Measure E in Alameda, California

Over the weeks, I have been reading the pros and cons of peoples beliefs in various newspapers and have entered into many conversations. I say belief system as not one op ed piece, not one letter to the editor or one conversation addressed anything more than a ‘belief’.  When I asked people the following questions in conversation, people did not know and could not discuss due to the lack of knowledge which created even more support for a belief system rather than a system of actual fact in how Measure E money would benefit the school district.

So, with this in mind, I pose the following to the residents of Alameda as they posture in all different directions on Measure E.  I believe Alameda Islanders should be informed before they vote and not merely marketed at/to.

Which school board meeting did you last attend?

What happened with the monies for Measure H?

Do you know who the last three superintendents of AUSD were? Do you know where the most recent pro tem superintendent, after being golden parachuted, is serving?

What is a charter school? How does ACLC, NEA and the ‘new’ version of a charter school at Chipman work and affect the finances of AUSD?

Do you know who is on the board of the ‘new’ charter school which will replace Chipman? If you understand what a charter school is about, you will understand why it is important to know who(m) is on the board.

What is the life span of many curricular programs in AUSD?  I can speak to two of them -(1) A math program including alternative credentialing from CSUEB with Mr. Phil Gonsalves, which many teachers were not ‘inspired’ enough to follow and either intentionally or inadverdantly subverted – 3 years, 4 years at most of existence. (2) Social behavior program from Chipman, so poorly introduced to teachers at Wood that it was disdained by most and only truly followed by those without tenure. Interestingly, teachers at Chipman were ‘forced’ into supporting this belief system which was to be shared/dropped on staff at Wood without staff at Wood even aware. That lasted maybe 1 year at Wood and the principal was gone, the principal from Chipman is the Head of HR for AUSD and Chipman is now becoming a charter school. Maybe 5 -6 years for the character program.  REACH, Math Intervention and all the other programs to raise the scores? At least four years but with rotating teachers as the curriculum was mindless, boring and did not show more than small gains in test scores from Gr 6 and beyond.

Past principal at Wood (there have been so many, but this one was mine) had a staff meeting where teachers were asked to explain what they would do to raise the test scores of black and brown kids in their classrooms.  When I raised my hand and stated this offended me as melanin has never been proven to be related to inteligence, I became the ‘target’ in the shotgun for said principal. This principal did indeed continue to discuss the black and brown kids at Wood (and yes, I am white).

When the census is done, it will be interesting to see the actual numbers of students allocated to housing units on the island versus what is actually in the schools as many students enrolled in the schools use Alameda addresses but live elsewhere, boosting the student populations of our schools.  The only way I know this is students ‘told’ me at various times and what I hear from various people I talk to who use Alameda addresses.  I have no way to give exact numbers but I do know little has been done to track this inflow of outsiders as more student population supports the district via ADA.

The disparity between schools within less than a one mile radiius is overwhelming.  I had the opportunity years ago to see Franklin School and realized their PTA pumped in enormous dollars, alarming in relation to other elementary schools on the island. Instead of the school board setting a cap and asking the additional monies to be shared equitably across other schools so all students could learn, Franklin (and most likely Lincoln Middle and schools on Bayfarm) became the premier institution of education while other schools struggled.  When I brought this up to school board members, it was hush hushed and probably continues to persist.

Do you know who takes care of the school libraries? Do you know how textbooks are ‘controlled’ so that they can be kept track of (or not)? The monies lost each year on textbooks is amazing, especially when they later show up in ‘storage’ – how do I know? I helped re-organize the science and math departments while at Wood. It was unbelieveable what was in ‘storage’ but actually listed as lost in the library.

Wood School has had a revolving door on principals, vice principals and teachers. I feel this is similar at other schools. The costs of having revolving doors on hiring staff is extremely costly which is why most people in HR really struggle to find the right fit.  With the turnover in AUSD, I feel safe in saying money goes out the door just in this regard.  The past three superintendents were found towards the end of their career – finally we have one at mid career and hopefully the issues surrounding AUSD will not create a vortex where she feels compelled to leave.

Many of you may be reading this thinking I am a disgruntled teacher – nothing could be farther from the truth. My first group of  Algebra and Science students  from Wood graduate this year. I bump into them now and then at the library, on the street, at the movies – all over. They are wonderful young women and men and it will be a privilege to see them go off to college and pursue their dreams and change the world.  I am a teacher humbled by seeing them grown up.  I only hope I was able to teach them enough about evaluating the evidence so they can make good decisions in their life.

I have remained a close friend to many of the teachers from Wood who left at the same time I did to pursue teaching in other districts.  In spite of how we were treated professionally, we each found our niche in education. In some ways, AUSD is no different from other school districts lacking the public involvement in what goes on at the schools. In other respects, AUSD is vastly different as the community is so small and secluded, as an island tends to be.

Hopefully, after reading what I wrote, people will reflect upon the various issues surrounding Measure E and rather than vote on beliefs, vote on some information. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, or so the saying goes.  Make a point to attend a school board meeting. Get to know what really goes on at your local school – don’t be such a stranger, volunteer. As a community, we can effect more change than any amount of money.