Feb 14 2019

Athletics and graduations will be at Witter Field as usual.

On February 13, 2019, the Piedmont Unified School District’s Board of Education announced that renovation of Witter Field, which had been tentatively scheduled for this Spring and Summer, will be deferred for at least one year. The District had plans in place to relocate Spring athletics and graduations in case it decided to proceed with the renovation this year. Because the project will be deferred, athletics and graduations will be at Witter Field as usual.

The District last replaced the synthetic turf and track at Witter Field in 2007 and these materials are now at the end of their useful life. Also, the underground drainage system is deteriorating, and even moderate rain can lead to flooding and temporary field closures. To address these issues, the District developed site surveys and engineering plans, obtained a permit, and solicited bids.

Renovation costs will be covered primarily by State modernization and other funds, and the Board decided to defer the project for at least one year until there is a more clear timeframe for disbursement of these State funds. Until then, the District will increase field maintenance and this may involve more occasional, temporary closures to mitigate and repair flood damage. This work can take several days and up to several weeks.

Questions or comments? Please contact Superintendent Booker at rbooker@piedmont.k12.ca.us or Director of Facilities Pete Palmer at ppalmer@piedmont.k12.ca.us.

PIEDMONT UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT – PRESS RELEASE
February 14, 2019

Jan 31 2019

“The ten robberies which were reported during 2018 were generally street robberies where suspects approached individuals on sidewalks, driveways, or other public areas and took items of value by means of force or fear. One of the robberies was a home invasion robbery where the suspects confronted residents. The suspects in that incident were identified, arrested, and have been charged with numerous felonies. Burglaries, defined generally as the unlawful entry into a dwelling or specified structure with the intent to commit a theft or other felony, decreased from 60 incidents in 2017 to 47 incidents in 2018. Larceny-theft increased from 97 reported offenses in 2017 to 123 reported offenses in 2018. Motor vehicle theft also increased in 2018.”

In 2018, Piedmont police officers made 17 arrests and recovered 29 stolen vehicles with a valuation of $257,800 in events directly related to the Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras. By comparison, officers made 28 arrests and recovered 39 stolen vehicles with an approximate valuation of $254,933 in 2017.
Also provided with this report is a printout of the Piedmont Police Department Case Disposition Report. This report shows the number of police reports generated by the Department during the year, as well as the disposition of those cases.

“While the Police Department continuously conducts proactive patrols to mitigate thefts and other crimes, we cannot overemphasize the importance of residents and visitors employing basic crime prevention actions such as not leaving valuables in vehicles.”   Piedmont Police 

School Resource Officer – Police Officer within the High and Middle School

The Superintendent of Piedmont Unified School District and the Police Chief established regular monthly meetings in May of 2018 for information sharing and to identify collaborative opportunities for improvement. The Department and PUSD proposed a School Resource Officer (SRO) position to the Board of Education and City Council.

Public outreach efforts to parents, students, staff and other community stakeholders are currently underway. Comments can be made to the School Board and City Council.

The Board of Education and City Council will ultimately decide whether to implement the recommended SRO program. Should the program be approved for implementation, the first three years of the salary and benefits would be paid for by a State of California, Department of Justice tobacco grant.

The Crime Report will be discussed at the Piedmont Council meeting on Monday, February 4, 2019, in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue starting at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be broadcast live from the City website under videos and on Cable Channel #27.

Read the full 2018 Year End Crime Report including the Crime Map by clicking below:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2019-02-04/yearendcrimereport.pdf

Jan 25 2019

The new theater is expected to open in the Fall of 2021.

January 24, 2019, Press Release:

The Piedmont Unified School District plans to close Alan Harvey Theater (located at 800 Magnolia Avenue) on March 12 in anticipation of building a new high school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) building on the site. The District will remove theatrical lights and other fixtures for reuse, and then demolish the theater starting April 13, during the schools’ Spring break.

Construction of the STEAM building will begin this summer and the new building is expected to open in the 2020-21 school year. The new building will feature new engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science labs, as well as math classrooms and studios for 2D and 3D art.

