Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 17, 2015

Above School Board

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

As mentioned by Susan Davis yesterday the School Board subcommittee landed on a process to selected a successor to Niel Tam:

During the appointment agenda item, candidates will have 20 minutes to give a personal statement (if they choose to) as well as answer questions from the board. Boardmembers will then hear public comment on the candidates, have a discussion about the candidates, and vote for the candidate they believe is best suited for the position.

A candidate will need three votes to be appointed. The appointee will be sworn in that night

From additional information given by Mike McMahon in another post it appears that random lots will be drawn to choose which order the candidates speak.

For those that just want straight information about who the candidates are and their application packet, click here.

It’s hard to say of the five candidates who will come out ahead.  There are three with the most “name recognition”: Gray Harris, Anne McKereghan, and Mike McMahon.  Those three School Board followers will “know” a little (or a lot) about.  Gray Harris because she headed the teachers union for a good stint.  Anne McKereghan has participated in a lot of school related campaigns.  And Mike McMahon is a former School Board member.

The other two are less known entities, if anyone read the blind taste test Hazel Lau was the candidate who put the answer about not having followed any major decisions of the past year which, personally, would make me eliminate her as a candidate.  Although I did like her definition of “equity.”

Dorota Sawicka also didn’t answer the part about following major decisions too, so, yeah.

It’s a rather anti-climatic set of applicants considering the deluge last time.  I wonder if they’ll end up getting a consensus on any of the candidates, three votes is going to be hard to come by.


  1. We’ve gone from a divisive previous Superintendent to a School Board which is to blame for the lack of candidates as they dismissed or insulted previous candidates in the last round. Has anyone noticed that Superintendent Vital is in trouble down South for more bullying tactics?

    This is really about politics, not qualifications. McMahon again/again/again? Gray Harris and her bag of coal? Henneberry will vote for union member Harris and Kahn for her buddy McMahon.

    Most identify the main issue as the renewal of the parcel tax I wonder if the community is really ready to vote for yet another tax?

    Comment by Breathless — July 17, 2015 @ 8:05 am

  2. Barbara Kahn didn’t vote for Mike McMahon the last time, if she does this time it probably speaks to the set of candidates, not politics.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 17, 2015 @ 8:16 am

  3. Frankly, I’m casting my vote for Anne McKereghan because anyone who has the grit necessary to throw out 40 years of technological advancements by using a typewriter to fill in their school board application is a person who can stand up to the damn kids these days and instill some REAL discipline. When I was growing up in Oklahoma Grandpappy used to put me in a steel barrel and feed me porridge through a tube if I came home with a poor grade. I sure as hell never failed a class and that strict discipline helped mold me into the rich, charismatic porridge-hater I am today.

    Comment by Rodney — July 17, 2015 @ 10:18 am

  4. 1.”Breathless”, maybe you should switch to “Clueless” because Kahn and McMahon are not buddies. Not even close.

    3. you have an Uncle Cuspis ( Cuspus?) too ?

    Comment by MI — July 17, 2015 @ 11:08 am

  5. Is it not a conflict of interest to have a working teachers union leader on a local school board? Just curious….

    Comment by Lisa Loeb — July 17, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

  6. God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.

    Mark Twain

    Comment by jack — July 17, 2015 @ 9:15 pm

  7. #5. I would say that if the person were involved in the direct negotiations with the District, it would be a conflict of interest, in the same way as an employee of the District involved in negotiation would be. It is good government to have the members of the school board give direction to the Superintendent, the District’s Attorney and or the negotiating team and leave them to do the negotiations. During negotiations, those people would report back to the board in closed session the progress and receive further direction. When tentative agreement is reached, both the board and the union membership vote to accept the terms of the new proposed contract. The fact that a person is employed by the union in a different capacity and does not have any influence on the local negotiation should not be a barrier to running for office. But, if there is any influence on what the staff should ask for it would be a conflict.

    Be sure you attend the sessions the District will be having to ask in public questions of the candidates. Be sure you give feedback to the Board members as to what you think after you see and hear the candidates.

    Generally, I don’t vote for single issue candidates and look for people who have been civically engaged, understand the budget and its constraints, keep up with what is being planned, and have a broad concern for all aspects of the issues the office for which they are running has on its plate. I guess I also look for smart, articulate, and able to read and understand a budget. That applies to all levels of government.

