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The following letters and other commentary express only the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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May 22 2018

The following is a letter provided by Piedmont Superintendent, Randall Booker, written and signed by all of the Superintendents in Alameda County. 

An Open Letter to California’s Next Governor

The children of California deserve better. They deserve better than underfunded schools, stretched resources, eliminated programs, and a lack of essential services. They deserve better than shuttered buildings, achievement gaps, and inequity.

They deserve great schools to match the fast-changing, dynamic world in which they will attempt to find their place. They deserve well-paid teachers, state-of-the-art facilities and technology, relevant and rigorous programs, small classes, and pathways to college and career.

They deserve more than merely “adequate.” They deserve more of the good news that Governor Brown delivered last month, when he announced an infusion of much-needed funding for public education.

Kofi Annan, the former General Secretary of the United Nations once said, “Education is the premise of progress in every society.” We could not agree more, and we seek a new leader in our state who agrees as well.

California public schools, which educate more than six million children in this great state, still face a serious fiscal crisis despite the recent increase in state funding, and we do not believe it needs to be this way. As the superintendents and educators who proudly represent the diverse, vibrant communities of Alameda County, we come directly to you as a candidate for the highest office in our state, demanding change to the troubling narrative of funding inadequacy and to make public education in our state the top priority.

We sincerely appreciate the current efforts to put more funding into the system. They are welcome and necessary. Yet we are still profoundly disappointed to be ranked dead last or at the bottom of every important measure of investment in our public schools. This is unacceptable.

Billions of dollars borrowed from our children’s schools over the past decade have yet to be restored to 2007-08 purchasing power levels after adjustments for inflation. Staggering burdens in new costs and unfunded mandates continue to saddle local school districts. It may be true that money is not the only solution to raising academic achievement, but when California ranks near the bottom of educational investment nationally, it has an unmistakably negative impact, especially in a thriving and globally competitive economy. Our state cannot afford to continue to shortchange our public education system, to handicap generations of young people. Because California is the 6th largest economy in the world, there is no excuse for the poor funding of our schools.

The consequences of insufficient funding for California schools are not difficult to spot:

  •  California ranks 48th nationally in student-to-teacher ratio
  •  48th in students-per-staff-member
  •  49th in the number of counselors we provide our students
  •  45th in percent of taxable income spent on education and
  •  46th in the nation in per-pupil spending

Does being No. 46 truly exemplify the Golden State’s value we place in one of our most treasured assets, our children? We don’t believe it does.

Forty years ago, California was in the top 10 in every meaningful category related to public education. We’ve lost our place, stuck among the bottom five states for the past decade, and, as a result, we’ve lost ground nationally on critical achievement measures.

As the state has attempted to restore education funding to the pre-budget-cut levels of the last decade, billions in new, mandated costs have amounted to giving with one hand and taking with the other. Last June, state leaders passed a budget providing $1.36 billion in new ongoing local funding to K-12 schools, yet legislators also demanded we pay an extra $1 billion in brand new costs in order to fix issues beyond our control. The new unfunded mandates passed on to school districts, including but not limited to increasing pension costs, do not move the needle on student achievement. These costs are frequently counted and referenced by legislators as if we have those dollars to spend on teaching and learning… when, in reality, we do not.

The impacts of these mandated costs are disastrous to school districts. We simply cannot continue to do more with less, and the days of making it work are over as pressures mount across the system. Districts are already significantly shortchanged for services required to educate students with disabilities. Schools will close. Programs will be cut. Our valued teachers will not be able to keep up with the cost of living in our expensive state and they will leave. Community confidence will be undermined by the difficult decisions that boards and leaders across the state need to make.

As you travel across California, you can see the grim reality that is now defining the future of our state. The economy, jobs, housing, healthcare, and crime are all issues that can be addressed only if California steps up to meet the daunting challenges of dramatic underinvestment in our schools. A real fiscal solvency crisis looms over our public schools, and you only need to examine reports by California School Boards Association (CSBA) and others to know the stark circumstances we face now.

It is not enough to provide one-time monies as a replacement for on-going, consistent funding. It is not nearly enough to raise school funding back to the purchasing power we had in 2007-2008, especially given that California ranked in the bottom of school funding nationally that year as well. We must aspire to greater outcomes for California students. We hope you will commit to robust, consistent education funding as a public investment that will provide the best possible return the state has ever realized. We seek your commitment to springboard California into the top 10 funded states in the nation in order to maintain our state’s place as a leading contributor to the world economy.

We want you to take responsibility with us for educating the children of California, and we will not wait quietly for that to happen. We will band together, and we will rally our communities to join us to speak up and speak out. We will support a new governor who shows leadership; one who seeks partnership. And we will loudly oppose anyone who is not willing to make the children of this state their highest priority.

We thank you for committing to the citizens of California at such a critical time. Our families and students need your help.

READ the entire letter HERE.

May 20 2018
 Piedmont High School Student views of May 9 School Board Meeting –
Sex, Science, and Systematic Slaughter

Have you ever wondered why Piedmont High School doesn’t distribute condoms? Are you curious as to the state of our upcoming chemistry curriculum? Do you wish PHS would up its Holocaust education game? If yes, you really should have attended May 9, 2018 School Board meeting.

Have no fear – the Piedmont School Board meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday to develop curriculum, hear from community members about past and present issues, and keep tabs on Piedmont’s lovely and lively student body. But just in case School Board meetings are to you as “Game of Thrones” is to me (where you can’t miss a single episode lest you miss a plot point larger than Clifford, the Big Red Dog), here’s a recap:

Not sure how recently you’ve looked at a textbook, but apparently for our PHS AP Spanish students, it’s been a while. In their classroom, there are textbooks enough for only half the class! Estudiantes Sarah Machle and Kate Broening came to the podium to make their request: more textbooks! They also brought to attention a desire for online access to textbooks. With increase in technology use, online textbooks could make education more efficient and easier for students (not to mention physically lighten the load).

“The AP Spanish class has 13 more text books than students. There are not enough textbooks for each student to have one book for home and one book for the class.”

But alas! Conflict in the courtroom! John Savage, PHS chemistry teacher, takes a moment to speak his mind. Chromebooks, he argues, with all their access to games and platforms, have made it increasingly difficult for teachers to keep students on task. He has found printed materials to be more effective overall, and really wishes that the School Board would consult with teachers more before making decisions that so heavily affect the learning atmosphere.

Now, I won’t lie – I have spent many-a-class-period playing snake, sudoku, and 2048, so I can’t say that Mr. Savage’s argument is invalid. And I too have found that most often, I absorb material more thoroughly when not presented on a screen… so, sorry Sarah and Kate, I’m with Savage on this one.

Next came Maya Guzdar, PHS senior who was quick to ask the real question: how can PHS students get condoms? According to the California Healthy Youth Act, students have the right to obtain healthcare items at school, and with the Wellness Center already distributing physical and mental health necessities such as breath mints and tea, how big of a difference is condoms, really? I joke, but in reality, Maya has brought forth an excellent point – if sexually active teens can’t purchase condoms and don’t have parents who are down with diddling, is the school hurting or helping by providing protection?

The brilliant Mr. Savage has something to say to this one too – yes, the school should provide sexual protection because yes, condoms in a fishbowl really are beneficial to students lives. According to two statistics (of which I did not catch their origin), 25% of STDs exist in teens, and contrary to what some may think, schools providing condoms have had no history of increasing sexual activity of students!

When I asked Mr. Savage if he planned on pursuing the issue Maya had raised, he said that he “will probably not actively participate in any action to bring condoms to the school other than to continue to speak in favor of it… the School Board can choose to let it slide, and hope that students forget about it, and the students might. If the students press, then the School Board will have to act,” so I guess it’s up to us if we want the school to provide us raincoats before this next year’s rainy season.

After Maya came Clara Stevens, at the podium to discuss possibly the farthest thing from sex: kindergarteners and pumpkins. A teacher at Beach Elementary School, Ms Stevens has been working on integrating kindergarteners into the school experience by having them eat lunch with the “big kids.” With the School-Board-approved extended school day, the students have been able to resurrect their gardens and plant food and other plants such as (you guessed it) pumpkins! Nothing is quite as cute as the image of tiny kindergarteners with massive pumpkins, so thanks to the School Board for that one.

Unfortunately, I had an issue of my own to address, one whos accompanying images are not quite as pleasant: holocaust education. This year, I could not help but note that Holocaust Memorial Day came and went without even a mention on the loudspeaker (we announce birthdays for Pete’s sake, how hard could it be). Now, I understand that school assemblies and Holocaust speakers can be logistically hard to manage, but it seems to me that in the current climate, Holocaust education should maybe be considered a priority. And I have to hand it to the school, I really do – not even two full days later, I was called in with a few peers to discuss with administration and select faculty current PHS Holocaust education and their plans for future improvement. I learned that the school has already been working with my youth-group director, Rabbi Akiva Naiman (who comes to the high school to help run the Jewish Student Union), on ideas for next year, including bringing in Holocaust survivors. I am glad to say I truly felt heard, as if my feedback genuinely mattered, and I cannot express enough appreciation to the administration for making sure that my concern was not left unaddressed.

