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


 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


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


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 12 2018

Do you want to join a fun and enthusiastic team of volunteers at Piedmont’s own thrift shop?

Dress Best for Less (DBFL) is  looking for volunteers to help at both the retail store at 3411 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and the Marking Room/Donation Center at 799 Magnolia Avenue in Piedmont next to the Piedmont Pool and across from Piedmont High School.

The Donation Center in Piedmont, 799 Magnolia Avenue across from the High School has volunteer openings:

Mondays from 10-12 and Saturdays from 10-12.


The retail store at 3411 Lakeshore Avenue has volunteer openings:

Thursdays (mornings), Friday (afternoons) and Saturday (afternoons).

Contact President Gayle Sells for more information: 510-654-6193.

With your donations and purchases, DBFL continues to be the largest single donor to the Piedmont Education Foundation. Please think of us when donating your gently used clothing and household decor, books, etc.

Thank you for your support!

May 5 2018

2018-19 School Support Tax Hearing May 9, 7:25 PM

On Wednesday, May 9 following a 6 p.m. Closed Session, the School Board’s Regular Session will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, City Hall 120 Vista Avenue. The public is invited to attend.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.   AGENDA

At approximately 7:25 pm the School Board will conduct a Public Hearing on the proposed levy of the School Support Tax, Measure A for 2018-19.

The Board will discuss and receive public input regarding the proposed levy of the school support tax for 2018-19. This is the first of two public hearings. The Board will take action on any levy after the second public hearing. The public is invited to provide comment at the Board meeting or prior to the meeting by email to the Board of Education at

A. Support Tax Subcommittee Report
B. MYP General Fund

 – The Board is requested to approve the following revised Board Policies and Administrative Regulations: 


A.BP-AR 1312.3 – Uniform Complaint Procedure

B.BP 1313 – Civility and Protections from Inappropriate Behavior

C.BP-AR 3515 School Safety – Campus Security

D.BP-AR 4030 – Non Discrimination in Employment

E.BP-AR 4119.11 – Sexual Harassment – Employee Version

F.BP -E 4119.21 Professional Standards

G.BP 4158 – Employee Security

H.BP 5131 – Conduct

I.BP 5131.2 – Bullying

J.BP-AR 5141.4 – Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Procedures

K.BP-AR 5144.l – Suspension and Expulsion Due Process

L.AR 5144.2 Suspension and Expulsion Due Process – Students with Disabilities

M.BP-AR 5145.3 – Non-Discrimination -Harassment

N.BP-AR 5145.7 – Sexual Harassment

O.BP 5145.9 – Hate Motivated Behavior

P.BP-AR 6142.12 Healthy Relationships/Sexual Violence Prevention

  VIII.A. District Reorganization

Background – District Reorganization


Superintendent Booker:
With the 2017-18 school year coming to a close, PUSD is losing three incredible administrators who have served students, teachers and staff, and families for many years. The contributions of these fine administrators are far-reaching.

 Mr. Michael Brady will enjoy a well-deserved retirement. He has served the District for the past 15 years in a variety of roles: MHS Principal, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Director of Facilities, Adult Education Director, Director of Alternative Education (including oversight of the Wellness Center), H1 Bond Program Manager, and most recently supporting Special Education. He will be dearly missed. His focus on students and the overall operations of the district is unparalleled.

 Ms. Julie Valdez will take a yearlong leave of absence. She has served the District for the past 11 years as both the Beach Elementary School Principal and the Director of Special Education. She has been an integral member of the administrative team, providing extensive insight into the needs of elementary students and leading a complex and demanding SPED program. Her compassion and empathy for students will be hard to replace for 2018-2019.

 Ms. Song Chin-Bendib will begin the 2018-19 school year as the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services in the Pacific Grove Unified School District. She has served the District for the past 4 years as both the Chief Business Official and the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. She has been incredible in keeping our finances in order during a tumultuous time in state funding. I’m appreciative of the systems she introduced and the keen oversight of our budget and operations.

