May 1 2017

Students should determine the direction for the rebuilding of the High School.

by Cade Becker, Piedmont High School Senior –

The Piedmont Unified School District continues to receive feedback on their various plans to rebuild the Piedmont High School (PHS) campus using part of the $66 million funds provided by Bond Measure H1. On April 18th, I attended one of the New School Facilities Advisory meetings to see where the direction of the school was headed.

Architects and engineers hired for this rebuilding process came together and produced 3 potential plans with estimated total costs. Option 1 was to tear down and rebuild the theater, and to add in a new math, science and art 3 story building in the parking lot next to the gym. Option 2 was to tear down the theater and build the new 3 story building there, and afterwards tearing down the 10s building and adding the new theater there. Option 3 took on the idea of moving the gym. It throws the idea out to tear down the gym and build the new 3 story building in its place and move the gym to where the 10s building is now.

The overall majority of the meeting participants enjoyed Option 2 the best, however there was no set agreement on any option. Option 1 and 3 would compromise the view that the student body of PHS holds so dear, but Option 2 would create a 3 story building at the face of our campus looming over the rest. Most of the questions came from parents or other community members present.

After the controversial voter denial of Measure H, a plan to rebuild the theater, my assumption that the theater would be a sore subject was correct. There seemed to be many supporters for taking down the theater, but there were still others who did not deem it necessary.

As a member of the Piedmont High School Acting class, having performed in the PHS musical all four years in my high school career, participated in many other short plays and two Acapella reviews, I understand better than most that the theater is high priority. I am a strong advocate for the creation of the new theater. It is worn down, dangerous, not wheelchair accessible and more. Buildings can only be renovated so much before they need to be taken down completely, I believe the theater has reached this point. Option 2 is the best of the three because it solves the most issues within the school and creates a face that Piedmont High School lacks.

In an interview with Donna Meir, a parent who has children in the Piedmont schools, I was able to grasp an alternative view on the subject. Intending to continue her involvement with the process, she said, “This is a great process. These options sparked a dynamic conversation between community members, and I appreciate the discussion. It was a great thing to see the community so involved.” Fortunate to be a part of the conversation, I gave my opinions to her as well as others at my table.

 I believe that the direction of the High School should largely come from the student body. The students attending the High School should be more involved in the conversation than parents, or other community members because they are directly affected. The students present at this meeting gave the best opinions and ideas for the rebuilding of the school. This process needs to be more in their hands rather than the community itself.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Apr 27 2017

Opinions and involvement –

April 18th School District Town Hall Meeting –

I attended the Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Piedmont Unified School District on April 18th, which focused specifically on the three plans for new high school facilities. The School Board regularly meets every month, however this special meeting was the third of its kind to give the community a chance to see where the money from measure H1 is going to improve school facilities at the high school, and to give the Board, Committee, and staff their input on which renovation plan is superior.

The major issue discussed in this meeting was the need to pick from three alternative plans which utilized a portion of the money raised by bond measure H1 to renovate the high school. All three of these plans included a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) building. In each plan, the STEAM building was placed in a different area of campus: one on the unused blacktop behind the gym, one where the theater currently is, and one where the gym is currently.

The first plan featured the STEAM building along with a new theater and renovated “20’s building” classrooms with new offices. The second included a new theater and a remodeled theater, where the “10’s building” is currently. The third plan featured no new theater, but a new gym and a relocation of Millennium High School to the “20’s building.”

Several points both for and against each plan were brought up by the people attending the meeting at my table, and to the larger group. For the first plan, the best point about it was that it was by far the cheapest of the three plans. However, this plan has some very convincing downsides brought up by the students of Piedmont High School, such as the intense amount of foot traffic it would create from the STEAM building to the main area of campus.

The second plan does not have this problem, because it focuses the main classrooms where they are located now, around the breezeway. This plan also does not eliminate the view of the city from the quad. Another important point brought up by current Piedmont High students was the fact that this plan included Millennium High School the most out of the three plans. Millennium is currently isolated due to the setup of the buildings, but the new STEAM building would shift the focus of the campus onto the quad in plan number two. For these reasons, plan number two is the plan that I believe would be best for Piedmont High School.

The third plan was the least favorite among the people in attendance at the meeting for one simple fact: it does not renovate the theater. The theater is the single largest problem with the high school, and ignoring it to renovate the gym seems illogical to the people in the community. Gina Bartlett, the meeting facilitator, even said that this point was what turned most people away from plan number three.

 After the meeting, I interviewed Kathryn Levenson, one of the current librarians at Piedmont High School. Mrs. Levenson attended this meeting because she is “interested in having a beautiful, environmentally conscious school for students.”  She believes this will help the students reach their full potential at Piedmont High School, and leave a legacy the students at the school now can be proud of. The issue which brought Mrs. Leveson to the meeting was the fact that she wants to “preserve the look” of the library at Piedmont High, while also making sure that the technology stays up to date. Mrs. Levenson enjoyed the meeting, because she found that Piedmont High students had the same concerns as she did, especially when it came to making sure MHS will be more centralized in the new plans for the school. After this meeting Mrs. Levenson plans on coming to the next round of meetings and Board discussions to make her opinions heard by the Board. Along with this, she wants to start conversations about the remodel with students at PHS so they too can have their ideas heard.

by Molly Szczech, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Measure H1 Meeting

    In the third and final Community Town Hall Meeting on Measure H1, residents, students, and others offered ideas and gained insight on the upcoming project. Held in the PHS Student Center, people were seated at multiple tables and were welcomed by Superintendent Randy Booker.