But sorry administration, there *is* someone out there cooler than you… Mazel Tov to Holly Hanke, winner of the Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award!! My family doesn’t have much of a presence in Piedmont, but if yours does even a tad, I’m sure you’ve heard of Holly.  I mean, after 12 years of service to Piedmont programs like the Piedmont Portal, email bulletins, CHIME, PAINTS, PEF, the giving campaign, the Harvest Festival, and more, I imagine it would be hard not to known Holly. Half the crowd at the School Board meeting came for Holly, and when she walked out, she left with not only her family and friends, but also with an original art piece made and presented to her by Saatvik Dube, AP Art student at Piedmont High.

After Holly and her fan club departed, the Board held a Public Hearing on the proposed levy of School Support Tax Measure, which allows a levy of a maximum of 2% increase a year. Mr. Schneider spoke in favor of the parcel tax, suggesting that maybe 10% of school funding shouldn’t be raised from fundraisers, rather it should be more solid and stable.

The later chunk of the meeting was spent discussing the updated curriculum for both Chemistry and Honors Chemistry at PHS. In case you missed the news, California adopted new science standards as of September 4, 2013, with three main components: core ideas (what students know), cross cutting concepts (how students can think across concepts), and engineering practices (how students can think like an engineer).

Chemistry teachers Tom Huffaker and the previously introduced John Savage presented the updated curriculum for approval, and touched on how they fulfilled the three main goals of the new standards in each unit. The Board and students in the audience asked a few questions: how does honors differ from regular? Will there be an AP Chemistry? Will students still read The Martian? The teachers answered them all (it’s faster, not yet, and of course!). Now, all Mr. Savage has to do is go back and see if the Board has come up with any more – “If/when they adopt the new curriculum, Mr. Huffaker and I will start developing detailed lessons and units,” he says. It’s looking good Mr. Savage, Mr. Huffaker. Keep up the good work!

After the science-geeks came the math-nerds, and the well-loved Mr. Hayden stepped up to go over the new math tracks for PMS and PHS students. Unfortunately, us kiddos were kicked out right about then, but not before we got to hear about the new Honors Math Analysis class, and various integrated math courses. I’m a proud Woman in STEM, so I gotta say, they looked pretty cool.

That was all I was able to witness, but if you’re still curious about the state of the curricula, or the absence of condoms in the Wellness Center, or anything else discussed in this past week’s meeting, I encourage you to go to the next one yourself, and truly experience the magic of community that is in full swing at every Piedmont School Board meeting.

By Zoe Levin, Piedmont High School Senior

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 Condoms, Chemistry, and Social Justice at City Hall

On Wednesday, May 9th, the Piedmont school board held its bi-monthly meeting at City Hall, providing the opportunity for various teachers, community members, and students to share their views regarding important community issues. At the recent meeting, attendees discussed everything from new honors chemistry curriculum to condoms in schools to social justice and equity in the classroom.

When asked how she handles such extensive meetings covering such wide ranges of topics, Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education President Sarah Pearson responded, “It’s often more helpful to listen than to speak.”

Yet it appeared that not many attendees took Pearson’s advice – the meeting ran over two hours, and almost every attendee spoke on an issue.

Mr. Kessler introduced the first major issue, discussing the importance of equity and social justice at Piedmont’s schools. He referenced gun violence awareness, gender equity, sexual harassment training, and other issues topical to this year. While Mr. Kessler only spoke for a few minutes, his topics of social justice and teachable equity were continually discussed throughout the meeting.

Following Mr. Kessler, Heather Frank took the stand, thanking the Parent Clubs for all of their work helping in fundraising to create safer, more equitable schools. In quick succession, Josh Miller, the Millennium High School student representative, contributed a short recap on both Piedmont and Millennium’s upcoming activities: AP tests, ASB elections, sporting events, and service learning projects.

At this point, the Board opened the floor for any public concerns. Attendees who wished to share concerns filled out a speaker card that allowed them time to share their thoughts. Students Kate Broening and Sarah Machle spoke first, promoting the use of online textbooks over physical ones. I spoke next challenging Piedmont and Millennium high schools for not providing condoms for students. I referenced the California Healthy Youth Act passed in 2016 that prohibits schools from teaching abstinence only or religious sexual education. Science teacher John Savage spoke to support my condom proposal, backing me up with more statistics.

Later, Pearson commented “I was very impressed that you had prepared comments and that you did research. You made a strong argument for providing condoms. I was impressed that Mr. Savage reinforced your argument with more statistics. Well done!”

Student Zoe Levin addressed Piedmont School’s ignorance of National Holocaust Remembrance Day and pushed for the schools to host a holocaust speaker to increase recognition. Student Will Reicher pushed for a more holistic understanding of Piedmont’s slogan “Achieve the Honorable.”

Following this “open mic” period, the Board commenced one of the main events of the night, the awarding of community member Holly Hanke with the Art Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award. Ms. Hanke first enjoyed a long introduction from a Board Member in which her vast volunteer experience was described. For her award, she was given her choice of high school AP art students’ portfolios. She chose student Saatvik Dube’s portrait depicting the negative effects of social media. Holly delivered a speech thanking everyone for their kindness and appreciation for receiving the award.

When asked her thoughts on the evening, Pearson immediately spoke on Hanke’s speech, reflecting that she thought the Art Hecht recipient “spoke eloquently about the importance of volunteering.”

Finally, the Board turned to the final issue of the night. Teachers John Savage, John Hayden, and Tom Huffaker presented a powerpoint on the new and updated science curriculum. They each presented an in depth presentation detailing each new unit, the changes that will be made, and how this will advance their students’ learning. Mr. Savage explained how the book The Martian will integrate more deeply into the curriculum. Mr. Hayden detailed the new structure of the honors math analysis class, and Mr. Huffaker talked about the new honors physics and possible AP physics class.

Following the meeting, Board President Sarah Pearson shared that the meeting was much more eventful than usual, as it had lasted over two hours and had attracted many teachers and students. Yet while the numerous speakers’ work is over, the Board Members’ duties stretch far beyond the confines of City Hall.

When asked next steps, Pearson replied, “The main issue that needs follow up from me and other Board Members is to reread, edit and approve the Board policies,” revealing that while it takes courage and preparation to speak out at these meetings, the true grit lies in the leading members of the Board who make these meetings possible.

by Maya Guzdar, Piedmont High School Senior

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Updates, Awards, and New Curriculum for Science and Math Classes 

On Wednesday evening of May 9th, seats were quickly filled as students, teachers, and community members filed into City Hall before the Piedmont Board of Board of Education to honor award winning community leaders, hear updates and opinions about relevant matters, and listen to the first proposals for new curriculum to be added in Science and Math classes for the 2018-19 school year. The School Board meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month in order to make decisions regarding educational policy.

The meeting began with an open microphone opportunity to speak on any topic that was not on the agenda.

Mr. Kessler, President of the Association of Piedmont Teachers spoke first on the benefit of a teacher training program regarding sexual harassment. Mr. Kessler wants to continue programs like these to ensure a welcoming and safe school climate for both students and teachers.

Next, Josh Miller, the Millenium ASB representative gave updates about ASB election week, AP testing, teacher appreciation week, service learning, and Day on the Green.

Various students who attended spoke about their personal comments and concerns that they wanted the Board to take note of. Kate Broening and Sarah Machle spoke about the subject of textbooks, advocating for greater accessibility to online textbooks as well as a greater number of textbooks in the classroom to ensure academic success for students. Maya Guzdar followed encouraging the idea of Piedmont High School providing condoms for student use to promote safe sexual activity. Zoe Levin, President of the Jewish Student Union, talked about the lack of Holocaust education at Piedmont High and proposed the idea of having a moment of silence on the loud speaker for Holocaust Memorial Day. Will Reicher closed the open microphone comments with updates about Site Council. At the previous Site Council meeting, attendees discussed the five skills they wish Piedmont High graduates leave with: communication, character, citizenship, collaboration, and content mastery.

The first subject on the agenda was honoring Holly Hanke, the Art Hecht award winner for volunteer of the year. Holly Hanke was recognized for her great service to the community which includes working on the Giving Campaign, Measures B, E,, and H1, Spring Fling, and helping to establish the Piedmont Portal.

Following the award ceremony, there was a hearing on the proposal for the School Support Tax which is a levy of a maximum of 2% increase for the 2018-19 school year.

Next, Chemistry teachers Mr. Savage and Mr. Huffaker presented on the proposed new curriculum to be added to both regular Chemistry and Honors Chemistry starting in the 2018-19 school year. In response to the changing California science standards, Chemistry will have a greater focus on Earth Science. The new curriculum will include more ways for students to apply their work tangibly through various projects and presentations including designing a coral reef fish tank and designing and testing batteries.