After the STEAM building is completed, the District will demolish Piedmont High School’s “10s” building and build a new theater on that site. The new theater is expected to open in the Fall of 2021.

The STEAM and theater projects are part of the $66 million school facilities bond program, approved by the Piedmont voters in 2016 by 74%.

While the theater is closed from March 2019 through the Fall of 2021, the District will relocate drama classes to Havens’ Ellen Driscoll Theater, Piedmont Middle School’s Multi-Purpose Room, and the City’s Veterans Hall. The District has reserved performance venues in Oakland for other events, including concerts, musicals, and dance shows, and is continuing to look for additional venues. Anyone with suggestions may contact ppalmer@piedmont.k12.ca.us or tculbert@piedmont.k12.ca.us .

In anticipation of closing the theater, the Piedmont Adult School’s administrative office (formerly located in the basement of Alan Harvey Theater) has moved to Piedmont High School’s “20s” building, which is next to Piedmont Park.

Throughout demolition and construction, the building site will be screened off from the rest of the high school campus. Some parking spaces on Magnolia Avenue will be temporarily replaced with safety barriers. The District and City of Piedmont are working together on parking, traffic, and pedestrian safety plans for the construction area, and more information about the plans will be available in early March.

“We’re excited to start construction of these new facilities,” said Superintendent Randall Booker. “We need these modern labs and classrooms to support curriculum and expand learning opportunities for our students. We’re grateful for the Piedmont community’s commitment to public education,” he said.

Questions or comments? Please contact Superintendent Booker at rbooker@piedmont.k12.ca.us or Director of Facilities Pete Palmer at ppalmer@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Jan 25 2019

This award is presented annually to individuals who have volunteered their efforts over a period of time and made a difference because of their involvement and commitment to Piedmont’s youth.

Following are the previous recipients: Hunter McCreary (1998); Ann Chandler (1999); Ruth Cuming (2000); Lisa Lomenzo (2001); jointly by Cathie Geddeis and Marion Souyoultzis (2002); jointly by Fritz and Mary Wooster (2003); Elizabeth (Betsy) Gentry (2004); Cynthia Gorman (2005); Grier Graff (2006); Julia Burke (2007); Maude Pervere (2008); jointly to Anne-Marie Lamarche and Mark Menke (2009); Janiele Maffei Tovani (2010); Andrea Swenson (2011), June Monach (2012), Bill Drum (posthumously) and Mary Ireland (2013), Ray Perman (2014), Jennifer Fox (2015), Katie Korotzer (2016), Hilary Cooper (2017) and Holly Hanke (2018).

Art Hecht was a tireless community volunteer, and was dedicated to students in both Piedmont and Oakland. He served on Piedmont’s Board of Education from 1970 to 1982. Art also was very active with the Piedmont Continuation High School (now called Millennium High School).

In 1998, the Art Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award was established in his memory. Nominations for this award are now being sought and will be kept strictly confidential.

The deadline for nominations is 4:30 p.m. on March 18, 2019.  Call 510/ 594-2614 for details.

A selection committee will vote on the award recipient, who will be recognized at the May 8, 2019 Board of Education meeting, where the honoree’s good works will be acknowledged. They also will receive the gift of a work of student art. The student will receive a monetary award and commendation from the Board.

Nomination Forms are available > HERE , on the PUSD website, and in the District Office or by calling Sylvia Eggert, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, at (510) 594-2614.

Jan 20 2019

The Recreation Department is offering an opportunity to engage with neighbors of Coaches Field to discuss proposed changes, including lighting, to the recreation space. The meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 23 has been moved to:

Wednesday, February 13, 7 p.m. in the Piedmont Police Department EOC, 403 Highland Avenue.

This meeting will not be broadcast or recorded.

Jan 19 2019

LWV Piedmont to Host Great Decisions Discussion Groups –

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont is forming discussion groups to participate in the 2019 Great Decisions program on world affairs. Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association, Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on global matters. The program is a series of eight meetings, lasting approximately two hours each. Participants receive a Foreign Policy Association briefing book which provides background and context for group discussion. Each session starts with an insightful video created by the Foreign Policy Association, followed by a discussion of the week’s topic.

