Community Donations to the Giving Campaign Help ‘Keep the Magic’ at Piedmont’s Schools

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When Gabriel Kessler, a teacher at Piedmont Middle School and Association of Piedmont Teachers President, was evaluating teaching opportunities in various districts more than 15 years ago, he was drawn to Piedmont and a position at Wildwood Elementary School because there was a “magical, warm relationship between the families and faculty.” Kessler found that the faculty had the freedom to be creative, bring their own strengths to the classroom and try new things, with the overall goal of creating a community of lifelong learners.

Today, Kessler feels Piedmont’s schools still have this magic, but it is threatened by a serious strain on the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) resulting from stagnant funds coming in from the State of California and increasing pressures on the budget.

He believes community donations to Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) fundraisers, like the annual Giving Campaign, are essential to maintaining foundational aspects of Piedmont’s schools, including its small class sizes. “Schools would not exist the way they are in Piedmont without PEF,” said Kessler. “Classrooms would be more crowded. We would not have the same technology, electives, or librarians. We would not have the same counseling and wellness services essential to students’ academic and emotional health. These are the things that make students and teachers thrive.” Kessler also credits PEF for making the 3% salary increase for Piedmont’s teachers as of July 2018 a reality. “Community donations to PEF which were given to PUSD helped to support core programs which allowed the district the flexibility to put the raise in place,” said Kessler. “This was an important step forward for our teachers. And, the flexibility it allows is critical to the District’s ability to hire and retain qualified teachers.”

Ashley English, Co-Chair of the Counseling Department at Piedmont High School, shares this view of PEF. “Funds raised through community donations to the PEF Giving Campaign support guidance counselors who are essential to working with kids as they think about their futures and navigate the college application process,” said English. “Truly, this is unique for districts in our area. PUSD is fortunate to have counselors in place to serve our students and lucky to have this generous community.”

In the long run, Kessler hopes the community in Piedmont will put pressure on leaders in Sacramento to legislate change and fully fund California’s schools. In the meantime, he is optimistic about the generosity of Piedmont’s residents and the high value they place on education. “Schools are the beacon of the community in Piedmont,” said Kessler. “Community support which keeps the school environment intellectually and creatively rich is where we want to be.”