Some concern arose about the elimination of existing curriculum, but in my opinion making more room for Earth Science will be very beneficial. Many of the units and topics to be discussed are more relevant and applicable to our everyday world and tie in very smoothly to other science classes taught at Piedmont High. The new curriculum will allow for students to have a chance to do more hands on work and learn by doing, which to me is the best way to learn any material.

The next topic of discussion was the recent changing of math pathways with the addition of Honors Math Analysis this year. The current Honors Math Analysis class covers a few units of calculus with 13 units in total. Mr. Hayden’s presentation was on a proposed change to the Honors Math Analysis course that covers only 10 units to allow students to go into a deeper level of thought, with focus on derivations and proofs. This new course plan would also allow students to take more smaller assessments instead of few large ones.

After the meeting I had the chance to talk with President of the Board of Education, Sarah Pearson, who thought the meeting overall ran very smoothly due to the lack of controversial issues. Ms. Pearson especially enjoyed learning about the new curriculum and hearing insight from both students and teachers. Her next step is to read through all of the policies and proposals from the meeting before any official approval.

 by Sarah Machle, Piedmont High School Senior

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Ambitious Plans for Curriculum Changes at Piedmont High 

    The School Board meeting which took place on May 9th hosted the first public hearings for new classes and amendments to existing courses at Piedmont High School in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) subjects. These presentations occurred alongside regular Board proceedings, such as hearing issues from students and residents of Piedmont.

    Beginning with the aforementioned issues raised by citizens of Piedmont, Mr. Kesler, a fourth-grade teacher at Wildwood Elementary, praised recent initiatives by the School Board to support an inclusive environment through sexual harassment workshops that emphasized being sensitive with sexual and gender identities.

    In related news, Ms. Stevens, a first-grade teacher at Beach Elementary, chose to highlight initiatives by school administrators to reinforce teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships, in order to create a more conducive learning environment.

From Piedmont High, students Sarah Machle and Kate Broening spoke about the lack of availability of online textbooks for students. They stated that students struggle with the burden of bringing heavy texts to class or completely forgetting them in lieu of the increasing amount of online school resources that students can access anywhere with their devices, and that school administrators should pursue efforts to further digitize class materials.

    Another student from Piedmont High School, Maya Guzdar, gave an informative speech on the lack of access to contraceptives at the school, which was backed by chemistry teacher Mr. Savage. They both emphasized the importance of safe sex and that the school should be responsible for supporting safe sex by providing students with proper protection, since acquiring contraceptives otherwise may prove to be difficult as an unsubstantiated burden on students.

    Final highlights of Piedmont High students include Zoe Levin, who raised the issue of a lack of education pertaining to the Holocaust.

    Holly Hanke, the Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year, was present an art work by Saatvik Dube selected from the high school showcase.

    The crux of the meeting was considering the new course changes beginning with the introduction of “Chemistry in the Earth System” and “Honors Chemistry in the Earth System,” presented by both Mr. Savage and Mr. Huffaker who are current science educators at Piedmont High School. The intent of these courses was to enhance students’ education by having a greater focus on applicability for each of the lessons in the curricula.

    The next presentation regarded the implementation of a new math course called “Math Analysis Honors” at Piedmont High, due to the restructuring of math courses mandated by the Common Core initiative. This class would effectively address the needs of students who would proceed at a more accelerated rate than others in the regular “Math Analysis” course.

    I was able to interview Mr. Hayden, who presented the new course. He stated that the Board “achieved our goal” in getting the facts out to the attendees of the meeting, and that the next course of action is a second public hearing at the next School Board meeting. With confidence, Mr. Hayden believes “that the course will be accepted.”

by Ethan Tung, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 18 2018

Dear Piedmont Community,

Today, we received news about another horrific shooting in our public schools, this time at Santa Fe High School, just outside of Houston, Texas. Our hearts and our thoughts go out to the victims and their families. 

Now, more than ever, our students, staff, and community need special legislation and immediate action from our state and nation’s elected leaders to help keep our schools safe. On March 14th, the PUSD Board of Education unanimously passed Resolution 12-2017-18 School Safety and Gun Violence.

This resolution calls upon the United States Congress and all state legislators to prioritize the protection of students and school system employees by passing legislation that:

  • More effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety by establishing universal background checks to purchase a firearm, reenacting the federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons, banning large capacity ammunition magazines, and enacting gun violence restraining order laws and

  • Advances and funds mental health supports.

  • Invest in wraparound services to prevent bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence in our schools and

  • Provide funding for programs and staff such as counselors, nurses and psychologists,that support students’ mental, physical and emotional health.

  • Reduces the risk and severity of gun violence on school campuses; and

  • Declares gun violence a public health crisis and removes all barriers to funding public-health research on firearms-related issues, including repealing the prohibition against data collection and research on gun violence by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

In the spirit of collective action, I urge you to join me in contacting our elected representatives to implement a legislative solution that supports the safety of all.

United States Senate

Senator Dianne Feinstein – Email
Senator Kamala Harris – Email

United States Congress, California
District 9

Congresswoman Barbara Lee – Email

 California State Senate, District 9

Senator Nancy Skinner – Email

 California State Assembly, District 15

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond – Email

Media coverage of today’s tragedy will prompt questions and concerns from your students, and we want to provide resources that may help during these difficult conversations. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, high-profile acts of violence in schools can confuse and frighten students who may feel they, their friends or their loved ones are in danger. They will look to adults for guidance about how to react, and adults can help by talking with them about their fears.

For help with these conversations, please visit this online resource: “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.” This printable handout is available in 10 languages. We also encourage you to talk with your school’s teachers, counselors, support staff, or administrators if you need support or see any signs of distress or concerning behavior.

The safety and well-being of our students and staff here in Piedmont is our top priority. While school shootings are rare, we do have to prepare for the possibility.  We will continue to partner with the Piedmont Police Department and provide training in our schools to educate staff and students in responding to an active shooter or other internal threat.

Finally, it’s important to remind your students that if they “see something, say something.” Research shows warning signs occur in more than 80% of violent incidents. Our high school Speak Up! and middle school See Something, Say Something Scots online reporting tool allows students, parents, educators and community members to report concerns anonymously. Keeping our students, staff and schools safe is the responsibility of everyone in our community. 

Please keep the families affected by today’s school shooting in your thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,

Randall Booker, Superintendent Piedmont Unified School District

May 18 2018

At 7:30 p.m. on May 7th, 2018, there was a City Council meeting at Piedmont’s City Council Chambers about the Linda Beach Master Plan. The details of the current plan were laid out and many residents voiced their opinion. Many people who live close to Beach had great concerns about the plan. The point of these City Council meetings is for the citizens to address the Council on any subject.

The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Mondays of each month. Though the main focus of this meeting was the Linda Beach Master Plan people were there for a variety of reasons.

One woman named Andrea Zombrona attended the meeting to keep pushing to “make Piedmont a Sanctuary City.” She had already written to the City Council, met with them, and had started a petition with the Chief of Police.

The main focus of the meeting was on the master planning and the biggest issue with that was whether to put in pickle ball courts or not. Many people love pickle ball and wanted the courts to play on, but neighbors of Beach knew that this would create a lot of noise, not only because pickle ball itself is loud but also because a nearby bridge helps reflect the sound.

I don’t think they should put in the pickle ball courts, because if I were living nearby I know I would be upset if there was so much noise. Another concerned citizen named Adam Porter had an idea to make the big turf field grass because it is better for the environment and studies have shown that kids who play sports on turf fields have higher rates of brain cancer.

by Adam Porter, Piedmont High School Senior

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Pickleball, Skateparks, and Toddlers

    Piedmont’s May 7th City Council meeting saw the introduction of the 35% Linda Beach Master Plan. The new plan originated with a suggestion from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee. The goal of the project is to get more residents to use the park, therefore making Piedmont’s investments in public parks more worthwhile. At the time of the City Council meeting, the plan for the park was at an early, “35%” stage.

There are several parts of the plan that have inspired residents to speak out strongly against them, such as the pickleball courts, the reduction in size of the toddler area, the addition of a skate park, and even changing the orientation and size of the tennis court.

Starting with the pickleball courts, there has been a sharp increase in interest for pickleball over the past couple years in Piedmont. The last two pickleball events organized in Piedmont both attracted dozens of players of all ages, prompting the group to ask the Park Commission to include pickleball courts in the new Linda Beach plan.

While there are dozens of players in favor of this addition, many residents and rival tennis players see this as a nuisance because of the “extreme” noise of pickleball games, and the removal of a tennis court to make way for the pickleball court. One rival tennis player’s rebuttal to the praise given to the pickleball court plan proved to be too much for one pickleball player, who became very annoyed and spoke out from his seat while the tennis player was still talking.

One resident of forty years, Lisa Nubble, had no problem with making the tennis courts regulation size, or at least close to regulation size, but said that the pickleball courts were “too much.” Instead of focusing on additions, she said, more attention should be given to maintaining the park better. She attended to see how these new plans would affect her neighborhood, since she lives right across from the park.