    Comment by Kate Quick — July 18, 2015 @ 10:20 am

  8. Thank you, Kate. I just wanted to clarify that, as currently planned, the Board of Education will be interviewing the candidates just once this time (July 22, 6 pm, Island High School). There were two meetings when the Board was filling Trish Spencer’s seat earlier this year because there were so many candidates. In addition, under state law, a Board of Education seat needs to be filled within 60 days after it becomes vacant. The 60-day deadline for appointing someone to Niel Tam’s seat is July 24.

    That said, there will be a public comment period after the candidates are interviewed on July 22 so that community members can listen to the interviews and then voice their preferences. (There will also be a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting for those who prefer to speak then.)

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — July 18, 2015 @ 11:16 am

  9. It’s all for the Children.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 18, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

  10. Susan and Mike would you consider preparing students for college academically a major goal at AUSD ?

    Do you think a school who scores 30 percent in Student College Readiness a Problem?

    Do you think as a District scoring 41 percent in Student College Readiness something to Celebrate and Label as a great school district?

    Should parents and students disregard this information and not use it to judge the effectiveness of our district?

    Encinal High School Students Scored a 30.5 In College Readiness. Under Academic Performance and College Readiness the Alameda School District Score is 41.7. Does not Achieve CA Goal.

    Number # 1 School in the State of California is American Indian Public High School In Oakland. Charter School
    College Readiness Index 100

    American Indian Public High School is ranked 1st within California. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® course work and exams. The AP® participation rate at American Indian Public High School is 100 percent. The student body makeup is 50 percent male and 50 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 97 percent. American Indian Public High School is 1 of 28 high schools in the Oakland Unified.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 19, 2015 @ 9:56 am

  11. #11 — Yes, Cobalt, I would consider preparing students for college (and career) a major goal of AUSD. And that’s why I get so excited when I learn how skillfully our high schools do that for our students.

    From a bulletin sent out this May:

    “Three Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) high schools received medals in the US News & World Report annual ‘Best High Schools’ report released this month.

    The publication’s rankings, which include more than 21,000 public high schools across the country, are based on the schools’ performances on state assessments and how well the schools prepare their students for college. Factors that the analysts consider include the number of students taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, students’ scores on those tests, and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled at the school.’

    Full story here:

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — July 19, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  12. Thanks Susan. I have friends who want to move back to Alameda and were concerned about the High Schools and looked at Encinal HS and Alameda High School since their children will be attending.

    They looked at Encinal and were concerned because they are looking at moving to west end.

    College-Ready Student Performance

    High school students take AP® and IB exams to earn college credit and demonstrate success at college-level course work. U.S. News calculated a College Readiness Index based on exam participation rates and percentages of students passing at least one exam. The index determined which types of medals (gold, silver or bronze) were awarded to top-performing schools.

    College Readiness Index 30.5
    Exam Used for Index AP®

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 19, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  13. You’re very welcome, Cobalt.

    BTW, you can get news releases directly from AUSD by subscribing on the district’s home page:

    It’s a good way to learn more about what’s happening both at the schools (e.g., cool programs, dedicated/creative employees, wonderful kids 🙂 ) and at the district level (news about budgetary matters, initiatives, awards, etc).

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — July 19, 2015 @ 11:36 am

  14. Thanks Susan I will tell them. I’m not that bright so maybe you could explain to me how the District gets a Gold Rating yet it does Not achieve CA goal on the link you provided and only 41.7 district average on College Readiness. So basically 6 of 10 are not College ready ? That seems High.


    This information relates to high schools run by this school’s state operating agency. Many districts contain only one high school.

    Total Schools 7
    Total Students 4,176
    Academic Performance Index Evaluation Does not achieve CA goal
    College Readiness (district average) 41.7

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 19, 2015 @ 11:45 am

  15. I’m happy to look into that for you next week, Cobalt. I would need to dig into that data a bit.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD community affairs) — July 19, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

  16. Cobalt, just tell your friends that Alameda schools suck and they shouldn’t risk sending their kids to school here. Your coy questioning is tiresome ( what did somebody call it, “Sea lioning” or was it “walrusing”?). Damn statistics and all. We are lucky Susan Davis is so patient and dedicated to her job that she is as responsive to somebody who is playing games as much as asking sincere questions. ( Insert here: fifteen consecutive comments of indignant denial along with copious strip and paste smoke and mirror defense and deflection).

