News

Palo Alto education foundation sees drop in donations

Principals emphasize Partners in Education's 'vital' impact on school sites

Partners in Education (PiE), the education foundation that raises millions of dollars each year to fund electives, support staff, counseling and more at Palo Alto Unified schools, is making a push for additional donations to mitigate an unexpected drop in fundraising this year.

Parents throughout the district received emails from school principals this month asking them to support the education foundation, describing how the gap could impact their children's educational experience.

The gap between the amount schools received from PiE this year and what they would receive next year if more donations don't come in ranges from about $25,000 at Terman Middle School, for example, up to about $100,000 at each high school, according to their principals' emails.

At Terman, this could mean fewer electives, counselors and technology teachers on special assignment (TOSAs), Principal Pier Angeli La Place told the Weekly.

At Gunn High School, it could impact counseling and wellness staff, elective courses like engineering and music, support staff at the College and Career Center and stipends provided to teachers serving as advisers for students in a new mentoring program, among other areas, Principal Denise Herrmann said in an interview.

"The things that PiE provides are incredibly valued and it is hard to imagine having those lessened," La Place said.

Linda Lyon, PiE's executive director, declined to comment on the drop in donations but said there is "not one specific cause to the downturn."

"It's far too early for us to know where we will end the year's fundraising," she wrote in an email to the Weekly, reaffirming the foundation's commitment to "raising funds so that all PAUSD students receive the education they deserve."

The school district's 2016-17 budget includes an anticipated $5.7 million from Partners in Education, or 2.6 percent of the overall budget. PiE donations make up 60 to 77 percent of the discretionary funds that each principal has to use for his or her own school, according to the foundation's website.

The education foundation distributes the dollars it raises equally among Palo Alto's 17 schools on a per-pupil basis. The educational foundation was created in the wake of a 2002 board policy that prohibits Palo Alto parent-teacher associations (PTAs) from raising money for specific schools to pay for personnel, with the goal of addressing inequities in site-based fundraising. PiE is the only fundraising organization allowed by the school board to pay for salaries of personnel working during the school day, according to the group's website, while PTAs support materials, programs and events at individual schools.

As a result, PiE dollars pay for more than 250 support staff like aides, reading and math specialists and counselors; art instruction; additional counseling; electives in the arts, technology, journalism and more. The foundation also gives grants to specific teachers "seeking to innovate, create, or work together with others."

At the elementary level, Partners in Education specifically focuses its dollars on classroom support, technology instruction and art staff.

"Without the support of these PiE dollars, our school would feel very different," Ohlone Elementary Principal Nicki Smith wrote in an email to her school last week. "We'd have fewer aides and would have fewer valuable supports such as dedicated Farm Science time, math specialist time, and less reading specialist time, less Spectra Art or Junior Museum classes, and less social-emotional support on the playground and in small groups.

"Simply put, our children would not have the same opportunities to learn and grow," she wrote.

At the middle schools, PiE dollars support "innovative" learning programs (such as computer programming, creative writing or stage technology electives); student guidance and support; and classroom support in writing, reading and technology. La Place said less funding could affect the school's ability to provide a full-time counselor for each grade level, for example.

"There are people attached to this all the way around — first and foremost the students and the impact that it has on them if we were to not be able to offer as full as a program as we currently are," La Place said, "and then it's the teachers, the staff themselves. The implications of that are something that gives principals pause."

At the high schools, PiE funding supports electives, guidance and college and career counseling. Both high schools received about $750,000 from Partners in Education this year -- slightly higher than usual due to a one-time donation, Herrmann said.

In her message to the Palo Alto High School community, Principal Kim Diorio said the education foundation's support is "vital" to the school.

"Their support is integral to our electives courses, our guidance and advising programs, our mindfulness training, and college preparation counseling," Diorio wrote. "Because of PiE, your child has a network of supportive, inspiring role models who enrich their education and their daily lives. They have instruction in interesting classes, help with labs, and assistance with their transition towards adulthood."

