March 9, 2010

Outpouring of concern about Walnut Creek Intermediate students' safety and well-being not enough to save vice principal's position

Parents, teachers, and staff packed into the Walnut Creek School Board chambers Monday night to voice concerns about the proposed $1 million in cuts the district says it must make to stay solvent over the next few years. They were especially concerned about the loss of one particular position: one of two vice principals at Walnut Creek Intermediate.

Those who spoke talked about how Bridget Vorhees, the vice principal whose job was at stake, provides an absolutely vital function at the school. Like her counterpart, Kevin Honey, Vorhees doesn't just take care of discipline. She gets to know students, and provides the kind of counseling and support that some kids need to "stop from going down the wrong path," some parents said.

Having two vice principals at the 1,120-student campus is essential to maintaining a safe environment for all kids, teachers and staff. In an e-mail sent out to parents, PTA president Liz Bettis said "one VP is simply not enough to handle potential problems effectively. We are so fortunate as our VPs at WCI know our students by name even if they are not in their part of the alphabet."

Another parent, said, "Everyone one of those kids will suffer next year without the second vice principal.

The five school board members all expressed deep regret at having to make this kind of cut. "I'm frustrated that we even have to consider it," said Arthur Clarke. He said the district, like all other districts throughout the state in this tough budget times, is facing more than a rainy day kind of situation--which would allow it to get by by dipping into the district's rainy day fund. "This is a monsoon. It is been going on for two years, and it is likely to last two more years."

Superintendent Patty Wool said the district has to make these cuts now; the district is "deficit spending" in the amount of $1 million a year. In a couple years, it could become insolvent, and the state would have to step in and take over.

Board member Katie Pena became emotional and began to cry: "This is so painful, and it hurts so much to make these kinds of cuts."

Despite acknowledging the pain, board members unanimously voted to eliminate Vorhees' job. Another painful cut was the tech support position. 

The board also approved still other cuts on a list devised by a Budget Review Committee: two days of furloughs for teachers, reductions in hours and pay for special education teachers, and cutting one coach’s position.  With these cuts class sizes would go to: grades K-3, 25:1; grades 4-5, 28:1; and cap the middle school core classes at 32:1.

Board member Barbara Pennington called these sorts of cuts "criminal," while Dan Walden said: "I take no pleasure in doing what we need to do."


Anonymous said...

Hooray for the Board having brass pairs to cut positions. Let's not stop now...More cuts are needed to balance the books. Have the courage to implement drastic measures!

Change is necessary! That's what that guy occupying the White House says. Btw, howz that "hope, change" thing going? You asked for it and you got it.

former teacher said...

Anon 12:05,
How rude to get your political kicks from the difficult situation of the WCSD. Their financial difficulties are not their own fault but due to state takeaways. Yet you gloat and enjoy the misery.
Also, you use too many exclamation points. We all know you are yelling.

Anonymous said...

12:05 is a troll. Don't feed the trolls.

Jojo Potato said...

I wish the WCSD would put their budget on their website. Or at least make it easier to find. Having the supers take on the budget is one thing, I'd also like to see the raw figures. Anyone know where to find this?

Anonymous said...

YELLING feels good sometimes!!! It feels especially good when you are tired of being screwed by inept 'leaders'!!! Often one finds the only way to be heard by said 'leaders' is to YELL!!!


Damn that felt good!!!

No troll here, just a fed up taxpaying citizen!!!

former teacher said...

Anon 3:06:

"No troll here, just a fed up taxpaying citizen!!!"

And a very ineffective and immature citizen in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Now we just need to figure out a way to abolish the teacher's union and we'll be on our way to righting this ship.

Anonymous said...

3:33 om

Lighten up just a little bit.

Life is too short to be so hateful with your words and opinions. Would you be happier if only those with which you agree participated in these discussions?

Blowing off steam on a site such as this is a good way to voice one's frustrations with the way life is treating us. Give it a try, but only if you can be civil.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpaying, school supporting non-parent, may I respectfully ask someone to explain what VP's do by ensuring safety and well being? Do they act like security guards, parents?

And why don't WC schools have a dress code? all the kids I see going to school, except for the primary children look like slobs. Perhaps if there were a sense of order instilled by appearance they wouldn't need VP's to ensure safety and well being. New York city by eliminating graffitti on subways years ago; it gave people a sense that things weren't 'out of hand'.

