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Sunday, July 30, 2017

We Need a New Schools Superintendent: Time For Rubio To Go

Three Board Members Hold Emery's Future in Their Hands

It has become increasingly clear that it is time for the Emery School Board to fire Emery Schools Superintendent John Rubio.
Seemingly every week, fresh revelations centered on the Superintendent brings the drip, drip, drip of more scandal to a District that's already up to its neck in it.
This last week we are spectators to the ECCL warranty train wreak: the Superintendent hiding the fact that the District only has a few months left on the construction warranty for the new ECCL schools/community center campus, the remainders of just one year, after assuring us for months we would have two full years.  Taxpayers will likely be left holding the bag on a poorly built project, with no recompense because we'll have run out of time to effect repairs under warranty.
A thorough investigation of the construction defects at the ECCL, actively (albeit reluctantly) under discussion by the Board, becomes more imperative with the revelation of the new time constraint.  But in a one-two punch to the taxpayers, this is unlikely because of obstinacy from the Superintendent.  As such, Mr Rubio let his insubordination flag fly last month when he told the Board that he wouldn't be willing to do work towards initiating any audit of the ECCL project, neither construction, performance nor financial.

It was pretty unseemly hearing a superintendent tell his employers he won't do as he's told but three years into the Rubio administration at Emery, we weren't really surprised.  Before last week's scandals, Mr Rubio has been called out for racism by the teachers, accused of breaking the law by hindering transparency by community members, chastised by a City Council member for not paying taxes for the District, failed to provide required documents to the press, booed by parents at an after school celebration (!), charged with holding secret white staff only interviews, and yet another teacher has resigned from the district, despite the Superintendent's assertion that would not happen, bringing the total this school year (2016-2017) to fourteen, fifteen if you include the Elementary Principal.
That degradation only adds to another Rubio fiasco; the deplorable state of teacher retention at Emery, the worst of any school district in the entire Bay Area on his watch.  And of course we shouldn't leave out mention of the 'mandated reporter' scandal; Superintendent Rubio's failing to call police after two reported cases of student sexual assault on campus.  Parents believed their children's accounting and went to the police with the assault allegations on their own but the Superintendent said the students were lying and he never notified the police of the incidents as the law states he must (please use the search bar above for more information on all these scandals).

Indeed, Mr Rubio's entire term here at Emery has been one scandal after another, starting his first week on the job when, without even a cursory public records check,  he hired a well documented sexual predator to serve as principal of the elementary school, costing the District almost $100,000.  Mr Rubio's penchant for secrecy net Emery at least two disparaging newspaper articles by the East Bay Times after he orchestrated a major Brown Act violation.  He was caught holding a behind closed doors meeting in his office with a Board quorum before a regularly scheduled Board meeting.  Under discussion at the secret meeting were fiscal matters, as the District was preparing to sell another municipal bond. After at first lying about the meeting, he later apologized after the East Bay Times made hay of it.

As reported in the Tattler, on June 15th, nine individuals spoke to Rubio's racism and incompetence. Board members Donn Merriam, Cruz Vargas, and Bailey Langer sat in disinterested silence as the parade of disgruntled educators described the toxic environment Rubio has created at the ECCL.  Given the number of speakers and information covered, Mr Rubio took the video of the meeting home to "prepare the minutes." The result was a white wash of the Board minutes; all reference to his poor job performance scrubbed from the official record of the meeting.  
The Board's refusal to rewrite the minutes to accurately document the teacher's charges against Mr Rubio tells us this Board majority isn't interested in doing the work needed to provide a base level of stability or competency any education agency needs to properly function, let alone teach children.  
And that is at the root of Emery's existential problems; a deluded and compliant board majority in the thrall of a dysfunctional superintendent.  Outwardly, this is a seemingly intractable problem for Emery.  That's why we need to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of this thing; cause a change up.  We've been demoralized having now had two bad superintendents in a row.  But we don't believe in fate or the turpitude of original sin.  We're not paying now for some past horrific transgression; we can find a good superintendent for this beleaguered school district.  There are good people out there, we could find one.  Any change in leadership will almost certainly bring relief to the long suffering citizens, teachers, parents and children of Emery Unified.

For these reasons, we call on Board members Donn Merriam, Cruz Vargas, and Bailey Langner, so far inextricably standing by the Superintendent, to acquiesce to the ceaseless drip, drip, drip and fire Rubio now for cause (plenty of that) as opposed to waiting out the end of his contract.

Bailey Langner
Donn Merriam

Cruz Vargas

The three Board members above need to stop looking out after the interests of John Rubio and start looking out after our interests: citizens, parents and children.  We don't deserve all this chaos.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oops! Construction Warranty on New $100 Million School Covers One Year, Not Two

Forced into a corner, Emeryville School Superintendent John Rubio reveals construction warranty ends in a 
matter of months.

By Lillian Schroth

Emeryville School Superintendent John Rubio notified the School Board and City Council Monday that the construction warranty on the city’s new $100 million school campus – plagued by ongoing construction problems since it opened last fall – expires in just a few short months.

This despite repeated public assurances from Rubio and the liaison for builder Turner Construction that any problems with the city-school project, known as the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL), would be covered under warranty through 2018.
Superintendent John Rubio
Claims he "just found out."

