Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 20, 2014

Now I ain’t much of a poet

Filed under: Alameda, Warm Fuzzies — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Late breaking news yesterday from Board Member Mike McMahon who tweeted out a link to a Southern California school district announcing the hiring of AUSD’s superintendent as their own.

I’m sure there are an equal number of people who will be sad at her departure and others that might be popping champagne bottles. I’m really not that surprised that the Superintendent is leaving though because even with her numerous supporters the kind of negativity that she faced from her detractors must have been soul sucking.

Thinking about the selection process to find her replacement is already giving me an ulcer.


The unfortunate passing of Alameda’s long time poet laureate has left a vacancy in the “Poet Laureate” title.   So the City of Alameda is looking for applicants who are interested in becoming Alameda’s next head poet.

For those that are curious about the job description:

  • The Poet Laureate writes poems throughout the year and participates in community events, education, and readings.
  • The Poet Laureate will write at least one commemorative poem to be read at the City Council meeting at which their appointment is made
  • The Poet Laureate encourages citizens to express their literary creativity
  • The Poet Laureate will promote and showcase original works of citizens
  • The Poet Laureate creates works of the written word that commemorates special events in the life of the City of Alameda

And the requirements:

  1. Applicant must be a resident of Alameda for at least two years
  2. Applicant must have an established history of activity in the Alameda literary community, i.e., readings, publications, public presentations, and/or teaching
  3. Applicant will have demonstrated a commitment to and passion for poetry and embrace the opportunity to engage in community service to make poetry more accessible and available to all ages.
  4. Applicant must be willing to promote poetry in Alameda

Applications are due by July 10, so you don’t have that much time left to pull together your application packet.

It would be nice to see some non traditional poets apply like maybe someone who dabbles in rap or poetry slam.   A quick search of the internets shows that it’s pretty uncommon for a rapper to be considered for the poet laureate-ship.   The last mention was when Rev Run of Run-DMC applied to be appointed as the poet laureate of Brooklyn.



  1. The legacy of our Sup? According to some critics- Illegal bond issues? Pricey administrative offices? “The fence” around OAHS? Taking a (tone deaf) salary hike while opposing one for teachers? In the end, Alameda is just a way station for Nishino and others and she lasted about as long…

    Comment by Puzzled — June 20, 2014 @ 7:24 am

  2. What illegal bond issues? Vital hasn’t issued any new bonds. She did one refunder, the legality of which has never been questioned.

    Comment by dave — June 20, 2014 @ 7:38 am

  3. Scratch that, no refunder, that was a city deal. Vital issued NO bonds at all.

    Comment by dave — June 20, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  4. The fence & the new offices were a result of an unsafe building and a legal requirement. Does anyone (other than you) really think the Super WANTED to do either? Really?

    As for the raise, it was per her agreement with the district and in case her pay was rather low by Superintendent standards. She did not oppose a raise for teachers. She offered one, AEA rejected it.

    Perhaps your handled need to be “Uninformed” rather than “Puzzled.”

    Comment by dave — June 20, 2014 @ 8:01 am

  5. …in *any* case, her pay was low…

    Comment by dave — June 20, 2014 @ 8:02 am

  6. As if I needed a reason to break out the champagne, but hey, it works for me. I agree with you though, Lauren. Finding a new one may be challenging, especially with the AUSD board at the helm of the selection process.

    Here’s the reason why the poet laureate spot does not attract edgier artists: the requirements by the City to write to its various events. Mary Rudge was a decent poet but the stuff she had to churn out for events like the dedication of the clock on Park Street (an ode to area businesses) was trite, tedious, and just plain awful. The job description absolutely screams sell-out. Hopefully, the new poet laureate will have some impact on how the role is perceived going forward. The only person I know of who is amply qualified (published book of poems, literary light in the community, etc.) is Julia Park Tracey, but would she be up for riding in the July 4th parade with a laurel wreath and toga and spewing PR influenced verses at set times throughout the year? Ehhh…???