And speaking of well being, SM, do alot of parents us 7-11 as a pick up spot? I can only imagine the calories consumed in Big Gulps daily must be huge.

Just my thoughts.

former teacher said...

Anon 4:29,

Here is what I was responding to. A tirade that was very uncivil indeed. I was not hateful when I noted that the poster was both immature and ineffective. I was just stating the facts:

"YELLING feels good sometimes!!! It feels especially good when you are tired of being screwed by inept 'leaders'!!! Often one finds the only way to be heard by said 'leaders' is to YELL!!!


Yelling at people with whom you disagree will never win them over to your point of view. This is training that usually takes hold at about four or five years of age.

Anonymous said...

I'm still surprised that the school board hasn't made public the fact that the superintendent got a raise this year, despite the fact that there are yet more cuts this year. This is her second raise in since she joined this district. I heard this from a teacher in the district, who heard it from the teacher who is the union rep for that site.

As a parent, I'm appalled that the school board felt Patty Wool needed a raise, yet is taking still more away from the students.

I'd like to see Dr. Wool cut some of the fat off her own perks (raises, use of a district vehicle, etc) before a single penny more gets cut from the student end of the equation.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone confirm this?

This is not right. If it's true, at the very least, it should be brought out in the open for discussion. I just hope it's not true, or trust has further been eroded.

Dan Walden, Board Member said...

To clarify the facts for 12:08 and 12:38, Dr. Wool did not receive a raise this year. She also drives her personally-owned car, for which she may request reimbursement at the IRS mileage rate when it is used for district business, just like all employees. I encourage readers to look at the Budget FAQ on the district web site at:

I also want to point out that Dr. Wool took the first budget hit 2 years ago when she offered to also perform the duties of the Director of Curriculum, when Mary Jo Pettigrew left the district. Principals share some of these duties as well, in order to keep district administration costs low.

The district budget is a public document and may be obtained at the district office. There may be a charge, as permitted by law, to reimburse the district for costs of duplication.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Thanks everyone for commenting, even if there is some anger there, and strong feelings. As much as we can, let's try not to go overboard with "digital courage." I myself have been guilty of resorting to digital courage from time to time, and i need to learn to rein that in.

Again, thanks for the comments and questions, and thanks to Dan Walden for clarifying that point about Dr. Wool's salary and new responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

If I am a troll then so be it.

Some of you don't want to face the reality of it all. You're in denial..As former teach 1PM says," It's not their fault but due to state takeaways.... That's right, play the VICTIM.

Some of this is self inflicted like swollen administration/management ranks and deadwood teachers. Have a coalition of the line faculty run the school through committee rather than the hard line between management and REAL and effective teachers.

Throwing more tax dollars at a perceived problem doesn't resolve or solve fundamental structural and fiscal issues.

Change. Bring it on.

See.. no exclamation points.

Bob Brittain said...


The Walnut Creek School District is, and has been, a well-run district.

If you want to improve it and institute your ideas, run for election to the Board. Of course, then you would have to face the public. Something tells me you are not willing to do that. In which case, your posts do not receive much credit from me.

Anonymous said...


The truth is that 5:29's posts on this blog don't have to pass your test to be credible. He/she has every right to share his/her thoughts on a subject without asking for your blessing.

You seem to think that running for office is a criteria for being allowed to voice an opinion. Not true and many times one can be even more effective in the community by helping to solve problems without the burden of running for and holding office. Not everyone is born to or even disires to be an elected officeholder. And thank God for that as we see far too many unqualified and disinterested egomaniacs in elective office at all levels today.

The Walnut Creek School District has been a well run district but somewhere things have gotten off the track and it can't all be because of takeaways. It never hurts to stop and take a good look at spending practices to solve financial problems. There is always fat that can be cut in any budget and maybe getting back to basics during hard economic times could have a very positive impact on our schools.

In our home we have found that cutting our spending on non-essentials hasn't really affected our lifestyle all that much and hope to carry these lessons learned into the future as the economy recovers.

Remaining ANON because I don't wish to be called out by name by Mr. Brittain.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob,

I nor anyone else needs you to "validate" my opinion. Remember the First Amendment of the Constitution? Dissent is OK. Really.