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Monday, November 14, 2011

Democracy Not Something The School District Is Comfortable With

Another Uncontested Election:
Missing At Emery School District: Democracy

Appointed School Board member Pat Hooper has resigned and now Emeryville's got a new School Board member!   Quick, who is it?

Too bad no one knows or even seems to care.  Yes, another election comes and goes here in Emeryville with nary a school board candidate in sight.  We must say, this is not a healthy way to run a school district; indeed, it's inviting disaster.

Not that any of this is news. Given the sorry history of School Board selection in our town, unfortunately it would be considered newsworthy if there were an election.  Emeryville has a long history of appointments and top down selection of School Board members.  It hasn't worked out well for education of children.

Non-elections are the norm but several years ago, we did have a real election for the School Board; it came only in response to the former Board unanimously hiring the criminal previous chief of Compton Unified School District, JL Handy, to serve as new Superintendent.  Older residents will remember how Dr Handy emptied our coffers and split town, leaving the school district broke and in shambles, the District Attorney in hot pursuit. It was only after the JL Handy fiasco, after the State of California took over control of the School District, was there a real election for School Board members. Unfortunately, after that consequential shake up and ousting of those responsible, again Emeryville has settled back into the old pattern; the lack of elections is once more standard operating procedure.

One other minor hiccup in this culture was two years ago when two parents had the temerity to run for school board without the sanction of the Powers That Be at the School District and City Hall.  The status quo at the School Board out-spent the two presumptuous interlopers by more than 100-to-one on slick city-wide campaign mailers, proving once again the corrupting power of money in ruining elections by effectively quashing dissent.

After last Tuesday's non-election, it would appear the School District is now free to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the taxpayers money for a new school all with unchallenged incumbents, appointed and top down selected decision makers.

This school district has seen more than 30 years of appointments and top down selections of our School Board.  The results have been devastating for the educational prospects for the children.  It pains us to see this terrible tradition continue on.  There's nothing like the cleansing effect of real democracy in action to cast out corrupting influences and ensure good public policy.  The anti-democratic impulse here may help the Power Elite but it's anathema for establishing a culture of educational excellence at our schools.   To use a cliche; our children deserve better than this.
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The new School Board Member is one Joy Kent, who ran unopposed on Tuesday and didn't appear on the ballots.  Ms Kent will help sheperd the taxpayer's school bond money to build a new school.


  1. The tone of this editorial makes implies that the District is somehow culpable for not holding an election. How is it the District's fault if the number of candidates is the same as the number of open offices?

  2. Democracy is in everyone's interest (except the power elite) and the lack of democracy hurts (virtually) everyone. It is everyone's "fault" if there are no elections, including the School District. The School District could easily spend some money to draw elections if they felt it were something they had interest in. Obviously they're not interested.

  3. You do realize that 'The School District' has absolutely nothing to do with elections of the school board, right? You need to look to the city for that. We do not magically call for and run elections now.
    Geeze, you need to slow down your hyperbole for some fact finding. You are far too reckless with your statements at times.

  4. I'm happy to see School District officials weighing in here.

    The District indeed doesn't hold elections but it could, if it felt the lack of democracy were something worth addressing, help draw a real election by using its considerable resources to that end. The District has been doing this sort of stakeholder empowering with the Center of Community Life on a massive scale as it attempts to legitimize the incipient Center. As I said above, this is obviously not something the District wants to avail itself of with regards to having School Board elections however.

  5. When did they announce Hooper was stepping down and invite interested applicants to apply to the school board for the available appointment? I suspect there was NO public announcement or discussion of available candidates.

    The timing of Hooper's resignation is very suspect. It's well known in politics that it is costly and usually a losing proposition to campaign against incumbents in local elections. However, if an incumbent announces they are not running at the end of their term, other candidates are willing to spend the time and money required to run for office.

    In this case Hooper apparently resigned AFTER any opportunity for new candidates to step forth and run was exhausted. Then the other board members just quietly appointed his replacement? Surely you are making this up, Brian.

    I think what we are seeing here is a harbinger of what will happen with Nora's slot on the City Council as well. It is inevitable that she will retire one day, and you can bet it will be right after an election, like this, or only with the tacit agreement of the rest of the Council as to who her replacement will be if she retires earlier.

    After running for City Council in the last election, I can assure any readers that are new to the Tattler that Brian doesn't exaggerate. We are lucky that there is one independent voice left in Emeryville.

  6. To Michael Webber-
    Pat Hooper announced her resignation at a School Board meeting, and that was it as far as public announcements were concerned. You're not correct that there was no time for anybody to file papers to run for School Board after this. In fact Joy Kent, appointed (by the School Board) member of the Citizens Oversight Committee (for the school bond) did file papers to run but there were no challengers that filed.
    The School Board could have advertised the opening the School Board better, to draw more candidates, but it didn't.
    The School Board likes Ms Kent obviously since they appointed her to the COC and I don't think they were too fond of the prospects of an election so they didn't partake in "community engagement" (as they call it for ECCL).