April 27: Alameda Circus for Arts in the Schools

Alameda will once again host the Circus for Arts in the Schools. The show is Sunday, April 27 at Kofman Auditorium. Jeff Raz, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple weeks back, will be serving as ringmaster. You can check out a short profile of him here. Buy tickets to the two shows (1 p.m. and 4 p.m.) online or at the always-fabulous Toy Safari on Park Street.


Alameda protests: Let the coverage begin

Tomorrow’s Alameda-based Public Education is too Valuable to Throw Away campaign has already hit the airwaves. ABC 7’s evening news piece (click to watch!) highlights ad agency Wrecking Ball‘s involvement as well as all the other donated resources behind this massive awareness effort. Look for more excitement tomorrow.


Note to Alameda City Council: stand up for our schools

I for one think it’s time our city leaders—Mayor Johnson, Vice Mayor Tam, and council members Matarrese, deHaan, and Gilmore—step forward and come out loud and clear in support of a parcel tax. It’s not enough, I don’t think, to support it quietly. Our city council needs to take the lead in explaining to people—to all Alamedans, not just those with kids in the system—why we need to pull together in support of our schools. It’s a quality of life issue. It’s a property value issue. And it’s a moral issue.

I know we would prefer, of course, that Governor Schwarzenegger had not proposed cutting so much from schools. And I know we would prefer, too, that (even before these cuts) California did not fund education so poorly (we rank near last in the country in per student spending). We know, too, that the parcel tax is not a complete solution, that it won’t solve all our problems with funding and make them go away for good. But passing Measure H is something we can do now to help to make sure our Alameda students have a chance at that American dream that so many of our relatives, however many generations back it may be, came here looking for. So step up, city council, lead the way.

[Ed. (that’s me, Eve) note: Hat tip to Vice Mayor Lena Tam who already signed on to the official ballot argument in support of Measure H. (Along with senior/activist Nick Cabral, Harbor Bay Realty’s Dennis Pagones, Retired Encinal Principal Bill Sonneman, and School Board Pres. Bill Schaff.)]

[Another Ed. note: A happy wave to council member Frank Matarrese who says he fully supports the parcel tax and looks forward to it being on the agenda for discussion at the council’s first April meeting.]

And below, for your enjoyment, are pictures of some of the people who showed up Saturday morning at Longfellow to put together signs and begin distributing them in support of public schools in Alameda. (Pictured right is Cynthia Marsh, a first grade teacher at Edison.) For even more pictures, go to Modern Muse.

march 15 kase rallycynthiamarsh


Internet cafes in Alameda: Coffee, tea and wireless

at Java RamaFor Alamedans who sometimes (or always) work around town on your laptops and need to be well-connected, here’s a list of local cafes that provide wireless access. Please chime in with other places that my research assistant (pictured left working at Java Rama) and I may have missed. Advice and observations about the quality of the wireless and the coffee are much appreciated.

Julie’s: On Park Street across from the Alameda Athletic Club, Julie’s wireless signal has always been solid on all our visits. Drinks are first rate (I’m partial to the Mexican hot chocolate).

Dewey’s Friends (the Alameda library cafe): You just need an email address to log on, but the signal is strong and stays on whenever the library is open (not just when cafe is doing business). My trusty assistant reports, though, that he has been unable to log onto his work “VPN” system here, which library tech guru Dave Boxton confirms has been a problem for other users as well. Both the Bay Farm and the West End branch libraries have WIFI, too.

Java Rama: A favorite of many, including College of Alameda students. Evenings can find this cafe buzzing with intellectual action. But, sad to say, the signal’s sometimes spotty, which can be a heart-breaker, especially if you find out that the connection is down after you’ve already bought your latte and settled in for a long evening’s work. (But you can’t beat the hours: Java Rama is open 6 a.m.-10:30 p.m. during the week and from 6:30 to 10:30 on the weekends.)

The Beanery (in the Marketplace): It closes at 7 p.m. every day but Sunday (opening at 5:45 a.m. during the week) and the signal is reliable and strong and the ambiance is quite fine. But their security system—they use Surf and Sip—requires you to login and enter a credit card number to access their signal. There’s no charge, they just want to know who you are.

