In Alameda, vote Mooney, Forbes and Tam for school board

A careful follower of Alameda Unified School District affairs these past couple of years, this week’s “Life on the Island” (the column I write for the print edition of the Alameda Journal), makes my choices for school board quite plain. If you want to see the candidates in action yourself, you can watch this school board debate, hosted by Alameda’s PTA Council and the Alameda Education Foundation. You can can also watch the incumbents in action in some recent school board meetings. The City of Alameda Democratic Club endorsements are here (they endorsed both incumbents, Janet Gibson and David Forbes, as well as challenger Ron Mooney). Here’s links to all the candidates Web pages. You can go see the candidates tomorrow night at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Details: Wednesday, October, 15, 7:00 p.m., Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Road.


  • David Kirwin

    For the community involvement we need to make our schools great, we need to re-elect Gibson, and elect Spencer, and if the “financial acumen” of Mooney is real, perhaps he should replace board member Forbes. Personally, I think that would be a mistake.

    This article today by Pearlman is just another blatant opinion being given free-press space. Eve Pearlman rarely writes as a reporter, and I question the Journalistic integrity of any form of “free press’ giving her opinions the space which should be dedicated to actual reporters. This now “daily dose” of blatant endorsement of friends is tiring, and a misuse of the press. For a reporter “typing away” on her keyboard, Eve Pearlman must have missed what was happening on the stage at the last candidate forum. Why didn’t she report on what happened at the forum? I was there too and took some notes with pencil and paper. Some comments on the debate are listed below, and I left with quite a different feeling from the debate, but I admit I am still ‘soured’ at the handling of Measure H by Mooney’s KASE, and his friends on the School Board. I was disturbed that both he and David Forbes stated the BOE is ‘dysfunctional”. They obviously want everyone representing the entire community to “think” in step with their ideas instead of working toward collaboration. As a parent with two children in Alameda Public schools, I believe the best choice for Alameda voters is to keep School Board Member Janet Gibson, who has received more votes on each of her ballots for the Board than any one else. The best new addition to the Board of Education is Trish Spencer who has been volunteering for over 10 years in our schools, has served us on PTA’s and was PTA Council president for two years. She has also taught in our schools. While some teachers I have discussed the election with have stated that many teachers believe that the AUSD administration and the BOE already have such close ties that the school administrator, Neil Tam, who is now trying to get on the BOE would be a “redundant force” – that the administration’s position is already well represented on the BOE. At this point I am undecided whether I want an administrative perspective instead of a wider variety of community perspectives on the BOE, and, as I have only had the one opportunity to hear Mr Tam speak his views, I am undecided as to if he would get a vote from me. I do know that I look forward to the next forum tonight, October 15. I hope readers will learn for themselves, and not take the word of a terribly biased “reporter” like Eve Pearlman.. This further demonstrates the dysfunctional state of the “free press” – where it is more of a tool of the aristocracy than a means to genuinely provide honest information to the public. Just compare resumes: Janet Gibson – http://www.janetgibsonforschoolboard.com Trish Spencer – http://www.votetrish.com Neil Tam – http://www.nieltam.com/ David Forbes – http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/11/04/ca/alm/vote/forbes_d/ Ron Mooney – http://www.ronmooney.net/

  • David Kirwin

    In my post, (which this site’s moderator may not put online), I mentioned some of the notes I made at the last forum for school board candidates. Here are those notes and my interpretations:

