News

Board eyes ways to save high school positions

Grant from the governor's office could fund five full- and part-time positions at Gunn

There could be relief ahead for two high school volunteer coordinators and five clerical staff at Gunn High School who recently received layoff notices due to budget cuts.

On Tuesday night, school board members directed Superintendent Max McGee to find other areas in the budget for savings to restore the volunteer coordinator roles given their low cost — $11,000 for each school's position.

While the fate of the Gunn clerical staff still hangs in the balance, a one-time $1.7 million grant from the governor's office that could be approved before the end of the month may be used to restore the roles, staff said on Tuesday night. McGee committed to using those funds, if approved by the governor, to fund the five full- and part-time positions at Gunn. (Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak told the Weekly on Wednesday that the district has applied for and received these discretionary funds for the past two years and typically used it to fund Common Core State Standards implementation and textbook adoptions.)

Gunn staff have turned out to the last two board meetings to protest the layoffs, describing the five positions — typist clerk, computer lab assistant, academic technology specialist, account clerk and attendance/secretary — as essential to the school's operations and to students' educational experiences. Cutting these five positions amounts to about $250,000 in savings, according to the district. Staff and parents have also urged the board against cutting the volunteer coordinators, who they said play a key role in managing high numbers of volunteers at the high schools.

On Tuesday, Gunn staff proposed the board use reserve fund dollars, that have been allocated but not yet spent, to class size reduction to keep the positions for the next school year, arguing the investment would have a more meaningful impact on the student experience. While McGee voiced support for this suggestion, board members did not.

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Board members said they were concerned about the potential impact of cutting the positions but reiterated that any decisions should be made at the site level rather than from the dais.

"It's in the staff's court and superintendent's court to say whether this is, across the district, the most reasonable place to make a cut," Board Vice President Ken Dauber said. "If the answer to that is 'yes,' we are where we are; if the answer to that is 'no,' we will be in a better place."

Board member Jennifer DiBrienza worried that despite the worthiness of supporting the high school positions, all schools have struggled with this year's budget cuts, but not all have come out in force to board meetings to make their case for a particular investment.

"I would love us to look at whether or not we can think creatively to backfill some of these temporarily," she said. "If we're doing that, I don't want it to stop at Gunn."

Board President Terry Godfrey also cautioned that the budget shortfall is "not a short-term problem" so any approach should take a longer-term view at how to fund the positions or reassign their responsibilities in the coming years. Assuming the district gave no raises to teachers and staff next year, the district is still projecting a deficit of about $800,000, she said.

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"Trying to figure out how to fit things in for one year — we can do that if we're trying to bridge to something else but it's not like things look rosier for next year," Godfrey said.

The board ultimately approved the 2017-18 budget in a 5-0 vote.

On Tuesday, the board also unanimously renewed contracts with and thus gave satisfactory performance evaluations to all of its law firms except one — Lozano Smith — and supported a staff recommendation to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the services that firm has provided the district. They postponed evaluating Lozano Smith until the RFP process is completed.

The board also unanimously authorized staff to take the next step forward on a major remodel of Addison Elementary School — to submit a design to the Division of the State Architect for approval. The remodel is being funded by an anonymous private donor.

The Addison project also recently took on a new feature: a proposal to build an inclusive Magical Bridge playground at the campus. On Tuesday, the board supported a staff recommendation to apply for a $300,000 grant from Santa Clara County to fund the playground, with a commitment that the district will match the grant.

The board also voted to commit to providing inclusive playgrounds at all elementary schools as the district develops its next facilities master plan and a future schools bond program.

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Board eyes ways to save high school positions

Grant from the governor's office could fund five full- and part-time positions at Gunn

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

There could be relief ahead for two high school volunteer coordinators and five clerical staff at Gunn High School who recently received layoff notices due to budget cuts.

On Tuesday night, school board members directed Superintendent Max McGee to find other areas in the budget for savings to restore the volunteer coordinator roles given their low cost — $11,000 for each school's position.

