At the Wednesday, Aug. 24 Board of Education meeting, Trustee Megan Pillsbury said the Board met in closed session and instructed PUSD to begin the RFP process for a superintendent search firm.The school board announced in the spring of 2022 that it would take a year to conduct a national search for its new superintendent after former Superintendent Randy Booker announced his resignation to assume a new role in the San Mateo Union High School District. Former Berkeley Superintendent Dr. Donald Evans is overseeing PUSD’s transition year.
APT calls for COLA raise
PHS English teacher and APT’s current president, Dr. Elise Marks, addressed the board regarding ongoing salary negotiations. Negotiations between PUSD and teachers and CSEA staff ended last spring with no agreement and were set to resume on Monday, August 29. APT is calling for a 7.5% cost of living adjustment (COLA).
(PUSD Director of Communications Brian Killgore told the Exedra on Tuesday night that “the District and APT negotiating teams had productive discussions on Monday but we have nothing to announce at this time.”)
“We are experiencing an emergency,” Marks said. “We have to stop the revolving door in Piedmont.” She told the board that teachers are leaving PUSD for better-paying jobs elsewhere in the region, citing salary numbers from the Mountain View school district in particular, earning as much as $30,000 more per year.
PUSD was able to complete hiring most of its core teachers before the start of the school year, but according to the education job site EdJoin, PUSD is still looking to build its substitute teacher pool and currently has a number of special education positions open, among other classified staff openings.
Board formally approves appointment of Anne Valva as new Beach Elementary School Principal
The board formally approved the appointment of Anne Valva as the new principal of Beach Elementary School. She will replace Michael Corritone who accepted a new position in Walnut Creek. She received an enthusiastic welcome by members of the Beach teaching community and by trustees.
“I am thrilled to continue serving the Beach community in this new role,” Valva said in a PUSD press release. “Beach and PUSD have been my home for over a decade and I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and expand my support of students as principal.”
According to the district, Valva has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, advisor, and math intervention specialist. After earning a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, Valva started her teaching career with the Etiwanda School District in southern California in 1990. Adding a master’s degree from UC-Riverside in 1995, she later spent time with the Mt. Diablo and Oakland Unified School Districts as a middle school core teacher and a teacher on special assignment (TOSA). Valva joined PUSD in 2011 as a fifth grade teacher at Havens Elementary before moving to Beach Elementary in 2013, serving four years as a fifth grade teacher and the past five years as the school’s math intervention specialist.
Wellness Center update
PHS Assistant Principal and Wellness Center Administrator Irma Munoz gave a presentation about the district’s Wellness Center to the Board. Since its inception in 2007, the WC has grown to serve students at PMS, PHS, and MHS and now serves as a model for other districts. It uses a “tiered mental health service” approach — providing access to drop-in appts for all students (“tier 1”), plus regular counseling (“tier 2”) and crisis intervention and counseling (“tier 3”) . Munoz told the board that half of its referrals are for stress and anxiety issues, followed by peer and interpersonal relationship challenges, then depression and other issues such as grief, eating disorders, and more. Dr. Alisa Crovetti, the WC’s longtime clinical supervisor, told the board the WC does not currently have a waitlist and they have had almost 30 new referrals this year already.
Munoz said the WC’s plans for this year include expanding lunch drop-in appointments, new counseling groups, additional cooperation with the Berkeley Psychology Internship Consortium (B-Pic), and expanding other partnerships with county and community agencies. In addition to its physical space at Piedmont High School, PMS has an annex space and will offer expanded drop-in hours there this year.
Last week the Wellness Center Support Committee held its main fundraising event, the Walk for Wellness.
H1 bond program wraps up
It was, as Trustee Amal Smith noted, an anticlimactic moment in the H1 bond program after Facilities Director Pete Palmer (“St. Pete” to many who worked with him over the years) delivered his final report on the five-year construction project to the board. The journey from passage of the H1 measure to the completion of the new STEAM and performing arts buildings was marked by unexpected twists and turns, including the COVID pandemic, extra seismic work and associated increased materials costs, but it nevertheless was completed on time and budget, receiving a certificate of occupancy last spring.
“I hope that you and the community feel we have stretched out bond dollars to the max,” Palmer said, before thanking a host of individuals that ranged from former Superintendent Booker to the construction crews, neighbors, students and staff, custodial crews and community volunteers who worked to keep the project on track.
The final motion:
The board approved the release of the final payment to Overaa Construction for the completion of the new Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) building and Performing Arts Center (PAC), and the Board was asked to approve the remaining change orders and authorize the increase to the total contract amount. The original contract with Overaa was for a guaranteed maximum price of $49,973,479. Additional work that was outside the original scope totaling $3,034,084 was reviewed by staff, the Facilities Steering Committee and the Board over the course of construction. The final price is $53,007,563.
PEF announces $3,350,402 grant to PUSD for 2022-23 school year
Title IX, school lunches
Parent Kim DeYoung and her daughter Bree spoke to the Board on behalf of the girls volleyball team, expressing frustration that the girls volleyball program still lacks assistant coaches, access to facilities for conditioning, and access to an ice machine for the team.
A self-audit by PUSD last winter revealed that PUSD was not in compliance with Title IX and outlined steps it was taking to remedy the situation (see reporting below). At the June 7 school board meeting Title IX district coordinator Stephanie Griffin said the Board would receive another update in October 2022.
New school lunch program has rocky rollout
A Piedmont Middle School parent called in to the meeting to highlight the rocky rollout of the new free lunch program that she said has caused many students to miss out on lunch, and asked for better communication around the new program so that families can better prepare. This year California public schools are required to offer free brunch and lunch options to all students, a departure from past PUSD practice.
Later, interim Superintendent Evans acknowledged recent problems with the new food service program and asked for patience as they sorted out logistics.
Piedmont High School is actively recruiting volunteers to help the new food services director and staff.
New student board member
After a student petitioned the Board of Education to create an official student board member position last month, the school board revised what had been a relatively informal position and now is accepting applications for the more formal position. For the 2022-23 school year, the PUSD Board of Education will appoint two eligible students (one from Millennium High School and one from Piedmont High School) to serve on the Board for a one-year term. The student board members will function as preferential voting members of the Board. (This means students can vote to express an opinion on a motion but their vote is not counted in determining the vote required to carry any measure before the Board or whether a quorum is in attendance at a Board meeting.)