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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Emery's Costs Per Student Among Highest in the Bay Area

Emery Unified:  High Cost, Low Performance

$14,713 Per Student

News Analysis
Considering the fact that Emeryville is so robustly growing and its residents are so highly educated (70.5% with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, among the highest averages in the Bay Area), one would think the school district here would likely reflect the high value residents conspicuously place in education. Yet the reality is Emery Unified School District is highly dysfunctional and becoming more so over time; its schools fading, enrollment and test scores dropping, even in the face of a rising city. 

Tracking a slide in test scores and a resultant drop in ranking among Bay Area school districts, the Tattler has shown how Emery Unified School District has suffered from a lack of leadership especially over the last three years.  However not reported in the October 24th story is spending; is Emeryville spending enough to get the results we expect?  The answer is an anomaly; it's not for a lack of money, Emeryville spends more on its school kids per student than all our neighbors do even while the same neighboring school districts far outpace Emery in academic ranking.  
Bay Area school districts generally spend more than the statewide average of $11,176 per student.  A quick look at the numbers is revealing; Oakland Unified spends $13,813 per pupil, Berkeley comes in at $14,367 while Piedmont Unified, one of the State’s highest scoring school districts spends even more at $14,561.  Emery spends $14,713, the third highest in the State of California among districts our size*.  For all Emeryville's spending, our district ranks the second lowest academically in the entire Bay Area.  

Emery is hamstrung over the fact that its small size exacerbates State mandates that each district must meet, making us provide the same minimums as large districts who can spread costs over a larger budget.  This means Emery must pay more for administration as a percentage of its budget than the larger districts.  A look at our neighbor's costs confirms this; both Oakland and Berkeley have 8% admin costs while Piedmont, even though it’s smaller than those two spends 7% of its budget on administration costs, bucking the trend.  Emery’s administrative costs are 13%.   
However, because we've had two successive superintendents binging on hiring more administrators, even when compared with other school districts its size, Emery’s admin costs are still very high.  Only one school district in California, Modoc Joint Unified, comes in higher (16%), but Modoc’s per pupil spending is only $10,200, almost a third less than Emery’s.  Statewide, the administrative average for all school districts is 6%.

Emery: Expensive and Top Heavy
California's small school districts weigh in.  At an average daily attendance of 665, Emery spends almost $15,000 per pupil with an administrative cost percentage of 13%, more than most school districts its size in both categories.
The high cost per student combined with the high administration costs would tend to give credit to those who increasingly argue Emery Unified should merge with Berkeley Unified, the likely increase in student academic performance that move would net notwithstanding.  This possibility of melding with Berkeley Unified is being compared with when the Emeryville Fire Department merged with Alameda County Fire Department several years ago netting Emeryville residents a better service profile for far less money.  Emery’s academic scoring would likely improve and its regrettable costs per student would probably change for the better were such a merging of the two districts take place.
*Numbers are for 2016, the last year reported by the State

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance is Back at Emery!

President Trump Would be Pleased to Know Jesus is Back at Emery!

Colin Kaepernick: If You Ever Find Yourself in Emeryville, Keep Traveling

Yes, THAT Jesus.  After a four month hiatus, the Pledge of Allegiance is back at Emery Unified School District, in all its God fearing automaton-like saccharine inducing patriotic glory.  It would appear the Tattler's story back last August on the demise of the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance at Emery Unified School District was premature.  Or maybe the School Board voted to reinstate the Oath (3-2; Inch & Langner dissenting) taken at the start of every meeting BECAUSE of the Tattler.  Either way, under God, the Board can read the tea leaves and they think this kind of symbolic patriotism is de regueur in this age of Donald Trump.
So it's hats off, hands on hearts and to hell with critical thinking at Emery Unified.  Children must learn to support the government, right or wrong, no matter what.  Next comes ROTC, morning flag drills and bonnets for the girls at our patriotic little school district.

Praise be to God, Jesus, President Trump and Board member Cruz Vargas, the true blue American, for bringing this back to Emery.

10/25/17 Video Communist Alert: Listen closely and you'll hear Board President Donn Merriam (center) forsake God during the Pledge.  Board member Barbara Inch (right...should be left) doesn't even partake at all, a tell-tale sign of a godless communist.

Number 7 is not welcome at Emery Unified School District.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ECCL Ineffective in Raising Student Enrollment: Drop Continues

Emery Student Enrollment Continues Slide

New ECCL Campus Has No Effect
Promised Increase a Chimera 

Despite building the ambitious Emeryville Center of Community Life campus two years ago, a bond funded whole new campus that school district officials had widely touted as a fail safe remedy for perennially sagging student enrollment figures, newly released enrollment data at Emery Unified School District reveals that the district is having ongoing troubles attracting children.  Year two into the ECCL era, the gleaming new school campus has shown little to no effect on raising the perniciously dropping student enrollment.  
In fact, the numbers show it's gotten worse; the district is in a multi-year general downward trend that's culminated in 698 students enrolled in 2015/16, the year before taxpayers built the new $75 million campus, dropping to 687 for the first year at ECCL followed by slight uptick this year at 692, but still lower than before the ECCL. 

