Sep 7 2016

OPINION: School Board Members Take Issue with Newspaper Claims

School Board Members Respond to Piedmont Post’s Claims about the District Administration

 As a board, we all agree that the press plays an important role in providing information to the community, but it can be harmful when inaccurate claims are made, whatever the cause of such mistakes. Although School Board members (all volunteers) cannot respond to all inaccuracies in the Piedmont Post, we think it important to respond to the Post’s recent article, “School District’s Top-Heavy Administration.”

The District administration provides management, guidance and support for 502 District employees who teach, serve, support and provide a variety of programs to 2701 students.  The administration consists of a Superintendent (Randy Booker), an Assistant Superintendent and Chief Business Officer (Song Chin-Bendib), a Director of Curriculum & Instruction (Cheryl Wozniak), a Director of Instructional Technology (Stephanie Griffith), a Director of Adult and Alternative Education, who also manages the Wellness Center (Michael Brady), a Director of Special Education (Julie Valdez), a Director of Facilities (Pete Palmer), a Director of Fiscal Services (Michelle Nguyen), and a Director of Athletics (Vic Acuna).  Each of these dedicated individuals provides valuable and necessary services to the District.

The Post article does not challenge that such administrators are needed and that they do an excellent job for our children.  Instead, the Post implies that the Board has failed to provide oversight, the public has had no chance to comment, and that there are too many administrators.  The facts are otherwise.

•       The Post asserts that administration “changes appear to have occurred with limited oversight or input from members of the Piedmont School Board.”  Not true.  Not only are such staffing changes found in the public agendas (which every Board member reads), but Board members were and are aware of proposed administration staffing before staffing changes are made through frequent individual meetings with the Superintendent, which often address staffing and morale, and confidential performance reviews,  including the Superintendent’s management and plans for the administration.  Board members can and do email or call the Superintendent frequently about District issues, and that has included administration organization and staffing.

•       The Post asserts that “only one of the four new contracts was subject to board approval and open to public discussion.”  Not true, as admitted later in the article.  Each contract was presented in the Board’s public agenda as a consent item.  Routine matters not expected to be of public interest often are placed on the consent agenda.  A member of the public may ask to speak regarding consent items, and any Board member may ask to remove an item from the consent agenda for discussion.  No such request or public comment was made.

•       The Post asserts that the District’s Chief Business Officer (and Assistant Superintendent) “is now being paid over $217,000  a year in base salary.”  Not true.  Ms. Chin-Bendib started at an annual salary of $165,871 for 205 workdays, and now receives a base salary of $178,750 for 215 workdays.  The Board is aware of competitive salaries for CBOs in the Bay Area, and is pleased to have Ms. Chin-Bendib serving as our CBO.

•       With full support of the Board, Superintendent Booker has reorganized administrative roles and responsibilities in the District office to meet evolving educational and administrative needs.  Mr. Booker has flattened the organization structure by not replacing a second Assistant Superintendent and, instead, having Directors that mostly report directly to him.  The Directors provide the expertise to properly serve our student population, including: managing changes in curricula and programs; supporting the approximately 15% of District students who require special education services; developing and supporting technology infrastructure and services; managing maintenance and construction at the schools where our children learn; and providing the operational expertise to keep the District in compliance with federal and state requirements, as well as to meet the high expectations of the Board and the community.

Our community, parents, students and Board members expect a lot from our schools.  We expect them to be well-managed, and to serve the many and varied educational needs of our children.  Contrary to the assertion in the Post, the administration is not “top-heavy,” it is right-sized.  The excellent performance of our students and the support provided to our educational community show it.

Rick Raushenbush
Amal Smith
School Board Members

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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