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School board to discuss budget revisions

Original post made on Sep 11, 2017

The school board will discuss on Tuesday budget revisions to address up to $6 million in unplanned pay increases this year -- the result of what the superintendent is now calling a "mistake" of not formally reopening negotiations with the district's employee unions.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 11, 2017, 11:43 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Please
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

The pay increase was not "unplanned." It was scheduled to happen at the same every year for three years. They just decided to ignore the negotiation deadline.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2017 at 1:10 pm


The expenditures were "unplanned" from the perspective of the budget, which is mainly what the board is dealing with at the present.

I don't think we should be minimizing this mistake or its impact in any way.

Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

To Please: Thank you for your comment. The "unplanned" referred to the budget, not the contract, but I appreciate your point and have changed the word to "unbudgeted" to be more clear.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2017 at 2:16 pm

"They just decided to ignore the negotiation deadline"

If only! "They" (McGee and Co.) didn't "decide" anything. By their own account, they just screwed it up and failed to do what they intended to do and in fact told the board and community they had done. Whether they "forget," "misunderstood," or just messed up, they certainly didn't "decide."

Posted by sniffing your bias
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm

How come the author of this and the other hit piece more than a week ago did not point out and purposely left out of the minute by minute timetable ticker at the bottom of the story the fact that the union told the District in January that their numbers did not include adequate resources for the raise? The district was told. [Portion removed.]

Posted by for Healthier High Schools
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm

It is so sad to me that, less than a month from our latest self-inflicted death of a high-schooler--our twelfth such loss in eight years--the board and superintendent are positioned with no sense of urgency to undo the oppressive stress produced by the operation of our high schools, but instead are focused on issues of less consequence and poignancy, just as they were all last year.

School names do not carry the impact of daily cheating by a majority of students; weighted or unweighted APs to not have the effect of unhealthy sleep-loss due to work done at home; and moving around the pieces of the District budget has almost no bearing on what goes on every day in our classrooms where kids have social media on their minds all day, are stressed out by course grades given every three weeks (not every nine weeks, as before 2014), and are deprived due to overcrowding from forming healthy working relationships with their devoted but overworked teachers.

For a sensible, systemic, community push to reduce the discouragement and anxiety at Gunn and Paly please see the 581-member community alliance at: We are focused on the District's longest-term problem and the one that is of the most consequence for young life and limb.

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Chairman, Save the 2,008--for Healthier High Schools

Posted by how about this
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm

given our current budget crisis let's spend $200k and thousands of hours of time to rename our schools. Seems like a great use of resources to me

Posted by Pravda
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Palo Alto online should be renamed Pravda for their pension to senso comments . lol!!

Posted by Pray for us
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Sep 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Robbing St. peter to pay St. paul

Posted by Rick
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Wow, a $6M completely avoidable budgeting screwup at the highest levels, proceeded by a different $4M budgeting screwup, is now just a 'budget revision', at worst, a 'mistake'? So long as raises are handed out like clockwork, it seems that there is little interest in a balanced budget at Churchill Ave.

Excellent reporting by by Elena Kadvany!

Posted by Genuine
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 12, 2017 at 11:24 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

Anyone consider a pay freeze? I would be willing to bet that most in the community would be in favor.

Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I realize there was a lot of mismanagement on the part of the School District; but, if the end result, was a raise for teachers, is this really such a bad thing?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:35 pm

A raise for teachers is better than losing it at the track, but definitely not what the board wanted. Due to last year's snafu, they gave a 4% raise and put the budget into large deficit. To make up for it, they promised 0% raise for this year. Instead it is 3%. So between last year and this year, the raises are 7%, plus 2% bonus, vs. more like 3-4% that the board wanted. That means fewer teachers, fewer support staff, larger classes, and more program cuts.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm


A raise has the disadvantage that it sets a new baseline for salaries. Unless salaries would actually be lowered, you end up paying the raise every year into the future. Further, by setting a new baseline, computations of raises based on percentages would be higher in the future.

The "bonus" has the advantage of being a one-time event with no raising of the baseline, although perhaps raising some psychological expectations.

Please understand that I am not arguing what teachers "ought" to be earning, it is simply a question of how this affects district financing.

Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 12, 2017 at 3:28 pm

The additional damage that this mistake has done is to further undermine community confidence in PAUSD fiscal management. As a result, many in the community are feeling reluctant to donate money to PiE, PTA, schools in general, with the feeling this is "throwing good money after bad".

The Superintendent's attitude that this is no big deal, the raise should have happened anyway reflects an infuriating disregard for fiscal prudence. Also, there seems to regularly be the belief that the parents will just reach into their wallets and fix any problem, so why should PAUSD even bother being careful with money.

When the PiE donations go down, this will be a double-whammy to our students and schools.

Write to the board: [email protected]

Posted by Special Education Budget
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2017 at 4:27 pm

The Board Agenda Packet shows increase in budget for a Special Education Coordinator. Given this person directly interacts with families and makes decisions about students, that is likely a good move. There has been so much turnover in that department.
The problem is Special Education has too large a budget on management. There are 2 Director's of Special Education and an Assistant Superintendent to oversee them.
The Spring, 2017 reorganization should have created lees work for 2 Special Education Directors. New jobs were created to take over part of the Special Education Director's functions - such as Title IX Coordinator.
There were increased budgets such as legal firm services to conduct the legal part of their function.
Is it working?
There is too much management and not enough workers.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm

The district has $100 million in reserves. They can afford to give teachers a raise, and funding of programs to address the needs of students. I would suggest the community take a closer look at who is running things at 25 Churchill. Lots of incompetence all around. Instead of carping about the unions and teachers who actually do the work - look at the individuals in the District Office who are voting against the interests of kids and teachers.

Interesting article about school districts sitting on lots of cash in reserves by the San Diego Tribune.

Web Link

Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:02 pm

@Observer - Where do you see the $100M in reserves? I agree with you that the district has plenty of money to work with and also that there's plenty of incompetence.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:22 pm

@Jim H.

The $100 million is in the surplus fund. Follow the money ...

Posted by Randy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Unless I am mistaken, Cathy Mak has overseen or ignored critical decisions that have cost PAUSD approximately $10M in the last year or so. And this makes her qualified to continue as the Chief Budget Officer in what way?

Posted by Lori
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 12, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Why extra funds through PiE when the district seems to have so much $$ socked away ?

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