Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 29, 2012

Almost final School Board questionnaire

Big news on the School Board election front, Alameda Education Associates (AEA) aka the Teacher’s Union, has made their endorsements for School Board already.  Alameda Patch has the details on this one:

A panel of AEA members interviewed all nine school board candidates recently, and all candidates participated by answering written as well as oral questions, according to the AEA. The teachers’ union chose three people to endorse for the following reasons, the release said:

“Trish Spencer, incumbent, is a parent, attorney and proven advocate for students and education in Alameda. Trish always puts the interests of the students first.

“Barbara Kahn, parent and grandmother, has been active in Alameda schools for over 50 years, and believes a voice must be raised in support of our children. Barbara wants the focus to be on what is truly important in a school district — students, teaching and learning.

“Jon Murphy teaches nursing at Merritt College, serves as co-chair of the California Community College Budget Committee, and just completed his doctorate in educational leadership. Jon is excited about students achieving their highest potential in a district where parents, teachers and staff can work collaboratively.”

I’ve updated the Election 2012 roundup to reflect these new endorsements.

And the news about Beverly Johnson dropping out is official, from Peter Hegarty of the Alameda Journal.  And she is now endorsing Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.

Now on to the questions!

I cleaned them up a bit, feel free to add more suggestions, I’ll send these off on the first of September:

  1. Turnover of principals at Wood, Lincoln, Encinal and other schools have been high, how important do you think stable leadership is for schools?
  2. Describe your understanding of how Measure A funds have been allocated and what steps will you take to restore confidence in the voters who are angry about the way the funds generated by Measure A have been used?
  3. What criteria would you use to determine if a teacher was effective or ineffective, and based on that criteria, what should be done to ensure that the district only employs effective teachers.
  4. What criteria would you use to determine if AUSD administration staff was effective or ineffective, and based on that criteria, what should be done to ensure that the district only employs effective administrators.
  5. If elected, what will you do to be proactive about securing adequate funding for our children? What outsideout-of-the-box ideas do you have to force the politicians to adequately fund our schools now?
  6. What single educational program and/or improvement will you push or recommend to better AUSD and describe the program and/or improvement.
  7. In 2010, AUSD adopted a Master Plan, explain your understanding of the Master Plan and AUSD’s implementation of the stated goals.
  8. As an elected official what is your specific role in promoting civic engagement as opposed to staff’s role?
  9. Who is funding your campaign and which groups and individuals have endorsed your candidacy?

Bonus Question: There are multiple seats available in the races for City Council, the School Board and the Hospital Board. Besides yourself, who will you be voting for in your race and why?


  1. How many schools have you personally visited? About which schools could you speak knowledgeably regarding test scores, programs, teaching staff and leadership issues? What single educational program and/or improvement will you push or recommend to better AUSD? When you have questions about educational issues, what source do you rely upon to gain more knowledge in the area? Name 2 books on educational reform teaching or management that are influential in your thinking about education.

    Comment by Commonsense — August 29, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  2. How will you make the meetings, agendas,and staff reports of AUSD and the Board of Education more transparent and accountable? Do you support AUSD adopting policies and practices similar to the City of Alameda’s “Sunshine Ordinance”?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 29, 2012 @ 7:19 am

  3. The AEA endorsement is useful. Helps us cross 3 names off the list.

    Comment by Jack Schultz — August 29, 2012 @ 7:26 am

  4. 5. What is your understanding of the phrase that calls for ideas ‘outside the box’ as contrasted with the phrase ‘out of the box’ and which phrase more closely describes your more innovative thinking?

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 29, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  5. #3 on this, I would tend to agree with Jack. AEA clearly chose in their own self interest, and not for the greater good of education in Alameda. They certainly have the right to do that, but sometimes it is better not to be too greedy.

    Oh and I really like the last 2questions asked by Commonsense regarding influential books and information sources.

    Comment by notadave — August 29, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  6. Made some updates to the questions based on some email submissions and feedback.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 29, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  7. 5 out-of-the-box could mean the candidate pulls an idea out of the AUSD approved box of ideas and submits it.

    Outside-the-box means the box of AUSD ideas has reached its pull date and is off the shelf and in the gray ACI bin.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 29, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

  8. Why was the question about effective teachers deleted? The union certainly dislikes talking about performance but it’s a critical & very relevant topic to voters (and parents and taxpayers and the public at large).

