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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crisis in the Schools: Emery Unified On Track to Be Insolvent in Two Years

Shocked Audience Learns-

School Board Must Make Drastic Changes to Avoid Receivership

$1 Million Annual Deficit Looms

Board to Close Elementary School,

A Possible Source of Increased Revenue

Emery Unified School Board Meeting-April 22, 2015
Emeryville's schools are in deep financial trouble and ready to slide back into State receivership said Dora Siu, the School District's Fiscal Services Director before a crowded house at a School Board meeting Wednesday night. The crowd of parents, citizens and teachers, there coincidently to make a case to save Anna Yates Elementary School and a possible source of increased revenue for the District, was jarred by the announcement of looming bankruptcy.

Ms Siu's budget projections showed that if the District changes nothing about its revenues and spending from how they are right now, then within two years the District would be operating at nearly a $1 million annual deficit and, by not having the state-mandated minimum 4% in reserves, would not be certified as solvent and would likely face a return to receivership.  Ms Siu added that 4% would actually only cover one month's expenses for the District and 10% reserve would be advisable.  
Emery crawled out of a state takeover in 2011 after ten grueling years of Sacramento control after the District was bilked by a former Superintendent.

The Board seemed to take this dire warning in stride and they indicated they will consider budget adjustments at future meetings.  However, those in attendance later learned that one possible solution the Board could not see its way clear to consider was to keep Anna Yates Elementary School open in order to enroll more students than ECCL can accommodate and to, thereby, increase revenue sufficiently to cover the projected shortfall.  Instead the Board dug in its heels and said they could not change course on a plan (allegedly) set in stone over ten years ago.

Not one parent or community member had a positive thing to say about closing Anna Yates Wednesday night, but the Board was unmoved.  The Teachers Union also sent a representative to report that the teachers had met in an emergency meeting Tuesday to address this issue and that an overwhelming majority of the teachers did not want to see Anna Yates closed.

The School District is partners with the City of Emeryville in the ECCL project and two City Council members were witness to the spectacle; Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue.

Parents Erupt in Outrage
The testy crowd Wednesday night was rallying around a proposal by Board member Christian Patz, to keep Anna Yates open as an elementary school and use the yet to be constructed ECCL site on San Pablo Avenue for a middle school (as well as a high school).  The idea is the middle school children would use the building originally meant for the new elementary school after Anna Yates is closed.
But newly elected Board Member Donn Merriam, an architect, indicated he was not capable of fathoming how one could use a 1200 square foot space intended for Kindergartners in any other way.  He warned that this proposal would raise construction costs and postpone the ECCL for at least a full year.  The crowd, not inclined to the normal decorum, erupted at Board member Merriam's  intransigence and began shouting out alternative uses for the space from their chairs.

Board President John Affeldt announced his unwillingness to be persuaded about keeping Anna Yates open before even hearing public comment, a statement that especially riled up the crowd.  His remarks so enraged some parents who had, by then waited for several hours to speak, that they stormed out of the room in disgust without speaking.  Many others who had come to speak had given up by this time and had returned home to their waiting babysitters or had left to put their children to bed.  Board President Affeldt had also refused a request to move the item up on the agenda so that these parents could be heard.

Many attendees expressed exasperation to the Tattler after the meeting.  It seems to the parents among them the District's overall message is clear; they are closing Anna Yates, like it or not.  One parent wishing to remain anonymous said of the Board, "They are driving this District straight into a financial ditch and they're not willing to consider the most logical way to avoid it [keeping Anna Yates open].  On the contrary, they'd like to press on the gas further.  Parents should get ready now for either an incredible number of cuts to close a $1 million gap or two, the State or the County will be in charge of our District's finances again in a couple of years.  They're telling us to move our children to another District as soon as we can".

School districts gain revenue from enrolled students and the looming financial disaster for Emery Unified offers no palatable choices if the number of students is not increased.  Essentially, cuts and the selling off of assets are really the only options available.  Keeping the elementary school as a way to increase enrollment for the District in the cramped ECCL site is the best option parents and teachers said.  This plea was made in many ways by many speakers Wednesday night but the Board seemed unmoved, save Board member Patz.

