New superintendent for Alameda schools

After a weekend of closed door interviews and another closed session today, Alameda’s school board has offered a contract to a new superintendent. Kirsten M. Vital currently works for the Oakland Unified School District where she has served as the community accountability chief since early 2006. She has also worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District as the Director of Instruction and Health and Human Services as well as co-principal of Santa Monica High School. Vital earned a bachelor’s from Northeastern and a master’s in eduction from Whittier College. Here’s slice of the press release from the district this afternoon:

The Alameda Unified School District and the members of the Alameda Unified School Board are pleased to announce that they have offered a contract to serve as Superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District to Ms. Kirsten Vital…

The school district conducted an extensive search and was pleased to find the best person for the job right here in the Bay Area…

“We couldn’t be happier with the choice of Ms. Vital,” said School Board president William Schaff. “In her previous and current positions she has been extensively involved in all aspects of running a school district,” said Schaff.

“As our district moves forward in these difficult economic times, I am confident that Ms. Vital will bring the experience, energy, and hands on approach the district needs,” he said. “She understands and will actively work to involve every member of our community in the future success of our schools. She truly understands our motto of excellence and equity for all children,” added Schaff.

You can read all the whole press release here.


  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/11/01/infighting-tearing-up-alameda-education-foundation/ David Howard

    Excellent. Maybe our new supe can oversee the closure of some of our cash-strapped schools. We have several small schools that are too expensive to run on a cost per student basis.

    AEF seems to have collapsed under its own weight (http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/11/18/alameda-education-foundation-website-down/ and http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/11/01/infighting-tearing-up-alameda-education-foundation/ )

    What? No reporting on the AEF infighting and collapse, Eve? I thought you were an insider who would have the scoop?

    There is a widespread belief – with some justification, I think – that AEF worked very hard to keep open smaller schools like Franklin, Edison and Otis – and that the Measure H campaign was an effort to have the entire city subsidize these smaller, more expensive schools through a parcel tax. Using simply the phone book, a few months back I mapped out the addresses of the key players of AEF one time, and they were pretty much all in the Franklin, Edison and Otis school districts.

    The three smallest elementary schools, starting from the smallest, are Franklin (Capacity: 274), Edison (321) and Otis (373). Franklin is always over-enrolled, with Washington (437) is always under-enrolled.

    Maybe now that Ron Mooney is on the AUSD board, the players think that AEF is no longer necessary. They have a vote on the AUSD board after all. Mooney lives quite literally next door to Franklin Schools, and has a child enrolled there. Or at least he did as of April, 2007, when the Oakland Tribune published it.

    [ http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_/ai_n18783245

    Strena began meeting occasionally with Genet Garamendi, also a Franklin parent, and Ron Mooney, who has a child at Franklin and another at Encinal High School. ]

    It’s also sad that the pre-election school board, which consisted of Shaff, Gibson and Forbes, selected this new supe, instead of letting the new board – who will have to work with this supe – and the new members, Mooney, Spencer and Tam, pick the supe. That’s a travesty.

  • Eve Pearlman

    As far as I’ve been able to tell, David, there’s no conspiracy. There’re just a lot of people trying to do right by public education as best as they know how. And, as I suspect you know, AUSD is by no means alone in its struggles to balance the budget: districts are struggling state-wide, and many other districts get more money per student and are operated in lower cost regions.

    With more cuts coming down the pike, a great deal more will likely need to be cut. Measure H funds can help, but remember we’re talking about a district that already has no elementary art teachers, limited middle school sports and no gifted and talented program to speak of.

    With respect to creating larger schools, my understanding is that a major stumbling block is facilities: where would we put these larger elementary schools? What would portables cost? How much could actually be saved?

    The more I learn about public school finances, the more I learn about the constraints. The mandate to provide special education services for all children, for example, is not fully funded. The cost of providing these services currently encroaches on AUSD’s general fund many millions a year. Should every child who needs a full-time aide, or speech therapy or occupational therapy have help? Surely yes. And, the law requires it. But where will the money come from?

    These complicated issues certainly require creative, energetic solutions. I wish it were as simple as closing schools—and maybe that will be part of the solution—but as best as I can tell it’s neither a cure nor the cause for conspiracy.

  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/11/11/ausd-finally-releases-redevelopment-funds-request-letter/ David Howard

    Eve – your boy Ron Mooney has done nothing but push for more local parcel taxes to pay for all those funding needs. David Forbes proudly asserted that Ron Mooney has passed 3 parcel taxes in Alameda. What has Mooney done to lobby the state or Washington, D.C. to address the funding issues you raised?

