News

'Yes on A' campaign raises more than $46,000

Contributors include current and former Palo Alto school board members, elected officials, community members

The "Yes on A" campaign in support of the Palo Alto schools parcel tax measure raised $46,047 through March 21, with Parent Teacher Associations, community members and the California Teachers Association kicking in the largest donations, according to campaign finance reports filed with the county Registrar of Voters.

The campaign has been rallying support for Measure A, which would raise the $638 per-parcel tax that voters now pay by $120, to $758 per parcel. The tax would begin on July 1 and last six years with 2 percent annual increases, the same as the last parcel tax increase that Palo Altans approved in 2010.

According to the campaign's latest finance filing, which covers the period from Jan. 1 through March 21, contributors to the "Yes on A" campaign so far include numerous of the elementary and middle schools' PTAs – Nixon, Barron Park, Hoover, JLS, Jordan, Palo Verde, Juana Briones, El Carmelo, Escondido, Hoover, Ohlone and Walter Hays – as well as the Palo Alto Council of PTAs. All gave $999 each.

The largest donation yet, $1,875, comes from the California Teachers Association (CTA).

Former school board trustees Barbara Mitchell and Dana Tom have also contributed $1,000 and $365, respectively.

All five of the current school board members did their part: Terry Godfrey gave $750; Ken Dauber, $250; Vice President Heidi Emberling, $500; Camille Townsend, $100; and President Melissa Baten Caswell, $250.

Numerous community members made $1,000 contributions, including community volunteer Robin Reynolds, former Partners in Education (PiE) president Elaine Hahn, real estate investor James Baer, Kevin Elfrusy of Accel Partners, real estate broker Tim Foy and Adobe Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ann Lewnes.

Several local and regional elected officials have jumped in to support the campaign as well, including Councilmen Marc Berman ($100) and Cory Wolbach ($100), former mayor Nancy Shepherd ($250) and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian ($365). Match.com founder Gary Kremen, who won a seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board in the November election, donated $375.

Local real estate agent Lydia Kou, who was edged out by Wolbach for a City Council seat in November, donated $146 for a "Yes on A" kickoff party.

The campaign has so far spent $13,565, mostly on lawn signs ($4,160), online and mobile advertising with this newspaper ($1,830) and office expenses.

Measure A ballots were sent to voters last week for the all-mail ballot election. The registrar is encouraging voters to return their ballots as soon as possible to allow enough time for them to be received by Election Day, which is May 5. Ballots can be mailed in or dropped off at various locations throughout Palo Alto on May 5.

The last day to register to vote in this election is Monday, April 20. To register online, go to registertovote.ca.gov.

Comments

41 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

No on A. Not now. Not ever. Not until there is accountability. The school board will continue to ask the voters for more and more money without putting caps on salaries and benefits for teachers and administrative staff, some of whom are the highest paid in the Bay area. When will it end?


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

How does PA justify a $30,000 discrepancy between average teacher salaries favoring Palo Alto vs Menlo Park?

Probably the same way the city justifies paying about 40 city employees more than $200,000 in straight salary plus retirement benefits plus bonuses plus housing allowances. If anyone has a copy of last Friday's PA Post listing the citywide salaries, please post the highlights!


9 people like this
Posted by Influence of City Manager
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:10 am

It's sad that the City Manager's big spending habit has been taken up by the School Board as well. The reputation of our city government is actually lower than you may think. The National Citizen's Survey 2014 shows that trust in the city staff is quite low.


28 people like this
Posted by J A R
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:25 am

J A R is a registered user.

No on Measure A. This is an example that taxes never end. This parcel tax started in 2010 (I think) and is slated to end next year but now we are threatened with reduction of social services if we do not continue with this tax.

How can the school board, in good conscious claim that the loss of these funds will result in the reduction of counseling for our troubled youth. This should be one of their highest priorities not the first casualty in spending reprioritization.

There is not a lack of funding but a lack or priorities and will.


39 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:26 am

Why do we need to extend and even increase a temporary tax that was brought forward during tough times? In fact, I want to know, were the salaries of administrators affected during those tough times? How much do we spend on 25 Churchill and school administration in general? Someone asked on his post and McGee has not answered.

Just for comparison:

Superintendent base salary PAUSD:

$295,000 for 224 days of service (not for a whole year)
+ $750/month car allowance
+ expenses
+ $1,000,000 zero interest rate loan for a house
etc

Salary of a PAUSD "classified manager IV" top scale $150,996
plus $2,627 for each career increment after 3 years at Step 10, etc.

Top High School principal for 220 days per year $162,274
Top Elementary principal for 212 days $144,675

Again, for comparison:

Salary of the Governor of the great State of California (as of 2012, prob similar now):
$165,288 per year

Absolute top salary of the most experience level of federal JUDGE incl 35% locality pay for San Francisco Bay Area (full year):
$168,700

California State Attorney General (there may have been an additional 5% pay cut since) - per year (365 days):
$151,127

Highest paid state attorney general in the nation, New York
$179,000


We have many, many administrators most residents couldn't even name making this much. How much does Churchill cost us? How much is that relative to what we pay for teaching? What mechanisms exist to adjust the top and administrative costs, for example, when we had cutbacks from the state a few years ago, were administrative salaries adjusted down the way the governor's salary was adjusted down? I supported the tax to help retain our teachers then, in fact have always voted in favor, but not now. I agree, we need to see accountability, including removal of some of the old guard who should have left with Skelly.

McGee's post said he was willing to answer questions, but that question was asked and he didn't answer.

I will vote NO on Measure A, and to any ask for more money unless I see some answers and accountability.


23 people like this
Posted by 21 year resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:33 am

The city and school district are two completely separate government agencies. Previous writers seem to be confusing the two as one agency. I just want to clarify that point for any who may be misled by the previous comments.

I am supporting Measure A. Palo Alto's teachers are compensated better than some other area districts and less well than other area districts. Teacher compensation in any public school district depends a lot on level of experience. I don't know enough about Menlo Park's teacher base to comparatively evaluate compensation.

I do, however, know that our community's children benefit from the smaller class sizes we have today because of our existing parcel tax which is set to expire. I know that our teachers are generally quite good. (Of course, there are some duds. There are some of those in any large organization.) I know our children benefit from robust programs and support in science, math and the arts that exist because of our existing parcel tax which Measure A will replace. I know that our students also need the additional mental health professionals that are promised with the parcel tax.

Measure A will get my vote. I don't see how holding the parcel tax hostage is helpful to anyone. This is money we need RIGHT NOW. You will only force the district to try again with another very expensive ballot measure later--a waste of time and valuable human resources.

Let's get this done. Please join me voting YES on Measure A


29 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:35 am

From the Harvard Business Review:

Does more pay equal better performance? Or can higher salaries actually demotivate, causing what's called the "justification" effect?
Web Link

One study in particular was interesting:
"when employees are focused on external rewards, the effects of intrinsic motives on engagement are significantly diminished"

In a school district, we rely on the intrinsic motivations of employees to safeguard and do what's best for children, first and foremost. When we throw more and more money at the administrative arm, that actually hurts that intrinsic motivation -- something many parents have complained about for years in one form or other, in how administrators destroy trust and engage in behavior in conflict with the best interests of children.

What mechanism do we have to correct this? We don't seem to have one.


33 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:45 am

@21 year

I am not confusing any other governmental agencies and our school district. I am comparing the salaries and compensation packages of other public servants with FAR more responsibility, many in high cost areas like ours, with our school district pay.

I don't have any quibble with paying our teachers well. I have a huge quibble with paying a huge top-heavy, inefficient and often obstructive administration so much money, money that could be spent on our kids, or hiring BETTER administrators for far less.

We have no mechanism to do anything except ask the community for more money, we don't seem to have any mechanism to examine, restructure, adjust down when appropriate or for performance, our administrative costs, and hence we are paying not what is objectively way out of proportion for a top-heavy administrative structure.

First, let us have some accountability there. Then, let us see where these enormous tax receipts from the upturn are - the Weekly already reported that the district's accounting of those are always too conservative, so we always end up with money at the end of the year even in a downturn that isn't spent well or on district priorities (see the Weekly editorial advising caution on this tax).

Speaking of City Council - we pay our Councilmembers a token $600/month, essentially an honorarium. They are volunteers, with a lot of responsibility. And yet the council of Bell, California, was being paid over $800,000 some of them before it was stopped. At what point do we say "stop" when our assistant superintendents that almost no one can name except where they have done serious damage to families are making so much more than federal judges in the same high-cost areas?

I'm voting NO, and to ensure the message is heard, as other people have expressed, I will be sending a short note to both McGee and the Weekly explaining why.


16 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:46 am

correction, of course I meant:

We have no mechanism to do anything except ask the community for more money, we don't seem to have any mechanism to examine, restructure, adjust down when appropriate or for performance, our administrative costs, and hence we are paying what is objectively way out of proportion for a top-heavy administrative structure.


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:49 am

@ JAR, "This is an example that taxes never end."

Actually goes back to 2001: Web Link

Rolls around every five years at a higher dollar amount.


22 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

For further comparison:

Superintendent base salary PAUSD:

$295,000 for 224 days of service (not for a whole year)
+ $750/month car allowance
+ expenses
+ $1,000,000 zero interest rate loan for a house
etc

That is pay for a partial year. If you prorate based on a full year, our Superintendent's annual salary is:

$480,692

For comparison: Annual salary of the President of the United States:

$400,000


The superintendent pay is literally just the teeny tiny tip of a big, fat, top-heavy iceberg.


32 people like this
Posted by In good conscience
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 15, 2015 at 12:35 pm

You may well end up getting my money - but you will not be getting my vote.

I have finally had it with the "decision-makers" (used lightly) - the inaction, the arrogance that contributes to defensiveness, lack of creativity and the waste of time and $$ - the annual junkets to Harvard "summer school" for administrators; years and years that pass without action on simple but important decisions that affect student health; refusal to follow the state constitution (knowingly charging for summer school for years); in times of severe crisis the sad revelation of who truly holds the power. No. Too much (and too little) has gone on for years.

I cannot in good conscience vote to give these "leaders" more $$. I simply have lost confidence in their ability to make good decisions. I believe Dr. Magee and Dr. Herrmann, Godfrey and Dauber offer new hope - but with the old guard that surrounds them...I'm sorry, I just can't vote yes.

A little less arrogance, a lot more humility, a demonstrated commitment to the greater good in decison-making, nose to the grindstone and I'd have voted as I've done many times before. But not this year.


2 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 15, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Online Name

You said "How does PA justify a $30,000 discrepancy between average teacher salaries favoring Palo Alto vs Menlo Park?"

Just wondering where you get your inaccurate information? When I go to Web Link the latest data shown is for 2011/2012. According to the data displayed (again for 2011/2012) for everyone to see the average salary in MP is $90,271 versus $85,721 in PA - neither of the figures include any benefits. Of course the MP district is an elementary district whereas the PA numbers include high school teachers. I think high school teachers are generally paid more than elementary teachers.


18 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 15, 2015 at 1:53 pm

The article points out a fabulous list of local politicians and union members anxious to keep the milk flowing. Surely they'll starve... The school district has become addicted to the 'extra' supplemental tax revenue which originally was put in place to help the district during recession, and just kept sucking and kept sucking and kept sucking and now its necessary, mandatory, and even damaging to our students if we refuse? Enough is enough.

How did they manage to build a structure of programs and overhead so fat that it outstrips this boom real estate property value and building growth?

Just for yuks... someone above said the first supplemental property tax was in 2001, and its been renewing every since... In 2000 the house we live in sold for 650K, at 1.5% property tax would be 9750 per year. In 2015, the comp houses in the neighborhood are selling for 2.6M. at 1.5% property tax would be 39,000 per year. How is the school district who's funding comes from our property taxes not reaping some pretty enormous benefits of housing market turnover since 2001? And by the way, student population then was about 10,000, now, what is it, about 12,000? Even at 20,000 (which its not) it would only be 100% increase.... 300% increase in prop tax with a 20% or even 100% increase in students? Something like that? Now, not saying all houses turned over and brought in that increase, but remodeled houses also get property tax reset (ours did), and there's been a huge turnover in houses since 2001. plus all kinds of building... So yes, there's been a very significant increase in prop tax . Can we see the quantification of this somewhere?


22 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 15, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Lee Thé is a registered user.

In terms of student performance, as shown on standardized tests, outside of Asia, Finland ranks first.

Unlike those Asian schools that do marginally better, Finnish students don't have to study day and night--they get to have lives.

Finland pays its teachers more, expects more training of them, but doesn't hold them hostage to student test scores. They're evaluated by their own principals.

Yet Finland's school system cost Finns a fraction of what American schooling costs.

The secrets:
1. Each class has two teachers--one for the class in general, one for the students having trouble keeping up. Which also solves the class size issue.

2. It has ONE SIXTH of the non-teaching staff American school districts have.

3. No athletics--athletics are all in the purview of the city where the school district is--and all the cities have athletics programs for kids.

(There's a Dan Rather special on the Finnish educational system that you can see on YouTube)

Palo Alto has six times the non-teaching staff it needs. But it will never voluntarily give up this top-heavy fiscal drain.

The solution for student suicides (of which there were none in my own school years, in a district with far less funding than this) is more psychologists to help students "adapt" to getting too little sleep and too much homework? How about letting then get more sleep and giving them less homework? Or am I being simple-minded?

