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Piedmont USD - Week 12 Update

October 23, 2023

Dear Piedmont USD Families,

This newsletter will provide an update on the following topics:

  • Guest Column from Dr. Elise Marks, APT Union President
  • PUSD Negotiations Update from 10/20/23
  • Student Attendance & School Funding - Follow-Up
  • Private Tutoring & Private College Counseling - Pulse Check Results
  • News & Notes

In Partnership,

Jennifer Hawn, Ed.D.


Guest Column from Dr. Elise Marks, APT Union President

I want to thank Dr. Hawn for inviting me to write a guest post for the Piedmont Pulse. As she communicated to families on Friday, negotiations between district leadership and APT have reached a point at which both sides acknowledge that–while we have reached agreement on several points–we’re unable to make progress towards agreement on several remaining issues, most urgently the financial issues. For that reason, APT has filed for Impasse with California’s Public Employment Relations Board, which means we wish to continue our negotiations with the help of a state mediator.

During these challenging economic times, PUSD is not alone in reaching this point. Other districts who are at or very near Impasse include Lafayette, Pleasanton, Clayton Valley, Dublin, and Pittsburg. The goal in every case is to have an experienced mediator take an objective look at the issues and help find a productive path forward.

APT is confident that we will be able to find that path.

Today, I want to emphasize the many powerful core values that I believe APT and district leadership hold in common.

Above all, everyone at the negotiations table believes that Piedmont students deserve the absolute best in education. We are all passionately dedicated to the excellence of our schools, to making them places where students feel challenged intellectually as well as supported emotionally, places where everyone feels a sense of belonging, where classes are engaging and invigorating, and where “All means all.” In academics, athletics, the arts, and extracurriculars, we are committed to helping our students achieve their full potential so they can head out into the world empowered to make their mark.

We recognize that educational excellence depends directly on attracting and retaining superb educators of the caliber that have made Piedmont a “destination district” for more than a century. Anyone who spends time in Piedmont classrooms knows how extraordinary our educators are–intelligent, caring, dedicated, innovative, committed to understanding every single child and finding the best ways to help them learn and grow.

We recognize that, in order for those amazing educators to be here for our students, they must be able to survive financially in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive regions in the world. Inflation and dramatically rising health insurance costs make that prospect more daunting every year, with many teachers contemplating the painful choice of leaving the profession they love because the financial sacrifices have grown too great. Starting in January, most Piedmont educators who rely on the district’s Kaiser insurance will be shouldering a $370 a month increase in the premiums they must pay out of pocket. For people who bring home less than $4000 a month, as many of our educators do, that alone is a huge bite out of already-strained family budgets. With Bay Area inflation pushing 5%, the combined impact will mean many teachers are facing a devastating 15%-20% reduction in their effective income, when they were already struggling to make ends meet.

In large part because of the problem of teacher pay, California–and in fact the entire nation–is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage. Many veteran teachers are reaching retirement age, and not enough young people are entering teacher preparation programs. Schools are also facing severe shortages of psychologists, nurses, counselors, interventionists, paraeducators, and administrators. Districts are already in fierce competition for the most talented candidates, and APT and district leadership all recognize that Piedmont will need to marshal its best resources to bring those candidates here for our students, and to keep our current educators in PUSD schools.

At the same time, we acknowledge our district’s very real financial challenges. We are a small, non-basic-aid, unified district, with few students in categories that bring higher levels of state funding. As with almost all California districts, we are experiencing declining enrollment, which results in further reduction in funds. Nonetheless, we must fulfill all California state mandates–the universal meal program, Transitional Kindergarten, Title IX improvements to girls’ athletics, increased contributions to CalPERS and CalSTRS retirement funds to ensure their solvency, and a wide array of individual services for students according to their IEPs. These are all inherently good things, and they are vital to keeping our schools strong. However, LCFF funding is seldom sufficient to cover their full costs.

