Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 17, 2017

Save the drama

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

At the School Board meeting on Tuesday a lot of people took advantage of the larger crowd to speak on a variety of different issues.  There were a lot of issues on the agenda that night, but one of the more notable items was a short report out from the Closed Session which related to Community Learning Center School aka Nea and ACLC.

Apparently the Board approved on a 3 to 1 vote to begin litigation against CLCS.  Weird right?  This evidently has to do with the CLCS Board voting to remove a member of the Board that was appointed by the School District.

To understand the backstory of what happened, here are two emails, unedited that I was given permission to post:

 As you may know, in January the AUSD School Board exercised its rights under California law and appointed Jeff Cambra as a full voting member of our CLCS Board of Directors. Citing the desire for greater collaboration and transparency, the AUSD School Board discounted the well established process of the CLCS Board for vetting its Board member candidates, and unilaterally appointed this community member despite objections from CLCS’s administration and requests that a different process be applied.

During the February CLCS Board meeting, that body unanimously voted for the removal of Mr. Cambra from the CLCS Board. His dismissal was based upon his having breached the Board’s confidentiality (i.e., Jeff forwarded to AUSD staff emails regarding CLCS Board business), and refusing to recuse himself from closed session discussions regarding CLCS direct dealings with AUSD.

Following this decision, we received assurances from district staff that the AUSD School Board will indeed move to replace Jeff Cambra, appointing another representative of AUSD to our CLCS Board. While the CLCS Board understands that AUSD is within its rights to do so, we want to urge the district to permit the CLCS Board to apply its own, long established process of vetting CLCS Board members, and working to identify the person that best aligns with needed areas of expertise.

I am hoping, that you will join with New parent, Denise Zachariah, in emailing the AUSD school board. We want to urge the Board to allow CLCS to utilize its own established process of vetting its candidates. We have, with Denise’s permission, provided the full text of her email below.

Please send your email to AUSD’s Superintendent and to each Board member using the following email addresses:
Sean McPhetridge, Superintendent: smcphetridge@alameda.k12.ca.us
Gary Lym: gKlym@alameda.k12.ca.us
Gray Harris: gharris@alameda.k12.ca.us
Ardella Dailey: adailey@alameda.k12.ca.us
Jennifer Williams: jennwilliams@alameda.k12.ca.us

The second email:

I am writing to you as a parent from Nea CLC. My children have attended Nea Community Learning Center charter school here in Alameda for the past four years and presently my older learner attends 6th grade at Encinal Jr. Jets. We moved to Alameda several years ago as a military family and consider ourselves lucky to have made it our permanent home upon my husband’s retirement.

My letter is in response to attending the CLCS board meeting last Thursday, February 16th. Having read the agenda posted on the CLCS website and also emailed to all families, I wanted to understand why a Special Meeting had been called to remove AUSD Appointed Member Jeff Cambra from the CLCS board. Frankly, I was surprised to see such an action taken by the CLCS board when Mr. Cambra had only been officially on the board for one month and wondered what could have occurred to intiate it.

The by-laws of CLCS state that any member of the board can be removed at any time with or without cause. At the meeting, the instance of removing Mr. Cambra was announced as without cause and after a brief discussion by members and Mr. Cambra making a statement, the CLCS board voted unanimously to remove him.

Unfortunately I did not attend the January CLCS board meeting so cannot confirm what occurred, but from listening to the comments it appeared to stem from Mr. Cambra needing to being recused from closed session topics regarding AUSD items and also a breach of confidentiality about forwarded board emails. In my opinion Mr. Cambra seemed sincere in his statement that he intended to serve as an independent community member on the CLCS board and referred to a comment by AUSD legal counsel to the AUSD board that anyone appointed to charter school boards would not be able to ‘report back’ to AUSD. However, several members of the CLCS board expressed serious doubt of being able to take Mr. Cambra at his word as ‘independent’ when his very presence was mandated by the AUSD board.

Therefore, I write to you today to humbly make a request and suggestion. While I do not understand the motivation of the AUSD board to appoint someone to the CLCS board since the meetings are open to the public, I would like to propose the following as a way to start over. CLCS board members are voted in by current members of the board. I propose that if AUSD believes the only way to know how CLCS is running our charters (Nea and ACLC) is by placing a member on our board, then that appointee should be vetted by CLCS in the same way of any other CLCS board member. Should AUSD put together a list of 3 or 4 “pre-approved” candidates, let them then be interviewed by the CLCS board to choose the best candidate with something to offer our CLCS board, such as an educational or management background. I am quite sure, having served on the Nea Governing Board myself, that the CLCS board appreciates all perspectives & contributions of members and the larger community. Therefore I am asking you, the current AUSD board, to please consider following the same democratic guidelines we impose on ourselves at CLCS and allow a new board member to be voted on, not appointed. I believe this will allow the CLCS board to work hand-in-hand with AUSD with a positive way forward continuing to provide academic excellence to the children of Alameda. We owe it to our learners and the community at large to be the example of compromise and teamwork in our Island City.

