Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 5, 2015

It’s your first big decision, the choice isn’t easy to make

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

It’s not online yet, but on Tuesday night the School Board finally made a decision on who to fill Trish Spencer’s vacated seat.  Based on the tweets from AUSDNews, Susan Davis should win some kind of medal for being able to keep up with the crazy back and forth.  I’m just going to repost some of her tweets here so you can see how the vote went.

First after a series of questions and answers the Board Member whittled the list down to three picks, only those that were selected would move on to the next round:

And then from that list everyone selected two:

And from that list each member selected one to move on:

Okay so after that, motions were made for each of the three remaining candidates which resulted in a stalemate each time.  Both Gary Lym and Niel Tam cast votes for Sherice Youngblood and Philip Hu, but both did not vote to appoint Jane Grimaldi.  Similarly Solana Henneberry and Barbara Kahn would not vote for Philip Hu or Sherice Youngblood.  At one point there was discussion about ranked choice voting to break the impasse, and then instead it was decided they would open up the voting to bring back candidates who received two or more votes in the second round:

Then they picked two again:

And picked one again:

Which again, left an impasse.

It was only when Jane Grimaldi withdrew her application that the School Board had “made a decision” which was really not a decision since Jane Grimaldi really made the decision for them.  According to the tweets there was some drama between Barbara Kahn and Sherice Youngblood, but I’ll wait till the video is up to write about that.

So Philip Hu is our newest school board member.   Just so you all remember, he’s the guy who used to be a school board member in San Gabriel and then recently moved here.  At the very least he will be able to hit the ground running because he’s had experience as a School Board member in the past.

It’s interesting that some people are trying to make this an issue of. Barbara Kahn vs. Sherice Youngblood, having not seen the video yet I can’t say how aggressive this standoff between the two women was, but at no point did Sherice Youngblood have the number of votes needed to receive the appointment. Even as entrenched as Barbara Kahn may have been in her “no charter” position there was no indication through previous votes that Solana Henneberry would have been inclined to vote for Sherice Youngblood. But I’ll be writing about the only candidate who may have been able to steal away a vote after I watch the video.


  1. I like the way Lym voted. Not so much Kahn. Lym hung on with Youngblood as long as he could. Tam focused only on Hu. Henneberry reflected what the unions wanted. I think you need to read Sherice Youngblood’s response to Kahn in The Alamedan. She feels disrespected. It cannot be dismissed as simply “politics, ” as the charter school issue was injected by Kahn as a red herring. I liked that Youngblood had children in both traditional and charter schools, is African American, has a professional career, union backing, and a great record of service to the schools. I doubt Hu will forget Kahn’s votes. Who put the pressure on Grimaldi to withdraw? (As in- we’ll back you next time if you withdraw now) And, which of the failed candidates is fired up to run for School Board next?

    If the Board needed a technocrat to “hit the ground running” then why didn’t they simply appoint McMahon?

    Comment by Breathless — February 5, 2015 @ 6:34 am

  2. Looking at that last tweet (from 9:58) I’m realizing I left out Board Member Lym’s name.

    So it should have read:

    Tam: Hu. Henneberry: Grimaldi. Kahn: Grimaldi: Lym: Hu.

    (And thank you for the compliment!)

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — February 5, 2015 @ 6:50 am

  3. I want to thank all of the candidates who applied for the vacancy on our school board: the list of candidates represented a wealth of skills and qualifications among many people who could have served us well. The selection process was clearly not very smooth, but that is probably OK–we humans are a bit messy in most of our undertakings, but we usually manage to do the right thing anyway.

    Now. let’s get on to the many substantive issues before us in the school district…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 5, 2015 @ 6:59 am

  4. Jane Grimaldi received union backing as well, sends her children to Wood (a title 1 school) and a great record of service. One could turn the same critique on to Gary Lym (who was endorsed and supported by the Teachers’ Union) as to why he refused to vote for the candidate the teacher’s union had thrown their support to.

    While Hu may not forget Barbara Kahn’s votes — although she voted for him in the first few rounds to move forward so… — the main difference is that he didn’t engage in a back and forth with a sitting Board Member while attempting to be appointed to sit next to that person on the dais.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 5, 2015 @ 8:09 am

  5. what is to be inferred from Hu “not forgetting Barbara Kahn’s votes”?

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  6. different stories out about what happened at that meeting. video might help.

    Hu first meeting vote on superintendent. press release said info on that out yesterday but now they say no info until friday.