In addition, PUSD is committed to wonderful programs that most districts don’t provide, but which have been essential to Piedmont’s strength: our Wellness Center, the counseling programs we offer even at our elementary schools, our teacher librarians who do amazing work to inspire our students’ love of reading and research, our one-to-one Chromebook initiative, our rich Art and Acting offerings, our groundbreaking Affinity Mentors program, and fascinating elective classes like Guitar Engineering and Film Studies and Marine Biology that let students dive deep into their intellectual passions.

Piedmont educators value all of these things profoundly. Our students need and deserve them. Thankfully, we have our parcel taxes and the tireless work of the Piedmont Educational Foundation to support our rich array of programs.

But even with that extraordinary support from our community, PUSD finds itself in a difficult situation. Last spring, in the wake of considerable unexpected expenses in 2022-2023, even with elimination of two positions, the district felt it might not meet the required 3% reserve, and submitted a “qualified” budget to Alameda County. While PUSD budget projections show the financial picture improved somewhat over the summer, the district office tells us now that they have only enough uncommitted funds to offer a 2% salary increase to educators, with no increased help with rising health insurance costs. The Board has offered a commitment of somewhat larger increases for the next two years: 4% for 2024-25 and 3% for 2025-26.

While APT acknowledges the district’s financial constraints, and greatly appreciates the commitment to prioritize better pay for educators in upcoming budgets, the economic reality is that a 2% salary increase amounts to a serious effective pay cut for this year. Teachers will simply be even less able to pay their basic bills than they were last fall. The state’s statutory COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) of 8.22% is intended not only to help the district pay its internal expenses, but also to help teachers pay their own actual living expenses–rising costs for rent, groceries, gas, as well as the very large health insurance increase that under the district’s current offer falls entirely on us. In APT’s view, when the district claims that only 2% of the 8.22% COLA (less than a quarter) can be passed on to teachers, the district is assuming that all internal costs are covered first, and only what is left over afterwards can be shared with educators. In refusing to settle for the current 2% offer, APT is standing firm in asking for our proportional fair share of COLA.

In just the last few days, several Bay Area school districts have settled contracts with their teachers. Benicia teachers will be receiving a raise of 8.22%. San Francisco Unified has reached a settlement for a two year contract with a $9,000 raise for everyone this year, and a 5% raise for next year. Sausalito / Marin City, whose salary schedule is very close to Piedmont’s, reached an agreement that will give educators a total 13% raise by the time they enter their classrooms next fall.

We do believe PUSD leadership wants to see our educators paid a true living wage. We believe they share APT’s interest in ensuring what is best for our students, which is ensuring we have the best educators in our schools. But at this time, we cannot reach an agreement about how to make that happen.

In addition to reaching out to PERB for help with mediation, we are reaching out to our community for help in finding both short and long-term solutions to the financial challenges we need to overcome. We recognize that we will need to come at this issue from multiple angles. We must work for legislative solutions that increase overall funding from the state. We must work to increase enrollment, including encouraging resident children to choose Piedmont over private schools, and encouraging the highest possible rates of attendance for currently-enrolled students. We must work to increase donations to PEF, and we must consider any and all other means of providing more ongoing funding to our schools.

Again, I want to thank Dr. Hawn for giving APT the opportunity to share our perspective through the Pulse. APT wants to be as transparent as possible with the wider Piedmont community, and APT believes–as I know Dr. Hawn does–that our schools are strongest when we have clear and open communication among all stakeholders. We encourage community members to visit APT’s website to join our email list and stay in touch with us.

As we continue through the process of mediation, APT wants to express our commitment to collaborating with district leadership and the Piedmont community to reach a viable resolution to our negotiations. We love being educators, and we love our students. At all times, we share an unfailing dedication to ensuring that the future of Piedmont schools will continue to be as bright as ever.

PUSD Negotiations Update

Families, I am providing a copy of the message I sent out about negotiations on Friday, 10/20/23:

Dear Piedmont Families,

I am writing to share an update regarding union negotiations with our teachers’ union, APT. At our October 18th meeting, we concluded negotiating proposed items, and APT advised the PUSD team that they would be filing for impasse. Below is a summary of what we negotiated, and what impasse means for our district.

