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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wareham to Receive $208,000 in Public Funds

Council Gives Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Gift of Public Money

Corporate Profits Remain Private But Risk is Made Public

Mayor Scott Donahue
Giving Wareham $200,000
of the people's money is nice
but $500,000 would be better.
In an unprecedented act of City Hall-to-developer largess in a city long known for its extraordinary generosity to developers, the Emeryville City Council, acting on a recommendation from the staff, voted Tuesday to give a lavish gift of $208,000 in public money to Rich Robbins of Wareham Development Corporation for the controversial 'Transit Center' project on Horton Street.  The City will write a check to Wareham, drawn from public funds because Mr Robbins, the CEO of Wareham and a major player among developers in town, thinks it's unfair to him that the City increased its development impact fees before the Transit Center was finished and that he should get any additional money he paid returned to him.  The final amount agreed to by the City Council Tuesday ends the contested cash back request from Mr Robbins begun in January when he asked the City for $729,000.

Councilwoman Ally Medina felt Rich Robbins' pain Tuesday night and argued to give Wareham $208,000, however her two colleagues Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez thought Ms Medina was too stingy with the people's money and held out for a gift of $500,000 instead; the amount recommended by staff.  All three pointed to the public benefits the citizens will reap from the Transit Center project.  The City Attorney, Michael Guina reminded the Council members that returning the money to Mr Robbins is strictly voluntary and they are under no legal obligation to do so but that fell on deaf ears among the majority on the Council.
Ms Medina's argument ultimately held sway and the City of Emeryville will now write a check for $208,420 to Mr Robbins for building the project the Planning Commission twice voted down due to its "lack of public benefit".  The two figures bandied about Tuesday night ($208,000 and $500,000) represent two visions of what was characterized as "fair" by their respective City Council champions Tuesday but neither had any legal basis, opening up the City to possible lawsuits from other developers similarly taxed and looking to be made whole.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Yes, let's make it a cool half million.

Mayor Donahue told the Tattler after the final vote, "Fees are paid or improvements are made to provide a city for reimbursement for public services.  When infrastructure is provided that the fees pay for, having that fee is a kind of double charge."  The Mayor added the cash back to Rich Robbins is "prudent" and speculating about future Wareham development projects in Emeryville, he cautioned, "We'll have to negotiate with Rich in the future (for our benefit)."
Councilwoman Medina expanded on the idea of "fairness" after the vote, stating she felt constrained by "the intent of [the City of Emeryville's] credit policy for transit impact fees' regardless of the City Attorney's concise release from any such (legal) constraint.

The dissenting Council members, John Bauters and Christian Patz, relied on the City Attorney's view and also the need for future transit public infrastructure improvements.  Mr Bauters reminded everyone of the considerable impacts the Transit Center will bring, especially as pertains to bike safety with the glut of cars from the 823 parking spaces the project will provide, "We're going to put a lot of cars on [the Horton Street] Bike Boulevard" he said noting the money, fungible as it is, could help ameliorate that safety issue and help other transit needs the City has.
For her part, Ms Martinez agreed the Transit Center will have a negative impact but she said she is more concerned with being "fair" to Mr Robbins.
Councilwoman Ally Medina
After what the City Attorney said,
$500,000 might sound too generous...
Let's settle on $200,000.

Mr Bauters noted developers, when they put together a project, take a risk that a municipality might change the rules (including the fee schedule) and they are not required to be made whole following such a public policy change.  "Development equals risk" he said Tuesday, raising the specter of the much derided federal government's fealty to Wall Street and their propensity to help them keep corporate profits private while socializing the risk.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teacher Retention Story at Emery Draws Fire: Jobs Numbers Cloudy

The teacher retention story we posted on March 18th has generated many questions, as Emeryville residents feel let down yet again by the School District.  Certain people at Emery Unified felt the story was misleading.  At the Tattler, we take pride in telling both sides of the story and printing retractions when we are wrong or corrections when needed.  Information coming in from Emery independent of listings in a California education jobs resource contradicts it and at this point it's not clear exactly how many teacher positions the District is looking to fill.  The Superintendent refuses to talk with the Tattler.  One thing that IS clear however is the basic charge of the story, that Emery faces a teacher retention crisis, still stands.

