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Lukewarm on teacher housing, school board doesn't direct staff to pursue further

Original post made on Nov 6, 2019

Despite the rise in interest in building housing for teachers and staff in school districts across the Bay Area, Palo Alto Unified trustees signaled on Tuesday they have little appetite for pursuing such a project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 8:14 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2019 at 8:57 am

The average PAUSD teacher makes more than the average valley tech worker. Let that sink in.

Next, compare quality of life, work hours, stress... not even close...

As the quoted Board members indicate, teacher retention is not even close to being an issue. These PAUSD jobs are coveted and quite cozy already.

So, for me it's a hard "no" paid teacher housing. Use your salary, like everyone else does.

Posted by Jay
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2019 at 9:16 am

Do you have a source on those salary figures please? The numbers posted on the PAUSD website suggest that the average PAUSD teacher does not make more than the average valley tech worker. Web Link

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 9:28 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

I believe it's an hourly comparison. The average tech worker works more than 180+/- days per year.

Also, a PAUSD salary schedule does not show the average of anything

Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2019 at 10:23 am

PAUSD Parent is a registered user.

Sally, I think you do not understand what a teacher's job entails if you think that the quality of life and stress levels are lower than that of an average tech worker. Think about this. An elementary school teacher works with 20+ children, each with a different temperament and needs. School starts around 8, ends around 3. Teachers have to be in school before children get to the classroom; and have to stay many hours after preparing lessons for the next day, working through problems that arise during the day, etc. Most teachers I have encountered are very dedicated to their students and work extremely hard to make sure they are doing as well as they could. If they can't afford housing in Palo Alto, which most younger new teachers cannot, they have to commute long hours as well. Would you want a teacher who spends 2+ hours commuting teaching your child?

Posted by Sally-Ann Rudd
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2019 at 10:26 am

Sally-Ann Rudd is a registered user.

I've also heard that teacher retention isn't currently an issue. What may become an issue is hiring young teachers to take over positions from an aging teacher population, especially in areas such as technology, comp sci, science and math. Young teachers may find they cannot afford to take jobs in Palo Alto schools, which is a shame.

Posted by 525 is not part of Cubberley. The lease should not touch it.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 11:43 am

525 is not part of Cubberley. The lease should not touch it. is a registered user.

I am puzzled by the Cubberley lease info that is tagged on to the end of this article. I don't understand why a decision to build housing at 525 San Antonio should be linked to the Cubberley lease. It never has been before. These are distinct, completely separate parcels with different zoning. One parcel, 525 San Antonio, is zoned for housing. The other parcel, Cubberley, is zoned PF (for public facilities like schools or a community center, not housing).

It seems to me, the city is overstepping.

PAUSD would be wise to get a land use attorney on this ASAP if they don't want their future development rights restricted unfairly.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I agree with the PAUSD - housing is not in their charter and would require a number of new positions in the PAUSD board just to manage housing. I checked out San Antonio Road off Middlefield - next to the major road and there is plenty of housing in that area - mixed apartments and houses. Also - the county and city is going to build housing near the courthouse which is dedicated to teacher housing. Also the pressure is on for the Fry's site to put housing in that location which would include teacher housing.

As a side note I visited my niece's high school in Baltimore suburb which provided teacher housing. The teacher's would stay for a year then leave. They do not want to be at the beck and call of the students 24/7. Teacher's want their own personal lives to live as separate from their professional lives.
Yes - many are looking at this option but Looking and doing are two separate efforts. Most look but do not proceed.

Posted by Bean
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2019 at 12:21 pm

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows--do you know what the rents are for those units? Yes, they are apartments, but when you start talking $2500+ a month, that's a major percentage of your salary gone. And if you want to have a partner, your own kids, a yard for the kids? There's just no feasible way.

The city as a whole needs to look at affordable housing for everyone, not just teachers. Emergency workers, non-doctors at PAMF or Stanford, etc. are all people that we would want close by in case of an emergency, and if they are commuting hours to Palo Alto, we won't have them.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Many good points made, for and against. Thank you PAUSD Parent and Sally-Ann Rudd. And I think the Board is wise to take the watch and wait approach to see how the County's efforts play out. I never did understand how that property could get special attention for housing for a special designated group without lawsuits and courts getting involved. If Joe Simitian has addressed that as a potential issue I'd like to know more about it.

Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm

There is no retention or recruitment issue. Very few openings at PAUSD for certificated teaching positions. 2nd highest paying unified school district in California. Meanwhile Pausd owes teachers $187 million in unfunded pension liabilities, and $65 million to the classified staff. If Pausd doesn't get on that, Pausd property owners will have to pony up for that. Take care of that first, school board. Make sure our retired teachers have their pensions, and make sure we don't have any additional property assessments to pay for it.

Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Why schoolteachers, and not police officers? Is this all just because they have a more powerful union? While we're at it, shouldn't we subsidize housing for mail carriers and tax collectors?

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:23 pm

A poster named Trainfan did the salary analysis. Pausd Teachers make more per day than the average tech worker. And have way better benefits. We're not talking about building housing on public land for the average tech worker. Seniors and the disabled are low income, but Pausd teachers are not ...

Will try find analysis to post it.

Posted by Livablepa
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Interesting there was not mention of how classified employees of the district such as food service, classroom aides, custodial than a certified teachers are unable sustain the ever rising rents of housing costs . . . how many classified non management people work for the PAUSD district and where are they forced to live or commute from? Is it just about teachers?

Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2019 at 1:58 pm

What about the gardeners, and the cashiers at Whole Foods, and those who work at CVS, or the plumbers and electricians who come do jobs here, and what about the caregivers and healthcare workers, and nannies, and housekeepers and housecleaners, and so forth and so on? We shouldn't build housing for them too, since they do some work here?

Posted by dorbir
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2019 at 5:43 pm

dorbir is a registered user.

The school board seems not to think in terms of prevention and will respond after a problem has arisen.

Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Here is a link from a Weekly article that pointed out that more than 2/3 of Palo Alto teachers make more than $100,000 annually -- and don't forget that's for 9 months work.
Web Link

This is higher than the per capita income, and considerably higher than household income if two people make a similar salary and make a household. If you factor in the 9 months versus year, teachers come out even better.

I don't know why these discussions always assume that the salary should allow a single young person just out of college to afford a home, that never used to be the case in Palo Alto or the Bay Area, or really any high-cost-of-living place I've ever lived.

I know a lot of teachers, young and retired teachers, who live in Palo Alto, not just with PAUSD, too. They are too a one better off financially than we are.

If we are as a community going to get involved in buying up property to stabilize prices and civic life, the very first thing we should do is to buy up the downtown and other retail areas, so that we can afford to remain a town with retail. That's the only way we've been able to remain a town with schools and community space.

Posted by ribrod
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 6, 2019 at 6:09 pm

@dorbir: "The school board seems not to think in terms of prevention and will respond after a problem has arisen."

That logic makes sense when you are talking about a $25 flu shot that takes a couple minutes. When you are talking about making a $50+ million investment that will last over 50 years, and you've got limited capital and effort available, it makes sense to be pretty sure you actually have the problem you are trying to solve. The good news if it they decide in the future that they do have the problem, they can still pursue the solution.

Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:18 pm

The other problem with building housing is the fairness issue. Who gets it? Won't this cause resentment among the other teachers? If they build one building, will they have to build more? Who runs the place? What happens if a teacher is fired, disciplined, wants to leave, etc? Would it increase complaints against supervisors if young teachers wanted to leave but didn't want to lose their cheap housing?

Getting housing in the Bay Area has long been a really tough proposition. It's a nice idea to provide teacher housing, but it's a pretty expensive experiment.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Back to the Fry' site - put four towers on that property and you can address all of the concerns noted above. Make it happen.

Posted by Math Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2019 at 8:00 pm

While tech workers in San Jose earn a median income of $122,242 per year, the average PAUSD employee makes $94k (according to the Daily last year) My math tells me that’s 23% below the average. This is just math. Judge it as you will.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 7, 2019 at 9:39 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@ Math Guy
Are you going to compare the median to the average? Also "tech workers" is rather vague. Is that everyone that works at a tech company or is it the tech employees that work at all companies?

Either way, let's compare your numbers. The tech worker making the median wage works 250 days per year (unless it's a tech worker at a school), which works out to $489/day of work. The PAUSD employee making the average wage works 182 days/year which works out to $516/day of work.

Given that the PAUSD employee works over 25% fewer days, it makes sense that they earn 23% less pay. Doesn't it?

Posted by Sophat
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2019 at 8:11 am

Dear PAUSD Parent

I have over 50 customers a day, of many different moods, abilities and cultures. I make minimum wage and have a very long commute. Oh, and when I do get home I share a small space with others.
Do you want me preparing your food?

