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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

School Board Calls For A "Conversation" On Teacher Lay-offs

Teacher Lay-Offs:
What Kind Of "Conversation" Is This?

Facing angry parents and teachers at a regularly scheduled February 27th School Board meeting, School Board member Josh Simon tried to calm them; we're not laying off teachers, he said, "we're having a conversation" (about teacher lay-offs). The culmination of the "conversation" was that the Board, including Mr Simon, voted to lay-off the teachers anyway.
The parents that showed up at that fateful meeting may have known teacher lay offs were on the agenda or maybe not.  The parents learned at the meeting that the Board saw fit to call the lay-offs  "PKS Reductions" for the sake of the publicized agenda. The Board arrogantly noted the crowd wasn't very large that night, an attempt to de-legitimize the pleas from the parents to not engage in the PKS Reductions.
This is how the Emery Unified School District and its Board has a "conversation" with the public.

The word "conversation" implies two way communication coupled with good faith action.  That's certainly not what's been going on here.

Ever since the School Board glommed onto the ironically titled Center of Community Life, this is how it's been.  And it's the Center of Community Life that's driving the teacher lay-offs...not that you'd know that from listening to the School District.  The Center of Community Life, with it's former $400 million price tag (now something lower) has certainly used up Emeryville voters' good will towards the schools.  To keep teachers at the District, Emeryville residents would need to vote themselves another parcel tax, now rendered an unlikely prospect.  This expensive new school building project is forcing the laying off of teachers; not a part of the Board's "conversation" it should be noted.

Dissenting views about the Center of Community Life are scoffed at by this District.  Citizens advocating for a real conversation are given their state mandated three minutes but the Board disinterestedly watches the seconds tick away, casts aside any critiques with blinders firmly intact and proceeds forthwith towards its Center of Community Life heedless of the dangers ahead.

The ignorance of parents over the impending closure of the popular Anna Yates Elementary School, necessitated by the Board's interpretation of the building of the Center of Community Life, is testament of the failure to have a proper conversation.  Ask around, you'll notice that most parents don't know that the Board intends to close the newly remodeled Anna Yates School, the gem of the School District.  The District, it would appear is content with the parental ignorance, all the well publicized "community engagement" notwithstanding.

The School Board effectively tricked the public with its "PKS Reductions" mumbo-jumbo on February 27th.  The overflow angry crowd at the next meeting, last Monday, is further testament to that.  There was no way the Board could play down the sheer number of citizens in the Emery Theater Monday night. The people were angry at having been deceived previously.  The Board responded by quieting down the crush of peeved parents by holding back information about how they've already decided on teacher lay-offs, a further deception, even while parents pleaded to be appraised.

There's no way any of this can be construed as a "conversation". What it is, is deception.


  1. Thanks Brian. I used to think of you as a gadfly (6 years ago). Now I recognize you as the last of a dying breed - a crusading journalist. Keep up the good work.

    And yes, in this modern era, the Emeryville Tattler is as much in the journalism business as the Oakland Tribune - and pays a whole lot more attention to E'ville.

    Now protect your sources, and they will start talking to you.

    BTW - why are we spending $200k on "process" consulting? Do we take care of cronies before we take care of teachers?

  2. The $200k on "process" consulting is another gold star on the School District's resume. We learned only after the fact that the ESS Principal, who spoke in favor of the contract, is on the Board of Directors of the beneficiary organization. The Superintendent, who spoke in favor of the contract, just left that same Board upon taking her new job. It may be an unpaid volunteer Board, but to fail to disclose these relationships while advocating for money for your friends is another fine example of how this District does business.

  3. And lets not forget, that beneficiary organization used to be known as BayCES.
    And we know how well that all went.

    And as a former employee, I can certainly confrim that EUSD takes cares of its cronies before it takes care of its own.

    And you should definitely look into the budgets, something fishy is going on there, and with the ed fund. Something is REALLY going on with that fund. Felt like a shell game to me.
    My department once got a large chunk of money that came through the ed fund, so the benefactor gave the check to the district, the district gave the money to EEF, and they gave us the money for the project. The odd thing was, there was about a 6-8 month lag time between when the district gave EEF the money, and when the district received the money back.

  4. Well, since the city government hasn't become any less corrupt since the arrest of City Manager/Police Chief John LaCoste, it only follows that the School District remains just as corrupt as it was under JL Handy.
    What a town we have.

  5. California’s economic woes have put most school districts under pressure. I imagine a few will come out ahead of the pack because of the way they respond to the crisis.

    I’m sharing a link to Hayward USD’s Fiscal Integrity Transparency Advisory Group. HUSD pulled all segments of the community together to develop a PLAN focused on solving the district’s financial crisis. The high level of transparency they've shown thus far in communication, stakeholder engagement, planning and decision-making is noteworthy.


    Dream out loud,

  6. Thanks for the link, Lynn.
    I think the problem here at EUSD is overzealous and overwrought support for the Center of Community Life among the decision makers. Desire to push the thing through any opposition is infecting the culture, dampening transparency. The 73% passage of Measure J helped set up the hubris I think.
    The problem is so deep, I'm afraid the only way out is to replace the decision maker personalities involved.