    Quite honestly I am very afraid of what Ron Mooney would do to our school district. While seemingly an intelligent and informed KASE volunteer, and maybe a real nice guy, it seems his attitude is that he thinks he knows better than anyone else and doesn’t want community input to make even the biggest decisions to affect AUSD. Alameda’s School Board should be representative of the citizens, not an aristocracy. Look at the outcome of the way he designed the Measure H campaign which lacked open community input! At this point AUSD must lay out an unknown sum of money to legally defend Measure H which will have an unknown outcome. Which school program funding is this money going to come from I wonder. Had Mr Mooney’s Measure H campaign utilized community input, Measure H would have been structured in such a way to not be suffering from the current litigation, and the majority of voters and our commercial property owners would not be pitted against one another. Mr Mooney’s style is not what I want as a community representative on our school board. Our community needs to pull together, not battle each other. While Mooney was a School Board member in Emeryville, that school district only had about 100 kids. Since moving to Alameda, he has been a board member and organized for two parcel taxes. Incumbent School Board member, David Forbes, worked on a facilities bond known as Measure ‘C’. I picked up during the debate that Trish Spencer knew more about the financing of Measure ‘C’ than Mr Forbes who stated that Alameda property owners are currently paying taxes to repay those bonds, but since I sit on the Measure ‘C’ oversight committee, I knew where to check on those statements. It seems Mr Forbes does not understand the financing of the bonds he helped to pass. For clarification see the following sites that explain the bond’s related taxing of property was to run from 2014 – 2046. The design of the Measure was to not “raise Taxes” just to expend the payoff of a previous Measure that would be paid off in 2014. At the recent AEF/PTA hosted candidate forum, Ron and David Forbes established themselves as a team and stated their solution to Alameda’s funding problem was that “the system” is not working and needs to be “blown up”. They used this phrase not less than 6 times. While their best thinking may lead them to state this as their best solution, such statements will certainly not help our schools. (Rhetorically, I wondered if they meant to destroy, or increase in size with the phrase ‘to blow up’.) Both Mr Mooney and Mr Forbes stated their belief that the only solution to AUSD’s position as a “Low Wealth” district, (we get less money per student than any other unified school district in Alameda county), is to take legal action against the State to change the funding formula which determines the funding of each school district in the state, but they gave no clue as to where the funding of such a ambitious legal action would come from. This is not a new idea, it has been discussed for years, and it’s been determined there is just no funding to pursue such legal action against the State. Maybe they will ask AEF to fund such a legal expense. Also at that forum Mr Mooney did not hesitate to claim he would support a move toward equity over educational quality, yet still also stated his support of maintaining Alameda’s remaining smallest schools. That position requires an extremely inequitable allocation of AUSD’s funds because it costs so much more per student to operate the district’s smallest schools. It obviously can’t be logical to advocate for equity and inequity at the same time, but he was claiming both in an effort to find support for his campaign. There are studies that show the relationship of school sizes to cost savings, and that show how large schools can become for the different age groups (thus able to offer more educational advantages for the same cost per student than the small schools), before they get to a size that begins to have negative effects. These studies show that elementary schools should have 500-600 students. Even if it is not possible at this time to reconfigure our school facilities, creating efficiency should always be a goal of the BOE, but that is contrary to Mr Mooney’s stated goal of keeping the “Gold Coast’s” elementary school in a protected status. Lastly Mr Mooney was saying that AEF should contribute to make up the imbalances in schools sites created by unequal fundraising by the site PTA’s. While AEF and Mooney’s KASE share many board members, I think BOE members have to respect that only AEF can determine how AEF funds will be allocated. I was fortunate enough that Brooke Briggance sat down with me in late June to talk about AEF. At that time, and according to publications since, AEF has not yet gathered the funds to perform an audit which is required before Brooke can begin to gather large contributions. Also many of the contributions that AEF currently receives are already allocated – in fact they are contributed for specific purposes, so I have to wonder as a BOE member how long Mr Mooney would wait on others to fix the financial problems of AUSD.

  • http://laurendo.wordpress.com Lauren Do

    Actually David K., what Eve writes is a column. The whole point of a column is to express an opinion. I realize that the opinion expressed by Eve was not one that you necessarily agree with but saying that there is some lack of journalistic integrity in giving a columnist print space is puzzling.

  • David Kirwin

    No Lauren – Eve has taken to writing advertisements, not a column. Most candidates have to pay for that kind of press.