Chosen by a panel of foreign policy experts, this year’s topics are:

1. Refugees and Global Migration
2. The Middle East: Regional Disorder
3. Nuclear Negotiations: Back to the Future?
4. The Rise of Populism
5. Decoding U.S.-China Trade
6. India and Its Neighbors
7. Cyber Conflicts and Geopolitics
8. State of the State Department and Diplomacy

Meetings will start the week of February 10, 2019 and continue every other week thereafter until the final meeting on the week of May 19th, 2019. There are three separate meeting times as indicated below, you may attend any of the three meetings.

Day/Time

Tuesdays, 1-3pm Wednesdays, 7-9pm Thursdays, 9-11am

Location

EOC Room (adjacent to Piedmont Police Dept.) 40 Highland Ave., Piedmont
EOC Room

The cost of the program (to cover materials) is $30. To RVSP, please visit LWVPiedmont.org and click the Great Decisions Discussion Group link. Payment via credit card, debit card or PayPal is accepted. Payment via check should be payable to the League of Women Voters Piedmont and sent to Ward Lindenmayer, 40 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611. Please email Ward Lindenmayer at wardandelaine@comcast.net if you have questions or would like more information.

Great Decisions is open to all. You do not need to be a member of the League to join in.

Jan 9 2019

Jan 9, 2019

In 2012 the current School tax was formulated because of the Boricas v Alameda USD (“AUSD”) Appeal’s Court decision. At that time Piedmont Unified School District (“PUSD”) declared the only possible tax methodology was to tax every parcel at the same rate because Boricas had rendered Piedmont’s previous attempt at a progressive tax by parcel size legally invalid.

PUSD’s hurried decision was not the only option and certainly not the best option as compared to the previous five tier parcel system, the current flat rate tax raised the rate of 75% of those in smaller homes by about $300 while lowering the rate by over $1000 for the largest estates.

I. A progressive tax based on a per square foot (“sf”) of building space has been and is currently used by AUSD. The current AUSD tax Measure B1, passed by 74% in 2016, was challenged by the 2011 Boricas Plaintiffs and in 2018 AUSD prevailed. PUSD cannot in good faith claim per square foot of building tax levy is invalid. < https://tinyurl.com/yb8g4f92 >

A progressive tax is essential for Piedmont’s expensive school support tax. No other School Tax comes close in cost to taxpayers. While Piedmont had previously embraced a partially progressive tax, PUSD now has a progressive tax option that is far more equitable using building square footage.

Commonly accepted is the direct correlation of the quality of Piedmont Schools and ever increasing real estate values in town. Values are also a function of home size: the larger home in a given neighborhood will proportionally increase in value more than a similar smaller home. Ask any Real Estate professional.

Additionally, the larger Piedmont home generally accommodates more children; the large homeowner again economically benefits proportionately more from the school tax than the small or average size homeowner. Incorporating a square foot of building tax will be both more equitable and palatable to a large majority of taxpayers and an easier sell for the Tax Campaign Committee.

The Piedmont tax currently provides about $10,400,000. There are about 10,340,000 square feet of residential buildings so about $1 a foot is needed. The average home size is about 2,430 sf so essentially many homeowners will pay close to the current amount. Median size of 2,710 sf indicates that those with larger homes will proportionately pay their fair share.

II. Piedmont taxpayers voted on a tax that stated every parcel will be taxed but every parcel with a unique Assessor Parcel Number (APN) is not taxed. Examples include several parcels over 20,000 sf that are not taxed yet other large vacant parcels are taxed. An eight sf parcel at the edge of town is taxed yet the adjacent 144 sf parcel is not taxed. The hodge-podge system must end. A tax based on square foot of building and flat rate for vacant parcels, as AUSD uses, will take care of these inequities. A contiguous parcel exemption may be appropriate.

III. From high to low most California school taxes include a senior exemption.
San Marino USD with its $1,215 parcel tax has a senior exemption and West Contra Costa County with its 7.2 cents per sf of building has a senior exemption.
Among California’s top ten school districts Piedmont alone does not include a senior exemption.