Emery has been plagued with poor leadership; a series of failing superintendents cycling through every three or so years, resulting in plunging test scores and a dropped ranking, landing the beleaguered little district at the bottom among East Bay school districts as the Tattler reported October 8th.  Also discouraging for district officials is the consistently low numbers of Emeryville residents with children who attend Emery schools.  Last year 46% of children at Emery resided in Emeryville, a number that has remained stuck below 50% for years.

The School Board plans a big turn around for Emery in the form of a new set of guidelines for the District that includes bumping up enrollment including the ratio of Emeryville residents attending Emery, dramatically increasing teacher retention and a big increase in test scores.  Board member Cruz Vargas drafted the new guidelines that he forwarded to the Board at a recent meeting but he didn't say how the new goals would be met.  The Board has not yet voted on the new guidelines.

School districts receive money based on the number of students enrolled and the continuing drop for Emery has had a deleterious effect on the budget, resulting in cut backs over the years.
 Superintendent John Rubio didn't return calls regarding Emery's newly released dropping enrollment numbers.

CORRECTION 10/24 8:35 am: The School Board did not vote on the new guidelines as reported.  The story has since been updated.
Total Enrollment Emery Unified School District

Emery Secondary School (high school) Total number of Enrolled Students

There were 20 more K students in 2015-16, which is what accounted 
for the enrollment increase. It off set the high school drop. 
From 15-16 to 16-17, the drop was in K with increase of plus 2 in 6th,  
plus 5 in 7th, plus 3 in 9th and 10th.  Also noteworthy is the drop from 
10th grade in 2014-15 to 12th grade in 16-17 and the actual graduation 
number which could be as low as 30.  
Following the cohort from K in 2014-15. The group started with 63 kids, 
most of them likely Emeryville residents, 
now there are 43 students in that cohort. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Progressive neighbors making our city a great place to live and work 
Next Meeting:  After a summer hiatus we're back at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., October 21, 10:00 - 12:00
        Council Member Dianne Martinez is guest speaker:  to be discussed.... your concerns (let us know)!
        School Board member Barbara Inch initiates forum on Emeryville families:  "How to attract and retain families in Emeryville"
Bring breakfast and tea provided 

 All welcome...See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cop in Schools Idea Causes Meltdown Between City Council & School Board Member

Cop on Campus?:
Rift Between City Council and School Board Member Opens

Board Member Vargas Makes a Power Play

Testy Exchanges at Meeting

Vargas to Subvert Will of the Council

In an impassioned imbroglio played out before the cameras on October 5th, Emery School Board member Cruz Vargas, citing student discipline problems at the ECCL campus, proposed to fellow members of the City/School Committee that a full time Emeryville police officer with the right to arrest students exhibiting behavior issues be provided and paid for by the City of Emeryville.  It was an idea that landed with a resounding thud but not before the City Council members present directed a strongly stated contradictory barrage at Mr Vargas leaving him pained but undaunted, pledging to take his idea on the road and go around the holders of the purse strings, straight to parents.  Surprisingly, the cost to the City for such an officer, likely more than $100,000 per year, was hardly even mentioned by the City Council members, concerned as they were over what they characterized as the inappropriateness of the whole thing.  

School Board member
Cruz Vargas

He's going over the City Council's heads
and take his cop in the school
show on the road.
The ‘cop in the school’ idea, called a ‘school resources officer’ (SRO), has many critics but regardless been used by some school districts to bring 'order'.  However, in schools with large numbers of black and brown children, it has been universally panned by pedagogical experts, social justice champions and those concerned with equity issues nation wide.  Police officers trained in arresting adults, thrust into an environment where normal adolescent behavior can be misconstrued as criminal activity, SROs have been credited with contributing to the oft referenced ‘school to prison pipeline’ especially for young African Americans, what Council member Christian Patz calls a “reframe to criminality”. 
Regardless of the popularity of SROs among law and order types, the City Council attendees at the meeting took their turns joining with member Patz soundly rejecting member Vargas’ SRO objective, notably Council member John Bauters who delivered a memorably devastating and indelible riposte from the dais (see link below).  Admonishing Mr Vargas’ claim the SRO would be good for the police as well as the children, Councilman Bauters countered that schools are “not a place for PR for police” adding, “When cops encounter children who are acting like children, their instinct in many cases its treat them with the training they know.”  He talked at length on the negative effects ‘over policing’ has on many African American children before he clarified that he is not anti-police, and specifically not anti Emeryville police he stressed.

