News

School board OKs lease for cell tower at Cal High, with a catch

High school math books, parcel tax committee updates, teacher turnout among other meeting topics

The San Ramon Valley school board endorsed a lease agreement with Verizon Wireless on Tuesday to allow the telecommunications company to install a cell antenna on a California High School light pole, but the board added a caveat to the contract proposal that could send the deal back to the negotiating table.

Board members supported the idea of allowing Verizon to replace an existing football stadium pole with a new one containing wireless communication equipment -- a first in the district. But, at the urging of board member Denise Jennison, they incorporated a contract provision asking the company to pay for annual radio-frequency tests around the site.

"I just think as a reassurance to our community, for those who may not have complete faith or might be skeptical in any way," Jennison said in support of her proposal Tuesday night in Danville. "I understand (Verizon) has to comply with federal regulations, and I think that's great. I think we trust, but verify; that's what we do."

District staff is now set to meet with Verizon representatives to see if they would agree to pay for the testing and sign off on the amended agreement, or instead present a counterproposal.

The idea of leasing light pole space to cell companies has been discussed by district officials for a couple years, and in March 2014, the board signed a non-binding letter of intent with Verizon for the project at San Ramon's Cal High, according to Gary Black, assistant superintendent of facilities and maintenance.

It would be the first cell-tower project for the district.

The Verizon project received minor use permit approval from the city's planning department in November 2014 and was endorsed by the Division of the State Architect last September, Black said.

The lease agreement with the school district calls for the wireless company to cover the costs of the new pole, plus $25,000 to replace or upgrade the light fixtures on the pole, located on the northeast side of the football field. The company would then lease the space from the district for $26,400 per year, with a 2% annual increase available.

The lease would begin with a five-year term and could be extended up to four additional five-year terms. Verizon would have to comply with all current and future radio-frequency regulations during its lease, Black noted.

Jennison said she also wanted Verizon to pay for annual emission testing to assure residents that safety standards were being met.

She said she was initially opposed to placing cell equipment at Cal High when the concept was introduced in 2013 but changed her mind after conducting research on radio-frequency emissions.

"And when you actually find out the truth, you realize that there are no detrimental effects for our students, for our staff, for our neighbors surrounding this area," she added. "I think there's a lot of bogus science out there that is misleading people."

Bill Hammett, the district's consultant, told the board that when his firm calculated emission projections, the highest reading at any point near the Cal High cell equipment would be 50 times below federal standards.

He said his firm would charge about $1,200 per test for the type of annual review Jennison advocated, but he noted it would be up to Verizon to choose a firm if it were footing the bill.

The board voted 4-0 to approve the lease agreement with Jennison's testing provision and direct staff to discuss the amendment with Verizon.

Board member Ken Mintz recused himself from the board's discussion and decision because he works for AT&T. No citizens attended the meeting to discuss the Cal High project.

In other business Tuesday

* Gregory Duran, district math coordinator, led a presentation on high school mathematics instructional materials.

Next year, the district plans to use materials from the company "Big Ideas" for algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry, with a combination of hard-copy textbooks and web-based instructional texts. Duran said students in district focus groups preferred having hard-copy books available for math classes, as opposed to online-only.

District officials support using the newest editions of current board-adopted materials for precalculus, calculus and statistics, but Duran noted they may need to look into new instructional platforms for personal finance and regular statistics courses.

The proposed math materials are currently available at the district office for mandatory public review before adoption, Duran said.

* Board members approved a recommendation from the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee to change the accounting coding method by which expenditures are charged to Measure C parcel tax revenue.

The new method is less complex and more direct, allowing financial reports to clearly show revenues and expenditures related to the $144 annual parcel tax, according to Scott Anderson, the district's chief business officer.

Later, the board received an update on the selection process for Parcel Tax Oversight Committee members. Four committee seats are set to expire March 1 and each incumbent is eligible to reapply.

