Search The Tattler

Monday, May 25, 2020

School Board Member Proposes Official District Apology for Steve Dain Firing

School Board Member Donaldson: District Needs To Apologize for "Unjust Firing"

1976 Termination of 'Teacher of the Year' Still Isn't Resolved 
at Emery

A week of rapidly moving events at the Emery Unified School District including bad press from the Bay Area's LGBTQ community have culminated in a board member announcing she will propose the district draft an official apology for the 1976 firing of an Emery teacher who after gender confirmation surgery, transitioned to a man, ending in his termination for what the district called at the time, “immoral conduct”.  School board member Susan Donaldson said she will propose to her colleagues at the beleaguered district they write an official letter of apology to acknowledge the wrong done by the district against its former employee, Steve Dain in his “unjust firing”.
Emery School Board Member
Susan Donaldson
The announcement comes after the Emeryville City Council last week pledged to rename the street fronting the high school where he taught, Steve Dain Drive’.  The City was moved to action a year after the School Board failed to act on promises to honor Mr Dain in some other capacity following a board vote against naming the school gymnasium after Mr Dain.
Mr Dain died in 2007.

Current board president Brynnda Collins drew the ire of the LGBTQ community and the news outlet, the Bay Area Reporter during the naming debate last year after she reprimanded her colleague, then board president Barbara Inch for proposing the district honor Mr Dain with the gym name at all, calling it abjectly “political”.  She proceeded to call down Mr Dain, telling her colleagues that instead they should name the gym after “a pillar of the community”.  It was a comment that City Council member Patz called “transphobia”.
Ms Collins refused to elaborate or clarify her ‘political’ charge for purposes of this story.

The idea for honoring Mr Dain initially came some six years ago from then board member Christian Patz who learned of the fired teacher that earned ‘teacher of the year’ commendation from the district the year before they fired him.  Mr Patz proposed naming the newly rebuilt gym after Mr Dain who had been a PE teacher at Emery.  The concept did not go over well with his colleagues who subsiquently deep sixed the idea.  It wasn’t until later, after Mr Patz was elected to the Emeryville City Council and his spouse, Barbara Inch was elected to the School Board, the idea was brought up again.  The board however still resisted the idea of naming the gym by fiat with a simple up or down vote as they could have.  Instead the board members voted to consider other people to name the gym after and then do ranked choice voting.  That vote allowed three choices and Steve Dain lost to a former coach at the high school, Elio Abrami.
Board President Brynnda Collins
Naming the school gym after
the former gym teacher

Steve Dain is "political".
Steve Dain came in second place in a field of 12 choices.

Board member Brynnda Collins voted for Mr Dain as her third choice while member Cruz Vargas didn’t vote for Mr Dain at all, offering instead a vote for Steph Curry, a person who has no association with Emery Unified School District.
Mr Vargas refused to return calls from the Tattler.

President Collins, aware of a public relations kerfuffle stemming from last year’s rejection of Mr Dain followed by last week’s City Council street renaming, has been contacting local leaders (and the Tattler) to let them know she is happy the City is renaming 47th Street Steve Dain Drive.  However, she refused to comment to the Tattler whether the District would go ahead with their promise to honor Mr Dain in some other way as they promised they would last year.

Here is a portion of the text of Board Member Donaldson’s letter proposing an official apology from the district:

I will be proposing to the school board that we issue an official letter of apology to Steve Dain’s family regarding his unjust firing in 1976.  I am in support of the city naming a street after him and am so happy to see that honor, but I would like the school board to officially apologize for the action it took many years ago.  As a board, we have updated our policies to reflect that we will provide a "Safe, Nondiscriminatory School Environment for Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming” students and staff.  Now we must be the change that we ask our students to be by acknowledging this wrong from our past and apologizing for it.  There is more work to do, but an apology is a start.

Susan Donaldson
Member, Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees

Elio Abrami Gym Name: Not Political (presumably)
However, the newly named Elio Abrami Gymnasium
will have a Steve Dain Drive address.


  1. This board member is doing the right thing.I hope the rest will too. It's terrible what they did to mr Dains.

  2. I agree that the cause is admirable. Mr. Dain and his reputation got treated very badly. But, there is too much time spent on a matter that happened last century; and, this Board is presiding over a budget that is hemorrhaging. Let's pay attention to some more important current problems! Thank you.

    1. This sounds like it came from the school board (except Susan D). What’s this talk of too much time spent? How long could it take to write a letter? 15 minutes? And how much time did the board spend deciding on naming the gym after Abrami? The district is hemorrhaging money but the board spends the better part of an entire meeting picking who to name the gym after. It was OK to do that but not apologize for a bigoted breach of the public trust after ruining a teacher’s life? There’s some serious soul searching that needs to be done at this district.

    2. Apologizing is sooo last century. Now that the gym has been named, it's time to move on to more important things. If this commenter is right, this district can't walk and chew gum at the same time apparently so it's budget business only until the next diversion the board majority feels it can score points with.
      I certainly hope these sentiments penned by Mr Anonymous aren't from a board member even as I realize it could have been. I hope the board sees the exigency of Ms Donaldson's values affirming idea.
      The Tattler will report on this evolving story.