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Saturday, November 25, 2017

High Stakes Rancor at City/School Committee Threatens ECCL

School Board Members Langner, Vargas Seek to End Committee That Bridges Schools & Community

Ad Hoc Ploy Threatens Center of Community Life 

"You want to embarrass & shame us" said Langner 

News Analysis
As a consequence of deteriorating interpersonal relations, Emeryville’s two elected bodies, the City Council and the School Board voted to convene an ad hoc committee to explore ways to sever the ties that bind them at their regularly scheduled October City/School Committee meeting.  The move to part company, brought in response to pressure built up over three years between the two entities, comes on the heels of what turned out to be a contentious October 5th meeting after School Board members lashed out against the City Council.  A vote was taken to terminate the Committee that failed (7-2 Langner & Vargas voting aye) before the Committee unanimously voted to form the unnamed ad hoc group, presumably in order to placate the insurgents.   School Board member Bailey Langner announced to her colleagues before voting to breakup the committee, “It is my intention to come into this meeting and talk about limiting the scope of the relationship [between the School Board and the City Council]” meaning she was already intending on talking of termination even before the meeting turned sour. 
School Board Member
Bailey Langner

Voted to deep six the committee.

She made it clear, first and foremost
are her feelings.  Accountability
comes somewhere farther down the list.

The mutinous faction, consisting of the two School Board members plus the non-voting administrative staffer Superintendent John Rubio, if ultimately successful in torpedoing the City/Schools Committee, will bring to a close a very remarkable partnership that culminated in the building of the Center of Community Life, Emeryville's epic $200 million  aspirational civic project meant to bridge the community and the schools.  The present function of the committee is to continue running the ECCL to fulfill its promise to the community and the schools for the betterment of both.  

That charge as it turns out is quite unusual given widely applied State constraints mandating the independence of municipalities and school districts.  The City/School Committee was instrumental in getting landmark legislation (AB 1080) written with the help of Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner back in 2009 enabling the building of the ECCL.  The legislation of AB 1080 thread a needle in a field of Sacramento roadblocks to form such a collaborative effort.  
The breakup of this committee now could reverberate across the California political landscape were it to actually happen.
As it is, the unseemly spectacle rising at the Committee earmarks the end of the season of accommodation and comity between the two government elected bodies, a heretofore special and uplifting feather in Emeryville’s cap according to Ms Skinner, now a State Senator.

The bad blood between the two groups was evident at the meeting, Board member Langner complaining she feels disrespected by the City Council members.  At one point after Council members brought up disappointing academic numbers reflecting a failing of the School District (in the purview of the Committee), Ms Langner said her feelings were hurt by the airing of factual information about the District and that she feels “hostility” from the Council, “I do not feel that the City Council is a partner with the School District.  It feels like you want to bring up these topics in an attempt to embarrass and shame us”.  City Council member Ally Medina responded to Ms Langner’s affecting lament, “Your individual feelings are not important.  The children and the residents you were elected to represent are important.”  Ms Langner actually was appointed by the Board to replace a resigning Board member.  She faces the electorate next November.

School Board member Cruz Vargas
He's outraged, OUTRAGED the City Council
is talking about academic achievement at ECCL.
It makes him look bad and he voted to crash
the committee he's so angry about it.

Superintendent Rubio, an authoritarian figure big on secrecy according to teachers at the District and the progenitor of the rancor between the two groups, provided fuel and directed the School Board’s fire at the meeting.   Accusing City Council committee members, he pointed his finger, “I saw the Council members judging the School Board members for their actions” adding he finds unacceptable “the level of disrespect and unprofessionalism [sic] that occurs in our meetings.”  Those comments brought out Council member Christian Patz who said the non-voting staff member Rubio had stepped over the line with his didactic hyperbole, “I take a challenge for you to highlight good members and bad members.”  Mr Patz reminded the administrator,  "It is outside your role.” 

Council member Scott Donahue says the dust ups at the City/School Committee, no matter how rancorous won't likely result in the termination of the committee regardless of the wishes of Ms Langner, Mr Vargas or Mr Rubio.  He told the Tattler the Committee brings accountability and he believes the group will go on, “The City Council is ultimately responsible for protecting the public’s investment in this [ECCL] project.  The City/School Committee represents a necessary collaboration between the City and the School District”.  The Councilman finished, “It is vital to ECCL’s success.” 
 It would appear the School Board (at least two of them plus the Superintendent) will have to figure out how to conduct public policy without making things personal, the first job of any elected official.  In a Rodney King moment speaking to that, Council member John Bauters addressed his colleagues, exclaiming forlornly "It is really important for the City and the schools to find a way to get along."

The City/Schools Committee will meet in January to hash out details of the new ad hoc group they will look to as they consider throwing in the towel on bridging the community and the schools.  The public can look forward to accountability, their interests, taking a holiday at the School District and at City Hall if the towel is indeed thrown in.

