Will Our Elementary School Be Sold
Without Public Weigh In?
What Happened to Our Promised Public Forum on
Let's just say transparency isn't their strong suit.
After many years of insisting Emeryville's elementary school on 41st Street be closed in order to facilitate the Emery Unified School District's vision of a Kindergarten through 12th grade campus at the Center of 'Community' Life on San Pablo Avenue, the School Board, under pressure from an angry onslaught of parents and citizens last April, finally buckled, promising to allow and facilitate a public forum on the school's fate. Now, it appears from a mysterious School Board closed session item just announced, the Board might be ready to break that promise.
Either that or they're ready to commit a massive Brown Act violation. Not a reassuring eventuality, either way.
The turmoil centers around an announcement made today at the District when an official told the Tattler the School Board will be discussing a "conference with a real property negotiator" for Anna Yates Elementary School in closed session at an upcoming Board meeting, possibly later in the month. That would mean the School Board intends to either lease or sell the elementary school, presumably to a private charter school, something they have long said emphatically they will not do and it would represent a default on their promise to parents and citizens to allow a public forum on possibly keeping the school open.
If instead, the Board intends on using the announced closed session for internal discussions for how to best use the elementary school for the District's own use, as rumors have indicated they may (but why the real estate angle?), that would need to be a public discussion and it would represent a violation of the Brown Act were it to happen behind closed doors as is planned.
The Brown Act, sometimes known as the Sunshine Act, is a suite of California legal directives that details how public meetings must be held, generally giving deference to the public right to know over government's desire for secrecy. The law makes it difficult for decision makers to try to end run around the provisions of the Act, in case the School Board may be thinking of trying to get creative in skirting the law. Of course for the law to be upheld, it has to have a champion and whistle blower and that's where Board member Christian Patz, the sole member among them that has shown an interest in transparency, will stand on guard if needs be (we hope).
|Board President John Affeldt|
He promised us a public forum on the fate
of Anna Yates Elementary School last April.
We're still waiting.
Is he now planning to foreclose on that forum?
The lack of transparency is what this District is about and it's all over its history. The closure of Anna Yates Elementary School has been doggedly pursued by the District since the Center of 'Community' Life was conceived more than 10 years ago but the District always assured residents they (the residents) would have the final say on that. After the Measure J school bond ballot initiative passed in 2010, the public vetting of the possible closing of the school was supposed to be addressed in the subsequent design phase of the Center of 'Community' Life public meetings. That never happened.
In response, some 73 parents and citizens wrote the now infamous May 2012 Change.org letter demanding the District honor its promise to allow the community to decide about Anna Yates. The letter was summarily ignored. Instead the School Board voted unilaterally to close the school in November 2012. Later in April 2015 after an angry mob showed up at a Board meeting demanding the District allow a public forum on closing the school, Board President John Affeldt relented, promising a meeting on the subject after first warning parents and citizens he had already made up his mind on the closure of Anna Yates, a statement he later felt compelled to retract.
The John Affeldt promised meeting is to be a first public vetting of the idea that Anna Yates Elementary School should be closed and we eagerly await Mr Affeldt to make good on his promise made last April to allow this. But if this upcoming closed door mystery meeting with real estate agents represents yet another reneging and another foreclosure on the public's right to weigh in on this important community issue, Emeryville parents and residents alike will have every right to kick out these arrogant and duplicitous School Board members. The story of the closure of our elementary school in Emeryville is one of the worst examples of government malfeasance in our town's history...and I needn't remind anyone of our terrible history on that score.