Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 24, 2014

Storm of sausage-making

Filed under: Alameda, Election, School — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

So, I’m going to tell you a little bedtime story about how sausage sometimes gets made.   This particular sausage never got out of the conceptual stage but here’s a peek into process.   This story was confirmed by three separate independent sources, all of whom are very trustworthy, but the details were just a tad different in the three different stories, so I’m just going to give you the gist of the story and not delve too much into detail.   I will point out that no one I mention in the story below is a source.

In a very special land, across the narrow sea, there was the nation of, let’s just call it Alamedaos.  In Alamedaos there is an important, um, tournament that occurs every November where the Alamedaosi select two members of the Small Council of education.   Sometimes external forces attempt to affect the selection ahead of time.  In Alamedaos, the Iron Bank of Braeavos approached one of the current Small Council members to see if that member would be interested in horse trading.

In exchange for not opposing that member’s attempt to be selected in November’s tournament, the Iron Bank asked that the member support another member’s rise to interim Hand of the Superintendent.  The second part of the horsetrading would involve the member elevating someone close to the Iron Bank to the Small Council to fill the member’s seat who would, ostensibly, be elevated as the interim Hand and would have to resign from the Small Council.

However, because the member who was the lynch pin in this whole matter did not want to become interim Hand, the whole plan became moot.   There are no indications on whether or not the initial member approached would have gone along with the plan, just that the proposal was initially broached.

There is information that points to someone from outside of Alamedaos being selected as the interim Hand but that official announcement won’t be made for a few weeks.

The End.


  1. Coda…the Small Council member who was to be elevated to interim Hand in order to make way for a Small Council member friendly to the Iron Bank was subsequently supposed to be stripped of the interim Hand position shortly after the installation of the Iron Bank’s Small Council member.

    (Just received third independent confirmation of this factoid, only had two previously).

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 24, 2014 @ 10:27 am

  2. Huh, and here I thought Game of Thrones was all about the bloody weddings.

    Comment by notadave — July 24, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  3. I read this in the a.m. and then totally by coincidence got the version which includes 1. above ( without even raising the subject). I’ve been waiting to come home to re-read today’s blog because after that conversation my mind was bent, and it still is. If I understand correctly, and I’m not sure I do, this may be a new low of local political subterfuge, but I only heard one version from one source.

    Comment by MI — July 24, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

  4. In other news, looks like the bubbling crude coming up in somebody’s front lawn near the corner of Mound and Central may be from a fuel oil tank that AUSD neglected to remove when Lincoln Elementary was demolished. It’s so hard to budget when the ghosts of bad choices past keep upping the liability.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 25, 2014 @ 7:44 am

  5. Why so coy? Here’s the story I heard from more than one source — Members of the AEA leadership approached Mike McMahon with a proposition. AEA would not oppose McMahon’s bid for re-election if he would do two things: 1) support the appointment of fellow board member Niel Tam as interim superintendent; and 2) agree to appoint former AEA president and current CTA staff member Gray Harris to Tam’s empty seat. That way Harris could serve on the board without having to face the voters.

    What they did not tell McMahon was the next step. Once Harris was on the board, she would join with other board members and fire Tam so that they could appoint a union controlled superintendent.

    Not only was this little plan unbelievably slimy, it just goes to show that the AEA’s leadership is far more interested in a power grab than in doing what’s best for the district in the long run. I’ve been an ardent supporter of the last few parcel tax measures but even I would have a hard time supporting any additional funds that would end up under the control of board members who would stoop to that level. Perhaps those who have been willing to give the benefit of the doubt to AEA’s leadership need to rethink their positions. This blatant and ill-advised grab for power just shows that they are far more interested in playing stupid political games than doing what is in the long term best interest of the students and the teachers the AEA leadership allegedly represents.

    In the grand tradition of AEA giving our former superintendent a bag of coal, would anyone like to join me in presenting a knife to AEA’s leadership? That way they wouldn’t have to look far to find something to plunge into Niel Tam’s back.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 26, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

  6. So why would Tam want to be superintendent? Salary? benefits? what ideas does he have?

    Comment by Clueless — July 26, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