District officials said they put out a public call for candidates this week and set an application deadline of Feb. 12. The board is expected to consider making appointments at its March 22 meeting.

* Board members endorsed an expenditure plan for nearly $2.4 million given to the district through the state's educator effectiveness grant program, which awards districts $1,466 per certificated employee full-time equivalent position.

The one-time funds, which must be spent by June 2018, aim to provide support for beginning teachers, professional development for current teachers and administrators, and efforts to encourage educator quality and effectiveness, according to Toni Taylor, assistant superintendent of educational services.

The spending plan includes $1.1 million for Common Core professional development coaches, $440,000 for employee benefits, $250,000 to school sites for professional development and $147,000 for three days for new teacher orientation between 2016-18.

* Board members passed a resolution designating Feb. 1-5 as Words Matter Week in support of the district's ongoing effort to make its schools safe for students and free from bullying behavior.

The resolution states that during the week, "district schools, classrooms, teachers, students, parents and the broader community be encouraged to engage in a variety of awareness and prevention activities and curriculum designed to make our community safer for all children and adolescents."

Nationally, 30% of elementary students report being bullied or called names at school and 26% report witnessing name-calling, according to the board resolution. County data show more than 70% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender middle and high schoolers heard homophobic remarks, 80% were verbally harassed and 55% experienced electronic harassment, the resolution stated.

* They also adopted a resolution declaring February as African American History Month in the district and urging "all schools to commemorate this time with appropriate instructional activities." This year's history month theme is "Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories."

* Ann Dodson, principal of Tassajara Hills Elementary School, gave a 25-minute presentation on the education methodology and recent programs and activities at her campus, which is located on Camino Tassajara near Blackhawk.

* The board also approved the district's 2015-16 library plan update.

* More than 100 San Ramon Valley teachers attended the meeting -- most donning red clothing or accents and some holding signs -- to show support for their union negotiators amid bargaining talks with the district.

The teachers union has asked for a 6% ongoing salary increase, plus a one-time payment of 4% of members' annual salary this year, but the district bargaining team thinks those figures would leave the district fiscally vulnerable and have countered with an offer of a 4% salary raise and 2% one-time payment, plus other incentives.

It's the second straight board meeting with dozens of teachers wearing red, but this time board members heard from seven teachers who shared their personal stories and insights about why the 6% raise is needed.

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Unite
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 15, 2016 at 7:24 am

"...The teachers union has asked for a 6% ongoing salary increase, plus a one-time payment of 4% of members' annual salary this year..."

Hold out for what you believe in, teachers!


4 people like this
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Jan 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

6% every year is RIDICULOUSLY LARGE! That's 6% compounded income.

How much BETTER is your teaching getting every year, year after year?
How much more valuable are you than you were the year before at doing the job of teaching basic info to students?
What makes you worth a raise every still year for the rest of your working life?

It's like, if you show up for work, then you deserve a raise.
And if you show up next year, you deserve more.

No wonder our society is so screwed up. We're all being taught from the cradle by entitlement freaks!


5 people like this
Posted by District Teacher
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

PSMacintosh, ongoing does not mean a 6% raise every year. It means a permanent 6% raise. The language is to clarify that it is not a one time payment.

Last year was the first year in 8 years that SRVUSD teachers received a raise from the district. The 6% being asked for is in recognition of that.

How sad that you think teachers do nothing more than teach basic information to our students.


Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Jan 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

District Teacher,

Well, thanks for the clarification that the raise wouldn't be compounded annually. That's a relief to hear!
Please tell me, how long of a period will that 6% raise be good for? How long will it be until the next unionized request for raise?

As to your comment, "How sad that you think teachers do nothing more than teach basic information to our students." How would you characterize the level of information that is being taught?

But don't try to pull the wool over my eyes.
I've seen the dumbing down of the curriculum and the study requirements.

