San Leandro Schools Newsletter by Trustee Stephen Cassidy, March 2008
* School Board Rejects Superintendent’s Cuts To Music, Art and Physical Education At Elementary Schools
* Further Budget Cuts Under Review
* A Brief Introduction To California School Finance
* Commentary on No Child Left Behind and State Budget Cuts to Education
* Reasons For Voting To End The Block Schedule at San Leandro High School
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I wish to provide you information on our school district and issues facing our public schools. I am speaking solely on behalf of myself, not for the school board or district. I hope you find the newsletter of interest.
Very truly yours,
* School Board Rejects Superintendent’s Cuts To Music, Art and Physical Education At Elementary Schools
Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2008-09 will reduce the San Leandro school district’s anticipated revenue by approximately $4.5 million. This constitutes a devastating blow to the district’s budget, representing a loss of more than 5% of the district’s general fund.
The state often does not finalize its budget until well past the start of each fiscal year, which is July 1st. School districts, however, must submit their budgets to county offices of education for review and approval prior to June 30th. Furthermore, under state law, the process of issuing layoff notices for certificated employees (mainly teachers) must commence by March 15th.
Given the financial situation facing our schools, all expenditures must be carefully examined and cuts are necessary. However, a budget is not merely a compilation of revenues and expenditures. It reflects the values and priorities of the district.
I place at the highest priority those working the closest with students - our teachers, counselors, librarians, therapists and support staff. This is why I strongly objected to a resolution presented by the Superintendent to the school board on March 6, 2008. The resolution would have issued layoff notices to the district’s elementary school choral music, instrumental music, art and physical education teachers, a total of 18 positions.
The cuts were directly in the classroom and would have diminished the quality of education we provide to our children. In addition to ending music, art instruction and pe for elementary school students, the layoffs would have gravely undermined the staggered reading program which enables elementary school teachers to provide one-on-one reading instruction to students.
All board members unequivocally opposed the Superintendent’s proposal. Instead of the resolution failing due to no board member moving for its adoption, which would have been the usual course of action for a resolution lacking support, the board expressed its extreme displeasure by voting unanimously not to adopt the resolution.
* Further Budget Cuts Under Review
In addition to proposing to layoff the 18 elementary school teachers, on March 6, 2008, the Superintendent offered a separate set of budget cuts in the amount of $885,362. The board approved a wide range of cuts, including reducing overtime pay and the high school athletic budget by 5%.
One cut the board rejected was reducing in half the district’s grant writer position. Such an approach would have been a penny wise and a pound foolish. The grant writer, hired in the Fall of 2006, has been effective in positioning the district to obtain several multi-million dollar grants.
The largest reduction, at $200,000, approved by the board was a cut in the district’s legal fees for the next school year. This cost savings is purely speculative. The lower legal fees will only be realized if by the end of this school year the district enters into a two-year agreement with the San Leandro Teachers Association (SLTA). The teachers are currently working without a contract, which expired on June 30, 2007. The district and SLTA have been negotiating on a new contract since the Fall and have not reached an agreement.
The Superintendent has repeatedly stated that “the District is committed to working with the unions collaboratively on negotiations to offer competitive salaries to our staff.” In her memo to the board seeking approval of the additional budget reductions at the March 6, 2008 meeting, the Superintendent stated that one of the purposes of the cuts was to “set aside the maximum dollar for settlements for our employee groups.”
At the board meeting, I voiced the opinion that the reductions offered by the Superintendent were insufficient to achieve this goal, and that additional cuts were necessary in order to provide our employees competitive salaries. I proposed eliminating five administrative positions at district headquarters, including reorganizing the management of the human resources department. I also proposed cutting one vice principal position at each middle school and the high school. Currently, the middle schools each have a principal and two vice principals and high school has a principal, associate principal and three vice principals. The board will review this proposal at its next meeting, this Thursday, March 13th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall.
I offered these cuts with a heavy heart. I do not wish to see any person receive a layoff notice. Each of the positions is important to the success of the district.
However, the saying that “there is no such thing as a free lunch” comes to mind. The $4.5 million loss in revenue to the district under Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget must be accounted for. The Superintendent sought to address the loss in revenue through cuts to the arts, music and pe programs. This was the wrong approach, but I agree with the underlying imperative that substantial budget cuts are necessary.
* A Brief Introduction to California School Finance
To appreciate the fiscal strain the district is under it is important to have an understanding of how California finances its public schools. Unlike many other states, California has a centralized system for funding of K-12 public schools. Most school districts in California rely on Sacramento for 90% or more of their operating revenues.