Correction:  We originally reported the vote to end the City/School Committee was 8-2 against.  The actual vote was 7-2 against.  School Board member Bryynda Collins did not attend the meeting and therefore didn't vote.  We apologize  for the mistake. 

Emery School Superintendent
John Rubio

He works for the School Board.
Or do they work for him?  It's not clear.
He's supposed to serve a supporting role, 

not a voting member on the Committee.
But he acts like a Committee member. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Basketball Controversy at Sherwin Williams Park: Who Are Parks For?

PARC Group Sees Basketball Court as Threatening to Their Neighborhood

Planning Commission Says Park Should 
Be For Everyone:
Let Basketball Be Played

News Analysis
"Destination Park"
Fitness and fun maybe but look who
might show up in our neighborhood if we
build a basketball court in our new park.
As the Sherwin Williams development firms up final plans for the 10 acre mostly residential project site on Horton Street, a new point of contention has risen regarding a proposed basketball court in the public park for the site, questioning whether public parks in Emeryville should really be public grounds or rather be defacto private grounds.  
At issue outwardly, is whether at the Sherwin site there should just be a single basketball hoop or an actual court for games to be played, leaving unsaid questions of xenophobia and possible racial motivations behind the insistence of neighborhood locals to keep 'outsiders' out of the public park.  The locals are insisting the new park not become a “destination park”.    

A majority of Planning Commissioners have said since there’s plenty of space for a full basketball court, people should be allowed to play games in their new park but a group of residents insist that a court would draw people from outside the immediate neighborhood to play basketball games.  
An exclusive group of residents that have banded together to weigh in on the Sherwin Williams project called Park Avenue Residents Committee (PARC), has announced that they find a basketball court unacceptable.  “We support keeping the basketball area as an informal hardscape with a basketball hoop, rather than a formal full size basketball court” the group said in a November 10th position paper meant for the City Council's purview.  Reasons as to why a full court is unacceptable were not offered by PARC. 

Emeryville Planning Commissioner
Miguel Guerrero

Thinks a basketball court is a good idea.
'I'm dying to have a place to play in town.'
As the Sherwin Williams project moves along its approval process, so far proponents for the single basketball hoop ‘non-destination park’ are winning the argument as far as providing for this kind of “urban” recreation at the new park.  But a majority of Planning Commissioners are unmoved by any dog whistle verbiage, racial or xenophobic,  embedded in the ‘destination park’ argument.  Planning Commissioner Miguel Guerrero said at an October 26th Planning Commission meeting on the topic, “Right now it’s a half of a court and here in the city, I’m dying to have a place where I can go and play a game of basketball.”  Commissioner Steven Keller joined him, adding that he didn’t see why people shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball at the new park, “It’s a very popular sport, it’s a definite way for people to get their fitness and be outside” he said.

The PARC group, exclusive in its membership, is adamant however that there be only a single hoop and the dreaded ‘destination’ concept, what they derisively call a “recreation center” has been strongly rejected they say by the whole community that they claim to speak for.  PARC favors instead that the park be a “recreation area.”  The group gave no distinction between these two concepts, seemingly nearly analogous in their lexicon but apparently existentially divergent in their practice somehow.  PARC is advising the City Council that a basketball court, if one must be built, be located in some other place in the city, not in their backyard.  

Ultimately the City Council will decide the question of just who we’re building this park for; the whole community or just local (mostly white, presumably non-basketball playing) neighbors. 
What's not to like about basketball?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville
Hello friends and neighbors!
Please join us Saturday, Nov. 18 for the next meeting of RULE, and help make Emeryville a great place to live and work!
Doyle Street Co-Housing
5514 Doyle Street (Common Room, 1st floor)
10 AM to noon 
Share a late breakfast and coffee, meet your progressive neighbors, and speak your mind!  We encourage residents to bring up issues of concern.

Here's our agenda so far:
  • Emeryville School District: declining enrollment, low test scores, and an exodus of roughly 40 teachers in just two years. We would like to have an open, creative discussion with parents, teachers, and residents about what they think can and should be done to improve the quality of education provided by the Emeryville School District. Please spread the word to anyone you think would contribute to the conversation.
  • The Incorruptables:  Anna Callahan of The Incorruptables will talk about the organization and how RULE might contribute to its work. The Incorruptables works to elect officials at all levels of government who will fight for economic, racial, environmental, and social justice. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Emery is Failing to Support & Care For Children Says California Department of Education

Study Shows Emery Fails to Engage/Support Students

Children Don't Have an Adult on Campus They Feel Cares About Them

Children Don't Feel Safe at ECCL Says DoE

A new study released by the State of California shows the schools at Emeryville's Center of Community Life failing to provide students with a safe campus and Emery Unified School District failing to support and engage students there.  The study, called the School Climate Index (SCI) and conducted for the Department of Education reveals Emery failing students in 'overall support and engagement', scoring single percentile digits against other school districts in the state.  But Emery is doing above average as far as providing a campus with low violence and low substance abuse among students the study also shows as revealed by surveys and interviews with students, parents and teachers.
Since 2011 however, the first year Emery participated in the statewide SCI survey, there has been a steady downward trend in student support and engagement.