Perhaps more surprising is Rubio’s failure to notify the School Board and City Council sooner. Despite the looming deadline, and a long list of needed repairs, Rubio sat on the information for weeks. In fact, he shared the news only after repeated questioning from this reporter, saying he "just found out."

Rubio disclosed the truth Monday night after a meeting of the Measure J Citizens Oversight Committee (COC), which is charged with monitoring school project expenditures. After the meeting, several COC members were questioned about significant, ongoing issues with the building. COC member Josh Simon, former Emeryville School Board President and director of a non-profit that builds affordable housing, said it was important that the district submit a “warranty list” within year one of the warranty to ensure repairs are made.

When asked when that first year of the two-year warranty was up, Rubio said he wasn't sure. When pressed, he said “I think” the entire warranty is actually only one year (not two) from the time construction was completed last fall. He also suggested that the warranty period might be different for different buildings. For example, the gym was the first building to be completed, he said, so the warranty for that would expire first.

When asked if he had told the School Board, he said “I think I told one or two members.”

Shortly after the Monday evening discussion, Rubio sent an email to the entire School Board and City Council notifying them of the update. He explained there had been a "miscommunication" around the length of the warranty.

“It’s Kind of a Big Mistake”

Rubio insisted that he had “just found out,” as did John Baker of Swinerton Construction, the high-priced middle man between the School District and Turner. Baker was tasked with monitoring, negotiating, and communicating construction details and costs. The School District recently closed out the Swinerton/Baker contract for more than $1 million.

“It’s kind of a big mistake,” Rubio said Monday of Baker’s failure to know and/or communicate the limited warranty period.

In a follow up email exchange today, Rubio explains:

I didn’t recall specifically how this came to light so I went back to search my email and discovered it was a conversation that you actually prompted in mid-May as an email question to John Baker.
This resulted in a conversation between him and Turner, where Turner told John Baker it was a 1 year warranty.
That later resulted in another response that Swinerton disagreed and had different documents that showed 2 years.
I asked an attorney who reviewed their email (and … was involved in the ECCL construction contract negotiations between the city, district and Turner in 2014), and he was able to identify and confirm that outside of items specifically calling for longer warranties (e.g. the roof), all other areas fall under a one year warranty. 

John Baker, the $1 Million Man
Despite his very expensive advice and
monitoring, the School District
suffered costly mistakes.
Perhaps he was one of them.
John Baker’s May 19th response to the email question cited by Rubio above: “The warranty started at Final Completion (12/5/16). The Lease-leaseback contract stipulates a 2-year warranty period.” He never followed up with the public, the School Board or the City Council, when he realized his mistake.

It is possible that Baker, and perhaps Rubio, knew much sooner. During a March 25 School Board meeting, Baker presented a slide that showed the warranty expiring at the end of this year. Rubio nor the School Board questioned it. When a local resident did, Baker said it was a “typo.”

In a series of progress reports to the Board prior to March, Baker said the project was covered under a two-year warranty.

In an email sent today, Rubio said “city staff and I have confirmed that the warranty period allows us to submit items up until 12/5/17.”

He added, “It’s my understanding that the standard for construction projects of this size only usually have a 1-year warranty.”

Two Year Warranty(?)
John Baker presentation slide to the School Board
August 24th, 2016
He said there are several items that have longer, manufacturer warranties including door hardware and “Package Terminal” air conditioners.

Two Year Warranty(?)
John Baker presentation slide to the School Board
January 25th, 2017
Following are Rubio’s email answers to questions about the warranty period, the warranty list, including rusting gates, and a possible audit of Measure J/ECCL funds. (The exchange has been edited down for readability.)

Q: When did you make the call on the metal to be used on the gates? … So, you got ungalvanized when it was supposed to be galvanized?

A: I am upset by this issue. The city and district had a long list of items we considered to save money. It was not, unfortunately, ever pointed out to me or the city staff that the original gates/gate design came back into the project (and I believe off of the budget savings list) in a different form that meant that they would not be galvanized – and more importantly, no one explained or communicated the implications or importance of this. In other words, I don’t believe I was ever specifically asked to make a decision about the gates as one particular item (i.e. they were part of a very long list of potential savings items), and certainly I wasn’t informed of the pro’s or con’s (or any information that I recall) regarding this. If you were told otherwise, I think that’s false. Turner is being responsive to this issue and they are returning in the next couple weeks to redo the gates.

Q. How much did we pay John Baker and what was his formal job title/role/responsibility?

A. I am not aware of his salary – or what other projects or jobs he managed besides ECCL during our project. The overall budget for everything going into this project seemed to me to be always set to be as low as possible to attempt to keep the project below a specific amount the council had in mind for several years – that seemed to be the mindset when I arrived - the problem (or reality) was that the economy and thus bay area construction costs were quickly going up when the project was finally approved in August of 2014 – so the amount paid to Swinerton, Turner, and all the subs I think created some limitations to the amount of time and staff (and design) of the project.

Q. One more thing - you said you were organizing some kind of meeting with all the people involved in the project - architects, turner, etc. What is the purpose and what school board meeting is it scheduled for? Are you thinking this is in place of an audit?

A. I haven’t made progress on this yet, but I was planning on having all of the entities present to the board and take questions so the board could determine if they believed an audit was needed. 