The amount of funds the children of San Leandro receive for their education is closely linked to the roller coaster of the state economy. When the economy expands rapidly, state tax receipts soar. When the economy goes into reverse, the state quickly faces a fiscal crisis.
What about local property taxes? While they contribute to public school funding, since the passage of Proposition 13, which immediately slashed property taxes by an average of 60%, property tax revenues have not been nearly enough to pay for the cost of education. Less than half of the San Leandro Unified School District ’s budget can be traced to property taxes.
Moreover, Sacramento sets the rules governing the collection and distribution of property taxes. Sacramento also determines the amount of funding aid each school district receives per student, called the revenue limit. This amount varies widely among school districts even within the same county. For example, last year our school district’s revenue limit was approximately $5,293. (We also receive additional monies in the form of restricted funds from the state and federal government.)
The same year, the state provided the Dublin school district $800 more per student in revenue limit funding than San Leandro. If our school district received the same amount of revenue limit funding from the state as Dublin, each year San Leandro would have an additional $6.5 million to allocate to programs for students and improve salaries for employees.
Our school district has consistently been at the bottom of school districts in Alameda County for revenue per student. This is not a recent problem. In 1999, the Alameda County Office of Education reported:
[T]he San Leandro district is seriously under funded. The district ranks last in Alameda County in income per student. The Board and the Superintendent have the challenge to compete academically and fiscally, not only with the districts of Alameda County, but the entire Bay Area. It is clear that if the district is to continue to compete, then the community will need to provide additional support to the district, through alternative revenue resources.
Parcel taxes, which are based on the ownership of a property and not a percentage of its value, are the only source of discretionary tax revenue available to a school district. They also come with the steep requirement of two-thirds support from the voters.
In setting a school districts’ revenue limit, the state may not take in account the amount of revenue a district receives from its parcel tax. Thus, a parcel tax enables a community to support its public schools above and beyond what Sacramento provides.
* Commentary on No Child Left Behind Act and State Budget Cuts To Education
I wrote the following commentary for the Daily Review:
My oldest daughter will start Kindergarten in public school in San Leandro next August. I know she will receive excellent instruction from dedicated and caring teachers. Her education, however, will not be shaped solely by my wife and me, her teachers, principal, other involved parents and school board.
The federal government has intruded in education through the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB establishes wholly unrealistic standards of performance for our public schools. When schools do not meet these standards, they are labeled failures, triggering a set of escalating sanctions ending in the conversion of our public schools into charter schools.
Congress is debating whether to reauthorize NCLB. If Congress applied the same performance measurements to itself, Congress would receive an “F.” The federal government should offer a helping hand to schools in need, not punitive sanctions.
Decisions made in Sacramento in the coming months will also greatly impact our schools. California has a centralized system for funding public education. The Governor and Legislature, not local school boards, determine the amount of property taxes and state aid each school district receives. This is why even when property tax receipts increase, our schools do not necessarily benefit.
Sacramento deserves an “F” in the category of school finance. According to Education Week, California ranks 47th in the nation in spending per student when accounting for regional cost differences, spending $1,900 less per student than the national average. West Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi all outrank California.
What do these statistics mean? The 6.3 million children in California public schools attend some of the most crowded classrooms and have the fewest counselors and librarians in the nation.
Last August, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a budget that he called responsible, noting it limited “spending growth to less than 1 percent.” Since then there has been a meltdown in the housing market. State revenues have dropped precipitously. Nevertheless, Governor Schwarzenegger claims state expenditures are excessive. He proposes cutting billions from K-12 education to balance the budget.
“The Governor can’t manufacture money” is what one person said after I described how his cutbacks will harm our schools. I replied, “Yes, but he can manufacture leadership.” Upon taking office, Governor Schwarzenegger reduced the vehicle license fee. That created an annual $4 billion hole in the budget, about the same amount he now seeks to slash from education.
Governor Schwarzenegger once promised voters he would “protect California’s commitment to education funding.” Our public schools are the only state-funded agency that depends upon car washes, bake sales and magazine subscription drives to function. Yet, the Governor rules out any tax increases to address the revenue shortfall. His call for 2008 to be the Year of Education has become a cruel joke.
Leadership is ultimately by example. The Schwarzenegger household will be unaffected by the budget cuts. His children attend a private school that charges over $25,000 a year in tuition. In San Leandro, spending per student in 2006 was $6,916.
Our society will not flourish if only the children of the rich attend schools that offer quality teaching in small classrooms, music and arts education, foreign languages, sports, access to technology and well-stocked libraries. California’s future depends on our public schools receiving the resources necessary to succeed.