First and foremost the Tattler did not make up facts for this story as the critics at the School District imply, for the March 18th story we printed the publicly available numbers from School Board meetings and Edjoin, the education job clearing house in California.  Our search of Edjoin listed 18 job positions representing 35 vacancies at Emery.  When we contacted Superintendent Rubio for a second source, he chose not to respond.  His assistant has now asserted that there are only seven vacancies in the District.  The table below lists the jobs posting.  Either the District is falsely advertising jobs, lying, or both.  The Tattler believes both, as they have five different listings for an Elementary Art position. 

Position being recruited
Counting as
MS science
Listed with HS position
HS science
Listed with MS position
5 different listings
Elementary 1-3
Ad states 3 openings
Elementary 4-6
Ad states 3 openings
MS math
Listed with HS position
HS math
Listed with MS position
HS English
Listed with HS position
MS English
Listed with MS position
Ad states 3 openings
MS Social Science
Single listing
Special Education
Single listing, likely more needed

Edjoin lists the following for certificated positions in Emery:
"Your search returned  18  job postings for a total of  35  job vacancies. Please click a job title below for detailed information about a specific posting. You can sort your results in both directions (ascending/descending) by clicking on a column header."

It is possible that a majority of the posted positions are anticipated and not actually vacant, yet if the district only has seven vacancies, why have they posted 12 different job titles? 

The question the community most asked as a result of the March 18th story is what do neighboring districts have posted.  Some said the large numbers at Emery are because of the general teacher shortage or this is just how education is today.  Looking at neighboring school district's jobs postings clears this up.
Looking at Edjoin, the neighboring districts to Emery had significantly fewer positions listed.   A search of Edjoin on March 20, 2017 showed only Oakland had more job opportunities posted.  However Oakland has 500 times the number of teachers but only ten times the number of postings but also, Oakland is in a hiring freeze at the moment. (Teacher FTE sourcing comes from the California Department of Education reports in 2015 except for Emery which comes from the Emery Board meeting on March 7, 2017 'fiscal assumptions'.)

Teacher Postings
Teacher FTE
Percent Open

The Tattler welcomes Superintendent Rubio to provide a written response as to why Emery is advertising positions that are filled.  He has at his fingertips all of the staff that were employed at the start of this school year and all of the teachers that have left or will leave the district at the end of the year.  Based on the personnel actions from the School Board meetings this school year, several teachers have left mid year, Mr Rubio can add to that the number of teachers that have resigned or been given non-reelection letters.  California law requires teachers to be notified by March 15 if they are being let go at the end of the year.  Most districts allow teachers to resign instead of being fired.  Other teachers may choose to give notice later after they have found a new job, so the numbers will not represent everyone, but will tell the story.
We invite Superintendent to take public account of his record on teacher retention by engaging with the community rather than shutting down engagement.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Failure: Teacher Retention Project at Emery Schools

Teachers Head For The Exits at Emery Unified
 School District

Newly Built Schools & Parcel Tax Notwithstanding
Emery Can Not Hang On to Its Teachers

News Analysis/Opinion
Will Emery Unified School District ever deliver on its promise to educate?
We've certainly done our part; Emeryville voters have up until now given Emery Unified School District whatever it asks for, be it bonds or a parcel tax.  What about the other side of the partnership?  When is Emery Unified going to deliver a school we can send our kids to?  

The success of a school or school district can be judged on many levels, academic achievement (test scores), employee satisfaction or turnover, balanced budgets, among other items.  Emery Unified specifically has made teacher retention a priority and the district extended a parcel tax, Measure K (2014) who's ballot language stated unequivocally: to recruit and retain qualified experienced 
teachers and staff.  Emery's Superintendent John Rubio, has failed on all these counts even with new school buildings at the Center of 'Community' Life and the extra parcel tax funds.  This invariably has a negative impact on the students that go to our schools.

"There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Emery Unified reported in their budget update in March 2017, that there are 53 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions or “Certificated Staff”, which could include a Speech Therapist, Psychologist, and Nurse.  Currently, there are 21 vacancies posted for the “Certificated Staff” for 2017-18 school year at Emery Unified (see keywords: emery unified).  They are also looking for 10 Substitute Teachers.  They're going to need them.
This does not reflect well on a district of Emery’s size.  It is clear that there is a not a positive working environment, teacher morale is low and something is deeply wrong.  The departure of two teachers at Anna Yates during the middle of this school year is especially troubling.
One would be bright spot at Emery it was noted is a decrease in the payroll budget, however given that new teachers (and less experienced teachers) are paid less and this is responsible for the decrease, any good news is substantially attenuated.  
Emery Unified Schools Superintendent John Rubio
From his histrionic December 2016
letter to the Emeryville community:
"Last spring, we carefully paper screened over 250
teacher applicants to hire the best and the brightest
teachers we could find for your children."