Principals said it's still difficult to assess the full impact of the fundraising shortfall given more dollars could still come in. Herrmann and La Place said Lyon asked them and other principals to send messages out to their respective communities earlier this month, but has not provided an update on fundraising levels since.

The foundation typically informs principals in mid-spring how much funding they can expect for the coming year, they said.

Given the school district is facing its own multiyear budget shortfall, some principals are considering ways to pursue alternative funding sources. Herrmann, for example, said she's looking to apply for grants that could support some of Gunn's wellness or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

Neither principal has yet identified specific programs or positions to cut and said they are confident they will continue to provide the level of education expected at their schools.

"The sky isn't falling yet," Herrmann said. "I don't want to be alarmist and go to that level of cutting or planning for cuts until it's really warranted, but it definitely would be potentially a reduction in some programming."

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Comments

56 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 9:53 am

Perhaps people are less willing to provide more money to the school district after watching last year's handling of the budget.

My own issue is that I am seeing so many causes that need my money that I am cutting back on local donations on the theory that Palo Alto doesn't need the assistance.

What will happen with the next parcel tax renewal?


61 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:05 am

In rereading the article, I notice that the principals are saying that the donations are needed for "vital" things.

It is probably not a good idea to depend on donations for things that you think are vital. Such things should be paid for from district tax dollars.

Principals should be making their "vital" needs clearer to the board and administration.


37 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Addison School
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:14 am

I think there needs to be more diligence in where the district money is being spent. I substitute sometimes and there have been several times when it is a waste of time. Substitutes are being hired for positions that can be covered by teachers on site; this is what other districts do to save money. It seems that with the kindergarten program being extended, they are adding substitutes to help the teachers. This is just one example. Middle and High schools can use existing teachers when it is for a a period or two that need to be covered. It is not unreasonable to ask this of the teachers, in my opinion, as long as it is not on a regular basis.

I agree with the above comment. If there are 'vital' programs, they need to be district funded.

There may be lots of parents upset about the budget shortfall -- it is not something the community of parents is responsible for addressing.


65 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:33 am

This is almost surely a reaction to the horrible budget fiasco engineered by Max McGee and the board. We are set up to run a deficit now, and for no good reason. Donating to Pie in those circumstances is throwing good money after bad.

PAUSD needs to stop funding vital services with donations.


23 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:34 am

What is the total gap between actual funds raised and budgeted? Is this a real gap, or a PR stunt given the Exeucitve Director's quote that "It's far too early for us to know where we will end the year's fundraising?"

Why does PiE need an Executive Director AND a Deputy Director? With a staff of 3 people, you need a Deputy Director?


19 people like this
Posted by one for all?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:38 am

"Given the school district is facing its own multiyear budget shortfall, some principals are considering ways to pursue alternative funding sources. Herrmann, for example, said she's looking to apply for grants that could support some of Gunn's wellness or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs."

Isn't this exactly what PiE was created to avoid? One school going after funding that wasn't available or another school didn't get?

North PA schools could easily resolve any funding shortfall if the underlying premis of PiE was removed. Gunn's principal's attitude is opening the door.


3 people like this
Posted by realitycheck
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:57 am

So without the 5.5 to 6 million dollars raised by PIE each year, Palo Alto schools wouldn't be in such an "excellent school district." Guess homeowners in PA better start writing big checks to keep their real estate values on an upward climb -- even if they don't have kids in school!


26 people like this
Posted by Mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:04 am

Many of us feel like PAUSD has so much more money than other districts in Silicon Valley. I personally donate my education-oriented charitable contributions to Ravenswood Education Foundation that supports the schools in East Palo Alto. They are able to raise almost nothing from parents, but generous outside donors supply the funds for art/music/pe teachers at all 7 schools. This foundation REALLY makes a difference. www.ravenswoodef.org


26 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:29 am

Assuming this is the threat to get people to donate more money. If you don't donate, we're going to get rid of electives and wellness. If the district wants to tout how much they care about student wellness, it should be in the budget, as Robert says. If the school needs to make drastic changes due to a small shortfall in donations, then the financial health of the district needs to be looked at more closely.