Following any staff change there is a period of transition and, given the depth of experience and range of responsibilities of these three individuals, this transition will be especially challenging. Nonetheless, the District is working to ensure that these changes are facilitated as smoothly as possible.

See entire agenda  HERE.

Editors Note: The Piedmont Unified School District’s  online agenda format requires readers to download staff reports prior to reading them, which is different from PCA’s usual method of providing staff reports to readers. 

Any concerns or questions about the agenda can be sent to the Piedmont Board of Education at

May 3 2018

    Last Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the Piedmont School Board held its bi-weekly meeting to discuss a host of local affairs, from expulsion requirements and retirement benefits to early education services and AP tests. Though characterized as a run-of-the-mill meeting by various board members, it was notable that several Piedmont High seniors spoke up about issues weighing heavily on their minds as the end of the school year draws near.

    After no action was taken during the Board’s closed session, Heather Frank, Executive Director of the Piedmont Education Foundation, opened the meeting by reporting to the Board. She noted that the recent Piedmont Spring Fling netted $350,000 on top of the $2.5 million already raised, which will provide for a grant to Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) that will be larger than last year’s.

Board President Sarah Pearson expressed her gratitude for the money, which allows for luxuries such as the Maker Faire and animation classes, which are special and easy to lose sight of.

    “It sets Piedmont apart,” said Pearson.

    Piedmont Associated Student Body Vice President Anna Goldberg reported to the Board next, reminding them that at PHS, AP exams are coming up, CAASP testing just finished, Spring sports are ending, and dance and a capella will hold events over the weekend.

    Following Goldberg’s report, Pearson opened up the meeting to the public to aire any concerns. A group of PHS seniors, making up the entire audience in attendance besides Frank, took the stand one by one. Sarah Beasley requested greater recognition for Jewish holidays; Katherine Wiesbrock voiced a complaint regarding spiders in the science building; Vincent Titterton made note of “senioritis”-stricken seniors neglecting to attend study halls; and Elka Sorensen advocated for moving such study halls to the middle of the school day to avoid this issue.

    My own comment was in regard to the senior service trip to the Oakland Zoo, which I felt has not been adequately advertised to students. An important part of service-learning projects is the education that takes place before the project or trip itself. By better understanding the issues that the trip hopes to address ahead of time, I feel that the service conducted will be more meaningful.

    Sarah Beasley returned to the podium a second time to call into question the purpose of CAASP testing and raise an additional concern regarding bloodstains in the girls’ bathroom. Senior Toni Ali-Daggo was present in the audience but did not address any comments to the Board.

    Moving into its main agenda items, the Board first discussed last Monday’s adjustments to the District expulsion requirements. Piedmont Superintendent Randy Booker called the matter “perfunctory” because Piedmont has never had to expel a student. Over the past year and a half, various changes in the law have made it such that students cannot be suspended for first offenses except in grave circumstances. A new piece of legislation is expected to be passed at the state level, which will prohibit suspension for Category K “willful defiance” offenses in grades 3-12. A triennial plan for alternative education and expulsion was moved by Board member Amal Smith, seconded by Cory Smegal, and approved unanimously.

    The Board also examined an actuarial study which examined how the District retirement plan is affecting PUSD. The study was conducted by outside consultants and reviewed health, not pension, benefits. Booker explained that many District employees choose to work until age 60 because PUSD only pays for 5 years of coverage, so someone retiring at age 55 after working for ten years would not make it to Medicare age. With the new proposal, $395,00 will be paid out of the General Fund to health benefits for currently retired employees, whether they retired last year or ten years ago. Moved by Board member Doug Ireland and seconded by Andrea Swenson, the Board approved the actuarial study unanimously.

    The next agenda item that the Board discussed was measure 13-17-18 to provide additional services for childcare and early education services, which will be on the ballot in June. Almost all counties are supporting this measure, and I agree with Booker that high quality childcare for low and middle income students is important because research shows that the brain develops the most during the first five years of life, so it is critical to take advantage of this period.

    Pearson concluded the meeting by graciously expressing thanks to various individuals and groups, including the Piedmont Youth Educators, Principal Littlefield, and the Piedmont High English Department, which put on I-Search Night on Tuesday.