The following budget projection reveals the disturbing slide Emery Unified School District is facing:


  1. when board president affeldt refused to move mr. patz's two issues up the agenda to accommodate parents, teachers and children in attendance, and supt. rubio repeatedly refused to acknowledge or respond to brian donahue's question why the school district did not robo call parents to inform them of the agenda of last night's meeting regarding anna yates, and when I heard dora siu's financial report about a pending deficit within two years with no reaction from the board, I gasped and walked out in disgust around 8:15.

  2. I an not sending my child to the ECCl. I have made other arrangements. The district loses $ 10,00 each time a parent does this. If anyone else is moving there child due to the ECCl maybe give a shout out here and we can count the total cost.

  3. Maybe Affeldt's love of the Emery Ed fund will make this problem go away.

  4. I sat for hours listening to how this district will be insolvent if we maintain the status quo. Then Board President Affeldt made it clear he would entertain a discussion on the ECCL issue, but really there was no point in entertaining the idea of going through the excersize of changing the status quo. I've had enough. At that point it was clear this was going to be just another pointless conversation. Sorry but life is short and I rather have a conversation with my wife and family than sit for hours and have a pointless one with John Affeldt. A very effective tactic to shut us down John. Kudos. You've learned a lot since being on the Board.
    I am so tired of hearing how the community blessed this project 10 years ago and now we are stuck with the direction. Let me remind everyone John Affeldt was not there 10 years ago. "Community Input" went about as well as it did last night. When we initially entertained the thought of a K-12 we were told the school would encompass the AC transit lot. The school was larger and there would have been more division between elementary, middle and high school students. When that didn't pan out the project should have been scaled back to deal with the what was essentially now half the space. The project was not scaled back and that is when the community began to turn on the K-12 idea. At the "community input" sessions, like last night, we were allowed to comment but not discuss. In forums where discussion was allowed, it was directed into pre-determined boxes. If someone wanted to speak outside of the box it was shunted to the “Parking Lot” and never discussed again, or we were told that it wasn’t presently the forum for that type of discussion. The whole process felt to me and others I know like we were able to discuss and decide on A or B. Certainly we could not discuss C, and although the community likes B the powers that be chose A and by God the “Community had spoken.” Now we have act on the community’s wishes. Some community input.
    None of those Board members have a middle school age child so I don't expect them to understand the special needs of that highly transitive period. I used to think the K-12 idea could work but now that I have a middle school age child I realize housing them in an extended elementary school, or putting them in the mix with the older kids is a huge mistake. It can work with specialized teacher training, specialized facilities and more staff to deal with the conflicts likely to arise I'm sure, but as we all heard last night cuts are coming not expansion of programs. It's a social experiment for which this little town is not appropriately resourced.
    So as it has been for the last "10 years" the board barrels ahead with the status quo without deference to the community's wishes. Apparently those 5 know what's best for our kids.
    Thank you Christian for standing up and representing our faction of the community. You are doing a fine job and please don't give up, John pulled the lawyer card and grilled you pretty hard on the text of your resolution and tried to throw off your game but I commend you for the job you did defending. Also know that my storming out was the loudest message I could have given. It was symbolic of what the families in this community will do if we continue down the current path. I regret I didn't get to hear the passionate pleas from the other awesome members of our community.

    1. Thank you Mr. Henry. You are correct that your storming out sent a very strong message. The board did "parking lot" my idea and those are the words I used. I too, attended those community lectures to tell us about co-location.
      We will be revisiting this issue, I am listening to parents, teacher, and the community. Emery USD needs to stop innovating and get back to educating. Our budget will balance itself if we stop the attrition by adopting my proposition.

  5. You can watch the whole 4 hours (there are some interesting comments on the EEF you might want to catch before ) or you can fast forward to 2:28. It's two hours into the meeting because John didn't want to be nice and move it up. It ended up being a good thing since we got to hear the financial report that supported Christian’s worry of enrollment.

  6. after reading ron henry's comment, I must say that I commend those of you who were able to tolerate this "community input/engagement" board meeting past 8:15. my patience level is much lower than yours.