I, for one, am tired of being asked to give money in every communication that comes from the schools. In addition to asking for money for athletics, every club and every new building seems to have it's own fundraising arm.

I hear that the funding for the new Paly Athletic center covers only the building, but not what goes into the building. So, they'll need to find money for things such as weights in the weight room, chairs, desks, etc...

I, also, prefer to donate my money to East PA schools where the money is needed far more than in Palo Alto. I'd rather know that the money is needed to teach reading or math than a seminar on yoga or stage technology (whatever that is.)


10 people like this
Posted by Ponder
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:49 am

Many things to consider in order to help not just this year but future:

PiE has been around for approx 14 years - has PiE taken time to assess how well it's aligned to their goals/mission? Or are they only looking externally? As the district and community evolve does PiE evolve? Why is the PiE team reacting so late in the game to a potential shortfall?..did the data not indicate or were they over confident?

How vital are the vital services schools are choosing to fund? - science, art possibly we could use more - class room aid? activities director? seems like a classroom teacher could function as well with less aid hours but has become dependent on this luxury

What other fundraising is going on in the same community? They have different focus areas, but is PiE getting less share of parent's wallet and PTA getting more?


35 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:54 pm

How about the PAUSD stop giving transportation stipends to some of it's employees at $600/month and donate that monies to PiE.


43 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm

I think these lower donations are a message to PAUSD to be more fiscally responsible with the money they are getting from our property taxes which comtinue to rise each year.

PAUSD has got rid of one administrator, perhaps if they can save money at Churchill and on frivolous studies, fact finding trips, etc. they may have enough money to pay for the vital services required to educate children.


35 people like this
Posted by Former PiE Supporter
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Former PiE Supporter is a registered user.

Not sure why this is "unexpected". The District mismanaged funds, gave raises before revenue projections were in, spent money on lawyer to resolve Special Ed conflicts, etc.

PiE does fund very important programs, maybe more of these $$ need to come from the General Ed fund. And some of the items we spend money on fall into the "nice to have" vs. "need".


13 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:26 pm

If any property owner in PA over age 65 wants to not pay the parcel tax to PAUSD, here is the way to do it. It is simple and straight forward.

Web Link

I stopped paying three years ago, when I realized that our school district is more interested in leftist causes than basic education.


45 people like this
Posted by The sky is not falling. It is lovely and clear blue.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:03 pm

PA Online is negativity echo chamber--that seems to attract every carmudgeon in town. The resulting cacaphony of complaint makes my head ache--and is not at all representative of my experience in this community.

I have two daughters, one in college and one about to graduate Gunn. They both have received excellent educations from PAUSD. I am grateful, and I plan to continue contributing to PiE after my kids graduate. As a 21-year middle class resident of Palo Alto, I know that I benefit handsomely from Prop 13 and I have seen the terrible impacts Prop 13 has had on district budgets. I am glad to do my bit for local public education--which does not preclude donating to schools in EPA or elsewhere in the world. Giving and the ability to give is a blessing on the giver and the recipient of the gift.

If you want to feel better about your community, volunteer a little. Check out volunteering in our schools. You will be delighted by the talented, warm young people you find there. It's the best way to meet generous, kind people who care about helping others. Remove yourself from the negativity echo chamber and explore something better--help solve community problems instead of kvetching.

This kind of "the-sky-is-falling" hoo-ha sucks the life out of everyone who reads it. The sky is lovely and blue today. I just took a walk in my neighborhood and ran into five friends. I already volunteered in our school today and enjoyed accomplishing good things for our kids. Last night I worked with a group of parents and kids who were just wonderful--creative, fun, generous. It felt great to be doing good work with good people. It filled me up in many ways.