Lillian Schroth is a journalist, activist and founder/editor of The Secret News, a local blog (currently on hiatus).  She has lived in Emeryville for 14 years.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wreaking Ball to Take Out More Single Family Homes in Emeryville's 'Zone of Stability'

Planning Director Charlie Bryant:
Mum's the Word on the Zones of Stability

He Thinks it's Best if Decision Makers are Kept in the Dark

News Analysis

Will someone get up and change the record? It keeps skipping, playing the same thing over and over.

Next up for the wreaking ball in Emeryville are two existing adjacent single family homes on Doyle Street, to be replaced with a six-plex condo scheme, divided into to two three-plexes siding a mews.  And the whole thing is aided by a City Staff that thinks it's best if the Planning Commission deciders don't know that the homes in question are in a planning zone meant to save this housing stock.  It's a story that keeps repeating in Emeryville: the decision makers are kept in the dark about dictates from the General Plan while developers keep tearing down single family homes despite a specific proclamation in the General Plan that this stock of homes in the 'zone of stability' area are to be saved.
The newest proposed development, called the Doyle Street Mews at 5876 and 5880 Doyle Street also increases density beyond what the General Plan allows for in the neighborhood but the developer is kicking into a fund to assist "locally serving" businesses, thereby netting him a 'bonus' that automatically permits the extra density.
Emeryville Planning Director
Charlie Bryant

'To help developers, it's best if we
don't mention anything about the
zones of stability.' 

Rapidly rising real estate prices are proving too tempting for developers shut out of the already developed 'areas of potential change' identified by the General Plan and the two homes slated for demolition by the Doyle Street Mews totals six single family homes slated for or already razed in the zone of stability over the last two years alone.  The City Staff, leftovers hired by the previous pro-developer City Council majority, is also tempted, too tempted to assist in redeveloping the neighborhoods of detached single family homes in town and they have purposely kept the Planning Commission and the City Council in the dark that all these homes are in the zones of stability.

The zones of stability were bones thrown to the residents of Emeryville in 2009 when the General Plan was being re-written.  Many residents were concerned that so much of the town was being so massively redeveloped and they expressed desires that the residential neighborhoods of North Emeryville and the Triangle neighborhood be retained.  Under pressure from developers, the City directed the General Plan to be prepared to dramatically increase building heights and increase density over the whole town but set aside these neighborhoods in trade.
Proposed Doyle Street Mews
Oceans of stucco.

By hoodwinking the Planning Commission
we get this.  Ever seen anything like this 
in Emeryville?
After years of development in the so called 'areas of potential change', developers are still not satisfied and the zone of stability designation has come under increasing pressure to be pushed aside.  The City Council so far has not had the temerity to amend the General Plan to get rid of the protection provided by the zones of stability designation, settling instead on these piecemeal approvals of projects.
The City Staff, by not even telling the decision makers that the proposed project is in the zone of stability helps the developers with demolitions even if in so doing they subvert their purpose to accurately provide unbiased information for Emeryville's decision makers.

The Tattler has reported on this problem that isn't called a problem by the City of Emeryville since 2011.
Seeking not to be puerile, it is to be assumed after the third or fourth time the City Staff failed to reveal the fact that a proposed demolition is in the zone of stability, the Planning Commission and the City Council are in on the scam.

Nonetheless, the Planning Commission will take up the issue, ostensibly without knowledge these homes are in the General Plan designated zone of stability, at their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday.

Reprinted from Emeryville's General Plan:
Yellow area represents the 'Doyle Mews'.
The City Staff can't read their own legend?
...let's see, is the grey zone an area of potential change
or an area of stability?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dr John Rubio's Record in Vacating Teacher's Testimony

Tattler Called to Serve as Repository for School District's Archive

Letter to the Tattler: Malcolm Waugh

The following letter to the Tattler was received from Emery Unified School District teacher Malcolm Waugh.  Mr Waugh, a long time kindergarten teacher at Anna Yates Elementary School, expressed concern that his fellow EUSD teacher's heart rending and condemnatory testimony given at a June 15th School Board meeting would be lost; no record having been provided for it by the School Board.  At the following meeting, June 28th, the Board majority, inexplicably voted to approve official minutes of the now epic June 15th meeting penned by Superintendent Rubio himself, that removed all criticism of the Superintendent the nine teachers/educators had poignantly offered.  Of particular concern to Mr Waugh is the fact that the comments and criticism against Mr Rubio made by most of the nine teachers, served as their final outgoing statements, most of them leaving Emery to seek employment elsewhere owing to a crisis at the District, brought on they said by Mr Rubio.  The nine represent part of an ongoing mass exodus of teachers at Emery, the worst teacher retention record of any district in the Bay Area a result of a failure of leadership by Mr Rubio chronicled by the teachers on June 15th.
Malcolm Waugh is so concerned the public record will not be faithfully documented because of the School Board's revisionary minutes they approved, he is looking to the Tattler to provide a safe archive of the testimony of the nine teachers.  Mr Waugh painstakingly provided to the Tattler the following letter, the verbatim text of the teachers culled from a video provided by the Emeryville Property Owners Association.  
We are pained this teacher has abandoned the District and is looking to the Tattler as a refuge for keeping an accurate record of the testimony, but we willingly take on this role, at least until a change in the politicized culture at Emery Unified allows for a return to their traditional charge to properly account.

