Mike McMahon AUSD
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Comments Received Regarding 2006/07 Preliminary List of Spending Reductions

For background, you can visit 2006/07 Budget Recap for AUSD.

Comments received at the February 2nd Community Meeting.

Posted in reverse order of date received

One more Alameda school to close in fall

By Peter Hegarty, Alameda Times Star, March 3, 2006

Alameda school district leaders have decided to close another elementary school in the city's West End to save money in the face of declining enrollment. The school board's decision Tuesday to close Longfellow Elementary School follows its January vote to close Miller Elementary School also because of enrollment.

Students from Longfellow and Miller will go to the new Woodstock school under construction at the Bayport housing development near College of Alameda. The campus will open this fall.

Only Trustee Mike McMahon voted against closing Longfellow, saying the projected upcoming state budget is expected to boost the district's coffers by more than $3 million.

That would free up money in the district budget because it would then have $1 million more than the required 3 percent budget reserve the state requires districts to keep for financial emergencies, McMahon said.

Along with closing Longfellow, trustees decided to cut $90,000 from Special Education and to eliminate the sixth through eighth grade program at Paden school, which would save $50,000.

The total cuts approved Tuesday, which also included restructuring the English department, will trim $514,400 from the district's budget. The decision in January to close Miller saved about $300,000.

School leaders said the cuts are necessary because about 150 fewer students are enrolled in the district, which means it's facing about $800,000 less in average daily attendance income.

The drop is partly due to the closure of a large West End apartment complex that housed hundreds of families, according to the district.

Parent 3/2/06

I see the cuts went through, but at least you took a stand. You were the only one with the guts and the conviction to stand up to everyone -- you did the right thing, even though the others did not agree.

Parent 3/1/06

I appreciate your support in wanting to leave Longfellow open. I am very upset and sad that the board made such a hasty decision in closing the school and eliminating the program at Paden. I am also upset that some members did not look at the future and what these two unique options could offer to families district wide.

Parent 3/1/06

I just want to thank you wholeheartedly for being on our side last night. It is very sad. I did not sleep that well last night after the Board decided. I have not told my kids about this yet. I know that they will be sad for sure…it will be hard on them; actually it will be hard on all of us. But I know that we will get through this. Again, thank you so much for all the things that you did.

Staff 3/1/06

Thank you for the respectful process that you used in considering the need for $500,000 worth of cuts for 2006-07. One of the most difficult and distasteful aspects of being a school board member is the need to cut popular and effective programs in a declining enrollment environment. I am fully aware that there was no easy way to decide these draconian cuts and important services will be compromised next year. You were willing to listen to all the affected parties and give careful consideration to the least damaging cuts. Thank you for all the time and energy you devote to your thankless job.

Teacher 2/28/06

I am writing in response to the proposed spending reductions for FY 06/07. Specifically, Tier B, item #1, “Restructuring High School Counseling Services, Reduce Head Counselors by 1.0 FTE”. Contrary to the set criteria, the reduction in the Head Counselor position would be a SEVERE impact not a major impact.
This position is a cross over between the criteria set by Tier B and Tier C.
The services provided by the Head Counselor are extensive; from the individual student services to the organization and structuring of the master schedule for the Alameda High School Community. The creation and implementation of the master schedule needs to be embraced with experience and consideration, not by a position that historically has had a three year turn around. The organization and follow through of all the required and necessary standardized testing is another monumental job that is facilitated by the Head Counselor position. The Head Counselor position provides the individual student contact that establishes the starting and continuation of the goals stated in the AUSD Graduate Profile.

    “Our graduate will be a person who understands that adult life is purposeful, that people are individuals with connections to one another, that systems in which we live and work can be continuously improved, that effort is rewarded, that actions have consequences, and above all, that the habit of thoughtfulness and cooperation is a critical attribute of a well-rounded individual.”

These are only three of the many services the Head Counselor position provides and restructuring this position will have a SEVERE impact on students/programs/services at Alameda High School.
I think it would be a mistake to make this cut so close to the classroom and the people it provides support. Please reconsider and re-evaluate this proposed spending reduction.

Parent 2/28/06

I am a parent of a 4th grader attending Longfellow school.
I believe that Longfellow Elementary should not get closed because you will be affecting many families in the area.
You have to think about the kids and also parents. There are some that do not have a car & have to walk to school. If you close Longfellow & send them to the new school it will be a longer walk for them. Think about having them walk a little longer in the rainy season.
Please, keep Longfellow Elementary open you will see a much greater enrollment this coming school year.
I myself will have two kids enrolled in Longfellow my son who attends there now and a kindergardener next year.

Parent 2/28/06

As a parent of a prospective kndergartener at ES, I urge you to maintain the K8 model that works so well at Paden.
This model of continuity is the reason that I am choosing to enroll my child in AUSD as opposed to a private school. If you vote to make Paden just like all the other elementary schools on the island by removing the 6th, 7th and 8th grades, I fear your enrollment numbers will suffer a further decline. Moreover, Paden students will lose a valuable aspect of their unique Alameda educational experience.
Please cast your votes to maintain the K8 model at Paden. It is a model of educational excellence that works for our students!