One of the other controversial additions to the park is the skate park. Many residents also saw this as an unacceptable source of noise, and don’t want it near their homes. They say that skate parks are placed in “undesirable areas” for a reason, and that the people that skate parks attract “shouldn’t have business in Piedmont, especially at night, because they bring trouble.”

I see the skate park as a something that could positively impact young kids in their search for hobbies and sports. I have friends, especially one friend, for which skateboarding is one of the most important things in his life. He’s been doing it for more than ten years, and it’s honestly amazing to see him continue to be so dedicated to the sport.

Even though I don’t skateboard and I wouldn’t use that part of Linda Beach Park for myself, I want that opportunity to be given to other kids in the area. I’d also like to add that I find it distasteful and selfish when I see Piedmonter so quickly saying “Piedmont is for us, not them.” Piedmont is a public place, our parks are public, and they are open to everyone. Anyway, I wanted to be helpful to the park planners, so I suggested adding an irregular surface to the Oakland/Linda Bridge, similar to the walls in audio recording studios, so that less noise is reflected and amplified towards homes.

A City Council member replied that the plan was in an early stage, so details like that haven’t been figured out, but I hope that the Parks Commission does find a way to prevent noise from being a problem so the skate park can be approved.

In this new plan, the area available to toddlers will be cut in half, which is proving to be a big problem with this plan. For many people in the neighborhood, the toddler area is very helpful to them as it helps keep toddlers active and occupied. Cutting the area for toddlers could affect the area’s effectiveness at keeping all those kids occupied at the same time.

Other changes for the park include revising the entrances to increase or decrease foot traffic, depending if they are in residential neighborhoods or not; making the entrance at Howard ADA accessible; and the addition of an outdoor classroom.

I’m in favor of most of the proposed ideas. I think that having a skate park in that area could land the City of Piedmont in a sticky situation if residents decide to sue because their property values go down, etc., but I think there should be another skate park in Piedmont. The existing one is comically out of the way and has restrictive hours. It’s also intimidating for people new to the sport. I think an outdoor classroom area is a great idea, more ADA accessible entrances is always good, and a better tennis court layout will please the tennis players. I’m excited to see how this plan develops in the coming weeks.

by Aaron Jeffries, Piedmont High School Senior

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Fights Erupt as Piedmont Introduces New Linda Beach Plan

    Last week, at the government meeting at Piedmont City Hall, issues regarding the Linda Beach project were discussed. People had passionate opinions on every single aspect of the plan.

    The meeting was held by the City Council, with the intention to present the new Linda Beach plan. The plan allowed for many new additions to the existing area. Some new ideas the plan included were: a skate park, “tot lot” to bring toddlers to while watching baseball games, etc., pickleball courts, more tennis courts, and a different layout for schoolmates.

The major issue that many people had was with the addition of pickleball courts. Several families with kids spoke out about how the noise would be too loud for their children to sleep at night. Many old couples said that they would not have bought a house here if they had known that pickleball would be added to their neighborhood.

The most entertaining feud between two speakers was with one man playing a pickleball sound recording while talking, to prove his point of how loud it was, and the next man who brought in genuine pickleball paddles and balls to show that the sound isn’t as loud as the first man’s recording showed. Overall, the majority of people were against pickleball.  Most of the speakers on the pickleball situation were homeowners nearby Linda Beach.

Regarding the issues, Councilmember Jennifer Cavenaugh and City Administrator Paul Benoit answered most questions and concerns asked by the speakers.

 In my opinion, pickleball courts should be built at Linda Beach Elementary, because these homeowners chose to live near a school with existing tennis courts and other sports fields, which already create noise on their own.

On the way out, I stopped Lisa Nubbel to ask a few questions on her stance. I asked why she attended the meeting, and she told me that she comes to these meetings to oppose pickleball. She lives a block away from the sports field at Beach Elementary, and is already frustrated with the noise that comes from there.  She said she is planning to keep coming back to the City Council meetings to prove her point and fight against the idea of pickleball.

I spoke out at the meeting because I noticed that at the beginning, the Council members stated that there were no funds yet for the plan to take action. I asked how they were planning to raise the money and they were hesitant to respond, and replied that they were not yet sure, but will eventually tax Piedmont residents to acquire money.

It looks like Piedmont will have difficulty getting this plan approved by everyone– some people will remain opposed to pickleball and other new additions.

by Paige Avagliano, Piedmont High School Senior

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On the night of May 7th, 2018, the City Council of Piedmont, CA called into session a meeting with the soft, yet sharp pounding of a small gavel.  After hasty formalities by the Council, Erica Pastor, CPA began her presentation about the recent audit. She described her role as an auditor, and what she was doing in Piedmont. Pastor said that the task of auditors is to give an independent opinion on financial statements in the city. The main items that she was looking into were cash receipts, cash disbursements, and payroll. Pastor’s presentation was thankfully not extensive, as MUN CPA’s had found no “material weaknesses, deficiencies, or compliance exceptions.” The fortunate, yet abrupt end of the presentation brought not only relief to the City Council members, but to most of the residents as well, as they seemed to be more focused on another issue that had yet to be discussed. This issue, was  the redesign of Linda Beach Park.

Park designer, Will Smith introduced many conceptual ideals and landscapes that might be in the park. While there have been no concrete decisions made in this process of the design, Mr. Smith says he will strive to follow “seven guidelines of design process” when designing the new park: park identity, circulation and access, green space, stormwater management, multi-purpose space event space, and public arts.

In addition to Mr. Smith’s presentation, Sara Lillevand, Piedmont Recreation Department Director also came forward to answer the Council’s questions regarding the Linda Beach Master Plan. Lillevand admitted that the project was “no small task at all,” but that the City was listening to the residents, and nothing was final yet.

Many of the residents who had volunteered to speak seemed eager to address their problems and needs for the new park. Piedmont mother Amy Bauer was disappointed to see that the tot lot had been reduced in size by nearly 50%. She said even the current tot lot “is full most of the time” and that this reduction in size will make it harder for parents to find a place to play for their young children.

Most residents were concerned about the noise that the new redesign would cause. The addition of pickleball courts, as well as a skate park, would create so much noise, that it would bother neighbors, and depreciate the value of some homes. Most residents spoke against the addition of the courts, with one man playing a recording of pickleball over a loudspeaker.

Grace Neufeld, Executive Director and Lead Case Manager of American Neighborhood Solutions, Inc, was interviewed about her profession and why she had attended the City Council meeting that night. Neufeld said that a community member had come to her door and told her about the additions of pickleball courts, and skate ramps next to Beach Field. Even though she is not a resident of Piedmont, Neufeld came because she believes that “people who live in neighborhoods should set the standard for living” and how she would like to organize the community in order to stop this “blight” from being brought into their neighborhood.

The plan to redesign Beach Park is only about 35% finished, according to Lillevand, and the entire team is extremely willing to listen to what Piedmonters have to say about the park, she stressed that the park would evolve and change with what the community wants.

by Mason Barnes, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 17 2018

On a warm evening in the beginning of May, many students, teachers, and other community members shuffled into Piedmont City Hall. Many community members had to sit on the floor of the Chamber as the seats were filled in a matter of seconds. Everyone there had a different reason for coming, but shared one common goal, to improve the Piedmont Unified School District.

At the May 9th School Board meeting in City Hall, the School Board discussed topics and legislation that should be passed or changed regarding Piedmont schools.

According to the Piedmont Unified School District’s website, the School Board meets about twice a month. The meeting began when the members of the School Board asked everyone to join them in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Many important topics were discussed, but the topics that seemed to rule the evening regarded the Volunteer of the Year Award, and the new proposed structuring of the Honors Chemistry, Regular Chemistry, and Math classes.

The volunteer of the year award was presented to Holly Hanke. Superintendent Randall Booker and the School Board presented her with this award for her outstanding work in the school system volunteering at the various schools throughout this year.

Saatvik Dube, a senior at Piedmont High School, was also celebrated as he presented his art piece to Ms Hanke. The piece depicted how technology has affected our lives.

Later, Cheryl Wozniak, introduced a slide show presented by Mr. Savage, Mr. Huffaker, and herself explaining the proposed new structure of the chemistry classes. The presentation ultimately proposed a more hands on approach in both Chemistry and Honors Chemistry, allowing the students to think for themselves with more labs and problem solving situations. Regular Chemistry stays somewhat the same, while Honors Chemistry has a couple of new units added to the class such as ocean acidification.

The Board Members seemed to like their presentations, as Sarah Pearson, the President of the Board, voiced her approval of their presentation.

Mr. Hayden then presented the new proposed structures for the integrated Math classes. One topic of discussion that Senior Kate Broening brought up was how the Math Department could tell if students take AP Math classes just for the grade bump. Mr Hayden responded by saying there is really no way they can stop that, but he hopes that students who take harder classes enjoy the material more.

I have come across this dilemma many times. Usually, a student that takes an AP or honors class tends to enjoy the information a bit more, but also is mainly taking the class for the GPA boost.