In his presentation, Booker briefly described the thought process of the School Board during the creation of each option. For instance, he recognized that the placement of the STEAM building in the first option would cause an issue of foot traffic. He also mentioned that the emphasis of the third option was on the placement of the gym; it’s difficult to find and has mobility issues. Additionally, Option Three is more mindful of safety by placing PHS offices at the entrance to monitor who comes in and out. Then he briefly opened it up for a few questions so I asked if they planned on making the new buildings more sustainable to which he assured they were.

After Booker presented an overview of the three options available for renovations, pros and cons were brainstormed in small groups. With people gathered around posters and scribbling down ideas in colorful sharpies, the setting felt more inviting and collaborative than a typical government meeting. In each group, people discussed what they agreed and disagreed with for the three options. For instance, everyone felt strongly about the beautiful view being partially blocked by the STEAM building in Option #1.

Meanwhile, people approved of the new main entrance that would be introduced in Option #3. One person mentioned that they felt the Millennium High School being in the “10s building” for Option #3 would isolate them. However, I completely disagree because any building on campus is closer than where the Millennium is located currently.

After about 25 minutes, everyone reconvened to go over key insights from the discussion. One frequently brought up subject was the STEAM building. Several people questioned if the building needed to be three stories since it would compromise the view. Someone in particular brought up if it would be possible to widen the base of the building to compensate for removing a story.

Finally on a fresh poster, the small groups huddled together to jot down new ideas for any of the options. In my group, people mentioned preserving large trees along the buildings, adding rooftop access to the new buildings, and that the amphitheater should be removed because it’s a waste of space. Throughout the meeting, putting an emphasis on the arts was of interest to those attending. Having space for an art gallery and putting large art pieces around campus were mentioned.

The facilitator, Gina Bartlett, led most of the meeting and was hired by the District to design the workshop. She appreciated everyone’s different perspectives and was surprised to learn that “people are very interested in creative spaces which is more of a recent thing.” Bartlett encouraged those with more concerns to submit comments online and continue to have their voice heard at future meetings. Overall, the meeting was successful in addressing concerns and involving everyone in the process of improving the proposed plans.

by Gina Samec, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Community Participation in High School Planning

Making sure her three children have the most advancements possible was the reason Zoa Town attended the school board meeting on April 18, 2017.  The meeting was held to discuss the future plans to remodel Piedmont High School.

Superintendent Randy Booker lead the meeting, starting by presenting three of the board’s most viable remodeling plans and explaining some of the potential problems and benefits of each.  Then the community members, school faculty, concerned parents, and students, provided a large range of perspective as they discussed the pros and cons of each option. The three options played with a new gym, a new theater, relocation of PHS offices and all included the addition of a STEAM building.

 Option one proposes the addition of the  three story STEAM building on the flat blacktop behind the gym, a remodeled “twenties building” and a complete remodel of the theater.  This proposes an issue of traffic flow to and from the STEAM building because it will contain most of the classrooms – three hundred to four hundred .  This would require lots of site work and would still be problematic for any disabled students to make their way to and from the building. In addition, this option is the least energy efficient.  However, option one is the cheapest, doing the bare minimum of what could be done.  Overall, this is a strong and viable option.

 Option two was my personal favorite out of the three.  It created the new STEAM building in the current location of the theater, moving the theater to the “thirties building”, and remodels the “twenties building.”  The STEAM building does not block any of the view from the quad and creates a better entrance way for the school.  One additional benefit of this option, as I spoke about in the large group discussion, is that it shifts the center of campus so that Millennium High School and Piedmont High School have a more integrated community.  This option has the most community benefits for the Piedmont Unified School District.

 Option three was a balance of pros and cons.  The STEAM building would be placed in the location of the gym and would have easy access directly from the quad.  This is the most energy efficient building, yet is also the most expensive.  No new theater would be added, however a new gym would take the place of the current thirties building.  Just like option two, the main entrance would be shifted and revamped, however now MHS would no longer be integrated, but instead be moved to the remodeled twenties building.  This would isolate MHS students even further than current conditions and, in my opinion, is not a viable solution.  Logistically, this option makes sense, however it is not the best for our community and the students of both MHS and PHS.

 Being able to speak both in small table groups and in front of the larger group gave me more insight into the process the School Board goes through to make advancements.  It made me realize the importance of student involvement, especially for changes like the remodel plans of a school.  It is key to have the perspective of the students who actually attend the current school and know what works best and what needs improvement.  It is clear to me that option two is the best way to upgrade our campus and change our community for the better.  However, even after attending the New School Facilities Advisory Meeting, there is much more to be considered, as Town told me, there is “still a lot of questions to be asked and answered”.

by Olivia Bott, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~

School Board New Facilities Advisory Meeting

    At the meeting I attended, Superintendent Randall Booker and some School Board Members discussed the pros and cons of the possible remodels that will be taking place at Piedmont High School in the coming years. The goal of the meeting was to help gain a better understanding of people’s and student’s opinion on what the new school should look like and to get some original ideas about carrying out the remodel. This was the third meeting so far, and I would assume many more to come as final decisions go down.

