Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 13, 2022

Pay you in coupons

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Sometimes I rag on the East Bay Times because local coverage has really taken a turn for the worst but I was pleasantly surprised by the very thorough and nuanced coverage of the Alameda School Board race. While the headline is predictably milquetoast there is some follow up and a real attempt to reveal the positions of the candidates in the race. I highly encourage you read it.

As suspected, one candidate rose above the others in responsiveness and thoroughness:

Lalonde was first to provide answers and the only candidate who replied to follow-up questions. Lym, Moreno van Maren and Traiman eventually responded over the course of a week. All candidates stated how they would balance “curriculum manipulation and censorship” pressures from opposing social and political forces.

The first question was a doozy of one, but one that is really important in light of the current atmosphere out there around these topics and, we know, that at least one of Alameda’s School Board candidates has some problematic thoughts around the subject. I found the attempt to balance this topic by using very select instances of “the left” asking for the removal of books to be a rather stretched given that “the right” has been waging an all out war on books these days. Neither Huck Finn nor Mockingbird were on the top banned titles by district, the majority of the titles banned had LGBTQ+ content:

And neither Harper Lee nor Mark Twain are on the list of most banned authors in school districts either. But *shrug* balance.

The first topic:

The questions featured concerns from the left about charged, potentially offensive scenes and the use of racial epithets in classic U.S. literature such as “Huckleberry Finn” or “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

The questions also focused on objections from the right which alleges that “woke” schools subversively teach so-called Critical Race Theory or emphasize the existence of systemic racism, creating negative portrayals of America.

Based on the answers to these questions if Ryan LaLonde and Gary Lym do not win then I’d rather see Leland Traiman take the seat than Maria Elena Moreno Van Maren. That’s how extreme her answer was.

Like, I could go on and on and on about the need for students to understand the true history of the US and the world and not “the patriotic narrative” that we’ve all been fed for centuries and decades. At one point because of where I went to school, I was given the “lost cause” narrative about the Civil War. What we need to give students is an understanding about the world as a whole, warts and all. A lot of those warts have to do with the oppression of native people and non white people. Other white people don’t worry about making white people feel bad by laying out their complete history in all its horribleness. Germans certainly explain the horrors of the Holocaust (and they do not retain monuments to memorialize the Nazi heroes for the sake of tradition like we do) and they do not worry if this makes little German children feel bad about being German because they’re confronted with their history. Presenting history without simply focusing on white people is actually not translating history, it’s actually acknowledging that non white people existed in our history and what we had been doing for centuries was the “translating” referenced here by framing history only around the accomplishments of white people.

Anyway when Leland Traiman has a much better answer than a woman of color then that woman of color is not an ally in any shape or form.

Then in a question about teacher shortages and the pay gap, this was the answer from Maria Elena Moreno Van Maren:

So apparently paying teacher a fair wage is “throwing” money at the problem which is weird because that’s, typically, how people are paid for their labor: with money. Could you imagine those negotiations with teachers? “So, we can’t give you any more money, yes yes, I know Fremont Unified is paying $20,000 more than AUSD but what do you think about discounts at Subway in lieu of payment?”

I’m sure there will be so many teachers happy to be compensated in $3 footlong subs, rather than $5 footlong subs.

This is a person who should be absolutely no where near crafting policy around educating Alameda students.


  1. Is there a list of banned books within AUSD?

    Comment by Rasheed — October 13, 2022 @ 7:19 am

    • According to the school district: no.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 13, 2022 @ 9:17 am

  2. At one point because of where I went to school, I was given the “lost cause” narrative about the Civil War


    In elementary school in the Deep South, I was taught a reasonably accurate version of the Civil War.
    In high school in the North, it was the “Lost Cause” version.

    I don’t know how each district does it now, but suspect it has flipflopped.

    Comment by dave — October 13, 2022 @ 7:28 am

    • I went to public school in Virginia way back when and was also taught a reasonably accurate version of the Civil War. When I went to college up North I was told that in the South it’s called the ‘Lost Cause’ and the ‘War Between the States’. I’d never heard of such a thing.

      Comment by egelblock — October 13, 2022 @ 3:58 pm

  3. California public schools rank 50th in literacy. And the drop in achievement affected kids at the top, too, as ACT scores dropped by 20 points- the lowest in 30 years. Our schools were closed down longer than any other state. AUSD is a mediocre to poorly run district, with declining test scores, huge gaps between the haves and have nots, and is bleeding teachers to other districts. No one on the current school board spoke up against the devastating long term lockdowns, the ineffective zoom school, or the fact that children lost the equivalent of 20 IQ points which will take years to make up. As a result, their endorsement of LaLonde is simply calling for more of the same. All studies show that paying teachers more does nothing to improve educational outcomes, as both bad and good teachers benefit, so more salary is not the answer. As an example, Baltimore spends more than $21,000 per student, but has 13 high schools where not one student is proficient in math.

