A hallway with lighting fictures in the ceiling and a door with PUSD logo on it

      Pasadena Unified School District building (Photo – Staff)

      Pasadena Unified School District confronts several hot topics in the New Year. This is the first in a series of articles exploring those and other PUSD topics.

      By Laura Hackett

      The hot topics at PUSD are the new solar plan, probable property swaps, 7-11 property sales, community schools that have an ability to generate income, and school board elections in November 2020. This article focuses on the solar plan.

      25-year PPA projection

      PUSD entered into a 25-year PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with PFMG Solar. A PPA locks in a fixed rate for electricity, and it saves money on the assumption that energy rates will continue to rise.

      Here is the catch: PFMG Solar gave PUSD ‘savings assumptions’ based on a 5% increase in energy rates, but experts at Caltech believe there is no reason to believe that energy rates will go up more than 2% a year. This is evident if you look at the short-term energy outlook released by the Independent Statistics & Analysis of the U.S. Energy Information Administration in December 2019. The experts say that the price of both solar and wind has been steadily decreasing with time.

      Placement and cost

      In addition, PFMG is not giving each site any input over placement, but it will place where Rate of Installation (ROI) is highest. The plan involves cutting down 71 trees and the removal of basketball and tetherball equipment. PUSD has yet to agree upon a community meeting to discuss the solar plan. The plan has a $9 million termination fee. I believe the solar plan will cost $9 million and yet only save $7 million in energy costs, even though original estimates stated that the solar plan would save $17-23 million over a 25-year period.

      Enter Constellation

      Originally, the plan was with PFMG, but an out-of-state energy broker located in West Virginia (Constellation), bought PFMG. Some Pasadena residents, myself included, are horrified at this plan because it means that $19 million will leave the city and the state. (PUSD pays Pasadena Water and Power $19 million dollars a year for power.) In addition, Constellation has a horrible BBB Rating and numerous Consumer Affairs complaints.

      Pasadena fought Edison to have its own power plant. Many feel that outsiders like PUSD’s Chief of Facilities Nelson Cayabyab are to blame in this mess. Nelson’s plan is to pay off the PPA with a new bond to be placed on the November ballot. The solar plan will be reviewed in January. The manager at Pasadena Water and Power is more than happy to give the Superintendent and Executive Leadership team of PUSD any advice or help it needs on solar.

      The need to do it right

      I am not against solar; it just needs to be done the right way and this company is a total insult to green energy. This solar plan may be the worst thing PUSD has ever done.

      Laura Hackett has a K-12 Multiple Subject California Clear Teaching Credential, a P.P.S. Credential, a M.Ed. and an M.S. in Educational Counseling. She has taught private, public, private sector as well as Home and Hospital Teaching. Laura has a second grader in Don Benito Fundamental School, in the Pasadena Unified School District. The opinions she holds are her own and not those of the Pasadena Unified School District or ColoradoBoulevard.net.

      > Read Part 2: Property Sales.

      > Read Part 3: Board Elections.


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      1. Laura Hackett says:

        I watched both archived board meetings. The solar was discussed late at night around 10pm the first time it was discussed. The second time it was discussed was over the summer. I read the contract and the solar communique. I made a public comment about the solar while Mr. Cayabyab was in the room. He was free to respond to me and said nothing. I emailed Mr. Cayabyab every single day for a month with not one response. He is absent from COC and Safety meetings often. And what was the point if Mr. Cayabyab and I discussed this further? The decision was made with no community input or community meeting. A board member told me there was consequences for changing the placements as well. What would have been the point of communicating further?

        The savings are vastly inflated for the cost. The city knows of a company that would do it for less money, give the sites input on placement and cut less trees.

        Jackie’s friend William who does solar brokerage seems ok but he is a dad that left our district to home school.

        The last thing the board needs is another sales pitch on solar. What they need at this point is help from the city.

        What better way to present the need for a bond than have parents point out why it’s needed. I believe there are people on the Pasadena City Council who would work with the district on use of properties, solar energy and other things. The city already has lots of experience in issues that the district doesn’t, and district employees like Mr. Cayabyab have way too much power without proper oversight. I’ve pointed that out in some of the minutes on solar energy, tree removal, etc.

      2. Ella Chandler says:

        Reminds me of Madison Elementary circa 1956

      3. Angela Child Narvaez says:

        I doubt she even talked to Mr. Cayabyab about this.

        • Laura Hackett says:

          I made a public comment at a board meeting. He was free to respond. He said nothing.
          I emailed him every day for a month. No response and he is often absent from safety and Citizens Oversight Committee meetings.

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