School Board recap: Keeping students safe, interdistrict transfers, and a school construction update

At the Wednesday, Nov. 13 School Board meeting, trustees and school administrators discussed policies regarding interactions between students and adults, reviewed its interdistrict transfer policy, and received an update on the status of the high school construction project.

Maintaining appropriate adult-student interactions

The Board discussed the first reading of a new board policy titled “Maintaining Appropriate Adult-Student Interactions.” According to Superintendent Booker, the policy is about creating a positive school environment that protects the safety and wellbeing of students by establishing guidelines for student-adult interactions whether it involves school employees, contractors, or volunteers.

“It talks about what behaviors we need to be prohibiting around romantic or sexual relationships, sexual harassment, about having good or positive physical or emotional boundaries,” elaborated Booker. “It talks about if employees know another employee is engaging in this kind of behavior, what their responsibility is in reporting it.”

It gives examples of inappropriate behavior, such as being alone with a student outside the view of others, addressing a student in an overly friendly manner (i.e. using terms of endearment), and encouraging students to confide in their personal or family problems/relationships.

Board member Megan Pillsbury noted that the policy states that the code of conduct addressing interactions with students should be provided to parents and guardians, but that the policy does not state the code should be also provided to district employees. “It just seems that if we’re providing it to parents and the community, that employees should know what it is too,” said Pillsbury.

In the fall of 2017, a Piedmont High School teacher accused of inappropriate behavior toward female students resigned in the wake of a community outcry over a decision by the district to allow him to return to the classroom. No criminal charges were filed in the case, but outraged parents took the district to task for, among other grievances, not having clear guidelines for adult-student interactions.

School Board continues conversation around its revised interdistrict transfer policy

After continued questions from community members, the Board decided to further discuss the interdistrict transfer policy it revised in June to include the non-resident grandchildren of Piedmont residents.

The inter-district transfer priority list is as follows:

  1. Parents Constructing or Remodeling a Home
  2. High School Juniors and Seniors Who Have Moved Out of the District
  3. Children of Piedmont Unified School District Employees
  4. Children of the City of Piedmont Government Employees
  5. Children of the Piedmont Education Foundation Director
  6. Children Residing on Calvert Court
  7. Residences on Approved Piedmont Split Parcel Properties
  8. Grandparent – Grandchild of an Individual(s) Who Lives Within the Boundaries of PUSD (new addition to the policy)
  9. Approved Split Parcels with Oakland and Adjoining Minor Piedmont Parcel (new addition to the policy)
  10. All Other Applicants (new addition to the policy)

Piedmonter Trudy Maddy shared concerns with the School Board over recent comments made about switching policy priorities. “I feel very strongly that grandparents should be fully recognized as longtime Piedmont taxpayers with priority above those not paying Piedmont taxes and the Oakland residents with an adjoining minor Piedmont parcel, many of whom are not required to pay Piedmont taxes,” said Maddy. “Our ultimate goal is to bring in more money for our school district by increasing enrollment.”

School Board member Sarah Pearson stated that while the number of split parcels are finite, the number of grandchildren could be endless and could disproportionately occupy more spots.

The School Board further discussed split parcels in Piedmont (such residences with an Oakland address and an adjoining minor Piedmont parcels and residences on approved Piedmont split parcels) and residences on Calvert Court (where some have paid taxes and others have not). According to Booker, there are 25 split parcels (occupied by around 40 families). There are 15 houses on Calvert Court and more than half of them are in Oakland.

Both School Board President Amal Smith and School Board member Andrea Swenson suggested switching priority nine (Approved Split Parcels with Oakland and Adjoining Minor Piedmont Parcel) to priority six (Children Residing on Calvert Court). Pearson agreed that residents paying Piedmont taxes should take priority over those who do not. 

“I love that there are so many benefits of having grandparents’ kids in the system, but we [might] have many grandparents that want their kids to come here,” said Pearson. “We [might] never take the children of the people paying [Measure] G, and so I feel like that is taxation without representation.” 

Booker stated the Calvert Court priority could be bumped down from its current position. He reminded the community that those residents could always appeal to the County, and if accepted, then the School District would be required to accept the interdistrict transfer.

The Board is expected to revisit this topic in early 2020.

Measure H1 Bond Construction Updates 

Measure H1 Program Manager Michael Brady sent this latest construction update to the School Board:

“Construction of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) building remains on schedule. The key objective now is to make the building water-tight before the rains. Once the walls are in place and roof is completed, the building will be fully enclosed and protected from the elements, and work will begin inside the building on electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. As planned, Overaa will continue to work during the Thanksgiving and December breaks (with the exception of union holidays), to ensure that the work remains on schedule.”

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