Mar 8 2019

In honor of Women’s History Month, Dress Best For Less shares the origins of Dress Best for Less.

In 1982, Wendy [Webster] Willrich, along with Jeanne Clark and other mothers of Havens Elementary School children, started collecting clothing and household items to sell to the community in order to raise money for the schools. This was the genesis of what would later become Dress Best for Less.

The enterprise quickly outgrew the space at the school and decided to open the Dress Best for Less shop at its original location on Piedmont Avenue where the store remained for almost 3 decades until moving to its current location  at 3411 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610. 

For 37 years (and counting), DBFL has raised funds for the Piedmont Education Foundation.  DBFL is the single largest contributor to PEF, with donations totaling over $1 million dollars.

In addition, DBFL is proud to contribute to the community at large, regularly donating to community groups in the East Bay and beyond, such as Bay Area schools, St. Vincent de Paul, animal rescue organizations, Oakland Children’s Hospital and more.

To this day, Dress Best for Less remains a woman-run organization. The bulk of the DBFL team are volunteers, most of whom are mothers of current and former Piedmont School children.  DBFL is living proof of what a few dedicated and driven woman can accomplish.

Donations are always needed.

Marking Room:
799 Magnolia Avenue,
Piedmont, CA 94611
Phone – 510-653-0221
Monday – 10:00am – noon
Tuesday – 9am – 4pm
Wednesday – 9am – 4pm
Saturday – 10am – noon

DBFL Store:
3411 Lakeshore Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

510-658-8525
shopdbfl@gmail.com

Tuesday-Saturday
11:00am – 6:00pm

Information> http://dressbestforless.org/

Mar 8 2019

At the Capital Improvements Project Review Committee (CIP) meeting a request concerning City funding for better court surfaces at Piedmont Middle School (PMS) was made by Rick Schiller, Pickleball enthusiast.

At their March 5, 2019 meeting, the City Council appeared positive concerning new asphalt at PMS. The Tennis/Pickleball sub-committee report contains the specific recommendation for Pickleball.  Sub-committee Chair Steve Roland spoke in support for City funding of new asphalt and Pete Palmer, in charge of Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) facilities, stated PUSD has no issue with this,  but the School District has no funds to pay for resurfacing of the courts.

“While bids are not finalized, about $60,000 gets us a new asphalt surface – no cracks! – with new poles.  About another $85,000-$90,000 gets a tennis court quality overlay. The three courts at each of the three PMS venues are too cramped and the best option is likely striping two Pickleball courts parallel to the three badminton courts, if that can be worked out. The green on white striping at Oakland’s Bushrod courts works well.”  Rick Schiller

Traditionally past projects approved by CIP have had partial private funding.

The Eight month trial at Hampton and Linda-Beach Courts will have a neighbor survey in 4 weeks from the start of Pickleball usage.

Mar 6 2019

In 2013, our current flat rate per parcel School Tax was passed by voters to replace the previous Tax based on a five tier parcel size levy, a modestly progressive tax. Our School Board expressed sincere regret at eliminating the progressive tax but believed it had no choice other than to tax all parcels regardless of size at the same rate because of the 2012 Boricas v Alameda USD Appeal’s Court decision.

Of the 3,921 School tax parcels in Piedmont, 76% of Piedmont homes are on parcels under 10,000 square feet (“sf”). These taxpayers previous $1,989 and $2,260 tax became $2,406 in 2013, a 6% to 21% increase.  Owners of undeveloped parcels went from $1,009 to $2,406, a 238% increase. However, a small percentage of taxpayers benefited as owners of large parcels, commercial buildings and multi-unit buildings saw reductions of 7% to 80%. Some large commercial buildings previously taxed at $5,052 went to $2,406, a 52% decrease. 20,000 sf lots went from $3,378 to $2,406, a 29% decrease. A multi-unit building went from $11,907 to $2,406, an 80% decrease.

A progressive tax based on per square footage of building space is used in Alameda and other districts. The current Alameda tax passed by 74% in 2016 was challenged in 2017 on the validity of levying a tax on building square footage. Mar 4, 2018, the Alameda Schools per square footage of building tax was found legally valid in Alameda County Superior Court. Jan 31, 2019, a California appellate court validated a local agency’s special tax calculated on the basis of square footage of improved structures (Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional).

