On May 10, the Board for the first time disclosed the proposed contract that had already been approved by the teachers and other union members. This agreement broke all precedent, agreeing to 2 years of raises in advance, versus only for the current year, which is the standard practice for most California districts. I had serious concerns about both the length and size of the contract, which unfortunately were borne out by the budget shock just 2 months later.
First, let me state the obvious – to waive the two-meeting rule on this item would have been a real mistake. Unfortunately even proposing it has raised concerns about transparency and community process that hurt the District with the community.
Second, the decision you are considering tonight is incredibly important, one of the two or three most important the Board makes. Salaries for the certificated and classified staff are by far our biggest expenditure, and in turn, that staff is by far our District’s more important asset. So it pays to be very thoughtful here, especially since we are looking at making a 3-year commitment instead of the usual 1 year.Read more
Former PAUSD Trustee and Board President Barbara Klausner spoke at my campaign kickoff event on August 28. Her words were very kind, but also very thoughtful about what makes a good school board member and what PAUSD needs right now.
Let me state this as clearly as possible.
Todd Collins needs to be elected to the Palo Alto school board. To borrow from a popular phrase, “He is the secret sauce.” He will bring cohesion to the board as a governing entity.
I’d be happy to stop right here, but this is Palo Alto so I better give you some facts.Read more
On August 23, the Board again talked about how to handle the surprise $3.3 million budget deficit, mostly repeating what had been said the last time. I delivered these comments at the meeting:
I want to continue to express my concern about the Board's handling of this budgeting mistake and resulting deficit. As I said at the last meeting, I'm concerned that the Board is not approaching this issue with the appropriate urgency, especially for a public agency entrusted with the taxpayers’ money.Read more
We have a crowding problem in middle school. That is hard to argue with. But building a new middle school would, ironically, do NOTHING to address the problem we have today, and by the time we got it built, five years from now, it would address a problem that will have gone away. And devoting resources to studying it will distract us from more pressing and important issues we should be addressing right now.Read more
I'm very concerned. I'm concerned that we are still not framing the issue correctly, and still not squarely facing the unpleasant fact that we have quickly gone from a record surplus to a multi-year deficit. I respectfully disagree with Ms. Mak that we’re not sure if we have a structural deficit.
Under almost all plausible scenarios, which I will pass around, in a few years we could run deficits of $10M a year, and cumulative deficits of $40M or more - far more than our reserves - which would result in drastic cuts and ballooning class sizes. Ms. Mak’s scenarios assume no staff raises for 5 years. This is just unrealistic, and would in fact be counter to our core values.Read more
Overall, I think the major conclusion of the secondary committee - that our schools are "too big" - is not compelling. I think important evidence has been overlooked and in some cases omitted, that important questions have not been answered, and some of the analysis, if improved, would yield different conclusions. I'll provide details to the Board, as I have to the secondary committee.Read more