Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 13, 2013

Just like starting over

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

I have literally gotten to the point where I want to throw things when I watch the School Board meetings.   It is only my self-control and laziness to clean that stop me from doing it.

At this point, I’m not even sure why I care anymore because the school that my kids attend is newer and in reasonably good shape.

Last Tuesday’s School Board meeting was the final straw for me, probably because essentially what we were told was that look, there is no way this process is going to anywhere near finished by the time we need it to be finished in order to put a School Facilities bond on the ballot.  No. way.

What we learned was that the District is way behind the eight ball when it comes to developing a comprehensive Master Facilities Plan.  These plans, according to the Director of Facilities Robbie Lyng, takes — at a minimum — 14 months.   14 months.   To make the ballot, the District only has 7 months.

The thing that is most frustrating to me is that this process regarding the Master Facilities Plan started in January.  January.   7 months ago.  And back then, the School Board punted on the issue because Barbara Kahn didn’t trust staff and felt as though they had an agenda as to what they wanted to do with facilities.   Oh and didn’t want to hire “outsiders” to tell Alameda what to do.   Trish Spencer didn’t want to move forward because she was still pandering to AEA regarding contract negotiations.  And the others just wanted to play as nice as possible.

The problem is I think the only member on the School Board that can see the macro issues is Mike McMahon.  Everyone else appears to be mired in the minutiae and the problem with Mike McMahon (hi Mike!) is that he doesn’t have the ability to bring along the other members to see that he’s talking a whole lot of sense.   Last Tuesday’s meeting is really where I came to the realization that former School Board member Ron Mooney really was the glue that was holding the Board together.  He was a big picture guy but could also bring people along with him on his journey.

Watching this meeting again, I realize that we haven’t really moved anywhere since January and we are really behind.   I thought outgoing CFO Robert Shemwell explained really well what the District Staff wanted to do, which has not changed in seven months which was to hire a consultant to take a look at the existing facilities and talk about, well these items:

The issue is, how do you make these decisions and solutions without information about demographics current and future, the state of the current facilities, the future of education and grade formations, what role would HAHS have in these plans, what about space requirements of District staff, etc. and so forth.   Essentially everything Mike McMahon has been talking about since forever.   Essentially this whole Master Facilities Plan has gotten hijacked by people trying to show up the Superintendent or trying to prove District Staff wrong and in the end the community as a whole suffers because there are folks out there that are so distrustful of what the District Staff says or what their motivations are they either refuse or fail to see the bigger picture.

To me, it’s pretty simple.   If I were queen of AUSD I would have hired the consultants in January for $300K. Look in the grand scheme of things $300K is a drop in the bucket when we talk about the very basic facilities study that was produced a while ago said that there are $92 million in bandage fixes.   If the eventual solution is that we decided to reduce the number of neighborhood schools then some of that $92 million does not exist any longer, right?  The problem is, we don’t know what we want because we don’t know what anything would cost if we decide to reconfigure the way that we house our students.   The only thing we do know is that we  (1) have space issues and (2) have aging facilities.  But beyond that we keep having these meetings blind, talking about what we want and what we don’t want without any idea as to the cost of anything.

After the consultants bring their huge Master Facilities Plans with all the costs outlined, then you share the information and then involve the community so that the community can decide, yes I want that or no I don’t want that.  Simple right?  Not for this board.

At this point I am unwilling to vote for any bond put forward that doesn’t follow those basic steps.  And you all know that I am not one that shies away from voting for taxes and bonds.   I’m just too frustrated by this process to even bring myself to want to care anymore.  I would urge everyone to watch that January meeting to see what the staff was presenting back then to see if it is anything out of line.  I’m just appalled that in 7 months we are, honestly, right back where we started and that’s just depressing.