Starbucks: All four Starbucks in town have wireless, but it’s T-Mobile run and you’ve got pay to play, $6 bucks an hour. The good news is that Steve, manager at the Park and Central Starbucks, says the company is launching, come April or May, a free WIFI program through AT&T. “We’re not sure the exact date, but they’ll be rolling it sometime this spring starting in the Bay Area,” reports Steve. “Any customer who has a Starbucks card—which they can register online for free—will be able to access WIFI for two hours for free.”

Spritzer’s: Open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Spritzer’s is a cozy, friendly cafe near Washington Park on Central Ave. The wireless is free and I’ve never, in my dozen or so visits, had any trouble getting on and staying on.

Crosstown Coffeehouse: Kitty-corner from the Encinal Market shopping center, Crosstown’s wireless has never let me down. Only problem, they’re closed Sundays and you might want to check their event schedule (Cowboy Jared sings to toddlers on Friday mornings, for example) if you’re looking for a subdued work environment.

Just when I thought I had completed my survey, my excellent source, GM, reminds me that the recently-opened Little House Cafe on Blanding also has free WIFI. They close at 4 p.m. on weekdays and are closed on weekends.


This weekend in Alameda: poppies, rally and charrette

califpoppyI am delighted to report that the first California poppy of the season has blossomed in my yard—which I, for one, take as a clear sign that spring has arrived. While many of you in sunnier island spots have had poppies for weeks, yesterday’s was my first, and I am pleased: I quite like those bright-orange, drought-tolerant (drought-happy, even) flowers.

That said, many of y’all may want to attend Saturday’s volunteer rally and training (Longfellow, 10-1) sponsored by the Alameda Education Foundation and Keep Alameda Schools Excellent. You can learn more about an upcoming campaign to raise awareness of school funding issues (brought to Alameda pro bono by Wrecking Ball) and learn more facts and figures about the parcel tax.

Should you opt not to go the school event, there’s always Saturday’s city-sponsored Community Visioning Charrette brought to my attention by John over there at Stop, Drop and Roll. A charrette you might say, of course! But I, for one, had to google-dictionary that baby. Nonetheless, it sounds like it’s a meeting (Alameda Free Library, 9-1) to discuss a development plan for Park Street north of Lincoln, now that the sales-tax-generating car dealerships are going. As we all know—and as John points out—an ounce of planning is worth three pounds of second guessing/complaining.


March 11 Alameda school board meeting

March 11 music protestsI’m not going to lie to you: school board meetings, while often colorful and always-educational (What is ADA P-2? Hah!) are not actually my most favorite, first-choice activity. I might prefer, for example, to sit outside with neighbors in the twilight drinking wine while the children play.

Nonetheless, I am able to report to you that some of the last night’s most cheerful moments came from the grade school students who marched outside city hall in support of music before the meeting began (next year’s budget chops music classes from grades one, two, three). Some members of that group went on to make lovely speeches, including Adam Orlabukowski a fourth grader from Bay Farm Elementary School, who thanked his teacher, “Ms. Bonnie,” for introducing him to music and performance:

If I grow up to be a famous actor I’m going to give California schools the money they need to fund music and everything else. But until then, it’s up to you. Please save the music.

The board discussed what would be reinstated—elementary music and high school athletics top the priority list—if the June parcel tax passes. But, because the tax is by no means a certainty, and because the budget now in place includes reductions in music, nine grade English and math, middle school counselors, AP classes, and reading specialists–state law requires teachers who may be laid off be given notice by March 15. The cuts add up to the equivalent of 25.79 positions (no joke, scroll to item five), though there’ll be somewhat fewer pink slips because of retirements and attrition.

For more info about the parcel tax, visit Keep Alameda Schools Excellent. Particularly helpful, I think, is their FAQ. The parcel tax, for those of you have not been paying attention, would raise $120 per parcel (.15 cents per square foot for commercial properties with a cap of $9,500) and is expected to raise about $3.8 million.


This Week’s Alamedan: Dave McCarver

David McCarver Name: Dave McCarver
Age: 44
Lived in Alameda: Since first grade
Occupation: Owner, with Dennis Jameson, Alameda Advertising and Recognition, Inc. Launched out of a garage in 1991, AA&R sell plaques, trophies and gear. “We’re about 50-50 awards and promotional stuff (anything you can put your logo on).”
Children: April, 7, and Christopher, 9
Activities: Alameda Boys and Girls Club Advisory Board, youth baseball, basketball and softball coach.