Parent 2/27/06

I would like the board to reconsider not closing Longfellow Elementary School. I am very disappointed to hear that once again Longfellow is being targeted for closure. When the board decided back in January that Longfellow would not be included in the consolidation plan, it was my understanding that reductions would still need to be made in the budget, but that these reductions would no longer include closing Longfellow. What happened to that decision? What happened to being creative about spending reductions? What happened to waiting to see what enrollment would be like when the new apartments open?
Once again, Longfellow is faced with a decision that will impact the students that attend this wonderful school. Over the past years, Longfellow has maintained a steady increase and growth in its test scores. The Longfellow community, which include teachers, staff, families, and students work hard every day to continue with that success. Again, it is a time to celebrate Longfellow for its diversity, continued growth in test scores and hard work. It is not a time to forget all those people that have been working hard to make that happen.
I have looked over the budget reduction proposals and they all appear to have the same impact to other schools whether Longfellow remain open or not. So my suggestion is to think a bit harder and look at other cuts that can be made to make up the amount that closing Longfellow will bring in. The suggestion made by a speaker at the last board meeting to cut “consultation money,” I believe is something worthy to look into. Also, cutting the position of “head counselor” and equalizing caseloads for the counselors at Alameda High is a good suggestion. Caseloads should be divided equally so that the needed attention can be spent on students not paperwork. I think leaving Longfellow with a “Lead Teacher” instead of filling in that position with a principal should also be able to save the district some money. Other cost reducing expenses is to insure that office equipment, classroom furniture and miscellaneous supplies be transferred over from the schools that are being consolidated to the new school. I do hope that new furniture was not part of expenditures for the coming year.
My last thought is this; you have to look at what the next year will bring to Longfellow before making a hasty decision. The “Summer House Apartment Complex” will be opening and new families will be coming in. We need to be able to provide those families with a school that has wonderful and experienced staff who is committed to one thing, and that is to teach students to succeed. We need to provide families with choices. Some families will like the opportunity to have their child attend a smaller school. Especially to a school that has had a tremendous growth in the previous years and a school that might just be a “Distinguished School in California.”

Parent 2/27/06

I am writing this letter as a concerned parent of a first grader at Longfellow elementary. My son came home upset when he heard that his school might close. He said that he did not want to go to any other school. We have been attending the meetings to keep up with this issue, because my son loves Longfellow. My son attending Longfellow has been a wonderful experience for our family. Prior to my son starting kindergarten I had done research in order to help me decide what school to register my son for. To be honest Longfellow was not my first choice, since other Alameda schools had better test scores. However, because of the area we lived in my son was assigned to Longfellow.
Even though the public school system is under constant financial threat, and criticism Longfellow is a testament to a great public school education. The caring staff has created an amazing learning environment for my son. The fact that I can go to my son’s school and have staff (his teacher and other staff) talk to me about my son’s progress and character is proof of their dedication to the children, the parents, and the community. Besides the great improvement in test scores in recent years, the way the school brings the parents and the families into the children’s education (regardless of even language barriers) makes Longfellow a school with too rare a combination of attributes to close. As I mentioned earlier after my internet research Longfellow was not my first choice for my son, but after having my son attend for two years I would not have him attend any other school.
My family hopes that you vote to keep the school open and that the burden of the $500,000.00 be shared by all the other schools. With the renovation of the nearby apartment complex the student count will most likely rise, and while I realize that the school cannot function on the probability of a rise in the student count I believe that allowing the school to stay open for another year will be a great benefit for the students and the community. I believe that Longfellow will have the student count in order to not run in a deficit. Please vote to keep Longfellow open.

Parents 2/27/06

At our February meeting, the AHS PTSA passed a resolution supporting the Superintendent’s Tier A-2 budget cuts, including the closing of Longfellow School, as the preferred alternative for cutting the AUSD budget.
We strongly feel that the budget cuts should be related to the major cause of the budget shortfall, which is declining enrollment. Closing Longfellow will allow those students to attend the brand new Woodstock School, along with their fellow students from Miller and the old Woodstock, in 2006-7.
AHS PTSA objects to the alternative, the Tier A-1 reductions, because although they affect every student in the district, they seem especially concentrated on high school programs. In particular, we firmly disagree with cutting the counseling staff, career technician staff, coaching staff, and custodial staff; all of these are already at a very minimal level and further cuts would be devastating.
Please do the right thing and pick the Tier A-2 alternative. The schools and programs closed can be leased out and reopened if need be when the West End regains population with Alameda Point build out. There is no point in keeping one school open for a year when it will likely have to be closed the following year.

Parent 2/26/06

I am writing to urge you and other school board members to choose the budget option offered by Superintendent Dailey which involves closing Longfellow School. Given the trend of declining enrollment in our district, I believe that it is better to close it now rather than die the "death of a thousand cuts" over the next few years.
In addition to addressing the current budget shortfall, I believe that closing Longfellow will have some positive impact for students once the emotional difficulty of change is over. These students will be able to start from the beginning as members of a new school community rather than entering later on as "the new kids" in an already established community. Second, in becoming part of a larger community, they may benefit from more options in student grouping thus allowing for more targeted instruction in key areas such as math and second language acquisition.
Thank you for your willingness to listen to community members. Good luck in doing a very hard task this coming Tuesday night.

Parent 2/21/06

I am writing to you to express how important Mary Vasquez is to the School District and what an important resource she is to the School District, especially to the students of Island High School.
Mary truly cares about the Island students and does everything she can to help them to become successful. The most important thing she does for them is to make them believe in themselves. She is an advocate for students who some people in Alameda perceive (because of lack of knowledge and closed minds) are beyond hope. Also, when a student has Island High School on their resume, it's not always easy for them to obtain employment, which is another of the many reasons Mary is a necessary resource.
Mary was a wonderful ally and assisted my daughter in building her self-esteem. My daughter graduated early and went on to college. Mary referred her to a part-time position with the Alameda School District where she hopes to help other children who may experience the same things she experienced in the Alameda schools.
To decrease Mary's work hours or job responsibilities would an extreme disservice to the students of Island High School and the Alameda Unified School District.

Teacher 2/17/06

I hope that there is no truth to the story that the board is considering cuts to the head counselor position at Alameda High or elsewhere.
Such a move is tantamount to removing a cardiologist from a hospital's intensive care staff. While you are faced with tough budget situations, to remove this position, especially with respect to such a consummately capable, conscientious and necessary individual as John Meiers would be an inexcusable outrage.
I must respecfully tell you that such a cut is not an option and you must not make the mistake of cutting him or the position. Virtually anything at the district level is of less import than such an elemental part of a site based, directly student serving person/position as this.