The major issues that came up in the discussions were about the location of the new S.T.E.A.M. building and whether to remodel the gym or theater, as funding did not allow for both.

First, in smaller groups we discussed and took notes on plan number 1. The view from the quad and the movement of campus center were the main things discussed. Mr. Booker noted that the walkways from where the new S.T.E.A.M. building would be placed would be not suitable for the new foot traffic.

Another important debate was about whether or not to renovate the gym and the theater.  I asked whether or not both of them could be fixed, but neither completely redone, since money was limited. But, apparently if anything is done to the theater, the whole thing has to be redone to get it up to code.

After this, we moved onto the second plan, which is my personal favorite of the three, as it creates a new S.T.E.A.M. building in the center of campus, establishing a new entry way into the school and making it seem more like a high school. This plan also renovates the theater and maintains the great view from the quad. I think that this plan, like many students at the meeting, also does a good job of incorporating Millennium High School into the larger campus. Since the only problem with this plan is that the gym is not fixed, I find it satisfies the needs of most people in the community, as the gym is still functional.

The third plan, similar to the first, blocks the view from the quad and moves the gym up to the street. While many parents expressed favor for having the gym closer to the street, and near the pool and Recreation Department, I find that this plan disturbs the atmosphere of Piedmont High, isolating Millennium High and sticking the gym in the middle, where it does not really fit.  I think overall most of the students definitely preferred the second plan over the rest, despite it being more expensive.

To get a more in depth opinion from someone other than a student, I interviewed Shirley Lee, who is the mother of a High School sophomore and an eighth grader. She stated that she attended the meeting to learn more about the key issues in the presentation in order to further understand the goals of Piedmont High School and to see what the future of the High School might be.

Lee expressed her appreciation for the many opinions of students and parents alike and that she really enjoyed hearing the pros and cons of all of the plans. It was great that both parents and students, even if they were obliged to be present by school assignments, attended as their opinions differed on many topics. Lee also showed gratitude especially for student attendance, since “they are the ones who know what going to school here is like, while the parents are only here for back-to-school night.”

I personally agree that current students’ opinions are very important, although I may be biased, expressing the difficulties students go through at the school and providing possible solutions. This was a very essential meeting for the future of Piedmont High School as opinions and concerns were really taken into account to better the future of Piedmont High School.

by Trevor Huffaker, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Apr 23 2017

Three options were described and discussed at the Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Piedmont School District.

    On April 1st, 2017, the Piedmont Unified School District Town Hall meeting took place at 9:00am in Piedmont High School’s Student Center.  The new Facilities Advisory meeting was convened to get feedback from Piedmont citizens on the three options for the new designs for Piedmont High School.  The meeting began with one of the facilitators, Gina Bartlett, telling the audience the purpose of the meeting and what was hoped to get out of it.  She said that they did not want agreement on the options, they wanted feedback.  The goal was to get the opinions of teachers, students, parents, and community members.  Bartlett also went over how the small groups should discuss each option in their small groups in order to get the most out of the discussions. Each group included five to six people, and there were 12 groups.  As it was a discussion-style meeting, speakers did not share their names.

    Superintendent Randy Booker spoke next.  He went through each option so people could have background on the project.  He stated that since Measure H1 passed, the District has $66 million for the new high school.  Booker went over the constraints for the proposed facilities.  They include: funding, lack of real estate and topography, and lack of interim housing.  These were the three things the board struggled with when creating the three options.  He said that it is important that the plan fits into the Piedmont community.  There needs to be a logical entrance.  This will provide a face to the school, and improve security.  Booker emphasized that though not every building will be new, the Board is planning to reserve a portion of the funds to improve the classrooms in the untouched buildings.  An animation was shown of the three options.  Each one involves building a three-story STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math classrooms) building and a new gymnasium or theater.  The video, along with more information and places to give feedback, can be found at www.measureh1.org.

    The rest of the meeting was spent critiquing and sharing ideas about each option in the small groups.  Each table wrote what they liked and disliked about each one on a piece of poster paper.  These ideas are then going to be discussed by the Piedmont Board of Education to create the final plan.

Option 1 involves putting the STEAM building behind the current gym, and putting in a new theater in the same place as the current one.  School Board offices would then be moved into a remodeled 20s building.  The benefits discussed about this plan included that it is the least expensive and creates the most classrooms.  A repeated criticism of this plan was that it would be difficult and inefficient to have a building that houses so many classrooms far away from the rest of the school.  Students would have trouble getting to it because of the small walkway that would lead to the entrance.

Option 2 would include a new theater in the place of the 10s building, and the STEAM classrooms where the current theater is.  People noted that this would create a face to the school.  Both these buildings would be along Magnolia Avenue, so it would be the first thing people would see.  The main entrance would be between the two buildings, and the main office would most likely be in the bottom floor of the STEAM building.  This would improve security, as office staff would have an easier time monitoring who is entering the campus.  A con mentioned was that both these buildings are very large, so they would be invasive to the feel of the current area:  architects would have a hard time making large modern buildings that fit into the surrounding area and campus.