Emery Unified has not delivered on its promise to Emeryville's voters who passed the Measure K parcel tax.  It is not recruiting nor retaining the number of quality teachers our kids deserve. Administration staff also plays a role in the stability of a school. With only one Administrative vacancy, this would appear to be progress. However, the posted position is for the elementary school principal and represents the third elementary Principal in as many years.  Add to that two high school principals, two curriculum directors, and the turnover in administrators at the critical positions is just as high.   It also begs the question, how are Measure K parcel tax funds not being spent on Administrator salaries (as required by law) when there are more administrators than recommended by the state.  Why a district of Emery’s size requires twelve administrators is unclear. That is one administrator for every 57 students (based on an enrollment of 682 students).

From Emery USD March 2017 budget report:
Posted Jobs
Posted Vacancies
Certificate (teachers)

* The classified positions are all for coaches and don't speak to employee satisfaction.

Why does this matter?  Because pedagogical experts and ordinary Emeryville citizens know that teachers are the key to academic achievement.  When 40% of your Certificated (teaching) staff need to be recruited for the upcoming school year, it raises eyebrows.  What can we expect our student progress towards math and english proficiency to look like this year?   We will find out our State scores in August.

This year, Superintendent John Rubio will be ending his third year with Emery Unified and given there are only 71 non-management positions, that is one manager for every six employees, six and half if you don't count the Superintendent.  With a school district that top heavy, we should expect some accountability for the unacceptable current state of affairs at Emery Unified School District.  Current Emeryville City Council member and former School Board Trustee Christian Patz, who during his Board tenure often publicly jousted with the Superintendent spoke to the obvious, "When I voted against renewing Dr Rubio's contract, I did so because I was aware of the negative culture in the district.  Teachers and administrators told me they feared retaliation if they spoke out.  There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Superintendent Rubio refused to comment for this story.
This is what we get for all the money we've spent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emeryville Loses Summary Judgment in Yuvette Henderson Case

Judge Says Reasonable Person Could Surmise Police Used Excessive Force in Shooting

Federal Judge Donna Ryu ruled earlier this week against the City of Emeryville's request for a summary judgment in the civil wrongful death case brought by the family of Yuvette Henderson who was shot and killed by an Emeryville police officer in 2015, an action that will either bring a trial or a settlement.  In a sharply worded 20 page ruling, Judge Ryu threw out the request brought by the police to dismiss the case based on an internal EPD investigation in 2016 that cleared the police of any wrongdoing.

Federal Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu
Yuvette Henderson was "six feet away from her gun" 
and "turned away from it" when the 
Emeryville police officer fired the kill shot.
Judge Ryu noted a jury could plausibly decide Yuvette Henderson was wrongly killed because "Henderson did not pose an immediate threat to [the police officers] and because she was unarmed and wounded and because although she carried a gun, she had not previously fired or aimed at [the officers]."  The Judge added it is plausible a jury could reasonably decide the Emeryville police use of lethal force was "unreasonable and excessive" and that the officers had "several reasonable alternatives to lethal force."  Additionally, Judge Ryu noted forensic evidence and witness accounts contradicting the police version of events could plausibly sway a jury.
The Emeryville Police Department's 'not guilty' conclusion arrived after the investigation conducted by the police against itself wrought the civil case brought by the Henderson family, a criminal conviction having been precluded.
As a result of Judge Ryu's ruling, the case will now either go to trial or it will be settled and that decision will be made on March 28th.
An Emeryville taxpayer funded compensation looms as a likely scenario, attorneys following the case told the Tattler Monday.
Public interest in the Yuvette Henderson case
has not waned since the 2015 shooting.  A
large crowd waited for entry into Judge Ryu's
 courtroom for the summary judgment hearing
last month.

RULE Meeting

From RULE:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors.

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., March 18, 10:00 - 12:00


         -Council Member Dianne Martinez is our guest speaker

          -Planning and goals for RULE in 2017

Bring breakfast and tea provided
See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee