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Thursday, October 2, 2014

RULE Survey: Emery School Board Candidate John Affeldt

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), a public citizens activist group that works for Emeryville resident empowerment, interviewed all four candidates running for the Emery School Board in the November 4th election.  Below, the Tattler presents the first in a four part series presenting the Emery School Board candidates participating in the RULE survey.  The four will be highlighted in alphabetical order, running every other day in the Tattler (or thereabouts).

Emery School Board Candidate John Affeldt

John Affeldt is currently an Emery School Board member, appointed to the position in July 2012.  This will be Mr Affeldt's first time facing Emeryville voters in a School Board election.  The voters are to pick from three of the four candidates running.  Here are John Affeldt's answers to the RULE survey:

1. What is your view of charter schools? How should the District respond to any applications it might receive to create a charter school within District boundaries?
Any applications received must be reviewed objectively according to the statutory requirements.  My personal view of charters is that they best function as pockets of experimentation to generate innovative practices which can then be taken back for use in the traditional public school setting.  Such was the original intention behind charters when they were originated in the early 1990’s as a result of advocacy from the American Federation of Teachers.  I do not see charters, as some do, as an alternative to the public school system.  Charters have not been good at creating sustainable systems of schools that have successfully been able to educate “all comers,” particularly all the low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities that public schools accept.  As for Emeryville in particular, we are small enough that we ought to be able to experiment and innovate within the traditional public school model.

2. What, in your view, is the primary mission of the District?
The primary mission of the District is the same one that is in our State Constitution and which I have fought to enforce as an education advocate statewide for the last 23 years:  to provide every child with an education that provides them with the opportunity to participate successfully in our economy, in our democratic and civic institutions, and in our diverse society. 

3. As an individual trustee, how would you want to interact with
teachers? Would you want to meet with teachers as a group, individually, and if so, how frequently? Or would you primarily rely on the superintendent or public Board meetings to communicate with teachers?
As a board member, I have regularly engaged in conversations with teachers that I know and see on a day-to-day basis in classrooms, in the hall, or at School site council meetings.  I have responded positively to every invitation I have received from teachers for after-hours meetings, be it for beers at Lanesplitters, a retirement party, or a ball game.  Where necessary, I have reached out to teacher leadership to keep communication lines open.

4. What is the appropriate role of standardized tests? How would you use the scores? Should scores be used to evaluate the performance of
administrators or teachers?
Standardized test scores are an important but imperfect indicator of student growth in learning.  Important judgments about students, teachers, or schools should not be based solely on standardized test scores.  Rather, any such judgments should be based on multi-dimensional, holistic evidence of student, teacher, or school performance.  I have been a supporter of California’s recent shift away from a test-centric accountability system to a more multi-dimensional one.  See a blog I wrote ( and a list of principles I helped draft as part of the 100-member national Coalition for Teaching Quality which I helped form.  Principle 3 addresses teacher evaluation. (; also see generally 

5. In recent years the District has fired or reduced the hours of some
staff in favor of outsourcing school services such as the breakfast and
lunch programs. When is it appropriate to outsource an existing school
service? What factors should guide these decisions?
The primary factor is always what is in the best interest of our students’ education.  Board members need constantly to analyze how the District can best maximize students’ educational opportunities.  Food service, for example, is a cost that is not fully covered by federal and state funds and by students who pay for meals.  Thus, the cost of meals “encroaches” on the District’s general fund and the educational programs we provide.  In order to maximize our instructional services, it has made sense to look to less expensive alternative ways to provide high quality, nutritional meals to our students.

6. What role should a Trustee play in District fund-raising from
businesses, non-profits, and grant-making institutions?
Board members can play an effective role in serving as a cheerleader for the District; this can include raising funds from outside entities like businesses or foundations.  I have reached out to foundation funders that I know on the District’s behalf where appropriate and have participated in helping to brief a funder on the District’s vision and programs.

7. The District controls three properties. How should it allocate
resources amongst these properties? Assuming the completion of the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) in 2016 and the use of the San Pablo Avenue site for K-12 instruction and administrative offices, what should the District do with the Anna Yates and Ralph Hawley sites?
Before I joined the Board, the Ralph Hawley site was designated for 0-5 preschool educational activities by the Board.  As such it is currently housing a very strong YMCA Head Start program.  The precise use of the current Anna Yates site is still under consideration.  Some of the ideas that I have heard floated include post-secondary job-training programs, housing County Office of Education teacher training programs, additional after-school and recreation program space and a future K-3 or K-5 site should the ECCL site become over-subscribed down the line, among others.  The District and the City have appointed a Task Force largely made up of community members to make recommendations regarding the future possible uses for the Anna Yates site and of the current Rec Center site post-ECCL.  That work has currently been put on hold while the City considers its priorities.  However we precisely proceed, the vision should be one in which we utilize all three sites to support the broader educational needs of our whole community, from preschool through to K-12 and beyond, if possible.

8. Should Emeryville schools receive contributions directly, or should they be managed by a third party?
Whatever maximizes support for the District and our students.  It seems, for example, that the Emery Ed Fund has often been an effective conduit for increasing business and at times foundation support for the District.  If a funder prefers to contribute directly to the District and that can be accomplished effectively, then that route makes sense.


  1. What is this blog? All John Affeldt all the time?

  2. It's alphabetical order. His name begins with an A.