  • http://laurendo.wordpress.com Lauren Do

    It’s her column, she can write whatever she wants in it. When Frank Rich writes about Obama do you call it an advertisement? When Michelle Malkin writes about McCain do you lament that normally he would have to pay for that level of press coverage?

  • Susan Davis

    Hi David,

    I also was at the AEF candidates’ forum last Monday, but left with very different impressions than you did. For example:

    1)The statements about the BoE being “dysfunctional” had more to do with the fact that the members of the board aren’t working well together, as a team, than Mooney and Forbes wanting everyone to fall in line with their thinking. (I’m not sure, honestly, how the latter perspective seemed “obvious” to you.)

    2) Ron never stated a “goal” of “keeping the ‘Gold Coast’s’ elementary school in a protected status.” He did say that he supports neighborhood schools on the Island — as do, I might add, many parents, for a wide variety of reasons.

    3) Yes, Ron and David both used the term “blow up,” in respect to the state educational funding system. It was perhaps not the best choice of words, but I understood it to mean that the system needs to be reformed on a fundamental level — an opinion that some of the best minds in public education policy would agree with.

    I certainly did not even begin to think they were talking about expanding the bureaucracy!

    4) On the equity v excellence question — you’ve pulled Ron’s words out of context. When asked what he would do if there was a budget situation that might force him to choose equity or excellence as a funding priority (e.g., intervention classes versus AP classes), Ron said he would fund the equity programs, because parents in the “excellence” programs might be able to supplement a loss of funds. It was an interesting perspective on a really, really hard question.

    As for Eve’s “bias,” I know her as a friend and a colleague and I can assure you she’s professional and ethical. But she writes an opinion column for the local paper. As such, her column contains opinions. Op ed writers do it all the time. No harm, no foul.

    I know you have a long-standing beef about Ron and KASE and that you have for many months alleged that he worked on Measure H soley to “save” Franklin school. I disagree with your analysis. More important, I think it’s best to avoid twisting other people’s words in public forums.

  • Michael Schmitz

    Re: David K’s series of posts

    Mr. K

    You have successfully achieved your goal of making one person’s opinion look like a brewing storm of opposition. The fact that I even respond continues this thread of one vocal opponent – contributing to the appearance of controversy.

    But I feel compelled to respond to the tactic of attacking the press as a method of making a political point. As one who reads many papers from across the spectrum I was struck by your thinly veiled attempt to attack an opinion column as unacceptable, based on its point of view. Whether you choose to read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, SF Chron, Washington Times or Post or any other paper of record, opinion writers and columnists are always and everywhere doing their job of offering opinion – nothing more and nothing less.

    I happen to think Ms. Pearlman’s opinion pieces are witty and clever, not unlike Maureen Dowd’s on occasion, plus they provoke thought. Not a bad thing most mornings. However, I also respect the right of those who disagree with her opinions to voice them, even if they are not as witty in their response.

    What I find it objectionable is the use of the tactic of attacking the press – columnists and opinion writers included – as a way of making a political point. It has happened far too many times in recent years – crying “media bias” when one’s political opinions aren’t carrying the day. If you have a political disagreement, simply voice it. Win people over with the power of your arguments, not the intensity of your attacks please.

    From one person in Alameda with an opinion.

  • David Kirwin

    Put Eve’s opinion on the opinion page then, not the front page of a newspaper. A witty columnist Eve is not when she is playing politics in her column.

  • D. K.

    WOW – You really got’m good Lauren. Thanks for the day off.

    I agreed with Janet Gibson – giving up the stipend should have been an individual choice.

    I don’t think Janet needs the money, and I think she may have donated it to the district, at least board members could have taken the charitable contribution IRS write-off.

    I think her argument was a good one for protecting the stipend – not all of our citizens are so well off that they can afford sitters while attending meetings, and all the other school functions most board members attend. Our BOE members volunteer so much time beyond the meetings, I can’t thank them enough for their contributions. New candidates will also have a lot more to learn, and also may have to give up work hours to actually read the full packet material. (Like I wish CC could do!).