Mr Waugh lists each teacher/educator with a number representing their speaking turn at the meeting followed by the verbatim text from each.  The Superintendent's secretary, Lisa Taymuree is documented as she interrupted the speakers to remind them their allowed three minutes of speaking time had elapsed.  Many were permitted to continue speaking after colleagues yielded their time to the speaker.  



Hi, everybody, I'm Megan McLaughlin.  I just have a few comments.  I'm retiring, and I wanted to have a chance to talk to you tonight.  

When I was hired here in 2006 I was really excited to be part of Emery.  My colleagues Evan Pippen, Malcolm Waugh, and Audrey Miles were amazing co-teachers - smart, kind, funny - could not ask for better partners.  I remember telling my sister, a superintendent in Delaware, about the school and the curriculum.  'Wow', she said, 'you have TERC Investigations for math, Lucy Calkins for writing?  You have a literacy coach, and a math coach?  You have paid time for collaboration?  You must have a really progressive school'.  We worked as a school to improve writing across the grades, and across curriculum.  We had thoughtful, well-planned professional development that I looked forward to.  We had time in August to get to know each other and have a few laughs.  

This year, I'm one of many teachers voting with my feet.  I'm leaving Emery to retire.  I've a lot of good, positive things in my future; I have a lot of concerns for the students, for the parents, for the staff, for the teachers.  Here are a few points.  No one asked me for an exit interview, so I'm trying to fill you in here.

Teachers need a voice.  They need to feel that it is safe to speak up when there is an issue, and not receive retribution.  

When I had a challenging class last year with a high number of students with significant behavior challenges - this is the same class that is now the first-grade cohort - I asked for help.  Ms. Lang helped me to turn around the behaviors that were making the class unsafe and were making it very challenging to teach.  On the last day of school, at 3 p.m. - this was Friday, the day when I was the only teacher, I believe, at school except for Ms. Wren - I was called to a surprise meeting.  What a surprise.  What Dr. Rubio said broke my heart - he was present via phone.  He asked if I'd like to be one of the on-call substitutes for the 2016-2017 academic year.

I've seen many examples of his leadership.  He seems to lack the ability to reflect upon what he's done, to 'stay in his lane' as the superintendent and let the principal do her job.  There is a surface politeness covering a man I've come to distrust.  Not responding to issues, but instead, attacking teachers.  This is difficult for me to say, Dr. Rubio, but I'm trying to speak my truth.  

Communication can be improved on all levels --

"Sorry, your three minutes is up." (Lisa Taymuree)

O.K. (Megan)

"Could we ask that she be allowed to continue?" (Board member Barbara Inch) 

"My name is Lauren LaPlante and I'd like to defer my three minutes to Ms. McLaughlin." (Lauren)

I just need one more minute.  
For the good of all the students, for everyone in the community, I believe that we need better systems - how the students move around the school safely.  We need routines in place.  We need better supervision of the children while they're at play.  We need a few items of safety, such as the planters, which I believe are a lawsuit waiting to happen - those planters right outside.  I believe that the behavior issues that present themselves today are such - they're so challenging, even to a veteran teacher such as I - that when I spoke to parents today, were my kindergarten students, they expressed to me that they were willing to stick it out for one more year, but if things didn't change they were going pull their children out of Emery because they were afraid for their safety in the classroom.  Besides the point, they were afraid that their children were not getting anywhere near the education they expected because of the discipline issues.

I believe the best days are ahead for Emery.  I believe this community is amazing.  I've never met a staff that is so resilient and works so well together in the face of adversity, and I believe that Emery deserves leadership that reflects the efforts of the teachers.

Thank you very much.

"Any additional public comment?" (Board President Donn Merriam)



My name is Anthony Rodgers.  I've been a middle school teacher here for 11 years.  I mentioned to the staff yesterday that I never thought that I would leave here so early in my career.  I took those three guiding principles that we had years ago to heart, about ending classist and racist practices and creating a sense of family and using innovative practices in our classroom.  And this is my family. [Now I ask and plea] to the board is, make sure there's more horizontal and vertical communication and articulation in the district.  We are administrative-heavy in this district with two schools.  Anjali Kamat and myself, we have 22 years of your institutional memory for your middle school.  We're the dinosaurs of the middle school here.  We were the instructional coaches of the middle school this past year.  We both finished our administrative credentials, and yet there is someone else from the outside coming in with not as much experience as us to run our middle school.  And so, if - and this isn't personal to anyone, this is about business and this is about our students - so if we're in a position to end these racist and sexist principles and classist principles, we need to do it now.  I'm asking the board to please work as a united front, no matter what our differences are, let's come here and do the work for our students.  That's what we do every day when we pound the pavement in the school as teachers.  But I'm actually leaving - I'm leaving.  And with myself, Ms. McLaughlin, Ms. Coombs, Ms. Brunick and Ms. Kamat, and even Ms. Lang, you have about a hundred years of your service leaving your community.  A hundred years of service.  And I don't care what you and who you bring in, that's not bringing in that same institutional memory of families.  Our reputations with families, it precedes us.  Families want to come to us because we taught their families.  I just think that's something to really think about.  We really have to think about that, but again, we're administrative-heavy, and I would say with some of the new administrators coming in, they're not culturally sensitive.  They come in with a hierarchical approach to life and treat everyone as if we're roaches and dogs.  And that's not the way to treat anyone, even if you have a title, wherever you bought it from, even if you have that title, it's not acceptable.  In addition to that, when I - I had to reapply for my position on Ed-Join, had to submit my resume for the same position that I was teaching.  So I really want to ask you all, please look at the practices of how teachers are moved around here, because if it isn't equal, then that's discriminatory.  I had to reapply for my position in the classroom that I was in.  And that's not personal - that was personal to me.  I'm not a person who's vindictive in that way.  I kept moving, I kept pounding the pavement, but if we have other teachers that are moved in this district, please look at skin color, please look at gender, and please look at how people are being moved around in this school.  Thank you.

