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Survey on school performance & new bond measure?

Original post made by Parent, Walter Hays School, on Sep 29, 2007

On Saturday, we received a call from a private research firm that obtained our unlisted number from PAUSD.

They wanted to know if we were happy with our school's performance and if we would support another bond. I spoke with her a bit, and she actually told me that I should not feel bad when I said "No". She told me that there we many people who answered the survey who were not happy with the schools and would not support a bond. I think that she was calling from another state.

Did anyone else receive a similar call?

Who paid the bill for this private research firm?

Hopefully our school district will pay attention to the results they get when they are finalized.

Comments (35)

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Yes, I received it, but I did not respond to the first question, I just told them, sorry I dont do phone surveys, and hung up.

Posted by Original Poster Parent
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Sep 29, 2007 at 6:02 pm

I would like to make a correction to my original post.
My husband answered the call before turning it over to me.
They MAY have said they got our number from The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. He cannot recall, but the call definitely sounded official. They did not ask for any personal information. Name, students name, social security numbers, or even which school our child attended.

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2007 at 6:08 pm

They didn't have to ask. They already knew that information. ;-)


Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 29, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Could it be our dear school district doing market research to see how to word another bond measure? This would not be unprecedented.

I am glad to hear that a lot of negative sentiment has been voiced.

I will vote no on new bonds for schools, whatever the wording of the measure is.

Posted by Happy with schools but poor
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 29, 2007 at 10:05 pm

I have not been contacted. I would have said no because my pockets are not deep. The tax collector gets a big chunk of what is left after mortgage, food, and medical care. The PTA and PiE send their invoices, with the attitude that parents who love their children will write checks proportionate to their love. We are asked to contribute small money repeatedly for supplies, field trips, fees, kiddie fundraisers, etc. -- and it all adds up. I'm tired of being hit up. I'm tired of being told that it's nice to volunteer, but money is what really counts.

Posted by would pay double parcel tax if I trusted the District and Board
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2007 at 8:11 am

I agree. Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put forth another bond right now for facilities or ANYTHING when we haven't any trust in our District and we don't know who are Board will be.

Another bond when we have $30,000,000 more than 2 years ago? Our budget is $141,000,000...and that is just operating. Does anyone know our current facilities budget? If it is even what it was a year ago, our facilities budget makes the total something like $190,000,000 for 11,000 kids.

That makes the per-kid budget $17,000/year.

I am happy, happy, happy to pay more for our kids' education, but only after I know what it is going to go for and if I can trust the Board and District to do what it says it is going to do. I want to know there will be no more "priority jumping". I want to know we have a sound plan with well defined priorities that I agree with.

Posted by hmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2007 at 9:16 am

We have just received a written survey from an out of state survey company wanting to hear our view on city services and the way the city is run. Since my husband has the most recent birthday (which is who they wanted to answer the survey) his responses were very different to what mine would have been because I am the one who ends up doing all the business with the city.

What with all the surveys!!

Posted by Patricia
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Are we paying for this thru city funds ?????

Posted by money for nothing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2007 at 1:11 pm

When you have BoE that can be bought for $60,000 do they seriously believe that a new school bond can pass?

Posted by dont reach into MY pockets
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2007 at 1:56 pm

mfn, yeah, why don't they go to China for the bond money and spare us all the trouble.

Posted by Sandy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2007 at 2:18 pm

I got the call, too. It was a 702 number. They did not identify how they got my phone record. The person sounded like an older volunteer -- not like a typical polling professional.

Posted by Concerned Citzen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Pay now, or pay later.

Palo Altans, I hope, will not tune in to the naysaying on this thread.

If we fail to pass forward bonds, infrastructure and services will suffer, and the city will be put at great fiscal risk in ways that we can only begin to imagine.

The proposed bonds - school and otherwise - have fiscal _benefits_ in addition to fiscall costs. Consider them an investment in our city's future.

Ignoring these facts will handcuff our citt, ,reduce its regional leadership, reduce our housing values, and reduce opportutnities for our citizens to continue to enjoy a quality of life that they have become accustomed to.

I hope the press, and our policy leaders, are not focusing on naysayers. We will need leaders to take us to the next step.

Posted by Pro Bonds (not Barry)
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:04 pm

I agree with Concerned Citizen. We must look beyond the near-term politics to the longer-term impacts on our community of NOT passing school facilities, library and police building bonds. I really believe that without the funds, these crucial areas that support our citizens will suffer (further).