According to the US Census about 20% of Piedmonters are over 65 and a straight senior exemption may unfairly tax young families given the very high Piedmont school tax. An income based Senior Exemption is needed; one or two per cent of seniors would qualify.

In 2012 the Board informed the public an income based Senior Exemption is not allowed by State Law yet the income based senior exemption was then and is now commonly used elsewhere. Locally income based senior exemptions are used in Oakland, Berkeley, Orinda and Moraga. State law applies equally to all school districts.

The current SSI based tax exemption is meaningless and an income based senior exemption will include any SSI recipients.

Respectfully

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Att: May 4, 2018 AUSD Press Release

Nov 27 2018

School Board Consideration of Safety Measures Wednesday, November 28, 2018, City Hall Council Chambers 7:15 p.m. 

The Alan Harvey will be closed beginning in March of 2019. Closing Alan Harvey Theater during the Spring of 2019, rather than waiting until the end of the school year, will help keep the STEAM project on schedule for completion before the 2020-21 school year. There may be questions about how starting work during the school year may affect students, staff, and campus flow.

While the District plans to demolish the theater over Spring break when there are no students or staff on campus, if the demolition cannot be completed during that week, the District will develop a schedule for the remaining demolition, to minimize the campus impact to the greatest extent possible.

Read agenda by clicking below:

https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=68232&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False

7:15 PM
VI.A. H1 Update – Safety Measures During Alan Harvey Theater Demolition

Speaker:
Pete Palmer, H1 Construction Manager
Attachments:
Background H1 Update   < Click to read

 