Teacher 2/14/06

I have the pleasure of working closely with John Maiers. I hope it is obvious and unnecessary to enumerate many of his talents: Alameda High School is a well-run school, and as Head Counselor, John deserves credit as a member of the administrative team, an academic expert, and a liaison among teachers and between teachers and administration.
What may be less well-known is that John’s student caseload is of English Language Learners. I’ve been part of many meetings with John and limited-English students, including, on occasion, translators, a number of family members, and paraprofessionals—suffice to say, these meetings can get complicated. He is always friendly and patient, both important qualities for success with English Learners and their families. He treats them with empathy and expertise. He has an excellent understanding that these students arrive with a very wide range of abilities and goals. As their counselor, John works very hard to schedule them in the right classes with the best possible teachers. He is open to faculty suggestion of what might work better, and flexible about making changes as necessary, often more than once for the same student.
John attends our site’s English Learner Advisory Committee Meetings and provides vital information and congenial support to students and their parents. Having him there has made the meetings much more meaningful for the attendees; thanks to the depth of his knowledge and experience he can immediately answer any question they might have. John is part of a small subset of our faculty that our English Learners and their parents know and feel comfortable going to with their needs.
Losing John as a full time head counselor at Alameda High School would be a terrible loss for our English Learning students and their community.
Our administrators do a great job but work tremendously hard. If anything, they need more support, not less. I hope you will find a way to avoid cutting the Head Counselor position.

Staff 2/14/06

I’ve been sitting back listening and reading everyone’s comments regarding the proposed reductions. I noticed a lot of the comments are from folks from the east end schools. It sounds so easy to say why can’t we just close Longfellow or Paden 6-8 program, it wouldn’t affect that many students, but let’s look at it another way. Miller is already closing and if we close Longfellow and Paden’s Academy we will be affecting just about 450 students. Well that is a huge number of students and all in the West End! It is too bad that when there is so much overcrowding in the east end schools that there isn’t a limit put on the number of students going to these schools and the overflow could be diverted to where there is room (in some of the West End schools). Paden’s Academy started by adding 6th grade to 1993-1994 school year. In 1995-1996 the full Academy was born, giving parents a choice in the Middle School years, and Paden became a K-8 school. Not only did the Academy at Paden give parents choice but it has been a very successful program. Our district used to have choices. If you look at the Open Enrollment form this year, the only choice left is Charter Schools, leaving some parents to choose private.
Health Clerks play such an important part in students’ lives. Not only are they the boo-boo menders but they are sometimes an emotional shoulder to cry on. They already are at most schools for less than ˝ of the day. How can cutting their hours not “touch students”?

Teacher 2/14/06

Counselors are such an important part of the high school experience. Getting rid of the head counseling position is definitely a hardship for the high schools involved. As an Alameda High Mathematics teacher, I have seen how the counselors help the classroom teachers. When I call to the counseling offices, the counselors answer the phone and help with whatever the problem may be regarding the school, a student emotional problem, a student's learning patterns and the list goes on and on. They help by listening to our problems with the various students and give suggestions on how to handle the cases. Scheduling classes for the students, the master schedule, all take tremendous amounts of time. They are a vital part of the high school. Please reconsider before you reduce their numbers. We need more and not less. You have a difficult job to do.

Parent 2/14/06

Close Longfellow….do it now so you don’t look silly next year… I’d do that over closing WoodstockCDC.. but perhaps that will come later.

Parent 2/13/06

I will be unable to attend the Board of Education meeting tomorrow night. However, as a result of the recent Community meeting at Lum School and discussions with many other concerned parents, teachers, administrators and concerned citizens, I urge you to adopt the budget reductions designated as “Tier A2” in the Superintendent’s staff report last week, with certain modifications. I feel strongly that the welfare of students and the preservation of delivery of services should be the top priority in any decision to reduce expenditures, thus mandating towards a package that has the Least impact on students and services. I believe that many who attended the Lum meeting and many who did not share my perspective.
I would suggest that the $50,000 categorical transfer provision in Tier A1 be implemented and that the reductions in career and textbook technicians at the district’s high schools be eliminated from the cuts at this time. Our high schools are at such low service levels at this point that we should avoid any reductions in such services if possible, and with the changes I propose, the total reductions would come to $567,800, comfortably in excess of the target $500,000 needed. Of course, this means closing Longfellow at this time and I recognize that school closings are emotional charged. But what better time is there to create a truly strong West End elementary school with the additional students from Longfellow? And for the welfare of current Longfellow students, what better time is there to integrate the students and teachers into a new school than at its inception?
These are not easy decisions and all of us wish that the District’s resources were more robust. Thank you all for your service to our children.

Parent 2/13/06

I am writing regarding the Alameda School District bugdet crisis and the need to cut over $500K from the budget. We have reviewed the options from the Superintendent and find that Tier A2 to be the most reasonable. It would allow for the students in Alameda to continue to receive the valuable education they have had to date.
The other cuts in the other versions are far reaching and seem like they are stretching to find places to cut from the bone. Our schools are out of meat and you are now approaching cutting at the bone of our children's educations.
As a parent, we chose Alameda over many areas and pay higher housing costs and property taxes than the other areas would provide. We do so purely for the education our children would receive.
We encourage you to make the right move -- cut the costs that will have the greatest budget impact and ensure education for all of Alameda's students vs. trying to protect one school -- close Longfellow now. Don't wait for next year after you have cut some many other valuable programs and start losing children to the many private options in our area.