    I’m curious to know, on average, how many kids from Alameda go to college, prepared or not. May be 20% and it may be 75%. There are all levels of preparedness but these generic statistics on how we measure to this standard or that, only tell us so much. I do know we have kids go to Ivy League schools like Harvard, Brown and Yale every year as well as Berkeley and UCLA.

    In the last three years of twelve years teaching in the district my wife taught a class called AVID which was aimed at tracking kids who wanted to go to college, who came from homes with parents who had never gone to college or who may in some way have felt their kids needed more guidance than they were prepared to give as parents. AVID is an elective class where through four years of high school the AVID teacher is charged with monitoring student progress in all their other classes and helping the students stay on top of their studies and responsibilities and to be organized. There is also mentoring around decisions like impact of extra curriculars such as sports and tours to local college campuses. The parents of these students are almost always fully engaged. This program was not started by AUSD, but it was embraced as another tool to give kids opportunity to prepare. In the larger picture schools can only do so much to prepare students no matter how much money you throw at education whether it’s on computers or teacher salaries. But in the long run, the outcomes are highly impacted by socioeconomics. You like to complain about how much teachers are compensated even though you always include lip service about how you would “love to see them paid more”. Right. AVID is a really good example where, after providing basic classroom setting with desks etc., the TEACHER is about 95% of what makes the class worth taking.

    I’m taking time to explain this AVID class ( Again) because, you seem so hyper focused on statistics, especially those which you can use to imply that AUSD is falling below some standard or other, and generally squandering tax dollars.

    Comment by MI — July 19, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

  17. “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent’s point.

    Beyond statistics there are individual students, their parents and their teachers, each with their own set of circumstances, aspirations and academic outcomes. I am confident that each student who has made the commitment to get to college and attended an Alameda public high school had access to teachers to make that commitment a reality. I have three children who attended Encinal. Each child had varying levels of commitment to pursuing higher education and each had different academic outcomes. In each case Encinal teachers provide them with the proper challenges to met their commitment. One went straight into a career as a construction worker, one waited before entering a CSU college and one attended UC Berkeley.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — July 19, 2015 @ 6:39 pm

  18. There are great stories everywhere in Education……I was just commenting and asking for clarification on how a School District could get a Gold Rating when 6 of 10 students are not prepared for college after 12 years in the AUSD and Do Not meet CA goals. Seems odd.

    I don’t claim to be an expert on anything and the more I learn the more I know I don’t know much. I Try and live in the light and accept where we are in education without all the propaganda.

    Asking questions and questioning anything about the Schools here regarding performance or where the money goes is met with rock throwing .

    But someone needs to ask tough questions.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 19, 2015 @ 10:38 pm

  19. Over the years US News has been attempting to quantify the performance of high schools. As a result they have adjusted their scoring methodology from a simple measurement of the percentage of students passing to Advanced Placements to the more robust methodology used in 2015. Much like comparing quality of living across the country depending on the number of factors used will determine how cities will be grouped, the factors US News now use determine how a school district compares relative to other school districts. Their entire scoring methodology is explained here:

    Ultimately, a parent’s decision to send their child to particular school (high school or college) is based on a number of their own personal factors. Many parents look beyond the academic indicators of a school to determine for is best for their child.

    Finally I leave all of you who hold a world view that public schools that should be more like a business:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — July 20, 2015 @ 8:38 am

  20. The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson. “If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”

    Who is Jamie Vollmer and what ice cream does he sell? Great Midwestern Ice Cream. Never heard of it. And the company appears to be out of business. So is your message that Vollmer should have run his business more like a school, filled with crapshoot blueberries???

    Comment by vigi — July 20, 2015 @ 10:09 am

  21. Or you could listen to the other guy from the same ice cream business:
    Sounds like Vollmer screwed this guy out of his own company, then ruined it.

    “How to Do Nothing and Accomplish Everything” is his book.