Option 3 has the STEAM building in the place of the current gym and the new gym along Magnolia Avenue in the place of the 10s building.  People liked the idea of removing the unused amphitheater and having the three-story building make use of the hillside.  Because the entrance would be level with the quad, it would make another centralized building.  Having the gym on Magnolia makes it easier to find, and for more community members, able to utilize it.  Several groups thought that having a new gym is not as important as a new theater.  More people in Piedmont could make use of a new theater than a gym.  One parent reminded the group that when students are taking PE classes, they often go from the locker room to Witter Field.  Moving the gym further from the field makes it inconvenient for the teacher and students involved.  One student also brought up the idea that the identity of Piedmont High School is not sports.  By having the gym so prominent on the outside of the school, it disrupts what the students value most, which is academics.

After reviewing each option, I believe that #2 is the best for the school.  I think a new theater will be more beneficial to the school than a new gym.  Not all students play sports in the gym, but all students use the theater.  The new one would be wheelchair accessible and be up to date with earthquake and fire standards.  This option would also move Millennium High School into the current 20s building.  MHS students would be more integrated with PHS students.

There will be more chances to get involved and voice opinions.   Input from all meetings will be used by the School Board in preparing a final plan.

by Gemma Fucigna, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Apr 23 2017

Groups work to inform District of issues and concerns –

    On Tuesday night, April 18th, I attended the New High School Facilities Meeting in the Student Center. The topic was on the three possible new ways the high school is going to be remodeled in the near future. Every two weeks these meetings occurred; this meeting being the last of the three, but more will come later this month.

    Three options were displayed and described in a short video and then questions were welcomed. I stood and asked why in Option 3 the “PHS Offices” and “Millennium H.S.” were simply being swapped since it didn’t seem logical to me at the time. I got a response from the coordinator of the meeting, that the plan would allow the front offices of the high school to monitor closely who comes in and out of the campus. Today any stranger could walk onto our campus during school hours and no one might notice. After she addressed my question, it made much more sense to me.

    The issues of the overall remodeling of the campus were brought up and seemed extremely realistic, unfortunately. The first issue is a lack of real estate; in other words, there is not much other space than the campus we have to build in. The second issue is the campus being in a hard location with hills and streets to build on and the third issue is that while the school is being remodeled, there seems to be a lack of interim space for classrooms, offices, bathrooms, etc.

    Next on the agenda was group discussions. My group went around the table and each person, including myself, gave their likes and dislikes for each of the three plans. In my opinion, Option 2 is the best plan since it gives students a new STEAM building and also relocates and remodels the theater. Although the most important aspect of it was that unlike options 1 and 3, Option 2 does not intrude on the view students have from the quad, something that everyone at the school can appreciate. Option 1 had a large, 3 story STEAM building and seemed to promote traffic jams during all of the passing periods since a majority of the school’s students would be in one building. Option 3 didn’t appeal to me because it did not show any remodel or renovations to the theater, something that in my opinion should be a priority.

    After the groups discussed their thoughts, a final round of “Aha moments” and further questions began. I spoke out and responded to someone’s comment that even though the STEAM building in Option 3 takes away the view, students can still enjoy it from inside the building. My response was that, similar to Option 1, Option 3 would generate lots of traffic flow of students and teachers especially during lunch and also that realistically, unless its raining, most students at the high school and Millennium enjoy having lunch outside.

    After the meeting ended, I interviewed a former School Board member, Sue Smegal. She said that since she has four grandchildren in the Piedmont schools, it’s her responsibility to make sure the meetings offer good insight and eventually the right school overall. “We can’t lose the feel of the campus. When I walk on it [the campus] I feel happy, we can’t lose that,” she said. As for the future, she plans to go to the upcoming meetings and will always try her best to give her opinions and have her voice heard.

by Sam Watters, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions are those of the author.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Town Hall meeting produces new ideas for developing the high school.

    On April 1, there was a Piedmont School District Community Town Hall meeting to discuss the new high school facilities in the Piedmont High School Student Center. The purpose of this meeting was to get feedback on the three proposed options for the new high school facilities under Bond Measure H1. (Further discussions were held on April 6 and April 18.) 

     As the community was seated around tables, the meeting began with Superintendent Randy Booker and two facilitators Gina Bartlett and Julia Golomb introducing the school plans, including the budget and funding. A video was shown (one can find it on measureh1.org) and the key facts about each option were given with handouts showing each design outline, cost, classrooms, etc.

     Next, each table group split up and discussed each option. Beginning with option one, each person went around and said what they liked about it. Then each person spoke again, saying their concerns about the option being discussed. A scribe wrote down a “pros and cons” list on a large poster as the discussion continued and ideas were shared. This was repeated for each option.

     Once the groups completed discussing each option, they agreed on main objectives for the new high school facilities and what we wanted Piedmont High School’s “identity” to be. Next, a speaker from each group said their main insights as a group and what their main priorities for the school were.

     For option one, the main ideas that people were excited about was the new theater, but the group did not like having the new STEAM building so far away from the other classrooms.

     Option two has a new theater as well as a new STEAM building and an entrance and center point in the school.

     In option three, most people seemed to like the placement of the STEAM building, however, the Gym being in the middle of the school brought concerns about giving off the wrong idea of the school, isolating MHS more, and also having PE students running around the school to get down to the field.