I later spoke with Mr. Savage about his experience at the meeting presenting a new proposed curriculum for the Honors Chemistry class with the help of his associate Mr. Huffaker. Mr. Savage told me that he loved how the meeting began with an Open Forum. He was also happy that students got up and spoke about various issues at the beginning of the meeting and he is curious to see whether or not the Board will act upon the questions that were raised by the students.

Mr. Savage brought up how incredibly impressed he is with the School Board itself. He noted that they do many things behind the scenes such as budgeting, ensuring safety, and overall education goals. Mr. Savage plans to go back to another meeting to field questions about his new proposed curriculum and see whether or not the School Board will in fact adopt the new outline for the class. The next scheduled School Board meeting will take place on May 23rd.

by Patrick Aebi, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 15 2018

What Should Be Done?

Pickleball? In My Neighborhood?

Residential neighborhoods are always looking for improvements to where they live through parks. Most residents find joy in seeing young children playing in the parks, or old friends coming together for a game of tennis. The residents near Linda Beach Park seem to want a noiseless neighborhood, despite the fact that they live just off a busy avenue.

On Monday, May 7th, I attended a City Council meeting to look over a 35% completed conceptual plan for the new Linda Beach Park remodel. This plan started in October and since then, the Groundworks team of Berkeley, led by architect and landscaper Will Smith, has met with the community multiple times to gather insight from the residents near Linda Beach Park about what they would like to see added or remodeled. The meeting last Monday was the second in a series of five meetings to perfect the plan.

Residents of Piedmont, specifically those who live near the park, all watched while the Groundworks team shared their plan and then one by one, shared their own ideas in front of the Council. I had to watch from the completely full overflow room because so many residents were interested in this new plan.

One topic that was widely discussed was the new pickleball courts the City was planning to implement in place of the tennis courts. Jim Landes, the head coach for the varsity tennis teams and a tennis coach for younger kids through his clinics, expressed his concerns for getting rid of the tennis courts at Linda Beach Park.

As a tennis player on the team, I spoke out with my support for keeping the courts at Linda as I have some memories of when I was younger playing on those courts and how the extra space to play is useful to all ages of players.

Some other residents spoke of their concern against the pickleball courts for the noise. One man brought in a stereo and presented his points over the sound of a pickleball game, which all could agree made it extremely difficult to hear him. There were few residents in support of the pickleball courts, but the ones who were there were extremely passionate about their sport. I believe the pickleball courts at the Middle School are more than adequate and with fewer residents surrounding the Middle School making them the optimal place for pickleball.

One of the other major topics was the tot lot. The current tot lot is a fun area with lots of structures for toddlers to play and be safe while their parents watch. In the new plan, the tot lot would be moved behind the field so parents could watch their toddlers while their other children play a sports game, however the new tot lot would be half the size of the previous one.

One concerned resident was Piedmont High senior, Samantha Fanger. Fanger has a younger brother who is a huge fan of the tot lot and her concerns, along with other residents, was that so many kids in the one area would be detrimental to the children because of the tiny space and the popularity of the tot lot.

I believe that the new location of the tot lot is an improvement, but the size needs to be close or equal to the current one to accommodate everyone.

The last major topic was the skateboard park that was to be placed right next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge that goes over Linda Avenue. One resident stated, “I would not have moved to this area if I had known a skatepark and pickleball courts would be right next to my house.” Others were concerned for safety of the skateboarders near the tot lot as there is no curb or anything stopping a stray skateboard in the plan.

I believe that there is no other place in Piedmont for this skateboard park given that the one at Coaches Field has limited hours and limited access. Also, given the fact that the skatepark will be right next to a bridge, I would hope that there could be something implemented to absorb the sound. Most of the government officials did not speak in support of or against any idea but instead, thanked everyone for voicing their concerns and for coming to the meeting.

After the meeting, I interviewed Barbara Love, an avid tennis player, pickleball player, and a past resident of the Linda Avenue neighborhood. She was at the meeting to support the new plans for Linda Beach Park and to encourage the two tennis court plan and to oppose the one tennis court plan. She was surprised so many people were against the pickleball courts and had learned more details about the plan that she was previously known of  before. She was shocked by how many people were there in opposition to the plan. Her next step would be to spread the word around to the community to support the plan and put the plan further into action.

I would like to acknowledge the City Council’s efforts in beautifying Piedmont and continuing to do what is best for the citizens. I feel optimistic that the Linda Beach Park will benefit all and will be an excellent feature of Piedmont.

by Kate Gustke, Piedmont High School Senior

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Have you ever tried to use the bathroom at Linda Beach Field? Have you seen the rundown, empty space next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge?

These are two of the issues concerning the Linda Beach Park area that are  being addressed by a new master plan for renovation of the city property.

The Linda Beach Park changes are an important part of the plan, yet would negatively impact some nearby residents. The Piedmont City Council meeting on May 7, 2018 addressed the Linda Beach Field Master Plan content completed so far.

The Piedmont City Council serves the City of Piedmont  by reviewing the city’s department budgets, deciding how to spend the City’s budgets and overseeing City projects.  The Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month.

The Master Plan is being created by an architectural design team, and is in early stages of development. For this process to move forward, an audit team must make sure that Piedmont is financially able to complete the renovation.

As the City Council meeting began, a member of the outside audit team gave a presentation about the City audit. She reported that the audit went smoothly, and Piedmont is in good shape, however there are insufficient funds currently available for the Linda Beach Field project.

A member of the architectural design team came to the podium to give a presentation on the Master Plan. He led off by saying that the plan is only a 35% conceptual design. Many adjustments are expect to be made to the plan. So far, the field will be left as it is, the tot lot will be moved to the current location of the bathrooms, the tennis courts will be given more space within the fences, and bathrooms will be put on both ends of the Park. Pickleball is a growing sport in the community of Piedmont, so they planned to create eight pickleball courts within the tennis courts. There is also a plan to build a skatepark at the base of the Oakland Avenue Bridge.

The major issues with the plan are the pickleball courts and the skatepark.

While I stated in the meeting that a skatepark would be a cool addition since I enjoy skateboarding, I learned that not everyone would believe that the skatepark would be an improvement for Piedmont.

Many residents complained that these two facilities, pickleball and skateboard,  will create constant noise. The Linda Beach area is at the bottom of a valley with a concrete bridge that amplifies sound. More than three residents came up to the podium to talk about how much these new facilities will pollute their homes with the awful sound of pickleballs being struck and skateboards constantly rolling around. Multiple residents said that they would not have purchased their property had they known that these two changes were planned to be installed.

I believe that installing pickleball courts would cause a constant piercing noise that would echo through the valley and disrupt the lives of all of the neighbors. Installing the courts would be in blatant disregard of the neighbors that live nearby.

I interviewed Dave Johnson, who is a resident that had recently purchased a home on the hill above Linda Beach Field. He had been hearing about the possibility of a renovation project and attended the meeting to learn more about the problems that could be created, and speak about them. He says that he does not know a next step for addressing his issue other than attending the next City Council meeting on the issue and speaking his mind.

This City Council meeting was very informative on the Master Plan for the Linda Beach Field renovation, and gave the people of Piedmont a great opportunity to speak their minds about what could be built in the Beach Field area. The plan holds many improvements for the area, but there are many residents that could have problems with the noise created. I look forward to what is coming in the future for the Beach Field renovation project.

by Grant Keating, Piedmont High School Senior

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Remodelling Linda Beach Park: The Battle Against Noise

On May 7, 2018, the Piedmont City Council met, like they always do on the first and third Mondays of the month, to discuss the early iteration of the plans for the makeover of Linda Beach Park. At the meeting the current plans were shown and critiqued by the Council members, but the most important part of the meeting was the feedback given by Piedmont citizens attending the meeting. It became clear that there is a large divide on how the citizens of Piedmont would like the construction process to go; it is an issue that the City Council will have to take into deep consideration as the process goes forward.

The presentation of the potential plans began with a short recap of Piedmont’s past two audits, which were completed and presented by Auditor Erica Pastor. To summarize Erica’s work, over the past two years Piedmont’s financial record has been relatively clean and in her words: “There were no material weaknesses, no deficiencies, and no major downfalls, meaning that there are no financial worries as the city enters this process.”

Following Erica, the entire 35 percent plan for the Linda Beach Park was presented. The developers wanted to emphasize from the beginning that there would be no additions onto the Linda Beach school buildings, schoolmates, or Linda Beach Field itself, but rather the areas surrounding them. This means they desire to change the tennis court, the tot lot, bathroom, and possibly even add a skating area on the south side of the lot next to the bridge on Oakland Avenue.

The developers then presented their seven areas of focus, or as they called them “guidelines,” for the Park. They told the Council that they want to focus on: park identity, circulation and access, green space, stormwater management, a multi-purpose space, event space, and public art. The intended purpose of these items is to provide a public use, and for the parts of the list which are already incorporated on the lot, like green and event space, they want to expand on those capabilities and maximize the uses of the lot. To accomplish the goals, there will be major changes done to the North and South ends of the lot, while the middle of the Park will remain nearly unchanged since most of the space is taken up by the turf field.