Parent 2/13/06

Thank you for your information-packed website. I commend you for your service to the community.
I was wondering if you have already looked into energy savings. Could APT and/or PG&E do a complimentary audit of the school facilities to determine if we can reduce our energy costs (change lighting, reduce lighting time, shut down computers daily, weatherize, etc.) Maybe parents could work to make the changes (probably against union rules, I know).
APT might also set up something on their bills where they ask Alamedans to donate something towards paying Alameda Schools' utility bills.

Editor's Note: Over the years, APT and PGE have partnered with AUSD to upgrade energy systems to reduce energy consumption.
APT is a city owned agency and have they have found the need to raise the rates it charges AUSD.
Through a partnership with the Alameda Edcuation Foundation, APT is supporting a program to allow APT customers to donate monies to AUSD for technology.

Staff 2/13/06

As an AUSD employee for more than 25 years (as well as a life long Alameda resident) I feel compelled to send you some comments regarding your upcoming budgetary decisions. I fully well appreciate the challenging gravity of your imminent financial prioritizations and wish you success and wisdom in that quest. Unfortunately the tremendous strain placed on California’s public school budgets forces our administrative leaders to trim in areas that are not “fat” but rather essential services. Such is the scenario that our district must wrestle with. In that regard, I feel I must speak up and advocate for the protection of what I consider an irreplaceable, essential “budget item”, our school’s head counselor, Mr. John Maiers. I’ve worked with Mr. Maiers for decades and fully appreciate his value and professionalism. In the past I’ve sent letters to Principals and previous Superintendents lauding Mr. Maiers’ performance. Since he took over our school’s Fall programming (utilizing considerable Summer hours above and beyond normal job requirements) our School’s openings have been the smoothest, most efficient and complication free that I’ve witnessed in my 28 years at AHS. His tireless counseling with our Juniors and Seniors, directing their college applications, scholarship applications and eventual college selections is exemplary. John orchestrates and presides over virtually all of the vital testing done at AHS as well as chairing our impressive Senior Academic Awards celebration. John is an ardent, passionate advocate for our school. Watching his enthusiastic, eloquent presentations to incoming freshman and eighth grade parents of future students is to witness a skilled competent spokesman, touting his school’s achievements and assets basking in the pure joy of his job. In closing, I reiterate that I grasp the grave issues confronting you and I urge that you seriously consider retaining such a vital gem of a resource as John Maiers.

Parent 2/12/06

We are writing in response to the budget reduction proposal for the 2006-2007 school year. As parents with a Senior and a Freshman at Alameda High School, we have had first hand experience of the absolutely necessary role of Mr. Maiers, Head Counselor. From the first day our daughter walked into the school as a freshman, he has been instrumental in guiding, encouraging and counseling her through her classes, sports and clubs. Sarah had the drive and vision to be one of the top of her class and Mr. Maiers counseled her onto an academic track that would fulfill that goal. Through these 4 years, Mr. Maiers has continually checked in on her encouraging balance, as we all know, the top colleges wanting a well rounded individual – not an academically burnt out senior. Mr. Maiers has kept Alameda High academically competitive with prestigious private schools and other high schools in more affluent areas. It is because of Mr. Maiers as head counselor at Alameda High that our daughter applied to colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Georgetown, UPenn, UCLA and UC Berkeley. I distinctly remember in September feeling very overwhelmed and lost with the whole college application process, walking (more like running!) into Mr. Maiers’ office pleading for guidance. 5 months later, all applications completed, we know we couldn’t have gotten through it without Mr. Maiers’ help. Mr. Maiers’ deep experience in the college application process has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in helping families navigate through the increasingly complex and competitive process for undergraduate admissions and financial aid. We appreciate that Mr. Maiers spent countless hours writing required recommendations for Sarah for these top colleges. We know that she is not the sole beneficiary among her fellow classmates of this kind of quality counseling and attention. A proposal for a shared head counselor for Encinal and Alameda High would be a disadvantage to all students. The counselor would not have any time for personal counseling time or time and energy to write recommendations that top colleges require of the students. The students would suffer, as ALL students would be left behind backfiring your motto about “no student left behind.” Not only would students feel like a number in the school system, the head counselor would not be available due to the sheer volume of all the students.
Our son as a freshman has begun to look to Mr. Maiers for counsel with confidence because of his sister’s experience. It is because of head counselors like Mr. Maiers that these kids with vision, dreams and academic goals have a chance.
Please reconsider the proposed cut of head counselor or the shared head counselor for both Encinal and Alameda High. The Alameda Unified School System, your children, teachers and staff would all suffer at the loss of a great head counselor like Mr. Maiers.

Parent 2/12/06

As a parent of an Alameda High School student, we are very concerned with one of the proposed spending cut measures as outlined in Tier B of the Superintendent’s Alternatives. Reducing the Head Counselor FTE to one to be shared between Alameda High and Encinal High will have a great frontline impact on the students.
We have worked with John Maiers, AHS Head Counselor, for several years now and find him an invaluable resource to our daughter. Prior to beginning at AHS, he was her first contact in helping her plan her four years at the school. Over the years, she has met with him to adjust her schedule/classes, get college advice and guidance and just checks in to make sure she is coping well with her academic schedule and varsity sport demands.
We think it’s very important to have a Head Counselor present at the school at all times as they’re the frontline to our children. We seriously doubt the effectiveness of having one counselor trying to juggle between two schools. The reduced available hours at both schools will limit access to the head counselor at both locations. The quality time that is needed to work with the students is greatly diminished.
It is our strong recommendation that you maintain the current full time Head Counselor position at both Alameda and Encinal High School and look to other areas in the school budget to accommodate the cost savings you’re trying to achieve.