Posted by Disenfranchised
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Yeah, I'm likely to fund a bond to give money to special interest groups! Get some real leadership in PAUSD and then maybe we can talk. Until then, another "NO!" here.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Concerned and Pro Bonds,

It's not that you're not right, but I think on school bonds the die's been cast for the next few years. I just don't see that 66 percent vote unless people feel their views matter.

As it is, it sometimes feels to me like we were a cash-rich company that got a takeover bid because we had the money. In other words, because that last bond passed, suddenly people wanted their pet projects put through. The strategic plan was ignored.

I probably can't bring myself to vote against a school bond, but unless the board does a turnaround I can't see myself pushing for it either.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:34 pm

I see the school bond and bonds for library, police hq, as being different. Unfortunately, PAUSD has its hands tied behind its back. There is very little scope for it to find funding in a real way other than a bond. I wish it were different. However, if the city could get its act together, if we can get some real retain and a good revenue from other sources, sales tax, etc. then the need for a bond may not be so apparent. Don't lump together apples and oranges.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Well, we have new management (in Mr. Skelly) and will soon have 3 new board members. We'll have to see how they do. But the last board screwed up pretty bad (with the Super, MI, org culture, etc.), so we need to be skeptics at this point. V

Voting down a school bond would definitely sharpen the focus of all concerned on what really need to be done to win the trust of the people and deliver results on a fair budget. They can always try again.

Posted by Not again
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:54 pm

On top of not trusting the current PAUSD leadership with our money, please consider this:

About 10 years ago Palo Altans already voted for and passed a bond measure to upgrade our school buildings. If this is the kind of investment that is supposed to be for "decades to come", how come they are plaaning on hitting us again only 10 years later? Some will they it was not done right 10 years ago. To this I'll respond: well they should have gotten it right the first time around.

Palo Altans do not all have the deep pockets that local teachers and building contractors seem to assume we have...

Posted by Not again
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Some will say* it was not done right...

Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2007 at 6:28 pm

It's quite right that not passing the (school or infrastructure) bonds will have a deleterious effect on the projects they are alleged to fund - in the short term. But an even bigger threat to our city will come from passing them - and giving the arrogant and inept leadership class of our city carte blanche to continue wasting our money and ignoring the principles of sound fiscal management that most people here (judging from the comments) seem to prefer.

So I'm voting against all these bonds when they come up until the city and the PAUSD can show they're spending our money responsibly, and on what they claimed they were going to spend the money on when they asked for it.

I'm so tired of hearing that the spending pooh-bahs need money for something, claiming it will fix a problem, and then finding out a few years later that it's all been wasted.

The school bond issue that didn't last "decades to come" is one item. Another is the storm drain tax that we passed with the promise that it would fix all the problems with our storm drain infrastructure. Now we find out that it won't even cover HALF of the projects they claimed it would when they sold it to us.

One question: Are they lying or only incompetent?

Posted by resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2007 at 8:02 pm

The district hasn't decided on whether to open up a 13th elementary school. The proposed bond measure was to update facilities and $75 million of that was to go to a 3rd high school and another approximately $13 million (I thinnk) was to go to a 13th elementary school. Neither has materialized, so why do we need a bond?

I will vote No. Not until the district shows us that it has a demonstrated need of opening new facilities or has a demonstrated need elsewhere. If there is a demonstrated need, I would also first want to see if the district has exhausted its alternative sources to meet that need.

Posted by 3 new board members
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Terry: "Well, we have new management (in Mr. Skelly) and will soon have 3 new board members."

Correction: We'll definitely have two new board members, but the incumbent, Camille Townsend, is trying to hold onto her seat. If she is successful in her bid for reelection, it will be much harder for the school board as a body to convince people that they are turning over a new leaf and moving towards strong and effective leadership.

I believe that it's important to get three new faces on the school board, so that a majority of the body is not tainted by the debacles of the past couple of years that have been articulated on this and other threads.

Posted by Tea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2007 at 9:29 pm

"Palo Altans do not all have the deep pockets that local teachers and building contractors seem to assume we have..."

As one of the "local teacher's", I find this comment very rude...

Posted by 14k/yr
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 10:17 pm

"The school bond issue that didn't last "decades to come" is one item. Another is the storm drain tax that we passed with the promise that it would fix all the problems with our storm drain infrastructure. Now we find out that it won't even cover HALF of the projects they claimed it would when they sold it to us."