  1. There is a special Board of Education meeting to talk about a Facilities Master Plan this Tuesday, September 17 (6:30 pm, AHS cafeteria). The discussion will include a basic introduction to what Facilities Master Plans are, how they are developed, what the timeline is, and how such a plan would relate to a potential bond for AUSD facilities.

    Also, I think it’s important for people to understand that if a consultant is hired, extensive community engagement takes place before the plan is drafted — so that the consultants can both teach the public about the facilities issues we face (and what we could potentially have instead) and understand what the community’s priorities are.

    Comment by Susan Davis, senior manager, community affairs, AUSD — September 13, 2013 @ 8:30 am

  2. During the first week of January 2013, AUSD moved into the new office. Public outcry ensued. The School Board was still getting flack about the fence that went up a few months before and even about Vital’s compensation boost which occurred in 2011. They were afraid that if they then spent $300,000 on “experts” to tell them what to do, the public would have their guts for garters. Mystery solved. We need wisdom, courage, and leadership on the School Board. It doesn’t look like what we have of each at present is sufficient.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 13, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  3. Next time you’re in London, Denise.

    The new concept store in an old Victorian butcher’s in Camden mixes curiosity shop artefacts and art gallery items with clothing pieces

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 13, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  4. IF it really takes 14 months to do the infrastructure study–and I am not at al sure that I trust the staff or consultants on this point–then let’s get going on the &%#@$ process. If it delays the bond issue election for a year, then so be it. I voted for Ron Mooney every time he ran, and support Mike McMahon on most things, too. But it takes *every* school board member being wiling to work constructively towards goals like these and we seem to not have that right now…

    And if there is supposed to be “public engagement,” can AUSD schedule the meetings so “the public” can actually attend them next time?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — September 13, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  5. Thanks for the tip, Jack. My niece lives there. I’ll have her check it out.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 13, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  6. Good day all:

    I would encourage everyone to attend or watch next Tuesday’s special board meeting that Susan refered to above. Mark Quattrocchi from QKA will be presenting Facilities Master Planning 101. Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about what a facilities master plan is, why it is important, what sections make up a facilities master plan, and how it fits into the process for developing a bond measure.

    I also want people to know that AUSD is not starting the master planning process from scratch. Yes, that could take 12 to 18 months to do it right. However, AUSD already has a Facilities Master Plan that was updated in 2010 and that only needs to be updated again, not recreated. Additionally, Mr. Quattrocchi’s firm prepared a Facilities Assessment Report in 2012 detailing the condition of all the school sites that can also be updated quickly and at minimal cost. Continuing, AUSD now has accurate information regarding the component cost to rehabilitate one, two, or all three buildings of the historic Alameda High School thanks to the community engagement project authorized by the board earlier this year.

    Tuesday’s board meeting was noteworthy on many levels. First, the board members were far more respectful of each other’s views and the dialogue betwen them had substance. Next week’s meeting and presentation will bring them even closer to a single unified course of action. Second, while I did not get the 5-0 vote I wanted (and said so several times) on moving forward with the facilities master plan process, the board did agree 5-0 (by not objecting) to my proposal item #4 to take another step towards developing a facilities master plan.

    From my propsal:

    3. Engage the services of Quattrocchi Qwan Architects to advise the current HAHS stakeholders and the school site/charter school stakeholders on the information contained in the 2012 Facilities Assessment Report. This advisory function would include responding to questions from the stakeholders to better understand the nature, necessity, and complexity of the repairs.

    4. The firm would also advise the facilitator and the board of the various components of a facilities master plan so that there is a better understand of the necessity for such a document and assist in developing the criteria to be used in gathering information from the community so that the necessary information in the proper form can be used in the subsequent development of a formal master plan.

    So, the board acted unanimously to move forward.

    Part 4 of the proposal happens next week. Look for an action item to come to the board (hopefully) at its September 24th board meeting.
    Stay tuned.

    Jeff Cambra

    Comment by Jeff Cambra — September 13, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

  7. Interesting Conversation with Sal Khan and Arne Duncan Secretary of Education

    Starting at 9:00 in on Video gets to guts of our Problem IMO.