    I don’t think it’s fair to judge LaLonde on his art, but his priority seems to be solely around supporting a small segment of the student population, and increasing teacher pay, rather than raising achievement levels for all. The district is drowning in special education cost over runs, and young students of color with low reading scores, are unlikely to respond to being offered more curriculum focusing on trans or homosexual based themes from the posted book list.

    It’s time for a change.

    Comment by Common Sense — October 13, 2022 @ 7:58 am

    • It’s weird when people who have no kids currently in Alameda school districts have so many opinions about the effectiveness of the education.

      The district is drowning in special education cost over runs, and young students of color with low reading scores, are unlikely to respond to being offered more curriculum focusing on trans or homosexual based themes from the posted book list.

      Like did you even read my post or did you start spouting off your Moms of Liberty/Fox News/Q Anon drivel right away? Reading comprehension matters.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 13, 2022 @ 8:33 am

      • Silly response. Nothing I expressed had anything to do with the sites you mentioned. It’s great to have an opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. Test scores are way down according to the NYT and Wash Post. California is 50th in literacy rates. A rise in teacher salaries does not correlate with a rise in test scores. The district is seeking to hire more counselors to deal with the overwhelming depression found in our students, and AUSD has cycled through multiple lawsuits and special education heads in an attempt to get a handle on costs.

        It’s a five alarm fire for education.

        Comment by Common Sense — October 13, 2022 @ 10:41 am

        • Guess what also doesn’t correlate with a rise in test score? Not having teachers.

          Keep telling teachers that they’re not worth being paid a fair wage and we’ll end up with no teachers.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 13, 2022 @ 11:01 am

  4. For full transparency. The reporter asked 3 questions only. We were only allowed to answer (very complex questions) with 180 words MAX. The reporter then has follow-up questions that we could answer (I was the only one to answer follow-ups). Here are the two questions that the reporter wrote about in the article – and my responses and my follow-up answers.

    For the question on teachers – we were only allowed to say 180 words in response to the question:

    Here is what the reporter sent at the first question…

    While higher than Albany, Emeryville, Oakland and Berkeley Unified School Districts, AUSD’s salary schedule is significantly lower than those of neighboring districts as Hayward ( $69 K to start/$116K at top) San Leandro ($70K/$125K)
    and Castro Valley ($66K/$125K)

    On top of lower salaries, Alameda teachers must pay out of pocket upwards of $12,000 per year for their medical benefits in many cases, adding a significant drag to take home pay compared to other districts who often provide much better health care & benefits packages.

    QUESTION: Given the widespread and growing teacher shortage in California and The U.S., compounded by the growing rise in teacher burnout and attrition, what specific policies and plans do you have to attract and retain new teachers, and keep quality veterans here so that they don’t start or move elsewhere to try and make a reasonable living or stay in a work environment that allows them to endure ?

    Please try to suggest solutions other than floating another parcel tax, or bond measure to provide tangential means to bolster the overall district budget related to monies available for compensation.

    For example, answers might embrace matters of changes in teachers’ work environment, administrative support etc. You might also consider the growing trend of “teacher burnout” as reported recently in the Sacramento Bee and by a host of other publications and organizations.

    Teachers are the heart of our school district. Retaining teachers has many layers needing to be implemented to be successful – ranging from pay/funding, recruitment and housing. The community in 2020 passed Measure A – putting an additional 12 million into teacher salaries. We need to protect Measure A. For housing, we need more partnerships to provide affordable housing. The district sold two surplus properties to AHA in the last decade making units available specifically for teachers.

    While the current state budget does have increases in funding that could address the pay gap, it doesn’t address the long-term stability that we need for retention. The budget pushes the money through LCFF funds – which compared to other districts – we have a lower number of student eligibility. Ultimately, we need a school board who works TOGETHER to address retention. Our teachers know there is work to do and endorsed Gary Lym and myself. They know we are the only two candidates who want to genuinely address teacher burnout, pay gaps and create a welcoming culture in our schools.

    The reporter asked a follow-up:

    Follow-up question to the above: a) Could you detail practical, achievable steps that need to be taken to implement each of the three layers, especially recruitment –and retention– as well as housing, since districts are beholden to state funding preferences, and have few tools –including cuts to administration, if possible—to reallocate money to salary/benefits for teachers & support staff. b) More specifically, re housing, do you have numbers on how many units the AHA sale resulted in and how many teachers (out of the total who might be desirous or in need of them) took advantage, if any. Estimates are ok if the numbers require a time consuming deep dig. Also, are those rentals, for purchase, & what about cost to the teacher?


