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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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Nov 2 2018

As a retired CPA, I applied my auditing experience to the Piedmont School Board for this election.   About two years ago, I sensed that something was amiss when I read reports that PUSD refinanced some bonds to a type (called CAB) that roughly quadrupled the bond’s interest expense.  So, using KCOM’s online video archives I studied the applicable archives.  I know the justifications that many board members used for this school financing.   But I find their decision outlandish.  Ultimately, the School Board reversed its error and switched back to CIB financing, which saved the district from incurring an additional $26 million dollars in wasteful interest expense.  As the public archives confirm, Dr. Titan’s leadership led to this $26 million savings.

If you’ve never attended a PUSD board meeting, please go to KCOM (Channel 27) and view any meeting in the archive.  You will begin to appreciate the dedication, determination, and backbone needed to accomplish what Titan has.

If you have been following the employment issues relating to the rogue teacher-student conduct, or the embarrassing decision to appoint Victor Acuna as full-time athletic director at roughly $120,000 per year.  Ask yourself, do you want a board member that has the backbone and perseverance to defend our students from such egregious personnel issues?

Prior to this election, I didn’t know Dr. Titan or any of the school board candidates, so I made a concerted effort to meet them, and study their prospective contributions.  I listened to them at two separate parents’ club candidate forums and via KCOM, I watched them speak at Piedmont’s League of Women voters’ forum.    It’s clear they are all nice people who want to make a difference for our schools.

But when you step into the election booth, set aside your friendships and vote responsibly for the one candidate that since 2013 has been working as a citizen watchdog to ensure proper conduct at PUSD.  Titan will provide the stewardship need now on Piedmont’s school board.

Dai Meagher, CPA (inactive & retired)

Oct 31 2018

We’ve all heard that old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” That’s what comes to mind with Measures BB and CC on the upcoming ballot.

The proponents of BB and CC claim they are merely updates to our “outdated” City Charter and will result in more openness and transparency. But when you look at what’s actually proposed, you’ll realize that BB and CC do more harm than good.

Measure BB proposes to change at least fourteen sections of the City Charter.

Although the proponents of Measure BB claim it merely updates the City Charter, it’s so much more than that. It impacts several key areas, among them being the elimination of competitive bidding. BB allows Council to raise and, in some cases, waive competitive bidding thresholds. So voting for this measure gives carte blanche for city contracts to bypass competitive bidding. As written, this aspect of Measure BB could have tremendous negative financial impacts on the city.

Measure BB would also impact the election and meeting requirements of the City Council by eliminating the need for twice-monthly meetings and changing the interval from the current four years to eight years (two terms) before a City Council member could run again. School Board members have this same four-year interval, and they are not seeking a change.

Measure CC abolishes Council authority to discipline city staff.

These proposed changes weaken the authority of the City Council and decrease the public’s opportunities to participate in city government and hold its council members accountable.

Piedmont’s department heads – Police, Fire, Recreation Director, Finance, etc. – are currently hired and fired by City Council, allowing the Council to be aware of the workings of various city departments and providing accountability to the public from their elected representatives. Measure CC weakens this authority by giving all responsibility to the unelected City Administrator to evaluate and terminate city employees. This proposed change creates obstacles that currently don’t exist, removes transparency, and is rife with unforeseen consequences, including potential decreases in morale, increases in employee turnover, and wrongful termination lawsuits.

The City Charter has been serving Piedmont well since its last revision forty years ago. It’s not broken. The ballot text for Measures BB and CC don’t tell the whole story. Visit http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/city-council-places-charter-measures-on-ballot/to see what these measures really do.

Please join me in voting NO on Measures BB and CC.

Melanie Robertson, Former Piedmont Planning Commissioner

Oct 30 2018

Keep the current reporting structure of Piedmont’s City Charter.

Measure CC is a power grab and proponents of CC completely misstate the way City Hall is run as justification.

Measure CC is completely ineffective at telling voters what it will do.