  7. 5. on the one hand your are entirely correctly, but on the other the so called leadership of AEA is determined by who rushes in to fill the vacuum left by the thankless job that it is. Meanwhile, the majority of teachers have no real control and are too busy doing their jobs to do much about it, But as long as there are superintendents who are not collaborative but see fit to build their careers by being tough with unions, the teachers will continue to act defensively and support whatever zealots are crazy enough to step up and serve as long as they fight the power. It’s really not a healthy situation, but while these recent actions may be slimy, I can’t support a union buster for next superintendent either. People need to dig deep and try real hard to understand the culture of teaching and treat teachers as humans beings instead reducing them to stereo types, like tenured burn outs just waiting to retire. More and more of them have been retiring but the new hires are quickly heading down the path to burn out. It’s amazing how teaching profession attracts idealists and turns them into cynics. The evil AEA is about a dozen or so folks of about 650 total teachers. If you want to help improve the situation, maybe think about finding an administrator who is not such an autocrat that alienates the teachers. Not somebody who wants to be pals, just a straight shooter and an honest broker. It’s a tall order, but maybe if we offer twenty times a teacher salary we’ll get some genius.

    Comment by MI — July 27, 2014 @ 12:05 am

  8. I wouldn’t support a union busting superintendent either, and I think that most (all?) of us who have been labelled by the AEA leadership as “activist parents” are not anti-union. But I am immensely frustrated by the AEA leadership’s short sighted political gamesmanship. This latest example is perhaps the most egregiously slimy but it’s far from the only incident. I too am frustrated that the teachers who are trying to do their job well don’t get the respect they deserve but there has been a culture of “no” coming from the union leadership for a very long time which gives the impression that the union leadership (and by association, the teachers they represent) are primarily focused on maintaining the status quo, grabbing for power and doing it in a manner that makes everyone look bad. Their shortsightedness is stunning. Constantly and disingenuously bashing “the District” isn’t going to instill the confidence that voters will need to support the funding that pays teacher salaries and keeps their class sizes small. And the fact that the union’s leadership tried to pull this stunt just as there was an opportunity for a “clean slate” with a new superintendent goes to show that the leadership is not focused on improving the district.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 27, 2014 @ 1:26 am

  9. The VAST majority of teachers not only don’t support skullduggery, but don’t even know it’s being plotted! Most of US just want to do the best job that we can, and, like libertarians, want to be left alone to do just that. The interference from Washington down to AUSD central is a worse distraction than the occasional meatheads in our classes.

    Comment by sfb — July 27, 2014 @ 11:20 am

  10. One should not believe every story flying around Alameda, but the rumor mill is buzzing with this one, so it is probably true or very close to true.

    Comment 7’s characterization of the people running the teachers union’s political shenanigans as “the evil AEA” seems wrong, but in recent years they do seem to have taken a lot of misguided steps that are harmful to the long term interests of students and teachers. More often than not, it has looked like they have sought out and escalated conflict where possible. They have seemed more interested in fomenting mistrust by exaggerating any possible missteps by the school district administration or school board than in solving the many complex problems it is in the interests of students and teachers to solve. At times have used nasty over the top rhetoric that sounded like the talking points of anti-government right wing extremists. Inside their echo chamber all of this probably feels like a righteous approach that has worked in some ways. Outside, it feels like they are unnecessarily alienating a lot of parents and partners in the community and thereby poisoning the well of support that students and teachers depend on for so much, including voters’ willingness to vote for local school funding measures.

    Whatever the reasons for what has happened in recent years, the departure of the Superintendent presents an opportunity for AEA to change how they’ve been operating since they gave her that infamous stocking of coal at a school board meeting once upon a time. In fact, it is an opportunity not only for AEA but for all of us to begin again.

    Comment 7 suggests teachers aren’t responsible for what AEA has done since “the majority of teachers have no real control and are too busy doing their jobs to do much about it.” That’s also the case for most parents, families and community members. One of the big challenges in looking ahead is that there just aren’t good structures in place for most busy people who do want to try to have a bit more say in and influence over all of this. Elections only happen every two years and most people don’t have time to follow everything happening in the school district at school board meetings and elsewhere.

    Is it time for a new political organization or educational interest group to form in Alameda, one dedicated to the shared long term interests of students, teachers and the community?

    Comment by What's Next? — July 27, 2014 @ 11:40 am

  11. There is a big difference between union busting and expecting teachers who have a history of not teaching to do their jobs. This Sup. seemed to expect that and the union retaliated with propaganda and grandstanding with points that the district could legally not reply to. My kid had one of those crappy teachers and I was very happy to see something being done.

    We started school here when some guy named Nashino was Sup. he was terrible. Then there was Sup. Daily, she seemed to just be someone who just went through the ranks till it was her turn. One of them laid off everyone in the district. I think it was the first one but it might have been her.

    I watched the school board meeting closely a few months back when the AEA president got up to complain that the sup. was asking the teachers at wood to do unacceptable things to work within the new school framework to keep it from closing. Of course they put nothing on the table they just didn’t want to be asked to do the things that needed done.