OK, I give up. What does an inaccurate projection for storm drain repair costs have to do with a request for necessary school infrastructure upgrades? The storm drain repair was a clear error. The school infrastructure issue seems to be the result of different issues, e.g., increased student population. No one has demonstrated any waste with respect to the last school bond, or even the storm drain repair surcharge Both funds are managed independently. Of course the powers that be in Palo Alto can be overly conservative in their bond requests given the need for that magical (but ridiculous) 2/3's approval.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Inaccurate. Dishonest. Clear error. Failure to anticipate student numbers. Gee, just use which ever descriptive you like to modify the behavior of the city establishment when it comes to asking for...and then spending our tax money.

When you say that the powers that be are overly conservative in their bond requests, and you really saying that they're less than honest with the voters because they fear they can't sell the truth about our funding needs? No wonder they're not trusted.

When you ask for a big school bond that you say will fund our needs in the foreseeable future, and then come back in two years asking for more, and when you underestimate the cost of storm drains by a factor of two, you haven't demonstrated the fiscal responsibility even a credulous electorate expects.

And until you do demonstrate this kind of responsibility, you'll continue to be excoriated by the public, and (likely) lose more bond elections.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2007 at 11:03 pm

I have to agree with Chris. This kind of behavior is familiar to anyone who has to manage other people's budgets or forecasts. There are those who give you the bad news up front and tell you what they will really do (or maybe a little worse), and then try to outperform.

And then there are those who will puff and promise, then under-deliver, shrugging it off with "well, no one else could have done better." I, and I think most others, really hate the second kind, especially after you've gone through it a couple times and told them, "Please, just tell me the truth." If I can, I fire those people.

Our leaders (and I use the term loosely) owe it to us to tell us the truth, and err on the side of being too high. THAT is conservatism in budgeting! Then they can under-promise and over-deliver. If they think they can't "sell" that reality - they should adjust what they are trying to achieve.

We need leaders on our councils who will own up to reality and try to lead us in making difficult fiscal decisions. Right now, I would say very few fit that profile.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:48 am

14k/yr: did you see the 'necessary improvements' they are talking about? Not really, and no 13th school in the site by site improvements they presented last year (commplete with artists before and after drawings of every campus) Really, lack of forward looking planning..

Can any of these sites be converted to two story campuses?
Which of the campusus has the usable space, and least neighborhood impact for such a concept?
Can any of these sites be torn down and rebuilt (completelly reconfigured as single story) to make more than a one or two classroom increase?
What are the potential for energy savings from completely rebuilding one or more of our schools in this way?
What is the cost of prepping Garland to open as a 13th and how much of the crowding would be relieved by focusing the dollars on a single campus?
What is the potential cost savings from discountinuing new building of temporary portable solutions and moving directly to a rebuild on one or more campusus?
What is the potential net cost savings of increasing class sizes acorss the district by 1-2 kids per room.
What is the permanent plan for housing choice programs to prevent displacement of families from neighborhood schools?

Did they answer any of these types of long term questions? No, they are in a rush to get a massive bond on the ballot, and can't be bothered with the long view. If they don't give us a long view, including a Garland plan, no bond.

In fact, as it stands, no bond for the school district because they've proven that they can't manage our funds based on community priorities.

Posted by agree with the need for honesty
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:40 pm

I have to agree with Terry. A recent example is Measure A, where nowhere was it mentioned that 1/2 of the increase in parcel taxes would immediately go to raises for teachers. I have no problem with raises, but I felt duped thinking I was voting for class sizes and restoring programs, and finding that 1/2 my vote was for raises.

Should have told us up front, "if we can't give the raises to all the teachers, we will have to lay some off so the rest can get the raises, which will increase class size"..then let us decide if this was a reasonable trade-off.

Treating us like we are fools has backfired on the planners.

Posted by Palo Alto High family
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 2, 2007 at 3:49 pm

We moved here in 2001, so we were hard hit with property taxes though we then experienced a decline in the real market value of our home because of 9-11. We are acutely aware of the "cost" to live here and be in PAUSD, we pay high taxes. I am not knee-jerk opposed to any school bond, I'm willing to find out about it, but the costs associated with things like consultants, planning, reports seem extraordinarily expensive in Palo Alto (the city as well as PAUSD) and boost everything to ultra high cost. Is this really necessary? Is it all or nothing? Why does a new police station for a small city need to "cost" $50 million (correct me if my figure is wrong). Please benchmark with surrounding cities (like we should do in a hurry regarding city libraries).

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Ohlone Parent - you probably can't bring yourself to vote against a school bond? Please! What kind of logic, fiscal prudence, call for accountability is that?

If this one goes down, its no more than a year until the next one can get on the ballot. And they'll LEARN from the mistakes they made in this one (ie: arrogance, lack of long term plan, lack of a track record showing they are following a plan, etc.) In the meantime the MESSAGE that the board MUST be accountable to the people's absolute requirement for accountability, transparency, fiscal responsibility, adherance to strategic priorities! PRICELESS.