PAUSD is spending $300,000 on a special election. There are only two reasons to hold a special election: (1) An emergency situation requiring immediate action, such as a cataclysmic earthquake. (2) an issue that might not pass in a general election, that depends on the smaller overall vote, of which the zealots will be a larger proportion of the total. That is, the people putting on a special election want to game the system; they believe they'd lose if everyone voted. And as far as I can tell, they feel no shame whatsoever in doing this. Of course, that's the sign of a zealot, regardless of which wing they're on: a belief in their own personal moral perfection.

One more point: parcel taxes are regressive, Reverse Robin Hood measures that soak the poorest residents (apart from oldsters who can ask for an exemption) for the benefit of the richest. My neighber in our condo complex who's a city employee living in a Below Market Rate (BMR) condo pays exactly the same as Steve Jobs' widow pays.

Note that the Palo Alto Weekly's Measure A coverage is mostly a blog by Steve Levy that appears with his photo on the Featured Blogs page. Nothing opposing the measure is allowed there. This thread, on the other hand, can only be found if you look for it diligently, and it's not labeled as anything other than a news item, as opposed to the blunt advocacy of Levy's blog.

So please help keep the thread visible by adding posts. Otherwise it looks like the Yes side is the only side--especially since there's no "No" argument on the ballot. (I'm also curious why there's no "No" argument on the ballot. There's certainly opposition to the measure.)


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Alphonso - I'd love to see much more data as well. Revenue, costs, salaries, and multi year histories of each. I found this PAUD PDF which has 2014-5 data. It says the average salary is $91,841. Each teacher apparently costs an additional $25k in benefits beyond their salary as well. That should be enough to go learn Schoology, right?


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Oops, here is the link to the PDF:

Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Wow! It's like a veritable Who's Who of people who benefit from our tax dollars.

No surprises here.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:33 pm

@Lee Thé -- Finland's suicide rate is 25% higher than the US.


5 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:58 pm

"Finland's suicide rate is 25% higher than the US"


... And Finland is still lower than Palo Alto by 20x.

(2000%)

Some of which is due to long periods of darkness.(them, not us)


I love the comparisons to Finland because every group can cherry pick data for their own benefit:

- "Finland has less overhead and admin"; Finland has highly independent teachers who operate with less oversight.

- ... Yeees, BUT Finland hires it's top 1/3 for teachers, we hire the bottom 1/3.

- They deliver excellence with higher skill and much more training, less homework as a substitute for teaching

Basically applying their model to our population won't work. It is a massively different set of people and skills. Given the union, we cannot change the people or skills.

So we can see that the site-based experiment kinda tried to give great independence to the teachers. And that has been squandered.

Can we all admit that was a failure , and go back to the job of oversight? The only purpose for higher levels of government is to manage the screw ups in lower levels of government.

The days of the board abdicating power to sites and teachers is over.

We're not Finland, and won't be. But we could be a pretty good Palo Alto with a little work and oversight.


22 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm

First, I request that people stop hiding behind their pseudonyms and sign their posts. One critic has enough time to post six messages, but is afraid to let anyone know who he is. If you want me to read your free speech, sign your name.

Measure A funds staff, primarily teachers that reduce the class size but also counselors, librarians and others. The exact uses of these parcel tax funds are spelled out clearly and distinctly:
Web Link

The student population here in PAUSD continues to grow. We do not get any per-pupil funding in PAUSD, and we get very little help from the state or federal governments. Most of our school funding comes from property taxes, which DO NOT go up with property values unless a house is sold. Yes houses sell, and yes they sell for high prices, but many of the homes in Palo Alto are paying property taxes on a much lower (Prop 13) valuation and pay much less in property tax than a new homeowner.

84% of the PAUSD budget is allocated to salaries. If the current parcel tax expires, the school district will have no other option but to lay off teachers and counselors -- there is no other way to reduce the overall expenses in a unionized work force. The teachers who are laid off will be the last hired, not the hidebound teachers who resist change and technology.

I urge every Palo Alto voter to support Measure A. The parcel tax directly funds teachers, who keep our class sizes smaller than districts around us. The parcel tax directly funds counselors, who are fighting to improve the daily lives of our students. Teacher layoffs and thirty kids per classroom are a bad way to rail against the machine, regardless of how you feel about the city's employees or the state of America's youth.

Measure A funds people who make our schools better, and the roles they play are spelled out clearly in the document at the link above. Don't let anyone convince you that cutting the funding for our schools is going to make our students' lives better. It will inevitably make them worse.

George


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"How can the school board, in good conscious claim that the loss of these funds will result in the reduction of counseling for our troubled youth."

This is called the Washington Monument Strategy. Whenever the US Park Service was threatened with a budget reduction they responded by saying that they would have to close the Washington Monument.

Good managers don't cut important and needed programs but rather they cut the things that have grown lack barnacles on the hull.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Reason is a registered user.

"Good managers don't cut important and needed programs"


... so what do we have?


12 people like this
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 5:58 pm

In the famous words to Jose, "No Way!".


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Do we have any organized No on A effort?

Do we have a group of interested parties willing to work on this? Do we even have a Facebook page?

Apart from word of mouth (which I am trying to do) very few voters really know the cons to this, apart from high school parents.


9 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm

@George,

Maybe you are new to this forum. Just so you know:
1) If one poster uses multiple names, the Weekly deletes the posts and says it's because of the use of multiple names. Sometimes when the threads are really long it can be difficult to remember what online name people used, but as long as you are upfront that you posted before and then continue to use the same name, they may allow that. But multiple names to appear like different people gets deleted. In fact it's hard for two people in the same home to post to the same thread, unfortunately.

2) One of the biggest reasons for unhappy parents is certain people in the district office and even a few teachers who retaliate when parents complain. So don't expect people to use their names unless you are willing to stand up against those people in the district office and rid us of the culture of retaliation and intimidation whenever parents bring up any problems that need work to solve.

The pro-rated annual salary of our district administrator is greater than the salary of the President of the United States, and over three times the annual salary of the Attorney General of the State of California, and nearly three times the annual salary of the Governor of California.

It would be one thing if his salary stood alone, but we have a very large gaggle of administrators making large amounts of money compared to public servants in other sectors with far more responsibility, and no mechanisms to rein in the waste or even hold them accountable for their performance TO THE COMMUNITY (who are treated like mushrooms... mushrooms on a cash machine).


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Sometimes when the threads are really long it can be difficult to remember what online name people used"

The simple solution is to use your own name. It is easy to remember what you said if you tell the truth.

"In fact it's hard for two people in the same home to post to the same thread, unfortunately."

Not if they are both register users.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Lee The

"I'm also curious why there's no "No" argument on the ballot."

It could be because in order to get placed on the ballot, with argument, rebuttal, etc. someone would have to put her/their real name(s)--not an online identity, on the record. Check these threads to see the genesis of the "No on A" movement. Can you identify the leaders of this online campaign? What names would you expect to see in the ballot information booklet?

I can already picture the response. "No one dares to step forward because they or their child will be retaliated against." That won't wash. There are lots of people posting "No on A" who make clear that they no longer have children in the system. They could step forward without fear of retaliation if they were willing to do so.


17 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

Final push!! Thanks to the people who are working tirelessly to support Measure A!

You make this community great. I am proud to stand beside you and support our teachers and students!


17 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:15 pm

@ Jerry Underdal,

Oh, don't be ridiculous. There is no formal No on A campaign, as evidence by the above person looking for one. The elections people don't go out and solicit arguments on a ballot, they have to be submitted within some tight time period after the ballot is put in or qualified. Clearly no one wrote or submitted one.

I am going to vote NO on A, and I have no interest in writing an argument for a ballot or campaigning against it. Regardless of which way it goes, it's not going to solve big problems we have in our district.

And just so you know, I have children in the district, and I and a child have been retaliated against more than once for trying to stand up and solve problems in the district. [Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by PA parent of to be high schooler
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:15 pm

George, thank you for adding light to the flood of one sided comments. Taking away resources from a district that needs it the most is not going to help solve anything. I don't see an alternative plan from the people opposing Measure A! The board and district are trying every possible way to solve for issues and the best we can do is support them vs take away any part of existing resources.

How can anyone in their right mind oppose this much neede initiative ?!???!


19 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

PA Parent of to be high schooler,

The current tax that is set to expire was put in place during the recession so we did not have to give out pink slips. It did not hire anyone new. Now that the recession is over, our coffers are overflowing and we have more money than ever from taxes. There is no need to continue this tax.

It has just been pointed out to you that we pay our administration an excessive amount. This is money that does not go to our kids. Many people have proposed we should have a reorganization of the top first before asking the public for more money. We will probably find MORE than the ask just by making the district run more effectively, and also restore trust if we do need to ask for more.

Actually, it's debatable that the district needs these funds now, but the existing tax will not expire for another year, and many people have said if it is defeated, they will vote for it if the district restores trust and cleans up some problems that it desperately needs to deal with. So, voting for it won't take away funds, actually, but will give the district the message that they can get whatever they want from us whenever they ask, without accountability. Voting no, however, will give them reason to act to solve some of the problems before asking again. This has already happened before, where a bond measure was not passed, the district fixed the issues, and then it passed. (See the Weekly's editorial advising caution on this tax for background.)

How do you know the district needs the money? They are saying it's going to pay for things we paid for no problem before the recession without the added tax money. Now we are not having a recession. We don't need the extra money. If we do, first we should streamline administration so we aren't paying such excessive salaries for so many people, with no means of accountability even when they abuse special ed kids and their families or fail to act in accordance with such serious crisis.


18 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:39 pm

@PA Parent -"The board and district are trying every possible way to solve for issues"


Um. No they haven't.

In fact you could almost characterize what they have done as' the bare minimum'. You can count on one hand what they have done. And by 'done'', I really mean 'said', because nothing is implemented as it is all stalled on the Union and teachers dustbin:

1) passed a homework policy ( unimplemented)
2) passed measure for emergency funding for counseling
3) Max sent an email asking/telling teachers to implement said unimplemented Homework policy.
4) Max decided to cancel zero-period academics at Gunn.
5) (well, that's it really, so they still have one finger up in the air)


What they could have done is support the hundreds of issues raised by parents, put in place a safe mechanism to report problems ( so they could find and fix more issues ). They could have implemented P8 from project safety net. They could have removed or retrained the problem teachers and principal at Jordan. They could have removed or retrained problem admins at district , teachers at Paly and Gunn. The could make tenure include student and parent input. They could measure engagement and quality in each classroom, so that teachers get valid feedback. The could use the best classroom practices to train those with the worst....


So there you have it: 4 things they (kinda) did. Vs about two dozen they could have done.

Hardly qualifies as "trying every possible way."

In fact, it looks like a F-.


15 people like this
Posted by NancyK
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Please support Meadure A.

Our coffers are not overflowing. Comparable top performing school districts spend far more (thousands of dollars more) per student than we have in PAUSD.

In a top performing NY school district, they budget for 11.7 students per class, grades K-12. Imagine that in Palo Alto.

Outside of CA, the average classroom size grades k-12 is 15 students per teacher. Imagine that in Palo Alto.

PAUSD isn't even close to those teacher-student ratios. That takes a LOT more money than we have to hire that many teachers, at a salary where they can afford to live in the very pricey Bay Area.

Please pass Measure A so we don't lose our teachers, and slip to even lower student to teacher ratios.

Please pass Measure A so we don't lose our counselors and librarians. We are so fortunate to have that personnel in PAUSD.

Coming from a school district that lacked librarians, counselors, art teachers, music teachers, technology, and with far greater student- teacher ratios than in PAUSD .... I'd hate to see that scenario forced on our Palo Alto students.


14 people like this
Posted by A just makes sense!
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:56 pm

For me it is all about the kids. They are the ones that TRULY benefit from this.
I have friends that are to the north and south of us with class sizes close to 40. We don't want that!
I appreciate all of the hard work from those of you working on Measure A -- keep it up [portion removed.]
Measure A just makes sense.


13 people like this
Posted by Claire Kirner
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm

I am voting YES. I was a teacher in another state prior to having my three kids (all PAUSD students), and can tell you that the presence of counselors and librarians on campus make a world of difference to students, as do SMALLER CLASS SIZES. We are so lucky to have such fantastic teacher to student ratios in this district, as well as additional staff to help our kids. Are there things in PAUSD that I think need to be addressed or changed? Of course. And I have faith that our board members and superintendent will continue to listen and work with us to resolve some very complex issues. Let's support our kids by working together. Please join me in voting YES on A.


24 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:20 pm

@Claire Kirner

Palo Alto has one of the highest student suicide rates in the country, it's at crisis levels.

In the past few weeks I've spoken to dozens of parents who are simply desperate to get their kids out of what people generally call "insane stresses of PAUSD".

[Portion removed.] From any realistic perspective, PAUSD is in a state of emergency, and the leadership is completely oblivious. Giving them more money is exactly the wrong thing to do...just like giving booze to an alcoholic.


16 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Hi Claire,

We all support the schools. You have a chance to sway me because I haven't sent in my ballot.

Question: I have had kids in the district since before and after the current tax went into effect. I recall we had librarians before that, too. i don't recall an appreciable difference in class size.

How did we pay for those things before the tax?

Someone asked McGee how much our administration at 25 Churchill costs, but he did not answer. Could you please post the answer to that? Also, please state in a little detail, and also how much administration we have elsewhere in the district in total.

Do you really think that if this tax does not pass, we should cut teachers rather than make our administration more streamlined? Or possibly just redo the ask so that it doesn't rise so much?

Lastly, if you had a child who was spending all their money on fast cars or even drugs and prostitutes, do you think the right way to show support for the child is to give the child more money every time they ask?