    Comment by interesting times — September 14, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  8. Might need to Focus on the Future

    Comment by interesting times — September 14, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

  9. 7. happy talk, no real content, no explanation of real nuts and bolts of how applying Common Core will actually work, all theoretical generalities. did you make it to 15:30 where Duncan lauds hard work of teachers and says anybody who blames them for our failures is off base? Do you have any first hand knowledge of what has been going on in AUSD high schools previous to C.C. and how C.C. will be applied, or how it will be different? I’m going to debrief teacher in my house, takes notes and post her answer to that.

    Comment by M.I. — September 14, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

  10. 8. great. why don’t you do your dissertation on how we integrate “personalized learning” with Common Core goals Dr., and then get back to us? at 7:00, “body language”: teachers don’t need to be distracted entering data to project student progress when their students are texting or asleep. I’ve heard a thousand stories about trying to deal kids with their heads on their desks. Gee, I wonder what that means. Not that any of this guy’s rap is really wrong, just more platitudes and generality. Maybe we should simply dig deep and deal with now rather than get swept up in fantasy about the future.

    Comment by M.I. — September 14, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  11. 10 “body language” in Common Core recommended reading book, “Dreaming in Cuban”
    “Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving easily into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.”

    (Why wasn’t this type reading recommended when I was a high school sophmore. It would have save a lot of time getting porno from the underground.)

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 15, 2013 @ 10:42 am

  12. 2 and 1/2 Percent of Education Dollars are being Spent on the Gifted Students

    Comment by interesting times — September 15, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  13. 2 and 1/2 cents per 100.00 dollars……. or a quarter of 1/10 of one percent

    Or 0.025 Percent being spent on Gifted Students


    Comment by interesting times — September 15, 2013 @ 11:43 am

  14. I’m looking at my “bar” [it’s actually egg-shaped] of black Spanish soap in an entirely different light now..

    “Dreaming In Cuban” has its own Wikipedia page. Based on the Wiki alone, not on a par with Pride & Prejudice, not at all..

    Comment by vigi — September 15, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

  15. 11. jack, without context it’s hard to know what to make of your example, but I don’t want to get into a dog fight over some cherry picked example. I was responding to the two posts 7. and 8. Frankly, I had a lot more respect for Sal Kahn before I watched his soft ball/ mutual admiration session with Arnie “Empty Suit” Ducan. Typically, rather than respond to my criticisms, 12 and 13 deflect the discussion further into the abstract zone about what supposedly “gifted students” are or are not getting. Since gifted students are presumably just that, I don’t see the point of wandering further off into the weeds when one would presume the whole point of standardized core is to try to float the entire boat, particularly those most in need which would not be gifted, but at risk.

    Comment by M.I. — September 15, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

  16. 11. “…one would presume the whole point of standardized core is to try to float the entire boat,…”

    Great (boat = education) metaphor! Thirty percent is underwater all the time and that’s where most of the operating expenses go.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 15, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

  17. I’m in over my head trying to research and compare existing standards for CA versus new federal standards which are confusingly referred to as State Common Core Standards, national standards voluntarily agreed to by participating states. FAQs at this site are a great help. However, even though the objectives and methods appear to be entirely appropriate and laudable, there still is not a lot of content or context for specifics of implementation. Moving from macro level of this FAQ to micro examples of specific books on a list is no help.

    We are being told that unlike the past the measure of accomplishing these new standards will not be as heavily test score based, which should be a good thing, but one has to wonder how much the work involved in implementing all this will detract and distract from teachers and administrators ability to simply teach kids.