Nov 13 2018

Call for more community input – 

     Superintendent Randy Booker will present the idea of a School Resource Officer to the School Board at their meeting this Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 7:00 p.m., City Hall.  I would like to hear more community engagement on this topic. I think it would be good to make sure that the members of our community are aware of the various security measures being proposed — including perimeter fencing around the middle school and high school, and new surveillance cameras around town.
    The current focus on security measures is troubling to me, reminding me of a culture of fear that has developed at a national level. I sent this letter to the School Board prior to their last meeting. Please feel free to reprint.
    Thank you,
     Elizabeth Shook
~~~~~~~~~
To Superintendent Randy Booker and the PUSD School Board: 
     My husband and I are strongly against perimeter fencing and a school safety officer at Piedmont Middle School or Piedmont High School.
     With the recent threat incident at PMS, we understand that emotions are running high. However, perimeter fencing and a school safety officer would have made NO DIFFERENCE in this recent threat.
     We agree that the safety of our students is our primary concern. We believe this is a mental health issue, not a criminal issue.
     Adding a school safety officer at either PMS or PHS is a major over-reaction. The presence of police on campus has not been shown to limit or protect from past school shootings. At our secondary schools, we already have the Piedmont police department located within two blocks. Our school is located in a quiet, safe suburban neighborhood. An officer on campus would actually heighten student anxiety and tension.
     If we have the budget, we should spend the funds on additional counseling staff who can work with students with unfortunate family, social, or mental health situations. This will do more to deter future tragedy than a school safety officer.
     We call on the Superintendent and the School Board to let emotions settle, and then survey the community on this issue. Where could the money be better spent? What do the students want? What about teachers?
     We believe that our families need: 1) Clear and transparent communication from the administration about school threats – and school policies. 2) Students and families need to be taught the best response to dangerous scenarios. 3) Zero tolerance for students who make threats or bring weapons to school.
      Here are some articles about School Safety Officers that make good points:
      Putting more cops in schools won’t make schools safer, and it will …
       New York Set to Revise Role of School Safety Agents
      I am also against perimeter fencing. I feel it can actually trap students in a dangerous situation and impede evacuations.  In reality, fencing will not deter actual bad guys.
        PHS Students considered the fencing when it was first proposed in this 2016 editorial:
“Fencing the campus entirely would cost an estimated $300,000 — far more than any college education — even before implementing monitoring systems that could actually keep dangerous individuals off the property.
       “Frankly, a fence alone will not be effective in deterring an active shooter, the fear of which has been a key motivation behind the push for revamping the district’s safety measures. In the wake of tragedies like Sandy Hook, this desire to proactively increase safety is understandable, but the decision to build a fence would be reactive and incomplete. Instead of actually improving our safety, we would be cultivating the mere illusion of security, a incremental measure not worth the significant cost.”
      Thank you for your consideration.
       Regards,
       Elizabeth Shook and Denis Fung, Piedmont Residents and Piedmont School District Parents
Oct 25 2018

Mr. Titan’s Claim That the School Board “Lost” $18.8 Million Is Baseless – 

In his October 20, 2018 Opinion posted on PCA, Mr. Titan responded to my October 17, 2018 Opinion posted on PCA. It is unfortunate that Mr. Titan continues to try to bolster his campaign by unfounded attacks on the successful Piedmont seismic bond program and by claiming credit for a bond refinancing for which he is not responsible.

Mr. Titan’s response does not support his past claims (that he saved Piedmont over $26 million) or his new claim that a past School Board “lost” $18.8 million. The District’s intent to refinance the 2013 Series E Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) was stated in 2013 when the Board directed their sale, so Mr. Titan did not initiate this commonsense idea (which reduced total interest payments by $26.1 million when approved in 2017). Mr. Titan’s idea that the Board “lost” $18.8 million is based on his suggestion that voters could have approved an additional bond measure to double the authorized tax rate and significantly increased their tax burden to pay off bonds more quickly. This is not “something for nothing” financial wizardry, but a legally uncertain policy proposal that would have imposed greater burdens on current taxpayers for the benefit of future taxpayers that Piedmont voters never approved.

It is worth noting that none of the current School Board candidates served on the Board from 2006 to 2013 when the seismic bond program was approved by voters and implemented by the School District. Indeed, the 2006 Measure E, authorizing the sale of $56 million in bonds to ensure the seismic safety of our schools, and the resulting school construction, occurred before some Piedmont residents moved here. Mr. Titan has chosen to attack these past School Board bond authorizations, and to claim credit for past School Board decisions, in an effort to establish his claim of financial expertise.

As an initial matter, Mr. Titan’s effort to claim credit for the refinancing of the 2013 Series E CABs remains unconvincing. (Mr. Titan makes this assertion in his October 18 campaign email). First, the Board in 2013 clearly expected to refinance the CABs in the future—Mr. Titan did not originate the idea and thus save Piedmont taxpayers $26.1 million. At the May 8, 2013 Board meeting, KNN explained the District’s ability and expectation of refunding the CABs early. http://piedmont.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=916 at 46:00-46:50. The Minutes also so state. http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2011_12/052213packet.pdf. Second, as discussed in my October 17, 2018 Opinion, Mr. Titan originally opposed the CAB refinancing during the Nov. 8, 2017 Board meeting. Mr. Titan helpfully pointed out that he reversed his position later in the meeting, after hearing KNN’s professional advice (My apologies for missing his change of view). However, changing his view to support KNN’s recommendation and the Board’s position does not mean Mr. Titan is responsible for the Board’s refinancing of the CABs.