14 people like this
Posted by Voting Yes
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Can we please focus on what's best for our kids! The school district brought in a new superintendent, brought in a new Gunn Principal, significantly upgrade the Gunn counseling department, strengthened ACS. From what I hear from my daughter at Gunn, teachers, and counselors, life is much improved.

Sure we have a long way to go. But let's move forward, not reflexively punish the kids by increasing class size, decreasing counselors, eliminating programs.

If you all feel so strongly, great, get involved. Go to site council meetings, go to PTA meetings, get involved in the next school board election, go to Principal coffees, speak at school board meetings. We need more involved parents and community members!

But don't increase stress on an already stressed system. Let's work constructively to make things happen!


10 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:26 pm

To @We should not be Bell

I am not new to anonymous newsgroups. They were full of trolls in 1990 when I first joined them, and they still are.

[Portion removed.]

Organized people drive rational change. It is not difficult to write and submit an opposing opinion for any ballot measure. We live in one of the few true democracies where free speech is not punished, and organized resistance is respected. [Portion removed.]

The salaries of our city officials is irrelevant to this discussion. The money raised by the parcel tax absolutely hires new teachers, as we have increased the student population by 7% during this parcel tax -- that means 7% more teachers.

Classrooms in Redwood City are 33 to 40 students. If the parcel tax is not renewed (now or next year), we will see teacher layoffs and more kids in every classroom, and more kids going to school outside of their neighborhood as a result. THERE IS NO GOOD OUTCOME from voting No on Measure A, which is why there is no ORGANIZED OPPOSITION.

If you want to call me and talk directly, you can find me because I am proud to sign my opinions. [Portion removed.] Keep it relevant, keep it current, and I am open to your signed input.

George


14 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:29 pm

@another dad,

"In the past few weeks I've spoken to dozens of parents who are simply desperate to get their kids out of what people generally call "insane stresses of PAUSD". "

You make a really good point. There has been a major crisis in Palo Alto causing a lot of parents to question what they should do next year. We should not be asking for a tax while so many people are in turmoil about what to do and we don't even know where enrollment will be. If I were asked to fill out something today, since we have no alternative yet we would say we are going to PAUSD next year. But we are actively seeking an alternative as are many people I know, while continuing (with less and less hope) to watch for the new leadership to lead.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"you seem to have inserted yourself to dominate some of these threads despite some parents being upset by it"

[Portion removed.] I agree with much of your critique of education in Palo Alto, but have solid reasons to disagree with you as well. As do many of the people who are sharply opposed to voting for Measure A until certain conditions are met.


12 people like this
Posted by A Parent for the Schools
a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:36 pm

So, let me get this straight: we live in a town where the housing costs average something like $2mm, and we're complaining about salaries that can't even cover a mortgage? Give me a break, people. The money for our schools that comes from this tax goes to paying teachers and counselors that directly benefit students. Is there a person in this world that thinks any teacher -- even in the PAUSD -- is overpaid, really? Or that fewer counselors are a good idea? My kids' teachers have driven in to PA from Foster City, Fremont, South SF ... So few have lived anywhere nearby. They couldn't! And they are GREAT teachers. I have already voted yes on A, and I urge you to do the same. THIS IS FOR THE KIDS. And there is no question that protecting their best resources -- our teachers -- is in their best interest. PLEASE VOTE YES ON A. $13M in cuts in the schools -- or something like $300,000 spent on another ballot initiative (they're expensive!) -- is not good for our town, property values, or our kids. VOTE YES -- IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.


17 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm

@ A Parent,

Federal judges in San Francisco also live in the same expensive area, and they make a third of the prorated annual salary of our superintendent, with no housing allowance or car allowance. They have a lot more responsibility, too. Somehow, they make do.

Most people who can't afford a mortgage here off the bat will buy something cheaper than the median, or buy in a community nearby where you can buy much cheaper. Or rent until the market swings down again (as it always does). Or rent. Or buy something less fancy. Nobody needs a $2M home.

I believe I stated quite clearly that I believe in paying our teachers well. I do not believe in paying administrators without limit and hiring more and more of them with no apparent way to streamline or hold them accountable. The evidence is in the fact that we are now paying many of them, prorated, more than the Governor of California, more than federal judges in San Francisco, more than a whole host of public servants with greater responsibility in just as expensive areas. And they are asking us for money and threatening to cut teachers if they don't get it?

I voted FOR all the other asks, even the last one that didn't pass. I am voting NO on this one.




George,

That's a very funny thing to say to me about changing the world, as I have, and find I am often standing up in difficult situations when other people are unwilling, or leading when most people are not willing to take the heat. I have, in fact, made a difference in the real world to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the last decades, in laws I have had a hand in, relief efforts, and other efforts in other spheres. One of the reasons is that I am willing to stand up and say when the Emperor has no clothes, and not willing to just believe whatever anyone shovels at me (especially when they have proven utterly untrustworthy in the past.[Portion removed.]
You claim the money raised by the parcel tax will absolutely {fill in the blank]. It won't absolutely do anything, because it doesn't promise anything specifically AT ALL. Even when language is very specific, it can be weaseled out of. And in this district, it frequently is. Go ask Bob Golton about that.

The last time the community voted NO on a school ask, the district reworked the ask, solved some of the problems, and came back with another ask that was approved.

There absolutely is NO GOOD OUTCOME to giving such a huge raise in such an environment of poor performance from the district and such a crisis. There is time to take stock, fix problems, and put forward another ask before this one expires. If this one is approved, the district will take it as evidence that they don't need to change anything. The only thing that will give them pause is the community telling them we are not a cash cow. (And lots of children dying -- it's unconscionable.)








11 people like this
Posted by Phil Shirts
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:06 pm

I have already voted "yes" on A, and I encourage others to do the same.


18 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:38 pm

I have already voted "no" on A, and I encourage others to do the same.


12 people like this
Posted by A Parent for the Schools
a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:43 pm

@ "We Should Not Be Bell" -

The problem with your argument is that NONE of the money from measure A is earmarked for administrators. Follow the money! It funds teachers and staff. So voting for or against A does nothing with regard to your issue.

At least be informed, folks. Web Link

From the site: "parcel tax is 7% of Palo Alto schools' operating budget and it pays for 85 full-time school staff, including 67 teachers (others are counselors, librarians, and psychologists)"

VOTE YES ON A -- FOR THE KIDS, PLEASE!


Like this comment
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:55 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

@George

[Portion removed.]

Please direct me to where in the ballot I was mailed that it promises exactly where this money will go, with no weasel words. I see extremely vague things like "protect ... from budget cuts caused by 10 million dollars per year in reduced funding and new cost mandates;"

Actually, that was cuts from the recession. We have a flood of new dollars now that the recession is over that more than offset that reduction. The state significantly reduced mandates on schools last year in case people hadn't noticed.

Like I said, go ask Bob Golton - will the projects we were promised in the bond measure all be done? (No) Words like "preserve" "protect" "intend" are completely meaningless as far as what will actually be done with the money. There are no specific and defensible programs or actions in this measure. They are just asking us for money that they can basically do whatever they want with. Maybe it will go to pay for teachers but we were already paying for those teachers before the recession. The recession is over.

I'm still waiting to hear if we reduced ANY administrative waste or reduced salaries at all during the recession. Many other sectors, public and private did. Did PAUSD? I don't think so. Why not? Because there is no mechanism for it. There is so much more waste in that part of our operations than we will get from this tax.

Although, please post the numbers if you want me to take you seriously that there is any counter to this problem.

NO.


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm

George Jaquette - your argument should be pretty easy to defend with data. What has been the student growth from 2000 to 2015? What has been the property tax revenue growth to the school district from 2000 to 2015? In my post I also point out that not ALL real estate has turned over and moved to the higher property tax rates. - But MANY MANY MANY have (after all - just look at the growth in student population! That's only possible with housing turnover, not possible with old timers just hanging around aging). But also - property is reassessed with remodels. Remodels all over the place... Add to this the amount of new housing everywhere we turn. I'm saying even without the numbers, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly indicating that the property tax driven revenues should have grown tremendously for the school district. How much? More than the student growth? Where are the numbers?


9 people like this
Posted by I voted NO
a resident of Escondido School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:01 pm


I voted NO to the $120 increase. If they don't have a $120 increase next time, I would vote YES.


10 people like this
Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Today I was asked to address science students at Paly as part of the upcoming annual awards program. I am flattered. These students have excelled because of great teachers, facilities and parents. The students have explored multiple and complex directions in the sciences to be recognized. My own limited work has helped students understand geographic information systems applied to the environment. The ability to explore and learn with great teachers and facilities is an asset of our District. That is partially why our schools are recognized nationally for their excellence.

I didn't think a second about voting Yes on A to keep these programs funded and growing.

The commentary of those in opposition, and the vitriol they carry, is completely incongruous with the the academic environment for these students and the teachers. Do you visit the schools? Do you work in the students? Have you worked with the administrators? I doubt it.

In my upcoming remarks to these young scientists, I hope stand in front of them part of a community that voted to support the teachers that helped them achieve their success.

So please step up and vote Yes on A.




14 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Ok, here's some data using the 08/09 Budget Book and the 14/15 Budget Book:
08/09 PAUSD Property Tax Revenue: $99,165,531, enrollment 11,592
14/15 PAUSD Property Tax Revenue: $131,104,580 enrollment 12,532

Calculates to:
Property Tax Revenue Growth: 32.2%
Student Enrollement Growth: 8.1%

Property Tax Revenue growth is 4X student growth.

Tell me again why they need supplement parcel tax?
(Hint: Bad Decision Making?)


13 people like this
Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:10 pm

It amazes me that so many adults are willing to hold children hostage to their own personal agendas. This is very simple. If you think it's ok to lay off the number of teachers and staff equivalent to two elementary schools, go ahead, vote no on A. You probably won't mind the costly distraction and drain of human resources that another election would be. If you actually want to ensure that Palo Alto kids get smaller classes, electives, and mental health services, I recommend voting yes on A.


13 people like this
Posted by That Guy
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2015 at 12:33 am

I can't believe that some members of our community, which is one of the wealthiest in the area if not in California and the nation, are proposing to cut the funding of our schools and penalize the education of the children of our community for a few dollars per month. All that while the value of the properties in our city have been skyrocketing.

Watch the values of these house tank by much once the education level of our city takes a dive because of this penny pincher mentality.

If people have an issue with the budget, PAUSD politics, or with the current superintendent, use your democratic rights to inquire and push for changes, but don't just stand on the sidelines complaining, and blocking funding which will hurt the kids of our city.


17 people like this
Posted by Jon Foster
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2015 at 12:33 am

I am with Longtime Resident and Bob Wenzlau and all the other people who have posted comments in support of Measure A. The Palo Alto school district is among the best in California and the nation. The parcel tax helps reduce class size, allows for more electives, and provides additional help for struggling and at-risk students. If the parcel tax is not renewed, it will adversely impact all the students who attend our schools. It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone, with or without kids in the school system, would favor that outcome. Vote yes on Measure A!


14 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:33 am

That Guy,

The existing tax is not the basis of funding for our district. It was asked for and granted temporarily during the recession, it was not intended to be a permanent thing or it wouldn't have been asked as temporary. You yourself just noted that "the value of the properties in our city have been skyrocketing", which means the property taxes the school district gets that are the main basis of its funding are also skyrocketing.

The Weekly's editorial pointed out that the district's business manager unfailingly underestimates the amount we will get for property taxes, whether things are good or bad, so we always have a surplus at the end of the year that doesn't get spent well or on priorities.

I'm sorry, but browbeating other people who are trying to talk about spending our money wisely and holding people in the district office accountable is what grown ups do to care for their children. [Portion removed.]

Nothing bad has to happen if the parcel tax is not renewed. Or don't you trust the district to come through with a better proposal (after it did the last time it lost a vote)? They may not have given us reason to trust them for much, but asking for more money is a pretty sure bet. I'm still waiting to see numbers for how much the district office costs us, how much administering PAUSD costs us, and where the money is going.

You see, if we ask for this money now and don't need it, the district will have a really hard time down the road if we really do need it, for example, if an earthquake or similar causes sudden additional costs.

[Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:42 am

"use your democratic rights to inquire and push for changes"

Where have you been the last 10 years? Certainly not with the rest of us talking to the hand at 25 Churchill. In case you didn't notice, school districts are completely insular and do not answer governmentally from above or below. you literally cannot go to a higher power except in very limited circumstances such as when they are wholesale violating laws protecting disabled students (as in the OCR settlements) or when there is an election like this. Luckily, if they get a message through this election, there is still time to ask again, more than once. This has happened before.

You will get much further with people considering a NO vote if you start providing data. You would get even further with me if you provided me some information about when certain really incompetent and destructive people in the district office, who hold a lot of power, are going to be leaving. You would help your case even more if you show me how those people who are up set can get some leverage with the district other than speaking to deaf ears?

If all you have in the face of this crisis, in which students are killing themselves and parents are pleading for educational options, is to say We're #1! so give us more money! you are at least not going to get my vote. And the NO will be, as others have said, BECAUSE I care.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:43 am

@Parent, to be fair, that 32.2% increase over 6 years is 4.75% per year.

If half of that goes to wage and salary raises (just keeping up with cost-of-living), I'd revise your bottom line to:

Wage-adjusted Property Tax Revenue growth is 2X student growth. (Not 4X)


12 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:56 am

@Bob Wenzlau,

Where do I even start? Yes, I have children in the schools. Yes, I have raised money, rolled up my sleeves, sacrificed my time and concern more than most people, probably more than you. Consider yourself lucky you never had to deal with some of the sliminess and outright retaliation when a child starts to fall through the cracks. I could name names, but would be deleted - spend some time talking to parents of the most vulnerable children, you will hear the same names.

