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Sunday, February 17, 2013

School Board Violates Agreement: Not Interested in Real Public Participation

Emery Agrees to International Body's Principles Before Election,
Later Rejects Them 

The Tattler has reported on the many ways the Emery School Board has subverted community engagement as the School District rebuilds the schools and builds Emeryville Center of Community Life after voters passed the Measure J school bond in 2010.  It's important that citizens should know the extent of the School District's disingenuousness on this score.  However many residents might not remember just how ensconced the idea of community engagement is in the language of the Measure they approved.

As the School Board wrote the text of Measure J, they sought to enhance the perception of the school re-build process by association with the International Association for Public Participation (IAPP or IAP2); a group set up to help organizations and governments improve transparency, most notably in the developing world.
The International Association for Public Participation requires organizations such as Emery Unified School District that seek the well documented legitimizing effects of IAPP recognition, to accept its Core Values.  The School District placed these, the seven Core Values, directly in the Measure J language:

Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation
  1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Public participation includes the promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision.
  3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
  4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

To anyone paying attention, the intervening years since the Measure J election have made these seven Core Values laughable coming from the Emery Unified School Board.

Core Values Subverted
Last year, Western Australia received
accolades from the IAPP.
Emery's chances for 2013 are probably
pretty low given the fact they
torpedoed the Core Values.
In the following two years since the Measure J vote, the School Board has proceeded to violate these Core Values on several fronts.  Central to these violations is the rejection, by the Board, to allow public debate on the question of closing the existing Anna Yates Elementary School.
The Board moved to actively stop a group, more than 70 petitioners strong, that expressed desire to save the school.  The group merely requested an audience and public forum to make their case that Anna Yates is worth saving.  They wanted the School District to set aside time for this debate in the design phase of the Center of Community Life, something that had been promised by the School Board before the election. The petitioners wanted the Board to seriously entertain the idea that the elementary school is worth saving and to allow the debate to flourish and be fleshed out.
By torpedoing the 70 petitioners and many other acts of authoritarian suppression during the ironically named and much touted Center of Community Life "community engagement" period, now concluded, Emery Unified School District violated its own self imposed public participation principles.

School Board Must be Made to Account
After the Board voted last November to end its own internal discussion and forward the build out of the schools portion of the Center of Community Life, it's now too late to engage in public participation.  But the subversion of public participation by this Board should not go unchallenged.  We join what seems to be a rising chorus of Emeryville residents calling for some public accounting at the School District.  The School Board must be made to answer for its outrageous anti-democratic behavior in its quashing of dissenters.
The move to make Emeryville elections on even years, recently voted on by the city council, makes it especially troubling with regard to the School Board it should be added.  As the School District gloms onto the City Hall move to increase council member's terms, the School Board members will also get a bonus year added to their terms, putting off for another year, any accountability to the people of Emeryville.  This makes citizen action, a call for accountability, even more pressing.

The citizens should not blindly accept this lack of accountability at the School Board.  The "our way or the highway" we're getting from them is intolerable.  The law gives us options.  We should explore the options made available to us.

1 comment:

  1. You should tell this international group that the school board has violated the agreement. They might want to revoke their certification. Tell me where to sign to get rid of the board.