Algebra II class of the traditional math pathway. Honors Math Analysis would cover the topics of Math Analysis as well as AP Calculus, AB’s first semester’s worth of coursework. This class would be part of the accelerated math pathway. A second reading for these new classes will be held on May 24, 2017.

Following this presentation, the board held a discussion about the cost and other logistic details for Option 2B of the series of concept designs for new Piedmont High School STEAM facilities. Cost estimates were based on compiled data from other local related school construction projects that have been happening within the past three years. The Board also discussed potential uses for any surplus from the budget they have for the STEAM facilities construction and the need to demolish and rebuild the current Alan Harvey Theatre, due to it’s multiple safety hazards, structural degradation and need for more seating and restrooms. The Board’s general consensus was that while estimates of cost must be carefully and accurately calculated to avoid overstepping the budget, construction must begin as soon as possible to reduce costs of the project, which are expected to increase as more time passes.

Mrs. Conn was at the Board meeting this evening to congratulate Hillary Cooper for receiving the Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award for 2017. She nominated Mrs. Cooper for this award. Mrs. Conn was also attending the meeting because she heard someone would come to the meeting to complain about the new PHS Men’s Soccer Coach. She had written a letter in support of the new coach and came to this Board meeting to express her support for the new coach. But it turned out that this person with complaints about the new soccer coach never showed up so she didn’t have to say much. She was impressed by how intense the beginning of the Board meeting was, especially around the topics of the new Athletic Director Vic Acuna and also the anti-semitic, racist and hateful speech/actions that happened recently at PHS. Mrs. Conn said that she will continue to write letters and do what she can to support the new soccer coach if more complaints are brought against him.

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          by Trang Le, Piedmont High School Senior

    The School Board meeting held on the night of May 10th was incredibly crowded. Small groups of concerned parents, coaches, and PHS staff spoke in hurried, hushed voices over plastic cups of wine and complimentary cheese outside the City Hall. The small chamber in which the meeting was held only could accommodate a mere 48 people. The small room adjacent to it provided a livestream of the events unfolding, and all the seats in both chambers were taken. Even so, crowds of Piedmont residents stood outside the chamber or sat on the carpet within, looking for answers from the Board of Education concerning the recent occurrences of anti-semitism within PHS and PMS.

    The Board opened with a statement acknowledging the hate speech, informing the audience of the assembly held at PHS that Monday. The Superintendent stressed to the critical audience that the School board prioritized students emotional state above everything else, and that these recent incidents do not define Piedmont. However, this and the complimentary cheese did little to sate the critical audience.

   Quickly moving on, the Board addressed the recently dismissed Basketball Coach and emails about annual coaching positions. With this, the atmosphere of the room changed to a restless one and it was obvious that their actions roused resentment among the residents. The speaker cards were then gathered, read aloud, and the podium opened to whoever wanted to speak out on the topic of hate-speech and fired coaches.

   The first and most controversial speaker, Alicia Kalamas, addressed both of these and more. She accused the School Board of their “anemic and delayed reaction” to the anti-semitism and racism on the school campuses as well as her emails. She also accused the Board of being racist themselves, briefly bringing up last years’ Bird Calling Contest and claiming it was rigged to knock an African American student from their rightful third place. Her speech was very briefly interrupted to tell her that she was rapidly approaching her five minute speaking limit. Kalamas then finished her speech by addressing a potential firing of the Athletic Director, claiming that she had sent an email some time ago questioning his credentials and employment in the Piedmont Unified School District.  Quickly wrapping up, she finished with a thinly veiled threat of legal action against the School Board if they did not properly address her concerns.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 22 2017

The Piedmont Board of Education will discuss and consider the issues and concerns with recent incidences of discrimination on the Piedmont High School campus.  Speaking during the unscheduled public participation segment of the May 10 meeting, students and community members came to the Board expressing deep concern and seeking solutions for the highly distressing and disruptive problems on the high school campus.

 The Board has scheduled the matter for their consideration at approximately 7:30 p.m. during the May 24, 2017 School Board meeting held in the  Piedmont City Hall Council Chambers.  The meeting is open to the public and can also be viewed live from the City website or via Piedmont Cable Channel 27, KCOM.  

READ the agenda for the meeting here.

Below READ the staff report detailing the issues, actions, and potential solutions:

 517 VII_A_BackgroundOnSchoolClimateHealthyRelationships_0

May 22 2017

 Heated School Board Meeting Airs Personnel Dispute and Hate Incidents –

    The Piedmont School Board met at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10th, in the City Council Chambers. Though the agenda of the meeting was to go over logistical policy for Piedmont schools, such as reviewing tax allocations from the H1 Bond Measure or evaluating math classes for the Common Core curriculum, the first hour of the meeting was dedicated to heated commentary from the community about the Athletic Director, Victor Acuna, and the current hate incident controversy at the high school.