Parent 2/12/06

After careful consideration, I am writing to ask you to again consider closing Longfellow School. It does not appear fiscally prudent to continue operating such a small school when these students can be equally served in different facilities. When faced with the other cuts that remain on the list, this one makes the most sense. While I know that closing a school is never an easy decision, in this case it appears to be the right thing to do. Our district cannot afford to keep open a school that serves so few.
I believe this also to be the case with keeping the Paden 6-8 program open. For the number of students served, it is much too costly even considering the overcrowding the district grapples with at the middle school level.
To use the Superintendent's own verbiage cutting these programs would have the "LEAST impact on students/programs/services with HIGH ease of implementation, and HIGH feasibility of savings". I strongly urge you to make these cuts.

Parent 2/12/06

I think the proposed cuts are tactically fair, but strategically unwise in both the short and long-term.
One of my areas of research and practice is in the area of budget reductions in health care and higher education. There is fairly substantial evidence that cutting everything on the margins and resisting the elimination of programs always works to deteriorate the overall quality and effectiveness of the system. The classic study is from the early eighties when the State of Michigan faced substantial budget shortfalls. The University of Michigan chose to eliminate entire departments that were under enrolled or under performing. It was a difficult move, but in the long run Michigan’s position as a national research institution grew as those programs that remained were adequately supported to continue to grow and prosper. Michigan State University at the same time chose to make across the board cuts to every department. At the time it seemed more equitable and certainly less politically contentious than what Michigan did. However, the impact of this approach led a general decline in the overall quality and competitiveness at MSU, a situation that has taken it more than two decades to address and from which it still suffers.
Tulane University’s recent decision to bring back only selected departments and combine others as it comes back from the disaster this fall is just one more contemporary example of choosing the more difficult path politically, but doing so for the benefit of the overall program.
The decision as to whether AUSD should cut across the board or include Longfellow in the consolidation of Woodstock and Miller seems to be one that begs us to make the politically more difficult, but wiser strategic decision.

Teacher 2/11/06

I am a teacher at Bay Farm for the last x+ years. Previously, I was a Woodstock for x years so I have experience on both ends of town. I have to say that I do not understand why the board could not agree to also close Longfellow School.
The cuts on the list are mostly going to directly affect classrooms across the district. It does not make sense to me why we couldn't alleviate some of that by closing a school which has such a tiny enrollment as Longfellow.
Of course, that would be a painful thing for Longfellow students, parents and teachers. But, it seems like such a necessary burden to bear.

Staff 2/10/06

I am writing to respectfully express my concern over the possibility of cutting counseling, and specifically the Head Counselor position at the high school level.
Counseling at the high school level is the hub of the school. It is the epicenter. All courses, student/teacher programs, testing, academic and personal advising, and a student’s post secondary planning comes from here. The Head Counselor plays an integral and most significant role in each and every aspect of a high school student’s four-year experience. Not only does the Head Counselor organize all of the stated programs, but he/she develops the master schedule, making sure that all mandatory courses are offered within the enrollment ratio allotted to each school.
The Head Counselor at each comprehensive high school is also a much valued administrator. Together with the principal and the two vice principals, they form a team for planning and executing a well run, and fully supervised school. Since the Head Counselor shares in the supervision of all extracurricular activities, without this position 25% of all activities would not be sufficiently supervised.
In the late 1990’s, the position of Head Counselor at AHS was not filled. Instead, one of the Vice Principals was given the added responsibility of overseeing all counseling functions. In short order, this proved to be an impossible task, and the Head Counselor position was reinstated the following year. Given the huge breath and scope of the job, having one Head Counselor supervise both high schools would be equally as difficult. Ultimately being responsible for the high school success of more than 3,000 students is a daunting job description for any one person.
I implore you to consider retaining both Head Counselor positions and a full counseling staff at the high school level. I know the months ahead are difficult ones for you and that decisions will not come easily. Thank you for your consideration.

Staff 2/10/06

We have spent a great deal of time reviewing the cuts with other staff.
Closing another school seems to make the most sense to avoid more cuts closer to students.
We have high accountability for student success and going to either the new school or Paden are wonderful alternatives so that other programs or opportunities to support kids do not get cut.

Teachers 2/10/06

This letter is written in response to a budget reduction proposal for the 2006-07 school year for Alameda Unified Schools that would reduce to half time the position of Head Counselor at Alameda High School. As co-chairs of the Alameda High School English Department we are acutely aware of the importance of the work performed by our head counselor, John Maiers. Mr. Maiers’ work is essential to our students, to our department, and to our continued success as a comprehensive high school. To reduce his position to half time is unthinkable given the range and scope of the educational responsibilities Mr. Maiers assumes each and every day of his professional life.
In addition to the complex task of coordinating counseling requirements for AHS’s 1900+ students and overseeing the day to day activities of the counseling office and staff, Mr. Maiers is responsible for an astonishing variety of educational events and activities. As you know, California schools are continually testing the competence of our students and Mr. Maiers serves as coordinator for the STAR test, the California Exit Exam, PSAT/SAT tests, and the high stakes Advanced Placement tests. At Alameda High we administer over 630 AP tests, the planning and implementation of which requires both academic expertise and painstaking organization. Mr. Maiers provides both, and our demonstrated success in AP testing is in no small part due to his tireless attention to student needs. Additionally, Mr. Maiers is able to access funding to underwrite student test fees in excess of $240, and has secured monies to purchase materials for the AP program here at the high school.
In addition to these time consuming and professionally challenging roles, Mr. Maiers creates the Master Teaching Schedule for the upcoming academic year. This complex task requires intimate knowledge of school-wide needs and the ability to coordinate those needs with available FTE positions and the California State University and University of California requirements. In the past the Master Schedule has been the responsibility of the Instructional Vice Principal—and given the continued turnover in that position at this site—has often resulted in a chaotic and poorly organized beginning to the school year. This is not surprising since it is a huge and unwieldy undertaking. Most schools cannot afford to release a VP for the painstaking and labor intensive work required to put together this complex document. Since Mr. Maiers has been in charge of the Master Schedule, it has been a “non-issue” in terms of teaching staff. As teachers we know that when we come back to school in the fall our teaching assignments will be complete and well organized, thus eliminating confusion for teachers, administrators and (most critically) students. As a result of Mr. Maiers’ efforts, administrators and staff are assured that the academic year will begin smoothly thus setting a positive tone for the work ahead.
Additionally, Mr. Maiers coordinates our graduation activities—work that is both essential and, again, time consuming. He is in charge of all parent night gatherings and end of the year scholarships and awards ceremonies—both essential to the continued success of our programs. If this is not sufficient work to substantiate a full time position, Mr. Maiers also carries a counseling caseload of 250+ students and writes countless letters of recommendation for seniors who are applying to colleges and for scholarships and grants. Instead of reducing Mr. Maiers’ position to half time, we respectfully suggest that he be given an assistant!
As it stands, Mr. Maiers accomplishes all of this, and we are sure, much more, with the utmost competence, professionalism, efficiency, and good humor. We value his work and respect his contribution to the outstanding academic program at Alameda High School. We ask that the Board of Education rethink the proposal to reduce his position to half time so that he may continue to provide topnotch educational services to our students, parents and staff.