    In England, there are no official duties, although there is an expectation that the poet will write for special occasions of national significance. Then there are the added incentives that Alameda doesn’t offer: An annual honorarium is provided, currently £5,760.[2] The holder is also traditionally rewarded with a butt of canary or sack, approximately 477 litres (105 imperial gallons), of sherry.[1][3] I’m guessing if you hate writing about the queen’s birthday, you can console yourself by downing a few imperial gallons of the good stuff. Seems fair.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 20, 2014 @ 8:15 am

  7. 5. Oh, please. We should all be so poorly compensated. The only people sneering at her salary are in the fire department.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 20, 2014 @ 8:19 am

  8. She competently runs an organization with a high 8/low 9 figure budget. This organization is subject to a myriad of regulations, saddled with a militant union and a host of operational challenges. She did a very good job at lower pay than her peers and much lower than comparable work would get in the private sector. That she got paid more than you is not germane.

    Comment by dave — June 20, 2014 @ 8:43 am

  9. From the wayback machine:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — June 20, 2014 @ 9:02 am

  10. We’ve been over this before but the number of students in our district is much lower than some of those with “comparable” salaries. The union was not so militant until she and the AUSD board made a series of very unpopular money moves at a time when we had record unemployment in our community and the teachers hadn’t had a raise in many years. The damage that AUSD administration did to the future of school bond measures will be with us a long time. We should demand a refund. Instead, they’ll probably hand her a golden parachute. Of course when you’re collecting multiple pensions, as at least one board member does, I suppose her compensation looks puny.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 20, 2014 @ 9:03 am

  11. Why should the Library have total say on who qualifies for the honorarium? There should be more of a community input.

    The Selection Committee shall consist the Library
    Director; one member of the Library Board or other library support group (Library
    Foundation or Friends of the Library); and one member of the Alameda Island Poets.

    “…Applicant must have an established history of activity in the Alameda literary
    community, i.e.,..”

    I wonder if this blog qualifies as a literary community.

    Comment by Jack — June 20, 2014 @ 9:30 am

  12. post #12, Dave looks like you are correct on all counts.

    Comment by John P. — June 20, 2014 @ 9:49 am

  13. 13. really? yeah, maybe, wait a min, not so sure. well? WTF.

    quite a spread there, not at all comparable when you factor the size of districts in that list. It goes without saying that we should expect to pay over $200K. One comparison could be the hospital which would make Vital UNDER paid, but since people love to compare the efficacy of public education to private business, it should be pointed out that CEO compensation has been going through the roof while the wage of average worker remains stagnant. Maybe we do have to pony up to get the best and brightest, but let’s not fall all over ourselves to break $300K.

    I’ve been 85% satisfied with Ms. Vital and the 85% is stuff which has not been well handled prior by people like Carpet Bagger Nishino. In the longest view, I think Ms. Vital is a careerist and there is nothing wrong with that, but a person whose highest priority is education, might have stuck around longer. But such a person would be an altruist and the job description didn’t include that, nor were any of us deluded enough to think we had hired one. One call always hope. I’m sorry she is leaving NOW, I just feel like her short comings are painfully consistent and she showed no signs of being self critical in those regards. Not collaborative nor inclined to try to be, even if it could have been self serving. But when you are the smartest person in the room, it’s hard to have patience with people who don’t get it. That’s the rest of us. The board has been no picnic, but no point in trying to pin her departure on Trish Spencer either. She came from the south and with new family it makes sense she has calculated her return. Good luck Kristin Vital.

    Comment by MI — June 20, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

  14. I mean why should a chowder of library cats yawning and stretching within the stacks be disrupted from preen to decide the supreme when all they want is a little more cream.

    Comment by Jack — June 20, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  15. Gee thanks for nothing AUSD. We eat supes for breakfast down here. Anyone willing to bet how long she lasts at CapoUSD?

