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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Letter To The Tattler: Ronald Henry

Emeryville parent Ron Henry sent the Tattler the following letter in response to the School District's recent decision to begin teacher lay-offs at Anna Yates Elementary School.  Many parents are beginning to question the wisdom, fiscal and otherwise, of the School Board's decision to close down the recently remodeled Anna Yates School in favor of having one new campus, at the Center of Community Life, with Kindergarten through 12th grade. 

Here then is Mr Henry's letter:

.             .             .            .

Dear School Board Members and members of the School District and Center of Community Life community-

My daughter Fiona is in Mrs Shoshanna Walker's class and we consider her one of the best teachers at Anna Yates.  We received information that she was given a layoff notice.  This is not going to sit well with our family and my wife and I are both going to become VERY vocal in opposition to this. You will see us at the school board meetings from now on.  We currently have two daughters attending Anna Yates and have experienced both questionable teachers and great teachers there.  The difference is striking and not at all hard to see.  My oldest daughter Ciara, now in the 3rd grade, struggled with two former teachers in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  These teachers are no longer at Anna Yates.  Last year she started in Mrs Emily Brunick's class.  Emily is an awesome teacher, and while Ciara struggled to catch up the first year, she has blossomed and excelled under her (and Mr Walker's, no relation to Ms Walker) tutelage.  Letting go your quality teachers is an obvious mistake.

I was also told that the science teacher at the secondary school, Mrs Edwards, also received a layoff notice. I am not sure if you knew but Amyris was supporting her directly with supplies, tutors, and knowledge resources.  The scientists at [Emeryville based bio-fuel research firm] Amyris were impressed with Mrs Edwards so much that they decided to support her.  I am pretty confident that Amyris is qualified in determining who are competent scientists and science teachers.  In talking to the public liaison representative at Amyris, Lexi Brayton, she informed me that they were very disappointed in the decision and were going to attend the school board meeting to voice their concern and opposition to this decision.

What is going on here? You are definitely getting the attendance up at the meetings but under the wrong pretense I am afraid.

We are very disappointed with these decisions and have to wonder what is happening to Anna Yates and the school district as a whole, as I see the school district seriously declining in quality and focus.  I also have to wonder to what extent the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) factors into this.  It is becoming apparent to me that the School Board's focus on the ECCL project is at the expense of running the schools' day-to-day business and they are suffering because of it.   If we find that these cutbacks are due to the district looking for money to fund the ECCL, then I am afraid we can no longer support the project, and in fact will become outspoken opponents of the project in its entirety.  When I first became a supporter of the ECCL, we were told that it was fully funded.  Now that that funding has evaporated from $90 million to $40 million I see no proportionate change in the plans for the ECCL.  What I do see is a decline in the Emery Unified School District as a whole as the district forges ahead with an overly ambitious plan.  This will not stand in this community.

I realize that these layoff decisions may not directly be tied to ECCL but I do feel the overall focus of the district's attention is affected and so I feel it is a factor at least in-directly.  Please consider this in moving forward with your decisions and plans for the cutbacks, layoffs, expansions and build-outs. As I said before, the Henry Family will be present and vocal at the future Board meetings.

Sincerely, Ronald and Marie Henry


  1. This is participatory democracy at its finest.

    Why has there been such a prior atmosphere of silence and "playing ball" in Emeryville in the past??

  2. Teacher layoffs are based on the outdated and in the many ways flawed model of unions (like the CA teachers association) that protect employees based on years of service with no thought to the quality of the teachers. I doubt EUSD or its Board had any ability to choose and it was solely based on years of service. I remember a few years ago when the teacher of the year in los angeles was laid off because the teacher was low on seniority. Sad.

    1. Indeed, there is a teachers union seniority component but remember, it's not the union that lays off teachers, it's management.

      Also, it's helpful to remember that the only way to attract competent people to the teaching profession is if teachers are well compensated and made to feel that the career choice offers stability . The latter being important owing to the usually capricious political nature of schools and school districts. A would be teacher needs to feel protected from potentially arbitrary or politically generated termination.

      Remember, we're trying to steal away from the private sector, the best and the brightest.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Henry. Mr. Donahue, I hope you will come to this Monday's school board meeting.

  4. Typical Emery.
    They lose awesome teachers left and right because of stupid decisions by management. Been happening for years, and only now do people start to notice.

  5. The ECCL project is ambitous and it may be more than the District can afford to operate. If the District has to lay off teachers now, the new school doesn't have any more capacity, how can they afford to operate the new school. ..?