Parent 2/10/06

Please do the right thing and reduce the budget by the items outlined in Tier A2. The closing of Longfellow School and elimination of the Paden 6-8 program would save a combined $350,000 and impact only 227 students. Furthermore, the services these costly schools provide will be replicated in different facilities. WHERE ELSE IN THIS BUDGET CAN YOU SAVE $350,000 AND STILL PROVIDE THE SAME LEVEL OF SERVICE TO CHILDREN? Longfellow and Paden 6-8 are too small. They serve too few. They cost too much. As a taxpayer, a parent, a former AUSD teacher I can think of no reason to continue to fund these two schools given our current financial situation. Please heed your own recommendation and choose the tier that has the "LEAST impact on students/programs/services with HIGH ease of implementation, and HIGH feasibility of savings".

Parent 2/10/06

Thank you very much for the update and clarifications. I strongly urge you and the rest of the Board of Education Trustees to vote for TIER A2. While closing another school is painful, we must be mindful of the future and what was "promised" to the Alameda voters during the last parcel tax election. With so many non-profit organizations in town looking for space for children's programs, I would hope that Longfellow, Woodstock and/or Miller could be leased out to make for a win/win situation.
Obviously, our next big challenge will be to figure out a way to realign our middle schools to ease overcrowding and, dare I say it, consolidate our 2 main high schools into one campus? I don't believe a town the size of Alameda can adequate support two high schools, as we see the effects daily at Encinal.
I appreciate all your efforts on our behalf.

Parent 2/9/06

We need John Maiers as a full time head counselor based at our site Alameda High School.
We need the everyday support John provides to make things run more smoothly and cohesively.
We believe that the value of having a head counselor here on site has been vastly underestimated.

  • John does more than merely carry out the duties of head counselor.
  • John brings extraordinary quality and the dedication to the job.
  • John provides essential leadership within the counseling department, so that there is consistency in the programming and counseling of students.
  • John brings our voice with the knowledge of the concerns of our school and department to the district and the school wide level meetings.
  • John has had long term experience and success in putting a master schedule together because he listens to the teachers and the departments to make a master schedule that balances the desires and the needs of the school, the teachers, and the students.
  • John has helped us to spread the load of difficult-to-teach classes within the department while making it so that collaboration and support with the department is easier to provide.
  • John has provided the support to implement adherence to prerequisites, while allowing students to move from one level to another as circumstances dictate. As a consequence, students are more accountable for taking the appropriate level, not just the easier course.
  • John ensures difficult counseling decisions are made with increased level of consistency.
  • John does a thorough job of attending to details. The end result is that we have our students in the right classes from the very beginning of school, with a master schedule that works well.
  • John Maiers provides us crucial support in dealing with major changes in math curriculum. He has spent hours listening and giving input as to how we can work together to bring up the academic achievement of our strategic students.
  • Because he is here everyday, John has been able to be a significant help to implement changes that are by necessity on a short time line. The support and follow through is critical for real change to actually happen, especially for our strategic students.
John does all these things, and he coordinates the SAT testing, the AP testing, the CAHSEE testing and remediation sessions, the admission and counseling of the English Language Learners, and more.
We feel very strongly that John Maiers is a very important part of our work to make our school better for all students. His expertise and experience with the teachers, parents and students is invaluable. John’s ability to listen and act has made it possible for us to be proactive versus reactive with regard to the issues in the mathematics department. He needs to be here full time as head counselor.

Parent 2/9/06

I am one of the parents of a 11th grade student who attends AHS. I also have our 18 yr old son who are currently attending Cal Poly Tech U after graduated from AHS in 2005.
I have a very high regards & respect for Mr. Maiers. He is extremely dedicated to every & each students based on my personal encounter for the past several years to the present. He is accountable & committed to what he does.
I'm very concerned about the future of the AHS when I heard the propositon to possibly eliminate the head counselor's position.
I realize the budget is the main issue.And I'm wondering if AHS may do away with one less counselor.
For I know the one of the counselors at AHS hasn't met my expectaions. Her work ethics along with general performances have been below average & poor.
I hope that you would reconsider current proposal & keep Mr. Maiers' position.

