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School district's red ink brings pink slips

Original post made on Mar 5, 2009

Layoff notices are going to 137 teachers and others such as librarians and counselors who have teaching credentials after the School Board ordered the elimination and reduction of many programs by a unanimous vote Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 5, 2009, 11:48 AM

Comments (13)

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm

I wonder how many jobs would have been spared if the School Board hadn't spent $7M to build Monte Vista students a four acre parking lot? Or better, how much more money the district would have made if they had sold the reduced-rate property to developers at the 2007 market rate? Several millions at least.

I'm sure my second grader would benefit much more from a smaller class size, a staffed library, and a music program, than a parking spot when he's 16. Booooo SVUSD!


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Posted by Todd
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 7:43 am

Too little too late. What about a 10% pay cut across the board to save some of the programs and jobs? There are lots of ways to cut cost and they are reacting too late. Music programs are important, counselors ( Los Cerros ) need to go. Dont feel bad about that one. This parcel tax will fail so if they are smart, they will make the cuts today and not count on that money. If they get it, they will be in better shape. Will be painful but cuts should have started months ago.


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Posted by Scott J
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

California is now ranked 50th in terms of dollars spent educating each child K-12. Mississippi squeaked past us into 49th place. We should all collectively be ashamed at ourselves for allowing this atrocity. IMO, this is not the time to squabble over past decisions and give the anti-education proponents more ammunition to defeat that parcel tax. Any and all of us that believe in the value of education need to put the politics aside and do all we can to get that parcel tax approved.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 7:50 am

The school district could have saved over the past two years approx.$600.000. in energy if they had agreed to retrofit to energy efficient lighting that would have cost them nothing. How many jobs and books is that?


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Posted by Beth B
a resident of Sycamore Valley Elementary School
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

Thank you to Scott J for your post! You are absolutely right. California as a whole should be ashamed that we spend the least amount per student in the fifty states. People can go on and on about mistakes made in the past, but we need to focus on the present and the future. We have a new superintendent who is pushing hard to give our students the best education we can. I encourage everyone to go out to the SRVSD website (Web Link) and click on the Budget tab to see how money is being allocated. If you don't think it's going to the right programs, show up at the School Board Meetings and express your opinion. We need to pass this Parcel Tax (Measure C) to help protect our children's education now and in the future.


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Posted by Todd
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:50 am

I am not going on about the past. I think they are slow to react and should not count on that parcel tax going thru. I do go to the meetings and my wife is the past PTA President at two schools plus countless hours of classroom work and doing what ever they need. We gave up an income so she could be with the kids and help out at the schools. What gets me is that there are 25% of the parents that work hard and make an effort and the other 75% just drop off their kids. That is where the problem is. Add a % of those parents, the retired or no kids in school and I dont see this tax going thru. I think its foolish to count on that tax as they are doing. I believe more cuts still need to be done, its going to get worse until we hit bottom and that will not be for 7 to 10 months. Property values will drop in Danville another 20% and so will thier tax base. Everybody should be in survival mode at this point.


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Posted by R. Desai
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

I am also disappointed in where California stands in US on amount of dollars spend per kid, considering the property taxes collected might be highest in nation. Now, I am fine with some of the cutbacks as long as it doesn't impact the academics. There are certain simple changes that we can make that will not only help our school district but every scool in US. For starter, Why does the text books have to be printed hard-bound and on some of those preminum pages ? I bet it is costing $50-$60 per text book if not higher. If they were printed on soft bound and maybe recycled paper or something like that, the cost of books would reduce. I have even heard that in some schools, there are two copies per student. One set for home and one set for school. So far I haven't seen this practice with my schools my kids are attending, but have heard so for some of the friend's kids (non-SRVSD). Maybe the board needs to look around and see how can we get cost effective (and I don't meet giving pink slips)


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Posted by Dismayed
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:07 am

I am extremely hesitant to give the Board another parcel tax increase when they've let me down so many times in the past with their lack of fiscal prudence and absence of long-term planning. I don't think most people even realize how decisions have been made in the past, but I've been to many Board meetings, and some of the Measure A bond money meetings, and I can tell you it was incredibly disappointing.

