Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 28, 2012

You asked, they answered: Michael Robles-Wong, School Board candidate

1. Turnover of principals at Wood, Lincoln, Encinal and other schools have been high, how important do you think stable leadership is for schools?

It’s not unusual for private and public organizations the size of AUSD to have healthy rates of turnover –  due to “natural” causes like retirements and voluntary job changes.   In my experience, management typically has the highest rates of turnover, because organizational change relies on those leaders having the right skill sets and motivation to effectuate planned changes. I have worked in organizations that did not make any effort to develop succession plans for key leadership roles, and these organizations suffered more disruption than others.  That said, I agree that having stable leadership is desirable, but not at the expense of finding and then supporting the team that will most effectively lead a school site and community to achieve their goals. Sometimes it takes time to find the best leadership team and in that case the school community and the district administrators need to work patiently and carefully together to find that team.

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?

To use flyover terminology, the Board of Education described Measure A’s fund allocations at a 10,000 foot level at the start of the Measure A campaign. As the measure’s campaign chair, I know that these allocations were well publicized throughout the campaign.  As an appointed member of the Measure A Oversight Committee, I can say with confidence that the actual fund expenditure has matched this same list of allocations in the measure itself. The board will need to actively engage and reassure the voters by revealing the findings of the first year’s results of that Oversight Committee (that report is due out later this fall). This being the end of the first year of funding, I would further advocate holding a public workshop where voters can make suggestions to the district on some of the detailed decisions that will be made within the basic categories of funding set out in Measure A.

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.

This issue is at the heart of a very heated national debate, one that is also playing out here in our district. I think the district and the union here need to turn a new page – one focused on sitting at the table cooperatively, listening to each other, and crafting solutions we can all live with. Our educational strategies require evaluations to ensure that we nurture a work force of high performing teachers. Those evaluations should capture the most objective measures reflecting the ways that we deliver education, for example including principal evaluations and peer reviews, not just student test scores.

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.

Administrative staff at a certain level at AUSD already receives performance evaluations. The board must ensure that a comprehensive and updated set of policies is identified for evaluating administrators, which can then drive the establishment of measurable and achievable goals for them.  Outcomes must include staff development and performance measurement as an integral part of employee evaluations.

5. If elected, what will you do to be proactive about securing adequate funding for our children? What outside-of-the-box ideas do you have to force the politicians to adequately fund our schools now?

My oldest daughter, Maya, is the lead plaintiff in the Robles-Wong et al v State of California lawsuit. Filed in May 2010, this lawsuit asks that the state legislature reform its inefficient and irrational funding system for public education. It is a huge effort – the plaintiff coalition includes 60 students, a number of school districts, and three major education groups. The California Teachers Association is involved, as well. While waiting for the state situation to resolve, I also chaired the Measure A parcel tax campaign, because our schools were facing a catastrophic loss of state funding and I believed that our community was willing to step up to help them.  In addition to that, I believe in reaching out to the City of Alameda and other public and private institutional and community resources to find mutually beneficial outcomes. We are all squeezed financially. But I’m a big believer that when you reach out to others who might have similar interests/challenges as your own, and then try to find solutions that are mutually beneficial, occasionally you find that in looking at the results; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Collaborative efforts may yield solutions that cannot be achieved piece-meal.

6. What single educational program and/or improvement will you push or recommend to better AUSD and describe the program and/or improvement.

I would like to see better collection and evaluation of relevant performance data as related to decisions to start, retain, or discontinue academic programs/contracts.

7. In 2010, AUSD adopted a Master Plan, explain your understanding of the Master Plan and AUSD’s implementation of the stated goals.

The Master Plan set out eight goals that were agreed upon by the community over the course of nine months in 2009. Those eight components, taken together, are both ambitious and strategically broad. We have made substantial progress towards achieving some goals. Some are more dependent upon finances that the district does not currently have. For example, the eighth component (passing a parcel tax) was completed, but the approximately 12 million dollars generated by it over 7 years is insufficient to totally fund all of the master plan components.

