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Friday, March 2, 2012

Citizen's Oversight Chairman Resigns In Protest

Crisis at center of Center of Community Life:
Second Resignation At Oversight Committee

At Thursday night's City/School Committee meeting, the Chair of the
 Measure J Citizens' Oversight Committee, Emeryville resident and parent Brian Carver, indicated that he does not intend to seek an additional term on the Committee due to his
 having "lost faith" in the Center of Community Life project and in the School Board's
 management of it.

  The action makes the second such resignation in less than a year for the embattled Oversight Committee.
Mr Carver, an attorney and professor at Cal Berkeley's School of Information, gave his monthly report on Oversight Committee activities in
 which he described the Committee's continuing frustration with trying to
 work with the District Staff and Board on even mundane issues such as 
the structure of the Committee and member term lengths and also
 explained that his one-year term as Chair would be expiring making this 
his last report as Chair to the City School Committee.  

Schools Superintendent Debbra Lindo and Council member Nora Davis followed his
 monthly report by praising Mr Carver's work on the Committee over the last
 year, acknowledging the difficulty of the task.

Mr Carver then told the Committee that he had also
 prepared a public comment to express his own personal view of the last
 year's work of the Oversight Committee.  

At that point he told shocked attendees he would not be inclined to continue serving on 
the Oversight Committee because he had lost faith in the Center of Community Life project
 and in the District's handling of it. 
Mr Carver said he could not summarize a
 year's worth of issues but would highlight three:

First, he argued that the Board should have a clearly articulated
 long-term plan for all three of the School District properties, Emery High School, Anna
 Yates Elementary School, and the abandoned Ralph Hawley Middle School.  He added that it was “irresponsible” for 
the School Board not to clearly communicate to the public such plans for all
 three properties, instead of focusing $95 million  of bond
authorization that will take 20-40 years to pay off all on a single

Secondly, Mr Carver argued that the Board should be open to alternatives to 
the Kindergarten through 12th grade co-location model that the Board favors. He explained that
 parents and a former school board president have repeatedly asked the
 District to seriously consider such alternatives but the District
 instead carries on blindly with a single-minded devotion to the K-12
 silver bullet.   Mr Carver argued that even if the K-12 model were 
educationally superior, which he disputed, he said that the finances 
and the space available “don't pencil out” and that the District would be 
better able to achieve its goals if they were not trying to cram
 everything onto the single High School site.

Lastly, he said that it should not be so hard to contribute one's
 opinions on what one would like to see in a future school and community 
center.  He said he has felt ostracized for expressing a different 
opinion than the District staff and Board.

He concluded by highlighting for the public what he thinks is a 
looming mistake on the horizon. He said that the District will likely
 soon finalize its decision to enter into a “lease-leaseback” arrangement 
with Turner Construction for the construction of the Center of Community Life, likening it 
to writing Turner one big check and hoping for the best.  Mr Carver argued
 that in this economy, the District should instead put the project out 
for competitive bidding, a process he said could save the District 
millions of dollars.

Later that same meeting the City/Schools Committee blithely approved the Center of Community Life’s
 conceptual design, placing K-12 and Community Services all on the High School 
site, without so much as a word in response from a school board or city 
council member to the (former) chairman of the Citizen’s Oversight Committee, Mr Carver's concerns.

Mr Carver's resignation in protest makes the second time for the Citizen's Oversight Committee; last September, committee member Shirley Enomoto resigned from her position in protest citing an unsupported and recalcitrant School Board.  Ms Enomoto was serving as the State mandated taxpayer's representative to the Oversight Committee.

Brian Carver lives in the Triangle neighborhood with his wife, council member Jac Asher and their two children who both attend Emeryville public schools.


  1. Why can't we consider merging the School Board with Berkeley's, and seeking some Economies of Scale? It's not such a far fetched idea. Our District is just too small to be so independent. At the same time, it might humble some over sized Egos, too.

  2. I applaud Brian for his insights, for sharing them with the community rather than "playing the game" of exiting quietly, and above all for his integrity.

    The school board can be faulted, but I trace the root of the problem back to City Hall, and at City Hall to two Council Members in particular: Ruth Atkin, and Nora Davis. It is my opinion that both want a fitting monument for their respective terms in office (and I believe Ruth Atkin has eyes on the County Board of Supervisors when an opening arises). But above all I believe Nora Davis has been the propelling force behind the whole concept of the Emeryville Center of Community Life.

    The School District just went along with it because, after all, who can turn down a project so big? Careers are made on such projects.

    A sounder approach is to look at what works in Emeryville. So far, I only see two things: Police; and Ana Yates. Our goal should be first, to preserve what we have; THEN, and only then, to try to take the lessons learned in those arenas and apply them to other parts of civic life.

    I already see a change at Anna Yates as the upper grades are being kept at Anna Yates instead of moving to Emery Secondary. It is subtle, but bothers me as a parent: very large children moving in and among, jostling, standing over, smaller students. There is no overt bullying or any ill-will, but the reason we divided schools into 3 age related, growth-cycle related categories was precisely to make sure Kindergardners and 1st graders wouldn't be exposed to any children over 6th grade; and to keep high schoolers away from junior high schoolers going through their vulnerable transition years. Mere SIZE is important.

