Nov 14 2017

School Calendar, Bond Reissuance, More High School Food Options, School Facilities Naming Options

On Wednesday, November 8th, 2017, I attended the School Board meeting of the Piedmont Unified School District.

There were many topics covered the night I attended. The first speaker was Mr. Kessler, a representative of APT (the Association of Piedmont Teachers) from the Middle School, who reported on his success with students with recent lessons on social justice.

Then, Ms. Heather Frank from the Piedmont Education Foundation gave an update on the Giving Campaign and its recent efforts to increase participation in donating.

Following her report, Josh Miller, a student representative from Millennium High School reported on the ASB efforts to raise money and resources for fire victims, as well as other ASB-sanctioned events, such as Spirit Week.

Next up was the “items not on the agenda” portion of the meeting, in which I addressed the Board after also hearing from some fellow  students. With the upcoming renovations to the facilities, I spoke to the Board about the opportunity to provide more food options for students on campus. After informing them that schools like Monte Vista High School provide options such as Subway and Pizza Hut on campus, I explained that this could solve the rampant line-cutting problem at food service. For students who cannot afford off-campus options nearby or want healthier food choices closer to class, this would solve some very important problems, while also teaching planning and budgeting skills.

The Board then heard from a representative of KNN Public Finance and discussed the financing of the District’s budget involving the CABs (Capital Appreciation Bonds). The representative, along with Superintendent Randy Booker, discussed how to successfully renew the bonds that are expiring in 2023. The board has an opportunity to renew some of the District’s bonds now, but some of the School Board members are unsure of what to do.

Mr. Ireland, one of these Board members, worried that if the District renews the CABs now, they will miss out on possible future options. But, Ms. Smegal argued that if they don’t renew now, and interest rates go up, the District could be charged more for the transaction and costs.

Some community members, including Mr. Bill Hosler, who are experts in this field, offered their advice and insight and the Board decided to hold a Special Meeting in early December to discuss this matter further.

After this report, Superintendent Randy Booker spoke to the Board about the new academic calendars that had just been approved by the APT (Association of Piedmont Teachers). The teachers’ union approved two calendars, for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, which will be similar to our current calendar, scheduling finals before the holiday winter break. One change is that the students will have the whole week off for Thanksgiving instead of just three days.

I was happy to hear that finals would continue to be held prior to the break because student surveys have shown that this schedule has resulted in lower stress levels. My experience has been that having to worry about finals during Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s lessens the enjoyment of the holidays for everyone. After listening to Mr. Booker’s report on this topic, I felt that the Board had really made an effort to listen to the students and adjusted the schedule according to our suggestions.

I also spoke with Ms. Heather Frank, the Executive Director of PEF (Piedmont Education Foundation), about the meeting and why she was there. She elaborated on the Giving Campaign, which she had updated the Board on earlier in the meeting, and told me that she attends as many meetings as she can. As an important leader of the fundraising network that supports the District, she said it’s important for her to understand the opportunities and challenges facing our schools so that she can help the community understand the District’s needs.

Frank also enjoyed the meeting and was happy to hear about The Highlander’s endorsement of Principal Littlefield. She said it was good to hear that we have strong leadership at our high school.

Frank went on to say, “A small but important piece of the meeting – and my particular concern – was the approval and adoption of Board Policy 7310 – Naming of Buildings and Facilities. This policy adoption paves the way for the School Board, PUSD administration, PEF and the community to potentially work together on a campaign that will not only raise funds for the schools, but will allow us to honor and recognize Piedmont families that have made a difference through the naming of school buildings. My next step in this area is to meet with PUSD administration to begin planning for a feasibility study for a naming campaign.”

After attending this School Board meeting, I understood firsthand the importance of civilian participation in the government. Without the input of experts such as Mr. Hosler, for example, the Board may have had a much more difficult time deciding how to vote on bond renewal. Or without the student report from Josh Miller, they may feel disconnected and distant from the actual students they are working so hard to support. Ultimately, I feel that the School Board meeting was just one great example of a governmental body working hard to support the broader community.

The Board is the governing body of the School District, which is responsible for the hiring of the Superintendent and for ensuring that he or she carries out the mission of the District. They meet every two weeks, with the exception of special meetings that can be scheduled anytime with the approval of the Board.

by Minnie Cooper, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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