Less kvetching...more giving will change your world. Yes. there are problems in the district. There are problems in most human organizations. Be a grown-up. Pull up your sleeves and help.


13 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Ugh, not more Prop 13 complaints. It's been 40 years. Plenty of time to adjust your spending habits to a very robust revenue stream. Revenues from 2010-2011 to 2015-16 grew from approx. $110M to $153M or approx. 7.8%. That's pretty healthy revenue growth. Enrollment has grown at approx. 6% over the same time frame.

If the district is having issues when their revenue is already growing faster than their enrollment, don't blame Prop 13.


10 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:47 pm

@Jim H, I think your numbers are a little off. Property tax revenue for the schools grew from $108M in 2010-11 to $166M in 2016-17, a 53% increase. Enrollment went from 12,024 to 12,261, a 2% increase. So property tax revenue per student when from $9.0K to $13.5K over 6 years, an increase of 51%. There are other revenue sources, of course (state, federal, PIE, etc.) but the story is the same - PAUSD spending per pupil has gone up dramatically the last 6 years.


5 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:55 pm

@ A Parent. Thank you for the correction. Yes. I used 2015-2016 actuals, instead of the 2016-17 budget for my 7.8% and that is yearly, not overall. And, now that I look at it, I was using Prop Tax Revenue/Student figures and not the enrollment numbers.(oops) So, your 2% overall enrollment increase and 53% overall revenue increase is definitely more accurate and actually even more telling.


28 people like this
Posted by money matters
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Absolutely, the district's fiscal ignorance revealed in the early summer is affecting generosity toward PiE. This was completely foreseeable. I don't know that PiE could do much to change it. They have no control over district "negotiations" with the union or over the board's Yes-man approach to fiscal oversight.

An additional wrinkle in all of this -- school personnel (electives teachers, etc.) who are paid for out of PiE dollars are also expected to receive the same raises from the new teacher contracts. I don't begrudge them this. They certainly shouldn't be treated as second-class. But the reality is this means that even if principals receive the SAME amount from PiE next year it will not stretch as far.

It is a travesity. This will directly affect students and learning.
The belt tightening should be happening at the Churchill office instead.


28 people like this
Posted by Feedback,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:49 pm

I stopped giving to PIE for a number of reasons. I loved the schools once, and was probably at least one reason our elementary had such a high rate of participation in PIE. But a combination of factors changed all that (most come down to trust):

-just being treated breathtakingly badly (including our student) by admin and consequently, teachers,
-district having such aggressive and unnecessary CYA but no route to fixing of wrongs or moving forward without the certainty of more harm,
-the parcel tax being done so cynically, as an expensive special election, and being told all the crises that would happen if we didn't give them the money, then most of it going to raises including admin raises, not the advertised reasons,
-paying the parcel tax and feeling I am already giving enough, between that and property taxes,
-seeing how much admins are making with little accountability,
-seeing that teacher households here make more than we do - I don't begrudge them good pay, but don'rpt feel I need to donate more than we already do,
-large donations coming in seem valued more than my amall donations, cause the district to be wrapped around donors' fingers and affect policies, and make it seem like my sacrifice is pointless,
-not being able to improve the schools despite great efforts so having to educate elsewhere. It is indeed possible to get the high-q ed without the gauntlet. Would be more prone to donating nevertheless if I thought the funds were helping spare others what we went through.

Lots of older parents in this district who will take their exemptions if churchill continues to court a few and neglect or dismiss or at worst, retaliate, against the rest. Every dissed parent is a dissed community.

@sky, well, you do have a point about some of the ideological rants, but what do you think your post is going to do? That's not the way to get people back on board. Perhaps you would be willing to roll up your sleeves and ensure my family can safely return, and others we know. I would be happy to go back to being a cheerful booster and not at all with the cringeworthy judgementalism of your post.

That's another reason. I'm sure with this advertising, the most well-heeled will pony up, because that seems to be where this is heading.