5 years ago, the Board raised $170M in bond money. When the funds were released, it was a free-for-all amongst Board members who wanted their pet projects completed first. Joan Buchanan wanted to buy a 7 acre parcel of land for Monte Vista so it could build a 4 acre parking lot and another sports field, Bill Clarkson wanted to tear down and rebuild most of Cal High (which was undoubtedly needed, but the scope of the project doubled from what voters were told) . . . When construction costs were rising uncontrollably, the Board refused to scale back already bloated projects, they just cut out ones promised to voters and said they would simply ask voters for a third round of bonds, and so who cares?

One of the more memorable and shocking times I experienced occurred during a Board meeting, and former Board member Joan Buchanan was challenged about using general fund money (the cash we use to pay teachers and buy books), on top of the Measure A construction money, to build the Monte Vista parking lot. In response to criticism, she waved a dismissive hand and said she expected another parcel tax would make up for any shortfalls in general revenue.

I once listened as a CPA who advised the Board recommended different conservative investment tools to grow revenues. The Board politely explained that they spend the money they have, they don't invest it.

When our leaders (many of whom are still on the Board) have failed so miserably in the past to carefully manage its money, failed to prioritize spending, and failed to be accountable to the voters, what business do they have claiming another parcel tax and more money will solve future problems? Without a sound, long-term plan in place, one they WILL ACTUALLY FOLLOW, I have no faith.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm

President Obama signed HR 1 (the relief bill) last month. The bill specifically includes 53 billion for the states to use for education programs and to prevent teacher layoffs.

Does anyone know how much California is getting and how much San Ramon Valley School District is getting?

If not, who does?

Does the SRVSD proposed budget include a place holder for these expected federal funds?


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Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Danville
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:42 pm

What will it take for the SRVUSD to learn to budget appropriately and responsibly? They allow a principal to stay who allegedly misappropriated funds, build a parking lot instead of giving that money towards education and once again are asking us to dig a little deeper in our pockets. It's time for fiscal responsibility, not another parcel tax.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Danville
on Mar 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I didn't vote for the last parcel tax -- there, I said it. Now let me tell you why. I know a little bit too much about how the money flows in this district, and it isn't always pretty. I have been at countless PTA, Education Fund and Site Council meetings, and have been actively involved in the schools for over 7 years. Often times, I would hear the phrases, "we've always done it this way," "last year, we . . .," or "that won't work because. . . "

I think many parents fear standing up and really being heard because they fear repercussions from the school. Yes, that's right, if you actively and open oppose the status quo, it's not a pretty picture. Why do you think this is submitted anonymously?

I'm all for go along to get along . . . EXCEPT when it comes to my kids and the quality of their education.

At many schools there are private "Education Funds" that parents pay into (around $200-300 PER STUDENT collected at the time of registration). For the most part people see it as a necessary part of the school's landscape. Others balk at paying for "public education." This money goes into a particular school's "pot of money" at the district. Those funds are used to "externally fund" people and programs not covered by the District. If you live in Alamo or Danville, often times this money provides music, art, teacher's aides and other one-time-only expenditures to enhance the educational landscape at that school. Not all schools in the District have the same level of parent support, so your child gets the benefit (or doesn't) based on where they go to school. Further, the District doesn't set specific goals for these private school funds to follow.

In a time when the District is thinking of cutting Music, Art, Sports, PE, Librarians, Counselors, etc., we need to get strategic in our thinking and come up with a long-term plan and then STICK TO IT.

What hasn't been publicized is that the VERY powerful teacher's union won't even come to the table for discussions until after the Parcel Tax election. What hasn't been put on the table (but was rightly suggested by Todd), is a reduction of pay for teachers which would allow them ALL to keep their jobs and KEEP some of the programs currently on the chopping block. I know some teachers would love to explore that option rather than lose their jobs.

While the District has made strides by committing to a citizen's oversight committee for the parcel tax funds and agreeing NOT to spend the money on administrative salaries, what is conspicuously absent is the committment NOT to spend it on Certificated teachers' salaries either.

Did you know that the programs and positions on the chopping block cost the district FAR less than the Certificated Salary teacher. This is because of the salary and benefit package the teachers in our district receive. If memory serves, when attending one of the town forums, teachers' salaries and benefits amount to over 60% of the entire district's annual budget. By cutting a mere 3% from that piece of the budget pie would make up for the revenue lost when the current parcel expires -- plus a little more -- WITHOUT the need for another parcel tax. We have been spending down our reserves for a while now, and the previous parcel tax did not account for increases in years 2 - 5. This means that our district has far less cash reserves in place than it did at the time of the original parcel tax.