    I thought that the theater was a main priority for the school and also a clear entrance and center point were the main objectives for the new facilities making me rule out the third option because it didn’t update the theater. Of course, there are many more positives and negatives about each option and other tradeoffs.

     Then, each group split off again and discussed new ideas and wrote them down on a poster. Some of these new ideas consisted of making the STEAM building two stories instead of three and moving the offices to the forties building. Other ideas were filling in the amphitheater and creating a place to eat or garden, using the space better. Simple ideas like just adding picnic tables or making the quad the center point of the school were also shared. Finally, each group expressed their new ideas and the meeting was wrapped up.

A variety of people showed up including Brad Hebert, who is on Randy Booker’s committee. Brad thought the meeting went very well, and “validated the committee’s hard work.” He is excited for the next steps the committee will take as they revise designs and work with architects to make their vision come to light. This meeting was exciting for PHS’s future and extremely informative. Community members walked away with new ideas and opinions.

By Addie Christensen, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Mar 29 2017

How will $66 Million in School Bond money be spent? 

Announcement:

Piedmont School District will Hold Three Community Town Hall Meetings to Discuss Options for New High School Facilities –

“On November 8, 2016, the Piedmont community approved Measure H1, authorizing $66 million in school construction bonds to modernize school facilities to better support educational programs. “This measure was approved by 74% of the Piedmont voters, and the District is grateful for this remarkably strong community support for education,” said Piedmont Unified School District’s Superintendent Randall Booker. “The next step is to develop concept designs for new facilities, and the District is looking forward to working with the community in this process,” said Booker.”

“Piedmont High School is a priority because PHS buildings are the oldest in the District with the most severe physical needs, PHS serves all Piedmont students in their highest level of K-12 education, and supporting high school STEAM education is a paramount educational goal in the District. Additional classrooms at each elementary school for kindergarten education is also a priority.”

The District is holding three community town hall meetings to discuss concept designs for new high school facilities:

  •  Saturday, April 1, 9:00 – 11:00 am, PHS Student Center, 800 Magnolia Avenue

  •  Thursday, April 6, 12:30 – 2:00 pm, Ellen Driscoll Theater, 325 Highland Avenue

  •  Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, PHS Student Center, 800 Magnolia Avenue

    “All are welcome and encouraged to participate, regardless of whether you have students in the Piedmont schools. We look forward to hearing from you,” said Superintendent Booker.

    An RSVP to Sylvia Eggert will be appreciated at https://goo.gl/forms/avbFcJGZPpu7TFiw2 so District staff will know how many people plan to attend. [This is a request rather than a requirement for attendance.  All are welcome at any of the meetings with or without an RSVP .]

    “The purpose of these town hall meetings is to provide information (about the constraints and concept designs that fit within these constraints), promote civic engagement, answer questions, and invite input. We will not be voting or making decisions at these meetings.”

During the town hall meetings the School District will ask the community to consider questions such as:

  •  What do you like/dislike about each concept design?
  •  Which of these concept designs best meet our educational goals and priorities?
  •  Do you have another concept design that fits within the constraints of the budget, site topography, etc.?
    A short video that provides an overview of three concept designs for new high school STEAM facilities can be viewed here > https://youtu.be/lOhWHostJYc  
  • More detailed information about each of the three concept designs can be viewed here >https://goo.gl/WkfFfe  
  • Additional town hall meetings will be held next year to discuss elementary school classrooms;
  • The three upcoming town hall meetings will focus specifically on concept designs for the high school.Those who can’t attend one of the three town hall meetings can go to the Measure H1 website — > www.measureh1.org — to learn about and provide comment on the concept designs.
  • Community feedback on the concept designs will also be accepted at the Piedmont School Maker Faire on April 23, 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. at Piedmont High School.
  • “The District’s paramount goal is to provide an extraordinary education that prepares students for higher education and careers, and STEAM education is at the forefront of these efforts.  STEAM courses emphasize critical reasoning, computational thinking, and skills to articulate and defend ideas. These skills are essential for nearly every career in today’s economy and, regardless of future education and careers, these skills are essential for life in the digital age. “With voter approval of Measure H1, the District looks forward to modernizing labs and other infrastructure to support robust STEAM education, now and in the future,” said Superintendent Booker.”

    $66 M Bond funds may be used to:

  •  Construct new high school facilities to support instruction of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (“STEAM”).
  •  Renovate or replace school facilities to support student learning and upgrade antiquated mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and ventilation systems.
  •  Add elementary classrooms for extended-day kindergarten.
  •  Implement energy-efficiency measures to reduce operating expenses and mitigate environmental impacts.
  •  Enhance campus security across all campuses.

Comments may be sent to the School Board by going to >  http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/board-of-education/members/

 

Mar 22 2017

Student wants community to have more information on District Bond activities along with developing good programs for healthy relationships. 

When Sarah Pearson called the Piedmont School Board meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8th, there were more people sitting behind the dark wooden semi-circular desk than in the audience. The School Board meets to discuss and shape the future of Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) every other Wednesday evening, unless a special meeting arises or the Wednesday falls over a school break. At this meeting, the three main items on the agenda were updates on the H1 Bond funding measure passed in June of 2016, the Healthy Relationships curriculum at the high school, and suicide prevention measures.