9 people like this
Posted by Feedback,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I stopped giving to PIE for a number of reasons. I loved the schools once, and was probably at least one reason our elementary had such a high rate of participation in PIE. But a combination of factors changed all that (most come down to trust):

-just being treated breathtakingly badly (including our student) by admin and consequently, teachers,
-district having such aggressive and unnecessary CYA but no route to fixing of wrongs or moving forward without the certainty of more harm,
-the parcel tax being done so cynically, as an expensive special election, and being told all the crises that would happen if we didn't give them the money, then most of it going to raises including admin raises, not the advertised reasons,
-paying the parcel tax and feeling I am already giving enough, between that and property taxes,
-seeing how much admins are making with little accountability,
-seeing that teacher households here make more than we do - I don't begrudge them good pay, but don'rpt feel I need to donate more than we already do,
-large donations coming in seem valued more than my amall donations, cause the district to be wrapped around donors' fingers and affect policies, and make it seem like my sacrifice is pointless,
-not being able to improve the schools despite great efforts so having to educate elsewhere. It is indeed possible to get the high-q ed without the gauntlet. Would be more prone to donating nevertheless if I thought the funds were helping spare others what we went through.
-the relentless parent bashing - sure seems to come from the district, and little to no appreciation of parents or culture of working with us to solve problems and innovate (unless we donate millions)

Lots of older parents in this district who will take their exemptions if churchill continues to court a few and neglect or dismiss or at worst, retaliate, against the rest. Every dissed parent is a dissed chunk of the community community.

@sky, well, you do have a point about some of the ideological rants, but what do you think your post is going to do? That's not the way to get people back on board. Perhaps you would be willing to roll up your sleeves and ensure my family can safely return, and others we know. (I know you won't but do you see how it feels to have someone else say, why don't YOU do something?) If you did, I would be happy to go back to being a cheerful booster for PIE and not at all with the cringeworthy judgementalism of your post.

That's another reason. I'm sure with this advertising, the most well-heeled will pony up, because that seems to be where this is heading.


53 people like this
Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2017 at 4:34 pm

I stopped giving to PIE after Ken Dauber got on the school board. Enough said.


10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Thank you, The Sky is Not Falling, for your donations and time. I completely agree. Our kids have benefitted from great teachers and programs in the middle and elementary schools of Palo Alto. If my only source of information about the district was Palo Alto Online or the Menlo Park Almanac (Menlo Park parents love to slam Palo Alto schools), I would have a completely erroneous view of this district.

Palo Alto schools are not perfect, but lets not make the perfect the enemy of the good/great.


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:30 pm

I don't think any of us are saying that there is not a lot of good about our various schools. Many of the teachers, administrators and of course parent volunteers are wonderful. We can always do with more people volunteering in the schools.

What seems to cause most concern is the fact that the powers that be at the top have no fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of Palo Alto. Our hard earned dollars are paid in taxes we can't control going into a pit which seems to care little about the fact that it can be very difficult for many people here to pay property taxes, let alone to contribute more and more, when Churchill administration appear to waste money. Now we have the very contentious suggestion that school names should be changed which will cost even more money. If there is enough money to change school names, then there is money to do a lot more of the vital things that educate our children.

Let's stop looking at expensive feel good missions (like changing school names) and concentrate on vital educational needs.


23 people like this
Posted by No brainer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Any plugged-in parent of an elementary student will tell you why donations are down. It's the same reason PTA donations are down and the same reason volunteer hours are down. Guess what? Enrollment is down! You have a bubble moving up through the middle and high schools where PiE donations are always less than at the elementary schools. Parents aren't at school to see how PiE impacts them, and they can easily get burned out from the prior years of PiE and PTA requests.

We all saw this coming, so I'm not sure why PiE decided to increase their goal again this year.

The schools should not feel this impact. The district should never expect the donation from PiE and they should figure out how to cut their DO budget so that it doesn't impact the kids.


