Oct 20 2015

School Board Considers PUSD Calendar, Student Preschool Volunteers, Witter Field Parking

Report on the School Board Meeting – October 14, 2015

 by Piedmont High School student Maret Sotkiewicz

On the 14th of October, 2015, I attended a School Board meeting at City Hall.  These board meetings are held so that its members can discuss different issues and situations related to the Piedmont Unified School District.  There are five permanent members of the Board plus a student representative, Cerina Smit, who is Vice President of Associated Student Body (ASB) at Millennium High School (MHS).  Citizens of the community are welcome to attend the meeting and provide input on various issues, or simply share opinions related to the agenda, or bring up new points all together.  Mainly, this board serves as a forum for citizens and officials of Piedmont to come together and have a discussion on ways to make the District better.  The School Board meets on average one to two times a month, always at seven o’clock on Wednesdays at City Hall located  in the center of Piedmont.

There was one major issue presented at this meeting, and a supplementary presentation, with a few audience member appearances.  The main topic of the meeting was the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) instructional calendar, and the various four circulating versions. The argument was presented by Piedmont High School (PHS) teacher, Gaby Kashani, who wanted to clarify the various calendar options.   Additionally, Pam Gelman and Carrie Rodriguez presented a slideshow on the preschool held at Piedmont Community Church that is geared towards both developmentally and mentally disabled kids.  They did not have an issue to discuss, but were brought to the meeting by Superintendent Randall Booker who wanted them to present information on the program.  The other topics brought up included a lack of parking at Witter Field, a desire to help out at the preschool, a plea for Finals to be held before Winter Break, and a thank you to the Piedmont education system from former PHS student, TJ Korotzer.

For the calendar issue, Ms. Kashani clarified the different options, alongside a slideshow from Mr. Booker with statistics from a recent District wide survey of parents, teachers and students regarding the different calendars. For example, Calendar B has the school year start in early August, which would allow Finals to be held before Winter Break.  Calendar C provided a start time mid-August (how it is now), with Finals also before Winter Break – except that this option would limit the number of breaks in the Fall Semester.  Calendar D provided a start in late August, yet this calendar was created mostly because the teacher contract said there needed to be four different calendars presented.

Board members Sarah Pearson and Amal Smith stressed how important it seemed to students to have Finals before Winter Break, and promised to do as much as they could to make it happen.  Student Gianna Massullo also spoke from the audience on this issue, and declared she was losing time with family, friends and pets over Winter Break because she spent so much time studying for the looming Finals.  This is an opinion held by many students, as backed up by the 82% of responding students from both PHS and MHS on the calendar survey.  I agree with this, especially because I often travel for Winter Break and having finals in two weeks really detracts from the “break”.  I would much rather start earlier in August, as Calendar B presented, and have finals before break, rather than to continue with the normal schedule.  However, this issue will not affect me because I will be in college next year.  I hope a new calendar is implemented for the upcoming classes of students.

Piedmont High School student Drew Collins inquired about the lack of parking at Witter Field in the early evening. Superintendent Mr. Booker said that the change was due to the safety of community members on PE Hill at all hours.

I interviewed the preschool teacher Pam Gelman, who was pleased to discuss her job and her reasons for being at the meeting.  Unlike many who attend the meeting, Ms. Gelman had been asked by the Superintendent to attend the meeting, after he had “sat in on a class and was very impressed.”  She wanted to spread the word about the preschool program for developmentally and mentally disabled kids and all the incredible aspects of the Inclusion Program, as it has existed in Piedmont for three years without any publicity.  They are eager to have volunteers and support from the Board members.

I spoke to the Preschool Program.  I walked up to the podium and inquired if it could potentially be a possibility to TA or intern at the preschool on late start Fridays or with a morning free period (as classes are only 8:30-1 at the preschool).  I was nervous attending the meeting with the added weight of speaking, but the board was incredibly enthusiastic about this idea and Mr. Booker said he would immediately follow up with counselors at the High School about making this a TA opportunity.  Ms. Gelman and Ms. Rodriguez were also ecstatic about the idea, and said that the kids always love volunteers, and that it would be a great opportunity for all those involved.  In the end, I was very pleased with how my point came across and the ongoing action that will be taken to make it a possibility.

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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