Having experienced it -- we don't need more money, we would save money if we simply had leaders who would apply standards of honesty to our staff.

YOU are working against our teachers if you think standing idly by while top-heavy administration sucks away more money from teaching and imposes a more and more caustic culture on the district. Covering up problems rather than dealing with them leads to scars or worse.



6 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 2:01 am

Dear "I voted NO"

Please copy your post onto a letter and send it both to the Weekly (the addresses got posted somewhere) and PAUSD. It will help a lot in the post election analysis. Your point is particularly helpful as you were very specific about what simple steps would lead to a yes vote for you.


9 people like this
Posted by paloaltoparent
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2015 at 2:21 am

paloaltoparent is a registered user.

Vote Yes on A. It is the only rational thing to do. Parcel taxes were started in Palo Alto in 2001. After 14 years, it is a basic component of the budget. It funds priorities we as a community consider basic to education - smaller classes, especially in elementary school, libraries that are staffed and are open every day, additional counselors and staff for children that are struggling socially or academically. Many districts around us do not have this buffer against the vagaries of Sacramento’s funding and the ups and downs of the economy.

Over the course of this parcel tax period, enrollment increased one middle school’s worth (1100+ kids), property tax growth from one year to the next varied from under 1% to over 11%, state funding declined by over $6M (or over 3% of the budget). Yes, our property tax growth looks good today, but can you bet our children’s education that it will stay that way over the next 6 years? The upcoming parcel tax period will have state-mandated costs to deal with, and the district won't have the $1.9M it used to get annually from the Cubberley lease.

We didn’t get to this place in the last year. I am deeply concerned about many aspects of the schools myself, but they are enmeshed. I see and am heartened that several of these issues are in some state of assessment or rework at a pace we haven’t seen in while. The disruption that a Measure A loss would bring will derail this effort for year. Our children are not pawns in a chess game. It’s a Yes vote for me.


11 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2015 at 4:36 am

So all these folks raised a pile of money to force other people to pay for their jobs and kids' school.

Whoopee for democracy!

I'm still voting NO on A

... and I don't appreciate the blogger Steve Levy stacking his blog and deleting other people's comments because he felt sorry for the poor Yes on A folks who did not have enough representation.


13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2015 at 4:43 am

>>Watch the values of these house tank by much once the education level of our city takes a dive because of this penny pincher mentality.


Exaggeration and scare tactics. Do it for the children ... or else.

Funny how when certain people are threatened with a ( not even cut budget ) but one that doesn't increase as fast as their greedy little bank accounts can devour our money they get get nasty and blame others for the downfall of the city, but when it comes to government taxes or Sacramento they sing a different tune ... bunch of hypocrites.


14 people like this
Posted by 10 years ago repeat
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:23 am

Scare tactics were used 10 years ago as well. If this parcel tax doesn't pass this time, Cathy Mak and Max McGee will show a PowerPoint showing class sizes ballooning to 30 kids and the CTA Union-funded parcel tax campaign will then pass next year. Hopefully the link works below.

Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:42 am

To those who think those who disagree with Measure A are just rude people making dumb remarks and bad decisions I want to say that I am sorry you think this way.

To say that there are other ways to voice our concerns, the answer is there is not.

My stand, very respectfully said, is that there is a lot of wastage of our money at PAUSD and not one of the BOE or Churchill administration is listening or hearing this concern.

My money is being spent on stuff that has nothing to do with teaching the children, and saying that they will suffer is the wrong way to deal with financial shortfalls.

In a shortfall (if there is one) how about cutting costs at the top. How about being more careful with the money already coming in. How about dealing with it the same way a family budget deals with it. In a family, food, housing, necessities are not the first things cut. No, the first things cut are the frills, the vacations, the parties, the new cars/technology, the housecleaning, the gardeners. If expensive trips for lucky students to foreign parts, expensive trips to interview candidates, ever increasing new administrators being hired, and expensive lawsuits, are being funded with my money, then to me they are awash with money and don't need an extension and increase in a temporary parcel tax.

This is not a rant, it is a reasonable statement, and the only way PAUSD can hear and perhaps listen.


22 people like this
Posted by @Jon Foster
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:55 am

@John Foster

You and your wife have been silent during the suicide cluster, despite the fact that she ran on a platform of "social-emotional health." You have both been rare as rain at the board meetings and in public comments. Here are some Measure A questions for you:

- Where do you and she stand on the fact that the teachers' union filed a grievance against Denise Herrmann in order to block the mandatory district-wide implementation of schoology. As you should know, this is the sole means for enforcement of the district's (mandatory) homework policy. Yet the union, which largely has funded Measure A, is blocking that enforcement, blocking that policy, refuses to limit homework, and attacks administrators who attempt to implement this policy. This policy is critical to ensuring that students get sufficient sleep, and critical to therefore ensuring their mental health.

Why then should the taxpayers put millions more in to the coffers of the union?

- Should the district have to display any fiscal restraint at all in order to show good faith with taxpayers? What about the PR officer, the excessive legal fees, and the new 2 million annual appropriations for district staff that are about to be approved? How do you suggest that fiscal discipline be imposed if not at the ballot box?

- The new superintendent seems over his head and unable to manage either the district staff or the collective bargaining unit and process. Many things have just blown up in his face over the past year and other tasks, such as PRA requests have been ignored with repeated empty promises to "hire someone to do that" or "get a temp in here." This inability/refusal to do basic clerical tasks does not inspire confidence. [Portion removed.]

- Many people, including one of your colleagues on the utilities board have decided against supporting against the parcel tax for reasons like the above. Those who are against it have deep concern about the direction of the district and the management ability of the leadership. Your colleague posted to facebook: "Fortunately the district has a whole year before the current parcel tax expires to learn and pivot. The district has a year to increase transparency. The board and the administration have a year to take charge. Open up contract negotiation and grievance processes to the public. We need to see a culture shift in the attitude toward parents. Start a reform process with short enough time frames that parents can effect change for their kids.
But for now it’s NO on Measure A."

Please rebut these arguments.

Thanks for your answers.


21 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2015 at 8:43 am



"This is not a rant, it is a reasonable statement, and the only way PAUSD can hear and perhaps listen."

Here, here!!!


20 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:17 am

Lee Thé is a registered user.

There are two reasons to hold a special election, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars:

1. An emergency that can't wait for the next regular election--such as a catastrophic earthquake.

2. A desire to suppress the vote of potential opponents, since the vote in special elections is always far, far smaller than the vote in regular elections, and those who do vote are mostly the zealots you want to vote.

The first does not apply here, since the previous "temporary during the recession" parcel tax won't expire until after the next general election.

The second does.

Don't most Palo Altans deplore the efforts of political parties to suppress the vote in other places and circumstances?

Palo Altans should vote no on whatever's being promoted in any special election except in emergencies that can't wait. Special elections like this are an effort to game the system.

And I don't appreciate being gamed.


26 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:18 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

Let's not confuse sales with delivery, or campaign statements with reality.

"Oh No! We'll have to cut 13M, ENTIRELY out of TEACHERS - Your classroom size will double! Think of the Children!"

Reality - when the money fails to show up, two things will happen - they will look for other money elsewhere, (reserves, more aggressive planning), and they will cut the things that matter least to the board. I guarantee that teacher cuts will come absolutely last. The Union will see to that.

So that should bring some comfort to the panic crowd - it is impossible to believe when faced with an actual revenue loss that they would immediately cut the highest value component. So this is pretty easy to dismiss.



how about: "Oh NO, our property value will crash! Your homes are entirely based on the schools! The schools entirely hinge on getting this money, or we will turn into Detroit! Think of the real estate losses!!!"


Reality - first of all, the district will minimize teacher cuts. They will cut the least educationally impact areas. Secondly, the real-estate myth is self-perpetuating, independent of the schools. What? Here is how it really works: someone outside Palo Alto wins the high-tech lotto, and looks for a good school district - they choose Palo Alto because of the schools, downtown, and tree lined streets. They bring their money to Palo Alto, along with their views on schools - which is to say they value education. So they provide their kid with all manner of outside experiences, encouragement, enrichment. Notice the schools haven't done anything yet? These people also donate to PiE. The schools provide a place with a teacher; these kids and their parents would do well in another district, they will do well in this district. They still score well on the test.

You see, the self-selection of people with a priority on education will still continue, because we still have good scores. These people will show up, and keep the scores high.

Once this feedback is in motion, good schools attract good students; good students make good schools. This isn't going to stop because the Board has to trim a bit of fat from non-essential areas. The scores won't budge at all.

If you view the system as a place where students largely teach themselves, or through tutors, this becomes even more independant of school financing. Look at Cupertino - they are not a cheap place to live. They have high scoring schools. And their parcel tax? $250. Roughly what PiE collects in aggregate. Mission district in Fremont - they have high scoring schools and high property values. Their parcel tax? $98.

The real-estate calamity theory is predicated on the belief that all value stems from schools. It doesn't. In fact, it is at best a secondary effect once the wheel of school scores-attracting good students gets started.

What could stop this wheel of fortune? More suicides and a loss of reputation. Once home buyers focus on items other than school scores, but instead on school well-being, that is when the real estate prices drop.

But that has nothing to do with passing Measure A; in fact, if you are concerned about real estate, your first focus should be on well-being of students, not school scores. That is where reputation falls. And once you lose credibility, it is very very hard to get it back.


7 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:52 am

My Thoughts,

Great post.

"If you view the system as a place where students largely teach themselves, or through tutors, this becomes even more independant of school financing. Look at Cupertino - they are not a cheap place to live. They have high scoring schools. And their parcel tax? $250. Roughly what PiE collects in aggregate. Mission district in Fremont - they have high scoring schools and high property values. Their parcel tax? $98."

Do you have any idea of how our central administrative salaries, numbers, and overall costs compare?


4 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:14 am

paloaltoparent:
"Over the course of this parcel tax period, enrollment increased one middle school's worth (1100+ kids), property tax growth from one year to the next varied from under 1% to over 11%, state funding declined by over $6M (or over 3% of the budget). Yes, our property tax growth looks good today, but can you bet our children's education that it will stay that way over the next 6 years? The upcoming parcel tax period will have state-mandated costs to deal with, and the district won't have the $1.9M it used to get annually from the Cubberley lease. "

So we should pass this measure to deal with contingencies? The money has already been spent. During these boom times they should have weaned themselves off of this *temporary* parcel tax so that if they do get into a situation where they *need* it, they can go to the voters.


4 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:18 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

Normally, public pay is available here:

Web Link

However if you click through to PAUSD, you find that they did not file the information with the state, or filed it in a non-compliant format. So the data is not available.

The data is available for Cupertino and many other districts.


11 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:22 am

Lee Thé is a registered user.

"It's for the children."

Let's examine this core reason given for Measure A. Suppose Measure A were defeated and the current parcel tax--good for another year, don't forget--expired, having fulfilled the reason for the "temporary" parcel tax in the first place, which is why it was given a sunset clause in the first place.

So here's the Palo Alto Unified School Discrict, deprived of the parcel tax and of much of its former state and federal support, dependent mostly on our property taxes--which have at least doubled overall during the period of the "temporary" parcel tax.

Will our kids then be getting an inferior education to that which is offered to kids in East Palo Alto? Mountain View? Redwood City? Union City.

Of course not. It will still be academically superior to the education offered to 99% of kids in America.

Yet no one in PAUSD or our PTA or their supporters is suggesting a parcel tax that would go to helping those school districts, whose populations are less affluent than ours.

So it isn't "for the children."

It's "for MY children--the rest are on their own."


9 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:32 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

... in thinking about Cupertino and Fremont a bit further, we can see that the success is not entirely bound up in the schools.

Economically speaking, we are still free actors, and I think you will see a kind of substitution happen. When the money drops from taxes, IF you also have a problem in a classroom, most people would rationally use the windfall to buy tutoring services. $700 buys a fairly large amount of help - you can see a tutor every other week for 20 weeks. When you recognize that many people here have other means at their disposal, you could expect to see more money spent on tutoring. That is happening in Fremont Mission and Cupertino. It will happen more in Palo Alto.

It is a distributed mechanism to privatize education partially.

And it may not be a bad thing if you are dissatisfied with the schools performance, turning them into a warehouse of unmanaged teacher-bureaucrats at least moves money to a point under parent control.

The downside is that the pressure tactics still persist in the classrooms, and increased tutoring will only push the competition further. And it's regressive.

But on the whole, I don't see Measure A as that critical in the big scheme of things:

- it won't really affect most classrooms
- it won't affect real estate
- it will cause some economic substitution out of schools and into tutors.

Basically if you really love your schools, vote for it. If you are dissatisfied with the service, vote against it. But I doubt the outcome you hope for/fear will actually happen.

Me - I am voting No on Measure A.

I just don't see the point in throwing money at a system that is not a system. The whole site-based-loose-collaboration of uncooperative, undirected teachers with bad management doesn't really excite me.

I'll get a tutor. At least they will teach my kid when I pay them money. And they will probably try to encourage rather than pressure.


14 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:37 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

... okay sorry for one more post on the idea of substitution.

Once parents get used to funding outside tutoring as a substitution for classroom teaching, I think you will find it MUCH harder to get future support for parcel taxes.