31 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:56 pm

I stopped giving to PIE:

1. when some teachers (very few) exercise harsh grading and insane homework, there is absolutely nothing a student or a parent can do without retaliation. This should be called bullying. Most of the teachers are amazing, this comment is for the very few who makes life miserable for their students. When someone bullies a child, do you send the child back to the bully to resolve the differences? This is what the administration advices: "first, contact your teacher and try to resolve it".

2. when a counselor is not helpful and is more like a buffer between administration and the student, and not even willing to listen to why the student is trying to change a class or a lane, then you start to wonder, do I really want to enable this for next year?


21 people like this
Posted by bp
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm

Until zero dollars are donated to PIE, the PAUSD administration will keep spending money with no concern to parents demands.


6 people like this
Posted by Feedback
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:01 pm

@Parent,
PIE donors are largely families in the district who take their information about the district from their firsthand experience, not message boards. Then again, my feedback is from firsthand experience, which reminds me of another reason: instead of feedback being used constructively to improve things, there is this weird tendency to blame people who try to improve things, or to make everything legalistic. It's like there's this whole other layer of machinations and no one will just be straight with you, much less work together to fix things.

I agree with the above poster who points out that PAUSD is so well funded compared to districts that have far less money and make it work so much more. It would benefit our kids if the district got a little better at being wise with our money. Look at how unevenly the facilities bond fund was applied, and most of the district still looking so shabby (except the corner across from T&C where everyone can see).


6 people like this
Posted by My my my
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:06 pm

The sky,

Your comments ("I," "my," "our") indicate that you have a clear sense of belonging to "good people," perhaps even feel proprietary about the schools here. However, not everyone feels or gains that sense of belonging, even when they try. Some people feel shut out, as though the schools are a club they do not or cannot belong to for different reasons.

"This kind of 'the-sky-is-falling' hoo-ha sucks the life out of everyone who reads it. The sky is lovely and blue today. I just took a walk in MY neighborhood and ran into five friends. I already volunteered in OUR school today and enjoyed accomplishing good things for OUR kids. Last night I worked with a group of parents and kids who were just wonderful--creative, fun, generous. It felt great to be doing good work with GOOD PEOPLE. It filled ME up in many ways."

For those "bad people" out there: "Less kvetching...more giving will change YOUR world. Yes. there are problems in the district. There are problems in most human organizations. Be a grown-up. Pull up YOUR sleeves and help."

What if those "bad people" were grown ups who did pull up their sleeves to help but did not become part of the in crowd of "good people" like you did?

[Portion removed.]


40 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:29 am

PAUSD received $132,900,000 from property taxes for the 2009 - 2010 school year. Enrollment was 11,680.

PAUSD received $202,000,000 from property taxes for the 2015 - 2016 school year. Enrollment was 12,488.

Increase in budget is around $70,000,000. Increase in enrollment 800 students.

Property taxes revenue up 53%; enrollment up 7%.

Property taxes grew 7.23% per year, enrollment grew at 1.12% per year.

Something is wrong when the PAUSD needs to depend on donations through PIE to fund elective classes, teacher aides, etc. and is also running a deficit.


9 people like this
Posted by No brainer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 7:40 am

Adding on to the post above from Common Sense and adding enrollment figures for elementary school (where parents give more):

In 2009-10, PiE donated $2.9 million to PAUSD. Elementary enrollment = 5,273
In 2015-16, PiE donated $5.7 million to PAUSD. Elementary enrollment = 5,514
In 2016-17, PiE has a goal of $5.6 million, elementary enrollment = 5,219



33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 8:10 am

When a committee was chosen and spent time discussing whether Jordan and Terman should have name changes and we heard that the cost should not be taken into account, it shows that fiscal responsibility is not there.

Many on this forum and in playgrounds and neighborhoods were shocked that the committee came back with a yes despite the approximate estimates of the costs of doing this.