    I think Oh the Irony pretty much nailed it (in comment #8, I am not sure I know enough to be sure if #5 is correct.) We are giving up though. Checking into open spots at all the privates and charters too. Cause now that I am paying more attention this board is too scary to let them make decisions for my family. I think I will continue to watch the meetings and stay informed even when we are gone. At least then I can laugh at Spenser instead of cry. She is a hoot if your kids lives aren’t in her hands.

    Comment by pay attention people — July 27, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

  12. An interesting article just came out in the SF Business Times about Alameda schools. The article is called “Bay Area Cities with the top-ranked school districts”. Alameda ranks number 10 out of 10. The article compares our school scores with the median price of a home in Alameda and it will mostly likely prompt more people to take a look at Alameda if they have school age children. This means alot more people could potentially be looking at what’s happening in the AUSD. I’m concerned that all of this will get lost if we don’t re-focus our attention on the education of our children. I’m hopeful that we rise about local politics and put our children first.

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 27, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

  13. It’s Not about the Students. Our whole focus in the District is about who is in Control and Who Gets the Money.

    All the Money Directly Spent on the Students has Been Cut to Pennies on the Dollar..

    We are what we Focus on.

    Karen what does that say about the School System in the Bay Area if we are # 10

    California is # 48 or 49th in Student Performance Nationally

    AUSD results from Star Testing

    Only 55% were Proficient or better .

    We had only 20 % of our Schools Pass The Federal Standards for Average Yearly Progress.

    The 20% of Schools that passed composed of about 10 % of the Students.

    “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.”

    Interview of Secretary of Education in “Having a Honest Conversation about Education”

    Comment by Reality — July 28, 2014 @ 12:11 am

  14. 10. referring to “evil AEA” was a sarcastic reference to people who have been relentlessly critical of AEA, not my sentiment, though this latest antic is pretty low. Obviously rank and file are responsible for who they elect to AEA offices, but I’ve listened to teachers talk about who is running and what they know about them and sometimes it would seem the only way to take 100% responsibility would be for them to step in and serve. When my spouse was AUSD she did just that and served on executive board but reduced her teaching ( and proportionally her pay) to 4/5 ths schedule just so she could cope and maintain teaching responsibilities. Yesterday I referred to the union being left to a bunch of “zealots” and she got pretty annoyed, “Hey a-hole, that’s me!”. “Sorry dear.”

    11. what exactly do you know about teachers actually not doing their jobs at AUSD? My mother-in-law was very proactive about things education but was wonderfully realistic. To paraphrase, she said “In 12 years of multiple teachers you just have to expect some are going to be duds.” It’s still terribly upsetting when one of our kids gets a dud or even a bad match of personality, but many of us don’t have the luxury of the choice to simply switch to private school and charters are a real concern when it comes to a) siphoning resources (PUBLIC tax $) which undercuts the regular schools, and b) a whole other complex laundry list. Every new charter potentially weakens public ed to some degree.

    As far as the “culture of teaching” I refer to often, I’ve spent a lot of hours hanging out with teachers socially listening to them talk about their work. In AUSD I watched the main niche of teachers I had access to over more than a decade have a significant number among their ranks retire, most of them excellent and none “not doing their job”. The new replacements have all been under KV administration and I haven’t noticed that their priorities have changed tremendously in terms of their attitude toward their union or the administration, and certainly not toward doing their jobs well. But the younger folks are simply not talking about when they might retire, because for one thing, after a couple years in the saddle when the blush wears off they aren’t all sure they will stay with the career for the next twenty plus years.

    Comment by MI — July 28, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  15. 13. Reality Bites.

    Is Arne responsible for all that random capitalization of letters in your quote.? Duncan is a political hack and that quote is platitude. “Honest Conversation” my ass. The Obama administration’s education policy is disruptive that’s for sure, but otherwise it’s retread NCLB.

    We recently dined with a veteran Oakland teacher (thirty years) who spoke of Oakland getting Gates money for “small schools” experiment. They tried it out, didn’t work so well. Gates turned off the money spigot and left OUSD holding the bag with reconfigured schools , but no money or plan to transition out of the “experiment”. In terms of reform, most of these rich clods are a bunch of dilatants who are completely out of their depth when it comes to education. Yes even the wealthiest man on the planet.

    Comment by MI — July 28, 2014 @ 11:21 am

  16. 15

    Go to 10:15 in this video and you can read the quote exactly

    Comment by Reality — July 28, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

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