    Comment by vigi — July 20, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  22. Counting AP and IB exams is an absolutely ridiculous way to measure college readiness. But that’s how US News makes its calculations. I know of one well respected college prep school in the East Bay that does not even offer AP classes. Under the US News criteria, they would get a 0 in “college readiness.” But 100% of their graduates attend 4 year colleges — most of them very prestigious schools.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 20, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  23. Fred Gratzon = Founder ★ Chairman ★ Ice Cream Baron of the Midwest
    The Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company
    November 1979 – October 1988 (9 years)Fairfield, Iowa
    In 1979, Fred started Great Midwestern with no money, no experience, and absolutely no idea how to make ice cream. Five years later (May 1984), People Magazine declared his ice cream to be “The Best Ice Cream in America.” Playboy made the same declaration in 1986.

    Great Midwestern was the first packaged ice cream sold in Bloomingdale’s in New York City. It was served to first class passengers on United Airlines. And it was the featured ice cream at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. The United States Olympic Basketball Team requested the ice cream in 1984 and 1988. Finally, when Nancy Reagan tasted the ice cream, she insisted it be served at White House functions.

    Fred was “fired” from the company he founded in 1988—which turned out to be a huge blessing (although it didn’t feel that way at the time). Fred was forced to start something new. He then founded Telegroup which grew to be 100 times larger than Great Midwestern.

    OTOH, Jamie Vollmer is just an attorney who was briefly associated with Fred’s business. His self-description as a “businessman” rings a bit hollow.

    I have 2 doctoral degrees from 2 Universities of California, yet I never took an AP class. I am however, a proud graduate of SJND, the Best School in Alameda, California. Go Pilots!

    Comment by vigi — July 20, 2015 @ 10:58 am

  24. One of the big fallacies of these “lists” is that it rates schools on college preparedness, especially four year institutions. I want an effective secondary school that sends well prepared kids to college, jr. college, vocational programs, art and music performance programs, etc. As in, prepares each kid for what the kid needs to succeed in life, which is not always a four year degree. Look at the German model that prepares excellent auto mechanics, engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc. as well as college ready youngsters. There is no shame in a vocation that is not cerebral only. Some of the graduates from first class colleges that I know are real dummies when it comes to success in life, and some of the folks I know that learned a trade are smart and talented and highly successful.

    Comment by Kate Quick — July 20, 2015 @ 3:04 pm

  25. “Some of the graduates from first class colleges that I know are real dummies…”

    Kate! I’ll bet all the people you know from first class colleges are devastated because of what you wrote and because they “all” don’t know who the “some” are.

    Comment by jack — July 20, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

  26. #16, 17

    Hi Cobalt,

    As promised, I dug a little deeper into the data to see how the College Readiness Index (CRI) is calculated and ranked in the US News & World Report’s “Best High Schools” list.

    First, a few clarifications: The “College Readiness Index” is just one factor that USNWR uses to rank high schools across the country. The researchers also look at how well the schools’ students perform on standardized tests (factoring in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students) as compared to other students in their state and how well certain “subgroups” at the schools perform.

    Moreover, USNWR doesn’t use the term “college readiness” to refer to how generally well prepared students are for college. Instead, CRI is based on the percentage of 12th graders who have taken and passed an AP exam at the school. A perfect score of “100” means that every 12th grader in a school has taken at least one AP class and passed the exam. Only 14 of the 21,000 high schools ranked across the country have a score of “100.”

    The threshold CRI score for getting a silver award is 19.2. (That’s the national median of CRI values among high schools that offer AP or IB classes.) Encinal High’s score is a 30.5 – about 30 percent higher than the national median.

    The threshold CRI for getting a gold is 52.43. Alameda High received a 52.9.

    Schools that receive a gold medal (such as AHS) are among the top 2.5% of high schools in the country (according to USNWR’s metrics). Schools that receive a silver medal (e.g., EHS) are among the top 10 percent in the country. Schools that receive bronze medals (ASTI) are among the top 20% in the country.

    (btw, ASTI doesn’t receive a CRI score because the students there take college courses at College of Alameda instead of taking AP or IB classes.)

    As others have articulated so well here already, a school’s value isn’t only measured by the number of students who take and pass AP/IB exams, because different students have different needs/talents/interests and different schools offer different types of programs to meet those needs/talents/interests. Nor should “college readiness” be based only on whether or not a student has passed an AP exam. But based on the metrics used in this report, AHS, EHS, and ASTI do indeed rank highly among high schools in this country.

    Comment by Susan Davis (Community Affairs, AUSD) — July 21, 2015 @ 8:13 am

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