Next, as I previously noted, Mr. Titan did not educate the School Board about CABs or other financial instruments, all of which were discussed in public meetings from 2006 to 2013. Mr. Titan now asserts that he educated the public about such terms as “compound interest,” etc. I suspect that most Piedmonters were aware of such terms. Mr. Titan does not mention other key terms, such as tax rate, tax impact, and taxpayer cash flow, which a School Board member must consider in assessing bond structure.

The basis for Mr. Titan’s claim that the Board “lost” $18.6 million is as follows: “My proposal was not to defer the work and financing in 2013, but to use CIBs by getting a new voter authorization.” (Titan Opinion). Mr. Titan does not explain how he calculated $18.8 million and whether he took the CAB refinancing into account. Nonetheless, an important part of a School Board member’s job is to be transparent, carefully and publicly analyze potentially feasible options, and make a prudent decision that balances many competing interests. So, let’s unpack Mr. Titan’s proposal and claim.

Mr. Titan’s idea was that the Board should have asked voters to approve a new bond measure, so that bonds under that measure would be subject to a second $60/$100,000 assessed valuation (AV) anticipated tax rate limit in addition to the $60/$100,000 AV anticipated tax rate limitation on the 2006 Measure E bonds. In other words, to repay seismic bonds, Piedmonters could have been taxed up to $120/$100K AV rather than up to $60/$100K AV. As anyone with a home mortgage knows, if you pay down debt more quickly, your total interest payments over the term of the loan go down. But you must pay more in the short term.

What would the tax impact of Mr. Titan’s proposal, if approved, have been on Piedmont taxpayers? We do not have a 2013 KNN analysis of CIB interest rates, likely term, and the tax rate necessary to make payments on such bonds. For illustrative purposes, let’s consider an additional $30/$100K AV. Added to the $60/$100K AV already assessed for outstanding seismic bonds, the total tax rate for seismic bonds would be $90/$100K AV, or $900 per year for a home assessed at $1 million (this would have been added to tax payments on older bonds). But the tax impact would vary among homeowners. Young families, which may have stretched to buy a Piedmont home and have high assessed valuations, might owe much more and have trouble paying it. Seniors might be on a fixed income and have trouble paying the tax bill.

Moreover, the new school buildings are expected to serve children for at least 50 years. While some families plan to live in Piedmont for many decades, others may stay only while their children attend school. They may be more concerned about short-term cash flow than total interest payments as they would not make many of those future interest payments. If Mr. Titan wrestled with any of these concerns, he did not explain his position.

Mr. Titan’s claim has two other defects. First, Mr. Titan has not shown whether such a bond authorization would be legal. The 2013 Series E CABs refinanced existing Bond Appreciation Notes. Proposition 39 (Article XIII-A, Section 1(b)(3) authorizes school bonds for “the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities,” but does not mention re-financing other debt. KNN did not answer this question at the May 8, 2013 meeting, but rather responded to my question about a potential theater bond measure. Nor did KNN state at the October 11, 2017 meeting that the BANs could have been refinanced by CIBs without a new bond measure.

Second, Mr. Titan’s claim rests on voter approval, which is entirely speculative. Measure E itself was narrowly approved, with campaign materials indicating the sponsors’ hope that the tax rate to repay the bonds would be no greater than $20/$100K (which contemplated the use of CABs). The recession and the opportunity to obtain near-zero interest Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) required exceeding $20/$100K AV, which the Board approved after numerous meetings seeking public input. But tax rate and tax impact was a key consideration throughout the seismic bond program. Neither Mr. Titan nor any other citizen proposed Mr. Titan’s idea in 2013 in lieu of CABs. Mr. Titan did not volunteer, or identify anyone else, to run a 2013 campaign seeking voter approval of higher taxes to reduce total interest payments. Nor does Mr. Titan discuss the timing of such a campaign or election, followed by bond authorization and sale, and how it would have meshed with the need to repay the BANs.

In short, Mr. Titan’s claim that the Board “lost” $18.8 million rests on (a) his policy preference to pay higher taxes now to reduce total interest payments, without consideration of tax burden and cash flow impacts on PIedmont voters as a whole, and (b) speculation that Piedmont voters would have approved a second bond authorization, though its legality is uncertain, and no one in 2013 proposed it, no one ran a campaign to endorse it, and Piedmont voters never approved it.

Finally, Mr. Titan’s discussion of the Board’s consideration of CABs under Measure H misunderstands the fundamental responsibility of School Board members. The Board has a responsibility to identify potentially feasible options, allow public comment, evaluate feasible alternatives and make prudent decisions that it believes are in the best interests of the community. Mr. Titan asserts that having KNN present options that included CABs somehow means that the Board would have approved CABs but for Mr. Titan’s opposition. That was not the case, as Board members made clear in several public meetings.

I encourage Mr. Titan to present his views on critical issues facing the District today rather than misrepresenting what happened in the past.

Rick Raushenbush, Former Member Piedmont School Board