For the North side, there is a large public following of Pickleball, so there will be Pickleball lines added to the Tennis courts, as well as a whole new multi-purpose space and a small plaza filled with public art. As for the South side, the plan is to add a skateboard area and new bleachers facing the turf field allowing parents to comfortably watch their kids play.

There are currently also plans to add new tot lots on both sides of the Park as well as new bathrooms on both sides, so parents don’t have to cross the entire lot and take their kids with them if they need to use the restroom. Following this presentation, citizens of Piedmont were invited to give their input.

Before the meeting began, I interviewed a man named Daniel who was attending the meeting to voice his concerns about the project. Daniel told me that he was worried about the amount of noise that he would be hearing throughout the construction process, as well as after the construction. He was upset with the ideas of adding Pickleball courts and a skateboard area, stating that the noise would be too overwhelming for the area’s residents, as they already deal with the noise of tennis, baseball, and the dog park.

Daniel also disliked the idea of having to suffer through another period of construction since the area had just endured the construction of the townhouses on Linda Avenue. He told me until he gets the peace and quiet he desires, he will continue to attend City Council meetings and relentlessly fight for his side.

Daniel’s thoughts on the matter reflected the ideas of every other resident around Linda Beach Park, as citizen after citizen came to the podium complaining about the constant noise.

However, there were a few avid Pickleball players who were in great support of the addition of the Pickleball courts. These players stated that the public’s desire to play this game that is quickly gaining popularity outweighs the burden of some noise, and they added that the amount of noise being told by the residents was over exaggerated.

During this public section, the Council members showed no preference to either side of the issue, but in the future they will likely be on the side of the Pickleball players, as they have a larger number of supporters.

I believe that it is in the city’s best interest to move ahead with this construction. However, I do understand that the amount of construction and noise is far too high being familiar with residents of the area.  They have spoken about the noise waking them up early and keeping them awake late, and it makes them want to pull out their hair. But, after seeing the final product of the Hampton Field remodel, I would have to side with the Pickleballers, and say that a renovation of the Park would be a great thing for the City of Piedmont, and the City Council should move forward with this plan.

by Ryan Addiego, Piedmont High School Senior

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Potential Linda Beach Project Draws Big Crowd to Piedmont City Council Meeting

The Linda Beach Playfield is a hot topic these days around Piedmont, California.  Its future is currently being decided, and many Piedmont citizens voiced their opinion on the topic on May 7th at the City Council meeting.  The Piedmont City Council meets every first and third Monday of each month. It provides citizens with an update on what the City of Piedmont is currently dealing with, as well as an opportunity for citizens to express their own personal opinions, issues, or advice to the City Council members.

 I attended the May 7th City Council meeting, and before the Linda Beach Playfield was discussed, there was a presentation made about the June 30, 2017 audit that a company had performed on Piedmont.  According to the report, the City had great financing, and quickly after the presentation, the audit report was voted on and accepted by the City Council.

The Council then moved on to the topic of plans for the Linda Beach Playfield.  It was announced that an architecture firm had produced a 35% plan for the changes that would be made to the field. The firm emphasized that they were very early in the process of making changes to the field, and that nothing would be voted on that night.

A representative of the architecture firm gave a presentation that displayed the plan. The main changes proposed were to move and reduce the size of the tot lot, increase the size of the tennis court area and add pickleball courts, build a skatepark near the Oakland Avenue Bridge, and build an additional play area where the tot lot used to be.

The City Council members asked clarifying questions, and participated in the discussion with the citizens, but did not give an obvious opinion for or against the plan.  However, the citizens expressed strong opinions both for and against the proposed changes. Those who supported the new plane argued that the addition of the sport of pickleball would benefit the community by providing another healthy outdoor activity that people of all ages can enjoy.  One citizen brought up a recent pickleball clinic, in which more than eighty Piedmont residents of all ages showed up. He argued that this demonstrated a large amount of interest in the sport of pickleball.

What seemed to be the biggest argument against the plan was the increase in noise that would be created with the addition of pickleball and a skatepark.  One citizen used a speaker to play the sound of a pickleball game, in order to demonstrate how disruptive and intrusive it would be. Another citizen who recently purchased a home near the park, explained that he would not have bought that house had he known about the proposed plans.  Many of the people who were concerned about the noise strongly suggested that the city perform a sound study on the potential effects of the plan.

Before the meeting began, I spoke with Richard Benton, who lives very near the park.  We discussed the proposed plan, and while he was not completely opposed to making changes to the park, he felt like the current plan had many flaws.  He expressed concern about the noise, traffic, and the reduced size of the tot lot. “I have a deck right near the tennis courts, and pickleball would just be too noisy,” Benton said.  At the time, Benton’s plan of action consisted solely of expressing his disapproval of the plan at the meeting.

    While I understand both arguments, I personally believe that the City should listen to the concerns of the homeowners who live near the park.  Living in an area that is noisy is very unpleasant, and could drive away current and future homeowners and devalue the property surrounding the park.  I am in favor of improving the park, but not at the expense of the surrounding families.

by Ben Fujita, Piedmont High School Senior 

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 15 2018

On May 2, 2018 in the Piedmont City Council Chambers, the Park Commission met to discuss current and future issues with our public parks and properties. As the crowd slowly filed in, the Commission Chair announced that the meeting had officially started and the small crowd in attendance went silent.

This meeting covered topics in the parks and recreation sector of the government. The main purpose of this meetings was to inform the Commission and public of problems in their parks, take public input, hold discussion, and make recommendations to the City Council and hopefully solve problems. This meeting  happens once a month.

Topics that arise in these meeting are citizen complaints, new park ideas, solutions, and information on the prior month from the Public Works Supervisor, Dave Frankel.  Mr. Frankel talked about what his team has accomplished and provided details on their current projects.

The Commission started the meeting discussing a problem that has occurred on Pala Avenue of residents illegally pruning the trees outside their house. A  couple of residents and their gardeners were caught illegally pruning trees.  They were fined, but they did not accept the fine without a fight. Pruning a tree can kill the tree if not done correctly and can also kill the vibe of the block as the tree is not nearly as beautiful.

Apparently the residents complained that the trees were growing too high and  obstructed their view which they felt could decrease their property value. So the commissioners discussed the possibility of planting new trees on Pala Avenue that would not obstruct the residents view. Dave Frankel suggested  purple plume trees should be planted, because they do not grow above a certain height and would stay out of the way of residents views. All of the commissioners agreed to look into the possibility of new plantings on Pala Avenue in order to satisfy the residents. No one from the crowd spoke for or against this topic.

The other main topic discussed was the trash in Piedmont Park that is left by high school students. This topic was brought up by Lena Flescher, a student speaker, and the topic ended up being one of the main points of the meeting. She told the commissioners that punishment must be enforced in order for students to finally pick up the trash. Nancy Kent, lead staff to the commission, agreed with Lena.  Ms. Kent spoke about this issue as she has already been involved with teachers to try and fix the trash problem. Kent also encouraged the students in attendance to contact her with ideas on ways students can become more involved in the process.

In speaking to Mr. Frankel, I learned he was there because he is required to do a report at the end of each meeting on how his sector of the government is doing and to discuss any problems that he may encounter. They may also call on him in the middle of a meeting to give his professional opinion on something such as which tree would work best in a location. Mr. Frankel did not have any crazy reaction to the meeting as he has sat through many of them and knows exactly what to expect. As for addressing his concerns, Mr. Frankel said he and his crew are going into the park the next day to remove all of the trash.

 by Carson Gerhardy, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 

May 12 2018

Students Observe Piedmont’s Active Park Commission 

Did you know that it is against code to prune a street tree, and you can be subject to a fine for doing so? Or that our Liquidambars are being slowly replaced by Purple-Leaf Plums, or that one hard working team of individuals is single-handedly saving the paws, ears, and noses of Piedmont dogs? These are things I learned during the May 2 Piedmont Park Commission meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers.

While Piedmont residents see the benefits of their work every day, few know of the Piedmont Park Commission, which meets once a month to discuss the flora we place near our streets and in our parks, as well as renovations to Piedmont parks.

    This month, the Piedmont Park Commission met to discuss the replanting of trees in our parks and on our streets, Arbor Day, the Linda Beach Master Plan, and the installation of a new bench. The meeting started with a discussion of the replacement of Liquidambars with Purple-Leaf Plums, and the potential problems that the Liquidambar root systems could cause during removal. The commissioners wanted consistency, and wanted to ensure that the plum was the designated tree for replacement. A commissioner pointed out that using plums would restrict the view of residents less, and a discussion about whether residents and gardeners can prune city-owned trees ensued (They cannot, and can be subject to a fine should they be caught pruning).

    The commissioners then acknowledged the Piedmont Garden Club’s donation to insert strip lighting into a public building. The commissioners commented on its expert illumination of the deck and its both contemporary and traditional aura.