While the fate of the Gunn clerical staff still hangs in the balance, a one-time $1.7 million grant from the governor's office that could be approved before the end of the month may be used to restore the roles, staff said on Tuesday night. McGee committed to using those funds, if approved by the governor, to fund the five full- and part-time positions at Gunn. (Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak told the Weekly on Wednesday that the district has applied for and received these discretionary funds for the past two years and typically used it to fund Common Core State Standards implementation and textbook adoptions.)

Gunn staff have turned out to the last two board meetings to protest the layoffs, describing the five positions — typist clerk, computer lab assistant, academic technology specialist, account clerk and attendance/secretary — as essential to the school's operations and to students' educational experiences. Cutting these five positions amounts to about $250,000 in savings, according to the district. Staff and parents have also urged the board against cutting the volunteer coordinators, who they said play a key role in managing high numbers of volunteers at the high schools.

On Tuesday, Gunn staff proposed the board use reserve fund dollars, that have been allocated but not yet spent, to class size reduction to keep the positions for the next school year, arguing the investment would have a more meaningful impact on the student experience. While McGee voiced support for this suggestion, board members did not.

Board members said they were concerned about the potential impact of cutting the positions but reiterated that any decisions should be made at the site level rather than from the dais.

"It's in the staff's court and superintendent's court to say whether this is, across the district, the most reasonable place to make a cut," Board Vice President Ken Dauber said. "If the answer to that is 'yes,' we are where we are; if the answer to that is 'no,' we will be in a better place."

Board member Jennifer DiBrienza worried that despite the worthiness of supporting the high school positions, all schools have struggled with this year's budget cuts, but not all have come out in force to board meetings to make their case for a particular investment.

"I would love us to look at whether or not we can think creatively to backfill some of these temporarily," she said. "If we're doing that, I don't want it to stop at Gunn."

Board President Terry Godfrey also cautioned that the budget shortfall is "not a short-term problem" so any approach should take a longer-term view at how to fund the positions or reassign their responsibilities in the coming years. Assuming the district gave no raises to teachers and staff next year, the district is still projecting a deficit of about $800,000, she said.

"Trying to figure out how to fit things in for one year — we can do that if we're trying to bridge to something else but it's not like things look rosier for next year," Godfrey said.

The board ultimately approved the 2017-18 budget in a 5-0 vote.

On Tuesday, the board also unanimously renewed contracts with and thus gave satisfactory performance evaluations to all of its law firms except one — Lozano Smith — and supported a staff recommendation to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the services that firm has provided the district. They postponed evaluating Lozano Smith until the RFP process is completed.

The board also unanimously authorized staff to take the next step forward on a major remodel of Addison Elementary School — to submit a design to the Division of the State Architect for approval. The remodel is being funded by an anonymous private donor.

The Addison project also recently took on a new feature: a proposal to build an inclusive Magical Bridge playground at the campus. On Tuesday, the board supported a staff recommendation to apply for a $300,000 grant from Santa Clara County to fund the playground, with a commitment that the district will match the grant.

The board also voted to commit to providing inclusive playgrounds at all elementary schools as the district develops its next facilities master plan and a future schools bond program.

Comments

Happy
Greenmeadow
on Jun 21, 2017 at 5:26 pm
Happy, Greenmeadow
on Jun 21, 2017 at 5:26 pm
6 people like this

Thank you !!


I'm one of them
another community
on Jun 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm
I'm one of them, another community
on Jun 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm
16 people like this

Please save our positions! We all play vital roles at Gunn even if we aren't seen directly by parents and students! To cut these positions would hurt the students.


James
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2017 at 9:20 pm
James , Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2017 at 9:20 pm
41 people like this

Had Kim Diorio and other Paly administrators acted in the true interest of the students and reported the sexual assault cases as required, PAUSD would not be spending $1M+ in lawyer fees and could better afford these positions and even additional teachers.


Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2017 at 8:47 am
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2017 at 8:47 am
24 people like this

PAUSD is really good for lawyers. Students, not so much.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:01 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:01 am
19 people like this

"Cutting these positions amounts to about $250,000 in savings, according to the district." but each of the 5 positions only cost $11,000 or $55,000 total.

New math is so confusing.