Negotiated items - Summary Total

  • APT proposed 14 items (withdrew 1 item) - PUSD accepted 4 APT proposals

  • PUSD proposed compromise/alternative language on 6 of APT’s 14 proposals - APT accepted 2 out of 6 PUSD proposals

  • PUSD proposed 3 items (withdrew 1 item) - APT accepted 0 PUSD proposals

APT and PUSD have spent hours discussing the items above, and we appreciated the APT negotiating team’s care and thoughtful consideration of all proposals. You may be wondering why PUSD cannot just say yes to all of APT’s proposals. Each item has its own complexity, but in summary, many of APT’s proposals require additional cost. PUSD’s multi-year offer of a 9% salary increase over three years is based on our current budget picture in which PUSD can afford 2% this year, 4% next year, and 3% in the third year. Adding items requiring additional cost would reduce this multi-year offer.

What Impasse Means

Impasse simply means that APT and PUSD have tried but are unable to come to an agreement. When this happens, one or both sides may declare impasse. Impasse includes filing a “Request for Impasse Determination/Appointment of Mediator” form with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). If PERB determines APT and PUSD are, in fact, at impasse, a state mediator is assigned to assist in resolving matters to come to an agreement. If the mediator is unable to help both parties reach an agreement, either party may request a fact-finding panel. Fact-finding involves a three-person panel to conduct an analysis (typically of the union contract, district budget and other relevant information) to make recommendations in a report. At this point, the union and district may come to an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the two parties could continue negotiations, they could delay and revisit at a later date, or the union could strike. PUSD is committed to collaborating with APT on a resolution that supports our APT staff members within our budget.

In March 2023, APT signed an agreement with a CTA group of districts called the East Bay Coalition for Student Success, which requires adhering to regional standards for negotiations, including this year’s 8.22% State COLA. And so, we should not be surprised by this news that APT has declared impasse, as APT union President, Dr. Elise Marks, stated at the August 23rd Board meeting that APT is “committed to not settling at the bargaining table, to the point of going to impasse,” unless the 8.22% salary increase and other proposals are met (Board Meeting Video linked HERE, start at 6.35). Please note that APT and PUSD had not yet started negotiations on compensation when this statement was made.

In closing, I will continue to provide updates to our community regarding the status of negotiations and potential changes to our budget and programs. Over the last two months, I have communicated a series of updates on the PUSD budget, including information about how much we have available for staff raises. I encourage you to read my newsletter updates (linked HERE) to stay informed about our PUSD budget. In my upcoming newsletters, I will be sharing more information about how we could make room in next year’s budget for staff raises.

Negotiated Articles

PUSD Proposals

  1. PUSD Proposal: (Article VI Grade Submission): PUSD proposed language that would require high school teachers to submit grades at least every two weeks. APT rejected PUSD’s proposal.
  2. PUSD Proposal: (Article XV Benefits) - PUSD proposed changing the threshold for health benefits to the Affordable Care Act level. PUSD withdrew this proposal.

  3. PUSD Proposal: (Article VI Common Collaboration Time): PUSD proposed language to change the configuration and/or add to elementary and high school collaboration time. APT rejected PUSD’s proposal.