For 2017, Emery High School emerged with a SCI score of 198 out of 500 in the domain of 'overall support & engagement' putting it in the bottom 2% of all schools statewide.  When compared with schools of a similar demographic, Emery rises but only just to the bottom 6% of schools statewide the study shows.  The two worst scoring sub-domains for Emery in the Index are 'high expectations and caring relationships' and 'school connectedness' both of which placed the school at the bottom 1% statewide or the bottom 2% when compared with schools of a similar demographic.  According to the study, it can be shown definitively that a clear majority of students at Emery don't feel there is an adult at the school that cares for them, they don't feel close to anyone at the school and they don't like being at the school.

Emery Unified isn't alone to blame for the bad numbers however; the District's partner, the City of Emeryville helped shepherd the Center of Community Life and that built facility net a SCI score of 228 for '[student]perceived school safety'.  That puts our new bond funded $200+ million campus in the bottom 8% for perceived safety among students statewide, hardly a ringing affirmation of the 'community' part of the ECCL.  Either through the campus as built or the programs run by Emery Unified School District or a combination of both, the students attending school every day on the new campus don't feel safe, a likely contributing factor in Emery's low academic achievement numbers.
Another contributing factor in Emery's low student support and engagement SCI numbers is the extremely low rate of teacher retention since Superintendent John Rubio was hired.  Supporting documents for the study indicate high teacher turnover, especially among veteran teachers alienates students and drives down student/school connectedness and engagement, both critical for effective student learning.  Accordingly, the Tattler has reported on how Emery's slide in academic achievement since Mr Rubio took over has translated into the District becoming the second worse ranked school district in the entire Bay Area.

The School Climate Index documents Emery's fall since 2011 in overall student support and engagement when the high school scored higher than average.  That year Emery ranked 77% compared with 25% this year and most of the fall has been in the student support and engagement domain.  The biggest fail has been in the category of 'caring relationships' where children feel there is an adult on the campus that cares about them; that has fallen from an above average 359 points in 2011 to just 200 now, and that translates now to the bottom 1% ranking (2% as compared with school districts of a similar demographic).

The SCI shows the District is clearly failing in its charge to educate and care for our children and the School Board will take up discussion of the disturbing trends revealed by the Index starting Wednesday but it is unlikely they will take action since the majority of members have repeatedly shown they will stand by Mr Rubio.  They have shown no propensity to be moved by the constant stream of bad numbers hitting the District and hence the children, be it teacher retention, academic performance or school ranking generated by the Superintendent since they hired him.

Emery scores for 2011 and 2014
Broken out are the categories in the two domains (overall support/engagement
and violence/substance abuse).  Together the combined score is called the SCI score.

Emery SCI scores for 2011 and 2014.

Emery scores for 2017
Broken out into categories

Emery Scores for 2017As translated into percentiles.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Follow Up Friday: Racist Stereotyping at Police Department Taken Care Of

Emeryville City Hall Stops Police Department 
Racist Stereotyping

'It's Being Taken Care Of' Says City Manager

At Follow Up Friday, we look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

After the Tattler twice reported on the racist nature of the Emeryville Police Department’s monthly crime blotter posted on the City’s website, the City Manager has moved to banish the formerly steadfast racist posts.  The Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada, had been outed by the Tattler in two stories, one in December 2016 and another in February 2017 for injecting racist stereotyping into the City's official crime report.
 City Manager Carolyn Lehr acted after she received complaints from City Council members, by ordering the Chief to stop using overt racist stereotypes in the blotter.  Ms Lehr told the Tattler, “It’s being taken care of” some months ago in response to questions about if the City’s website would continue to post a suspect’s race as the only identifying quality of reported crime perpetrators the blotter chronicles.  

Emeryville Police Chief Jennifer Tejada 
The oath of office doesn't include perpetuating
racist stereotypes.
The monthly crime blotter reports crime in the city and gives descriptions of the suspects as they are given to the police from citizens. The blotter reports specific crimes, their locations, time and a description of the suspect(s) if known.  Sometimes the get-away vehicle is described or direction of travel of the suspect.  Physical descriptions of the suspects commonly include sex, height, weight, age, race, facial hair, hair length/color and distinguishing body characteristics.  The idea is to provide the public with information that could possibly lead to capture of criminals in our town.  The problem before the Tattler shone a light on it was that commonly the blotter would only report the suspect’s race (usually black) with no other identifying characteristics, leaving no way for the public to help the police capture a perpetrator.  That valueless description could only help perpetuate racist stereotyping.

Despite the Tattler stories on the subject, Chief Tejada initially stood by her racist blotter posts until she was forced by the City Manager to stop.  Now Emeryville’s monthly crime blotter leaves off a suspect’s race unless it is accompanied by other distinguishing characteristics, the way other cities in the Bay Area report crimes.