There are solutions to be had, but everyone will have to lose their own self-interest in favor of what is best for our children. A pay increase for a teacher, while nice for the teacher, doesn't keep Art in the schools. A teacher's aide, paid for by a schools fund, while a "perk" for the teachers, doesn't keep music in the schools. Yes, yes, I know -- teacher's aide can help by breaking classrooms into smaller focused groups to the benefit of everyone in the class. Would you consider that those struggling in the classroom could be served by "intervention" programs, programs that already have specific dollars designated for their use? Would you consider that not all teacher's use their aides in this way? Did you know that some teachers use their aides to grade their homework, run photocopies, etc. (things which teachers in less-privileged district do on their own)?

The bottom line is that teachers in SRVUSD have it pretty good. They are well-paid, receive good benefits, and have a multitude of parent volunteers at their disposal, many of which contribute thousands of extra dollars to their school through auctions, donations, etc. We have updated textbooks, our kids go to modernized schools.

What the proponents of this parcel tax want you to believe is that we will lose teachers to other districts if we don't stay competitive with our salaries. I think teachers who wanted to leave for more money would have already done so. We have consistently been a bit below the area average when it comes to teachers' salaries. What makes teachers come to the district and stay in the district are all the things I mentioned in my previous paragraph.

Let me close by saying that I am "PRO" education and pro-teacher. What I am against is unfocused spending, lack of strategic planning, and the tight grip of the teacher's union. Should teachers be paid more -- ABSOLUTELY! Should they get more at the expense of valuable programs for our children -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I will be voting for the parcel tax, not because I believe in the District's ability to spend and plan wisely, but because the price that our children will pay if it doesn't pass is too high to bear.

I will be watching and if the parcel tax passes, you can bet I will attend every single Board of Trustee's meeting to do my part to ensure that the money is wisely spent. I can't do it alone folks. If anything I have said in this emails rings true for you -- GET INVOLVED!!!!!!!


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Posted by MAD PARENT
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 13, 2009 at 8:33 am

This last comment is the real problem, well said.

I'm not anti Union, but I believe Unions belong to factory workers and trades, not teachers. And yes the powerful union has lots to do with the current state of the district. I'm a pro teacher person, but not pro union at the expense of students.

Looks to me from a quick look at the budget, that the teacher salary increase is an issue. How is it possible that the private sector has to do without increases, but the sacred teachers are slated for what appears to be a 2.9 increase? yes a Year to Year increase projected to 2010 ...... If I have this wrong please correct me.

The district has not taken many steps seriously reduce energy spend, and become more efficient from what I can see. There are many districts that have taken advantage of simple energy retrofit projects with quick payback periods, why!!.,.Yes it's a smaller portion of the budget, but why is not SRVSD on the same track as others.

I've been involved personally in District Capitol Projects, and the waste is flabbergasting, "Bond $$ Free for All" when you look what it takes in the private sector to build, v district.

No Parcel tax for me, until the district can be responsible with the budget.




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Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Apr 28, 2009 at 6:15 pm

I keep having my comments erased. I'm sorry my opinions are too real for people to take. Your censorship won't stop me. I went to los cerros and monte vista. I'm 27 and I think 75% of the teachers were total losers. I remember my math teacher used to flirt with the 8th grade girls and hide behind the projector screen like a 4 year old. We don't need more money. We need less teachers. When my parents went to school, there were fifty to ninety kids per class, and they learned more. Why? Because everyone shut up and listened. We need discipline in the class. One way to break down discipline is to amp the kids up on sugar. We should not have candy and sodas sold in schools. The teachers unions fought getting rid of jumk food in schools because they want to tax it to give the money "to the schools," ie: to them. They don't give a damn about the kids. Their demands for smaller class sizes is because that means we have to hire more teachers. By the way, we already have plenty of money being sucked from our property taxes to go to our schools. The problem is, we don't spend it on our kids. We send it to Oakland and Richmond, on bilingual education for illegal immigrants and group home kids who murder our children (Rylan Fuchs.) No doubt, 90% of the extra money that they wish to take from us through prop C will within a few years be allotted to other schools.


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