Like best about Alameda?

There’s a really strong sense of community here. It’s nice to go into Doumitt Shoes and see Tony, who I went to high school with and go to McGee’s and see Johnny who I’ve known for 25 years. The community supports itself: most of the teams and leagues and schools in Alameda use us–and we sponsor teams.

Would like to change about Alameda?
I don’t like the fact that people drive too fast though the streets, even side streets. Kids can’t play outside because cars speed by too fast.

Word to the wise
I think that they should allow as much as triplexes out at the base. I’d like to see our police and fire and teachers be able to live here. Not everyone can afford to buy an $800,000 house and we all lose because we’re not able to walk around town and see our teachers and our firemen–maybe have them coach our kids or see them at an event or get to know their kids because they live here. I wouldn’t change Measure A for the island, but I would allow some flexibility out on the base.

More to the wise
We need to get the Boys and Girls Club built, because everything else is pay to play. They’ve got some really good grants and there’s been a lot of community support, but they still need to raise more before they can begin construction. Growing up we’d go there all afternoon and do any number of things–wood shop, ping-pong, crafts, basketball. Kids need a place to go now more than ever.


State Superintendent meets with Alameda students

Responding to Wednesday’s student protests over cuts to Alameda schools, State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O’Connell came to Alameda Friday to meet with student leaders and discuss how they can continue advocating for their schools. This Contra Costa Times video features Alameda student leaders Nargis Shaghasi, Kelsey Canalin, Mebrak Kahsai and Ian Merrifield. (And here’s video from Wednesday’s protest.)


KNBR Radio 680 dials in for Alameda sports

Bay Area sports talk show host Tom Tolbert has caught wind of Alameda’s budget woes and dedicated this afternoon’s drive-time show to raising funds for Alameda sports programs. They’re urging everyone to match a $30,000 donation from the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. KNBR producer Janet Magleby says Encinal High grad Dontrelle Willis has also pledged $20,000 to support athletics in Alameda schools. Magleby:

Technically, in 50 minutes we made $50,000 dollars. Hopefully everyone who hears us today will go to our Web site and donate. Even if all we raise is $50,000, that’s $50,000 more than they had.

Magleby says they hope to do more than just support Alameda athletic programs:

Sports are hurting not just in Alameda but all over the Bay Area—that’s why we got involved. We’re trying to show what a few people can do to help their community and that you can do the same in your community. People can send us an email and tell us what they’re trying to do and we’ll post it on our site and try to give it some priority on the show–we’re trying to give some attention outside your booster and your local newspaper.


Alameda Unified needs a pickup

Wait! What is it, parked outside Alameda’s Edison Elementary School.
AUSD truck 1
Let’s get closer.
AUSD truck 2
And closer.
AUSD truck three
Ahh, it’s an official Alameda Unified School District truck. A quick chat with the district employee driving it reveals that it’s of vintage 1978. It’s well older, one can be quite certain, than the oldest student in the district. And, not to give away my age–I’m told ladies of a certain age should not–but I was eight when that truck was new. One hopes I’m holding up better. Said the driver of the truck:

Our trucks are all old and they all waste too much gas and require a lot of maintenance. They’re not even cost efficient.

It requires an investment in schools and the people and supplies that support them to have it all coming out well in the end. You can starve public institutions but, eventually, as we’re seeing here in Alameda, stuff starts to hit the fan.

Word is that, in response to the student protests in Alameda this week, the state’s superintendent of instruction, Jack O’Connell, is coming to our island tomorrow to meet with Alameda and Encinal High student leaders. Encinal Senior Class President Mebrak Kahsai, who helped launch Tuesday’s protest, is one of the students who will meet with O’Connell Friday afternoon. She says the feeling of being heard by the powers that be is has been inspiring:

We’re actually–even though what the governor said was kind of negative—we’re actually happy that they heard us; we’re glad that he heard. People at school have been saying, “I never felt so powerful before.” …The governor responding made us feel good.