Council member Ally Medina expressed concern over inequity resulting from the use of SROs that academic studies have shown.  Noting the lack of training police have in dealing with child psychology, a problem that in America skews against schools with high levels of minority students like Emery, Councilwoman Medina quoted such studies when she addressed member Vargas, “Suspension levels are higher for minority children in heavily secured schools” she said.

Council member Christian Patz told his colleagues member Vargas had not presented a cogent reason why a police officer is even needed at ECCL, noting a lack of complaints over student behavior issues and the large numbers of administrators and teachers on the campus that has a palliative effect on discipline, let alone any possible criminal behavior.  Mr Patz counted 13 administrators on campus making for a top heavy 1:53 admin to student ratio.  If teachers are added, that makes it a 1:14 ratio and if the entire adult staff on campus is added, then there is a 1:10 ratio with students, an extremely large percentage among school districts.  Besides the highly monitored effect this large number of adults watching over the children has on tamping down bad behavior, it is also a primary reason why Emery spends so much money per student, higher than all neighboring school districts it was noted.  Mr Patz reminded Mr Vargas of Emery's low suspension rates and high attendance numbers to further illustrate his point that an SRO is not needed.

"I don't know what it was in my remarks that 
led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  
I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it".
-Council member Christian Patz

With a recalcitrant Board member Cruz Vargas and an equally oppositional City Council, a testy exchange between the Council members and member Vargas ensued.  Despite a united front of the City Council against the SRO proposal, the five individuals Mr Vargas would have to sway to pay for it, he saw fit to counter attack, perhaps giving hint to his next move.  After warning them he would go directly to parents to force the issue he scolded the City Council, “I don’t appreciate this issue being politicized” he said adding with vituperative finish, “the majority of the people at this table are out of touch with the parents.”  
Driving his point, member Vargas said he had been to a PTO meeting and gleaned, “the vast majority of parents in the school” support his SRO idea to which Councilwoman Dianne Martinez, who’s husband was at that meeting fired back, “I don’t appreciate you speaking for me as a parent” after asking if he was sure about his “vast majority” deduction, she questioned him; “Are you extrapolating?”   Mr Vargas shot back that the Board supports his SRO idea prompting Mr Patz to inquire, “Are you speaking for the whole Board?”  After some retrenching speech by member Vargas when Board member Barbara Inch volunteered she is not in favor of the SRO idea, it was revealed the School Board had only voted to place the issue on a future agenda to discuss it.  Having caught Mr Vargas in the fabrication of Board support, Mr Patz pounced, “[Putting it on an agenda is] very different than saying the Board supports it. It says the Board supports talking about it”

To get his cop in the school idea funded, these are
the five people Cruz Vargas needs to convince. 
It's the same five he has gone to war with

After the City Council members finally all had their say, none of it supportive of the SRO idea, member Vargas told everyone present he would hold a town hall type meeting about this and that he was happy the City Council was open to the idea of bringing a police officer to the ECCL campus and spending taxpayer money for it.  He thanked the Council for "having an open mind on this" and for their receptiveness for holding a town hall meeting.  Council member Christian Patz was incredulous upon hearing that, "I apologize, I don't know what it was in my remarks that led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it" he said.  Council member John Bauters was less circumspect, "Not one Council member should have given the impression to you [that a police officer on the campus is a good idea]. It would be political adventure for you to hold some sort of meeting to do what we have told you is not of interest to us" he protested. 

The entire dramatic City/School Committee meeting may be viewed HERE.
John Bauter's historic speech within the meeting may be viewed HERE.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Emery Schools Drop Precipitously: Now Below Oakland Unified

Emery Ranks Last in East Bay

Three Straight Years of Lowering Test Scores 
Yields Second Worst District in Bay Area Status

Emery Unified School District is reeling after the State of California finally released last spring’s academic testing data, revealing its drop in its ranking to the lowest in the East Bay as test scores have fallen for the third straight year according to the annually conducted California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP).  The bad news for Emery was presaged by a ‘sneak peak’ in mid September when three year Emery Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio, pre-released some of the test score data, possibly with an eye to soften the blow of the precipitous drop in ranking as compared with neighboring school districts shown by the CAASPP report.
 Despite Superintendent Rubio’s attempt to spin the bad news, on his watch, academic performance at Emery has consistently dropped, records show.  

The data just released by Sacramento shows an Emery Unified School District in crisis academically.  The district has become the worst scoring in the East Bay, ranking now lower than districts it was above just four years ago including West Contra County, Pittsburg, San Leandro, Hayward and Oakland (who improved their scores last year).  A quick purview of districts throughout the entire Bay Area shows Emery as second only to Ravenswood Unified in East Palo Alto, a district that consistently ranks as among the lowest in the entire state.

