Patterson Unified School District

A photo of the Paterson Unified School District offices on March 14 in Patterson.

After rejecting a similar proposal in July, 2018, the PJUSD School Board in its regular meeting last Monday voted unanimously to put a bond on the March 3 ballot that could raise up to $30 million for employee housing.

Citing the Teacher Housing Act of 2016, which declared that the stability of housing for school employees is critical to the overall success and stability of schools in California, the board instructed staff to make the preparations necessary to put the measure, which would require 55 percent of the vote to pass, on the ballot.

PJUSD Superintendent Dr. Phil Alfano said in a later email that apartments or townhomes would be constructed on property the district already owns, located near the Sports Park on Ward Avenue. A builder would be brought in for the construction, he said.

“We know this is a need and has been an issue for many years.” Alfano said, “It’s time to try something new. I applaud our board for unanimously approving this idea and taking the issue to the voters. It’s important to remember that this is a local bond - so all of the money goes directly back into community. It won’t be squandered on state or county projects that don’t reach Patterson.”

There would also be a citizens bond oversight committee, Alfano said, “to guarantee prudent use of the tax dollars we receive.”

Alfano said that recruiting and retaining highly-qualified teachers and staff who live in Patterson is “vital,” both for the school district and the community. A high-quality school system, he said, raises property values and improves the overall quality of life in a community.

Local economic impact

“PJUSD is still the largest full-time employer in Patterson,” Alfano added. “Annually, more than $20 million in district staff payroll leaves our community, so this is important for (the community’s) economic development as well.”

“We also know that teachers are leaving because they tire of the commute from other communities,” Alfano said. “Our goal is to provide affordable rental housing for our staff that will eventually allow them to save enough money to purchase a home in Patterson and be a permanent part of our community.”

The concept may be relatively new, but other districts, including Santa Clara Unified School District, have tried it, or soon will. Others include San Lorenzo Valley Unified, West Contra Costa Unified and Mountain View Whisman School District.

Many of these housing opportunities come with strings attached, such as a limit on how long an employee can remain in the affordable housing unit. Such limits were discussed when the district floated the idea last July, but no details have been given for this current effort.

Net rental income from the project would be used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the project and to maintain lower class sizes and improve the quality of education in Patterson’s schools, per the staff report.

This latest effort is not the first time the board has approved an affordable housing program for employees: the district purchased two units in the Ivy Terrace complex several years ago. They are currently rented to teachers.

But there are still many other PJUSD employees who are interested.

Because the district has property in two counties (Stanislaus and Santa Clara), the measure must be placed on both ballots, and needs a 55 percent majority to pass.

TK to kindergarten

Walnut Grove kindergarten teacher Judy Jenkins expressed concern that children in transitional kindergarten (TK) had been promoted up arbitrarily, due to overcrowding. She also expressed concern that TK students are not “developmentally ready for the rigors of modern-day kindergarten.”

In an email Tuesday afternoon, PJUSD Assistant Superintendent Veronica Miranda said the district has been “promoting TK students to Kinder(garten) for the past 6 years. We have a criteria in place,” she said. “One hundred percent of the TK students promoted to Kindergarten over the past 6 years have met Kinder standards at the end of their kindergarten year.”

“For the record,” Miranda added, “we only moved six students to Kinder, and all of them have had preschool. We used the established criteria in order to comply with class sizes at the TK level. We had parent support; all of our parents were excited about the promotion. We also plan to review the progress of these students in the spring, in order to determine if they are ready or not for first grade,” Miranda said.

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