    Comment by capoparent — June 20, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

  16. School sup in Alameda come and go, just like the buses some were good some were junk , Happy moving ……
    It very much remind me of that Principal we imported from Colorado years ago only to leave for Japan one of the most expensive place in the world as she was complaining of cost in Alameda ” subsidized by the tax payers” She was a super star too , wondering where she is now …….
    As far as Union goes , without them we would all be working for minimum wages , the plantations may be gone the Masters have been replaced by out of State corporation treating their Employee like disposable commodity , If you have a decent salary keep the phylosophy one of my former boss had, pay a little bit more than the Unions to keep them out , and fire anyone at will …..

    Comment by So long take a water supply with you — June 21, 2014 @ 9:22 am

  17. #15 “chowder of library cats” doesn’t sound too appetizing.

    Comment by dog face — June 21, 2014 @ 9:48 am

  18. 18
    Actually there are a group of mostly uninhabited islands near the mouth of the Orinoco river a few of which are overrun with cats. They’re not native to the islands but found their way ashore along with human survivors from shipwrecked seventeenth century British schooners who usually had cats aboard to look after the rats. Having no natural enemies the cats soon became pests and were used as a source of protein by the human survivors who chopped them up and along with coconut milk and plantains made stew. .

    This really has no bearing on my #15 since the “chowder” was actually written as “clowder” which is a bunch of cats. However Chrome spell-check deemed it necessary without asking permission to screw up my wording.

    Comment by Jack — June 21, 2014 @ 10:14 am

  19. The Teachers and AEA ranted and raved at School Board Meetings in a Jerry Springer like Manner….Then Proceeded to hand out a Bag of Coal to the Supe and School Board like Spoiled Children Having a Tantrum …..Thinking this has NO impact on how the Students and Community look at the fiasco called AEA…….Remember it’s all about the Kids..Surprised it took so long…..Oh Yeah it’s Trish Spencers Fault..

    Comment by Surprised it took so long — June 21, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

  20. 20. anybody who actually believes KV had a long term plan to stay here is naive. I’m certain Spencer was a motivating factor in the short term, but “fault”. Don’t think so. Even Oakland before AUSD she was a resume building strategy. Chaconas had flaws too and some were serious but in terms of how he saw his career he was committed to education first. The thing people like 20 seem to have a blind spot for are the consistent ways KV has shot us all in the foot by not doing simpler things to accommodate teachers. With this summer key thing, maintenance has always had the priority and there have been summers where teachers were shut out for a stretch of weeks at certain sites. KV could simply have started by coordinating the meeting which took place and resolved the issue rather than starting with collecting all keys. It was predictable that teachers would freak , but so was her heavy handed first move. Taking the raise during parcel tax campaign instead of waiting a few months will always stand out too. I know two people who were very supportive of her who called and pleaded on that count who were essentially snubbed, shut down, told don’t even bother. From where I’m standing she appears to have been one of the best administrators we’ve had in quite a while and is leaving the district better than she found it, but it’s ironic that just as with taking the raise during parcel campaign she is leaving right as the bond campaign commences. People who trusted her may be more willing to vote for the bond now, but the sort rudderless transition period may cut the other direction with others. Maybe we should hire the company who managed to snatch her and tell them to get to work asap.

    Comment by MI — June 28, 2014 @ 10:33 am

  21. People who work with KV day to day at the offices obviously have better idea what ‘s ticking than the rest of us, but as hand picked employees they are also subjective and have careers to protect, so I don’t expect to be enlightened by any of those folks and I don’t really blame them.

    This solar issue which has come up recently is interesting opportunity to try to illustrate a point about administrative style. I was at a meeting a 4 years ago with most of the same people who have just lobbied for this solar effort. Kyoto USA is a group ( mostly one guy Tom Kelly) who has created and successfully lobbied the Solar Schools Initiative. Alameda is always special case and what with municipal utility and the teacher contract I had been telling Tom Kelly I didn’t think we were ripe for going solar. Previous to that meeting I had been introduced to KV in the halls at Alameda High a couple times and she was very cordial, it was all up beat, etc. At the meeting her demeanor was incredibly flat line. In my memory I don’t recall a smile and barely a comment. She essentially observed the previous facilities guy Leland talk it up with Tom from Kyoto USA, with some measured in put from the representatives from AMP. The district is actually a big customer of AMP so they aren’t exactly anxious to loose that business, and there has even been arm twisting to give AUSD breaks on rates in the past. My take away from that day is was that KV didn’t want anything to do with solar and had the meeting to get the issue off the table. Leland didn’t last a whole lot after that meeting either.