[Marcelline Krafchick speaks]



Good evening.  My name is Leslie Thornley.  I'm one of the teachers planning on returning in the Fall, and I have some concerns and worries, and feel like my esteemed colleagues that have been here for many years can address better than I, and it feels a little safer to have other people speak for me.  So on behalf of that I'd like to donate the rest of my time to Holly Coombs.



Hello, Board.  I'm Holly Coombs, and I have been teaching at Anna Yates for 15 years, and I'm going next year to teach in San Francisco.  Anyone who asks me I say I'm going to teach to be closer to my house, I have two little kids, the commute is killing me.  But people who push a little farther, they find out a little more about why I feel it's right for me to leave.  So, I'm here to just tell you why I, all the reasons why I'm leaving.  So, first of all, I came to work at Anna Yates because I really wanted to work with some colleagues - Gabrielle Thurmond and Anakarita Allen.  I really respected them and the equity work that we were doing here, and I felt like I was really part of something very special, something very important.  Our work with BAYCES and the connections that we were building through our retreats, and I felt like I was learning how to be a culturally relevant teacher, which is really important being a white educator with mostly kids of color.  It was really important for me to tackle my own racism, and this school district was teaching me how to do that, and I felt like we were really creating something here.  What I've noticed over the last 15 years is that I feel like our best years were when we were K-6, and Anakarita was our principal and we were really moving forward.  And then there was a few things that happened here that didn't really feel like they were the best for the students.  The middle school got put with K-6 and there was no real middle school program, and Anakarita got moved, and BAYCES, we didn't really work with them, and it just gave me pause because I wasn't sure that that was best for the students, and it felt like interference but it didn't really interrupt the core of this solid group of teachers.  The last few years have been so difficult, however, that I feel like I must leave.  I feel that it has become so difficult to be here and watch the institutional racism that I see around me, and that we're not really deeply doing the equity work that we need to be doing.  It's sort of on the surface.  There's a lot of dysfunctions at the school that I can't really go into here because this is a public, formal setting.  I haven't actually met any board members except for Brynnda.  She's the only one who's come up and talked to me, but had any board member come up --

"You're out of time." (Lisa Taymuree)

[time donated]

-- I would have been able to go into more detail.  So it just matters to me about where I work, and I was willing to do this commute for 15 years because I felt like I was part of something really important, and I'm not sure that the work San Francisco is doing is as focused on equity.  And so, what I've been thinking about is the implications of this.  The first is that I really feel that the town of Emeryville needs to recommit to public education - the people of Emeryville - and that the school board - I haven't worked with you, so I don't know your practices, I know you're new - but, in general, the school board needs to be culturally competent and really committed to the community.  So in the past the school board members, I had their numbers on my cell phone, they came, like [former board president] Josh [Simon] came and helped me set up my classroom - he brought me books.  They all knew my kids, you know, it was very familiar.  They either had children who went here or they went here themselves, and they were just very much part of the community.  So I just want the school board to be, to really reflect on their practices, and notice if they are actually being culturally competent themselves.  I really appreciated the board policy that I saw, but I was wondering, well, how would you do that?  How would the board and our current superintendent actually be the ones to help create this equitable environment?  I was thinking maybe you needed a how in that plan.  And I want to let the school board know that you set the tone, and so if you need to - I'm hoping that you will create some kind of reflective practice on your own work - but also on how you hear from teachers, because this, this is not really the way you're going to find out what's going on with teachers.  But it also needs to be fair.  So some sort of fair process where you really know what's going on, and if anyone interferes with that or tells you that you don't need to hear from teachers, that that person can tell you themself, then that should be a red flag for you.  And finally, I've seen a lot of superintendents at our district and I feel like it's difficult to be a superintendent of this district - it's difficult, it's small town, there's all these politics.  Please, in the future, please look carefully for a superintendent who's an experienced educator and also has all of their cultural competency in place, either because they are a proud person of color, they grew up in the community, or they just know our kids, and it will just help resolve, it'll help prevent a lot of the pain that a lot of people have felt, particularly the people of color.  I have not felt any pain, but the people of color, my colleagues, have felt a lot.  And also there's just a lot of things I see all the time, that I don't actually believe a deeply culturally competent person would allow --

"You're out of time." (Lisa Taymuree)

Thank you (Holly).

[time donated]

That's O.K.  That's O.K. (Holly)

"Another three minutes." (Donn Merriam)

I'm done.  Thanks.  (Holly)

"Thank you.  Additional public comment?" (Donn Merriam)



Hi.  Good evening to the Emery Board.  I'm Diane Lang.  I've been the principal of Anna Yates K-8 school for the past three years, and so some of the people you've been hearing from have been on my staff during that time.

I'm really happy to say that today I closed out my final year here in Emeryville.  I was on campus until our last student left for home, safely.  It's been three years.  