* Reasons For Voting To End The Block Schedule at San Leandro High School
In February, I voted, with five other trustees, to end the block schedule at San Leandro High School. Next year, the high school schedule will consist of a six period day instead of four, 90 minute classes per semester under the block schedule.
This was a difficult decision. The majority of teachers and vast majority of students at the high school supported the block schedule. The Superintendent advocated eliminating the block schedule, but solely on the basis of cost savings. When asked if one schedule was superior in terms of student achievement, her answer was neither. She stated that the quality of education could be equal under either schedule depending upon the commitment and expertise of the principal and teachers.
I found the Superintendent’s analysis unpersuasive. Whether the district will achieve cost savings by ending the block schedule is uncertain. Yet I strongly disagreed with the Superintendent’s assertion that it made no difference with respect to student achievement whether the high school followed a block or traditional schedule.
While certain students have benefited from the block schedule, in my opinion, the block schedule as operated at San Leandro High School has not been in the best interests of the majority of students. In reaching this conclusion I reviewed reports on the block schedule from 2004 and 2008. I spoke to teachers, counselors, staff, administrators, parents and students. I also visited the high school to observe instruction, including spending an entire day at the school the Friday before the vote on the block schedule.
The block schedule has not met its promise of offering students a greater range of courses over a traditional schedule. It has actually limited student choice. Some courses that were to have been semester courses under the block schedule proved unworkable. They had to be expanded to year courses with the result that students have less courses to choose from.
In addition, in certain courses, 90 minutes of instruction every day of the week has been too demanding for 14-15 year olds. For example, with math classes, multiple parents informed me that their children, who performed well at the middle schools, could not absorb all of the new concepts taught each day and did poorly in math at the high school.
Alternatively, courses that under a six period day were year long, such as foreign languages, were compressed to one semester under the block schedule. The material can not be covered in one semester. PE was also compressed to one semester. It is better for students to have the benefit of exercise the entire school year under a six period schedule.
The block schedule is incompatible with the state’s STAR tests, which are administered in the Spring. Students that in the Fall took English 2, for example, are expected to remember all they learned months several months later when they take the STAR test. Likewise, students taking English 2 in the Spring are rushed through a year’s worth of material before the semester concludes in order to be prepared for the STAR test.
I was also concerned about the impact on class sizes under the block school. To keep the schedule cost neutral with a six period schedule and ensure that all students had access to a full course load, the high school increased class sizes, up to 35 students in some courses. One teacher said to me, “The district gave us more time each day to teach the students, but you also gave us more students to teach.”
Another factor in my vote to end the block schedule was that an excessive amount of counselor time is spent on scheduling classes for students. Under a six period day, the time required for scheduling will drop significantly, allowing counselors to better perform their core job functions.
Finally, Amy Furtado, the high school principal, recommended that the school board vote to end the block schedule independent of any cost savings. She also stated her commitment to work with teachers in implementing a six period schedule that would take into account the needs of those students that benefited from longer classes.
Again, I recognize that for certain students the block schedule offered a superior format. Yet, on balance, I concluded it would be best interest of the majority of students to end the block schedule.
What’s going on at James Monroe? 2008
James Monroe is offering new programs this year to our students and families and to our adult/senior community. Monroe has collaborated with San Leandro Adult School to provide English and Computer classes on our Monroe school site. The Adult Fall Sessions have just ended, and new sessions will be starting in January. It was a terrific learning experience for our students to see senior citizens interested in learning new skills like computer skills. These seniors modeled for our students what we educators always tell them that learning is a life long activity. We now have the Adult School’s Winter Brochure of classes in our office. Please feel free to come by and pick one up.
For our students and their families, Monroe now offers affordable after school childcare with enrichment activities. Monroe was awarded state funds to provide an after school program based on a sliding fee scale. The majority of our families pays a reduced rate or come free of charge. This program offers computer classes that target Math and English Language Arts, homework, and recreational playtime. We started with about 60 students staying after school in September, but our numbers quickly climbed to 113 students!
As our San Leandro District continues to strive for student achievement, bringing all students up to proficiency and above academic levels, a new parent group was started at all the San Leandro school sites. This organization is called P.A.S.S., which stands for Partnerships for Academically Successful Students. The goal of P.A.S.S. is to bring parents in as partners with the school site’s staff, to provide feedback and strategies that will promote student achievement, specifically the advancement of students of color and our second language students. We are at the beginning stages, but we already feel confident of what gains Monroe can achieve from this partnership with parents.