    Following the meeting, Heather Frank expressed her view that Wednesday was  a relatively uneventful night for the Board. “There wasn’t much of substance discussed tonight,” said Frank, adding that the heated debates over the District math pathways from a few weeks ago were much more interesting. As Executive Director of PEF, Frank is expected to attend every School Board meeting to report on all three educational levels: elementary, middle, and high school. Regarding the outspoken high school advocates, Frank cautioned that the School Board meeting isn’t really the right place to aire concerns because there is a process to put an item on the agenda. Along those same lines, Board member Smegal wished to discuss a proposal to raise Witter field in order to support a new parking garage, but Booker shot down the conversation in order to adhere to what he called the “super strict” rules [The Brown Act] regarding the agenda.

by Rohan Srivastava, Piedmont High School Senior


 School Board Meeting: Community Voices and GASB

On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the Piedmont School Board held their weekly meeting starting at 7:05 pm and ending around 8:20 pm at the City Hall. The meeting began with Heather Frank of the Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) going to the speaker stand and speaking about the annual Spring Fling on how the auctioning and bidding went better than expected and the adults were having fun with casual cocktail drinking. The PEF was able to raise $350,000 in funds for the school (which they’ll need as we continue through this article). As a final statement Frank discussed the success of the Maker Faire at the middle school and how the fair was filled with creativity from the students and workshops helping teachers to learn better methods of teaching their students.

    The meeting moved on to ASB Vice-President Anna Goldberg giving a report on the activities happening at both PHS and MHS. AP exams are on the rise while the school just finished state testing for the CAASPP and the CAST that was spanned in two weeks( two days each week). The school is also getting ready for Day On the Green that’s held for both schools just a few days before finals as a way to give students a chance to relax and have fun for a day.

    The meeting moved forward with statements from PHS seniors. Sarah Beasley spoke on how the school should consider Jewish holidays as a legitimate holiday that students have the day off from school. This would make it easier for her and other students to complete homework on time so they can enjoy their time celebrating the holiday.

      I took the stand and spoke about how the school should consider funding the track team with new uniforms because the current ones have been used for both cross country and track for years and are in need of an update. Others spoke about the bug problem in the 20’s building, teachers cramming in homework during AP testing season, moving state testing to the middle of the day, parking issue for seniors, and the need for janitors to be quicker to cleaning up messes in the bathrooms.

    After allowing everyone to make their claims, the Board moved on to the main topic at hand. Mr. Randall Booker, the School Superintendent, and his assistant started a presentation on the annual report of health coverage for retired employees called the GASB [Governmental Accounting Standards Board].  His assistant led majority of the presentation by first explaining that she and Mr. Booker must go over this report with the Board and get approval and they went over it with them. The reason for this is because it is a new law required by auditors so instead of going over the report every two years, it’s now every year they must go over the report. The report consisted of who would eligible for retirement coverage; so depending on your age and the years you worked as a teacher, you would get a certain amount of years in coverage. For example, the minimum retirement age is 55 years old, and let’s say this person worked for the school for ten years, they would then get 5 years of health coverage from the school. The issue with this is because OPEB (other post employment benefits) is the liability they have to report. The District has a debt that’s constantly rising and reporting the OPEB only attracts auditors. Each year they pay a certain amount to their employees; in the 2016-17 year, the school paid $373,945 in retirement funding.

     This portion of the meeting was concluded by a motion being carried throughout all members of the Board and all agreed to approval of having looked over the report with Mr. Booker and his assistant.

    Another motion was passed for supporting a ballot measure providing aid for children in Alameda coverage in schooling; mostly for middle/low income families.

     They moved on to each Board member saying all the events they attended since their last meeting.