    AUSD staff is quoted in the Alamedan at the recent meeting where solar was discussed:”Staff has not had time to analyze or investigate its feasibility against the other realities and variables in AUSD, such as the practicality of installing canopies in parking areas, and how the proposed (solar plan) integrates into the (facilities master plan) as a whole,” the district’s chief business officer, Robert Clark, wrote in a report to the board for Tuesday’s meeting.” I guess Clark hasn’t been here four years, and there is little no institutional memory there.

    Further down in the article : “CASA’s David Teeters said the idea was first presented to schools leaders by Kyoto USA four years ago. Superintendent Kirsten Vital said June 10 that the district had just received the plan in May, though Burton said a draft was submitted to Alameda Unified in December and that its author had been working with the district in the intervening months.” Davids Teeters and Burton were both present at that meeting for years ago.

    My take away from the meeting 4 years ago was that rather than get real and simply lay her cards out and state her reservations, KV was stone faced. She is still being evasive about the issue. It’s her style, which is not at all collaborative. People can stay hyper focused on how AUSD teachers have behaved like children without taking into consideration the vastly larger perspective of the teaching culture at large, and do so at their own risk., Since we are getting an opportunity for a clean start it would be useful if people could take this opportunity to do some deep reflection on some of the short comings of this administration and what we might look for in a new hire. I get how teachers have acted like a bunch big babies, but some of you people act like administrative shit don’t stink.

    Comment by MI — June 28, 2014 @ 11:17 am

  22. The raise was after the campaign.

    Comment by dave — June 28, 2014 @ 11:21 am

  23. 21/22

    Obvious comment by Ms MI

    Comment by Jack — June 28, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

  24. really Jack? obvious to whom about what? wait, does anybody even care? I don’t.

    dave, I think that was the next raise. I’m referring to the first campaign E, the one after H which failed. Fairly certain that was during. And in case it’s not obvious, I’m not saying economics of solar are no brainer AUSD should embrace. In fact they are the opposite. Invest $14.2 million up front plus $2 million and save $2 million over twenty years. 12? better than a twenty year CD, and great for the environment, but the investment is also about 9% of the total bond, right? There are other infrastructure concerns which over lap, like roofing conditions $$$. I just think it’s sort of BS to claim we have to start study from scratch when it’s not just been since December we’ve had the capacity to do that, it’s been four years. This is not a hugely contentious issue, but to me it sticks out as part of a pattern. I don’t know if dave would like to advertise for an avowed union buster for next supe. Some thought we had one. I get that an administrator who feels they have to extract something from a bargaining unit is not going to be all buddy buddy and should not pretend to be, but I think there are better instincts than to go all hard ball. It is a reasonable strategy to have a fire wall between administration and employees, but transparency and collaboration aren’t just feel good terms, but a style anybody can employ. When it comes to next hire, I want a well articulated policy on charters too.

    All the bashing of Spencer and KV have comparisons to Tea Party insistence that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. It would be comical if the cost was not so great. I’m projecting a lot with little real knowledge of a person, but having no real access, it’s human nature to make stuff up.

    Comment by MI — June 29, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

  25. “It is a reasonable strategy to have a fire wall between administration and employees,”

    Why? If I’m paying for my kid’s public education through taxes, I don’t want to have a middleman deciding how the educating gets done or how much extra I have to pay for firewall meddling. .

    Comment by Jack — June 29, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

  26. What’s the cost for anybody’s insistence that Obama’s anything? It’s not Tea Party ‘insistence’ that’s expensive it’s BHO’s incompetence.

    Comment by Jack — June 29, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

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