    Just the active school participation on the part of parents is very time consuming. It is not unlikely that it would be valuable for some future BOE members to be able to hire a sitter while attending meetings to give a spouse or partner a break, if not a single parent.

    The BOE is not supposed to be an exclusive club. I consider the rejection of the stipend by the ‘greater wealth club’ as a method to narrow the field of potential participants on the board to be as bad a decision as the decision to not fund the position of public information officer.

    Hopefully the next school tax will mandate that the PIO position must be filled at all times, and that the position is somehow provided a ‘protected’ neutral status. The public needs to know they are getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when we are getting information regarding what we pay for schools and the City included.

    Susan, in response to post #6:

    1. Perhaps you could state what is meant by a dysfunctional board – In what way is our BOE not working together? Ron Mooney is now talking about a need for a “Master Plan”. A quick visit to Mike McMahon’s website shows we already have a ‘Vision’, we have the “Framework to Action”, the “Goals”, the “Expectations”; we’ve got all the BOE’s Policies, and the specific school plans, or SSP’s . We have all kinds of Assessment Practices, we have Excellent and Equity Policies, and established the Pathway to Excellence and Equity, and don’t miss the established Community Feedback Loops. All this information and much more is on Mike McMahon’s website. It is more important to utilize the policies and plans we have as opposed to being stuck in the rut of just making plans. We have had a good BOE, and we as a district are making good progress despite the financial burden distracting our efforts. We should continue to actively use our plans, adjust them as we go. Perhaps the BOE should re-educate it self of all the plans, policies, and goals when the new member or members are seated. It would be very helpful if this was done instructively for the community at large as well.

    My point is that it seems to me Mr. Mooney may have a desire to put together a master-plan, but AUSD has no need for another static plan, or for someone who wants the role of ‘master’. There is no denying that Mr. Mooney is an abundant, domineering “presence”, and he does not seem like a person capable of being a collaborator so much as a controller. Past and present BOE’s have accumulated a wealth of good material to use for guidance. Running a school district is not like following directions for assembling a scale model. AUSD does not need a domineering micromanager trying to take the helm of the BOE at a time when we are really in need of attracting a new Superintendant. I do appreciate Mr. Mooney’s desire to help, and I hope he continues to work within the community to aid our district, but I fear his domination of the BOE would have a negative affect. He keeps offering his “leadership”, but representative collaboration is what is needed of the BOE, that’s why there are 5 members.

    2. Nobody wants to see schools close – that is a no brainer, and not needed as tax measure ballot language. When AUSD closes schools it is for economic realities. Economic realities for all should take precedence over a small school for a few. Mr. Mooney says he chooses educational equity over educational quality. Well, facilities ARE a part of the educational delivery system. It is not equitable in the present system to fund schools of 200 for some elementary kids in Alameda while most are in schools of 500-600. To provide the equitable educational opportunity for both school sizes is not an equitable allocation of funds. Why are students in Mooney’s Franklin School ‘worth more’ than students in other schools? Is Ron for equity or for small schools for just a few select students?

    3. We all agree we wish things were different with the way the State allocates school funds. Rather than having a plan to resolve the issue, Ron seems content with duplicating the same issue here at home by keeping the smallest schools open for the chosen few. It is a funding imbalance! Isn’t that self evident? And look at our biggest elementary school – Earhart; basically the same facility and administrative support costs for 3x the number of students. It helps to mention that in the last 6 years Earhart school earned State Distinguished School recognition twice, and in between them earned a National Blue Ribbon School Award. Schools this size can offer more, and do it more economically. That is the issue for this District. We have to continue to improve quality with less funding. Think how much more good could be created from the over-expense of maintaining schools that are too small for their own good. By the way, with a bigger neighborhood school, you still have a neighborhood school, it can just be better.

    4. I agree it was hard question for some – equity or quality of educational opportunity. I like the way Trish Spencer answered it best. After all it is not a situation we face, why get stuck on hypothetical? Mr. Mooney seemed to fall back on ‘unequal taxation’ – “Make AP student families pay”, (because after all, only well-to-do families would have high achieving students.) Gawd I hope you don’t ‘buy’ that! I was just shocked at the biased he displayed.