    Follow-up: Specific steps to alleviate teacher burnout are few and far between when it comes to policy makers and discussions. What have you heard from teachers regarding what they say are their needs to reduce the fatigue factor.

    My answers:

    For teachers and school employees, their benefits and pay increases are negotiated with each contract and as you stated, we are beholden to preferences. And while the Governor’s budget had many categorical increases (green busing and other such programs that don’t apply to our district), nothing is in the flexible spending column for districts to use on salaries. I know the district is doing a deep dive on budget items and cutting spending for items that are no longer effective or efficient and have just been a given in the budget of the past.

    To attract teachers it is more than about salaries. It is about the school sites, the community, the classrooms and the culture. In Alameda we have definitely been making that a priority. Our community has funded bond and tax initiatives to renovate and modernize our classrooms and such. Our PTAs bring field trips, assemblies, field trips and resources to each school site. As President of the PTA Council of Alameda I have seen how dedicated teachers and parents put in endless hours to enhance the students’ experiences at ALL of our schools. We have walkable neighborhood schools surrounded by the families of the students who attend the schools. The schools are our neighborhood hubs and the pride and joy for so many and for so many generations of students. We offer a culture of innovation, exploration and community. We work to make sure – as our motto says – Everyone Belongs Here.

    For recruitment, I will encourage the district to continue its partnership with inclusive colleges and universities from across the US, to bring student teachers and attention to our little island in the East Bay. Also, I will support – unlike one of my opponents our new Office of Equity – which is uplifting our Black and multi-Ethnic students experience and looking to make sure we have a cultural diverse pool of teachers applying for our open positions.

    Teachers need supportive environments that provide the best classrooms, technology and resources. Burn out is not new in the education profession. My grandmother was a school teacher all her adult life and I remember towards the end of her retirement – she was ready to be done. The teachers who are supporting my campaign and who I have spoken with want respect from parents for their work, they want to not have to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies (a few do enjoy this) and they want to make sure their students are safe, healthy and thriving. Our educational system just went through a global pandemic unlike any other for 100 years. It laid bare our technology and site inequities. It tested the community – a community with a large percentage of multi-generational families whose safety was a great concern. And we weathered the storm, we grew stronger in the process and have now seen where we need to fix our weaknesses. But ultimately, as teachers leave and retire – we need to have a robust pipeline of quality teachers stepping up to take their place.

    School boards, districts, teachers and librarians are under what might be called a “curriculum suppression or re-focusing siege” around the nation.

    From the political right, calls to censor or suppress content abound. They include prohibitions or restrictions on curriculum based on the 1619 project, that which “promotes a negative account or representation of the founding and history of The United States,” (a bill being considered in New Hampshire) or teaching or implementing programs related to gender identity orientation, resurrecting prayer in schools and so on.

    From the political left, come calls to cover up or do away with school murals of George Washington, the branding of Abraham Lincoln as a racist , the removal of certain Dr. Seuss books, and the shelving of renowned American works of literature as “Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice And Men,” and “To Kill A Mockingbird,” — just to name a few– on the grounds that racist epithets or scenarios contained in them are too offensive or shocking for students to read.

    Social Studies teachers are also faced with the dilemma of what to steer clear of for fear of offending students, parents or administrators if and when they teach content involving lynching, race riots, segregationist speeches or screeds , police brutality, and so on.

    QUESTION: What is your position related to supporting or embedding curriculum that hews to as accurate and balanced an account of American history, culture and politics as possible, and that steers away from banning, censoring or minimizing content, including renowned literature, because some in the community (including students and teachers) find it offensive or challenging to their personal belief structure and political/social values?

    We could only answer in 180 words or less – My answers:
    We need a robust and diverse curriculum for our students. When it comes to history and social studies, we should ensure our textbooks and lessons guide our students to see history through a perspective that engages them and intrigues them. Our classrooms need to be models of 21st Century learning and we need to support our teachers in bringing accurate portrayals of our World and US history. As a parent of a Black student at Alameda High School, I want him to see positive reflections of himself in history, not labored by bias. I want all our students to feel they can explore what it means for them to be in this time and place in history. Making sure we tell the unvarnished truth is not erasing history,.. it is revealing history.

    Ultimately though, having seen what our teachers are doing in the classroom – I know they are giving our students the tools and skills they need to dissect literature and information and build their own opinions and thoughts.