I wanted to come before you to talk about leadership.  And to lead means to go first.  But leadership for me is also about putting my name and myself before the community, because when there's a challenge in the school building, it's me that they want to see, it's me who they hold accountable, and so it's important to me that I express to you the difficulty that it creates when I as a leader, the face of the school, cannot with full confidence communicate things to community members, members of my staff, with the confidence that it will come to fruition without changes or without things being possibly even undermined.  It makes it hard.  It makes it difficult.  So I want to be really up front about that.  

As the principal who has been here for three years, we've done work, findings, about what works and what does not, best practices, and ultimately what works best for our kids.  It is unfortunate to ever have that work, those finding, dismissed as opinions, when my feet are on the ground every day, here with the teachers, in classrooms, in hallways, in the lunchroom, on the field.  How could my finding be just opinion?

I wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of the challenges of selective accountability.  And we talk about equity - it needs to be more than just a buzzword, but a real set of practices that we put in place.  And we are letting ourselves off the hook in terms of equity when we say things like 'Oh, I forgot to talk to you, the principal of the school, about this decision that's being made that's going to impact our students, and that parents and community members are going to hold me accountable for.  How could you forget to speak to me, or to remember that I'm the principal of the school?  How could anyone forget?  And if it happens once, we all make mistakes, and if it happens twice, I've certainly made two mistakes, three mistakes, but if it happens on a regular basis, perhaps there's something else that's the issue, in terms of remembering I'm the principal.  And when things are good, I get the credit, and when things are not so good, I get the blame.

"Your three minutes is up." (Lisa Taymuree)

[time donated]

"O.K., go ahead, please." (Donn Merriam)

We have a partnership with the city of Emeryville that has built this lovely facility here.  I want to remind everyone the importance of mutual respect, that considers the need of students first, always.  This facility is for our children, and our children need to be educated, and that is what we have been tasked with, providing them with an education.  Recreation is optional.  Their foundational skills of being life-long learners and scholars is not optional.  So I hope that everyone is fully aware and engaged in making sure that a partnership is truly a partnership that centers around the need of students.

I am not done leading schools.  I will be leaving - this is my final year.  I'm very excited that we've reached the last day of school.  I will continue my work with a very similar community.  This is the community I want to serve.  But just looking for the opportunity to be remembered and respected as a black, female principal who's been here every day doing the very best I could in spite of whatever the circumstances presented.  So again I just ask that equity be a real set of practices that lead our work, not just something that we write down or say, something we really live by and really do.  Thank you.



Good evening.  My name is Kevin Boyd.  I used to be a colleague - well, these are my colleagues.  I've been here in this district since 1999.  I've seen, I've seen a lot of superintendents come through here.  I've seen a lot of principals.  I've seen a lot of what was constructive for this school but also what is destructive, but also watched how many of these teachers - many of the faces that I see work their asses off, you know, to make things happen for these kids that we dealt with.  I was with the old school, and the hats we had to wear were, you know, many.  Ms. Taymuree, Ms. Collins were two women that I admire very highly as they worked with me.  A lot of people here know what I dealt with, this kids I dealt with, and how I dealt with, and was unorthodox, but I did get support, and I was always support for my friends and colleagues who worked here.  What I see the lack of here and have is just that.  There is no support.  I mean a serious lack of support for our teachers in their classrooms, for our kids, you know, and right now I sub at the high school in the office because I refuse to go into a classroom where teachers just don't seem to have it all together and that's all over the place because so many of them are just being, you know, just drowned by what's going on.  Now with that I just want to say I, like I said, I've been through quite a few superintendents.  I've never seen the lack of leadership as I've been seeing here right now, the lack of personal pride, because I could always talk to the superintendent.  I could go into that office at any time and speak to them.  I just didn't see that.  I haven't seen that in a few years here and it's very, you know, it's not cool, it's not cool at all, so I just wanted to say that because I'm here every once in a while, but I still see what I don't like seeing.  We need to see more support for our students, for our teachers, a lot more support for these students, and generally just we got to get this, get what we built here back on what it should be, back on track.



Good evening, Board, and superintendent, and principal, fellow staff members, and friends.  Ramadan...This is a month of fasting for Muslims - I'm a Muslim - and this is a month of peace, so not to minimize anything that was said, because I agree with everything that was said from our teachers and our staff members.  The colors here are changing in this community from black, brown, yellow, to white, and that's not a good thing.  Our children are watching us.  They're looking at how we lead, not only them, but how we interact with each other.  Children know things that we don't even realize.  I know it because they come and tell me.  Ms. Wren, did you know that, you know, Ms. Lang is leaving, Mr. Rodgers is leaving.  You know, he's like a father to me.  She's one of the best principals I've ever seen.  We have parents crying to me in the hallway.  Ms. Wren, are you kidding me?  I'm having to leave my son, take my son out of this school, and the son is crying because he's leaving his friends.  She said, but I'm so afraid for their safety.  Things are changing - that is not cool, not O.K., and we have to stand up, we got to be, we are resilient staff members, we are, and we're going to make lemonade out of the lemons.  But we can't do it without you recognizing - we see, we see that you are not being equitable with our staff, with our children, with our parents, and we don't like it.  And we're going to stand up, we're going to fight, and we're going to protest in the ways that we know, and we got to ask God to help us in this fight, and we know we're going to win.  We know we're going to win, because we're here, it's about the children.  We're here for the children.  We love these children, as much as the hell as they put us through, and you know, I told one student, you know, this has been a difficult year, and he said, Ms. Wren, we've given you fifty gray hairs this year, and I said I know you've given me about a thousand gray hairs this year.  I've used the dye more often than I normally do.  But, you know, to make things more serious, our children are suffering, they're crying.  Their father is leaving - Mr. Rodgers is like their father.  And that's not to say that he's not going to be a father where he's going, and I'm real proud that he's moving on to another place.  They got, they got our gold.  They're going to enjoy him, they're going to learn from him, they're going to respect him, they're going to do their community meetings, they're going to love themselves, they're going to stand up with pride, and they're going to love each other, they're going to acknowledge each other, they're going to be on the hot seat and let each other know, we love you, and what I like about you is this, and I didn't realize it, you, you would come to me when I needed help.  These are the values that he has given not just one classroom but many, most of the classrooms.  Am I right?  We do community meetings.  So it's not about the teachers are leaving, it's about our children.