Piedmont Schools previously embraced a partially progressive tax and now has an excellent progressive tax option that is far more equitable by using building per square footage. I propose the following progressive tax:

(1) Tax will be at $1 to $1.05 per square foot of building size. The District will determine the exact rate needed to provide funding at slightly above the current level.

(2) $4,999 will be the maximum tax for any building.

(3) Currently some multi-parcel estates are subject to multiple taxes and some are subject to one tax (GC 53087.4). So that all multi-parcel estates are treated uniformly and given that many multi-parcel estates have large homes that will be assessed at the maximum tax, a contiguous parcel exemption will be included. No property owner for a single home will pay more than $4,999.

(4) $1,099 will be the rate for unimproved lots.

(5) A 2% annual cost adjustment will be included.

(6) The tax may include an income based senior exemption at a rate to be determined so as not to cost the District more than 2% of the what the total tax revenue would be without this exemption.

(7) Compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions will be included. These are not aged based.

        Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Feb 28 2019

On February 27, 2019, the Piedmont School Board voted 4 – 1 to reject a grant to place a School Resource Officer – SRO – (Armed Police Officer) in Piedmont’s secondary schools. School Board President Amal Smith supported the SRO grant. 

Hearing SRO opposition statements by numerous students, teachers, parents and community members, the Board made the decision to reject the SRO grant devised by Police Chief Jeremy Bowers and Superintendent Randall Booker.  The grant had been applied for prior to consultation with and acceptance by the Piedmont School Board and Piedmont City Council. To accept grant funding for the SRO, Board and Council approval is required. 

There was a complaint concerning lack of notice prior to Board consideration and insufficient community involvement regarding the SRO proposal.

After rejecting the grant, the Board undertook an off-agenda discussion regarding redirecting efforts to reach school goals. 

Interest in obtaining a full time Piedmont police officer assigned to the Piedmont schools was brought up by Board member Andrea Swenson. 

Superintendent Booker appeared unwilling to give up the concept of an SRO; however, upon hearing the emphasis on additional professional opinions and greater community involvement to solve identified problems, he informed the Board the upcoming grant deadline meant grant amendments would be difficult to obtain. 

It was unclear if Superintendent Booker would or would not  be coming back to the Board with a new approach to gain grant funding through a revised proposal.

Feb 12 2019

February 11, 2019

Randall Booker, Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District – 760 Magnolia Avenue – Piedmont, CA 94611 rbooker@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Robert McBain, Mayor, City of Piedmont, 120 Vista Avenue – Piedmont, CA 94611 rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov

Re: Retention of Police Officer to Serve Full-Time in Piedmont Unified School District

Dear Messrs. Booker and McBain:

I write to you on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Piedmont. Our organization supports the importance of transparency in local government and a high level of education within the Piedmont Unified School District. It is our understanding that the Board of Education will be voting during its upcoming February board meeting on the issue of whether to employ a full-time police officer in the school district as a School Resource Officer. We are also informed that should the Board of Education approve the employment of this officer, the City Council will then vote on whether to approve this position since the officer would be a member of the Piedmont Police Department.

Our League Board has discussed this issue and we believe that a decision by the Board of Education and the City Council on this matter is premature at this time, and as such, would be counter to our positions on local government and education.

Specifically, we are concerned with transparency and the ability of the Board of Education and the City Council to make an informed decision on this matter with the information currently at their disposal. For example, we are concerned there is a lack of information surrounding the explicit objectives of having a police officer on school campuses, what training the officer would be required to fulfill, what weapons the officer would carry or retain on campus, what the officer’s objectives would be, how success or failure will be measured, and what consequences may arise for the students as a result of having an officer on campus. These are just several among many unanswered questions that we feel should be addressed prior to any formal decision-making processes and, in fact, long before students, teachers and parents are surveyed on their views on the issue of hiring such a police officer to serve in the schools.

We thus urge both the Board of Education and the City Council to exercise due diligence in gathering information about both the benefits and potential consequences in hiring a School Resource Officer, and to fully communicate and share information with all stakeholders in this community about these details before holding any formal vote on the matter.

Sincerely,

Nancy A. Beninati,President, League of Women Voters Piedmont

Feb 11 2019

For school year 2019 -20, Piedmont’s School District faces a drop in Elementary School enrollment. Middle School enrollment will also be down. (See attached chart in downloadable staff report.) The elementary students could be reassigned to equalize class sizes between the three elementary schools. Or, students living outside Piedmont may be admitted to fill the classroom spaces.

