Feb 21 2017

Bond Measure Implementation and All Day Kindergarten: School Board

Below is a student report on the Piedmont Unified School District Board Meeting of February 8, 2017.

The Piedmont Unified School District School Board meeting on February 8, 2017, took place at City Hall and began at 7:00 PM. opening up with statements from each board member on recent community activity. Max Miller, the student representative to the Board from Millennium High School gave statements concerning the goings-on at both Piedmont and Millennium high schools. Miller focused on service learning and community service at both schools, the Millennium community dinner, which supports the Millennium trip to Camp Augusta, an upcoming night rally at Piedmont High, new musical Legally Blonde, and a college presentation from Ms. Bly.

The other board members updated the audience on recent events they had attended in the community. Notable events included upcoming Elementary School Enrollment Day, an information night regarding transitional and traditional kindergarten, and a community engagement meeting regarding Measure H1 to take place on April 1st, from 9:00-12:00 AM. All these reports were presented by Superintendent Randall Booker. In these opening remarks the Board also discussed the process for finding a new principle for Piedmont High, and Board President Sarah Pearson mentioned a recent coffee discussing the transition held by co-principals Eric Mapes and Irma Munoz.

Following opening remarks, the Board moved to a presentation by Blake Boehm from KNN Public Finance, LLC, regarding Measure H1 finances. Currently the Board is largely concerned with the implementation of Measure H1, a large bond passed June 2016. H1 addresses gaps in Piedmont’s education system, from insufficient facilities to opportunities to modernize Piedmont’s curriculum.

Boehm discussed bond implementation, specifically focusing on upcoming parcel tax hikes and how to guarantee that taxpayers are paying only the necessary amount to fund the bond. The bond will be instituted in three series, for a total of 66 million dollars to be spent starting in 2018. Bond sales to the community will take a maximum 6 years, and any debt incurred during this time will be paid for with property taxes. Boehm was optimistic that a continual trend of high fiscal value and community growth in Piedmont would ensure that the bond would continue to be valuable for years after its initial implementation, and saw no problems paying off any debt in upcoming years. As interests rates continue to increase, Boehm stated that savings could even surpass current predictions. At Boehm’s conclusion, the Board voted to see another presentation from Boehm at the next Board meeting.

Following presentations on Measure H1, the Board heard presentations in support of implementation of Extended Day Kindergarten (EDK) by Piedmont kindergarten teachers and the principle of Wildwood Elementary School Carol Kramer. EDK is a proposal to lengthen the normal day of a Piedmont kindergartener from half day schooling to a full day. Supporters of this change state that kindergarteners are better able to become immersed in the curriculum with a longer day, and would have more time for exploration and play. Presenters also stated current kindergarten models are outdated and need modernization. Furthermore, Measure H1 allocated funds specifically geared towards the district-wide implementation of EDK. These monies would pay for more facilities, better materials, and a higher salary for kindergarten teachers working a full day.

Opposition to EDK stated that a longer school day could increase stress at a very young age. The Board voted unanimously to move forward with EDK across the district. EDK would bring back some elements of joy and play to school, where these have clearly been lacking currently.

From my perspective, the Board correctly ruled in this case, and the benefits of implementing EDK will be seen not only in kindergarteners themselves, but across the board as they move up through Piedmont schools. While the opponents of EDK are justified in their concerns over increased student stress, EDK would actually help alleviate the stress of moving from half-day kindergarten to full-day first grade. The benefits would also extend to working parents, who could spend less on childcare. The Board will continue to hear opinions concerning the nuances of executing EDK in all three elementary schools for the remainder of the school year.

The School Board meets bimonthly, excluding special meetings, and hears issues pertaining to Piedmont schools. The Board attempts to promote better schooling for all Piedmont residents while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible.

By Madison Wilson, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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