Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 27, 2015

Don’t blink, don’t even blink.

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

The video is up for the School Board meeting appointment and boy, it’s a doozy.   I mean, I sort of knew that it was going to be weird and awkward, but I didn’t think it was going to be strange, and at times, downright ugly.  Let’s just say that it will surprise no one to learn that there some folks are not happy with some of the statement made during this meeting.

I find it absolutely mind boggling that, when the process was designed, given the messiness that happened the last time around with a deadlock that there would have been a way to break a deadlock this time around.  Either by random lots, vote by the superintendent, feat of strength, or a battle to the death.  I’m not picky.

Here’s the recap of how the voting went down: Gary Lym threw his support for Anne McKereghan.  Barbara Kahn supported Gray Harris.  Solana Henneberry also supported Gray Harris. Phil Hu supported Anne McKereghan.  After a deadlock vote, a brief discussion about ranked choice voting and reopening public comment; Phil Hu relented and switched his support to Gray Harris.

So, the positive of the night:  (1) The two unknown candidates were actually refreshing and adorable. Maybe not ready for prime time, but it was really nice to have a different perspective.

(2) Gary Lym reading aloud from this blog post. Woot!

(3) The articulate statements from all the candidates.

Unfortunately the negatives kind of outweighed the positives.

For example Anne McKereghan, despite being well spoken and well informed, some how got lumped as just being “the parcel tax” person by the two School Board members that were squarely in the Gray Harris camp.

The entrenched digging in which resulted in language like, “I’m not changing my vote.” and “We can just sit here and see who blinks.”

Members of the School Board addressing members of the audience that are not part of the discussion of candidates.

Minimizing the contributions of community members to the parcel tax/bond tax efforts and declaring that future parcel taxes will be easy to pass.

Claims of needing to move forward from the toxicity of the last superintendent, but then tying someone who wasn’t involved at all (Anne McKereghan) to that negativity.

If there was one person who came out looking the best out of this debacle of an appointment process it was the newest School Board member: Phil Hu.  After public comment was re-opened at the request of Trish Spencer, Marie Gilmore was the one public speaker who reminded the School Board of their duties (more on that in a different post).  After the other School Board members spoke, Phil Hu said this:

I’m a little disappointed, and that includes in myself.  Cause sitting on that side the last time, I think that’s what a lot of people saw: a board that seemed divided and wouldn’t move. Ms. Gilmore came up and said something that’s very interesting.  This board was saved last time.  Jane Grimaldi made a massively magnanimous action by withdrawing her candidacy and she saved the board from making that tough decision. Ms. Gilmore is right, we’re put here to make tough decisions.

He then announced that he was going to make a tough decision, since there was no Jane Grimaldi to save this board from having to make a tough decision that evening.  And because of his decision there was no deadlock and there was no need for a special election.  So while political tacticians out there could cynically view Philip Hu’s support of Anne McKereghan and then switch the Gray Harris as the ultimate in political maneuvering, the bottom line is he was the only one that made a tough decision on that board, politics aside, and given his newbie status on that Board the consensus should have been more widely discussed than simply giving up and saying that no one’s mind is going to be changed with more discussion.


  1. Wow! Talk about adolescent behavior especially from the president of the Board. It took the newest member, Phil Hu, to be the adult in this power play from the unions against the community. Disappointing to see Barbara Kahn, the oldest member of the board, being stubborn and entrenched in the past of vindictiveness against the former superintendent and being unable to lead the board to a respectful future for our children. And we wonder why kids in school are disillusioned with politics.