    I want to remind you that when the measure j oversight committee was formed, the first meeting was held in march, 2011. it started out with 15 adult members and two high school students. one by one, members left, either quitting outright as I did after five months or not reapplying or renewing after their one or two year term was up.

    those who left were: francisco aalbers, lisa carlisle, brian carver (former chair), betsy cooley, ron henry, joy kent (subsequently appointed school board member to fill a vacant seat and was not elected to this position,) kelly maddox (student,) dave martinez, barbie robinson, andrea sanchez cortez (student,) and charlie schuman. the eusd staff of roy miller, hayin kim and wendy chew all left. four of the original 15 remain and I believe josh simon was appointed recently. mr. simon's family recently moved from emeryville to oakland and so he neither has children in eusd nor is a resident of emeryville (which is not a requirement to sit on this committee.) as far as I can tell, no students have come forward to replace those two vacancies.
    the minutes of meetings all record either a lack of quorum, or the need to find suitable replacements who agree with the vision, goal and direction of the district.
    no wonder it is difficult to find applicants for the oversight committee.

    at the first meeting I proposed (and it was seconded) that we meet every month instead of quarterly. after I quit the committee, the meetings are now every other month. if you check the minutes of the meetings, you will see that many of the members questioned what protocol was in place for us to oversee paid invoices. outgoing supt. sugiyama and incoming lindo were still working on this policy at the last meeting I attended in june, 2011.

    doesn't this tell you something when the most concerned residents (who volunteered and were not paid) who sincerely care about the educational system in emeryville leave? not to mention the overpaid eusd staff . now swinerton construction has been hired by the district to provide the minutes, agendas and status reports on the progress of eccl. in a future comment, I will let you know what swinerton has been paid within the last six months.

    1. I can not find minutes from the COC. I do not think they are a going concern. Maybe we need to all become members again and use it to get the board to listen to the community.
      Here is the application link:

  7. Every one of the problems with ECCL were identified by concerned citizens over a decade ago when this project was nothing more than conceptual.
    The Emery Unified School District is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with government on the local, state and national level.
    Corrupt leadership and craven reformers, backroom sweetheart deals, poor decisions, phony "process." Every single one of these decision makers belongs behind bars, preferably with the general population at Pelican Bay.

    1. That's BS! Everyone who I've dealt with in person has absolute integrity and are championing the agenda they feel is the best direction for our kids. We should respect them all and be thankful there are people with integrity willing to spend the long thankless hours, essentially unpaid, in the interest of our children. We can agree to differ on what's the best direction, but not one of them is out to do anything that is not in the best interest of our kids. At least not intentionally :-)

    2. I would like to believe most of players involved have the best interest of kids at heart. But for ex board member and current Executive Director of East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). It is hard for me. Why is he still sniffing around Emeryville? He does not live here. His kids stopped going to our schools even before he left. Is he a concerned citizen or is he an advocate of his employer? I think we are going to find out what he is up too only after Anna Yates closes its doors and I fear it is not going to be for the good of the community.

  8. contact john baker of swinerton: and request that you be put on the email list to receive agendas, minutes and all related documents, including measure j paid invoices, that the oversight committee receives. it might take you two or three attempts.

    1. There's a typing error in Shirley Enomoto's last message. The email address for John Baker is, without a *t" between the "n" and "e."

      If you do as I did and look up "" on the Web, a piece of malware will threaten to take control of your computer!

    2. thanks will. I need to slow down my typing when I'm angry and frustrated.


  9. Given the history of EUSD, has anyone looked into where all there money is going. Last spring it seemed like the rats were fleeing the ship when the district architect, the superintendent and the AYES principal left so abruptly (hey, even Tony Smith moved across the country abruptly). EUSD is a small district and it shouldn't be too hard to track the money. One of the biggest line items is 1.8 million in services and other expenses?

  10. this is exactly what the measure j oversight committee is supposed to do. and as mr. patz commented, it is impossible to find information online on minutes, agendas and records of paid invoices.

    the current members of the oversight committee should be able to give you this information: tom rauch, chair, judy inouye, marcelline krafchick, rodney wong, andrea inouye, josh simon.

  11. will:

    I typed "swinterton" in the search box and it automatically took me to " builders."