And I've seen some of the "teaching":
For instance, I've seen a PE class held on the tennis courts of one of our local High Schools, where 50 kids were in their street clothes, most standing/sitting around the perimeter of the courts doing nothing, while a few played at playing paddle ball, with little to no intensity, sometimes without scoring, sometimes just waking the ball as far and hard as they could, most bored out of their minds, some vandalizing the court surfaces and nets, and the PE Teacher gone after the first five minutes and not visible until 45 minutes later. No kids were even breaking a sweat....and, of course, none were taking showers afterwards.
And that's just a PE class--essentially worthless, time filler!

Don't try to tell me that CA schools have gotten better over time.
Many schools are teaching to the lowest common denominator--the foreign immigrant student that can't speak English and is years behind our courses. That's where the money is going.

And how many times have the school books been changed and hordes of new ones purchased.
Has the mathematics of Algebra I and II changed so much over time. Has it changed at all in the last 30 years.
Why do you need new books? (Because its taxpayer money.)

And please explain what this is:
"The spending plan includes $1.1 million for Common Core professional development coaches..."
Please explain WHY there needs to be 1.1 million for coaches, especially if the teachers are doing the job in the first place?


1 person likes this
Posted by District Teacher
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 18, 2016 at 10:23 am

PSMacintosh,

I teach 8th grade English and US history. I try to make my curriculum as rigorous as possible. Students read a great deal in my class. We learn about the events from history and connect them to current events today. I push my students to become better speakers, listeners, and thinkers. I think if you visited classrooms throughout the district at various levels, you'd be impressed by the rigor.

As for the textbook issue, there are multiple things involved. First, textbooks don't last forever. Students can be rough on textbooks, and when you have a class set of 30 books that you've had in your class for 8 or 9 years, they definitely start to show their age. The second issue is content. Content changes as teaching changes. Teaching is not a static profession. How many teachers teach now is not how classes were taught 30 years ago. And I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. Teaching evolves and progresses just like any field/profession in America. Do you want doctors to operate as they did 30 years ago? Do you want your car to be built as it was 30 years ago? We accept and applaud innovation in every other sector of America. Why not education too?

Lastly, the Common Core professional development is partially dictated by the state in earmarked funds. Coaching comes from teachers having time to go to various sites and provide ideas, lessons, and guidance to other teachers in the district. The positions are called "Teachers on Special Assignment" in our district and these teachers are given that position for a year or two in lieu of being in the classroom.


9 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 18, 2016 at 9:26 pm

PSMacintosh, you spent at least 45 minutes watching children with great interest during PE???


Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Jan 18, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Longtime Resident,

You have a sick mind!
And you obviously didn't get the level of disgust that I had in watching this pathetic PE class....and my resultant sympathy for the kids.

1. I had other legitimate reasons for being in that area for that time.
2. But, while I was there,yes I was interested in seeing the level of education that our kids were obtaining at the time. (Now I am less interested--as my kids are through the system, but still generally concerned for the rest of humanity.)

Maybe if YOU were more caring and concerned about others, then you'd spend some time investigating the classes yourself.

However, you should know going in that, regardless of their lip service to the contrary, the school administration and teachers do not want the parents around their classes and schools to see what really happens in an uncensored fashion.

Don't question or challenge the system. It's not open to that. It's not setup to even allow that.


1 person likes this
Posted by District Teacher
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 19, 2016 at 10:47 am

PSMacintosh,

I can only speak for my school, but we welcome parents to class whenever they'd like. Needless to say, it needs to be something that they sign in as a visitor for. We can't just have parents and adults dropping in without having a visitor badge, but we do welcome them. I'm curious what your experiences have been in your attempts to visit classrooms that make you feel as if you were not welcome. That's unfortunate to hear.

Also, in regards to what you witnessed with the PE class, there could have been numerous factors in play. Could there have been a sub? Could the class plans have had to been changed at the last moment due to equipment issues?