The test score data was announced by City Council member Christian Patz at the City/Schools meeting on Wednesday at the ECCL campus.  Mr Patz made the announcement, which included a handout he furnished, as part of a point he was making as the district was pressing its case for installing a police officer at the ECCL campus, a tangent for that agenda item.  Mr Rubio had earlier, during agenda negotiations for the meeting,  refused to allow any CAASPP test data discussion as an agenda item for the Committee.  The Superintendent, who appeared visibly annoyed by Mr Patz’s action, nonetheless refused to answer Tattler questions about why the testing data should not be an agenda item for the Committee.  It should be noted that the City/Schools Committee, a liaison group consisting of all the elected officials of Emeryville (the City Council and the School Board), invests itself with helping provide "quality education" as one of its goals. 

Test score data, especially from a single year, is a problematic barometer to use to show the quality of education a school district offers.  Studies have consistently shown instead academic test scores show the relative affluence of the parents/guardians; poor children testing at lower rates due to a variety of factors unrelated to the school itself.  However, as test scores show the ranking of neighboring districts, especially when compared with those of similar socio/economic conditions, this data is useful to show a district's trend line in the education of its children.  Test score ranking clearly shows Emery falling after three years of Superintendent Rubio at the helm after a brief period of rising scores and higher ranking before Mr Rubio's term.
Superintendent Rubio's tenure has been a rancorous one marked by an ongoing battle with his teachers that has net the worst rate of teacher retention in the East Bay among other calamitous distractions as the Tattler has chronicled. 
Superintendent John Rubio's Legacy
Academic achievement has plunged at Emery since Mr Rubio
was hired at the start of the school year 2014.
Emery's ranking has fallen to last in the East Bay since 2013, 

the last year before Superintendent Rubio came on board. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

City Council Revokes Noise Ordinance Waiver for Public Marketplace Developement

Council Majority Takes Unprecedented Move in Revocation

Dissenting Mayor Donahue Feels Developer's Pain; "They've Been Punished Enough"

Market Place Developer Tim Bacon
"Embarrassed" to be asking for a
third chance to honor his agreement. 
The developer of the Market Place project on Christie Avenue, by twice violating the terms of a waiver of the Noise Ordinance he received, drew a revocation of the waiver by the City Council at the regularly scheduled September 19th Council meeting.  After the City’s Planning Director issued Tim Bacon, Senior Vice President of Public Market LP an unprecedented stop work order on August 29th for job site violations to the waiver agreement, the City Council heard testimony from Mr Bacon who said he was sure the agreement would be followed if the Council would give him a third chance. Unimpressed, the Council voted 4-1 (Mayor Donahue dissenting) to revoke the waiver, a first for the City of Emeryville.

At issue was a 10:00 AM Saturday start up time for the construction as agreed upon as part of a waiver to the Noise Ordinance that precludes weekend construction.  During negotiations with the City Council, Mr Bacon had requested a 9:00AM start up time for his crew but was rebuffed, the Council citing letters of complaint from neighbors to the massive 13 acre 462 rental unit mixed use project.  After agreeing to the 10:00 starting time, workers on the site ignored the order and began starting work early anyway said Council member Christian Patz who documented the violations on two subsequent Saturday mornings.  The developer received a warning from the City after the first Saturday violation.  
Mayor Scott Donahue
The developer has been
"punished enough".

Before the vote on the 19th, a contrite Tim Bacon expressed dismay at his subcontractors whom he said had been violating the agreement and he told the Council he felt “embarrassed” to be even asking for a third chance. He added, “Frankly I was close to asking this be pulled from the agenda tonight because it didn’t seem fair to reconsider it because we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain”.  Mayor Donahue, breaking with his colleagues, said the developer had been “punished enough”.
Weekend work will now not be allowed for the duration of the construction project.

Not once has any developer been taken to task by the City Council for violating the Noise Ordinance or even for violating a waiver.  Since 2009 when the Noise Ordinance was enacted, waivers have been routinely given to developers and numerous violations have been brought to the City’s attention (the Tattler has highlighted several) but the City Council has never taken corrective action until now. 
The City of Emeryville has gotten a reputation over the years for not representing the resident’s interests and taking the developer’s side with regards to the Noise Ordinance and as such, both the stop work order and the subsequent revocation of the Saturday work waiver represents a new direction for the City.
Historic Document for Emeryville
A stop work order has never (before August 29th) been issued to any developer
for a Noise Ordinance violation despite the fact that nearly every developer
has violated the ordinance in our town since 2009.