Staff 2/8/06

So here’s my two cents!
I think in looking at all reductions, one must keep in mind the priority of the school district and the biggest one is providing quality education to all 10,000 students. By not biting the bullet and closing another school, we are going to impact the delivery of programs and dilute the quality of 9,800 students for the sake of 178??? This means reducing by $500,000 vs. $300,000 worth of programs and services.
Let’s look at the first item of reducing High School Counseling Services and another item of Career Technician which effects our High School students. There are 3400 High School Students. What is that...500-600 students to one? How much time will each student get with a counselor? 6 minutes? Or, will the high end student, low-end and trouble makers get the actual “counseling”, while everyone else slides along on their own. Too much goes on at High School and in teenagers lives not to have a good counseling program at the schools. I don’t think I will ever forget having to point out to a counselor that my son needed another class his senior year to graduate. It should have been the other way around, with them pointing it out to me.
Cuts in Athletic Programs effect those students who only stay focused on their studies for the sports.
Pay to Play for H. S. Extra-Curricular Programs is likely to effect those who may need those programs.
Reducing Custodians Staff--Sorry, but schools already aren’t clean enough and I know it isn’t the fault of the already limited Custodian staff.
Please be careful when you start cutting or reducing support staff. They are the ones who often keep the school running...provide front end services, back-up for principals attending numerous management meetings, support our already overworked teachers and do a lot if not all of the data/test collection now required by the State and Federal government. As additional work is dispensed to principal, that support staff will be pushed to pick up more.
I do not envy your job but by not closing another school, you have made the cuts bigger, across District and impacting ALL students.

Teacher 2/7/06

There are many reasons why eliminating a high school head counselor position is not an appropriate measure in relieving our current financial pressure.

  1. In addition to his administrative duties, John Maiers, our current head counselor, has a caseload of 250 students. He is the faculty advisor of CSF, our honor society, and routinely writes all the letters of recommendation for students applying to elite colleges, typically over 100 letters each year. He is truly the resident expert on getting into a good college, to whom I as a teacher always go for advice on how to help my students.
  2. He designs the master schedule each year for 1900 students and 100 teachers. Since he took over this job, the number of conflicts and the chaos at the beginning of the school year has dramatically declined. In my job as co-chair of the science department, I also find Mr. Maiers also to be an excellent collaborator in curricular matters.
  3. As AP coordinator, Mr. Maiers has been instrumental in increasing the numbers of AP exams administered from about 200 to the current 640. Our school ranked #415 out of 27,000 public schools nationally last year based on numbers of AP exams administered to the number of seniors.
  4. Mr. Maiers organizes the testing for SAT, PSAT, and CAHSEE at Alameda High. The numbers of students taking those tests and the scores themselves have increased since he started administering the exams.
  5. Since the Principal and two vice principals are often unavailable due to discipline and evaluation matters, Mr. Maiers is the "go to" administrator for staff and parents with problems to solve. He is also an excellent disciplinarian, especially in matters involving cheating.
  6. If he were to be assigned as head counselor to both Encinal and AHS, he would be unable to do a good job at either school.

Closing Longfellow school would eliminate most of the structural shortfall for this year. The 175 Longfellow students would be transferred to a brand new school with the same excellent teachers and a wonderful principal. No services would be lost. This should happen! The parcel tax passed last year on the basis that the money would be used to protect services that directly affect students. Cutting the head counselor position would subvert the intent of the parcel tax.

Parent 2/6/06

I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision not to merge Longfellow into the new school when it opens.
At the public budget meeting on February 2, 2006, the Superintendent presented a list of possible cuts including high school counselors, Career Technicians and coaches; special education; health clerks; English Language Development; custodians; and Paden's middle school. They also suggested increasing revenue by charging students to play high school athletics. All of these will negatively impact every student in AUSD. Many would be unnecessary if Longfellow students went to the new school when it opens.
Longfellow students would benefit by being moved to the new school. It will be the most modern elementary school in Alameda. A bigger elementary school can offer more services to each student at their individual level. Teachers can group students from different classes by level for subjects like math. Specialists (speech, English, and resource) can serve more students at the same level at the same time. Library books and other supplies can be shared by more students. Assemblies cost the same, but more students see it. PTA events (book fairs, carnivals, fundraisers) require almost the same manpower.
If Longfellow students don't start at the new school with their peers from Miller and Woodstock, they’ll probably be moved there the next year. It's unlikely these are the last cuts. Starting Longfellow students a year later will put them at a disadvantage. The other students would have had a year of transition that Longfellow students would have missed. And meanwhile, they'll still experience the painful cuts that could have been avoided had they been allowed to go to the new school when it opened.
If we really want to provide the best education for all 10,000 students in AUSD, including the 175 at Longfellow, we won't leave them behind. Instead, we'll welcome them at the new school when it opens.

Parent 2/6/06

Thank you for sending the preliminary recommendations for spending reductions for FY06/07. It is very disappointing that the board is going to cut services instead of consolidating more elementary schools. I think that our students would be much better served by larger schools with comprehensive programs and adequate staffing levels than by smaller neighborhood schools with compromised programs and services. Looking over the individual spending reduction items, I notice that the largest savings would come from making the athletic programs self-supporting; I strongly recommend that this is done. It also makes sense to reduce staff where it matches enrollment reduction. Thank you for asking for input.

Parent 2/3/06

Thanks for always requesting input. I really have checked out this year, so my recommendations are coming off the cuff rather than with knowledge to back them.

  1. Unless the person in charge of food for the schools is working on a complete overhaul, that position is a complete waste of money. From elementary to high school I don't think you could find a student or parent that is happy with the unhealthy choices.
  2. With the decision to merge Woodstock and Miller, and possibly next year Longfellow, I continue to wonder....Franklin was the last school to open (It wasn't so far in the past that it had been rented out to be a private school). That is never mentioned to close/merge. Is that because there are many families in that school with a lot of cash that translates into clout with the district so it's untouchable and the lower-income areas are pushed around?
  3. Can the person doing PR with the district pull in work from another department or/and work on business sponsorship? It seems like the most positive news ever read about comes from donations with the Adopt a School program.
  4. I regularly pass what I consider to be a waste of money. (although is this funded by APD?) There are two crossing guards at the corner of Island Dr. and Maitland. I would think that one crossing guard could safely get the students across the street. This happens at Lum school too.

I know I really didn't add too much regarding the reductions needed. But, thanks for reading my two cents.