    Since March I have been upset at the way Mr. Mooney has used KASE to lead AUSD and the community astray. My ‘beef’ was not just about the tax measure ‘saving’ Franklin; it was much more about the way the Measure was put together without community collaboration. Look at the Measure H ‘payoff’ now. This is not good for the community, especially AUSD and in the long run – it’s very bad for our students. Ron Mooney seems like a very intelligent person and I certainly hopes he continues to try to work for the benefit of AUSD. I hope he learned the importance of collaboration as opposed to his ‘leadership style’ used in the Measure H campaign. It would be useful to hear Mr Mooney over the next years speaking at BOE meetings as a community advisor, but I would not want him on the dais side of the podium. Perhaps if we all could learn to appreciate his contributions rather than be subjected to the results of his backroom deal making style of leadership exhibited this year

    Finally, I believe that if Eve were “ethical and unbiased” she would remove herself from the appearance of grandstanding for her friends and fellow AEF board members. The continued use of her column for the promotion of her friends and fellow board members speaks louder than you or I about her ethics and biases.

  • dk

    Since Wed night you have been refusing to post my reply to Susan’s post #6 – WHY? I have made plenty of attempts, and it still says the post is “awaiting moderation”.

  • Susan Davis

    Hi David,

    I’m going to opt out of getting into an argument about the merits of the school board candidates here. That really wasn’t my point.

    My concern, as I expressed in #6, was simply that I felt you were misrepresenting what Ron said at the AEF-PTAC forum. So I wanted to straighten out the record for the sake of the people who weren’t there.


  • Susan Davis

    Hi David,

    Now that you have blasted Eve for being “biased” not only on this blog, but also on ADN, I’d like to point out one error in your logic: Eve is no longer on the AEF board and hasn’t been for months.

    Moreover, your assertion that she shouldn’t endorse her “friends” is also illogical. Alameda is small. The “education community” is even smaller. Many of us know each other. Not being able to endorse people because we know them would be very limiting. It would, for instance, prohibit you from endorsing Trish, who I believe you know.

    In my own case, I will be voting for Ron Mooney, David Forbes, and Neil Tam. That’s not because I am “friends” with them (I do know Ron and David, but have met Neil Tam only once and very briefly).

    Instead, I’m voting for Ron because I’ve heard him speak, know his record, and respect his abilities. I’m voting for David because I’ve been watching his actions on the School Board for four years and I think he’s smart and committed and makes good decisions. And I’m voting for Neil because I was impressed with him at the AEF-PTAC forum and I’m hearing good things about him from people I know and respect.

    The fact that Eve was on AEF’s board doesn’t necessarily mean that her opinion is biased, tainted, or otherwise flawed. To the contrary: it may mean that she knows enough about what’s happening in the district to be able to offer an experienced and well-considered opinion.

  • Susan Davis

    p.s. In the interests of full disclosure: I am friends with Eve. I also know her through the education community. I am also an editor at a national magazine (WebMD) to which she contributes, as a writer. Her reporting and writing skills are top notch. I respect her judgment.

  • Eve

    Hi, DK: You seem to assume, somewhat perplexingly, that I have made the endorsements I made based simply on the fact I know people (though, in fact, I don’t know all the candidates I endorsed) and not because I have watched them at work, agreed with their ideas and positions, and think they have the qualifications for office.

    I would add that we ought—one certainly hopes we can—disagree about school board candidates without having to make personal attacks. You think Spencer will serve well on school board; I’m going to cast votes for Mooney, Tam and Forbes. I think they’re most likely to do a good job. I think I’m right; you think you’re right.