The community is voting with their checkbooks.


14 people like this
Posted by Feedback
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 8:45 am

@no brainer,
Is that where most donations come from, elementary? Because that's another case in point that happy families are more generous, since elementary experience tends to be good here, but it gets worse later.

Your numbers were helpful, but note, the only variable isn't just elementary enrollment. 2009-10 was just after the Bush years' economic meltdown. Now is quite different. Times are good. I think the low elem numbers and PIE being down are a referendum on the district performance (and City QOL). There is a lag for things like that, and it can be hard to recover from the hits to reputation such as the relentless parent bashing. The good economic times now versus right after the meltdown should translate into higher donations.

Just a kind reminder to the district: the word among non-profits is that big one-time donations are all well and good, but they are unpredictable. Small donations, reliably, by a large number of committed ordinary people are bread and butter. The district would do well to remember that.


27 people like this
Posted by Former PiE Donor
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Former PiE Donor is a registered user.

Our family was an enthusiastic PiE donor (at and above the requested ask level) for over 15 years. Even with kids still in school, we are no longer donating to PiE because:

- Our students are in high school. Yes, PiE pays for fabulous resources in elementary and middle school. However, when students hit high school parents are expected to pay for each individual activity out of pocket ("donations" to elective classes, sports, music, etc). It's too much to donate to PiE for multiple children on top of the individual asks (which may be called donations but they are expected).
- PAUSD's $5k budget deficit is the direct result of egregious fiscal mismanagement. Parents should not be expected to clean up PAUSD's mess and close the gap.
- PAUSD, while in the midst cutting costs for said $5k deficit, is proposing to spend money frivolously on changing school names.
- PAUSD should not be relying on parents to foot the bill for "vital" programs.
- PiE listed our family's donation in writing in the 2014-2015 Annual Report at less than what we donated (along with 400 other families). As a result, we felt our donation was not valued and we questioned PiE's fiscal management.
- PiE was not transparent about the errors in said Annual Report. PiE notified families whose donations were inaccurately reported and issued a new electronic Annual Report, but they did not notify ALL donors or print and distribute a new hard copy. As a result, our family no longer trusts PiE.

PiE "declined to comment on the drop in donations" in this article. Their prerogative. However, it's surprising PiE did not take advantage of the opportunity to thank current donors. Fundraising organizations should take every opportunity possible, especially when free press comes their way, to show gratitude to their donor base!


18 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm

After reading the article, I asked Mrs. Grumpy how she felt about this and whether we should help out. The 'truth' she said, "is that no matter how outrageous the PAUSD handles its financial affairs (giving raises to the teachers before the money is certain, spending money on feel-good projects and its generosity for all staff employees (particularly their top level staff), the citizens and parents of PAUSD will always help and bail it out of trouble."

"So don't worry about it" she said. It'll be fine.


31 people like this
Posted by money matters
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm

@ Former Donor - explained well the constant ask for $$$ at the high school level for all activities, elective, etc.

In addition, it often feels like there is an attitude that absolutely no cost-consciousness is needed.
-- plan a band trip to Hawaii
-- plan a language trip to a foreign country
-- choose an expensive company in Los Gatos for senior portraits and require families to transport their students there on there own time over the summer and weekends

No worries. The parents will pay for it.

I appreciate all the enthusiasm and committment, but a bit of thriftiness would also be a good learning experience.


29 people like this
Posted by A Big Problem
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2017 at 6:04 pm

We stopped giving to PiE because we were treated like bums by them when we had kids in the district.

They were very elitist and snarky, obviously preferring people who were multi-millionaires to people a little less well off.


21 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Lets be clear, fluctuations in Pie fundraising is not the problem, and should not threaten 'vital' programs in the schools. Wasteful spending by PAUSD, and PAUSD labeling programs parents like as 'vital' and holding them hostage so they attract funding for Pie is. Lets face it, does anyone think Pie would collect two pennies if they tried fundraising for another 'me too raise' for MgGee and his entourage?