     As a final piece to the meeting, Randall Booker discussed the Consent Calendar and specifically the coaches of all sports. He talked about how all coaches get paid differently depending on their position; for example, all varsity coaches get paid the same, all junior varsity coaches get paid the same, and all freshman coaches are paid the same. However, if a season goes beyond 10 weeks, they get paid more for each week outside of the regulated season. After passing the consent calendar, the meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

    After the meeting, I introduced myself to Randall Booker for a quick interview. We talked about his part in the Board meeting. He explained to me how he’s the assistant to the Board President. He gives suggestions to her to plan out the agenda for the meeting. He also explained how something that affects the District as a whole must be discussed even if the president doesn’t want to. He’s also responsible for organizing the meetings and facilitating it  by answering any questions asked. He then went on to explain his position as the Superintendent of the School District. He explained how the Board is at the top and Mr. Booker is the single employee reporting to the Board. Underneath Mr. Booker is all the employees of the District: teachers, janitors, librarians, coaches, gym teachers, etc. His assistant reports to him and she has people that  report to her and follow her orders.

by Toni Ali-Daggao, Piedmont High School Senior


Where do you go when you have a suggestion to make about the Piedmont School District? You can go to a School Board Meeting.

    One of the first items on the agenda at the School Board Meeting on April 25, 2018, was letting the audience members speak their recommendations and comments about anything in the community. The School Board meets the second and fourth Wednesday of each month to review updates in the District and issues they need to resolve. Depending on the subjects that are on the agenda for each specific meeting, the meetings can run past 9 p.m. or end earlier.

    During the meeting on April 25, the major issues covered were policies regarding high risk or expelled students, low or middle income students, and retirement benefits of District employees. According to a law that’s still processing, schools would not be able to suspend students on most 1st offenses, and in grades 3-12, schools wouldn’t suspend for willful defiance. The action taken was a change of wording of the policies, which need to be updated every couple of years.

    The second largest topic covered in the meeting was concerning the retiree benefits from PUSD. Currently, the healthcare plan for retirees covers them for 5 years after the age of 55. Because Medicare starts at age 65, most employees will work until they are 60 so they can benefit from continued healthcare after retirement. All in all, this program costs the District about $395,000 a year. Having benefits for the faculty of the District is necessary, and as long as these funds do not interfere with the well being of everyone else in the District, retirees should continue to get coverage.

    There were no other members of the community at the meeting beside a student, but I did talk to Heather Frank, the executive director at Piedmont Education Foundation. She attends all the School Board meetings to stay updated on what is happening in the district and to inform the School Board of what is happening with the PEF. According to Ms. Frank, this meeting was much less dense and shorter than most meetings, which can get much more tense or information packed. Early on in the meeting, she reviewed the recent events that the PEF has been working on to raise funds for the schools. The auctions at the Spring Fling raised a net $350,000, and the organization has already raised 2.5 million this year on top of that. Ms. Frank pointed out that many schools are having to cut funds, but what makes Piedmont unique is our variety of athletics, extra-curriculars, updated technology, and up to date teaching styles.

    Following Ms. Frank’s report, PHS ASB Vice President, Anna Goldberg, summarized the activities and events that were going on at the high school. Along with the CAASPP testing that took place the weeks of April 16 and 23, Anna also mentioned Day on the Green, which was an upcoming event for the high school.

    Next was the non-agenda topics comments. Several high school seniors went up to the podium to talk, including Vincent Titterton, who talked about reasons for senior absence during testing and ways that the school could possibly solve it. Another student, Rohan Srivastava, discussed the lack of awareness and knowledge of the senior Service Learning trip. Directly after, Superintendent Randall Booker went over the policies for % Bonuses for teachers.

    The major action at this meeting was passing Resolution 13, 2017-18- Measure A, approval of change of wording in Suspension/Expulsion policies, and approving of the Actuarial Study of Retiree Health Liabilities under GASB 74 and 75.

by Edwyna Zhu, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors
Feb 26 2018

The Piedmont Unified School District Board will meet on February 28, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. in the Piedmont Council Chambers, City Hall 120 Vista Avenue. The Board will consider policies concerning emergencies and school safety. 

To view the staff reports, readers must first click on the various items noted below and then download the information to their computers.  The School District staff reports cannot be accessed directly, as found in our typical format. 