    Moving on from this, the commissioners discussed a new meeting about renovations to the Linda Beach Park. They wish to hold that meeting in the Beach Auditorium, and wanted it to reach specifically the neighborhood near the park as they would be the most affected by the changes. PHS student Lena Fleischer spoke out about this issue, saying that the installation of a new skate park and other attractions would not have too much of an effect on the residents’ quality of life, as they are used to noise from Beach Elementary. The commissioners wanted to encourage walking rather than driving to the park and discussed how an added parking lot would affect these numbers.

    PHS students Katherine Irving and Isa West spoke about the planting of non-native species in Piedmont parks, emphasizing the need for more local plants. PHS student Natasha Yskamp-Long spoke about littering in Piedmont Park, and a discussion ensued about how to best keep students from littering.

     Public Works Supervisor Dave Frankel then gave his monthly maintenance report, in which he discussed the ongoing battle against weeds. In particular, he pointed out that since his team does not use herbicides, they must do all the weeding by hand. I discussed this point with him later, and found that his team is responsible for removing as many foxtails as they can from the dog parks, which reduces the risk of dogs getting infections from embedded foxtails in their paws, ears, and even noses.

     A family I know recently had a dog die from a foxtail, which reached the dog’s brain, so I know firsthand how dangerous these plants can be, and am infinitely grateful for the hard work Frankel and his team put into hand-weeding the parks.

    Frankel then went into further detail about the planting of plums and the replacement of American Elms with London Planes. He then discussed the 5 phases of the removal of American Elms, and that they now have only 4 elms left to remove and replace with London Planes. The Commission then ended with announcements concerning the date of the next Linda Beach plan meeting.

    I interviewed Supervisor of Public Works Dave Frankel. Frankel was not here to speak out on a specific issue.  As supervisor, his job is to give a monthly brief of his team’s work at every Park Commission. This month he brought up the issues of hand-weeding, and how it is taking them a lot more work and time than it would with the use of chemicals. Frankel will be back next month to give another briefing, and will presumably be back for every other Park Commission as well, to inform them of the latest on the removal of trees, replanting of new ones, and destruction of weeds. Frankel thinks the meeting went well.

by Katherine Irving, Piedmont High School Senior

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 Illegal Tampering with Trees Causes Concern

On Wednesday May 2, the Piedmont Park Commission held their monthly meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers. The meetings are held to discuss and receive updates on parks, plants and other environmental aspects within Piedmont.

The meeting started off with a report of three damaged trees at 426 Pala Avenue by Nancy Kent, Parks and Projects Manager. It was noted that the trees were decaying and  concern for branch failure with their poor structures. Jim Horner, member of the commission, recommended observing the trees across the street, which are liquidambar styraciflua and are located just underneath the street’s power lines. Horner also recommended removing those three trees now and place them elsewhere. He finished by saying that the planting should be protected when they are being removed.

The first speaker on this issue was Dave Frankel, the Public Works Supervisor, who said that the trees on Pala Avenue were left as they were found and that there was evidence of illegal pruning and topping by previous residents. The neighborhood block contains a large number of liquidambar styraciflua trees, all planted in tight spacing, which has caused decay and water sprout branch tear outs. Frankel recommended that all of the liquidambar trees be replaced with fruitless plum trees because they won’t impact the views from homes like the liquidambar trees do.

The next topic was the acknowledgement of the installation of new LED lighting around the Tea House. In 2016, the Piedmont Garden Club made a generous donation to the city to upgrade the lighting around the Tea House. Unfortunately, when the mature oak tree near the house died and was removed, the small downlights that hung from the tree’s branches were lost. This made the area feel quite dark and lifeless but the recently installed new lighting was made possible thanks to the collaboration with Thomas Skadski of Lumen Works, in which they designed LED lighting that could be mounted underneath the benches to provide a warm glow to help revitalize the edges of the Tea House decks. Finding the right contractor for this was difficult until the staff began working with Schulkamp Electric to install the Community Hall pole lights, where they then discovered Lumen Works.

The last and final topic of the meeting had to do with an update on the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. The city had held a neighborhood meeting on April 25 to hear from residents about their opinion of the Linda Beach Tot Lot Master Planning project. The attendance was an impressive 50 residents plus and the preferred 35% master plan, site analysis and existing condition plans were posted around the auditorium for review. The audience was encouraged to voice their concerns and other comments to become a factor in the summary of public opinion, which was presented to the City Council on May 7.

When the meeting concluded, I spoke with Dave Frankel. He is the Park Supervisor and he gives a monthly maintenance report to the Piedmont Park Commission. He wants to inform the Park Commission of the activities of public works staff during the prior month.  He has recently learned of different American Elm trees that he may need remove and to start planting new street trees. He has much respect for the volunteers who are on the Piedmont Park Commission and the amount of time they put in because they aren’t getting paid for doing what they do.  They are taking time out of their lives to help make Piedmont a better place. Frankel will continue doing his job including reporting monthly to the commission as well as now taking into account the concerns that were addressed by students at this meeting.

by Dylan Bradsby, Piedmont High School Senior

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From Trees to Rebellious Pruners, and Everything in Between 

    Upon stepping into a Piedmont Park Commission meeting, it becomes quite evident that this is unlike other government meetings. The sound of impassioned debaters and fiery homeowners all pushing for their beliefs is replaced by the quiet discussion of which trees to plant in the coming year, and updates on the work of Piedmont’s maintenance crew. This government body, which meets once a month in the City Council Chambers, comes together to discuss the parks and plants throughout Piedmont, and any changes or improvements to be made to them.

This particular meeting, on May 2nd 2018, lasted an hour, from 5:30 to 6:30 and had a total of zero disagreements among its participants. The meeting commenced with a discussion about the replacement of dying trees throughout Piedmont, but particularly on Pala Avenue. All of the government officials agreed that an effort needs to be made to ensure the consistency of street trees throughout the neighborhood, so Purple Leaf Plum trees were designated the new street tree for Piedmont. It was decided that these trees would also eventually replace many Liquidambar trees that would soon begin to obstruct views, and will also face issues as they are growing underneath power lines. The Plum Tree were chosen due to their ability to be easily planted amidst Piedmont’s hilly topography, and their low height, which ensures that they do not obstruct any views.

A brief statement was then made about the success of Piedmont’s Arbor Day this year, as well as the success of the LED lights that were donated by the Piedmont Garden Club for the Tea House Bench, which are now installed.

A quick mention was made surrounding the illegal pruning of street trees by residents.  To the surprise of all attending, it was discovered that those caught performing this daring act could be fined, and have been.

Commission Chair Betsy Goodman brought up the hot topic in the meeting -the Linda Beach Park. A meeting was recently held at Egbert W. Beach Elementary School in order to hear the opinions of residents regarding this park renovation. Staff Liaison and Manager of Parks and Projects, Nancy Kent, expressed her enthusiasm regarding the meeting, stating that it was very helpful. Most of the complaints made were surrounding issues with parking, the importance of the tot lot to the neighborhood residents, and issues with the amount of noise a park will attract from people playing sports, skating, and the like.

Piedmont High School Senior and Beach neighborhood resident Lena Fleischer addressed this issue, stating she believed a park would be great for a lot of the local families and children to have a place to play. In addition, she claimed that there was already so much noise coming from Beach Elementary School that a park could hardly turn this neighborhood from a quiet one to a noisy one, when it is already quite noisy.

Next, the issue of trash in Piedmont Park was addressed by Piedmont High School Senior Natasha Yskamp Long. As a frequent user of the park, she has begun to notice high amounts of trash littering it, and even “mountains of hundreds of plastic water bottles.” She credits this increased volume in trash to the lack of follow through regarding the Piedmont Administration’s threat to ban off-campus lunch or get the police involved in the issue.

Student Lena Fleischer then returned to the podium and pitched the idea of hanging up painted signs throughout Piedmont Park to remind students not to litter. Nancy Kent in particular appeared very excited by this idea, and plans were made to discuss it further.

As a Piedmont High student and a member of Piedmont Environmental Club, Natasha’s method, in my opinion, would prove far more effective in eliminating littering in Piedmont Park. I have a more cynical view of the intentions of many of my classmates, and think that handing out detentions to future perpetrators would be much more impactful on the students than signs would be.

Throughout my high school career, I have been a member of two environmental groups, both of which received the fewest number of visitors of any club on club day and have an average turn out of three people during weekly meetings. Although there are many members of the Piedmont High community that care about the environment, the majority do not consider it a high priority, and handing out punishments, such as detention, could have a direct impact on them personally and would show a lot better results.

The last topic brought up at the meeting was that of maintenance. The Piedmont Supervisor for Public Works Dave Frankel updated the room on the extensive and time consuming hand weeding projects that would soon begin in an attempt to avoid using pesticides. In addition, the crew has begun mulching and will soon start planting more London Plane Trees through Piedmont. The staff will begin performing Spring Pathway maintenance and have already fixed a sidewalk and removed a liquidambar tree from Magnolia Avenue.

