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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

School Board Confronts Bad Press: Public Relations Firm Hired

Independent Oversight Committee Asked to Assume Propaganda Role

The Emery School Board has commissioned a study, culminating in a plan of action called the Center of Community Life Three Year Strategic Communications Plan  at a cost of $17,000, meant to mollify criticisms that the School District has not effectively communicated with citizens about the Center of Community Life.  The Plan calls for the independent State mandated Citizens Oversight Committee, a bond money watchdog group, to effectively become a political propaganda arm of the School District.  In addition, the Plan identifies the Emeryville Tattler as a problem the Oversight Committee and other "team members" need to avail themselves of.

The Communications Plan, the work of the San Francisco based public relations firm Davis and Associates, identifies the State mandated independent Citizens Oversight Committee (COC) as a partner in the "negative story rapid response team", and charges the Committee with joining together with the School Board and the City Council to quickly control damage from any less than glowing stories that might appear in the Tattler or any number of other negative public relations problems from a list compiled by Davis and Associates.

If the Citizens Oversight Committee were to actually engage in this activity it should be noted, it would constitute a violation of their charter as mandated by the State of California however.  The State makes this sort of propagandizing for Citizens Oversight Committees verboten.

The introduction of the Communications Plan at the February School Board meeting was met with criticism from an Anna Yates Elementary School teacher who said it would subvert real communications, calling it a "marketing plan, not a communication plan."

The Three Year Strategic Communications Plan was funded by Measure J money according to School District officials.

Davis and Associates would not return calls for this story.
On site accidents or incidents witnessed by the public
Further deterioration of the state’s fiscal situation which would affect funding
Substantial construction delays that affect completion


  1. when you consider that the original bylaws called for 15 adult and two high school members and six of the original adult members either quit or resigned after their one year term (including the replacement for the first member to quit and who only lasted two months) one can see why yet another consulting firm was necessary to promote and "market" this committee. apparently the community engagement team, which is paid a stipend, is not effective.

    could this be a reason why the director of community engagement left her position last summer?

    also interesting to note the agenda from the feb. 19 successor agency to the former redevelopment agency,item 3.3 on the consent calendar: "resolution of the city of emeryville as successor agency to the emeryville redevelopment agency approving and authorizing the city manager to execute and enter into an emeryville center of community life funding agreement with the city of emeryville for expenditure of $21,200,000 (that's over $21 million dollars folks) of pre-2011 bond proceeds..."

    pre-2011 bond proceeds? what the heck is this? if the city had $21,200,000 before 2011, it could have provided plenty of bunson burners, copy paper and other teaching materials for the teachers instead of photocopying excerpts from books as i observed.

    will this loan also be forgiven down the road after patrick o'keeffe departs?

  2. Measure J sure has been a boon for the consultant industry hasn't it? It's not reassuring that the board has to hire consultants to figure out how to communicate with an 800 student school district. We are tiny, and it's the same ten people asking questions. Yet they saw fit to spend $17,000 to figure out a way to talk to us? Remind me again why we pay the School Superintendent so much money? *sigh*
    The way we are throwing money at consultants really doesn't smell right. It would be interesting to know what the personal relationships between all of the interested parties are. It kind of looks like a case of "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" and that won't fly in this historically dishonest School District. Seriously...Why am I out scratching the streets to raise a few hundred bucks for the kids when you just throw $17,000 to figure out the best way to talk to us? Do you see what I'm talking about? Maybe I should charge you $17,000 for that information.
    I really find this preposterous!

  3. Davis and Associates would not return calls for the story? The authors of the "communication plan" won't return calls. Anybody else see the irony here?

  4. Why is it that when my daughters' classes take a field trip, the class has to take up a collection from the other parents because there is not enough money to fund the trip for a 22 student class? Why is it that we take public transit and not a school bus, and the parent chaperones pay their own way? $17000 for Davis and Associates indeed! This really is a punch in my gut when it comes to my motivation for this district.

  5. I'm going to give the District some advice and I'm not even going to charge you a dime for it.
    Sponsor a community forum on a Saturday or Sunday when people can put aside a couple of hours for discussion. I'm not talking about some damn high tech virtual guided tour of the facilities and how we all respond to the color purple like the Nexus sponsored community forum. I'm talking about getting the community,board, ECCL staff, superintendent, teachers, Rec Center staff all in one room, put the issues on the table and answer the tough questions face to face instead of from behind computer screens. The administration has questions for the community as well as facing all of our unanswered questions. That is true transparency. Get one of our lovely Emeryville bakers to throw in a box or two of pastries and I garauntee you'll have a lively and constructive discussion. If indeed nobody shows up, then you have pinpointed exactly where the you need to start with building community engagement. Hell I'll post fliers around town for it if you sponsor it. There...go back to Davis and Assoiciates and please ask for a refund.

    With no disrespect intended towards my friends on the COC, and I consider you all friends, I think you are dropping the ball on the fiscal oversight part of your duties. When we first started the COC we spent days and money to consultants focusing on effective means of community engagement. As Brian stated they even have a community engagement committee that recieves a stipend. Yes they are paid to do community engagement. There were great ideas that we all came up with and were never engaged. Now they have gone and spent an additional $17,000 to repeat this exercise. How in the heck are you guys on board with this waste of time and money? I'm not being snarky for a change. I'm serious. I would like to know how this was a justified expenditure of Measure J funds after all the monies that have been spent on this very issue already? The COC came up with great ideas before. It didn't cost $17,000.

  6. the irony is why so many city staff employees have left in the past three years or are leaving including melinda chinn, the director of community services, the chief business officer for the school district, two finance directors, and even our city manager.

    do you really think, ron, that another community "engagement" meeting will help? i think emeryville will be in dire straits (one of my favorite rock bands) commencing in april, 2013 as these city employees are being replaced.

    1. The City Manager should leave! Look at the number of staff that have voluntarily left the City in the past 9 months, Chief Financial Officer, Administrative Services Director, City Manager's Administrative Assistant, Community Services Director, Paralegal. With the exception of the paralegal, all the other positions reported directly to the City Manager. What does that tell you?

  7. Shirley I believe any and all communication will help. There are a lot of different beliefs and acccusations flying arounf that this or that is going to happen with the properties, the programs, the schools etc. that need to be addressed and answered by both sides of this debate. Ignorance breeds contempt. Most of the time that contempt is misplaced and easily avoided with a little knowledge.

  8. BTW...I was very glad to see Melinda Chin leave. In my opinion she was derelict in her duties and the City services suffered terribly under her watch PERIOD! I just wish the City wasn't on the hook to support her for the rest of her life. Sorry if you think that is mean and inappropriate but my family were very active in both ECDC and the Rec Center and her mismanagement was painful and very unnecessarily stressful at times. It really affected a lot of families in a negative way...and that is not hyperbole!
    The recreation center has absolutely flourished under the new director and is now probably one of the best run programs in the area. I stand and applaud Cindy? (I wish I could remember her name....she is AWESOME!) *Note to City* Please take Melinda Chin's name off the City Website. I can't speak anymore for ECDC and, well, the Senior Center right now (soon though) but if she is running them like the Rec Center then I have a lot of confidence in the future of those long as she gets City support. I don't share your dire feelings about the changes. Sometimes change is what we need.

  9. i had no dealings with ms. chin so cannot say one way or another how competent she was. i did hear from others though that she had no idea what she was doing.

    it's cindy montero. thank you cindy!

    i admire your optimism. maybe some of it will rub off on me.