1 person likes this
Posted by District Teacher
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 19, 2016 at 10:47 am

PSMacintosh,

I can only speak for my school, but we welcome parents to class whenever they'd like. Needless to say, it needs to be something that they sign in as a visitor for. We can't just have parents and adults dropping in without having a visitor badge, but we do welcome them. I'm curious what your experiences have been in your attempts to visit classrooms that make you feel as if you were not welcome. That's unfortunate to hear.

Also, in regards to what you witnessed with the PE class, there could have been numerous factors in play. Could there have been a sub? Could the class plans have had to been changed at the last moment due to equipment issues?


7 people like this
Posted by JRM
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Jan 19, 2016 at 11:45 am

The key words for PizzMac's rant are "vandalizing the courts and nets".
He and a group of old codgers think the tennis courts are primarily theirs to use and have behaved accordingly for years. I agree it is a little weird for him to observe for such a longtime and feel he has the right to make negative comments and judge others. I remember reading "Dennis the Menace" growing up and Pizzmac's numerous posts on youth and education always remind me of "Mr. Wilson" and his crusty jaded view of contemporary life.


8 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 19, 2016 at 12:42 pm

PSMacintosh, I asked a simple question. You're the one who became extremely defensive and I am the one with a sick mind?


Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Jan 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm

"Could there have been a sub? Could the class plans have had to been changed at the last moment due to equipment issues?"

District Teacher,

Those are reasonable ponderings.
But, no, it was not a Sub, I know it was the regular PE Teacher. And it was the regular class location, equipment, and program/instruction.


9 people like this
Posted by Kimo K
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 21, 2016 at 9:50 pm

I wanted to voice my concern as a registered voter, a parent and concerned citizen of San Ramon regarding the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) Board's failure to communicate, in a manner which would indicate not only due diligence and transparency, but also an honest, good faith effort to communicate such a controversial and hot button topic such as the recent approval on January 12, 2016 by the Board to install a cell tower on the school grounds at Cal High.

Based on discussion with other parents, I am finding that many parents with students at Cal High were unaware that this process was even taking place! Parents of incoming 9th grade students had zero knowledge. And if one goes to the SRVUSD office to share their concern they will be told essentially that it's too late, it's a done deal, the tower is going to be installed.

Also, in the news article by Jeremy Walsh dated January 14, 2016, he writes, 'No citizens attended the meeting to discuss the Cal High project.' Didn't you, the SRVUSD Board, at any time think it odd that there were no parents concerned enough to voice an opinion about an issue which has met stiff resistance by parents and concerned citizens in other Districts in the region?

One could assume the silence equates to acceptance of the Board's action and approval OR may give an observer with a more critical eye the impression that the lack of response is due more to the Board's failure to communicate in an effective manner which would invite it's constituency to be part of the process, especially regarding a decision which could potentially affect the health of the students and staff conducting school under this new cell tower.

The SRVUSD Board should do the right thing and revisit to allow parents and concerned citizens, whether it be 1 or 1,000, whether for or against, an opportunity to voice their opinion about Board approval to allow GTE Mobilenet d/b/a Verizon to install a cell tower on school grounds at Cal High.

Are other school sites within our District next? This is an EPIC FAIL by the SRVUSD Board. It is your dedicated teachers, principals and admin staff at your school sites that make this District shine. Some would argue that their success blinds us to business happening behind the scenes at the District level.

This is your opportunity to do the right thing - to regain the trust and confidence of us voters who put you there. Don't dismiss concerns regarding the safety of your students and staff for the sake of business and expediency. You owe it to your constituents. You owe it to the parents. You owe it to the students and you owe it to the dedicated teachers and admin staff at Cal High. Do the right thing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Diablo
on Jan 29, 2016 at 4:59 am

"Also, in the news article by Jeremy Walsh dated January 14, 2016, he writes, 'No citizens attended the meeting to discuss the Cal High project.' Didn't you, the SRVUSD Board, at any time think it odd that there were no parents concerned enough to voice an opinion about an issue which has met stiff resistance by parents and concerned citizens in other Districts in the region? " Well Jeremy is right in my opinion.

Sarah

Web Link
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