    Comment by alameda sunshine — February 5, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  7. Video is up

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 5, 2015 @ 10:59 am

  8. It’s obvious Sherice Youngblood had the questions to be asked of the candidates before hand. You can see she already has her answers written down.
    The other candidates did not seem to have the questions before hand. That leaves me wondering who gave her the questions, and does this constitute misconduct?

    Comment by Paul M. — February 5, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

  9. Paul M., the questions used by the Board were easily found online under the California School Board Association’s pamphlet “Filling a Board Vacancy”. As an applicant, I had Googled and reviewed the questions prior to attending the meeting as I’m sure many other candidates did as well. Ms. Youngblood may or may not have done the same thing. If she did and prepared possible responses in advance, it showed, in my opinion, a higher level of preparedness which should be construed as a positive attribute.

    Comment by Anne DeBardeleben — February 5, 2015 @ 2:36 pm

  10. Thanks Ann. I looked and only found two out of four questions asked by our BOE. I thought if in fact a board member gave out the questions it needs to be fair for all applicants. Did all the candidates receive the four questions ahead of time? If so, I’ll shut up.

    Comment by Paul M. — February 5, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

  11. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Academy of Alameda party?”

    Comment by echo — February 5, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

  12. Hi Paul, no one received questions in advance.

    Comment by Anne DeBardeleben — February 5, 2015 @ 4:13 pm

  13. Pretty bad if the Board can’t make up their own Alameda centered questions instead of rote asking some bureaucrat’s idea of what should be asked.

    No one ‘received’ the questions in advance but certain candidates apparently knew where they could find the questions in advance.

    Comment by jack — February 5, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  14. I got through parts I and II to the crux of the Kahn/Youngblood issue after the impasse, but that took over two hours, so I’m adjourning before watching the rest. But I’ve seen enough to comment.

    Not that it matters to anybody, but I would have voted Grimaldi, DeBarteleben and Youngblood in the first round.

    This is really unfortunate. I really, really empathize with Sherice Youngblood and find everything she said in response to Barbara Kahn’s remarks credible and justified. AND she should not have to apologize for sending her child to AoA even if she had more latitude outside circumstance and chose it anyway. Barbara’s remarks were indelicate at best and perhaps she should simply have refrained, but I do not begrudge her lack of personal support for a person who as a board member of AoA voted for the K-5 expansion. Youngblood’s resume, record of volunteering, and community support, not to mention her personal history coming from Bayview, was so compelling I would tend to trust her to listen to those of us who are more skeptical of charters than she may be, but on the other hand maybe because of her vote for k-5, my first ballot should have read Grimaldi, DeBarteleben and Hu. I’d have to sit one on one with her to know what to think.

    I didn’t perceive the need, but in hind sight perhaps after rounds one and two, in addition to comments, the board members should have been able to direct questions to the remaining three candidates and at that time president Kahn could have asked Sherice Youngblood to speak to her board vote supporting k-5 expansion. It certainly would have been less awkward. Among many other reasons, it is because of Jane Grimaldi’s comments about how Chipman conversion took place and her experience with ACLC at Wood that I think she was the best choice.

    Outside the candidates themselves, I’ve come away with a much better feel for board members Hennenberry and Lym. I appreciate Lym’s passion, particularly with regard to diversity and economically disadvantaged sectors of the community. I found his support of Ms. Youngblood compelling. In expressing that support he pointed out that in hind sight he is sorry to have overlooked the economic impact of recent emergency school closure due to storm forecast on people like single parents who had to hire a sitter or miss a day of pay. I’m a little incredulous at his claim it hadn’t occurred to him. We saw Superintendent McPhhetridge nodding in acknowledgement, but I certainly expect that Sean was fully aware of those impacts when he called for closure. Just as in recent snow storm in NYC, the forecast was over blown, but when it comes to safety the district was in a bit of a bind. Anyhow, I don’t want to denigrate Lym’s sentiments or expressions of concern, but to reiterate, his claim that he didn’t think of those impacts is a bit mind boggling considering all his hand wringing about socioeconomic disadvantage.

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  15. Jack, no one directed anyone on where to find questions. I’d be very surprised if each candidate did not take it upon themselves to search the web for examples in preparation for the interviews.

    Comment by Anne DeBardeleben — February 5, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

  16. Comments Part III: RCV: both Lym and Kahn objected. I think I have a feel for Barbara’s thinking and politics, but since ranked choice would have resulted in Nader NOT being a spoiler in 2000 election, and may have pushed Audie Bock out as well, I am left thinking that perhaps her displeasure with RCV was Quan over Perata ??? Frankly, I have no real clue. Gary Lym? who knows? He was ADAMANT in his objection, but I know from other people’s perception or miss perceptions of RCV that he may be knee jerk here. Since I don’t know his reasonaing I will withhold judgement as much as possible, but in the ensuing discussion, whether he knows it or not, his motion to proceed by going back to previous vote to pick those who got two or more votes was the first step in a very crude hands on version of RCV.