APT Proposals

  1. APT Proposal: (Article II Teacher Librarians) - APT proposed additional language on supervision and prep periods, but later withdrew this proposal
  2. APT Proposal: (Article VI Resource Specialist) - APT proposed limits on job duties (the number of assessments). PUSD rejected this proposal but expressed an interest in reviewing the job description of this position.
  3. APT Proposal: (Article VI Resource Specialist) - APT proposed defining language for four (4) teaching periods, one consult period, and two (2) preparation periods. PUSD agreed to this proposal.
  4. APT Proposal: (Article VI: State Mandated Training) - APT proposed limitations on use of current collaboration time when these trainings can be done. PUSD rejected APT’s proposal.
  5. APT Proposal: (Article VI District Mandated Assessments): APT proposed required meetings, timelines and process related to district assessments. PUSD rejected this proposal and responded that we plan to collaborate with teachers on all curriculum and assessments, and so there is no need for contract language.
  6. APT Proposal: (Article VI APT President) - APT proposed an expansion of release time for the APT President for union work. PUSD rejected this proposal.
  7. APT Proposal: (Article VI Vacancies) - APT proposed language on compensation for staff who cover for other staff due to a vacancy. PUSD rejected this proposal because we are already compensating staff for additional work.
  8. APT Proposal: (Article VI Release time Resource Specialist) - APT proposed adding an additional day (from 5 to 6 days) of release time for Resource Specialists. PUSD rejected this proposal, but expressed a desire to revisit after conducting an analysis of how Resource Specialists are using the current 5 additional release days.
  9. APT Proposal: (Article VI Being Required to Perform Duties off District Property) - APT proposed language that would allow members to reject any off-campus work. PUSD rejected this proposal as written, but provided alternative language to allow members to reject any work in a private home. APT agreed with PUSD’s Alternative Language.
  10. APT Proposal: (Article X Differential Pay) - APT proposed a change of language from a flat rate of $175/day to $200 per day flat rate or 50% teacher’s per diem rate (whichever is greater). PUSD agreed to the increase in flat rate, but rejected the 50% per diem rate. PUSD stated a need to explore the financial impact of this increase and requested revisiting this in future negotiations.
  11. APT Proposal: (Article XI Non-Discrimination Clause): APT proposed non-discrimination language. PUSD agreed to this proposal.
  12. APT Proposal: (Article XV Benefits) - APT proposed a 25% increase in the District’s contribution toward employee health care. PUSD responded with a proposal for a multi-year increase of 9% over three years: 2% this year, 4% next year, and 3% the third year, to be used on salary or benefits, or a combination of either one. APT rejected this proposal.
  13. APT Proposal: (Article XVI Salaries) - APT proposed an 8.22% increase in salary. PUSD responded with a proposal for a multi-year increase of 9% over three years: 2% this year, 4% next year, and 3% the third year, to be used on salary or benefits, or a combination of either one. APT rejected this proposal.
  14. APT Proposal: (Article XVI Service credit) - APT proposed eliminating the years of service cap. PUSD rejected this proposal, and responded by expanding the service cap from 9 years to 12 years as a compromise. APT rejected the proposal.
  15. APT Proposal: (Article XVI Service credit) - APT proposed allowing additional experience (private and/or clinical) to be used for service credit for School Psychologists and Speech Language Pathologists. PUSD agreed to this proposal.

Student Attendance & School Funding - Follow-up FAQ

Parents, thank you for reading last week's article on student attendance and the impact on school funding. We received many questions about this article, and so I thought I would share a quick FAQ that I received:

Q: If my child is absent for part of the day, does the school receive any funding?

A: Yes! If your child attends school for any portion of the day, the school will receive full funding.

Q: If our family knows ahead of time that we will need to take our child out of school, can we write a check for the lost funding?

A: Yes! The chart below shows the LCFF per day amount that you can use to calculate the funding. For example, if you have a child in 3rd grade, and you will be out for 3 days, you would calculate $61.32 x 3 = $183.96. Another example: if you have a high school child who is out for a college visit for 2 days, you would calculate $69.04 x 2 = $138.08

Q: Where and how do I submit payment?

A: You can write a check to Piedmont Unified School District and give it to your school office staff, or you can drop it off at the PUSD district office. Please include a note that identifies the student and absence dates--thank you!

Q: If my child is out for illness, and the school excuses the absence, does the school receive any funding?

A: No. Any absence results in no funding

Students and Parents, thank you for doing your best to ensure your child/children attend school regularly. Again, we are not recommending students who are ill attend school. If your child is ill, please do keep your child home. Thank you for your support.