Both emails, I think, were fair and offered a really obvious solution to the School District, to allow the CLCS Board to vote on a pre-selected list of possible AUSD candidates.   Instead the District has decided to go down the road of litigation, because this District can totally afford to tilt at unnecessary windmills.

Look, I’m as much a charter school skeptic as the next person but this action from the School District seems wholly unreasonable and seriously not a battle worth fighting.  I understand the need for oversight, but there’s gotta be some middle ground between a unilateral appointment and CLCS doing whatever they want.  Do better AUSD, this is not a fight that you need particularly going into teacher negotiations and all the other drama that appears to be on the horizon.

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8 Comments »

  1. I’ve had some contact with Jeff Cambra in the past and although he seems like a nice enough guy, he always seems to be angling for various positions (sometimes successfully) on various boards, councils, and committees but he doesn’t seem to have a dedicated focus or stick with anything long enough to make much of an impact. From his 2012 run for the City Council bio, “I have been self-employed for 30 years in a variety of businesses” and “I am involved with more than 15 different organizations or events in the city.” The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” springs to mind. I don’t mean to be harsh, but to be effective, an organization needs people committed body and soul to its cause. I’m not sure Mr. Cambra’s attention span would allow for that.

    I don’t know why CLCS voted to remove him from the board, and I don’t know why AUSD thinks his presence or lack thereof on the board is worth the time, trouble, and expense of a lawsuit. I suspect it has nothing to do with Mr. Cambra personally, he’s not much of a threat to anybody as far as I’ve seen, but more likely a political pissing contest between CLCS and AUSD. Isn’t it a shame that it never really seems to be “about the kids”?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 17, 2017 @ 6:35 am

    • The reason for dismissal is in the first email:

      His dismissal was based upon his having breached the Board’s confidentiality (i.e., Jeff forwarded to AUSD staff emails regarding CLCS Board business), and refusing to recuse himself from closed session discussions regarding CLCS direct dealings with AUSD.

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 17, 2017 @ 6:47 am

  2. Interesting. Speaking as someone who had the duty to discharge employees from time to time, if this were a regular workplace, identifying why you wanted someone out and then discharging them “without cause” would be a major no-no. My HR person would say it was setting us up for an easy lawsuit.

    Comment by BMac — March 17, 2017 @ 7:24 am

    • Board members aren’t employees; they’re fiduciary. And while labor laws are irrelevant to this situation, it’s not even true that dismissal “not for cause” is necessarily a no-no. There are good reasons to do so, but again, labor laws/HR aren’t relevant.

      Comment by Gaylon — March 17, 2017 @ 10:33 am

  3. Because of a long-standing contentious relationship between NEA, ACLC and the District, once again controversy has spilled over into the public domain. Teachers quitting, demanding a union, administrators removed by the ACLC and NEA board, charges of racism, and elitism are really all that is revealed to the public. I thought education was about student achievement?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — March 17, 2017 @ 10:48 am

  4. Agree; this litigation is another misplaced priority/expenditure for AUSD. Something to keep in mind when the next parcel tax vote comes up…

    Comment by SchoolBoard 2018 — March 17, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

    • That’s what Action Alameda always says. Stay away from the stench of failure that pervades that outfit.

      Comment by BC — March 18, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

  5. Here’s some background for those who may have questions about this topic.

    Last fall (2016), AUSD’s Board heard two presentations on Education Code 47604, which allows Boards of Education to appoint representatives to the governing boards of charter schools.

    The Board heard a review of the requirements of Education Code 47604 on September 13, 2016. The presentation and video are available at http://www.tinyurl.com/AUSD-BoE-091316.

    The Board heard a presentation on potential processes for selecting district charter board representatives on November 1, 2016. That presentation and video are available at http://tinyurl.com/AUSD-BoE-110116.

    The Board appointed representatives on January 10, 2017. The applications and video from that agenda item are here: http://www.tinyurl.com/AUSD-BoE-011017.

    There’s a limit to how much I can say about this publicly, since it’s a legal matter. But I thought the background might help some readers get up to speed.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD Community Affairs) — March 17, 2017 @ 4:32 pm


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