8. As an elected official what is your specific role in promoting civic engagement as opposed to staff’s role?

The role of a board member should be to have and to nurture conversations with constituents and then bring the input gleaned from those conversations back to the board for discussion.  The board member has to constructively seek and communicate that input as appropriate, and if the matter rises to a policy issue, then he/she must work to find consensus on the board and act on that issue. If the matter is an operational issue, this is a matter for the superintendent and staff. Board members do not micro-manage the staff. If there are operational issues, I let them do their job; I monitor what they are doing; and I hold the superintendent accountable. Many residents in Harbor Bay Isle know that this is how I remained an effective Board President during my four year term. I’m a good listener and I routinely work at finding consensus in order to act.

9. Who is funding your campaign and which groups and individuals have endorsed your candidacy?

I am accepting individual contributions. I am still compiling an endorsement list, but my support has been coming from some of the folks that I have worked with on the public education lawsuit, Measure A, residents of the Community of Harbor Bay Isle (with whom I worked during my years as the organization’s president), other local organizations that I belong to, and parents with children attending both mainstream and charter schools here in AUSD.

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?

I will vote for those individuals who (in some capacity as a community leader) have repeatedly and reliably demonstrated skill at a) engaging their constituency; b) bringing constructive, practical solutions to their policy-making body; and c) building a positive consensus to achieve that solution.


  1. Mr. Robles-Wong looks like a good choice for four reasons: He’s intelligent, expressing his thoughts well, in an ordered and coherent way; he’s experienced in leadership and management, citing the need for “measurable” goals for administrators instead of vague ones; he’s politically savvy, evidenced by his answer to the bonus question; but, most importantly, he has earned a place at the table by leading the lawsuit against the State to adjust the school funding plan, no doubt spending countless hours in support of not only Alameda’s children, but children statewide, which shows that, although working for Measure A, he realizes that this is a band-aid approach only and bigger, better solutions must be found going forward. He also had the most satisfactory answer to question 2 of any of the candidates to date.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 28, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  2. Exactly the reason I won’t vote for him. The Democrats got us in this mess and they’re the ones who should get us out, not the courts.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 28, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  3. 2: Jack, are you saying that you WON’T vote for Mike Robles-Wong because “Mr. Robles-Wong…..(is) intelligent, expressing his thoughts well, in an ordered and coherent way; he’s experienced in leadership and management, citing the need for “measurable” goals for administrators instead of vague ones..”

    I hope my initial interpretation of your response to Denise’s post is incorrect: your previous posts have led me to believe that you values intelligence, coherence, and experience…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — September 28, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

  4. Jon, I thought his first few (up until #5) answers were what Denise described and you supported, just fine, then Denise, with the words, “…but, most importantly,…” proceeded to the key as to whether I would vote for him or not. Mind you, it wasn’t Denise who made it clear that Mr. Robles-Wong was using the courts as a legislative tool, it was Mr Robles-Wong himself through his daughter’s lawsuit who make that clear. I can not support any candidate, particularly one of the Democrat persuasion who’s party has had control of the legislative branch in this state since the 70’s, who attempts to use the courts as a legislative tool, period.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 29, 2012 @ 9:00 am

  5. Jack, all of the school board candidates are Democrats, and as far as I know, they all support the lawsuit. So you might as well support a candidate that’s intelligent and coherent because a lot (most) of them are not.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — September 29, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  6. They, no doubt, are all Demos, and are in total support of ‘et al’ and are all snuggling into bed with Robles-Wong.

    But tell me, Oti, just what are the bonus points local Democrats get for voting in, year after year, state legislators who they distrust so much and rightly so because said legislators have mangled every program they have placed into law? Why is it that these same local Demos then go running to the courts to try to rectify their legislators’ fuck ups, then farcically base their own local campaigns for local office against their own party’s state policies?

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 29, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

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