Parent 2/3/06

Thank you for putting out so much info about the District budget cuts.

I’d just like you to know that as a special ed parent, I’ve been thinking we’d gotten top-heavy on Program Specialists, so the slated reduction of a SPED Program Specialist is a perfect cut.

Parent 2/2/06

I feel very strongly that it is unacceptable that the general public (who less than 6 months ago passed Measure A) gets only 24 hours to review the proposed budget cuts. I know the Board continues to discuss keeping the decision making process open and transparent but it does not appear to be the case during this go-round. I am anxiously awaiting what the various unions have already been allowed to see.

Staff 2/2/06

For the heck of it, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts, not that they count for much, but this has generated a lot of discussion in the office today, so the thoughts are not all just mine.

  1. Counselors==Absolutely NO, NO, NOOOO!!! All of our counselors and head counselors are overloaded now, and busy all day long and desperately needed. Our students’ school life and futures, depend on the input of these dedicated people.
  2. Categorical Transfer==Not sure I understand this one.
  3. Pay to Play==Part of me says yes, but is this fair to those of low income?
  4. SpEd==YES, YES, YES
  5. Health Clerks==Only to the point that there is still at least one Health Clerk per school. These people are more than band-aid pushers. There is much clerical, testing, etc. work to be done by their office.
  6. ELD==Yes, they have a very capable clerical staff in this department. Assign the duty of director to another manager type as a second duty, but with no increase in pay.
  7. Career Tech==NO NO NO! Unfortunately, these employees do not bring income in to the school district, but they are so important to helping our students finding, applying for and receiving millions of dollars worth of scholarship money per year. Also with arranging college representative visits to our schools is important to introducing our students to different colleges and programs.
  8. Custodians==NO NO NO. The custodial staff has been hit so hard every time. All schools and their small custodial staffs are stretched to the max now. Overtime. Obviously because they are understaffed they need the overtime to do their jobs.
  9. Classroom teacher==OK, only to the point of aligning it with enrollment.
  10. Paden 6-8==Yes. Let these students go to their neighborhood middle school, ACLC or BASE
  11. Elem. M/C teacher tech==Have an idea what this is all about, but not sure, so have no real conviction about it.
  12. Textbook Tech==NO NO NO. However, I would suggest that both of the HS textbook techs’ hours could be cut to possibly 5 hrs per day, with a floating schedule to be available to all classes during the week, and of course increased hours as needed during enrollment August, Sept., semester change, & end of year.
  13. Elem School Main Office==Yes, if as I am assuming this is to cover the closing of Miller. Yes or NO
  14. Athletic Programs==NO NO NO, sports are too important to the overall physical, mental, scholastic ability of our students. This measly $18K is I am sure only the stipends. It is proven that those students who are involved in sports are better all around students and citizens. Wish I had handy the percentage of students we have involved in sports at any particular time. Here at AHS it is amazing.
  15. Supt Budget==Yes
  16. Personnel==Not sure who you are talking about here, but $12,250 for 0.2 FTE sounds like someone who is getting paid too much now.
  17. Business Svs.==Yes, why should they be getting overtime, unless there is just too much work for them to do or is it incompetence.

Now my questions, suggestions and other thoughts:

  1. Are we getting income for the use of our facilities, Gyms, media centers, fields, Kofman, etc, if so where does it go.
  2. Has any kind of “golden Handshake” or other type of retirement incentive been considered to induce higher paid to retire and make room for more lower paid.
  3. Why do we out source Federal Survey, now that we only have a few with all the base closures, there is just Coast Guard and a few active duty and the federal offices. School site officer managers at most schools are doing the major part of the job, can’t someone in district office, pick up the rest. With the low #’s of federal workers now, are we bringing in more federal survey money than we are spending to do the work.
  4. What other jobs are we out-sourcing, that we here in the unions, schools are unaware of that most definitely could be done by our able employees. I am thinking of the money we lost a couple of years ago while we were waiting for a decision re truancy letters.
  5. Instead of Pay to Play, think about paying for excessive absences. Some school districts have initiated it, but don’t know if it has held up in court. It would not necessarily have to be the full amount of ADA but a portion.
  6. Also, along same lines, continue with Summer School, but maybe offer for a fee, “go-ahead” classes again rather than just remedial. I also know of several school districts in other states who charge for any summer school, even remedial.

Teacher 2/2/06

Decided to e-mail you this information as I know there is a budget meeting tonight, and I was informed this morning that eliminating a counselor at each school may be a part of the budget cuts. We felt you should be aware of the part-time counselor position that was eliminated last June. Our part-time counselor, Joann Diaz, was out on disability for chemotherapy/cancer last fall, 2004. The position was posted and filled for approximately four months. After Mr. Reyes left that position, it went unfilled and was not posted for several months. In June, 2005, I was told that our principal was told by Stan Rose that he could either keep a Vice Principal and let go of the part-time counselor, or keep the part-time counselor and eliminate one of his VP’s. He chose to eliminate the part-time counselor position.

I talked with Glenda McDowell, former AEA President, about this and she then handed the issue over to Earl Rivard, the new AEA President. He met with Don Sherratt last summer and was told that due to our declining numbers, the position would not be replaced. At the time this decision was made, however, our enrollment was 1130. Budget cuts were not an issue at that time.

We think it is important that the committee is aware that we ALREADY had a counselor position cut last June. It was premature, but, none the less, it was made at that time. We want the committee to be aware that we have already faced cut-backs and need the two counselors, and one department head we have at Encinal High School.

It should also be noted that the Career Tech positions are considered as potential cutbacks. If xxxx xxxxx’s Career Tech position is cut, the counselors will be picking up this load, which is substantial.

Please be clear on this, we already had a part-time counseling position cut at a time when budget cuts were not an issue.


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Last modified: February 2, 2006

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