To begin, Max Miller, Millennium High School’s Vice President spoke on behalf of the Piedmont High and Millennium High community, updating the school board on upcoming events. From the annual Falcon fundraising dinner switching the style of catering to the upcoming plays at Piedmont High School (PHS), both campuses were bustling with spring time activities. After Miller spoke, a community member read a speech without telling the audience or school board it’s origins. When he finished the excerpt, he asked everyone if they knew where it was from. Stumping the entire room, he revealed it was written by Pericles over 2,000 years ago, noting it’s parallel to the Gettysburg Address by the 16th President Abraham Lincoln. This non sequitur speech segwayed into the Board updates from all five board members present. Recalling all the meetings they attended, each school-related meeting had anywhere from one to four school board members in attendance. Superintendent Booker talked about the search to find a new PHS principal.

Sam Williamson spoke after the updates about the memorial service for his kindergarten teacher which was held simultaneously in the Veterans Hall. He passed around a picture of himself with his teacher; she will be missed by all her students and the entire Wildwood School community.

The first item on the agenda addressed the budgeting strategy the District will take to build a new building and an update on the lengthy process to find a contractor. Chris Delong spoke on behalf of his firm that was hired by the District to look into the process of getting state funding to help construct the new science building. Delong presented his ideas, hoping to be rehired by the District to continue his work with PUSD. Having worked years in Sacramento, Delong knows first hand the tedious work it takes to tap into the seismic construction fund, and he wants to help Piedmont with that task. The Board unanimously rehired his firm after questions by School Board members Amal Smith and Andrea Swenson.

Michael Brady updated the Board on the successful search for a construction firm. The new firm has outstanding references and consistently showed they can both work with a time limit and budget. However, I think that this H1 funding measure needs more transparency. The Piedmont community deserves more updates about how their money is being spent and what exactly is being done to ensure the building of new science buildings. Whether that’s through the Piedmont Post, or an email, the District should do a better job conveying their progress.

The next item, also presented by Brady, showed the School Board PUSD is following the new laws Governor Brown passed surrounding “Yes means Yes” legislation and Healthy Relationships education. Brady touched on the contents of the law, the Healthy Kids survey to be taken in April throughout middle school and high school, and what work has already been done to address these standards. One facet of the survey that was brought up by both Smith and City Council member Jen Cavanaugh was the decision not to question middle schoolers about their sexual activity. Brady and Booker believed that more thought needed to be put into these questions before throwing them on the survey.

City Council member Cavenaugh took time to speak with me after the meeting about the importance of healthy relationships. She expressed, “I am passionate about creating a community that values healthy relationships.” After the District sent an email out that afternoon reflecting much of what Brady said at the meeting, Cavenaugh sent an email to School Board members that very evening, then brought her notes to the meeting and spoke about the importance of starting the discussion about healthy relationships at a young age. Cavenaugh will continue to work within the Healthy Relationships Committee to ensure Piedmont plays it’s part in educating its students.

I spoke out at this meeting about weaving the healthy relationships discussion into our English classrooms through a diversification of the curriculum.

The next school board meeting will be on March 22nd at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers and is open to the public.

by Danny De Bare, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Mar 12 2017

Report showed an increase of School District revenue by $378,166, or nearly one percent of the total $39,253,395 District Budget revenue taken in during the period.  Tax exempt parcels raised once more as a funding issue.   

The PUSD Budget Advisory Committee met on Thursday, March 2, at the School District offices to review their second Interim Budget Report for the 2016-2017 PUSD budget.  Those in attendance included three PHS students, five district-affiliated persons, not including the presenter, Assistant Superintendent Song Chin Bendib, and one private citizen.

    The purpose of the meeting was to understand the District’s finances, and how they have changed recently, and how they will continue to change over the next few years.  The second interim report showed an increase of District revenue by $378,166, or nearly one percent of the total $39,253,395 Budget revenue taken in during the period.  Of this increase, nearly 60% percent came from fees or donations paid to the District for programs such as sports teams, field trips, PAINTS, CHIME, and other similar groups.  This income can only be reported after it is collected by the District, and, according to Bendib, cannot be used to offset other District costs, or saved in the General Fund.  The remaining 40% percent of revenue increases came from the State of California, in the form of one hundred nine thousand dollars of aid.  Expenditures grew by $369,689 in the same interim period, a smaller amount than the increase due to specialty payment revenue.  This reduced the District’s previous interim deficit of $869,467 to $860,990 in the second interim budget review.

Spending for books and materials increased nearly eight percent, or about $80,000, in the second, or mid school-year, interim.  Maintenance and services costs increased by nearly $200,000 during the period, an increase that Bendib attributed to so-called “discretionary spending” of the income from athletic, arts, and field trip donations.  Bendib indicated that neither the increases in maintenance expenditures, nor those on books and materials reflected long-term growth of expenditures.  The increase in income in the period, however, did not reflect a reliable increase or a growth trend either.

The author wonders why spending increased for books and materials in the middle of the school-year, surmising that most textbooks and materials are purchased at the beginning of the school-year or over the summer.  Additionally, the author believes that the income for special-interest programs like arts and athletics should not be added to the same data used to compute changes in the General Fund, especially if said income cannot be used for general spending, and represents reliable growth in neither revenues nor expenditures.