    While Spencer is sometimes hard to pin down on her opinions—which is one of the reasons I’m choosing not to vote for her—she is a charter school supporter (I fear the financial implications of charters for the district as a whole), she seems to be more open to the closing of small schools than I am (she ranks it high on her list of things to cut), and I have heard her say that she thinks class size reduction in the lower grades is not that important (she said that she had two children go through elementary schools with smaller classes and two go through without, and there are pluses and minuses to both ways). Spencer also doesn’t think that the district should be defending itself against the Measure H suits, which I think it should. I’m assuming that you are supporting Spencer because you agree with these views, and, given that there are likely many Alamedans who hold these views as well, I think you would be better served articulating these positions than attacking those who aren’t endorsing Spencer.

    At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we all actually want what is best for the children of Alameda, for our town, for our own health and well-being. And, too, we are all in this together. In the future, in keeping with the policy of the parent organization of this blog, your personal attacks/name calling will not be published on this blog. Stick to issues. There are plenty of important ones to discuss.

  • Frances M.

    I think comment #10 is hilarious. How long do you think it should take someone to read your 800,000 word essay? And how many people do you think are committed enough to you and your ideas that they will slog their way through such lengthy blog comments. Do you have any idea how many words you have posted on this thread alone? You should be thanking Eve and her readers for taking you so seriously and actually reading your prodigious verbiage.

  • Say What?

    There is quite a bit to digest in that comment #9. Here are two responses:

    In point 2, the author argues “Economic realities for all should take precedence over a small school for a few.” Based on that argument, it follows that the author will be opposing the Nea charter school application for a “small school for a few” because of its negative economic impact “for all” the students in Alameda. Is he?

    In point 4, the author comments: “equity or quality of educational opportunity. I like the way Trish Spencer answered it best. After all it is not a situation we face, why get stuck on hypothetical?” My impression was that Trish Spencer dodged and didn’t actually answer the question (which is not a hypothetical question). Every year there have been budget cuts over the past seven years, that exact issue has come up, as it will in future budget decisions: Everyone agrees we shouldn’t cut, but we have to. In deciding what to cut, principles and values such as equity and excellence are applied. A whole lot of people thought the budget cuts of 2008 were in equitable. How is that controversy hypothetical? Why wouldn’t Trish Spencer just say what she thought?

  • Brian Harris

    Hello. First off, i would like to say that I am a student at a charter school (ACLC) and I am a little saddened by the anti-charter school mood some of the coments profess. I also want to adress something about Trish Spencer. I understand she does support charter schools and has even substitued at ACLC in the past,however, I do not support her and would not vote for her. Why? Because when the Careing Schools Curriculum was up for vote last May, she asked a question about providing curriclum for race and religous groups. This question was answerd, BUT SHE KEPT ASKING IT! She just wouldn’t stop! The argument with her went on for what seemed like hours, until the board finally voted. I have also seen her do the same or similar things at election debates. I feel with her in office, nothing gets done. I also feel she simply takes the stance of whatever she thinks will get her re-elected. Sorry for the rant, just needed to say my peice.

  • http://www.dirty-pages.de/mountainbike-wallpapers/ freestyle bmx

    Thanks that was a fantastic article!

  • http://tradeincomputergames.com Gorgyf

    hi there fellas

    the my personal first publish around the community forum and i also woud like to share with you one thing excellent

    i have been making use of craigpress for some time now and also to be honest i will be reading good traffic from your site

    what is craigpress ?

    Craigpress being an effective way to succeed in to organizations, Coming from nearby retailers in order to big brand names, as well as through brick-and-mortar to internet-based or service sector, individuals are obtaining great benefit in the cable connections they’ve created together with companies about Craigpress.

    Craigpress can be a conversation platform that assists organizations keep in touch with their consumers. Being a enterprise, technology-not only to be able to quickly share details with folks enthusiastic about your business, gather real-time industry cleverness and also suggestions, as well as develop relationships with clients, companions and other people which care about your organization.

    Certainly one of Craigpress key rewards is always that that provides you with the opportunity communicate casually together with clients on the terms, making pleasant relationships as you go along.

    to join up : http://craigpress.com

    Make sure you say thanks if you like it my submit