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2019 at 1:15 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I am furious and I continue to wonder why we allow our elected officials to change their minds entirely once they are installed in office. So I guess, ALL FIVE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS, that you were lying when you pledged during your campaigns that you were going to support our students and teachers?

How many of our school board even has kids in the district? ANY? I know that Dauber and DiBrenza both opted for private schools -- how bizarre that they would seek this office after giving up on the district for their own kids?

What do they mean that the PAUSD doesn't have issues hiring teachers? How would they possibly know this any better than ALL 17 PRINCIPALS who have said that they have challenges with recruiting? Given that NONE of them have kids that actually attend our schools, so none of them have had to deal with the heartbreak that happens each and every time -- and this happens REGULARLY -- that our kids lose favorite teachers because the teachers cannot tolerate 4 hour commutes every day -- why does the school board get to value their hunches over the first hand experience of our school's leaders, teachers, staff, and students?

Most of us did not attend this meeting because we had trusted the School Board to keep its promises. And we were shocked by the sudden flip flop -- WHY do this to our kids?!

Let's be real clear, here School Board: (You know this because you paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to send your kids to private schools, where this is less of a problem):

1. For students, NOTHING is more important than the quality of the TEACHER. An excellent teacher can make ANY learning fun.

2. Teachers have HARD JOBS . Much MUCH MUCH harder than the "job" of a School Board Member. Their jobs take up FAR more hours than the 8 or so that they spend at their schools. They also have to:

A. Plan lessons
B. Prepare lessons
C. Create Assignments
D. Grade Assignments
E. Create Tests
F. Grade Tests
G. Keep up with new developments in education
H. Keep up with new developments in the subject areas that they teach
I. Keep up with legal requirements and regulatory curriculum requirements
J. Contribute to their school community
K. Be avaIlable and responsive to every student's need
L. Be available and responsive to every parent's need
M. Fulfill ongoing licensing requirements
N. Pursue professional educational opportunities, often during the summer, often on their own dime.

Often they work 100 hours/week. They do not have days off. I have served as an executive at numerous technology companies in Silicon Valley for 25 years, including companies such as PayPal, Trulia, and Reddit, and I can assure you that almost no one at any of these companies ever worked this many hours, and on an hourly basis (dividing salary by hours worked), there's no comparison -- teachers are paid far less.

That said: We need affordable housing for tech workers too!!

As Jennifer D said -- before voting in exactly the opposite directly -- a teacher can be infinitely better when they do not have to commute so many hours every day. (Lucky for her she doesn't have that problem any more!)

When TEACHERS succeed, STUDENTS succeed. It is so simple.

I literally had to calm down for 10 days to write this response. I don't care if they read it or not -- I mean, the school board obviously has shown that they don't care at all about the actual students, teachers or families in the district.

If anyone else is reading: This Board needs to be ousted. They all should be recalled. They do nothing for us. They eagerly spend millions of dollars on law firms in order to deprive kids of supports to which they are entitled, to protect rapists rather than students who are assaulted, to tell parents that there is nothing that the school can do when their kids are bullied. These lawyers simply suck up taxpayer money and return nothing, given that all these cases end up settling and the students eventually get something (less than what they should get) if they have the will and privilege to fight for several years.

Meanwhile an investment in housing immediately would return benefits. Not only would the district receive revenues in terms of affordable housing rents -- in a location where the district RECEIVES NO REVENUE AT ALL RIGHT NOW -- but also the district would be able to attract the best teachers more easily, and retain these best teachers as well.

Meanwhile, the students would benefit by having teachers who can arrive at school early and stay late to help them, rather than having to rush out the door for their 2 hour commute home.

These extraordinarily benefits of teacher housing are obvious to everyone who has any actual current experience with PAUSD teachers, administrators, staff, and students. Which our school board lacks.

I am embarrassed and ashamed for our School Board, who are blinded by their privilege and excited only by their own potential to climb the political ranks. They have ONE JOB -- to act as Trustees for the PAUSD, and at this point it is impossible to conclude that any of them are at all acting in the district's best interest, much less protecting the district from others.

I think we need to require that anyone running for school board has a child or direct family member in the school district, and that they have not chosen private schools unless their children have been placed there in cooperation with the district due to special needs (in which case they absolutely will have a lot of thoughts as to how the PAUSD could be more inclusive).

Having attended countless school board meetings, I also have concluded that the student representatives from Gunn and Paly are almost always more qualified to serve on the school board than many/most/all of the board members. I back the idea of letting high school students vote in school board elections, and I add to it that it makes sense for these high school students to be able to run for that office as well. If any of the School Board members had a kid in the PAUSD or were a young adult in the PAUSD, this would not be confusing.