    Comment by JF — July 27, 2015 @ 7:32 am

  2. when Al De Witt passed, it made sense to honor his legacy as first African American council member by appointing Marie Gilmore, but she was the best candidate anyhow and had served in a number of boards which had her poised for that appointment. I don’t agree with the notion that Neil’s replacement should have been chosen based on the person some how mirroring Neil’s position in the constellation of the board, but must admit that Gray’s appointment is perhaps the furthest from that notion. It’s odd that Trish touted herself as the favorite of teachers with the AEA endorsement and all, yet Gary, who was elected as reflecting Trish’s positions, supported Anne who is supposedly a hold over of Vital policies. Although I was extremely annoyed by a sort of monolithic support for Vital even when she seemed to be divisive, autocratic and self serving, she is now gone and I don’t feel threatened by folks who supported her. But I identify Anne with the parcel tax more than any support for Vital and would have been happy with her appointment. This appointment supposedly tipped the board one way or the other with regard to support of unions. Maybe this choice tips it further toward the union that it might have been tipped away had Anne been appointed, we may never really know, but school advocates of all stripes need to get over it and close ranks around the parcel tax or we are screwed.

    Comment by MI — July 27, 2015 @ 8:18 am

  3. JF: I admit I don’t follow the school board political drama in depth. But I thought Gray Harris was a union leader and Anne DeBarteghan was just a local realtor. How does switching your vote from the realtor to the union leader “be the adult in this power play from the unions against the community”?

    Both of them have always been pro-parcel tax.

    The unions come out on top, as usual. How is that a surprise or “tough decision”?

    Comment by vigi — July 27, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  4. I’ve watched the tape and the whole thing was disgusting. Every speaker supporting Gray Harris was a union flack or a party hack. They barely attempted to hide the fact that this was a raw play for power. Except Mike Henneberry — the union leader who got in the face of AUSD’s spokesperson who had the temerity to identify him on Twitter as a union leader. He preferred to be a “parent” and “community member” and was apparently annoyed when his union affiliation was mentioned. What’s to hide, Mike? Oh right, you were maybe trying to hide the fact that this was just a grab for power. Conveniently, however, in his Twitter rant, Henneberry outed a number of other union members who spoke in favor of Harris. So he just underscored the fact that this was a grab for power and not about what was best for the kids and community. Thanks, Mike!

    And just as galling was the dissing of the Tam family and so many members of the community who have been involved in school issues. Not only did they disregard the wishes of the Tam family, they gave his seat to a person who was actively involved in a plot to stab him in the back. I can’t imagine how the Tams must feel. The whole thing felt like politicians vs. those with moral authority. Unsurprisingly, the side with the moral authority lost.

    I know that this display has been horribly alienating for many of the people who have sometimes be labelled as the “activist parents.” While the wishes of the parents who run the parcel tax campaigns and PTAs shouldn’t be the deciding factor, it’s beyond stupid to actively alienate that group (which they managed to do). The “activist parents” are the ones who have run the last successful parcel tax campaigns. Not Gray Harris — even though one of the union flacks wanted to give her all the credit (which nearly made me puke). I guess that because Kahn has determined that passing the next parcel tax will be “easy,” they don’t need the help of the people who know how to run a parcel tax campaign or the support of the “activist” parents. But the idea that passing a parcel tax will be “easy” is ludicrous. The votes in favor of the bond were nowhere near what will be needed to pass a parcel tax. And if they think that the consultants who were hired to help with the last few campaigns are going to run the campaign, they’re deluded. That’s not what the consultants do.

    So while I hope that Harris kicks ass as a board member, given her past actions, I won’t be holding my breath. More importantly, I think that the costs of putting her in that position may be much higher than many people anticipated. God help us all.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 27, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  5. Actually- you don’t know Gray Harris- she will be a natural leader on the Board- the question is, in what direction?

    I think the parcel tax is no slam dunk. That is way too many poorly drafted parcel taxes, spaced too close together, coupled with a whopping bond issue. Homeowners, business owners, and landlords all have to support it to win, and it will be close. Divisive local politics, fights at football games, the recent nationwide bad publicity involving Encinal, and high lease rates on office space do not inspire confidence.They need a smooth opening of school and some good PR, not fighting by the Board.

    Comment by Breathless — July 27, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

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