Mar 22 2017

Bond Expenditure Transparency, Science Buildings, Need for Healthy Relationships

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.

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