Basically, parents will choose to pocket their money, or buy their own tutor. They will be less likely to give that money in future taxes to the schools, because they are already spending it at home. You can see this in Cupertino and Fremont - I suspect that is why they have lower parcel taxes - the parents are spending their money elsewhere than the district.

It is a deconstruction of the system. But if the system isn't working, there is really no downside. Right? Customers move their money where it works hardest.


20 people like this
Posted by It's Bait and Switch - Vote NO
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:46 am

It really doesn't matter what Measure A supporters say the money is going to be used for, because the entire budget needs to be looked at as a whole. Its easy to say the Measure A funds will go for these critical needs, but you can't ignore the rest of the budget. Using Measure A funds for more teachers simply frees up the rest of the budget to be used for more administrators and waste.

Don't be fooled! This district is rolling in money and forcing our district leadership to be responsible is not going to destroy our educational system, balloon class sizes, or result in a teacher layoff. All of the Measure A advocates claiming otherwise are simply engaging you in FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

It doesn't matter how affluent this city is, that does not mean we should tolerate waste and poor management of resources.

Stats above clearly show that our property tax revenue has grown more than enrollment, so there is no need to continue this TEMPORARY tax, much less increase it!


18 people like this
Posted by It's Bait and Switch - Vote NO
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:10 am

And as for Steve Levy and his blog, where all "No on Measure A" posts are deleted, please don't even read his blog. Send a message by keeping his number of "Views" low.


31 people like this
Posted by Parent who sacrificed everything to buy a PA home
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:20 am

I am a parent and I voted "No". We stretched our finance and moved to Palo Alto in the past couple years solely because we want the best education for our kids... However, this measure deeply troubles me... As a finance professional, I can say without accountability, no revenue is big enough for expense, period. Palo Alto has become one of the most expensive towns not just in California, but in US, even in the world. Where did all the property tax go??? How did PAUSD revenue compared to all the other top school districts in the nation? What extra programs PAUSD offers compare to other top school districts in the nation (wait is there any???)
We don't need more education fund, we need to make sure education fund DISTRIBUTED FAIRLY and REASONABLY. PLEASE DO NOT HOLD OUR KIDS FOR HOSTAGE!!!There is never a end for tax... never....unless we figure out the right allocation priority.


17 people like this
Posted by #RfghtNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:34 am

Contrary to being a lark the No on A campaign appears to be picking up steam and adding adherents. It's clear to me anyway that it is likely to fail. There are too many people against and too few for and too many fence sitters. Where is the Weekly endorsement? The silence speaks volumes there. I suggest letting Ken Dauber do the work of oversight and restoration of public confidence he was elected to do this year. Focus on transparency and responsiveness to customer ( parent) concerns. Fire Tabitha (nothing personal). Scrutinize law firm billings. Comply with public records act. Get off the dime on homework -- a 50% across the board homework reduction is a start. Force the union to its knees. No more raised for work to rule. Maybe Vergara is right and the CTA is the enemy of children. One look at the grievance had me reconsidering.

McGee has his work cut out for him. Put dpwn the shovel, stop digging and get busy.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Parent who sacrificed everything to buy a PA home - PAUSD got fat and let the unions salaries bloat in the 2000's during the housing bubble. Since then, there have been some very bad property tax years, and more recently some good ones, but not as good as the 2000's and not enough to keep up with past commitments. Failure of Prop A will mean cut programs and increased class size. It will be a mess because there is neither the will, nor the power to fundamentally change how union controlled school systems work in California.


4 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
2 hours ago
My Thoughts is a registered user.
Normally, public pay is available here:

Web Link

However if you click through to PAUSD, you find that they did not file the information with the state, or filed it in a non-compliant format. So the data is not available.

The data is available for Cupertino and many other districts.


Wait, seriously? The Weekly and Daily News should be all over this!


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Failure of Prop A will mean cut programs and increased class size."

If that is so then it is simply because PAUSD has failed to live within the substantial property tax revenues that it receives.

What is so hard about matching expenses with guaranteed tax revenues?

Why should PAUSD be rewarded for having its expenditures exceed its revenue base?

Why do school districts not budget for and accumulate funds for facilities replacements as do all well run organizations and instead demand construction bond measures?


4 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

"However if you click through to PAUSD, you find that they did not file the information with the state, or filed it in a non-compliant format. So the data is not available.

The data is available for Cupertino and many other districts.


Wait, seriously? The Weekly and Daily News should be all over this!"


I am not sure this is malfeasance - keep in mind we are dealing with pretty incompetent administration both in the district and state. I could imagine any number of reasons why they cannot do basic accounting. It is not too surprising really. Were you surprised?

Do you still have any expectations of performance left?

curious...maybe this is worth an investigation. Along with everything else.


8 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

The salary data for the PAUSD for 2013 can be found here:

Web Link

This data contains over 2700 records, and some records are incomplete, leaving one to wonder why the PAUSD did not want to provide all of the information requested.

There are about 2X the number of records in this dataset as employees--leaving us to wonder why all of these people are drawing money from the PAUSD.

The City of Palo Alto has for a couple of years now been posting the salary data for its employees on its web-site (open data). Sadly, the PAUSD does not seem to be willing to embrace the same openess that the City has.

With salaries and benefits generally eating up about 85% of all school budgets--why is it that the PAUSD seems dead set against making the salary data available on its web-site for all to see?


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

"Why do school districts not budget for and accumulate funds for facilities replacements as do all well run organizations and instead demand construction bond measures?"

I like the thought, but I can not think of any government organization that does this. I read that the cities in San Mateo County collectively have over a billion dollars of deferred sewer and storm drain work they need done and all of it will be funded by bonds. Given a choice (an I know I don't get a choice since I will pay for sewers regardless) I would prefer spending extra tax for a school than a sewer line. Besides I don't think Measure A has anything to do with facilities.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I like the thought, but I can not think of any government organization that does this. "

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District does exactly this and has funded reserves to replace each of its 7 fire stations at their end of service and to replace each vehicle in its apparatus fleet and a fund for future CalPERS pension cost increases.

And the Fire District has no parcel tax and no construction bonds. It uses property taxes as a limit on its expenditures including funding these reserves.

It is called living within your means.


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Remember when PA approved the $378,000,000 school construction bond issue in 2008? Remember the requirement that all the $378,000,000 be spent because of dire need?

Do yourselves a favor before voting on Measure A and search Palo Alto Online archives and do a broader Google search on the progress reports on how much money has been spent and/or allocated to date, how many projects have been defined, how the projects are doing, how many lawsuits have been filed and how many projects were under-budgeted.


7 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Lee Thé is a registered user.

Alphonso says:

"I read that the cities in San Mateo County collectively have over a billion dollars of deferred sewer and storm drain work they need done and all of it will be funded by bonds."

This is not a bond. It's a parcel tax. Completely different.

He also says:

"Given a choice...I would prefer spending extra tax for a school than a sewer line."

I don't think anyone who has experienced a sewer line break would say this, no matter devoted a parent he or she it.


11 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Lee Thé is a registered user.

Palo Altans should vote against Measure A, regardless of how they feel about school funding, because the Palo Alto Unified School District has no business spending hundreds of thousands of our dollars to run a special election now.

Special elections make sense in an emergency, like a major earthquake–not when its only purpose is selecting the voters who will vote. The current parcel tax won’t expire until after the next general election, in 2016. So there’s no emergency. But by jumping the gun, the PAUSD is exploiting the low, unrepresentative turnout in special elections, doubtless in hopes that its zealots will win something they might not be able to in a regular election.

And funding by parcel tax is fundamentally unfair. It’s a regressive tax that charges Steve Jobs’ widow the same as my neighbor, a PAUSD employee who can only live here courtesy of Palo Alto’s Below Market Rate (BMR) program for low-income buyers.

The original justification for this tax was to temporarily compensate for the dip in property taxes caused by the Great Recession.

Now property tax revenue has been skyrocketing for years (and going up steadily for existing owners, because Prop 13 does allow the rate to rise--just not as much). But somehow the emergency, temporary measure has magically transformed into something that should be permanent, regardless of the disproportionate burden it places on the very residents Palo Altans keep wringing their hands about.

Nor is it “for the children.” Nothing’s earmarked for the kids in the impoverished Ravenswood district next door. Boosters should be honest and admit that “It’s for MY privileged children–the truly needy are on their own.”

If you think regressive taxation is justifiable, you should still vote No on any special election measure that isn't a true emergency, then vote Yes when PAUSD comes back to us with its hand out in the 2016 general election.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 16, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Peter - I am sure MP fire is better than some, but even your favorite organization does not have the money to replace the fire stations - go read the budget document. This is a comment from the budget report "The CH2M Hill report and recommendations clearly demonstrate that the costs of the needed construction and replacement of several District Stations are substantial, and
current funding is insufficient"


5 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Lee The,

You make a really good point there, that special elections cost so much money, why didn't they put this on the general election ballot in November when it would have been so much cheaper?

I learned recently that when we vote through a bond, the oversight committee doesn't do anything to ensure the money is spent well and efficiently, only that it isn't spent on something else like a Swiss bank account. That was eye opening.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:26 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Wayne Martin - "There are about 2X the number of records in this dataset as employees--leaving us to wonder why all of these people are drawing money from the PAUSD."

Just glancing at it, it includes payments to non-employees, for example, substitute teachers.


2 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:48 pm

To @Parent and @Bell

Sign your messages, and I will provide lots of data that is publicly available for you. Go read the oversight committee reports that I have already linked to, and educate yourselves. I do not engage in anonymous arguments with people, and have been very clear about the reasons I support Measure A. There is an oversight committee for the parcel tax, it is full of intelligent and articulate people (and they let me attend too), and your assertion that there is no oversight is offensive and personally insulting.

When a new family moves into rental housing in Palo Alto, the school does not get any additional revenue but we do have new students and the expense of educating them. You can research the numbers if you don't believe that statement -- we have more students every year in our schools regardless of the real estate market.

Another anonymous poster complained about teachers' salaries. I know from personal connections that many of our teachers can't afford to live in Palo Alto, and they commute from neighboring cities because they love the kids and parents in Palo Alto. Almost all kids are trying hard, and almost all parents support the schools. We have low turnover, and retain great teachers for a long time -- and that is why our salaries are higher. The school districts with high turnover and young teachers pay lower salaries because new teachers earn less. If you want to choose that for Palo Alto, voting no on Measure A is a great start -- all of the lowest paid, newest growth teachers will be let go and the average teacher salary in Palo Alto will go up. Older teachers in front of more students, likely without aides in the elementary schools. If that is your vision for the kids of Palo Alto, vote no on Measure A.

I promised myself I wouldn't waste my time responding to anonymous posts, but @Parent annoyed me. Go read the link in my first post, put your name on your post, and I'll happily buy you a beer or a coffee to listen to your opinions. But please offer something concrete in return -- your name, and the basis of your argument. The fact that you spent a lot on a home because you wanted a great education, and now don't want to fund that great education, is puzzling to me and I am sure to others. If you moved here for the schools, FUND THE SCHOOLS. Self-interest should make this an easy decision for you, but if you want the expense of a $2M home and the cost of a 30 student classroom keep making your anonymous arguments.

@Lee, I do respect you for signing your posts. You are factually incorrect about the increase in property tax revenue in Palo Alto, it has not doubled and in fact rises much slower than real estate prices for the reasons i have cited earlier. Real numbers, contrasting 2008-2009 with 2013-2014:
* Property tax increased from $106,194,134 to $127,389,537 (roughly 20%, or $20M)
* State funding decreased from $16,877,168 to $10,326,497 (loss of ~$6.5M)
* Federal funding decreased from $4,074,776 to $3,158,732 (lost of $800K)
* Parcel tax funding increased from $9,346,204 to $12,154,325 (increase of ~$2.8M, new housing and COLA increases.
* Partners in Education (PiE) funding increased from $2.3M to $4.9M, more than doubling.

Fun math fact that surprises most people in Palo Alto: Partners in Education (PiE), funded entirely by parents and community supporters, delivered more funding to PAUSD last year ($4.9M) than the federal government did. The parcel tax delivered more support than the state government did. We are moving towards a world where we have to pay for our education without help from the state or federal government, and the parcel tax is the best way to do so.

I have read the arguments against, and find many of them tangential and unrelated. Voting no on Measure A seems to me like burning down the hospital because you don't like your dentist. Wrong windmill, wrong time, wrong effort. Do not punish our kids because you stretched to buy a home or because a teacher with 20 years tenure won't budge on his union protection. You *will* cause the last hired teachers to get fired, and that *will* result in larger class sizes. No bureaucracy has ever cut 7% of its budget by finding fat, and the teachers are the only target left when you force the PAUSD to double its expense on elections, budget scenarios contemplating a 7% reduction in income, and deal with a unionized workforce that represents 84% of the budget.

George

Below, an edited post from Nana (who is helping the campaign) on another forum that answers many of the questions raised here.

Posted by Nana Chancellor, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm
Please know that I am writing this as a current co-chair of the Measure A campaign, but also as a current PAUSD parent and as a former mental health and child welfare social worker.