Further increase in expenditures resulted from PUSD staff that changed health insurance status.  The District, instead of paying a two thousand dollar adjustment to staff who paid for their own health insurance or received insurance through a spouse’s employment, must now pay around $7,000, for an individual, to provide full health insurance.  This puts the District’s health insurance payments on par with the most expensive insurance available in Alameda County, according to “Health Insurance Companies and Plan Rates for 2016,” a report by government-established marketplace, Covered California.

The outlook for the next few years was then presented.  The District is required to have a reserve of 3% of its projected budget every year.  For the 2016-2017 budget, there is a projected reserve of almost 4%, but for the following two years, that is the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 budgets, the projected reserves fall short at 2.7% and 1% respectively.  This is due to a decreased outlook, by $465,000, for state LCFF funding.  This amount of funding has yet to be finalized by the governor in his May revise of California’s budget.

PMS teacher Annie Holland asked a question to make sure that the numbers shown in the meeting did not indicate, or would not be seen to indicate, an increase in teacher salaries.

Private citizen William Blackwell asked that the Committee look into parcel tax exemptions.  He stated the the number of parcels in Piedmont multiplied by the flat parcel tax per parcel amounted to more than the parcel tax revenue reported by the district.  The gap, according to him, is nearly $114,000 dollars per year, and is caused by unlawful exemptions to the tax claimed by some parcel owners.  Blackwell said that several lawyers have looked into this and agree with him, including a former PUSD School Board member.  Bendib responded that the District has looked into the issue and that the District’s lawyers have advised that there is nothing illegal about the exemptions.

When asked if he learned anything from the meeting, he responded that he has attended PUSD Budget Advisory Committee meetings for four years trying to get the District to claim the money that he purports is owed to the District.  He said “I’ve heard almost the same presentation every year,” Blackwell says.  He claims that “there is a discrepancy [of] about forty-four parcels… that should be paying the taxes [and are] not.”

Blackwell also believes that paying for maintenance of current buildings using H1 Bond money will make maintenance more expensive in the long run.  He would like to see “a mandatory set-aside for maintenance every year… [that] would not be kicked down the road.”  Blackwell is disappointed by the District’s lack of action on the issue and plans to meet with Superintendent Randall Booker and other PUSD officials to discuss the issue.

by Grady Wetherbee, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Mar 12 2017

Pension costs continue to place a burden on School District budgets as operating reserves are reduced. School Board will review the budget on March 15, 2017.  

    The Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Budget Advisory Committee meets about five times each fiscal year to examine and discuss PUSD’s budget. On March 2, 2017, at 3:30 PM in the District Conference room, Assistant Superintendent Song Chin-Bendib made a presentation to the committee covering PUSD’s budget and changes during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, as well as the multi-year projection report looking ahead to the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

    In terms of changes since the first interim of the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, both revenues and expenditures have increased. Revenues increased by $378,166 due to both state and local funding. There was an additional $109,000 from state funding as parts of the College Readiness Block Grant, ROP funding, and special education funding. Local revenues were generated by school athletics, various Piedmont High School ASB funds, and fundraising groups such PAINTS. Expenditures also increased, by $369,689, as a result from shift in certified and classified salaries because of vacancies in the payroll, employee benefits especially healthcare, and services, operating expenses, and capital outlay.

    Moving on to look at the multi-year projection report, we looked at the District reserves which are required to be around 3-4%. We have the required reserves for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, however already in the 2017-2018 fiscal year the budget projects only 2.7% reserve (short $108,602), and by the 2018-2019 fiscal year to only have about 1% reserve (short $796,384). These shortages starting in the 2017-2018 fiscal year result from assumptions provided by the state, and the most recent information projects less increase than was originally expected. Furthermore the multi-year projections show these shortfalls to grow in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. These issues are stemming from increasing School District payment rates for CalPERS and CalSTRS teacher pension programs, as a result of the CalPERS board voting to lower the expected rate of return from their investments.

     Some options to confront the 2017-2018 fiscal year shortfall include waiting until May to confirm if the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) reduction projections are in fact true, expenditure reductions, or revenue enhancements. The Piedmont School Board meeting on March 15, 2017 will review the budget and address deficits.

    After the meeting came to a close, I had the opportunity to speak with Amy Aubrecht, treasurer of the Wildwood Parents Club, to gain some additional insight on the effects of the Piedmont District budget. Aubrecht’s duty as treasurer was to understand the bigger picture of the Piedmont budget so that she is able to wisely and effectively support her local school budget. In regards to the upcoming shortfall in funding, Aubrecht knew and predicted some of the significant problems with the CalPERS pension funds, and now says her priorities are to maintain all the core programming at Wildwood. When delegating money, she plans on being cautious and conservative, but is not too alarmed yet. Aubrecht predicts that much of the parent club money will go to Tier II funding for some of the discretionary spending that might otherwise get cut.

     It is crucial that we as the Piedmont community are well aware and informed so that we can contribute to maintaining and improving our schools and city.

by Kailee Lin, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Mar 12 2017

Off budget revenue from local sources provide an offset to expenditures, however Governor’s Restrictive Budget continues to be an important factor in Piedmont Schools funding future.  

     The Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Budget Advisory Committee held a meeting on March 2, 2017 at the PUSD District Conference Room at 3:30 p.m. to discuss their upcoming budget proposal to the school board. Song Chin Bendib, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, led the meeting, which covered the changes in the PUSD budget that have occurred between their last meeting before the First Interim, which ended on December 14, 2016, and the Second Interim, which ended on March 8, 2017, as well as changes in the coming three years.