    We have already stretched that model in Emeryville by abandoning the "middle" school. Now we are going to commit educational disaster by integrating ALL the grades. Worked on the American frontier right? Works in NorCal "affluent" school districts, right? Heck, it worked for me, growing up and going to a military school in Los Angeles (a small, private academy). But with so many kids at risk these days, can we afford to throw them all into one single environment?

    Finally, I have been warning that the City Council will consider outsourcing our police department if the fire department outsourcing doesn't create any backlash. I have been vocal warning about Ana Yates. I caution you to keep an eye on City Hal and our police department over the next two years.

    I hope Brian runs for school board. I will not only vote for him, I will campaign for him.

  3. what concerns me is that one year after its first meeting march 16, 2011, the school board and the city/school committee are still discussing the role and responsibility of the oversight committee and now the definition of "ensure." where, oh where is s.i. hayakawa when we need him?

  4. That change at Anna Yates is to make finding a temporary space for the high school during construction easier. It's not a permanent change.
    For people who are so vehement about everything the school district does, you seem severely uninformed. Do you go to ANY of the meetings? Do you read any of the board packets? Do you talk to any of the principal people involved in the project?
    Or do you just come on here and spew your paranoia's generated by lack of information?

    And to Ms. Enomoto:
    Why don't YOU become the S.I. Hayakawa if you need him so badly? That's all it takes. Someone deciding to stand up and do it. But no, like most Americans, you can take the easy route, log on and complain. Much easier than actually doing something.
    Be the change you want, not just another complaining voice.

    1. Parents read the Board packet said they were considering "PKS Reductions" . It didn't seem important so the parents didn't reserve babysitter time. After all, the School Board wouldn't try to clandestinely slip anything through, right?

      Oh, and to the Tattler readers: please don't feel intimidated by those that admonish you for not being informed completely. Comments are open to everybody, even those who have lives.

      Remember, it's the School Board that's totally "informed", and you, the uninformed, ARE allowed to question them here.

  5. to anonymous march 5 2:33:

    here we go again. obviously you know nothing about me.

    i do do something. i have volunteered at the anna yates library for over five years. i help pay for library supplies, desks for the library, books and magazines, donate to the music department. i also raised funds from my friends, neighbors and relatives to renew magazine subscriptions.

    my reference to s.i. hayakawa was tongue in cheek. he was the president of s.f. state during the student uprising in 1968-69 when the students were fighting for ethnic studies. he pulled the plug on their p.a. system. by the way, the students got their ethnic studies classes. not many people know that hayakawa fled california to avoid being incarcerated in the camps during world war II.

    i am a proud member of residents united for a livable emeryville, i was on the citizen oversight committee for measure j for five months before i resigned last summer. i help at ecdc when asked. i donate to every cause the police department sponsors.

    what have you done for emeryville lately? i say again: when you personally attack people in our town, for pete's sake, sign your name.

    1. Here, here!

      Someone accusing Shirley Enomoto of not getting civically involved, of "taking the easy route", is most likely a cheap and tawdry hypocrite. After all, if they were civically engaged themselves, they would know of the many and storied contributions of Ms Enomoto.

    2. Many thanks to Brian Carver, Shirley Enomoto and Brian Donahue for their vigilance and participation the Center for Community Life matters. As a long time Emerville resident I frequently question the process of the city council and also the school board. This seem mostly futile as the council and school board acts with its prior intent no matter what the community input is. Many of my friends and neighbors have given up participating out of frustration with the process. I believe that the only real change will come through instituting term limits for city council members and changing the mayoral election to a public one. Lets recall the school board for their lack of transparency. This patting each other on the back must stop! Time to get down to the serious business of meeting the actual needs and desires of the community with out the paternalism of a patronizing city council and school board. Tell the High School students what the plans are for the years during construction. Its March already. In other districts students are choosing classes for the following year. We hear lots of talk here about academic achievement but where will these kids play sports if crammed into Ralph Holley? How about the programs we have now? How will they be implemented? With a lower cost than the CCL project there could be many more programs and a better and larger Middle/High School that might retain our current students and encourage more to come. The way the project is designed currently the sports fields and track will remain sub par also the myth of separation of grades will continue.

  6. Brian, any chance of an in-depth interview with Brian Carver? What you have here is only a start. He invested a year of effort at the COC and seems to be the only person in town willing to speak his mind. I expected this kind of honesty out of Josh Simon but he's been quiet. If we don't recognize, then analyze, the problems we face in this little town, we won't be able to make a serious effort to fix them.

    I know a lot of people think you are just a trouble maker (there is a vernacular expression s***-s***** that I won't use) but over the years here I have come to realize that you are just an honest person who isn't afraid to speak his mind. For better or for worse, you have become our only "press," a small but seemingly untiring mini-Fourth Estate.

    I would also urge you to interview Art Hoff, Debbra Lindo, and any members of the Board of Trustees (school board) for the School District to ask them what their position is on keeping Anna Yates open and what their reasoning is.

    I am very worried that enrollment is going to plummet at Anna Yates once parents think it is joined to Emery Secondary.