First, as written, Measure CC is completely ineffective at telling voters what it will do. It should have read: “Shall the measure to amend the City Charter to reassign authority to terminate City department heads from City Council to the City Administrator be adopted”. Same word count. Such text would be much more informative to the voters and the fact that Measure CC is drafted so poorly should tell you something.

Measure CC reassigns important oversight authority from Council to the City Administrator with no justification on the record.

Second, from the Mayor in a recent news account: “[The Charter] contains language that suggests that the City Council is responsible for managing and directing the work of City officers. The Piedmont City Attorney strongly recommended that this ambiguity be clarified…” Read that carefully – “suggests” and “ambiguity” – if true then simply clarify the Charter language and keep the current reporting structure in place. Instead Measure CC reassigns important oversight authority from Council to the City Administrator with no justification on the record.

Grab or giveaway, Measure CC is bad for Piedmont and reduces the authority of our elected officials. Coupled with Measure BB (fewer meetings, less voter choice), these measures weaken good governance in Piedmont and should be rejected by the voters.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member 

Oct 30 2018

Election Day is upon us and I am endorsing Megan Pillsbury to take my open seat on the Piedmont School Board. She has the skills and perspective to add real value to the board and its work.

First, she has an abiding love for teaching and nurturing of the joy of learning. She demonstrated that love in her career teaching in our schools and contributing to other institutions of learning in the bay area.

Having taught in our schools, Megan understands the culture we hope to maintain, appreciates the expectations of students and parents, knows the desires and values of our teachers and can speak with authority to the administration about the issues facing the district. In this time of increasing challenges of teacher recruitment, retention and compensation, Megan’s background is valuable.

As a parent of three children who successfully completed our K-12 program, she will bring a unique perspective balancing program needs, parental wishes and budget constraints. Sometimes parents with students still in district haven’t developed the ability to look through the long lens required of good school stewards.

Megan is a kind and dedicated citizen prepared for and willing to do the hard work required in this position. I support her candidacy and hope you will too with a vote for her in our upcoming election.

Doug Ireland, Member of Piedmont School Board

Oct 30 2018

On October 24th, I attended the Piedmont Board of Education Meeting. It took place in City Hall and these meeting occur twice a month. The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss activities in the Piedmont Unified School District. There were four main items that were discussed at the meeting.

First was the approval of the 2018 Piedmont High School Accrediting Commission for School Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) Self Study Report. Before this item was approved an extensive presentation was given by Piedmont High School Principal Adam Littlefield and Piedmont High School Social Studies teacher Dave Keller. They elaborated on the process of accreditation and how WASC representatives will be visiting Piedmont High School from November 4th through November 7th. After the presentation the item was unanimously approved by the Board.

The second item that was discussed was the approval of the 2018 Piedmont Adult School Accrediting Commission for School Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) Initial Visit Report. Millennium High School Principal and Piedmont Adult School Principal Shannon Fierro gave an informative presentation on the initial accreditation process that Piedmont Adult School is undergoing. This will accredit them for two years after which they can apply for a full accreditation, which lasts six years. The WASC representatives visited Piedmont Adult School on October 25th. The item was unanimously approved by the Board.

The third item that was discussed was a review of the 2018-2019 General Fund Working Budget and Multi-Year Projections and the authorization of appropriate budget transfers. A lengthy presentation was given on the budget by Ruth Alahydoian, the Chief Financial Officer for the district. The District is over budget and will not meet the 3% required reserve. Ms. Alahydoian stressed the importance of taking action to ensure that this reserve is met in future years. The budget transfers were all unanimously authorized by the Board.

The final main item from the meeting was an update on the School Support Tax and timeline. The current School Support Tax is going to expire on June 31, 2021. This tax is on the 3,921 taxable parcels in Piedmont. It raises $10 million dollars for the district which is around 25% of the district’s $40 million dollars worth of revenues. In the spring of 2019 the Board will poll the citizens and hold public meetings on the topic. There will be campaigning in the fall of 2019 leading up to the election in November of 2019.