    Follow-up Question:
    Follow—up: But how, given the often vocal and sometimes presumptuous, agenda driven forces on left and right of the socio-political spectrum, do we do that without minimizing, sugar coating or neglecting content that others find “offensive, shocking, racist, unpatriotic, propagandistic” and so on from the left? To wit: on the one hand districts have “shelved” To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn because they contain an offensive epithet, and others have forbidden discussion or teaching about gender orientation. On the other hand, from the right: restrictions or prohibitions on teaching the values of “diversity and Inequality”, presenting materials that show racist tenets in US History and society , past and present, or engage in learning about gender identity, different sexual orientations or that espousing standards as “racial colorblindness is racist.” Put differently, how to you propose teachers (& boards, district and site admin) handle such subjects of controversy and debate without fear of targeting, reprisal and being labeled themselves as “racist” , “sexist”, “un-American” “amoral radical leftist” etc.?

    I am a gay dad in a majority¬¬ Black household. There is not a day that goes by where I am not reminded that I am treated differently than the rest of my family in different circumstances. I have been with my husband for almost 27 years. We have story after story where microaggressions, racism, sexism and homophobia have been used against us in our family –from a woman trying to take my son from me because “he couldn’t possibly be mine”, to an apartment manager who would never talk to my husband and only would speak to me. Our society is flawed, biased and not always acting in what is in the greater good. But I digress… when it comes to our school district. We have a diverse student body and beautiful list of cultures all coming together in our schools. We are not restricting curriculum that explores diversity. In fact, our 9th graders (my son is a 9th grader this year) are required to take an ethnic studies course. I will support a system that embraces its LGBTQ+ students and families and makes sure they feel safe and seen in our schools. I will always encourage conversations around culture, race and ethnicity. When our teachers introduce a book like To Kill A Mockingbird – they frame the conservation, they build a community of readers who are ready to dissect the book. They ask questions about author bias or motivations, period of time and language evolution and historical creative license. The teacher isn’t teaching a book – they are giving the students the tools and skills to analyze, question, write and critique a book. I will always support giving students the tools to be active learners.

    I was an engaged participant in the district Equity statement and policy (I wrote an early draft) that was passed this school year. It sets the framework for how we will operate and it needs to have committed stewards on the board making sure we act in accordance and truly continue to build welcoming and inclusive schools and learning.

    Comment by Ryan LaLonde for Alameda School Board — October 13, 2022 @ 8:58 am

  5. Fundraising information about the School Board race — as well as the races for Mayor and City Council — are now available in easy-to-read graphic form on the League of Women Voter Alameda’s website: The first pre-election filings for School Board are especially interesting in light of this post.

    Comment by Allan Mann — October 13, 2022 @ 9:22 am

    • Can you explain how the School Board filings are interesting in light of this post?

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 13, 2022 @ 9:29 am

      • You noted that Lalonde was the most responsive to the East Bay Times inquiries, and the charts show that he is the only candidate doing any serious fundraising.

        Comment by Allan Mann — October 13, 2022 @ 9:37 am

        • Is the LWV going to update this any time soon to include the IEs for Trish Spencer, Paul B, and Tony Daysog?

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 14, 2022 @ 10:19 am

        • Yes, after the next pre-election filing Oct 27. Independent expenditures supporting/opposing candidates will be listed.

          Comment by Allan Mann — October 14, 2022 @ 10:33 am

  6. As a teacher who can never return to the classroom because I can’t afford it, I am livid at her comments about “financial assistance”” throwing money at the problem.”

    As an educator of 25 years, I am terrified about her ideas on teaching, history and race and “patriotic, education”

    We absolutely cannot do this, she is dangerous.

    I hope you’ll join me in voting for Ryan LaLonde and Gary Lym.

    Comment by Bronwyn Harris — October 13, 2022 @ 11:23 am

    • I agree. I will be voting for Ryan LaLonde and Gary Lym.

      I grew up in a family of teachers all the way back to my great grandparents who donated land in the 1870’s for the first “black” school in the town they lived in. My grandparents were also teachers, both of my parents were teachers — and my daughter, a Spelman graduate, taught for many years before starting her own school.

      Speaking of history – here’s an interesting bit of history:
      Spelman College is a historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia. The college was named after Laura Spelman Rockefeller. Laura Spelman was an abolitionist, a philanthropist, a school teacher and the wife of the co-founder of Standard Oil – John D Rockefeller. Laura and John D Rockefeller were benefactors of Spelman College. Laura’s father Harvey Spelman was an abolitionist and active in the Underground Railroad.

      In historically black colleges, our children learn the full version of United States history and they learn about the contributions that African American leaders, educators, politicians, inventors, engineers, doctors, soldiers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and carpenters made to this country. They leave these colleges understanding their full potential, and what’s possible – and they leave having an appreciation for our ancestors who made it possible.

      Our history is an important part of the American story – and including it in the history books is an important step in making reparations to African Americans in this country.

      Comment by Karen Bey — October 13, 2022 @ 5:43 pm

      • Very well said.

        Comment by Bronwyn Harris — October 13, 2022 @ 5:46 pm

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