2 people like this
Posted by vernon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:30 pm

get over it---get out your checkbooks----you can afford it as we do with the 8 starbucks in palo alto---this is for the kids---give me a break if you truly can not afford some cash get involved with your time


10 people like this
Posted by Feedback
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:04 am

Oh, like people who have no money it's because they have so much spare time. Which brings up the issue that volunteerism in schools is also down. Please reread my original post for reasons.

Badgering people and insulting them is also unlikely to incline them to generosity.

Take heart, though, Grumpy Old Guy is probably right.


10 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

PI is a mathematical constant defining the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

PIE is a political constant that defines a circular argument between school funding to school crisis and to school funding back again.

First, there is the sanctimonious preaching that we need to pour more money into an increasingly failing system in order to enrich the lives of alll our children. Then when they get the money there is a shameless squandering of resources on every crackpot social engineering theory or personal pet project possible.

Next, the financial mismanagement creates a budget crisis that threatens "core programs". Fake pink slips are sent out to junior teachers and staff a year in advance. Warnings of ballooning student to teacher ratios and cuts to special needs programs are used as scare tactics.

And finally the circle closes again. An annual request for more funding as predictable as the great dust filled animal migrations of the African Savannah. Move along, don't stop or you and your children will be culled from the herd.


8 people like this
Posted by PiE in da face
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2017 at 4:49 pm

We stopped our donation 2 years ago when we moved our kids to private school. How many have made that move recently? - given how crowded the middle schools are.
In fact, I took a look at the MANY MANY (too many?) people on/involved with the foundation's board over the years - and noticed the # that have kids in private school. It made their messages and request for donations seem hypocritical.

And I am happy we stopped - with PAUSD and the mismanagement of its budget I'd hate to be donating more $ for them to blow (name changes, car allowances, aids aids and more aids). I think PAUSD and PiE need to redefine VITAL.


Like this comment
Posted by CODB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:38 am

It's not helpful to compare revenues and enrollment. Yes, the cost of operating schools is related to enrollment (no students, no schools, or too many students, more schools), but if we held the number of students constant, the cost of doing "business" would be climbing steadily anyways. HR costs are the biggest part of the budget, and with the long term trends in health care costs and housing costs, we've obviously got to spend much more regardless of changes in the nubmer of kids.


7 people like this
Posted by Nobody special
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

@CODB, virtually everyone looks at cost per pupil spending. It is not perfect, in part for the reasons you cite, but it is certainly relevant.

In the case of PAUSD, helpfully, the number of students has been roughly constant for the last 5 years, and the spending is up 30%. I don't think anyone feels we are getting a lot more for our kids than 5 years ago. Meanwhile, the CPI for the Bay Area is up 11% in the last 5 years (per the BLS table here: Web Link). Some of that 30% increase is raises; some is headcount; some is plain old wasteful spending. No excuses - there is work to do.


4 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2017 at 7:49 pm

The administrators should not be rewarded for their squandering of money on increased salaries for themselves, at the expense of the students. Private companies would have fired the people who couldn't read and understand the county projected tax earnings. How shameful.

The PAUSD administrators smile to see what suckers PIE makes of the parents. PAUSD could be providing the needed support of students if they wanted to, buy why bother. No accountability for any administrator!


8 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 10:08 pm

When I called the school district office, nobody ever answered the phone. When I left a message, nobody returned the call. When I called our high school, nobody except the front office answered the phone. I think we should just get rid of all the phone system in the whole school district since no one cares to use it. This way, we can save tons of money and balance the budget.


Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2017 at 11:09 pm

If choice program like Terman Direct Instruction is cancelled, donation should also be cancelled.


8 people like this
Posted by will be worse next year
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Between giving raises before confirming revenues, trying to bury sexual assaults, sex education classes that didn't allow parents to review the materials to spending $$ renaming schools, I suspect PiE donations will be down again next year.


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

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