I spoke on the issue of the School Support Tax. I advocated for student involvement in the public meetings and in the campaigning. They are the group that is going to be most significantly impacted by whether the tax passes or not. Without the money from the tax, the program across all Piedmont Schools will be significantly changed for the worse. Students could get involved by creating flyers and short PSAs advertising the public meetings in the spring. They can also help with the canvassing that is going to be happening in the fall. The Board should get students involved with this process.

I interviewed Board of Education Member Sarah Pearson. She was at the meeting because she is the President of the School Board. As an elected official Dr. Pearson has to listen to the difficulties and problems brought forth by the community. Given the information that was presented during the meeting by the Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Pearson is concerned about the budget. The next step is at the Budget Advisory Committee Meeting on November 8th the Chief Financial Officer will present a much more in depth breakdown of district expenses.

by Anna Smegal, Piedmont High School Senior

Oct 28 2018

Why I believe that Measure CC should be rejected by Piedmont voters.

Measure CC has no credible factual support in the public record. It is void of any demonstrable need. It is poorly designed. It is totally without conceivable merit. It turns good governance on its head. If adopted Measure CC would only underscore the present Council’s abdication of its responsibility to the public and waste of public resources in proposing to the voters such a vacuous and worthless proposition.

I was a California public agency lawyer for the 34 years before I retired in 2006. One of my primary responsibilities as a lawyer was providing legal advice and legal services regarding the Oakland City Charter provisions applicable to the independent Oakland Port Department. I was certified by the State Bar to provide legal instruction to members of the State Bar regarding the Oakland City Charter, and Bar members who received my instruction received credit toward their mandatory continuing legal education requirements.

The Oakland City Charter provided that the Board of Port Commissioners was responsible to both hire and fire Port officers and employees. Neither the authority and responsibility of the Port’s Executive Director for the day-to-day performance of all non-Port Attorney staff Port officers and employees, nor the authority and responsibility of the Port Attorney for the day-to-day performance of all Port Attorney staff, ran into any conflict with the Board’s exclusive power to hire and fire all Port officers and employees.

Practically, the Board acted on recommendations of the Executive Director or Port Attorney regarding proposed hiring and firing, but importantly the necessity that the Executive Director and Port Attorney justify to the Board in advance of proposed and recommended hiring and firing avoided serious disruptions, damage and liabilities that a runaway Executive Director or Port Attorney could cause.

The hiring and firing authority for top City officers should be unitary so that the authority to hire and authority to fire rest in the same hands, and that authority rightly belongs to the legislative body, not one of its appointed officers. No better day-to-day measure that combined hiring and firing authority will timely inform a City Council of the health and status of the public agency than its receiving advance notice of proposed and recommended hiring and firing of the public personnel responsible for carrying out the very public functions for which the Council or board is primarily responsible.

In Measure CC, the present Council for no good public reason effectively proposes to grant a veto power to the City Administrator over the Council’s hiring decisions. The Measure CC proposal by the present Council and each of its Councilmembers is a disgraceful failure to carry out their public obligations. The lack of any credible rationale for the proposed Measure CC suggests, at best, unanimous Councilmember thoughtlessness and laziness.

Thomas D. Clark, Piedmont Resident

Oct 28 2018

I am writing in support of Julie Caskey for Piedmont School Board. I am the mother of two young children soon to be in elementary school, a high school teacher at a nearby high performing district, and like many of you moved to Piedmont for the schools and the community.

I have known Julie and her family since before moving to Piedmont. Over the years we have often discussed her commitment to public education and her service to her community. Those conversations have convinced me, both as a mother and as a teacher, that Julie is the sort of person we need supporting Piedmont’s public schools.

As a high school teacher I have first hand experience with all the issues facing our schools in terms of teacher retention, recruiting, and morale. Julie has solicited my opinion in her volunteer work in the Piedmont schools, and has thoughtful, nuanced approaches to solving our problems. There is not a one size fits all solution to the challenges of public education, and I am confident Julie will do the necessary research and outreach, consider all available information and viewpoints, and arrive at the best outcomes for our community. That’s the background she brings as a volunteer, a lawyer, and public servant.