I can't see how you COULD vote for a school bond, ESPECIALLY until you know that Camille won't be at the helm engineering the run away train.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 1:29 am


I was in high school when Proposition 13 passed. It was devastating to the schools. We did have a terrible BoE, but we kids and, even more, the kids after us bore the brunt of a huge drop in funding. Classes dropped, graduation requirements slashed, PE pretty much eradicated. It was disheartening. And my high school was one of many that went from good/decent to disastrous over the next ten years.

I have young relatives in general-revenue disctricts--the making-do because of limited budgets is depressing. The parents kind of scramble to get their kids enough educational opportunities.

So for me, it's a big deal to vote against school funding. On the other hand, the district has not handled the money well--Callan was a well-paid disaster and, apparently, I'm not allowed to voice my opinion of Camille Townsend in this forum.

I'm not happy that the BoE has decided to overcrowd my kid's school for a pet project.

By the way, Ms. Townsend will be at Ohlone Thurs. morning to award pro-pedestrian items during our walk-to-school week. In other words, a campaign appearance. I was sort of amused to see a prominent PACE member's on the committee sponsoring this.

Quite a little nest.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:22 am

Umm..I was in High School when Prop 13 passed. I saw no "devastation" to the schools at all.

In fact, in reality, we spend on average 30% more per student throughout the State in today's dollars than we did then, and we are the 49th in the nation, not the first. ( Our district, of course, is much higher than that. In real dollars, we are double what we spent then).

When I was in school, we had virtually none of the incredible enriched models we now have in elementary or high school. Elementary schools did not have art, PE, and Science teachers. We didn't have separate art rooms or science rooms. We didn't have the outside paid fancy assemblies, the Saturday morning and before/after remedial support programs, the "extras" in summer school, nor the "theater" ie plays, put on by the elementary schools. We also had 30-35 per classroom.

IN high school, we didn't have anything resembling college level classes, as any student at either of our high schools can now participate in, and we didn't have the hugely enriched and numerous after school sports and club programs that our schools now have.

There is much, much, much more at work in today's education decline than simply money. It has to do with our cultural shifts.

The only "solution" money could buy would be to simply give it up, and put everyone in a State run school from 8-5 every day from 6 months old onward to 18 to offset the negative consequences of single mom households, kids going back and forth between homes, full-time working parents who often can't spend the time after school to support their kids, drugs and gangs, ...of course, every single person would be forced to work full time to pay the bill for this new, state run system..

what does that sound like?

We have the freedom to make poor choices, so far.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Reality Check,

It's wonderful that you didn't see the effects of Prop. 13 in your district. That doesn't change what I saw and experienced.

The 30 percent more real dollars--is that per student? The student population is much, much larger than it was 30 years ago. Someone brought this up once before, but I didn't find anything that indicated that per-student spending was up in real dollars.

What I did find is that we were 35th in per student spending in 2001-2002, which was up from 41st. I really doubt that we rank 35st in cost-of-living and we spend less per student than comparable states like New York.

What does money buy? The easiest way to answer that is to check out the exclusive private schools around here. I'm not suggesting that our public schools need to be like that--I'm a believer in "good-enough" education--but there's a noticeable difference between what Castilleja offers v. Paly. And there's a big difference between the education available at Gunn and Paly v. Sequoia.

The school districts that survived the wreckage of Prop. 13 had populations that actively cared about education--I suspect it's not an accident that you live in a basic-aid district. It wasn't in my case either.

We're not in a situation where the PTA is soliciting money for basic school supplies. Our extra money gets us supplies and goodies like music, art and the occasional PE class. And, yes, it does make college level classes possible. Frankly, because our kids our competing for college spots with kids from better funded states, I wouldn't cassually dismiss those upper-level courses.

By the way, the situation you describe didn't exist Proposition 13 and doesn't exist in states that never passed a Prop. 13 equivalent, so why do you assume that this would be the result?

Fact is, if Prop. 13 had never passed, we wouldn't have the inequity we have between school districts and those of us in the small number of basic-aid districts wouldn't be paying through the nose for housing.

Posted by Not your District
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 3, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Not Again - If you're from Monroe Park, why are you commenting on this? PAUSD is not you're school district. Monroe Park is in Los Altos Elementary District and Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.

Any bond passed for PAUSD won't affect you, and you won't get to vote on it either.

Posted by Not again
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2007 at 11:03 pm

I hit the wrong line. I am in Midtown, one line above Monroe in the list. And I stand by my statements.

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