From our recent parent survey, parents asked for more family potlucks, and that's just what we are doing this year. We just had our Winter Holiday Potluck with at least 300 people in attendance. Students performed winter holiday songs and we had other students reading about traditional celebrations around the world like Las Posada, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, and of course, Christmas. We had foods from around the world—dinner was delicious! There will be a family potluck every month. Our next one is January 24, at 6:15, in the cafeteria. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, students will present a performance around Mr. King’s life of service and accomplishments. School Board Member, Linda Perry, attended and was invited to come back for more! That invitation is extended to all of our James Monroe Community.
In closing, Monroe wanted to share how delighted we were to host the Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker excerpts generously provided by the Oakland Ballet. Oakland Ballet’s prima ballerina, Jenna McClintock, .organized the assembly and performed the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, a role she will be performing opening night at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Jenna McClintock was excited to come to San Leandro for many reasons. First, her dad was born and raised in San Leandro, her grandmother, Mrs. Donna McClintock, still resides in the Halcyon neighborhood, and her Aunt Nancy McClintock is a special education Para educator at our Muir Middle School. Adults and students alike thoroughly enjoyed the performance! For many of our students, this was their first introduction to ballet. One of our parents watching the performance noticed a fourth grade student with teary eyes. She asked the student if anything was the matter. The student replied that she had never seen anything so beautiful before and it made her cry. I guess that says it all on how important it is that our schools expose our children to the arts, and what better way to do this than with our local ballet dancer and company.
The Monroe staff and I hope that this update will encourage you to support our educational efforts and come celebrate learning with us whenever you can! Our office number is 510-618-4340 if you want to contact us.
Other infomation about San Leandro Schools
San Leandro School Board Members
Pauline Cutter 632-71082 Ray Davis 483-49205 Lisa Hague 352-56506 Stepheny Cassidy 667-0860At large
San Leandro California
San Leandro has many distinct and charming neighborhoods home buyers are drawn to like:
ASSUMPTION PARISH between I-580 and East14th Street, Estudillo up to 140th Avenue.
Upper Bal and Lower Bal are located between San Leandro Boulevard and MacArthur, from 136th Avenue to 150th.
BAY-O-VISTA The rolling hills in east San Leandro enfold the Bay-O-Vista neighborhood.
Broadmoor is bordered by Oakland, down to Dutton, and from Bancroft, west, to East 14th Street.
Cherry Wood homes were built by Citation homes from 2000 to 2004
Davis Tract runs from the Oakland city limit to Williams Street.
ESTUDILLO ESTATES and GLEN Boundaries for this area are MacArthur to Woodland Avenue, and Juana Avenue to Dutton Avenue.
FARRELLY POND DISTRICT The boundaries are roughly from East 14th to the BART tracks, from Davis Street to the Oakland border.
Best Manor is often included in the Farrelly Pond District but it is older.
FLOREST GARDENS and BRADRICK Floresta Gardens is located east of the Nimitz, along both sides of Floresta Boulevard and Washington Avenue to the train tracks.
Heron Bay Home newer development located at the end of Lewelling Blvd.
HILLCREST KNOLLS nestled below Lake Chabot in the unincorporated San Leandro.
Lacqua Manor is between Marina Boulevard to Williams/Davis Street, and from the Nimitz freeway to the Bart tracks.
The Marina Vista homes were built by Wesco home builder in the 1990"s.
Marina Faire is located near the open spaces of the San Leandro Marina and the Tony Lema golf course, along the bay.
MULFORD GARDENS Marina Boulevard down to Fairway Drive. Marina Golf course is in Mulford Gardens.
OLD SAN LEANDRO Saint Leander's Church vicinity, between East 14th and the BART station, along both sides of Washington Avenue.
Sheffield Village is located north of Bay-O-Vista and east of I-580, against the hills in Oakland but attend San Leandro Schools.
WASHINGTON MANOR Homes south of Purdue west of 880 . Washington Manor list of sold homes click here.
Information on some Homeowners Associations in San Leandro
Floresta Gardens Homeowners Ass. (condominium) Ron Tuzon 531-5025
Floresta Homeowners Association Barbara Tierney 351-0504
Halcyon-Foothill Homeowners Association, Inc. Linda Perry 352-7679
Heron Bay Homeowners Association, Susan Hoftman 683-8614 x 107
Huntington Park Homeowners Association Albert Paladini 352-5484
Marina Faire Homeowners Association Carole Rinaldi 351-7956
Marina Gardens Homeowners Association Kathy Sanchez 357-8037
Washington Manor Homeowners Association Robert Leigh 352-1499