As a parent, I am even more excited to support Julie. It isn’t enough just to have great work and professional experience. We need to consider the perspectives of parents whose children are currently in our schools. It is vital that the Board has a member that is closely connected to our elementary schools. Julie is the only candidate or board member that currently has a child in elementary school. I am concerned about the dearth of representation of elementary school families on the Board. The Board should represent as many stakeholders in our educational system as possible and this perspective is sorely lacking. I am confident between her role as an elementary school parent, connections to current elementary school families and volunteer work in the elementary schools that Julie would be a strong advocate for this significant part of the Piedmont community.

Please join me in supporting Julie Caskey this November 6. She has the experience, dedication, and perspective to continue the tradition of excellence for Piedmont schools.

Carolyn Cahill, Piedmont Resident

Oct 28 2018

I first met Amal Smith when she was President of the Beach School Parents Club. She impressed me with her ability to listen and include everyone in the decision making process. Her collaborative manner and enthusiasm was reflected in her Board.

When she was elected to the Piedmont Board of Education four years ago, I knew that she would be an excellent addition. Amal began her Board service with proven leadership experience and a recognized commitment to the well being of children in Piedmont.

Amal also had years of extensive experience in finance including ten years of consulting at KPMG to colleges and universities. She is currently an Associate Dean for Financial Affairs at UCSF School of Medicine.

When I watch Piedmont School Board meetings on KCOM I see evidence of her past and current leadership and financial expertise. Amal listens and respects the opinions of others, asks probing questions, analyzes data, constantly thinks of what is the best for children and applies common sense to her decision making.

I enthusiastically endorse Amal Smith for re-election to the Piedmont Board of Education.

Respectfully,
Sue Smegal
Former Piedmont Board of Education President

Oct 26 2018

I’m writing to encourage my fellow Piedmont citizens to vote for Amal Smith for School Board. I believe that having Amal on the School Board for a second term would benefit our community because Amal is a thoughtful listener who makes wise decisions. She considers all viewpoints and always aims for the best possible outcomes for our students and teachers.

Amal cares deeply about Piedmont students and education in general. Amal has spent her career working in higher education, and her values strongly align with the Piedmont school district’s goals of creating a safe and inclusive learning environment, and providing a rigorous, relevant, and differentiated education for all students. Amal is truly an advocate for the “whole student,” promoting programs that our community values, including the arts, athletics, and wellness.

I first met Amal when I started volunteering for the Piedmont schools about 10 year ago. I was immediately impressed by her organizational skills, leadership abilities, and understanding of the issues facing our schools. Amal’s warm personality brings out the best in those around her. We are lucky to have Amal Smith on the School Board and I hope you will join me in voting for her again.

Sincerely,
Christine Wente von Metzsch, Piedmont Resident

Oct 25 2018

Proponents of Measure CC overstate the ambiguity of the City Charter.

First, the Charter defines two job categories: officers (department heads) and employees (everyone else). The current Charter is clear that Council hires/fires and provides direction to officers. The Charter does not say that Council will “manage” departments.

For the City Administrator, the Charter states:

“The City Administrator shall be the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be responsible to the City Council for the administration of all City affairs placed in his/her charge by or under this Charter.

The administrator shall have the following powers and duties:
(1) Shall appoint, discipline, and, when deemed necessary for the good of the City, suspend or remove City employees except as otherwise provided by law, this Charter or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this Charter.
(2) Shall supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the City, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by law and except further that the internal administration of each department shall remain with each department head.”

Two points. Google “chief administrative officer” – by definition it says this position does not have the authority to dismiss department heads. All other authority is clearly defined in the Charter – the City Administrator supervises all departments and can fire employees while department heads administer their departments.

So drafters of the Charter crafted a very specific management structure for the city, yet proponents claim this is not how City Hall is run. If so, is the question really that of an ambiguous Charter or City Council and City Administrator who aren’t following the Charter?

Department heads have been disciplined by Council and Council implemented a performance appraisal program to evaluate department heads. Specific examples of problems with the management structure would help voters understand why they need change it.

And judging by the satisfaction most Piedmonters state with city services, they don’t want a change.

Vote NO on CC.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member