Tattler: Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?
Ken Bukowski: I am a representative of the community. I'm not sure who would fit the description of a school system representative. I have supported our schools for a long time as a former member of the City Council, always sought and continue to seek to improve community awareness and participation.
Tattler: What is your own experience with public education?
Ken Bukowski: I was raised attending the New York City public schools. The State of California is not providing adequate resources for public education. This is creating a real problem for Emeryville. Attendance at our schools does not reflect the diversity of the community. The proliferation of charter schools is having a negative impact. They don't have the same State mandated requirements as public schools to provide for all children. They take the better achieving students, degrading the quality of public education for the remaining children. The public schools are unfairly forced to handle all of the kids with special needs. The damage done by Proposition 13 must be re-examined.
Tattler: What are your priorities for the district in the coming year? Why and how did you select these issues?
Ken Bukowski: Creating a stable Board and adopting polices and practices to empower the teachers and the community in the decision making process.
- Creation of a parent advisory board establishing a new form of input in the decision making process. We need to change the long standing practice of not involving the community in the decision making process.
- Creating a quarterly community meeting, a live interactive event where school issues can be discuss publicly, and where parents have an opportunity to call in with their concerns. A new on-going way to achieve community involvement.
- Expand solicitation of fund raising efforts and create a new annual event to show recognition to all who have donated to our schools, and recognition for teachers.
- Actively pursue the creation of teacher housing in Emeryville. The regional housing crisis is forcing teachers to move out of the area. The State is about to provide funds to subsidize the creation of teacher housing and Emery needs to make teacher housing a major priority to leverage those funds.
Tattler: In 2012 more than 90% of teachers at Emery signed the 'Teachers Resolution' expressing no confidence in the former Superintendent of the Schools. The teachers asked the Board for their support with the Resolution but the Board refused and ignored the request of virtually the entire teaching staff (please see the Tattler for details). More recently the teachers were united in their voices to delay the opening of the ECCL citing student safety and lack of curriculum reasons. Again the Board ignored the teachers request. The teachers at Emery have felt their voices are not being heard by the Board of the Administration. Please explain what you think broke down in these two cases.
Ken Bukowski: The School Board has simply not adopted a mechanism for public involvement in the decision making process. They have allowed the school superintendent too much latitude to keep problem issues close to the vest. The failure of disclosure leads to suspicion. That is followed by discovery of the issues which created distrust. The personal interests and the desire to control seem to take precedence.
In 2012 I signed a letter of community support for the teachers, I actively supported delaying the opening of ECCL based on the testimony they gave. However, I disagree with the wording of this question. It is not accurate to say the Board ignored the teacher's request. It was apparent to me a majority of the Board agreed with the teachers. However, the Board president violated proper procedure by refusing to allow the Board to support the request.
Perhaps the worst part of it is a lack of major safety incidents on the opening day caused the Board President and School Superintendent to claim the opening was a success. That is a total disregard for the emotional damage sustained by the teachers who were forced to start the school year on the wrong foot. They Board President showed us how to do it the wrong way and now it is being subverted into a publicly made claim that he (and the Superintendent) did the right thing? It has to make one wonder who's interests are really being served. The actions of that day could lead to another vote of 'no confidence'. This has to change in my opinion.
Tattler: Parents too felt ignored by the Board during planning meetings for ECCL when they requested hearings into the wisdom of closing Anna Yates Elementary School. The Board refused to entertain holding even a single meeting to gauge public concern or hear the parent's and citizen's ideas. Please explain what you think broke down when parents and citizens were not listened to.
Ken Bukowski: I was on the City Council when the decision was made to close Anna Yates as part of a plan to put all of the kids in one location. I consistently advocated to have the community involved in the decision. However, the School Board did not want the community input contrary to their claims. My concern over this issue can be found in a written transcript I prepared from a City Council/School Board joint meeting held in June 2010, when the decision was made to place the school bond measure on the ballot.
The transcript (third from left) is available at:https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1oeHPokfoWja1NWNmRweGVHc2c