When space is available, students may be admitted, under certain conditions, from outside of the School District based on the state law called >“Open Enrollment”. Under the law, students from underachieving school districts may be allowed to transfer into higher achieving school districts based on classroom and teacher availability.

Implications of Program Capacity

“The District’s programmatic capacity as defined [in the staff report] will be utilized in making decisions about the placement of resident students who, in some cases, must be redirected to sites that are outside of their neighborhood school zone when capacity will be exceeded. In addition, programmatic capacity will guide the District’s ability to accept or deny and place inter-district transfer requests [students from outside of the Piedmont Unified School District].”

School District Staff Report

The School Board will consider the enrollment and capacity issue on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 8:45 p.m. in Piedmont City Hall Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue. READ the Agenda below for timing: >https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=70531&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False . The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos of the School Board meeting of February 13, 2019.

VIII. INFORMATION/DISCUSSION 
VIII.A. Enrollment and Capacity Study 
Time Certain:8:45 PM Speaker:Randall Booker, Superintendent READ Downloadable Staff Report: >Background – Enrollment 
Feb 4 2019

City Council Consideration of Police Officer in the Piedmont schools.

Draft minutes of the January 7, 2019 City Council meeting to be considered Monday, February 4, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. :

“Police School Resource City Administrator Paul Benoit indicated that the Police Department had applied Position for and received a grant from the State of California to possibly fund a School Resource Officer (SRO) position. He indicated that the application timeline for the grant did not allow for City Council or the Board of Education to discuss the possibility of a SRO prior to the application. Mr. Benoit recognized that the application for and receipt of the grant was ahead of preferred sequence of events.

“Mr. Benoit stated Chief Bowers and Piedmont  Unified School District Superintendent Booker would conduct public outreach and return to the City Council and Board of Education for determination of whether or not to accept the grant and establish the SRO position.

“Mr. Benoit indicated that the grant offered a grant opportunity and, should the Board of Education and City Council choose to move forward, a discussion would need to take place before the grant funding expired as to whether the program would continue and how it would be funded.

“Chief Bowers summarized his and Superintendent Booker’s discussions for a SRO and discussed existing programs offered to students by the Police Department. He indicated that a reliable and consistent presence in the schools is necessary to foster true and trusting relationships between students and the Police Department. He informed the Council of the duties and effectiveness of an SRO.

 PUSD Superintendent Randall Booker stressed the importance of assigning appropriate tasks to the SRO, and the dangers of involving a SRO with school discipline. He discussed the importance of hiring the correct person for the position, ensuring that they have core values of service and education. He provided statistics on the need for caring adults on campus and a stronger, positive connection between students and officers.

“Chief Bowers explained the grant funds, which would cover the first three years, and discussed the proposed community engagement. Chief Bowers indicated that he and Superintendent Booker would visit schools as well as parent and community groups to discuss and hear feedback on the proposed program. They would then return to the Board of Education and City Council, which will decide whether to establish the program and accept the grant.

“Public Testimony was received from: Sunny Bostrom-Fleming indicated support for an SRO and commended Chief Bowers for applying for the grant.

“Tonda Case, Co-President of Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee, questioned whether a SRO was an appropriate solution for Piedmont. She suggested increased public engagement and outreach to determine if a SRO is necessary.

“The Council acknowledged the work of the Police Department in applying for the grant. They commended the relationship between the City and the PUSD. The Council agreed with the proposed outreach program, making suggestions as to how outreach could be most effectively undertaken. The Council requested the Board of Education make a decision on whether it wanted to pursue the program before the matter is brought back to the Council for consideration. (0785, 0765)”

Communicate with the City Council:

Robert McBain, Mayorrmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayortking@piedmont.ca.gov
Jennifer Cavenaughjcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov
Tim Roodtrood@piedmont.ca.gov
Betsy Smegal Andersenbandersen@piedmont.ca.gov

 To send comments to  all Councilmembers > citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us. To send via U.S. Mail, use the following address: City Council, City of Piedmont, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611

Communicate with the School Board:

Amal Smith, President, amalsmith@piedmont.k12.ca.us
Cory Smegal, Vice President, csmegal@piedmont.k12.ca.us
Andrea Swenson, aswenson@piedmont.k12.ca.us
Sarah Pearson, spearson@piedmont.k12.ca.us
Megan Pillsbury, mpillsbury@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Jan 21 2019

The goal of this year’s Giving Campaign was to raise $2.5 million in the fall of 2018. Residents from across Piedmont rallied like never before and contributed a record $2.8 million, a 13% increase from last year’s results.