    Comment by Jack Schultz — August 29, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    • Someone mentioned over email that the School Board doesn’t have direct authority over teacher evaluations or developing the criteria. I can add it back to the list, but since it wouldn’t be something that the School Board would have much control over it might just be an opportunity for candidates to pander to their supporters instead of providing real insight into what type of board member they will be. But if folks find value in the question, I’ll send it in the set.

      Comment by Lauren Do — August 29, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  9. Guess the union has Do in their pocket too.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 29, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

  10. I’m generally a supporter of teachers and unions, but I’m a little disappointed, though not entirely surprised by the AEA endorsements and that they were so quick about it.

    I’m curious about Jon Murphy because his resume sounds interesting and since I’m not some libertarian knee jerk I wouldn’t disregard him automatically because of AEA.

    Here are my pick for books.

    Comment by M.I. — August 29, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  11. Just plain Libertarian works for me, MI. Great book!

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 29, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  12. Hmmm school board does not have direct authority over teacher evaluations is the criteria. Well if that is the case then you can throw out questions 1, 4 and 5.

    AB 5, which would repeal existing law regarding teacher evaluations, and instead, require local education agencies to evaluate teachers according to multiple measures and multiple observations. The bill would repeal existing law that requires evaluation of teachers according to student progress toward state standards, according to state assessments, when applicable. AB 5 would permit use of state tests only upon mutual agreement with the union.

    So yes the the school board does not have direct authority over teacher evaluations but directs staff during negtiations over matters reagrding the process of teacher evaluations and assistance for under performing teachers.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 30, 2012 @ 6:58 am

  13. More on the last minute haggling over the fate of AB5 and teacher evaluations.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 30, 2012 @ 7:12 am

  14. I think that the question of how candidates think teachers should be evaluated is an important one.

    The debate about teacher evaluations is part of a much larger conversation about education reform that is taking place not only in California but across the country — a conversation that includes a wide range of topics, including standards, curriculum, and testing.

    As a voter I’d like to know how well the candidates understand that larger context and what kind of teacher evaluation process they believe would be fair and effective.

    Comment by Susan Davis — August 30, 2012 @ 8:21 am

  15. Got it, the teacher evaluation question has been added back

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 30, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  16. Just found these gems from an old posting of Lauren’s about Trish Spencer. Some are from teachers. The AEA’s leadership should be ashamed of endorsing Spencer.

    4.Have you ever been to a board meeting? Trish Spencer does this on most every issue before the board. She does nothing but ask the same questions again and again in just slightly different ways. It appears to me that it does nothing but create animosity between her, the district and her fellow board members. She doesn’t do anything, publicly at least, on the board to try and create solutions to the issues at hand. She is the one who should be recalled. Maybe this board would get something done if she would hear what she was being told instead of listening for her self going on and on and on….
    We don’t need someone who is using their board seat to play politics, we need a strong leader who really cares. Trish Spencer is not that person.

    Comment by Gary Paul — August 31, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    5.Thank you Superintendent Vital and board members Mahon, Jensen, Tam and Mooney. Your patience and professionalism is to be commended. I am at a loss of words for my feelings about the role of Ms.Spencer in this whole thing. While I am totally against to recall, I look forward to voting the next time she comes up for re-election. That is where the voice of the majority will exercise their voice.

    Comment by Tina Koeberl — August 31, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

    * * * *

    11.I urge all citizens to watch AUSD board meetings in person or on television. Watching Trisha Spencer in action is quite something–she asks and asks and asks. Never seeming to listen to answers. And she doesn’t seem to understand that politics is not simply about grandstanding and pissing off everyone around you. She’s probably costing the district a whole lot of money with all her bizarre demands on staff.

    Comment by Sam — September 1, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    * * * *

    16.Trish Spencer is a political ally of Alaina Stewart, coordinator of anti-gay efforts conducted by the Alameda Mormon Ward. It is no surprise to see her behaving the way that she is. She has a right wing agenda (like those conducting the recall) with hopes to take over the Board. I suspect if they are successful, we won’t be arguing about protecting gay students, but instead about prayer in school and intelligent design.

    Comment by John — September 2, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — August 30, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

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