    Larger elementary schools? Facilities? Earlier this year, I identified roughly $1 million dollars in existing funding set aside for facilities – I was ridiculed and mocked and slandered. But only now is the AUSD board going after that redevelopment money which is expressly set aside by law for improving AUSD facilities – see here: http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/11/11/ausd-finally-releases-redevelopment-funds-request-letter/

    Where to locate larger schools? Portables? How about at the former Island High School site, which the “conspiracy” lets sit and rot so that when a developer friend, such as Warmington Homes comes along, they can take plenty of pictures of the “blight” that exists to make the case that the right thing to do with the land (0.82 acres) is to let Warmington transfer low-income homes from Grand Marina Village to the site. AUSD Board members Mike McMahon and Tracy Jensen were both in the audience at the library meeting where Warmington Homes’ architects tried to sell that snake oil on the local residents. David Forbes stood before the Planning Board and said the plan was a good idea. Yet, after the story broke, and community organized opposition to the plan, they ALL denied any previous knowledge of what was going on, and the games being played. See here: http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/07/23/residents-opposed-to-36-unit-apartment-complex/

    The redevelopment pass-through money in the District Capital Outlay Fund (the $1 million) is expressly designed to mitigate impacts on local school district facilities affected by the redevelopment project area – the former Island High School site is in the redevelopment area that funds the Capital Outlay fund.

    By design, and by law, the $1 million in the Capital Outlay Fund is intended to improve school facilities in that project area. But only now is the board, after I raised it several months ago – and Mike McMahon denied that the fund existed at all (“We have money for housing for employees, that’s all”) – asking the City of Alameda to hand it over. The former Supe, Ardella Dailey, in a school board hearing that I insisted on, after she tried to shut me up in a private back-room meeting, waved her finger at me and told me “By law, we do not have to track that money.” See here: http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/05/17/ausd-superintendent-reluctantly-agrees-to-track-ausd-money/

    That District Capital Outlay Fund will continue to grow as property taxes in the redevelopment project continue to grow – either by the annual minimal Prop. 13 approved increase, or by some monumental increase under a Prop. 13 repeal, which you advocate.

    As for a “conspiracy,” I never used that term – you brought it up first in your response to my comment. If there is a conspiracy, I am convinced that either a) you are a part of it, so of course you would deny a conspiracy or b) you are an un-witting dupe of said conspiracy.

  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/10/01/oakland-closing-small-schools-should-alameda-do-the-same/ David Howard

    On October 1, 2008, the East Bay Express published an article about an Oakland Schools report which indicated that small schools cost more money than large schools.


    According to the report quoted in the EBE article: “At the same time, data collected over the past several years show that small schools are financially inefficient. They cost more to operate per student than mid- and large-size schools. The reason is simple: A small school of 200 needs a principal, a janitor, and support staff just like a mid-size one of 400 students or a larger one with 600. Not surprisingly, nearly one-fifth of the [Oakland School] district’s 108 schools are on track to lose money this year, according to district figures.”

  • Eve

    Of course, David, there are economies of scale in general. But, as I mentioned above, I believe there are facilities issues in Alameda. If you combined Edison and Otis, for example – which would make sense in terms of transporting students – where would you put the school of 700 or so that resulted? And how much would be spent on leasing portables? On making the transition? Even though you may save a principal, you still need classroom teachers for each and every one of the students.

    Everything I’ve read about the state budget deficit points to even more cuts in the coming months, far larger than the savings that could be achieved—perhaps a couple of principal positions, a janitor or two–by closing the district’s smaller schools. Again, as I said above, maybe larger schools will be part of what the district does in the next couple of years, but AUSD’s budget troubles are far larger than that.

  • Jeff R. Thomason

    I find it very telling that our new “Super” has built a career on trying to improve crappy school districts. Obviously, her strengths are helping the laggers squeak by and lowering the possibility of getting shot on campus … which are very politically correct talents. However, once again Alameda does nothing to help the cream rise to the top. Why is our Island so obsessed with mediocrity and lowering the common denominator? Maybe we can start an AP GED class so that dumb people can pretend that they are smart too … VIVA SOCIALISM :-)

  • Fan of Reality-Based Arguments

    The first comment above is filled with factual errors and flawed analysis. So the conclusions and implications it is making are invalid.

  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/05/19/lao-recommends-changes-to-redevelopment-to-benefit-schools/ David Howard

    Here is the info on the increased redevelopment money pass-through for schools, from the California legislative analysts office.

    Redevelopment is capturing an ever-increasing share of property taxes in the state and diverting those funds away from the schools. For 2008-09, California appropriated $350 million of local redevelopment funds. The plan for the new year proposes to increase that to $400 million. This is an appropriate way to meet education funding needs.


    ERAF Redevelopment Pass-Through Payments—Increase current-year amount by $50 million and make the pass-through requirement permanent. This requirement would offset part of the annual revenue loss K-14 districts experience due to redevelopment. $400.0 million.

  • Mike


    Alameda is a city of 75,254 and growing based on 2007 numbers. I wouldn’t spend too much energy on responding further to 2.6 x 10-5 of those folks (or two (2)) – just because they don’t have anything else to do but try to badger you on the blogosphere.