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2019 at 1:43 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

One other thing.

It makes zero sense to use the "slippery slope argument" (contradiction in terms because slippery slope is not any rational argument -- it is a style of bullying) to state that "If we provide housing for teachers, why don't we provide housing for Whole Foods workers?"

I shall spell this out: Teachers are employed by the PAUSD. Whole Food Workers are employed by Amazon. Does treat their employees like dirt? Yes, yes it does, and that is not ok. But that is why we need to continue to put pressure on Amazon to treat its workers better.

Meanwhile, WE THE TAXPAYERS, in the form of the government entity that our City of Palo Created, the Palo Alto Unified School District, are the employers of the teachers! WE are the ones who have the job to treat the teachers fairly. The people whom we elect to serve as the Trustees of our School District, specifically, have the job to treat our teachers fairly.

They also need to treat our school staff, contractors, laborers, service workers, and administrators fairly. These things are not mutually exclusive. Everyone needs to be treated fairly, and it is the School Board's JOB to make sure this happens.

That is because it is written into our charter and quite frankly, KNOWN, that a school district cannot succeed for the students and families if they do not provide a workplace that is attractive enough to recruit and retain the best candidates for every job.

And, a teacher's job IS different than other jobs at a school. The teachers are the ones that work most directly with students. They are the ones who arrange to arrive at school early and stay at school late to help their students -- which is sometimes impossible to do with extremely long commutes.

We in Palo Alto directly benefit when teachers are able to do their jobs to their best ability. With better teachers, students are happier and learn more. They score higher on tests and may be accepted at more competitive colleges. This benefits everyone else, too. School districts gel communities -- they bring local neighborhoods together, help families meet each other. They enable communities.

They also -- for you NiMBYs reading -- improve real estate values for everyone else. Since what is better for your home values than a strong community and top-ranked schools?


YES yes it is true that many tech workers are not treated well, and that they often have difficulty finding affordable housing. Given that their own employers -- remember, we are not their employers, but we are the teacher's employers (although please don't act that way, as it's not that simple of course) -- given that their own employers insist on padding the top executives' salaries rather than "trickling down" the profit of the company to the rank and file, some companies instead of raising salaries and providing better benefits to their own workers (which they should do) are instead investing in local real estate to house their employees instead. (Which is nice, but only the company enjoys the appreciation, while the workers pay the rent.) See, e.g., FACEBOOK. With more on the way.

So yes, companies are investing in housing for their workers. As should we.

In sum: ALL of us win when teachers are empowered. Successful teachers create successful students. Successful students make for happy families. Happy families build communities. Communities improve everyone's quality of life.

I hope that this helps clarify some things.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2019 at 9:32 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Back to the Fry' site

Are you suggesting that the CPA or PAUSD exercise eminent domain on the Fry's site? Sobrato owns it, and, Sobrato appears to want to build "high-end" something on the site, and, will just sit on it until they can. So, neither teachers nor average "tech-workers" are invited. The site was zoned for RM-30 for N years but somehow, that has never "penciled out". As long as developers can get property up-zoned for office space or high-end residential for the rich, middle-class housing will -never- pencil out.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 16, 2019 at 5:13 pm

@Rebecca Eisenberg, thanks for laying this out. I seriously hope you run for school board next year. We need someone who isn't afraid to stand up for what's right and doesn't just kowtow to outside pressure groups!

Posted by Wow
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2019 at 8:41 pm

That's an epic rant, Rebecca. I particularly appreciate your statement as fact that teachers spend "100 HOURS" a week working. Wow! That's an average of 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Posted by ps
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:10 am

I agree the school board should be ousted, that if they have kids, that they attend public school and the moment they don't, they must resign. However, they give themselves services for special needs and it makes no difference, they still deny the same services they take to many many many many many many many many many many many many others and they are planning to make even more reduction in services by concocting bull*hit classes by changing the names and delivering the same thing to all kids no matter what they have, to a good 1/3 of the kids, this is very harmful and ineffective.

The only way to avoid repeated violations for imbalance of HUR kids in special ed is to reduce the number of HUR kids receiving services because those with means will always leave because PAUSD is incapable of delivering quality support aligned to the disabilities and when you see your child decline sharply and break, lose their personality and become a depressed mess, you will take your kid out. As the stats show, all these HUR kids are deprived of a fair and appropriate education and dumbed way down and rewired their brains to live in the familiarity of failure.

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