The Public Works Department has dealt with a couple of Acacia trees that fell down in Piedmont Park, and have pushed back their paving project due to bad weather.   The staff has started their five phase plan for the removal of almost all of the American Elm Trees in Piedmont due to a disease that has impacted most of the trees. There was talk of past replacement of these trees with purported disease resistant Liberty Elm Trees, but this proved to be ineffective as the Liberty Elm Trees were soon infected as well.

After the meeting, I interviewed the aforementioned Piedmont Public Works Supervisor, Dave Frankel, regarding his attendance at the meeting. He said that he attends the Park Commission meetings because it is his job to inform the Parks Commission of the activities of the Public Works Department for the month. He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns.” While he often informs his crew of issues that he sees that need to be taken care of, most of his work is based off of the needs of Piedmont’s residents. Piedmont, it turns out, is a more eventful place than one would think, with Dave Frankel “fielding about 50 calls a day.”  According to Frankel, a big issue he is currently working on is the level of trash in Piedmont Park. Sadly, his team is there almost everyday picking up the trash that should have been disposed of by the students of Piedmont High School. Hopefully, this problem will soon be dealt with by the school so that our helpful public works crew will not have to spend their valuable time picking up after teenagers.

by Isa West, Piedmont High School Senior

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Park Commission: Complaints about Trees Obstructing Views; the Supervisor of Public Works and Students Discuss Park Litter

Last Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 5:30 pm, the Piedmont’s Park Commission held its monthly meeting in the City Council Chambers. The meeting discussed many things, from the status of specific trees to the Linda Beach Master Plan.

The meeting began with a discussion of the compromised/dying liquidamber trees on multiple streets in Piedmont. Members of the Commission discussed replacing them with purple leaf plum trees due to their greater ability to latch onto the soil. Parks and Project Manager, Nancy Kent, mentioned that “A lot of tree problems that you deal with are at the sidewalk level.”

Supervisor of Public Works, Dave Frankel, informed the Commission that Piedmont Public Works has completed the majority of their tree removal/replanting for the year and is making very good progress. The Commission also discussed some aspects of the process, wherein Frankel informed them that the Public Works team takes pictures of the trees that are removed so that they can be put back in the exact same way. He also mentioned that some trees planted in the last few years have not taken well to their environment and which species of trees would be better for planting in the future.

Member Nancy Kent chimed in regarding resident complaints about their views being obstructed by tall trees. Frankel stated that replacing liquidamber trees with leaf plum trees would help solve that problem because liquidamber trees grow to be extremely tall, while leaf plum trees do not grow beyond a certain height. Frankel also said that residents have been illegally pruning trees. A commissioner asked him what the protocol was in that situation. Frankel explained that residents have been fined for illegally pruning trees in the past, although it is rare because the only way to catch someone doing it is when a neighbor calls into report it.

Students, Katherine Irving and Isabella West, spoke during public comment on the need for local species of trees to be planted instead of foreign trees. They explained that local trees are better for the ecosystem. I agree that planting local trees is better than planting foreign trees. Local animals such as birds and rabbits will be able to live better in the environment that they are adapted for.

The Commission also discussed the Linda Beach Master Plan. Student, Lena Fleischer, gave her thoughts on the project. She mentioned the idea of having a mural painted by local residents on the bridge facing Beach Park.

The Commission wrapped up the meeting by discussing the issue of trash being left by Piedmont High School students at the park. They brainstormed ways of encouraging students to throw away their garbage. The commission reasoned that there are plenty of trash cans so it is not a problem of accessibility.

In an interview with Frankel following the meeting, he explained that his job is to “inform the Parks Department of the Public Works Department’s work they have done in the prior month.” He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns” and his team receives “about 50 phone calls a day.” Frankel also mentioned that he has taken pictures of the park after lunch and sent them to Piedmont School District Superintendent Randall Booker in order to provide evidence of the trash left behind by Piedmont High School students. Frankel urged students who attended the meeting to voice their concerns to Booker by email or in person.

By Max West, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 
May 9 2018

I am writing to express my support for Nancy O’Malley in June’s District Attorney election.  

Nancy is the first woman to be elected as District Attorney of our county, and has served in this position for the past ten years.  She has worked as an attorney in the office for nearly 30 years.

During her career, Nancy has committed herself to keeping our communities safe and to serving victims of crime.  As District Attorney, Nancy has become a leader in the fight to end human trafficking and to clear the backlog of rape kits in order to bring justice to victims of sexual assault.  

Under her leadership, the DA’s Office has increased efforts to protect our environment and has strong units to combat domestic violence, elder abuse and consumer fraud.  

Alameda County is fortunate to have a strong, dedicated and compassionate District Attorney. Please join Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, the Sierra Club, Congressman Eric Swalwell, and me in supporting Nancy O’Malley, and please remember to vote on June 5!

Sincerely, Teresa Drenick, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Apr 20 2018

On Wednesday, April 11th, 2018, the Piedmont School Board held their bi-weekly meeting. The meeting started at 7:06 p.m. at City Hall and concluded around 7:40 p.m., making it one of the shortest meetings in a while. The main reason for this was because there was nothing on the agenda to discuss. The real purpose of the meeting was to take questions from a few students, the Parents Club, and questions pertaining to changing the location of the fire alarm in preparation for the new building that will be built at Piedmont High School.

The first question was from a member of the Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) and the Parents Club about the cost of Chromebooks for the Middle School and High School because of the lack of donations from 6th grade parents this year. She urged people to keep Chromebooks up to date by donating money. She also urged people to contribute to the Piedmont Spring Fling at piedmontspringfling.org .

Next, a representative from MHS updated the board on what is happening on campus such as Senior Prom, athletic events, and a dance show field trip to Alvin Ailey at UC Berkeley.

The first student to comment in the meeting was Maggie Lucas, a PHS Senior. She asked the School Board to consider investing in an “extracurricular PE class,” because PHS requires one year of freshman PE as well as another year of PE or sport. This causes many students to sacrifice academic periods. Additionally, all of the extracurricular sports are very competitive and do not guarantee spots because many athletes get cut from the teams.

Next, Drew Lali, another senior argued that the School Board should reconsider taking away the two days that are part of Winter Break for next year’s schedule changes.

I was the last PHS Senior to comment. I asked the School Board to consider investing in online textbooks for PHS or alternative online material content for classes. I asked this because for students who travel between two homes on a regular basis (like myself), it can often be a burden to have to carry heavy textbooks back and forth. Additionally, the online content is more up to date than much of the content that are in the textbooks, and is continuously being updated. Although most classes now have online textbooks, I always have two or three classes each year that still use hardcover textbooks.

Michael Braidy explained how the fire control on the 10s building at Piedmont High needs to be moved to the 30s building in preparation for the construction of the new building that is expected to start early March of next year. However, Braidy did clarify that the schedule for construction is still very flexible.

When the meeting concluded, I spoke to Doug Ireland about the meeting. He is a member of the School Board and is there for the bi-weekly meetings. He explained that he learned that the School Board should reevaluate the costs of Chromebooks based on the comments made by the Parents Club earlier in the meeting. He also noted that the Board will be going forward with looking at the costs and installation of fire alarms at Piedmont High. Last, Ireland was happy about how short the meeting ended up being.

bySaatvik Dube, Piedmont High School Senior

 

Relocation of Fire Alarm and School Spending

    On April 11th, 2018, at the Piedmont City Council Chambers, there was a biweekly school board meeting. The members of the school board attended, with the addition of one student from ASB for Millennium High School. Also, Students, both in High and Middle school, attended the meeting for school related assignments.

    The School Board meeting addressed the topics of school spending and relocation of the Fire Alarm system to the 30’s building at Piedmont High School. Also, a student at Piedmont High School addressed the graduation requirement for Physical Education.

First, the spending amount schools get is allocated from the Government of California, and in addition the Parents from Piedmont can donate money to foundations created by Piedmont Parents to help the Schools.  A low percentage, 35 %, of 6th Grade Piedmont Parents donated money for Piedmont Middle School.  Almost half, 45%, of 9th Grade Piedmont Parents donated money for Piedmont High School. The money parents donated can help the subjects in School.  For example, I know families that donate to Paints, an organization that helps promote Art classes in the Piedmont Unified School District.  I think all parents that are apart of any school district should donate to provide as much help as they can from these organizations.

The Second issue addressed was the relocation of the Fire Alarm system to the 30’s building. The 10’s building is going to be taken down as well as the Theater to update the buildings and make them earthquake safe and much nicer than their current status.  The school is moving the fire alarm system to the permanent spot in the 30’s building before the 10’s building is being torn down.  Sarah Pearson,  School Board President, asked the question, “Will the theater be able to put on plays and shows for the students and Parents?”  The person said that people will be able to see plays before March because the Theater will be shut down early March of next year.

After the meeting, I interviewed Sarah Pearson about the meeting. She told me, “It was the shortest meeting [she] could remember in [her] five and a half years on the school board.” When I asked why this was the shortest meeting, she replied, “that there is going to be a special meeting on Monday to go over in depth the policy.” The School Board meeting was short but packed with information about the following topics above. What will be the resulting outcome of the new theater and 10’s building over the years?

by Drew Lalli, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.