Sep 21 2018

Piedmont School District: Teacher Vacancies, Call for More Funding

Physics and Spanish teacher vacancies to be filled by online computer programs. – 
School Board Meeting – 9/12/18 –

On Wednesday, September 12th, the Piedmont School Board met in the City Council Chambers for it’s bi-monthly meeting. The main focus of the meeting the budget and spending of the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD).

The agenda started with announcement of the decisions of the School Board during the closed meeting.

Four Student Matters: Temporary PE Medical Exemptions – Education Code 35146 were approved.

Ms. Frank from the Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) rose to commend the school administration for being transparent in the School District’s financials.

The Parents Club also chipped in $300,000 dollars, leaving a $200,000 difference left, which would be paid using reserves. However, this would empty the reserves, leaving no money for next year.

Next, Piedmont High School (PHS) ASB President Max Roitblat and Millennium High School (MHS) ASB Vice President Miles Smith reported what is going on in PHS and MHS.

After the report, the School Board opened the Public Forum, where attendees could address items not on the agenda.

Parent Deborah Leeland was to first to speak, expressing her and her daughter’s disappointment in the School District. Ms. Leeland mentions how her daughter has been without a physics teacher for 5 weeks, and given no instruction during those weeks, and showed her frustration in the school’s lack of a contingency plan.

PHS Senior Connor Tang came next, asking the Board to not hold the Class of 2019’s graduation ceremony in one of the school’s gyms. The Board announced that the graduation would not be held in the gym.

Next, PHS Senior Luke Anderson rose to ask about the school’s policy for transfer students in the athletics program. The Board suggested asking Mr. Littlefield or Mr. Powell for more information about the policy.

PHS Senior Ben Williamson rose next, commending the School Board for increasing the amount of food at the food court.

Afterwards, PHS Senior Will Wolfe came up to speak about the food court lines. He first complimented that the lines improved a lot with the addition of grade specific lines, but recommended opening up the side food court window and the Alan Harvey Theater ticket room to allow students to purchase only snacks.

Next, PHS Senior Margi Brayer rose to talk about the school’s trash problem. She mentioned how students leave trash all over Piedmont Park, and asked  the School Board to add more trash cans and think about relocating trash bins to encourage students to throw away their trash into correct bins.

PHS Senior Gillian Truesdell asked about how PHS clubs can raise money within the school. While the clubs can do so, the current system is tedious and a more direct system would be more beneficial to use. She also says that having pre-approval on what to sell and having more days to fundraise within school will allow clubs to raise more money.

PHS Senior Hannah Yin was the last to speak, thanking the School Board for holding more discussions about diversity.

The next item on the agenda was the Superintendent’s Announcements. Randall Booker updated the Board with the current physics and Spanish teacher vacancies, saying that “we all recognize that this is a extremely challenging time, and not ideal in any circumstances.”

Mr. Booker acknowledged that there is a teacher shortage all across California, especially in the Bay Area due to the high cost of living pricing teachers away from the area. He also announced that to move forward, the online learning service Edgenuity will be used. Although it is not the ideal solution, it is the best solution given the current circumstances, all while trying to find candidates to hire.

I agree that using an online course is, while not the best solution, is the only realistic choice to make given the current situation and the teacher shortage. While I agree, I feel that the choice in using an online course could have been implemented earlier instead of slowly adding it to the school more than five weeks into the school year.

After the Superintendent’s Announcements, the School Board moved to ratify the appointment of Erin Pope as PHS’s Assistant Principal. Mr. Booker cites Erin Pope’s experience as the associate principal at the Acalanes Unified School District, 15 years as a social studies teacher at Terra Linda High School, and how she attended Dominican College, Golden Gate University, and San Francisco State University.

Board member Cory Smegal motioned to ratify the appointment, seconded by Andrea Swenson. The School Board unanimously ratified Erin Pope’s appointment.

Superintendent Mr. Booker then introduced Ruth Alahydoian, Chief Financial Officer for PUSD, to present the 2017-2018 Unaudited Actuals Financial Report for approval. According to the report, the District ended the year with $26 million ($22 million from the H1 Bond, $2 million in the General Fund, and $2 million from other funds). The Districts expenditures have been growing faster than revenues, shrinking the fund balance and reserves.

The District must pay STRS & PERS more than what the LCFF generates for the fund. Alan Harvey Theater
had a donation fund of $26K, while Witter Field maintenance and repair funds has $422K. Ms. Swenson motioned to approve the report, being seconded by Amal Smith. The report was been approved unanimously.

Ruth Alahydoian explained the next item on the agenda, Resolution 05-2018-19 on Temporary Borrowing from County. “This is something that the District does every year,” Alahydoian says, “[the District] borrows from the County at times when the District’s cash is low.” Since the cash from revenues comes in December, the funds before December is low, so the borrowed cash would be used for payrolls, and may be used to earn interest until it the borrowed money is paid back on April. The District would borrow $5 million from the County. Ms. Smith motioned to approve the resolution, seconded by Ms. Smegal. The resolution passed unanimously.

Additionally, Alahydoian introduced Resolution 06-2018-19 – Gann Spending Limit. The limit was a result of a proposition dating back to 1979, where public agencies should not spend more than the limit set. “If we were to go over the limit, which we do not,” Alahydoian explains, “we would then fall within the state.” Every District’s limit is different; Piedmont’s limit is $26,571,060.97. The resolution was to tell the state that the District is below said limit. Ms. Swenson motioned to approve the report, which was seconded by Doug Ireland. The resolution passes unanimously.

The last action item on the agenda was the Certify Competence of Administrators in the Assessment of Certificated Employee. Superintendent Booker explains that the item is an annual certification to allow administrators to legally evaluate certificated staff. It is done to demonstrate that the administrators are cleared and holding their administrative service credentials. Ms. Smegal moved to approve the item, seconded by Ms. Smith. The item passes unanimously.

The meeting moved to the Board Reports and Announcements. Ms. Swenson, Ms. Smegal, and Ms. Smith all went to a Let’s Talk workshop, complimenting how many students attended the meeting.

Board member Doug Ireland announced the local elections will be happening soon, urging those who are old enough to vote to register. Sarah Pearson attended the PEF meeting, the Senior Parent Night, the Piedmont Center of the Arts with three Holocaust survivors event, commended the PHS teachers during Back-to-School Night, and announced that the films from the Diversity Film Series will be available at the PHS library.

The meeting ended with Sarah Pearson reading a list of accepted donations. The meeting officially adjourned at 8:43 p.m.

After the meeting, I interviewed attendee Megan Pillsbury. She was there to see how the meetings go, as she is running for a position on the School Board. “I think I’d like to help communication,” Pillsbury said, “because I was a teacher in the District, and I think there could be better communication between School Board members and teachers.” Although she has not taught in 4 years, she had trouble communicating with the School Board since there was no clear voice towards the Board.

by Connor Tang, Piedmont High School Senior

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