Giving Campaign Raised $2.8 Million, Largest Amount Ever for Piedmont’s Schools

Press Release
PIEDMONT, California — The Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) is thrilled to announce the results of the 2018-19 Giving Campaign, the annual fundraiser to support Piedmont schools. Funds raised by the campaign help to maintain low student to teacher ratios as well as essential programs including libraries and librarians, art and music, teachers, S.T.E.A.M. training, electives, A.P. classes, counselors, and special education support.


The Giving Campaign received donations from 1255 families and individuals, an 11% increase from the 2017-18 Giving Campaign. Additionally, two-thirds of all families of students in the Piedmont Unified School District contributed to the Giving Campaign and more than 95% of members of all six School Parent Club Boards donated with one Board reaching 100% participation.


Heather Frank, Executive Director of the Piedmont Education Foundation, is grateful to the community for its exceptional support. “We reached more people this year through marketing and personal asks,” said Frank, “but I think the main reason for the increased success is that the Piedmont community has done the research and understands the unprecedented needs of our schools. Piedmont schools have a rigorous, robust and inclusive program. This community knows how special that is and will work to maintain it.”


Robert McBain, Mayor of Piedmont and a former Board Member of the Piedmont Education Foundation, is also pleased with the campaign’s stellar outcome. “Congratulations to the Piedmont Education Foundation, Giving Campaign organizers and all of the volunteers for producing this great result. Truly impressive,” said McBain. “I always remain grateful for the generosity of our community in supporting Piedmont’s great schools.”


The success of Piedmont’s Giving Campaign comes amid a backdrop of challenges for California’s public schools. “Without the Giving Campaign, our schools would look very different,” remarked Randall Booker, Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District. “California has failed to provide school districts with sufficient funds to pay teachers appropriately. The continued growth of the Giving Campaign shows how much the Piedmont community values our teachers and our students.” Notably, funds raised by PEF from the generous community last year helped ensure that Piedmont teachers would have a raise for the first time in years.


Cortney Allen and Nicki Gilbert, parents of Piedmont students and the volunteer Co-Chairs of the 2018-19 Giving Campaign are exceptionally proud of the results. “Thank you to all the parents, grandparents, empty-nesters, Parent Club Presidents, and other community members for their support and generosity,” said Allen and Gilbert. “More than 50 parents volunteered to help with this year’s campaign – a true grassroots effort!”


The Piedmont Education Foundation invites all residents of Piedmont to join in a Giving Campaign Wrap-Up Celebration on Friday, January 25 at 3 p.m. at the Exedra Arch in Piedmont Park. Hot chocolate, courtesy of Mulberry’s Market, will be served. For more information on the Giving Campaign, go to www.piedmontedfoundation.org/donate/giving-campaign.


About PEF, Piedmont Education Foundation, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustained financial support. Led by a 25-member volunteer board of directors and supported by a professional office staff, PEF oversees the Giving Campaign, Spring Fling, the Student Directory, and much more. Visit PiedmontEdFoundation.org to learn more.

Jan 9 2019

The City Council at their January 7, 2019 meeting discussed at length a proposal by Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers and School Superintendent Randall Booker to use grant funding for three years to install a sworn and armed police officer in the Piedmont Unified School District, who would be assigned to the Piedmont High School and Middle School.

Praise was given to Bowers for seeking grant funding.  The Council had not previously been involved in seeking the grant and wondered if the money could be used for other than a Sworn Police Officer (SRO) in reaching community and school goals.  The answer was no.

After taking community input, a target of bringing the matter back to the Council in March was suggested.

Some notions expressed were:

  • Armed officer in the schools – good or bad
  • Ability to afford an SRO following the grant appeared difficult
  • Need to learn more about SRO effectiveness from other schools
  • Potential for allinating minority individuals
  • Having a snitch on school property
  • Downside risks
  • Other methods of achieving goals
  • Current experiences within the Piedmont schools
  • Training necessary to achieve expansive job description

The Piedmont School Board and City Council must both agree on a SRO.

There were requests for greater outreach to the community prior to making the decision, which is targeted in the next few months in hopes of having a SRO for fall 2019.

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