    Between the First and Second Interim Review,  PUSD’s revenue has grown from $38,875,229 to $39,253,375, an increase of $378,166. This revenue is broken down into approximately $109,000 from the State of California, $75,000 from the College Readiness Block Group, $37,000 from the Regional Occupation Program (ROP), $4,000 for Special Education spending. The largest subdivision in revenue is the approximate $252,000 from “local revenue”, which comes from various activities such as field trips, athletics, the Speech and Debate Club among other sources. However, this source of revenue does not count towards the final budget line as this revenue is spent immediately on the supplemental activities they were designated for. Essentially, this fund accounts for any money coming in to pay for supplemental activities; for example, the money collected to pay for the AP European History field trip to Europe would count towards this revenue fund, but would not go to the District, rather would just be used to pay for the field trip.

     However, this was offset by an increase in spending of $369,986. The most notable factor in the increase in spending was an approximate $127,000 increase in employee benefits, which was primarily due to increases in healthcare costs, said Chin Bendib.  This increase is caused by employees upgrading their healthcare plans from single to married, or married to family, which costs the District more.

    In addition to this hurting PUSD’s budget, the California State Government also revised their proposed budget, providing less funding than originally expected in December. Governor Brown implemented a 5.8 billion dollar decline in revenue, resulting in a $465,000 decline in revenue for PUSD alone. This decline in revenue was partially due to CalPERS and CalSTRS being deep in debt, and Governor Brown cutting funding for schools to help remedy this issue.

     After Chin Bendib questioned why Governor Brown would not just dip into his large rainy day fund to help bail out these programs. She argued that this is what the fund is for, and that there is no reason to continue saving when there are issues now. And although I agree that there are issues with the current budget and within the school system, I do not think that the government should dip into its rainy day fund in order to address this issue. The rainy day fund should be reserved for emergencies and catastrophe, not for smaller, systemic issues like the cutting of school funding. This debt that caused the funding cut seems to be systemic and simply bailing it out with the rainy day funding does not appear to be sustainable. Besides, using the money now would justify spending in many other areas and for other smaller issues, thus making it not a rainy day fund, but rather a fund to correct mistakes, which would not be sustainable for very long.

    In looking at projected long term budgets, PUSD also looked to be short of breaking even. The State of California requires school districts to plan out projects budgets for the next three years. The State also requires that school districts have a ‘cushion’ fund equivalent to 3 to 4% of the school’s expenditures. PUSDs budget met this requirement for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, but will fall $108,602 short of the requirement for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and $796,384 short in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

     During the meeting, I interviewed a member of the audience. Sixth grade teacher at Piedmont Middle School Gabriel Kessler, who also serves as the Vice President of the Teacher’s Union, attended the meeting to better fulfill his positions, but also to be better informed as a citizen. Kessler believed that all people should be involved in civics, and that more people should come to these meetings. “People should go to these government meetings,” Kessler said. “It is important to be involved in government and informed.”As for his reaction to the meeting, Kessler did not have any huge reactions, other than slight concern, stating that, “It’s concerning to see [that the budget is short of requirements], but it will be interesting to see how they [address the issue].” Kessler plans on attending more city governments and continuing to be informed, but has no other plans to take action on the budget.

     He also asked a question and got the paraphrased response.“Is the May revise an event that occurs every year and is required, or is it optional? If so, how often does it occur?”

    Song Chin Bendib responded by saying that the May revise is not required, but it occurs fairly commonly. This year, the proposed budget is expected to pass through the California state budget, thus not necessitating a May revise. The May revise is essentially intended to allow the Governor one final chance to change the budget before it becomes final for the remainder of the fiscal year. This year’s May revise is of particular importance to the District because the Governor unexpectedly slashed funding to the schools to pay off other debts. The May revise represented the last chance for Governor Brown to back off those funding cuts and thus help PUSD balance their budget, but Chin Bendib was doubtful that the change would occur. I asked a question in order to clarify the board on the history of the May revise and whether it was a rare occurrence or an annual tradition. However, despite its common occurrence, a May revise does not seem likely for this fiscal year.

by Maxwell Lee, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Feb 21 2017

Dress Best for Less to Move to a New Home on Lakeshore Avenue

Dress Best for Less (DBFL) will be closing it’s doors on Piedmont Avenue in under two months and moving to a new location at 3411 Lakeshore Ave. (between Shakewell and Greetings).

Grand Opening at 3411 Lakeshore Avenue

Saturday, April 1
Mark your calendar!

Join the Mailing List to Stay Informed

Sign up for our mailing list to receive more information: DressBestforLess.org.

Keep Shopping!

In the meantime, shop the Piedmont Ave store and the Marking Room for great bargains as we clear out inventory in anticipation for our big move.

Want to help?

We are in need of volunteers including handy men and women to help with plumbing, painting and more to help us get our new store ready.  Please contact DBFL President Gayle Sells at 510-654-6193 for more information.

Where

Dress Best for Less
3861 Piedmont Ave and 799 Magnolia Ave
Oakland and Piedmont, CA 94611

Contact

Gayle Sells
510-654-6193
moc.liamg@lfbdpohs
dressbestforless.org