    Concerned community members argued both on Acuna’s behalf and against him. Some of the controversy surrounding the new Athletic Director is attributed to the non-renewal of the former coach of the Piedmont High School Boy’s Basketball team of over two decades, Coach Lavdiotis.

    Since Lavdiotis’ contract was not renewed, some community and regional individuals sparked disagreement with Victor Acuna’s dismissal of an upstanding community member and beloved coach.  One speaker in particular, Alicia Kalamas, Piedmont resident, brought up Acuna’s personal life, pointing to custody litigation and his previous position at a high school in Arizona. However, other community members supported Victor Acuna, saying that his decision was justified, and that Coach Lavdiotis may not be the best coach for the Piedmont High School Boy’s Basketball team any longer.

    Board trustee Andrea Swenson expressed her frustrations with the Acuna controversy, stating that she is tired of the character assassination of the Athletic Director, which she feels is perpetuated by The Piedmont Post; she received a standing ovation for her comments in support of Acuna.

    Other non-agendized items that community members spoke about were the hate controversies at the high school. Earlier that week, members of the Piedmont High School community and the Piedmont community at large learned of anti-semitic, racist, and homophobic incidents at the school through a student-held assembly.

    Multiple community members spoke about the hate incidents. Police Chief Bowers spoke about his role in addressing the hate incidents. He stated that since none of the eight victims have come to the Police Department about the hate incidents, they cannot be classified as hate crimes. Still, he asserted, the community must come together and protect the victims during this time, and that he sympathizes with the victims of the incident. Other community members also discussed the anti-semitic incidents in front of the Board, conveying their concerns as parents and asking for accountability and answers.

    When I addressed the Board about the hate incidents, I also mentioned the issue of accountability and transparency. I spoke about my experience as a student watching the high school’s assembly and the lack of details or clarity that the assembly provided. I walked the Board through what specifically was going through my mind as I attended the assembly, and how I had to ask around afterwards for details on the incidents, confused and unaware. Concluding my speech, I requested the School Board to explain what exactly was happening with the anti-semitic incidents so that the students knew about what horrible things were going on within our student body. As a student, I was and still am confused about the discriminatory incidents at the high school due to a lack of a clear explanation from the administration. I believe that the administration should have a transparent conversation with the members of the community in order to resolve things, as opposed to keeping the incident under wraps.

    After comments from the audience, the Board continued with the agenda, which involved recognizing Hilary Cooper for Volunteer of the Year, which included working to pass Measure A parcel tax and reviewing two possible math courses for Piedmont High School, Integrated Math 3 and Honors Math Analysis.

     I spoke to Michael Brady, Director of Alternative/Adult Education, who expressed his support for the math courses. Mr. Brady, who was there to give a presentation to the Board on the H1 bond program, told me that it was a relief to hear about the courses.

    “It was very nice to see closure on the math instruction,” Mr. Brady told me, “because it is the culmination of literally years of work.”

    Mr. Brady also expressed his support of the community members and their concerns.

    “People can speak about non-agendized items because it’s a part of the democratic process. People can speak to the items not on the agenda and have the ability and freedom to do that.”

    The School Board meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Though they have an agenda, any member of the community can become involved in deliberations by expressing their concerns to the Board at the beginning of every meeting and when agendized items are considered.

by Victoria Hou, Piedmont High School Senior –

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 17 2017
Many Piedmonters have noticed a tall pole (example of proposed installations) at the entrance to Piedmont Park and Witter Field next to Wildwood Elementary School.  Some concern has been expressed regarding the installation of cell towers at some of the ten locations listed below.

The following is the City’s announcement dated May 16, 2017 informing Piedmont residents of an application to install wireless communication poles.

City to Consider Application for Small Wireless Facilities

The City of Piedmont is considering an application from Crown Castle NG West LLC for nine proposed Verizon small cell wireless communication facilities, located generally around Piedmont Park and Piedmont High School, for a new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) installation. Crown Castle NG West LLC is a company that builds wireless communication facilities and then leases them to wireless service providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.

The Park Commission is scheduled to consider the applicant’s request to remove street trees at some of the sites at its regular meeting of June 7, 2017 [5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers] and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the design and location of each proposed small cell site at its regular meeting of June 12, 2017 [5:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers] and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The City Council will consider the matter at a date to be determined, based upon the action of the two Commissions.