    Going back to 1 above, I in no way got the impression Grimaldi had any communication with union which lead to her decision to withdraw. We don’t know who talked to who during adjournments, but this process was very unpredictable and there was no adjournment between the vote which eliminated Kim and DeBarteleben. Seemed to me that after the long long meeting a light bulb went on in Jane’s head which said “Withdrawing is win win for me because I can keep working with my immediate community and have all the clout I would have on the board, but with less personal sacrifice.” But if Breathless needs conspiracy theories, keep bringing them on. A note about Youngblood having union backing. She didn’t get the nod from AEA which be what it may has more clout. That is a whole other discussion and perhaps can of worms to dissect.

    In terms of leadership, I want to shout out to Superintendent McPhetridge who was really great. When a member of the public apparently walked out in disgust at the process Sean clarified, quite well I thought, exactly the roll of administrative in advising and directing BOE. There were times when the board veered off slightly but Sean was adept in pausing briefly, before jumping in to redirect. His use of metaphor about not rushing students who are learning was right on. The new board had better have some real ringers if they hand the job to somebody else. We should all know the saying about a bird in the hand etc…

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

  17. I’d seen the tweets but I reserved judgement until I saw the video myself. Now that I’ve seen it, I am absolutely appalled by what Barbara Kahn did at that meeting. First, she implied that Sherice Youngblood had concealed her involvement with the Academy of Alameda. That implication was completely untrue and unfair. Ms. Youngblood was totally forthcoming about her service on the board in her application. I don’t know if Ms. Youngblood was the best candidate for the job, but Ms. Youngblood was justified in feeling like she was being attacked.

    More globally, I am deeply disturbed by what appears to be Ms. Kahn’s personal jihad against the Academy. As much as I would like to think that our school board members put the interests of the kids ahead of their own petty grudges, Ms. Kahn seems intent on attacking the Academy and everyone associated with the Academy whenever possible. She mentions to Ms. Youngblood that the District did her a disservice when it granted a charter to the Academy. I have to wonder if Ms. Kahn felt the same way when her daughter was one of the lead petitioners for the original Academy charter petition. Or maybe she just became anti-Academy when said daughter’s ambitions at the Academy were thwarted and the daughter departed in a huff. Since then, the Kahns (mere et fille) have taken every opportunity to badmouth charters, everyone who was ever associated with a charter (the daughter excepted of course) and the Academy in particular. Enough. I dont have a dog in the Academy show and don’t have strong feelings either way about charters, but I am completely disgusted by this ugly spectacle.

    All in all, a totally shameful performance by Ms. Kahn.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — February 5, 2015 @ 7:55 pm

  18. Lauren, you obviously had a lot more insight into the meeting than I could get from this string of Tweets, even though you hadn’t seen the meeting.

    17. oh boy…. a previous commenter made allusions to the Kahn clan and their alleged agenda being a “vendetta” of some sort That person made illogical comments about B. Kahn’s willingness to throw the Haight community under the bus in favor of AoA, which frankly made no sense and I believe were unfounded. I have no stake in defending either Kahn nor, being an apologist for Barbara’s remarks being construed as an attack on Sherice Youngblood. I do have very strong feelings about my perception that charters are divisive and an impediment to the advance of public systems where they reside. I understand anybody who shares my views having a negative reaction to a vote by a board member in favor of a charter expansion at the obvious expense of the public system. Prop 39 mandates the public system accommodate a charter, but not that the charter seek to expand, which was a choice by AoA board.

    I actually thought AoA was a district charter as opposed to independent charter, which is even more at odds with district, The formation of Alameda Academy and Sylvia’s involvement is water long under the bridge and Sylvia has even left the teaching profession if I’m not mistaken. In the interim, the previous superintendent had a lot of folks feeling very mistrustful of plans for Wood closure and in that period she had a hand in fostering the k-5 expansion of AoA. From my very intermittent and informal exchanges with B. Kahn I know she has been upset by her perception of K.V.’s charter agenda. Her actions toward charters seem consistent and I’ve seen no indication that it is related to her daughter’s history with AoA several years ago. But perhaps I am naive and my knowledge about that is shallow. The charter movement has grown quite a bit in the interim. Be disgusted with her comments, but maybe you could reconsider some of your criticism of Barbara Kahn’s motives.

    At any rate, we survived six years of Spencer chasing her tail so with new blood maybe we can make it another two years without tearing each other to shreds. I have great hope for the next BOE election which were unimaginable only a few months ago.

