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Monday, November 16, 2015

Our Galling Emery School Board President

School Board President Gets Schooled

Affeldt's Fake Mandate
School Board President John Affeldt
Less than 50% of Emeryville voters
cast their ballot for him.
He considers that a mandate for the 

ECCL that he can use 
against dissenters.
We have joined with parents and residents dismayed over School Board President John Affeldt's heavy handed tactics as he has shut down dissent over the closing of Emeryville's elementary school in obeisance to the 'K-12' model for the Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL).  Recent statements, arrogant and impolitic in their nature proclaimed from the dais by President Affeldt have left many stunned, us included.  One remembers one didactic Marie Antoinette-like comment made from him that citizens are free to speak for their three minutes at Board meetings about saving Anna Yates Elementary School but that it would be to no avail; Mr Affeldt had already made up his mind; he will close the popular school, he told a shocked audience last spring.  It was but one take down of citizen engagement by Mr Affeldt.

This kind of blinkered bullying has left us baffled (even though he later apologized for the conjuring up of Ms Antoinette); what would drive a public school board president, hired to listen to parents and citizen's concerns, to be so harshly dismissive and unwilling to countenance differing views, especially by those of parents?

A recent missive, penned by President Affeldt in the form of a comment to a critical story about the Center of 'Community' Life in a Columbia University Education website, the Hechinger Report, sheds much light on Mr Affeldt's perplexingly tyrannical tenure as Board President.  As he discredits critics as "the vocal minority", it would appear, John Affeldt has taken much by way of a demand for public deference owing to what he sees as a mandate by the Emeryville electorate.

Mr Affeldt's written comment to the Hechinger Report reveals a lot; he makes some bold claims about public support for the Center of 'Community' Life and even more hyperbolic claims about his campaign support.  The Hechinger report moderator and engagement editor corrects the erroneous  claims made by Mr Affeldt, and we take him on over his talk of a mandate:
From the Hechinger Report comment section on the story on the ECCL:

Ms. Spencer, you are not correct to say that the two new members of the City council campaigned against the ECCL plan. I endorsed both Dianne and Scott with the assurance that they were supportive of the direction the City and the school district were pursuing together and, as well, they endorsed me in my school board race where completing the ECCL project was a key platform piece. Since the election, both council members have worked positively moving forward. In my own election, 97% of voters (approximately1255/1286 voters) supported me and my platform in support of the ECCL project. The other newly elected school board member, Donn Merriam, is a school architect who also ran on making ECCL work and who has consistently supported the effort.

  • Avatar

    Hi John,
    I apologize for the delay in responding to you and publishing your comment. I've reached out to Kyle Spencer our author on this story to ask her about her conversations with the two new members of the city council, Diane Martinez and Scott Donahue.
    Here's what she said:
    "Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue both spoke to me on the record saying they had concerns about the city's current ECCL plan. They were also reported saying this in at least one interview during the lead up to the city council election."
    Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment with your concerns.
    Lillian Mongeau
    Engagement Editor

But that is not the only piece of misinformation from President Affeldt's comment.  If we look at his platform from his ballot statement as he ran for School Board:

My education and qualifications are: I am Vice-President of the Emery Unified School District Board. My son is beginning his fourth year at Anna Yates where I was vice-chair of the School Site Council before joining the Board in 2012. After graduating with honors from Stanford undergrad and Harvard Law School, I became an attorney at Public Advocates. For 23 years there, I have worked to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color in California. I have twice been recognized by statewide publications as an Attorney of the Year (2005 & 2010) for this work. As a lead counsel on one landmark case, I helped negotiate a 2004 settlement with the State guaranteeing California’s students sufficient instructional materials, decent facilities and qualified teachers, particularly for English learners, securing over $1 billion to support these requirements. I am currently lead counsel on another case, challenging the State for grossly underfunding California schools. On the Board, I have worked to improve public accountability, parent and student engagement, and communication with teacher leadership. We are building a new full service community school to integrate education, health, and community services that stands to serve as a national model. I ask for your support in continuing this important work.”

The Center of 'Community' Life is not a key platform in his campaign.  He does not mention the ECCL by name, nor does talk about closing Anna Yates Elementary School.  He talks about a community school and national models, but that is after talking about accountability, communication, and engagement.  How has he done on that front?  He gets an 'F' at our school.

Let’s look at the 97% mandate that he claims the election gave him.  Donn Merriam, who did run on an ECCL platform, received 730 votes, only 30 more than former Board incumbent Miguel Dwin, the strongest proponent of the ECCL.   John Affeldt on the other hand received 1,255 votes* or 97% of the possible 1286 possible votes.  But why 1286?  In Emeryville, 2,524 people voted* for gubernatorial candidate.  For the school bond measure, 2,279 people voted*.  This means that less than 50% of the people that voted cast their ballot for John Affeldt.  Even if we just look at the number of people that voted for education issues (the parcel tax), Mr Affeldt received 55% of the vote.  Donn Merriam, again who campaigned as a proponent of the ECCL, received less than a third of the vote.  Miguel Dwin, the loser, even fewer.
The election was not mandate for the ECCL (or for Mr Affeldt), but a reflection of the community’s tepid interest in the schools of Emeryville. The ECCL is over budget, late and just as unpopular as ever.  If Mr Affeldt had ever shown any interest, even intellectual curiosity about public opinion over the ECCL instead of using his position to quash dissent, he might have been more aware and he might not have issued such impolitic and harsh rebukes against the public he would have to later apologize for.  Gall is a word that is apropos at this point.

*from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.


  1. He also proved he wasn't listening when parents recently pleaded with the Board not to close Anna Yates. Two speakers that night: Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue, both speaking in favor of keeping Anna Yates open. Yet in his comment he continues to put forward the idea that they're behind him 100%. Wake up!

    He's also stuck in the same rut that we couldn't have a "community" school and ALSO keep Anna Yates open. Nothing about the one precludes the other unless your plan all along to fund the community school was by selling or renting Anna Yates, something that's even more unpopular than closing it.

  2. His "Mandate" is much like the "Mandate" that Prop "J" got, to fund the unnecessary
    ECCL. It was sneaked in, and all the rats have since abandoned ship! I guess it's
    only money.