Each of these meetings [Park Commission and Planning Commission] will be televised live on KCOM-TV [Cable Channel 27], the City’s government TV station and will be available through streaming video on the City’s web site www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video

The project consists of five proposed installations on the tops of existing utility poles, three proposed installations on existing street lights, and one proposed installation on a new street light. The applicants have proposed that ground equipment related to the pole top antennas would be located in vaults beneath the sidewalk. A map of the proposed installations is shown below and on the City website. The proposed small cell wireless communication facilities would be located near the following addresses:

  1. 340 & 370 Highland Ave.
  2. 505 Blair Ave.
  3. 799 Magnolia Ave.
  4. 358 Hillside Ave.
  5. 303 Hillside Ave.
  6. 428 El Cerrito Ave.
  7. 355 Jerome Ave.
  8. 1159 Winsor Ave.
  9. 314 Wildwood Ave.

The City will post updated information regarding this application on its web site and use other electronic means to keep the public at large informed of the status of this application. The City will also notify residents near the proposed sites, as required by City Code.

Placement of wireless communication facilities is governed by state and federal law, including rules requiring cities to allow certain wireless communication facilities in the public right-of- way. Cities cannot place conditions on, deny, or approve a proposed wireless facility based upon the health effects if the applicant demonstrates that the project meets federal safety requirements. Under the Federal Telecommunications Act (1996), the federal government decides the safe levels of exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.

In early May 2017, Crown Castle constructed a mock-up to represent the height and form of a proposed new street light and wireless antenna near the Wildwood Avenue entrance to Piedmont Park. In addition, signs have been posted at each of the proposed sites to help build awareness of the proposal.

Residents are invited to send comments regarding the proposal, addressed to the Park Commission and to the Planning Commission, to Piedmont City Hall care of:

Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell at pmacdonald@piedmont.ca.gov

All comments received will become part of the public record and will be provided to the Commissions and City Council. For more information, including application materials, please visit the City of Piedmont’s web site at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/

To view the maps and information provided by the applicant, click below:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/crowncastle/coveragemap.pdf

May 11 2017

May 3 Park Commission Meeting – 

   On May 3, 2017, I attended a Park Commission meeting. The Commission gathers on the first Wednesday of every month. The meeting was to update the Commission on the status of the parks, including the Linda Kingston Triangle, the Hampton Park Master Plan, the Hall Fenway, the success of Arbor Day, and the monthly maintenance report.

    My addition to the agenda was my proposal to connect the Park Commission with the Piedmont High School AP Environmental Science class. I attended the class last year and really enjoyed it. The class assigns volunteer hours for homework and having attended a past Commission meeting, I had the idea to start a dialogue between the city and the class. Attending the Park Commission meeting I felt that what is taught in the class is brought into reality by the Commission, and students love real world examples. I hope that they can work together so that Piedmont can stay beautiful and educate its future generations.

    The Linda Kingston Triangle is nearing completion, with its ribbon cutting event planned for late May. All that needs to happen is the flip of a breaker switch to turn on the three lights illuminating the landscaping. Once completed, the triangle will add to Piedmont’s already lovely environment.

    I am happy to see Hampton Park coming along. Five of the six backboards were installed on the basketball courts, and a foul pole was installed for the baseball field. In order to streamline maintenance on the field, the Commission is developing a maintenance plan with PRZ. Gillian Peters and Emily Szerdy both spoke out on their concerns for the park. There is a planter built where a rogue base runner could make contact, mentioned by Emily. Gillian added that the lights illuminating the planter are too bright, proving a distraction for drivers. These concerns are likely to be addressed. I’m sure Hampton Park could have some AP Environmental Science students make their mark on this park, also.

    The most intriguing part of this meeting was the update on Hall Fenway. The small park on the corner of Wildwood and Crocker Avenue, was once a section of a commuter railway line, part of the Key System. Knowing that, I looked at a satellite image of Piedmont.  When I looked at the image, it is obvious that houses have been built on the railway, because of how straight and narrow their plots of land are. The Hall Fenway will have work done to replace struggling shrubs and groundcover, renew the mulch and adjust the irrigation system. This park was always a breath of fresh air walking home from school for me.

    After the meeting had adjourned, I had the chance to interview Chester Nakahara. He is the Director of Public Works in Piedmont and was at the meeting because the Park Commission is under his purview. He mentioned that the Park Commission has finally gotten a break from consideration of the winter storms and they are able to move forward. He is pleased that his staff performs “continually superlative work”, and that students like me are attending these meetings. Things are moving swiftly as Piedmont is recovered from the winter.  The meeting surprised Mr. Nakahara by how short and concise the meeting was.

By Mathison Richards, Piedmont High School Senior –

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.