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

    • I’ll probably write a longer post about this, but really the only candidate that might have been a viable consensus candidate was Anne DeBardeleben (I probably mucked up that spelling). After watching the video it’s clear that the error in the initial process made by the School Board the first time around was not moving through only those candidates after the “pick 3” round that had two or more votes. That allowed Gary Lym to push forward his candidate (with only his singular vote in both the pick 3 and pick 2 rounds) over candidates like Anne DeB. who was the obvious consensus candidate (she had Solana Henneberry’s support and Niel Tam’s support).

      I did a mock ranked choice thing which I’ll post later when I write about the process in detail.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 6, 2015 @ 6:31 am

  19. I am not privy to the history of the Kahn family and their involvement in the inception of AoA but I found the Jan 27th Board meeting re: AoA’s request for elementary school facilities very (very) troubling. Expanding their program to include an elementary school seems unnecessary to me, and “necessity” is critical factor when considered in light of the fact that their expansion will have detrimental impacts on other District facilities, programs and real students.

    We may have averted significant impacts in the 2015-16 school year with the 11th hour compromise at that Jan 27th meeting, but the Adult School (which does provide a most critical, necessary, and unique educational service for many socioeconomically disadvantaged students and ELS students) will almost certainly be significantly impacted in the near future. Again.

    I have read the CDE code that governs the implementation of Prop 39. The District is required to provide facility space to charters as long as the charters project enrollment of at least 80 ADA and the charters reimburse the districts for their pro rata share of facilities costs. Districts are not permitted (at least not explicitly) to consider any negative impacts on existing services and programs to district students. And unfortunately, the proposition does not allow for long range negotiations. So the Board was forced to make a decision based on the unreasonably narrow lens of a single academic year when we all know that the program will almost certainly expand beyond 1st grade.

    On top of all of that, I did not appreciate the tone of the AoA presentation, including their threat of a lawsuit and the Board president’s comments. The tone was not one of collaboration or good faith. I know there must be background there too but as an ally, it left me feeling disturbed.

    I say all of this as a current AoA parent. And I say all of this as my hypothetical context to what was deeply troubling Ms. Kahn that prompted her comments directed to Ms. Youngblood.

    Our family has found AoA to be a wonderful school all around and are so thankful that we were given the opportunity to make this choice. And perhaps some will find this hypocritical, but I don’t understand their seemingly voluntary decision to expand to include an elementary program when there are two excellent neighborhood elementary schools nearby, NEA is only 3 blocks away, and there already exists a K-8 program at Bay Farm School. Particularly since their expansion is at the expense of an extremely vital District program, the Adult School.

    Charter schools offer all of us the luxury of choice in public education and in doing so, we are hopefully meeting the incredibly diverse learning needs of as many students as possible. But when there is a finite amount of space and resources, sometimes there are real life impacts to offering these choices.

    I like MI’s suggestion above that it would have been more productive for Ms. Kahn to directly ask Ms. Youngblood to describe her position on the AoA elementary school, and how she squares that with the impact on the Adult School.

    Comment by Dya — February 6, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

  20. Sherice Youngblood has issued a letter about this “incident” which really undermines my original estimation of her as a viable candidate to serve on the board.

    I’d be a lot less hostile to charters if there was a more collaborative attitude and acknowledgement of the impacts they have on the district on which they depend.

    From 20. : “Expanding their program to include an elementary school seems unnecessary to me, and “necessity” is critical factor when considered in light of the fact that their expansion will have detrimental impacts on other District facilities, programs and real students. ” Exactly. Further: “Charter schools offer all of us the luxury of choice in public education”. Yeah, I would call it an embarrassment of riches.

    Comment by MI — February 9, 2015 @ 10:42 am

  21. First Kahn tried to ram this appointment through without a public vote. Then she accuses Youngblood of withholding information that was clearly in her application. Did Kahn even read it? Then she tried to change the voting method DURING the meeting. Is this how to run a meeting? Or a district?

    If Trish Spencer did these things, this blog would explode with wailing & gnashing over Trish’s disregard for rules and propriety. Why does Kahn get a pass?

    Comment by Good Government — February 9, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  22. If you watched the meeting you would understand — as Dr. McPhetridge explained to the public member who aggressively addressed the Board — the Board was going through a process to appoint and they would sit there and discuss and attempt to come to a consensus as long as it took to get there. If they continued to deadlock the remaining option would be to make a motion to hold a special election, which it did not seem like anyone wanted to do.

    Also, pick a handle and stick to it. Thanks in advance.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 9, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

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