1. If this fails, is there one more year that the Measure can be put on the ballot before the past one completes its cycle?
The current parcel tax officially expires in June 2016, so the short answer to your question is yes. That being said, to have to run it again would be risky and not without consequences. The following are factors to keep in mind:
a) Every parcel tax campaign here and in other districts run their renewal campaigns a year ahead of expiration because it is simply too disruptive and risky not to do so.
b) It would take a lot of effort, time, & distraction by the district to have to plan a budget without confirmation that 7% of it will stay in place; they would basically have to prepare & plan for 2 different budgets.
c) The timing of a second run would be very challenging. We know from experience that chances of getting a super majority if running in a general election are very slim (the one that lost in 2004 was in a general election; parcel taxes all over California are held as special elections because getting a super majority in anything in a general election is close to impossible).
d) Running it in a special election next May would cause a lot of anxiety and instability for teachers and other school personnel (as well as for parents & students), as pink slips have to be given out in March.
e) Using defeat of Measure A to send a message (as some have suggested) sets a very dangerous precedent which would likely trigger a trend of future organized opposition with various agendas which could make it almost impossible to pass future parcel taxes by the super majority needed. I'd also be concerned about what message a no vote on school funding would be sending to our students, especially if used as a manipulation tool to strong-arm our board/superintendent/teachers into taking some kind of specific action, regardless of how valid the requests might be. This funding is simply too important to get mixed up in any political battles.
f) Not to mention the 1000s of volunteer hours and money which would be wasted… (it costs the district about $300,000 to hold a special election and the campaign has to raise more than $100,000 to educate and persuade at the scale needed to get a super majority)
g) It might loose the second time around… which would force PAUSD to cut nearly $13 million in expenditures for the 2016-17 school year. This could possibly result in having to close an elementary school and would definitely force the district to lay off numerous teachers causing increased class sizes at all grade levels and the elimination of many electives.

2. Does it cost more to run it campaign this year than if it ran during the same cycle as city council (or president)?
The cost of running an advocacy campaign is fairly consistent from election to election (roughly $120,000) but the cost to PAUSD to administer the election does vary depending on the number of other local agencies with issues on the same ballot sharing in the cost of the election administration. When compared to the value of parcel tax revenue to PAUSD, the differences in election cost are marginal and many factors are considered when selecting a date for these elections.

3. Are there facts as to exactly what the money will be used for?
Funds from Measure A may by law only be used for the purposes specifically defined in the text of the measure, which may be found here: Web Link. Annual audits are mandatory and an Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee reviews the use of funds and report to the community to ensure the funds are used as promised. My personal experience, having communicated with several of the current oversight committee members during this campaign (and knowing a couple of them privately), is that this group is made up of very thorough, diligent, wise, and caring community leaders who take this responsibility seriously. As one of the current members, Megan Swezey Fogarty commented earlier on this blog: "these locally controlled funds have been used for what we voted for - namely protecting class size, supporting reading and library support, and electives."

I hope that this answers your questions, "help with facts", and that you will join me in supporting Measure A to help ensure that our district has the funding needed to provide the educational and social-emotional support that is needed for our youth to thrive.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:59 pm

> Just glancing at it, it includes payments to non-employees,
> for example, substitute teachers.

Perhaps. Certainly the money is going somewhere. However, the data does not tag each of the non-employees' functions--making it difficult to know what the money is being spent for. Certainly being able to see how much money is spent on substitute teachers would be a good thing.

The PAUSD could solve this sort of problem by posting the expenses for labor, and other 1099 expenditures, on its web-site. This has been suggested for a long time now, with little evidence of the District's wanting to freely share that data with the public.



3 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:00 am

More data, as the posters on this forum seem to demand data while providing none. Look at the numbers at the bottom of my post.

Someone I know bought a house in 2006, and property taxes were adjusted when the home sold. Below are the real numbers from that real estate transaction in 2006. The sale of the property caused property taxes to triple (from $4,131 to $12,980). This is painful for the homeowner now paying $16K, but this *is* how property tax income goes up for PAUSD. An older childless couple moves out, and a new couple with two children moves in. PAUSD expenses go up $36K, and property tax revenue increase $9K. Real numbers, real example. real facts.

Unfortunately, a small number of houses actually sell each year in Palo Alto because (quote @Parent here) it is expensive to live here and many cannot afford a $2M house. Those who move her (quote @Parent again) do so because the great public school education. They move here, are stretched, and do not give to PiE and resent the parcel tax (an additional $800 on their $16K property tax).

Our schools need the parcel tax revenue. PAUSD cannot cut 7% of the budget anywhere else without laying off teachers. The teachers who will be laid off are the last hired, least expensive, and arguably most important for changing PAUSD (younger, more technical, more willing to use online systems). Voting against Measure A requires a degree of cognitive dissonance (yes, cut funding and hope for a better education) than I can stomach. If someone inside of PAUSD has a plan for cutting expensea 7% while improving our kids' education, I would *love* to hear it. But until I see that plan, I am voting for Measure A.

George

Tax History

Find assessor information on the county website

YEAR PROPERTY TAXES CHANGE TAX ASSESSMENT CHANGE
2014 $15,629 +1.9% $1,266,777 +0.5%
2013 $15,339 -- $1,261,053 +2.0%
2012 $15,339 +8.7% $1,236,328 +2.0%
2011 $14,105 +1.7% $1,212,087 +3.3%
2010 $13,868 -- $1,173,029 -0.2%
2009 $13,868 +7.0% $1,175,817 +2.0%
2008 $12,966 -- $1,152,763 +2.0%
2007 $12,966 -0.1% $1,130,160 +2.0%
2006 $12,980 +214% $1,108,000 +241%
2005 $4,131 -- $325,105


11 people like this
Posted by It's Bait and Switch - Vote NO
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

@George:

People have already stated their concerns about school district retaliation, which is a very real concern for families with middle and high school aged kids. Since your children are still in elementary school, I understand that you have no experience with this issue, and no experience with many/most of the issues in this district. [Portion removed.]

Are you claiming that all 7% of new students are from new, rental families? I ask because that's the only "new" student scenario you describe. What about new families that buy homes; aren't they contributing HUGE property tax revenue for the school district? Of course they are. What is the breakdown of rental versus homeowner new residents? That data is pretty critical to your argument. Don't ask others to go research it - you brought this to the argument while the rest of us already know that property tax revenue is at least 2x of new PAUSD enrollment.

Not all PAUSD teachers can afford to live in Palo Alto. Neither can many other people who work in Palo Alto. Are you suggesting the residents of Palo Alto should pay extra taxes to cover the living expenses of ALL employees who work in Palo Alto, so they can live in Palo Alto?

Please note, the best teachers (and employees) are those who are motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g. love of teaching and helping kids learn and develop), not extrinsic factors like base salary. Do we really want teachers who are motivated by salary and benefits, or teachers who are motivated by teaching in an excellent district with high-achieving kids and great programs? I would choose the latter, and PAUSD has plenty of benefits to attract and retain fantastic teachers anyway. If you have DATA that shows the relationship between teacher salaries and teacher effectiveness, please provide it to supplement your argument (with sources, of course).

[Portion removed.]

Vote NO on Measure A!

Tell the PAUSD administrators that they are responsible for their performance and squandering money on ineffective administrators, while ignoring severe student issues, is unacceptable. Do not be swayed by FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that claims a "No" on Measure A will result in calamities like larger class sized, teacher layoffs, and loss of programs.

PAUSD has plenty of money, the administrators just need to understand the concept of a budget so they stop wasting money on PR people and excess overhead.


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Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:42 am

I love it when others make my point for me better than I can do so myself.

[Portion removed.]

If Measure A does not pass this year, or next year, teachers will be laid off. Do not pretend you have a magic scalpel to cut the 7% of PAUSD that you don't like, it doesn't exist.

My kids will grow up and they will be in middle school and high school soon. I will fight just as hard to make their education GREAT then as I do now.

[Portion removed.]

George



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Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:44 am

@ George,
[Portion removed.]

You wrote: "There is an oversight committee for the parcel tax, it is full of intelligent and articulate people (and they let me attend too), and your assertion that there is no oversight is offensive and personally insulting."

[Portion removed.]

I was not talking about the parcel tax, if you read my post, I said, "I learned recently that when we vote through a BOND, the oversight committee doesn't do anything to ensure the money is spent well and efficiently, only that it isn't spent on something else like a Swiss bank account. That was eye opening."

I was talking about the almost $400 million facilities bond, a previous Measure A.

Ask Bob Golton and the bond Oversight Committee: Is the Oversight Committee's job to see that the district ensured, if at all possible, that all the bond work on the list was planned and completed, or did the Oversight Committee take the list of things the district decided to do (whether complete or incomplete or done in the most efficient way possible or not) and ensure the money was spent on those things (as opposed to a Swiss bank account). It is the latter.

It is not the job of the Oversight Committee to be sure the district does what it promises in the bond, nor do they believe it is their job to ensure the district spends the money is the most efficient and effective way possible. Furthermore the bond language is a a lot more specific than this tax language, and yet the Oversight Committee will tell you that almost none of it is a specific promise that must be fulfilled.

The current parcel tax is even more vague. People bring up about teachers, but the tax itself does not promise anything nearly so specific.

You wrote: "When a new family moves into rental housing in Palo Alto, the school does not get any additional revenue" But when any real estate changes hands, the property is reassessed, usually at many times the previous value. So the increase for just on transaction can cover more than one student. Our family's taxes pay for more than one student. Just 3 homes sold for 4M each will bring in nearly $200,000 annually in property taxes. If the homes are older, the previous tax would have been very little. So in that example, just 3 homes would pay for a dozen students. Additionally, any NEW rental housing going in, while it would not pay for the services the way a house would, does have to pay based on a new assessment, and it would not be nothing as you suggest, the owner has to pay property tax on rental property as well. You just don't get a reassessment if people move.

Your assertion that voting down this ask would result in such doomsday scenarios is not even worth responding to. Won't happen. If it does, those of us who care enough about the district to break a sweat for it will still be involved. You are welcome to join. Just a question -- how do you feel about administrative waste and top-heavy administration taking dollars from teacher salaries and kids' resources?

You wrote to "parent", "The fact that you spent a lot on a home because you wanted a great education, and now don't want to fund that great education,"

Um, if parent bought a home, whether he or she pays this additional parcel tax or not, s/he will still be funding that education to the tune of his/her enormous property taxes. The parcel tax is just supplemental and is an extension of what was supposed to be a temporary tax during a downturn in the economy.

Anyone who bought a home anytime recently is paying far more than the cost of their child's education. For all those people sacrificing to live here, you don't think administrative waste should be fixed, and D-players removed, from the admin office as a first step rather than asking the public for more money instead? Many of us think the schools are better off going through such improvement process so that better people are able to do a better job for our kids. I don't know if you have ever been in a work situation in which the management won't get rid of D-players who [portion removed] play games for their own benefit at the expense of others and the organization, but it's bad for the long-term health of the organization. It's terrible in schools because children are involved. WE DO FUND THE SCHOOLS. We're tired of funding a lot of people whose behavior hurts the schools.

Federal government has NEVER funded schools and has almost no jurisdiction [portion removed.] I'm surprised we get any funding from the feds at all. All of us know we are a basic aid district that derives most of our money from the property taxes (not the parcel tax, the property taxes). Refer back to the Weekly's editorial advising caution when it comes to this parcel tax. Property taxes are quite healthy, and if properly accounted for, we would not need the parcel tax. Again, refer to the Weekly editorial.

Anonymity on these lists is for a reason. If you want people to use their names, then you could start be being more respectful toward others. Honestly, it's the people who complain most about anonymity who are the very reason it is necessary.

You give an awful lot of data, and yet oddly refuse to tell us what the top-heavy administrations costs us and consists of. [Portion removed.]

As a parent who believes the focus should first be on fixing what's wrong at Churchill, and this is one of the very rare ways we could get a message through they can't ignore, I hope the community will help us and vote NO. This has happened before when the community rejected a ballot. The current parcel tax doesn't expire for another year anyway, and even if it does, the majority of our schools are paid for by our existing property taxes, which are going up like gangbusters. They will ask again if they need it. Nothing bad will happen, but bad things will happen if the leadership continues to act like they got away again with acting like everything is hunky dory and we are a cash cow who will never ask for accountability.

Lastly, virtually everyone I know who currently has problems with the district, especially special ed, would be able to be supported and solve those problems if McGee just reorganized the district office, spent some time REALLY LISTENING to parents and fired anyone who had engaged in dishonest and unprofessional behavior. That would save the district money and provide far more socio-emotional support than hiring more people when trust is in such deep need of repair.




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Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:49 am

Just a question -- how do you feel about administrative waste and top-heavy administration taking dollars from teacher salaries and kids' resources?

In fact, how do you feel about poorly performing administration breaking trust with the community and hurting the district reputation? Hurting children?

All is not well. We have very few ways of sending a msg that can't be ignored. This is one. I am going to vote NO BECAUSE I CARE about our kids and won't turn a blind eye no matter what's going on at the top.


5 people like this
Posted by It's Bait and Switch - Vote NO
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:49 am

@George,

One example of one home is not data, it is cherry-picked information. Let's talk about city-wide data, that's where the real information is.

You are making a strong argument, please back it up with real data, not one example of one house.

I think your example is designed to make it appear that PAUSD costs exceed PAUSD tax revenue with new residents, and, based on other posts, I do not believe that.


2 people like this
Posted by It's Bait and Switch - Vote NO
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 17, 2015 at 1:12 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2015 at 1:33 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 1:39 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 2:15 am

[Portion removed.]
If for no other reason, right now was a really bad time to put through a request for a major increase on a TEMPORARY tax, when we don't even know how enrollments will be affected next fall. Anecdotally, many parents may be leaving the system, and there may be a charter or two coming down the pike. There will still be time to ask for more money, even if it is needed, and it may not be just because our main source of money for the schools is property taxes, and those are going through the roof just now.