There will also be a presentation on Update on District Training on Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice .  Read > Background – Update on District Training on Equity, Diversity and Social Justice

Presentation and Acceptance of Measure H1 2017 General Obligation Bonds Financial Audit; Presentation and Acceptance of Measure H1 2017 General Obligation Bonds Performance Audit. The District’s independent auditing firm will present the District G.O. Bonds (2017) Financial Report of June 30, 2017 and the G.O.Bonds Performance Audit of June 30, 2017. The Board will be requested to formally accept these reports.Attachments:2017 General Obligation Bonds Audit Report and Financial Statements
Performance Audit Report – Measure H1

Approval of  Safe Schools Plans for Piedmont USD per Education Code sections 32280-32289

 2018-19 Beach Safe Schools Plan
2018-19 Havens Safe Schools Plan
2018-19 PHS and MHS Safe Schools Plan
2018-19 PMS Safe Schools Plan
2018-19 Wildwood Safe Schools Plan

Review of Board Policies and Administrative Regulations 

The Board will Review the following updated Board Policies (BP) and Administrative Regulations (AR) :

1. Background – 3rd Reading of Healthy Relationships and Sexual Harassment
2. BP-AR – Sexual Harassment
3. BP-AR 6142.12 Healthy Relationships/Sexual Assault Prevention
4. BP-AR 1312.3 – Uniform Complaint Procedures
5. BP-AR 4030 – Discrimination – Hate Motivated Incidents-Hate Crime- Harassment-Bullying – Employee Version
6. AR 4031 – Complaints Concerning Discrimination in Employment
7. BP 5131 – Discipline Code – Schools Rules and Procedures
8. BP-AR 5141.4 – Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Procedures
9. BP-AR 5144.1 – Suspension and Expulsion Due Process
AR 5144.2 -Suspension and Expulsion Due Process – Students with Disabilities
BP-AR 5145.3 – Discrimination / hate-motivated incidents and hate crimes / hazing / harassment (including sexual harassment), intimidation, bullyi
Feb 4 2018
Feb 1 2018

Recreation Supervisor Marissa Clavin Resigns  –   Michael Murphy Appointed Interim – 

Marissa Clavin has resigned her position as Recreation Supervisor for the City of Piedmont effective February 1, 2018. Her resignation comes on the heels of an extended medical leave.

“It is difficult to overstate the impact of the loss of Marissa Clavin on PRD,” said Recreation Director Sara Lillevand. “We are grateful for all she accomplished here in her relatively short tenure and wish her nothing but health and happiness in her future endeavors.”

Longtime Schoolmates Site Coordinator Michael Murphy has been appointed as Interim Recreation Supervisor to fill the newly vacant position. Mr. Murphy has served the City at Havens Schoolmates for more than 35 years and understands the inner workings of the Recreation Department as well as the Piedmont community. As a participant, coach, parent, and staff member, Mr. Murphy is well suited to oversee Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD) sports programs, which is one of the primary areas of responsibility of the position he is filling. He also has a thorough understanding of PRD Summer programming and will be able to provide solid leadership during the department’s busiest time of year.

“The Recreation Department is very fortunate that Michael Murphy will assume the role of Interim Recreation Supervisor,” Ms. Lillevand stated. “His knowledge of Recreation Department programs and the community make him a great fit for this position. I am grateful for his willingness to step up and in to the role of Recreation Supervisor.”

Longtime Wildwood Schoolmates Site Coordinator Sena Weidkamp will join David Hopkins to lead Havens Schoolmates for the remainder of the school year.

The search for a permanent Recreation Supervisor will be held off until decisions about future staffing models for the department are made.

Contact: Recreation Director Sara Lillevand – January 31, 2018 –     420-3070

Jan 22 2018

School Board will consider a number of policies on sexual harassment, complaint procedures, hate incidents, suspension and expulsion at their 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Board meeting in City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  The meeting will be broadcast on Cable 27 and from the City website under videos.

Readers accustomed to one click access will find a different process for the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) staff reports.