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Tutoring & Private College Counseling - Pulse Check Results

Thank you to our students and families who completed the tutoring and private college counseling survey. We had 122 responses (89 = yes or considering hiring a tutor; 84 yes or considering hiring a private college counselor, with 64 respondents selecting yes or considering for both categories), and after reading the comments, I can now see that each of these topics really deserves its own discussion, as the topics offer extensive ideas about how PUSD can serve our students.

Regarding tutoring, we had responses from families with students at all grade levels, with parents indicating a range of reasons for hiring tutors. Reasons at the elementary level include catch-up from the pandemic, extra help with phonics to improve reading skills, extra help with math concepts, and personalized learning for special interests and talents in specific areas. At the secondary level, reasons include extra support in academic classes, including honors and AP classes. Specific secondary courses were noted as needing additional support, and Academy was noted as most useful when dedicated to support for students needing extra help. A general comment that emerged was a feeling from families that PUSD does not effectively support advanced students.

Regarding private college counseling, we had responses at all levels, but primarily from secondary families many of whom are considering or have already hired a private college counselor. Reasons centered on a need for personalized service beyond what the school is able to provide, a need to have outside support (instead of the parent) guide the process, and an overall concern (worry might be more accurate) around the extremely competitive nature of college admissions. A general theme emerged around a desire for more information sooner (meaning, before sophomore year) to better understand how a 4-year plan of courses at the beginning of high school impacts the college admission process at the end of high school. On this last point, parents shared that more information (not less) helps alleviate student stress.

Students and Parents, you may be wondering what we will do with this information. I intentionally set up the survey to be anonymous in order to encourage candid feedback, and I believe we received that–thank you! I will be discussing themes that emerged from the survey with our leadership team in order to continue to grow and improve our service to students and families. That said, I also want to acknowledge that constructive feedback on how we can improve does not mean we do not have outstanding teachers and counselors, and many of you shared this important point. We have outstanding educators, and PUSD can continue to improve–both are true. I look forward to sharing what this looks like in the months ahead.

Future Communication Topics

If you have topics you are particularly interested in, please reach out to me at jhawn@piedmont.k12.ca.us.

PUSD News & Notes

Piedmont Portal - For all of the latest school and community events, please visit the Piedmont Portal linked HERE

Filipino American History Month - The CDE recognizes October as Filipino American History Month. We celebrate our Filipino American students, staff and families this month and ALWAYS.

PEF - The Giving Campaign - We are grateful to our community for their support of our outstanding programs. If you are able to give, go HERE.

The History of Racism and Redlining in Piedmont - October 23rd at 6:30PM at the Alan Harvey Theater, presented by Piedmont High School Associated Student Body (ASB) students, supported by the Piedmont Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee (PADC).

Superintendent Evaluation Process - You may have noticed that we have a Closed Session Board meeting on 10/27 to discuss the Superintendent's Evaluation process. This is standard for school districts, and it was an item that the Board and I discussed when I was hired. The process includes creating the evaluation process at the beginning of the year, checking in on progress throughout the year, and completing the evaluation toward the end of each school year. You will see Board meetings scheduled throughout the year on this process, and please note that these meetings are conducted in Closed session.

Witter Field Renovation Project Updates - For updates on the Witter Field Renovation Project, please go to our Facilities page on our PUSD website.

Community Pool Construction Update - Safety measures around the Community Pool Project construction site on Magnolia Ave. across from PHS/MHS are currently in effect. Visit the City of Piedmont's website for details.

Work for PUSD - PUSD is seeking candidates for a variety of positions. Visit the District's Edjoin page for a complete list of jobs available and to apply online.

Substitutes Needed - Support students while earning up to $200/day. PUSD seeking substitute teachers for the 2023-24 school year. Visit the District's EdJoin page for more information and to apply.

Follow PUSD - Please read our school newsletters sent out weekly for update to date information. The District Facebook (@piedmontunified), Twitter (@piedmontunified), Instagram (@piedmontusd) and Threads (@piedmontusd@threads) pages are active.