    7. in reviewing the video from 9:00 just now I wonder which content you think “gets to the gut of our Problem”, Kahns question or Arnie’s very general happy talk response in which he talks about the travesty of social promotion etc. and how the new regime will ameliorate that. I assumed you refer to the latter, but as I re-listened I see that there is a lot more crux in Kahn’s question about how will things be different? how will changes be implemented? than in Arnie’s non-answer. In reading existing standards for CA History and Social Science just now, it’s hard to imagine better standards for skills and it would take an seasoned veteran or at least a person with very well rounded education to critique the content, but content seemed well rounded to my eye. Whether or not CA standards are being met has nothing to do with the standards themselves.

    Comment by M.I. — September 15, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

  18. Anicdotal incident concerning CC in real classrooms: discussing a passage read by kids in my grandson’s 7th grade class, teacher asked each kid why would he/she like to be famous. Kid’s buddy told the teach ‘ because he’d be knee deep in bitches’. Got suspended for coupe days.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 15, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

  19. 16. so, maybe that is simply a law of physics/economics and appropriate, or maybe you think by injecting more hot air you can float the boat above the water like a balloon? Another great metaphor, eh?!

    Comment by M.I. — September 15, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

  20. 18. how does that incident necessarily hinge on c.c.?

    Comment by M.I. — September 15, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  21. 20 Kid’s dreaming in Cuban and getting punished for expressing the cc gobbly gook in real time.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 15, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

  22. This is what I got out of watching Video.# 7 …..Yes I got to 15:30 in the Video so I won’t repeat.

    Arie is Trying to have a honest conversation with the public and being honest about Education…….Doing the Right thing and do something that makes sense.

    Arie Duncan is a Big Fan of Sal Khan for his Leadership and the great opportunity he is giving the kids and people around the globe , leading the way in learning and educating.

    Using Blended learning and using Technology. The Real Focus and Goal is about Learning and not Teaching. We need to Raise the Goal at the High End.

    One thing we have done that has Hurt our Children our Community and our Country tremendously is we have Dummied down and reduced the standards and testing for learning to make our politicians look good.We were actually Lying to our Students and their Families telling them they are being prepared for being successful when frankly they were not even close. To me that is insidious and heartbreaking and that is the worse thing that can happen to a student and a family that think they are on track for college and career ready and not even in the Ball Park..

    Kids are not dropping out because it’s too hard but because its too boring.Not Connected

    The students will be competing for jobs from everywhere around the world.

    Focus should be on are the students prepared.

    40-50% still not meeting remedial education proficiency.

    Structure of Education has to change we are using a 19th century model. 25 or 30 kids sitting in rows makes no sense at all learning the same thing at same time and same pace.

    Education is not about Seat Time

    It’s not how long you sat there but do you know the material. We have people graduating from high school with 6th grade math skills.

    Seat Time Vs Competency


    Well rounded World Class Public Education with Core Including

    Extracurricular -Band- Arts – Music – theatre- ECT

    Financial Literacy

    Computer Science


    Physical Education


    We have Stagnated. One Generation ago we lead the World now a dozen countries have passed us and we are paying that price as a Nation.

    That’s Just a few things that came to mind.

    Comment by interesting times — September 15, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

  23. 10) This what I got out of Video # 8

    Use of Technology to improve the effectiveness of Learning

    There are lots of opportunities to innovate.

    46% of US College Students Don’t Graduate

    40% That Graduate Don’t have the Right Skills to Work and find Job

    65% of Kids in School today are going to work in Jobs that don’t exist today.

    This is the First Generation not Afraid of Technology . It’s like Air to them.

    Unlike older generation that is afraid of technology.

    Time For Change.

    Education is 4 Trillion Dollar Business.

    Education is 3 Times as Big as Mobile.We know how big Mobile is.

    We need to Look at Learning as a Lifetime Journey.

    Parents and Teachers are Key.

    Everyone needs to work together.

    Example of what happened in Ethiopia

    Talk about MOOC’s

    We are Creating Rockstar Teachers All over the World

    Talk about Edmoto and have about 30 million users.

    Comment by interesting times — September 15, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

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