Readers must first click on each link (noted in blue below), then download the report to their personal computers, after which the School District staff reports can be read. (See links in blue below.)

The following links go to the PUSD staff produced documents to be considered by the Board. The policy considerations are to begin at approximately 7:30 p.m.

1. Background – Healthy Relationships and Sexual Harassment
2. BP-AR 6142.12 Healthy Relationships/Sexual Assault Prevention
3. BP-AR 1312.3 – Uniform Complaint Procedures
4. BP-AR 4030 – Discrimination – Hate Motivated Incidents-Hate Crime- Harassment-Bullying – Employee Version
5. AR 4031 – Complaints Concerning Discrimination in Employment
6. BP 5131 – Discipline Code – Schools Rules and Procedures
7. BP-AR 5141.4 – Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Procedures
8. BP-AR 5144.1 – Suspension and Expulsion Due Process
9. AR 5144.2 -Suspension and Expulsion Due Process – Students with Disabilities
BP-AR 5145.3 – Discrimination / hate-motivated incidents and hate crimes / hazing / harassment (including sexual harassment), intimidation, bullying
VII.B. Presentation and Acceptance of 2016-17 District Annual Financial Report (Auditor’s Report) 

Annual Financial Report 2016-17
VII.C. Review Schedule of Board of Education Meetings for 2018-19 

2018-19 Regular Board Meeting Dates
VII.D. Approve 2017-2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding between the California School Employees Association (CSEA), Chapter 60 

8:35 PM
Speaker: Randall Booker, Superintendent
The Board will be requested to approve the collective bargaining agreement  and Memorandum of Agreement for 2017-2020 between the District and the California School Employees Association (CSEA), Chapter 60.
Background – CSEA Contract Approval
CSEA Tentative Agreement
CSEA-PUSD Memorandum of Understanding


Comments may be sent directly to School Board members by clicking their email addresses below:

Sarah Pearson

Amal Smith
Vice President

Doug Ireland

Cory Smegal

Andrea Swenson

Dec 15 2017


December 15, 2017

Piedmont Unified School District Saves Taxpayers More Than $26.1 Million with Bond Refinancing

On Tuesday, December 12th, the Piedmont Unified School District issued $27 million of 2017B General Obligation Refunding Bonds. Through the refinancing, property owners within the District will save more than $26.1 million over the remaining life of the bonds, equal to approximately $10.85 million in present value savings or 68.14% of bonds refunded. The substantial amount of savings generated from this refunding are primarily attributable to the Board’s decision to replace outstanding Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) with more cost effective Current Interest Bonds (CIBs). Refunding bonds, which are similar in purpose to refinancing a home mortgage, pay off existing debt with funds borrowed at a lower interest cost.

The refunding bonds were sold through a competitive bidding process with the winning bidder, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, submitting the lowest bid at a true-interest-cost of 3.17%. Morgan Stanley was the lowest out of 7 bidders, reflecting strong demand for the District’s highly rated bonds. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s assigned ratings to the District’s bonds at “Aa2” and “AA+,” respectively. The ratings place the District among roughly the top 15 percent of California school districts, reflecting the District’s strong financial management, steadily growing tax base and above-average economic profile.

“The Board of Education was thoughtful and deliberate during the planning stages for this refinancing and understood timing was critical as many municipal issuers fear they will lose the ability to advance refund bonds on a tax-exempt basis,” said Blake Boehm of KNN Public Finance, the District’s Municipal Advisor. The U.S Senate and House of Representatives are currently working through tax reform legislation that could eliminate municipal issuers’ ability to advance refund bonds with the pricing benefit of tax-exemption.

“The District appreciates the community’s ongoing support to our education programs and student facilities and we are pleased to have an opportunity to show our gratitude by significantly reducing the overall debt burden for homeowners.” The results of this successful refinancing reflect the Board of Education’s commitment to effectively manage its bond program and demonstrate strong fiscal stewardship of public funds. In total, the District has refinanced its outstanding bonds on six separate occasions going back to 2001, saving taxpayers more than $36 million dollars.

Randall Booker, Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District