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Monday, August 29, 2016

Community Fallout Over School Board President's 'Dictatorial Power Grab'

Teachers, School Board Agree Board President John Affeldt Overstepped His Authority

Democracy Stalls

School Site Called 'Unsafe', Curriculum 'Not Ready'

The fallout continues to build in the community from a palace coup at the August 24th School Board meeting when Board President John Affeldt improperly stopped a vote of a majority of his colleagues on delaying the opening of the school due to safety concerns for the children because the new school site at the Center of 'Community' Life is still under construction.  The vote stoppage is a serious violation with serious ramifications teachers said after the contentious meeting and the law is clear that any duly seconded motion by the Board must be allowed a vote.  At least one teacher characterized what Mr Affeldt did Wednesday night as a "dictatorial power grab".

Emery School Board President John Affeldt
Wouldn't let the Board vote.
Earned the enmity of assembled teachers,
parents and the Board.
The meeting, held on the night before the scheduled first day of school, was temporarily adjourned by Mr Affeldt so he could place a phone call to the District's counsel to inquire about the legality over a vote to delay the opening of the school the Board wished to make.  Ten teachers and two parents testified that the school isn't safe for the children and the teachers also noted they hadn't received the curriculum from the District, nor textbooks.  The teachers were adamant that the opening be delayed for a few days at least.  A majority of School Board members agreed with the teachers in a straw vote.

Mr Affeldt however joined with School Superintendent John Rubio in insisting the school must open as planned, regardless of any stated safety concerns or lack of curriculum and that even if they agreed, it was "too late for that" anyway.  They posited the agenda item under consideration was an informational item and that any voting would constitute a Brown Act violation.  Board member Christian Patz noted the Brown Act provides for work arounds if an emergency is declared and that student safety constitutes an emergency.
Construction Zone Trip Hazard
The blue tape was added after a teacher broke
her leg. The tape cautions teachers, parents
and children about the two inch level change.  

Superintendent Rubio immediately sought to downplay teacher and parents concerns over the children's safety, calling the whole thing an "emergency created out of thin air".  Notably, a teacher broke her leg two days before in the construction site when she was attempting to prepare her classroom for the children on opening day.  Turner Construction, the contractor in charge, placed some blue tape over the trip hazard after two more teachers tripped.  Superintendent Rubio did acknowledge the teacher's broken leg and said the trip hazard would be fixed by Turner soon.

Former City Councilman and current School Board candidate Ken Bukowski Thursday noted the action by Mr Affeldt represented an overstepping of his authority.  Mr Bukowski forwarded the following letter to subscribers to his 'you tube' page where he provides video of School Board meetings and other important regional public policy meetings.                                                              

Here is a summation of candidate Bukowski's accounting of the meeting:
"It was a very contentious meeting.  The main discussion was the question of opening of school for today, August 25th.  Numerous teachers came to the Board and asked for the opening to be delayed because the project is not complete.  Teachers also claimed they did not have their curriculum to provide instruction.  There were many comments about items in the hallway.
A majority of the Board wanted to vote to delay the opening, but Board President John Affeldt did not agree.  He claimed a vote could not be taken, since the item on the agenda was only informational.  However Christian Patz said, the Board could declare there was an emergency, and thereby direct the Superintendent to delay the opening. 
The meeting was recessed to allow Affeldt to check with County Counsel.  When Affeldt returned, he claimed the counsel said, there was insufficient reason to claim an emergency existed.
The purpose for checking with the attorney was to see if a procedure for declaring an emergency was possible.  Generally, legal counsel tries to justify the wishes of a board majority, if feasible.  It must be clear Affeldt likely framed the question to obtain the desired result. 
The question of whether or not an emergency exists is a decision for the Board to determine.  The Board is responsible for its decision, not the attorney.  Affeldt, overstepped his authority, and would not allow the board to make a decision.  He failed to respect other board members by failing to call the question, despite numerous requests.
The testimony of several teachers and members of the public provided sufficient information to raise the question of safety, as well as saying they could not perform their professional duties.  It was clear there was no orientation.  I know it took me almost 20 minutes to find the board meeting. Certainly hundreds of kids on the site for the first time would have to be confused.
The Board president has no right to fail to call a vote, if there is a motion and a second. The Brown act says if it is an issue of health and safety the board can act. 
The Superintendent said, if the school opening is delayed he didn't want to be responsible for what could happen to the kids who could not attend school.  However, opening a brand new project, there is always a possibility there could be a problem.  For example, on opening day if the electricity went out, and the school didn't open, it would not be a huge surprise. 
The school district is never responsible for the conduct or behavior of students who are not in school, at any time.  However, if kids show up and sustain injuries at the school, especially if there are known problems, it could rise to the claim of negligence when you know a dangerous condition is pre-existing.
I was disappointed with the way it went.  It may have shattered the confidence of students and teachers, unnecessarily, just to make an opening date.  Anything done in haste, is usually not the way to go."

A video of the meeting can be viewed HERE.


  1. Has anyone reported this to the Alameda county grand jury. May I remind the board that each time they seek legal counsel, we the taxpayers pay for that expense.

    1. Yes, they should take illegal actions without consulting counsel. That way we don't have to pay for it.

  2. Can't say that I'm surprised by this. We all knew it was just a matter of time before Affeldt finally would either somehow force a vote for something he liked of stop a vote for something he didn't. He has had the support of a sb majority up until recently. Look to more of this happening until he's recalled.

  3. This from an attorney? He's in a spiral and going down. Getting increasingly incoherent.

  4. Let's not forget last year some teachers worked without a curriculum from the district or any district funding for the students the entire school year. Hopefully some day this district will fold into Berkeley or Oakland.