New majorities took control of both, but there are key differences. Pleasanton is flush with cash with deep reserves and enviable cash flow.
The opposite is true for Oakland which led a prior board to vote to close five elementary schools. The stats on Oakland are simply awful. It’s about the same size as Fremont Unified in terms of student count despite having shed 15,000 students over the last 20 years. It has twice as many schools as Fremont with high schools with 200-300 students—that’s less than half of the size of Pleasanton elementary schools.
Oakland has had a terrible management problem, both with senior staff and trustees. Stats show it has more schools per student and the third most teachers per student of any district in California. It has the lowest salaries for teachers despite spending more on salaries than 85% of comparable districts.
The result is the district struggles to hire qualified teachers and, despite those favorable instructional ratios, only 35% of the students were proficient in English and just 26% in math.
The board’s ill-advised, to put it mildly actions, could put Oakland back under state receivership. To layoff credentialed teachers, districts must notify teachers by March 15, a deadline that is roaring upon them. Of course, the new trustees need to realize the error of their ways and be willing to take an honest look at the situation instead of papering it over with rose-colored glasses.
One of my readers challenged me about why I didn’t write more about the council’s decision to abandon the plans for redoing Lions Wayside and Delucchi parks. Frankly, I forgot that there’s a different audience for the digital blog than the print paper in which Publisher Gina Channel Wilcox commented in her column about the decision.
In short, plans date back 30 years and the city adopted the master plan in 2014—yes, nine years ago. The original plan called for putting the creek in a culvert as it is when it runs from Kottinger Creek, under the Kottinger Gardens project, Second and First streets before emerging into a deep open channel at the northeast end of the park. The various wildlife agencies objected and it took until December 2021 to receive approval for a re-routed creek.
The city asked for public input on the design and received hundreds of comments through three public sessions and a survey. Clearly, there’s lots of interest.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, Mayor Karla Brown and three council members dumped the entire plan—after 30 years mind you—citing costs. There was no true cost estimate—it was at best a scribble on a napkin—and the action that the staff was recommending would have allowed the next steps to firm up a cost.
Now, barring a public outcry and a change of position, the park will remain pretty much as is—a bad decision.
The Tri-Valley’s vibrant life sciences economy scored another win earlier this year when Inscripta bought Sestina Bio LLC, a Pleasanton-based firm. The companies earlier had joint ventured a microbial strain that produces a synthetic version of a natural skin care compound as reported by the San Francisco Business Times.
Sentina was headed by CEO Bill Colston and Ted Tarasow, both veteran managers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before they moved into private sector life science companies.
Their first venture was QuantaLife that licensed a technology from the lab. That firm also brought together Serge Saxonov and Ben Hindson, the founders of 10X Genomics after QuantaLife was sold to Bio-Rad Laboratories. Colston and Tarasow then founded HealthTell which they left in 2018 to move to iCarbonX with Colston as chief operating officer and then president. He departed that to found Sestina with Tarasow.
You can see the entrepreneurial power that comes with serial founders such as Colston and Tarasow. When he announced the sale, he noted that a “grizzled CEO” is looking for a great company to join.
That’s great news for the innovation ecosystem here in the Tri-Valley.