"You're out of time." (Lisa Taymuree)

Thank you. (Tauheedah)

"Thank you.  Further comment?" (Donn Merriam).



Good afternoon.  Audrey Miles, TK teacher.  It's been a very difficult two months, but we continue on each and every day to give our kids the best that we can give every day.  We walk in and we find ways to find joy in each other every morning.  Many of you don't know my room is the coffee room, you know, and we find that opportunity to have community together, and hug each other and start our day off with a positive when often there are no positives, when you don't feel loved, when you don't feel supported.  We find ways to find opportunities for our children.  Today we took 77 TK and kindergarteners on a bus to San Jose to a farm.  We provided a community meal buffet of everything that they would want to eat - hotdogs, everything - and we paid for it ourselves.  We paid for it by fundraising, we paid for it by writing grants.  Every family that was there, there's an extended relationship with each one of those parents.  I have taught their siblings, I have taught their aunts, their cousins, their uncles, even.  I've been here for 14 years and I've never felt sadder than right now because, I heard Mr. Rodgers is leaving, it broke my heart.  And then I was walking down the hall and Ms. Kamat said 'Can I talk to you for a second?', and she came and she started talking to me and she told me that she was leaving and it broke my heart and I just stood in the hall and I just started crying, because it's just painful that - and everybody always thinks that Ms. Miles is a rock, you know, Ms. Miles has got a marshmallow heart, O.K.?  And I love each and every one of these people in here, from the high school up and I saw my class graduate yesterday, first class I taught here.  Those were my kids in K and 1.  I have his history here.  I need to be respected.  I need to have my voice heard.  It's important.  This is my community.  Not only do I work here, I live here, and I vote here.  So I want you to know that as you sit here on the board, many of your faces that I know.  That's one of my students right there.  She's graduating next year, O.K.?  I'm an important part of this community, and I'm an important part of this school and my voice needs to be heard.  And you need to respect me for the work that I do each and every day.  And I respect you, and respect is a two-way street.  You get what you give.  So if that's what you want from us, if you want that hard work to continue, you need to give us the same amount of respect, and listen, and understand who we are and not just pass us over and say, well maybe there's a new teacher who is better qualified, which is the things that we hear sometimes, O.K.?  So, hear our voice.  That's all we're asking you to do is to hear our voice.  And this right here is our future, O.K.?  The same amount of effort that I give to my TKs - this is my grandchild, O.K.?  And she can do everything that I give my kids in the classroom and more.  Thank you.

"Additional, further comment?" (Donn Merriam)

[Joshua Simon, former EUSD Board president, speaks]



Hi, my name is Leslie Epstein.  I've been here 14 years, and I used to be so proud to work here - sorry - and I don't feel that way anymore.  And seeing so many people leave makes me - I thought about it - and the only reason I stay is because I have the most amazing group of students and families.  I stay with many of my students for years as special ed. teacher, and I always thought when, particularly years when Simon's daughter was here, Maya, all those years I thought when I have a kid my son or my daughter is going to go to this school, and I can say now I would never send my son here.  And to me that speaks volumes.

"Thank you.  Further comment?"  (Donn Merriam)

"Could we allow the people that donated their time to go ahead and speak?" (Member Barbara Inch)

"Yes, please, whoever did donate time, whatever's remaining on their allotted..." (Donn Merriam)


Thank you, Board.  Thank you, esteemed colleagues, I appreciate your voice today and you've inspired me.  I am coming back in the Fall.  I have every intention of returning, and on my plate I see a brand new reading series; I see a brand new math series I'm going to be piloting; I'm going to be working with a new colleague that I haven't worked with before.  There's equity and PBIS, which I think I mentioned fourth, which should have been mentioned first.  There's technology, and I'm excited and thrilled that students are going to be having computers in their classrooms.  I'm going to need a lot of training to leverage and use that program well.  I'm also going to be doing this without my family.  I'm going to be forming new relationships, and I hope time and space is given to do that, because to the work of equity requires a lot of trust, and it requires openness, and it requires safety, and that work has to be hallmark if we're going to serve the needs of our children.  I was watching a videotape that I put together for my class, you know, one of those slide-shows for open house, and I was looking at it and feeling pretty good about it myself, and then all of a sudden I paused and thought, now wait, I really need to look at this through some of the work that I've done in this district, and I looked at my slide-show again, and I had far more children in that slide-show of children with light-colored skin than dark-colored skin.  I figured that out myself.  I was appalled.  I'm feeling that it was really brave of me to even say that right here, but this is the work that needs to be done if teachers like me are going to help children of color, and this work needs to continue and it needs to be at the forefront, and I need help with the introspection.  I want the help with the introspection, because I don't think I can serve these kids well if I don't have it.  But, again, what I need for that to happen is I need a lot of trust.  I need to be in a place where I feel trust, and I'm going to need time to get to know my new colleagues, and my new administrators, and to do the work that we have to do.  It has to be here.  So, thank you for letting me speak.