At a minimum, it's time for us to demand an accounting and streamlining of administration, when we have so many administrators most of the public can't even name who make more money than people like the Governor of California or the Attorney General of every state in the nation.

[Portion removed.] We are all in agreement that our schools should be well funded, we're just pretty clear on how the system works around here. Those of us voting NO are doing so because we believe from experience that it will be the only way to leverage a better outcome for our students.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2015 at 2:26 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Thanks to: Lee The, George Jaquette, Peter Carpenter, Eric Rosenblum, Claire Kirner, Phil Shirts, Bob Wenzlau, Jon Foster, and Wayne Martin for sharing who you are, as well as what you think, on this thread. George, I appreciated your single property illustration of property tax effects as an aid to understanding the city-wide situation. Thanks.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2015 at 3:08 am

For George, if you ever come back to visit this thread, thanks for trying to supply real data. Yes it's becoming quite a chore to wade through all the verbiage.

Just curious about the real-life example offered an hour or two ago: "... new couple with two children moves in. PAUSD expenses go up $36K ..." Simple-mindedly I can divide the $185M budget by 12,500 students and get $14,800 per student per year.

But I wonder what the true *marginal* cost is per student. The district has fixed costs and variable costs. My gut feeling is that the extra $9K tax being paid by the homeowner more than covers the district's extra dollar outlay for two additional students (unless they are particularly high-maintenance students). An intangible cost, perhaps expressible in dollars, is the marginal increase in class size which is borne by the existing student body (and by the teachers).

One other general point regarding lack of Federal support: Arguably 25 to 30% of the budget is subsidized by the IRS in the form of income tax deductions. Or am I being too generous here?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:18 am

George, or any of the Yes on A people

I appreciate all the data and your sincerity, but I do ask why nobody wants to address all the wastage which PAUSD seems to be incapable of dealing with.

Why won't Yes on A tell us why we are paying for ever increasing numbers of administrators, or why we are paying for expensive trips either to take a small number of students abroad or a large number of officials to interview a candidate, or why we have to fund expensive lawyers?

If I really felt that PAUSD was doing something about looking at themselves and saving money, I would feel differently. If I saw streamlining of administration costs, or questioning of the numbers of paper pushers at Churchill, or any other accountability of their expenses, I would feel differently. Any answers to these questions would be very much appreciated.


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

Okay - this needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, as all the data is not available. But here is what I was able to extract from the public database in a comparison between PAUSD and Cupertino.

For what it is worth, professional companies contract this kind of HR analysis and companies do job-salary/yrs experience comparisons all the time. They would do a much better job.

Here is the amateur summary; it would be fascinating if the district disclosed a professional summary.

Teachers are about 75% of the labor costs in both districts. They are also about 72% of the employee population in both districts. That is where the bulk of the costs are. PAUSD is about 16% higher pay for the 75th %ile teacher compared to Cupertino. I would not read too much into that difference without knowing more about years of experience, (I used 75th %ile to eliminate a lot of part-time teachers).


The following positions are also about 20% higher pay scale for the median pay employee:


COUNSELOR
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTARY
COORDINATOR II
MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
HIGH SCHOOL ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL
DIRECTOR
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL MIDDLE SCH
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT



Our Super is paid about 80% more.


I don't know if Cupertino is a representative district - I would say that PAUSD has a lot more job titles and specialized positions. But the overall overhead is unclear whether it is inappropriate.

The numbers make it impossible to tell what is happening at Churchill vs. the sites. Nor is there any way to measure effectiveness comparatively.


So in summary - we pay a bit more for teachers, a lot more for Superintendant, somewhat more for Sr. Admin staff. Our total numbers of teachers and admin staff are basically similar.

Overall, not that different, just a little pricier. Not surprising, as we use higher salaries to attract talent. This may not be a bad thing as long as we are getting the talent, and results expected.





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Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

Thanks for your input.

"This may not be a bad thing as long as we are getting the talent, and results expected."

Trouble is, if we pay too much, what we get is people digging in and working against the interests of the children in order to keep their position/pay, it works against intrinsic motivation.

You said two things that seemed contradictory, though:
" I would say that PAUSD has a lot more job titles and specialized positions."
"Our total numbers of teachers and admin staff are basically similar."

I suspect it probably isn't contradictory, I just wasn't clear on what you meant.

Is there any way you can put together a listing of Churchill jobs, salaries, and overhead, to give an idea of what Churchill costs, and then what administration is also at the school sites (beyond the essential principal, and school secretaries)?

I was pretty upset to find a few years ago that our district was hiring health techs for less than 40 hour weeks so they didn't have to pay them comparable wages, even while we were giving those at the top what are arguably unnecessarily generous compensation. And it's still unclear how many people we have who get all that compensation, there are SO MANY administrators at Churchill. And then we pay all these special consultants all the time (and some of them get pretty mad at PAUSD given how they are used!)


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 2:20 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

A few things - Cupertino has 7 nurses; PAUSD has 6 health technicians and 2 nurses. I don't really have an opinion on whether that is a problem. Financially it is a drop in the ocean.


There is no breakout of salaries by location. I don't know who works in Churchill, and I lack the motivation to dig further.

On the contradiction:
You said two things that seemed contradictory, though:
" I would say that PAUSD has a lot more job titles and specialized positions."
"Our total numbers of teachers and admin staff are basically similar."

Lets imagine a hypothetical where Cupertino has a title 'custodian' with 9 employees. PAUSD might have 2 titles: 'custodian', 'landscape person' with 9 employees

Cupertino may have 'school secretary', while PAUSD may have school secretary, as well as 'typist clerk' but the same total numbers.

So PAUSD ends up with more job titles, but about the same number of staff.


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Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 17, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

My name is Elena Kadvany; I'm the Weekly's education reporter. I'm working on a story on Measure A and am hoping to talk with people who oppose the parcel tax. If you're interested, please email me at ekadvany@paweekly.com. Thank you!


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Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Dear Elena,

Wish I felt less terrified about retaliation [portion removed.] Sorry.

I hate being against a school bond, but feel it's being pursued in the same kind of dishonest way everything seems to get handled from the district office. If that had changed, I would be voting yes. Although, if that had changed, I'm not sure they'd be asking us to renew this temporary tax but would let it expire, and if they had changed and become more trustworthy, it would be more clear where the money would exactly be going. Until it changes, I will be voting no.

I would very much love to get more specific and comprehensive information about our paper pushing element in the district, how much they cost, who they are, what is the overhead, and what different kinds of things we pay for around the bureaucracy, how that compares to a well-run and efficient high functioning district. Did the administrators at Churchill take a cut of any kind during the recession? People like to make vague per pupil cost comparisons between us and New York, nevermind that energy and facilities costs alone are dramatically higher there. I'd like an honest comparison of what's going on here in terms of bureaucracy costs, what it buys us, and what we could be in a dynamic, open collaborative and efficient district environment.


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Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2015 at 5:03 pm

@ My thoughts,

"I don't know who works in Churchill, and I lack the motivation to dig further."

But Churchill is where the digging needs to happen. The number of assistant this's and that's who make more than the state district attorney is really pretty astonishing.


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Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

This is just one example and it may be an over-simplification on my part, but it is hard to understand how it is possible that the district could end up laying off teachers (a necessity) at the same time they are building a massive new performing arts center (a luxury).

Of course, I do follow the news and understand that the funding comes from different sources. Still, it seems something is terribly amiss if the prioritization is such that we could end up with a state-of-the-art facility and no teachers to run the programs.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@ My Thoughts

"If you view the system as a place where students largely teach themselves, or through tutors, this becomes even more independant of school financing.. . . Mission district in Fremont - they have high scoring schools and high property values. Their parcel tax? $98."

I'd like to follow up on the idea of comparing Mission San Jose Fremont to Palo Alto.

The tutoring centers in Fremont have posted college admissions successes in their windows for years, claiming their share of credit for the high accomplishments of students whose parents make sure they get this bit of added help for their college applications. More recently, we're seeing it here, at ThinkTank Tutoring Learning next to Starbucks, for example. It's hard to know how much credit goes to MSJ/Gunn and how much to the businesses that educate them after school hours.

One big difference between MSJHS and PAUSD is that the MSJHS attendance area is just one of five in the city. Fremont residents are anxious to assure that FUSD resources are equally allocated across the entire district, and there's constant vigilance that high-performing MSJ and its feeder schools not get more than their fair share regardless of how well their students perform. In Palo Alto, there's no significant difference between the Gunn and Paly attendance areas, residents of all parts of the city have been willing to support significant parcel taxes to support education.

Another is that Fremont voters are more frugal than Palo Alto voters. I can well imagine that the MSJ attendance area on its own would be happy to tax themselves for the benefit of education in their part of town, but I don't see a large Fremont-wide parcel tax proposal getting a two-thirds majority any time soon. Fremont residents strongly support their schools, but balk at funding what they see as frills.

I retired a few years ago, so my information on administration expenses may be out of date, but I saw a focus on reducing administrative costs that made it a pretty lean operation by the time I left. Negotiating a salary schedule that could attract and hold good teachers was a high priority for administration and the teachers union.

High schools in Fremont have six-period days. PAUSD provides seven periods. That increases course options, but it also increases cost. PAUSD has chosen to provide more and tax itself to do so. FUSD leaves it up to families to seek community college, tutoring, or other options on their own to add to their students' academic preparation.


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

There is a higher level view of budget management - rather than digging and doing the work of the district management. Just set a budgetary target, and priorities. Think like a boss, not a worker.

Then the executives will push this down to management, management will push this down to workers. The cuts will come from hundreds of small efforts basically in line with organization priorities and goals.

Everyone knows that cuts to "stuff" will be less painful that cuts to "staff". So we buy less paperclips, there is less travel, the playground is swept every other day rather than every day... there are a myriad of ways to cut cost in an organization that tries. Some of this may be accomplished by automation. A school deals in facilities and information - the information portion has a year to invest in automation improvements that will save cost. The loss of Measure A money still has a year to expire. That helps - doing this in 3 months is much harder. A LOT can be achieved in that year that improves efficiencies. Any efficiency gained across the teaching staff is likely to have a bigger impact than improvements to Churchill. But the staff in Churchill also know that teachers are the last thing you cut before turning out the lights. So that will motivate Churchill to get better faster.

That is how it works in a functioning organization. 7% is not even that hard to cut in most organizations (unless they have recently had cutbacks). Some will come from stuff, some will come from activities (training, travel, etc.) some will come from staff. It's not that hard. Let the experts do this; they will have to live with the outcome.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"PAUSD has chosen to provide more and tax itself to do so."

How enlightening - the PAUSD has chosen to "tax itself to do so."

Does anyone believe that the School District has the authority total itself?

Are they thinking that the taxpayers are simply a rubber stamp for whatever they want to do?


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@ Jerry writes: "High schools in Fremont have six-period days. PAUSD provides seven periods. That increases course options, but it also increases cost. PAUSD has chosen to provide more and tax itself to do so. FUSD leaves it up to families to seek community college, tutoring, or other options on their own to add to their students' academic preparation."


Yes. I agree with most of what you post. The question is the outcome better or worse for a PAUSD student, or a MSJHS student?

Does private tutoring + lean public school trump a full-featured public school? Fremont is doing very well with a very small parcel tax.

It is not clear to me that there is a problem with private dollars allocated exactly to the needs of each family (i.e. keep your Measure A taxes, and spend it directly on what your kid needs.)

Heck, for that matter if I am going to stick around Palo Alto a few years, I can spend future tax-savings on my kids and get some real leverage. Call it $1500 - $2000/year. That matters. What we are asking is really who controls the money - me, or the school?

So it boils down to this: are you impressed with the management of our schools and want them to manage more of your money to create a full-featured school.

OR are you disappointed with the crisis state of our schools, the lack of compliance with policy, the retaliation and mistreatment in our schools, and therefore withhold your tax dollars to spend them yourself on mental-health support for your kids and tutoring for your kids.

Are we to be lean, or full-featured?


My preference is to have a full-featured, high-functioning school. That is what I thought I was buying into when I came here.

But if the school has decided to f**k me, mistreat my kid, and retaliate against any parents who try to improve the system...well, then THEY HAVE DECIDED THEY DON'T WANT TO BE THAT HIGH QUALITY SCHOOL. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and they squandered it. So okay, I get it. I get it. I really do. It does not take a brick wall to fall on me. I get it. Message received loud and clear: The schools have decided it is better to piss off their customers and take a haircut on the property Tax.

It's not me that has decided to mistreat my kids. It is not me that has decided to ignore my complaints when my kid is mistreated. It is not me that has ignored pleas to IS, Principal, Super, Board Members. [Portion removed.]

It is odd to imagine why they would make such a decision, but that is what has effectively happened. The Measure A is just the vector through which they become a lean school district.

Not my choice. It was the schools that chose this path. I am sure they want this outcome. I am certain of it. I could not have created a path to failure any more perfectly than they have created. They cannot possibly be surprised, or angry, or frustrated.

It is not even a timescale thing - everyone knew that the parcel tax would run out next year. They knew this last year and the year before and the year before. [Portion removed.]

Like this is the district that expects a 6th grader to have the organization and planning skills of an executive assistant, and yet they really show this little planning?

No. It is entirely of their own doing. And they know it. And I think that is what is frustrating a LOT of very very good teachers; they can see this Measure really in great jeapardy. And they know what is going to happen next.

But it won't be a revelation: "gee let's offer a high quality service, so we can be a full-feature school district". It's going to be denial, remorse, blaming parents, all the usual stuff.

But it was their decision. Not ours. They chose to become Fremont, not us.


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:31 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

...oh, except I should not bag on Fremont. They have a great on-line tool for grades, and every teacher uses it.

Every teacher.

And I have not heard that many complaints of mistreatment from my Fremont co-workers. And their suicide, hospitalization and watch-list rates are far lower.

I know, I know, you'll tell me to move there if it is so great. But I don't have to. In a year, we'll become just as impoverished, because the schools have decided that it is good to f**k the public, and take a haircut on tax revenue.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@My Thoughts

"Are we to be lean, or full-featured?"


That's the dilemma, isn't it? When I think of a family with school age children trying to decide whether to buy a $2M home in Palo Alto, or put up $6–8K per month to rent here, I think they're more likely than not to expect a full-featured school package, all of it available without extra expense to them just because they live here and it's a public school system. If I were marketing housing here based on a "lean system" option I wouldn't count on making many sales at today's prices.

(Note: it astounds me that many families who are paying the "education premium" for living in PAUSD are nevertheless willing to pay for private schools for their kids. It doesn't hurt PAUSD finances since we're not a basic aid district, but that's a big hit to the wallet for most folks.)


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:14 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@Jerry writes:"If I were marketing housing here based on a "lean system" option I wouldn't count on making many sales at today's prices.

(Note: it astounds me that many families who are paying the "education premium" for living in PAUSD are nevertheless willing to pay for private schools for their kids."


There are two points here that may be a bit confused -- houses in Fremont Mission are quite pricey. You can sell "lean" school districts. Sure, it is not Palo Alto prices, but not cheap.

The second point is that some people live here for reasons OTHER than the schools. They send their kids to private schools. Some of our own Board members do this.

This is the hardest part for the school district cheerleaders to understand: There are many good reasons to live here that are NOT the schools. It is NOT ALL ABOUT THE SCHOOLS. It is a pretty nice place to live, good climate, good restaurants, good community, friendly neighbors. Many of us would choose to live here even if the schools decide they want to offer low-quality lean-district service. I wish they decide they want to offer high quality service with full-feature service.

Why the schools have decided to f**k the public and take a haircut on tax revenue is beyond me; but I really doubt it is going to knock my house price down at all.


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Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@ Jerry - I posted above the reasoning behind the myth of the real-estate crash. I'll repeat it here, edited:

Let's not confuse sales with delivery, or campaign statements with reality.

...

how about: "Oh NO, our property value will crash! Your homes are entirely based on the schools! The schools entirely hinge on getting this money, or we will turn into Detroit! Think of the real estate losses!!!"


Reality - first of all, the district will minimize teacher cuts. They will cut the least educationally impact areas. Secondly, the real-estate myth is self-perpetuating, independent of the schools. What? Here is how it really works: someone outside Palo Alto wins the high-tech lotto, and looks for a good school district - they choose Palo Alto because of the schools, downtown, and tree lined streets. They bring their money to Palo Alto, along with their views on schools - which is to say they value education. So they provide their kid with all manner of outside experiences, encouragement, enrichment. Notice the schools haven't done anything yet? These people also donate to PiE. The schools provide a place with a teacher; these kids and their parents would do well in another district, they will do well in this district. They still score well on the test.

You see, the self-selection of people with a priority on education will still continue, because we still have good scores. These people will show up, and keep the scores high.

Once this feedback is in motion, good schools attract good students; good students make good schools. This isn't going to stop because the Board has to trim a bit of fat from non-essential areas. The scores won't budge at all.

If you view the system as a place where students largely teach themselves, or through tutors, this becomes even more independant of school financing. Look at Cupertino - they are not a cheap place to live. They have high scoring schools. And their parcel tax? $250. Roughly what PiE collects in aggregate. Mission district in Fremont - they have high scoring schools and high property values. Their parcel tax? $98.

The real-estate calamity theory is predicated on the belief that all value stems from schools. It doesn't. In fact, it is at best a secondary effect once the wheel of school scores-attracting good students gets started.

What could stop this wheel of fortune? More suicides and a loss of reputation. Once home buyers focus on items other than school scores, but instead on school well-being, that is when the real estate prices drop.

But that has nothing to do with passing Measure A

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by No!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:34 pm

@Elena,

Why do you want us to contact you? What is it exactly you want to accomplish?


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

My Thought,

I like your analysis of how MSJ got to where it is. It's important, too, to mention the cultural element of the transformation of MSJ. What happened was a gradual replacement of the middle class, primarily Euro-American, families who had been there since the school opened in the mid-sixties by South and East Asian students parents who saw the school and neighborhood as a good bargain. As the old demographic aged and sold their homes to families with Asian rather than European backgrounds (sound familiar?), the students who arrived at the elementary, middle and high schools came ready to do what it took to succeed at school. Turned in homework rates went from 60% (approx) to 90%+. Test scores went up, housing prices went up and so did sales. Test scores went up again and the process continued. In Palo Alto, the starting point is higher, but I think the process is similar.

If we look at the pressure students feel and the reduced happiness they experience as a result, I think that MSJ in its "lean district" and Gunn/Paly in our flawed "full-service district" are pretty similar. The kids need help, too many are going under, and it doesn't need to be this way.


2 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 17, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Jerry: "If we look at the pressure students feel and the reduced happiness they experience as a result, I think that MSJ in its "lean district" and Gunn/Paly in our flawed "full-service district" are pretty similar. The kids need help, too many are going under, and it doesn't need to be this way."



Ummm...But they don't have the suicide rate we have. And I don't see how your "Asian" theory meshes with the lean/fat decision here. Isn't it up to the school to decide whether they want to be helpful to students?

In fact, the whole lean/fat district misses one point - I don't care how many electives are offered or whether the schools teaches journalism, or offers 7 newspapers or 12 levels of Differential Equations for math. I don't think it is about the offerings of the school and the money spent.

My problems have been in fully funded classrooms where a teacher simply fails to teach to the test. Then pushes a ton of homework onto the students to fill the gap.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2015 at 11:31 pm

@Lee The

"The original justification for this tax was to temporarily compensate for the dip in property taxes caused by the Great Recession."

It was originally voted into place in 2001n then renewed in 2005 and 2010. It's been baked into the budget for a long time now. Nothing to do with the "Great Recession."


6 people like this
Posted by We should not be Bell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2015 at 10:50 am

Jerry Underdal,
I'm still having trouble understanding why you want to insert yourself in this school situation when you have no connection, and have admitted yourself to not having any way of judging the serious concerns parents have been expressing. Children are dying, families have been tearing their hair out trying to get a district office that will deal competently and honestly with them and these issues. Your way seems to be to try to form crude images of people involved, fit those crude images in the spectrum of your personal and political biases, and proceed as if facts in the issue and feelings of other people aren't important. It may work in the city political fray, but you can do some real damage to families and children here.

This supplemental tax was indeed originally begun as a way of shoring up funding for the schools after the dotcom bubble burst just before 2001. It was indeed originally a way of dealing with funding cuts because of recession. It may be "baked into the budget" as you claim, but if that budget is full of large expenditures for highly paid paper pushers who don't directly benefit teachers or children, it's time to pay attention to the budget, not just ask for more. In fact, if supplemental taxes (which Measure A is) get "baked in", that's all the more reason to exercise caution when we DON'T really need them so that capacity is there when we DO.

The Weekly editorial urging caution is worthy of reading:
Web Link

"The district is also in the best financial shape it has been in for years,"

and

"Every year the district intentionally underestimates future revenue from property taxes, creating the false impression of a financial squeeze, and as a result almost every year there is a substantial surplus at the end of the year. As the largest driver of the budget, this overly conservative forecasting of property-tax revenue distorts the financial outlook, and instead of fully utilizing our revenues for programs, the surpluses merely add to our already large reserves or get spent on one-time expenditures that often aren't well-considered priorities."

and especially,

"If a new parcel tax is to win this spring, the district and its supporters will need to go to extraordinary lengths to honestly and clearly explain the district's finances and avoid scare tactics as a device for gaining support."

I am still waiting for McGee to deal with the problem of honesty in general from the district, and have been seriously disappointed that neither of the Weekly's suggestions were taken seriously before proposing the renewal of this supplemental tax.

The economy is at a high now. It will swing down again. At which point we will have already asked the voters to pony up a supplemental (this tax) which will already be swallowed into the budget. At what point do we ever stop and look at where the money might be wasted? When we are paying the superintendent more, prorated annually, than the President of the United States, and paying a whole lot of administrators in that office that most people can't even name more than most senior top federal judges in equally expensive San Francisco, maybe we should consider the low-hanging fruit, first.

Now is the time when we have the luxury to ask questions.

What we don't have the luxury to do is continue to ignore the terrible impacts of dishonesty and poor performance in the district office on our schools, families, and children. Many of us try, they aren't listening. The ballot box for a measure like this is one of the only ways we have of sending a message they can't ignore. I'm voting NO.


4 people like this
Posted by Clarity
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2015 at 11:44 am

Exactly how this impacts your vote, whether as a message to the school district that you support them or want them to change, or for some other reasons, is up to you.

But neither class size between 20 and 40 nor teacher salaries impact the quality of education children receive in any measurable way. In any measurable way.

Even CTA acknowledges that.

They still want more money for schools, more money for teachers and smaller class sizes for other reasons, which may be good reasons.

But it's disingenuous to claim that it benefits the education of the students in measurable ways.


2 people like this
Posted by Just more click bait
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 18, 2015 at 12:01 pm

@ My Thoughts:

"...oh, except I should not bag on Fremont. They have a great on-line tool for grades, and every teacher uses it.

Every teacher."

We have that here in Palo Alto too. It's called Infinite Campus. EVERY SINGLE TEACHER USES IT. They have to in order to post grades.

Schoology is ANOTHER huge database system that is NOT used for grades.

Let's not let those pesky FACTS get in the way though.


2 people like this
Posted by Susan Usman
a resident of Triple El
on Apr 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm

PTA Council has proudly voted to support Measure A, including a $999 donation to the parcel tax campaign. PTA is the largest child advocacy organization in the country. While we are strictly non-partisan, we can and do advocate for ballot measures.
This Measure is extremely important to pass to keep the 80 teachers, counselors, librarians and psychologists for which the current parcel tax pays as well as support the increasing student enrollment (+1100 student since 2008/9, projected increase of +700 in the next 5 years) . The modest increase in the parcel tax will enable a small expansion of funding to support struggling students, STEAM programs and student wellness. Even with the increase in property taxes we have enjoyed in the last year, our school district funds do not keep up with inflation. We have lost approximately $4 million of income annually from the Cubberley lease as well as having to fund our employee pension plan that the state has pushed onto school districts. Because we are a basic aid district we will not get more money from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula.
Please volunteer to help Web Link

Editor's Note: The reduction in revenue from the changes to the Cubberley lease agreement approved last November is approximately $1.9 million annually. Those funds will instead be directed by the city to repair or renovate the Cubberley site.



9 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2015 at 5:45 pm

@Susan Usman:

I am not surprised that PTA (Parent Teacher Association) endorses Measure A. I am curious of how you represent Parents' interests with your charter of Parents and TEACHERS. You claim you can stay non-partisan and how would you address any parents' interests which conflicts with teachers' - for example Schoology at Gunn. What is your position? And why aren't your organization taking any interest in this matter? Isn't this what PTA is for?

I've been members of PTA for 20+ years. It is basically an organization which meets monthly and endorses motions. I've never seen any conflict resolutions. Maybe we have such a harmonious parents and teachers community that we don't need PTA. So, I'd like to see PTA serve the interests of Parents too!

VOTING NO!


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Remind me again why all registered voters are allowed to vote on this rather than just individual parecel holders? Seems pretty unfair.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.



"Jerry Underdal
I'm still having trouble understanding why you want to insert yourself in this school situation when you have no connection . . ."

How wrong you are! Once a teacher, always a teacher. I see the kids coming up Maybell to Briones, Terman and Gunn in the morning and just hope that they are resilient enough to bounce back when disappointments and setbacks occur. Taking care of traffic safety is a piece of cake compared to setting up optimal supports for our kids' emotional safety.

" . . .and have admitted yourself to not having any way of judging the serious concerns parents have been expressing."

Here you're touching on a different point. I can't judge the concerns you have expressed based only on your account. Maybe the administrators have a point in the decisions they have made, maybe you're completely justified in your complaints. It's that old two sides to every story thing.


8 people like this
Posted by I can't remember the name I used
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Susan Usman's post is a terrific example of the kind of reflexive poormouthing that the district and its surrogates commit on the unsuspecting public. [Portion removed.]

"We have lost approximately $4 million of income annually from the Cubberley lease as well as having to fund our employee pension plan that the state has pushed onto school districts."

Nope. as the "Editor" states the figure of rental income is less than half the number Usman states -- it is actually 1.9 million and it will be used for upkeep of a district owned property, so it's not gone at all. We didn't "lose" it -- it is simply being used to maintain a district asset.

Presumably other district funds would have had to be spent to maintain Cubberley unless the district intends to continue to treat it as a wasting asset and allow it to just fall down.

What the parcel tax needs from the PTA is not $999 dollars and an inaccurate blog post. What the parcel tax needs from the PTA is advocacy in the district on issues that voters care about on behalf of children. Where is the PTA on zero period, homework, schoology, the shameful public bludgening of Denise Herrmann by the union, counseling at Gunn, 200 students at Paly on a suicide list, 50 students at Gunn being hospitalized this year alone -- where is the PTA on any of this?

Show up and do what people care about. You are supposed to be an advocacy organization. Advocate.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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