McGee had got to go
Fletcher Middle School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:49 am
McGee had got to go, Fletcher Middle School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:49 am
31 people like this

This is a fiscal issue, caused by Max McGee. It is overdue that he leave. Holly Wade is gone, Scott Bowers is gone, and this is healthy for PAUSD. McGee has to go. New superintendent is needed. One that doesn't make a deal with PAEA for three years' worth of raises that we can't afford.


Elena Kadvany
another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:49 am
Elena Kadvany, another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:49 am
5 people like this

Online Name: My name is Elena Kadvany; I'm the Weekly's education reporter. To clarify: The high school volunteer coordinator positions cost $11,000 each, while the clerical positions at Gunn High School cost about $250,000 total.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:01 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:01 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Stew Pid
Community Center
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:17 am
Stew Pid, Community Center
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:17 am
15 people like this

Thanks also to the unions for doing their part to get us into this mess. Gotta love em labor unions.


Grannie
Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:26 am
Grannie, Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:26 am
26 people like this

If they can spend the $ to rename Jordan and they have to cut positions at Gunn it doesn't make financial sense to me. Do they offer budgeting courses in math these days???? Parents??? It seems all the answers are solved by wealthy donors. What will the children learn if the parents are just "helicopter" parents?


Local Resident
Charleston Meadows
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:51 pm
Local Resident, Charleston Meadows
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:51 pm
16 people like this

PAUSD always has surplus money when they need to raise their own salary. After that, it will cry for short of budget, need to cut class funding, need to cut staff. Do they ever take any math class when they were little??? They SHOULD all go back to elementary school to learn simple math, no calculus is needed! LOL...


Yuck
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm
Yuck, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm
7 people like this

Which Einstein decided to paint those benches red? Cut that person's position.


Just Remodeled
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:39 pm
Just Remodeled, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:39 pm
7 people like this

Those paint swatches are so deceiving.


Another Resident
Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm
Another Resident, Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm
24 people like this

Let's hold off on renaming Jordan and Terman Schools and use that money to help fund these positions.
Administrators, would you consider take a small paycut? Reduce travel and food stipends? If everyone else is in the district is experiencing cutbacks, please share the burden.
Why do we need so many lawyers? I noticed an *increase* in their budget.
Rather than eliminating the clerical positions, maybe make them part-time jobs?
Lastly, how did the district find itself in such dire financial situation so fast? Who did the budgeting?


Rosewood
Midtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:59 pm
Rosewood, Midtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:59 pm
18 people like this

Suspend the re-naming of 3 schools and save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Re-naming is a costly cosmetic gesture; that money should go directly to running schools and educating kids.


Yuck
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 7:38 pm
Yuck, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 22, 2017 at 7:38 pm
15 people like this

Yes, suspend the renaming. The only person who benefits is the boy who initiated the protest—his college applications benefit. Otherwise, no one cares, and it's a disruption to all the years of alums.

They can't seem to fill the committee on choosing names, perhaps because it requires a whole lot of time, and everyone is disgusted. Wait, aren't we in Silicon Valley where decisions occur fast? Why don't they just send a Survey Monkey to everyone in the school district?

Citizen Advisory Committee for Recommending School Names

4. Members must commit to attending biweekly meetings that will last between two to three hours during the school year. Additional work between meetings is likely and may require two to four hours per week.


Touchy Subject
Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm
Touchy Subject, Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm
1 person likes this

I would try to stay away from bashing the raises for PAUSD employees on the whole. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract good teachers to the district. The radius to find even reasonable housing has probably doubled in the last 10 years and the insane commutes are a huge drawback to attracting good candidates. The only way to combat that is to have attractive salaries. You want your kids happy? Put 'em in a room with a good teacher.

I am absolutely convinced that a proper analysis of the books at the district level and the site levels would expose some questionable spending on things that have nothing to do with employee compensation or the student experience. If that questionable spending was eliminated, or at least mitigated, these people would not have to be laid off. I work at a site in PAUSD and I could give 4-5 pieces of evidence just based off of casual observation.


Resident
Community Center
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm
Resident, Community Center
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm
Like this comment

@Touchy Subject - since you are anonymous, please share the wasteful spending you are seeing. I'm sure someone senior in the district reads this.


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