"Thank you." (Donn Merriam)

Testimony finished.

EUSD- Emery School Board = Jun 15, 2017

Emeryville Property Owners Association.  Published on Jun 21, 2017.

Time stamps:
Megan McLaughlin 01:12-04:53
Anthony Rodgers 06:10-09:02
Leslie Thornley[1] 14:10-14:33
Holly Coombs 14:37-20:50
Diane Lang 21:04-24:40      
Kevin Boyd 24:58-27:38
Tauheedah Wren 27:52-31:14
Audrey Miles 31:26-34:32
Leslie Epstein 40:18-41:05

Leslie Thornley[2] 41:49-44:44

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Black People at Emery: Nameless and Not Heard

School Board to Black Teachers:
'We Are Not Listening to You'

Board President
Donn Merriam

'The minutes will not be
made to reflect what
the teachers said.'
News Analysis
Despite Emery teacher's charges directed towards the Superintendent of the Schools, outlining his bullying and racist practices, made at a now infamous June 15th School Board meeting, the Board gave a big thumbs up to embattled Superintendent John Rubio last week when they voted their approval of a scrubbing of the public record; erasing the teacher’s public testimonies in the official minutes.  The teacher’s testimonies condemned a top down racist culture that has risen up at Emery Unified School District and a Superintendent that ignores or subverts the concerns of African American educators at the district.  The official minutes of that meeting, written by Mr Rubio himself and now approved by the the School Board (4-1 Member Barbara Inch dissenting), play down the teacher’s concerns and expunge even any mention of the Superintendent and his central role in the existential dysfunction at the District the teachers testified against.  

The minutes approved by the Board at the follow on June 28th meeting, give ample space for two other (white) speakers at the June 15th meeting who came to praise the District, respectfully providing their names for the record but the black teachers (and their white colleagues) got short shrift, their concerns ignored, their names not even mentioned.  The Board majority approved minutes, by proving the teacher’s claims in its naked ablution, brazenly affirm and help support the racist culture at Emery Unified.  
Board Member Cruz Vargas
'The Board is fine with ignoring
black teachers.'
Some of these black teachers have worked at Emery for years and now, as they quit because of the venality of this Superintendent, the Board disrespectfully ignores their specific concerns, leaving no record of their professional accounting.  These honorable District employees were not even given time to properly say their piece; they were only given the same three minutes to address the Board given to the general public.   

Board Member Bailey Langner, an attorney, said it best among her colleagues at the June 28th meeting; the minutes cannot be used to accurately record any of what the teachers said or even to casually mention that they are dissatisfied with the job done by the Superintendent because according to Ms Langner, “Minutes are not meant to be verbatim.”  We’ll leave it to an authoritarian minded attorney to use a straw man fallacy like that.
Even African American Board member Brynnda Collins, who upon hearing the teacher's testimonies said the "time for action" is upon us June 15th, bizarrely voted with her three colleagues June 28th to approve Superintendent Rubio's minutes to take away from what the teachers had said. 

Presciently and informatively, one of Mr Rubio's first acts as Superintendent almost three years ago was to amend Emery's official Mission Statement.  References to ending racist (and classist) policies, central in the former mission statement were expunged by Mr Rubio with the Board's approval.  At the time it didn't seem ominous to most. 
Board Member
Brynnda Collins

"Now is the time for action"...
and then she voted to approve
the minutes.

There’s a silver lining that’s been revealed by the Board refusing to adjust the minutes of the June 15th meeting to reflect the truth if not to respect the teachers; the good news is the real agenda of the School Board is now irrefutable.  The easiest thing in the world to do would have been for the School Board to adjust these white washed minutes.  It’s actually required by law but here at Emery it seems what matters more is for this Board to support the Superintendent, apparently no matter what; even to lower themselves into this degraded racist culture the teachers alerted us to. Not this Superintendent’s deplorable teacher retention record, the worst in the Bay Area, not even his failure to follow the Mandated Reporter law leaving would be sexually assaulted children and their parents disbelieved at Emery can sway this Board as they go about their prime directive: protecting the Superintendent.
Board Member
Bailey Langner

'Sorry teachers, minutes cannot 

be made to reflect reality.
Not when we have our own
narrative to push.'

The Board’s vote June 28th to disregard the teachers, especially the black teachers at Emery serves now to focus all teachers, parents, and regular citizens to the importance that elected officials not act as renegades but instead to reflect a community's values (appointed Board members Langner and Collins were not elected by the people).  Emeryville is not racist and we won't countenance racist institutions paid to speak and act for us. A correction in the form of a plebiscite will likely be due Emery coming soon to a voting booth near all of us. 

Correction: Board member Collins was appointed to her Board position along with Member Langner.  The story has been changed to reflect that.  Thanks to the commenter who brought it to our attention.