    Thanks for all the time you already have spent on the incredibly small minority. You are a fair minded person.

  • Eve Pearlman

    John Knox White of Stop, Drop and Roll has some useful clarifications on redevelopment dollars and the city’s indebtedness here: http://johnknoxwhite.com/2008/11/24/clearing-the-air-on-redevelopment-debt/#more-604

    You can also read about redevelopment to your heart’s content at http://johnknoxwhite.com/category/redevelopment/

  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/10/13/update-on-ausd-funds-held-by-city-of-alameda/ David Howard

    Note that these: “This requirement would offset part of the annual revenue loss K-14 districts experience due to redevelopment.” are the words of the Legislative Analysts Office, not mine.

  • Eve Pearlman
  • http://www.actionalameda.org/Media/Redevelopment-Funding-and-the-Alameda-Unified-School-District.pdf David Howard

    We responded to the dubious City of Alameda document here: http://www.actionalameda.org/Media/Redevelopment-Funding-and-the-Alameda-Unified-School-District.pdf

    As I mentioned, everyone tried to deny that the District Capital Outlay Fund and District Housing Fund existed at the time I raised it – now AUSD is clamoring to get their hands on the District Capital Outlay Fund monies.

    The City claims the money is segregated, but they never proved that or demonstrated it.

  • DL Morrison

    I posted the comment below on Blogging Bayport recently, re: Stop, Drop & Roll posting titled “Clearing the air on redevelopment debt”, and I would appreciate any feedback on the material I have here re Pico Rivera or anything related.

    From Stop, Drop & Roll:

    “A quick email to the city’s finance and development services department confirmed that since redevelopment areas are governed by redevelopment agencies and not the city, they are therefore creatures of the state. The debt created for redevelopment is not actually a part of the city’s debt, and were the bonds defaulted on (something that has never happened in the state of California), the default would not affect city tax payers, or the city’s debt rating.”


    Of course, this is fundamental to the city’s risk on AP. The limited info I could find said in effect that the state is ~not~ liable for the debt and that “interfund” transfers between a city’s redevelopment fund and general fund have taken place in the past, when RE prices fell during the mid-90’s.

    In the city of Pico Rivera, for example, the state had to step in and LOAN money to the city until it could find a new use for property that had been developed originally for Northrup, after the defense contractor closed its plant.

    In essence, the state allows the redevelopment agency to “cut the base year valuation”, which maintains the tax increment on the depreciating property until it recovers value. In the meantime, tho, the portion of redevelopment going to local schools is lost, so the state makes that up (backfills) and then requires payment from the city.

    So this ~does~ affect the schools.


  • DL Morrison

    A couple of quotes from the Pico Rivera link above:

    Pico Rivera officials created Project Area No. 1 in 1974
    and established a base year value of $26.7 million.
    Additions to the project area in 1978 and 1984 eventually
    raised the base year value to $89.5 million. In 1989, Pico
    Rivera’s redevelopment agency sold bonds to help Northrop
    Grumman develop a factory for B-2 bombers. By 1990-91, the
    project area’s assessed value had grown to $829.5 million.
    In 1993, Pico Rivera officials learned that Northrop
    Grumman would be closing. Using assessment appeals, the
    company reduced the assessed value on its property,
    dropping the project area’s assessed value to $488.2
    million in 1998-99. The associated decrease in property
    taxes forced the redevelopment agency’s bonds into
    technical default and local officials had to use the bond
    reserve fund to make up the shortfall and pay the
    Cutting Pico Rivera’s
    base year value in half allows its redevelopment agency to
    pick up another $447,700 a year for three years. About
    $93,600 a year would come from the schools’ share of local
    property taxes, requiring the State General Fund to
    backfill the schools (but not the local community college
    district). Pico Rivera then pays back the state by 2013.

  • http://actionalameda.org/actionalamedanewsblog/2008/05/19/lao-recommends-changes-to-redevelopment-to-benefit-schools/ David Howard

    The suggestion that the government guarantees redevelopment bonds is laugable. I mean… really. There is no evidence and no basis in fact or law to support that claim.

    The City of Vallejo was created under state law – did the State of California save them? The City of Alameda is charted under state law – does that mean the City’s debt is guaranteed by the State? Of course not. What about Alameda Power & Telecom’s bonds? Issued by a city agency created under state law – is their debt guaranteed by the State of California? Of course not.

    It’s that sort of accounting on Stop Drop & Roll that created the current national financial crisis.

  • Mark Irons

    I stopped reading comments after the first two and have showed up late. So, I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but Ardella is leaving soon. There would have been a serious liability by not choosing and hiring a new superintendent until now. The choice is pragmatic, not a power play. The search was started in a timely manner and by the previous board which has had their sleeves rolled up and were working on it for some time.

    Why does David Howard always try to create controversy? It is not a requirement of an honest disagreement. Perpetuating a constant climate of reproach sucks and I would say that Howard tries hard to throw the first stone on his priority issues.

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