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Alameda School Board Candidates: Check ‘Em Out

Yes, it is late in the election cycle — and there’s certainly been a lot to keep up with as we get set to vote for a new Alameda mayor and two city councilmembers on November 2.

But if you want to help Alameda schools improve their academic and financial standing, it’s time to make an educated vote for two slots on the school board.

The website of the Alameda Education Foundation is the place to turn: The AEF and Alameda’s PTAs co-hosted a forum for school-board candidates on October 19, and the event can now be viewed online.

Candidates Mike McMahon, Clay Pollard, James Pruitt, Margie Sherrat and Rand Wrobel participated in the discussion.

The videos are very helpful for residents who want to get to know the candidates better before casting their votes. Within the first 10 minutes or so, it becomes very clear what the priorities are for each candidate and what each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are.

And after all the SunCal-related bickering in town, these discussions are a constructive change of pace.

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Alameda School’s Fund-Raiser Set for Oct. 10

AEF Millie Fund Raiser

Alameda artist Jean-Marie Bouin and a group of other community members will be at Millie’s Hair Salon, 2406 Lincoln Avenue, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, October 10, for a special Alameda Education Foundation fund-raising event.

Millie Luz, owner of Millie’s Hair Salon, is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her business in style. “It should be lots of fun, and I’m getting lots of local support,” said Luz, a long-time Alameda resident.

In addition to Bouin, other artists and photographers — such as Becky Calandri, Sheila Patterson and Pamela Thompson — will give 10 percent of sales to AEF, as will Deborah Porterfield of A Touch of Class Jewelers.

Luz says that her goal is to raise enough money to support (or “adopt”) four classrooms in need of supplies and other resources: a kindergarten and fourth-grade class at Lum School, a class at Haight School and one other class within the Alameda Unified School District. (It takes $500 to adopt a class.)

The hair stylist is asking guests to share $10 for the event. In return, each guest will get a glass of wine or beer and a raffle ticket.

The top raffle prize is a blue, red or black Jonway YY-50 scooter, donated by Yousuf Osmani of Scooter Importer on Park Street. (Both Osmani and Luz are graduates of Alameda High School).

Speisekammer Restaurant owners Cindy Johnson Kahl and Peter Johnson are giving coupons for more than 50 beers for the party; their daughter Darla is in fourth grade at Haight. Neil Doerr of Epic Wines is providing some bottles of his product line, and Ching Hua Restaurant is giving wine, as well.

Other donors include Chef Ian Libberton of the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and sous chef Casandra Szalkiewicz of Alameda, who plan to open Kokopelli Café on the Island; they are giving a gourmet meal for the auction. For the party itself, local baker Kathryn Le is sharing a sampling of cupcakes.

Stylists Angelina Maloney, Fufu Musleh and Luz are auctioning several Brazilian Blowouts hair treatments during the event.

“Millie is a fantastic person when it comes to giving and causes,” shared Porterfield. “Anything she’s involved in, I love to get involved with, too.”

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Alameda School-Supply Drive Collects, Donates 400 Backpacks

AEF-SD

The Alameda Education Foundation announced today, September 22, that it had collected enough school supplies from Island residents and organizations to donate 400 backpacks to students in need.

AEF says it thanks everyone that donated school supplies. These donations are needed to support the nearly 10 percent of Alameda Unified School District students who lack a permanent residence; the backpacks are currently being distributed through the McKinney-Vento Program.

AEF also wants to express its appreciation to Tuckers, the Bank of Alameda on Park Street and Color Me Mine for hosting donations bins and to the West Alameda Business Association for providing a collection table during the Concerts at the Cove series. And a special thank you is being expressed to Office Max for its support, AEF says.

In addition, the group wants to acknowledge the Alameda Kiwanis Club for providing support at the Towne Centre Summer Concert Series, selling popcorn and collecting donations, as well as donating over $300 in donations of filled backpacks and additional supplies.

The Realtors of Harbor Bay Realty adopted this effort and provided dozens of filled backpacks, according to AEF, and St. Joseph Homeless and Shelter Services Ministry contributed supplies that filled two vans (see above photo.)

Other supporters include the Alameda Recreation and Park Department, St. Philip Neri and St. Albert’s, who surprised AEF with another van full of supplies. In addition, FESCO- Family Emergency Shelter Coalition — gave a large number of backpacks and school supplies.

AEF also wants to note that Tuckers donated $200 for backpacks, and the Windemere Foundation donated $1,000 to purchase backpacks and supplies.

Finally, Peter Ng and the Fundraising Booth donated 50 percent of proceeds from kettle-corn sales during the Summer Beats Concert series; Alameda Towne Centre provided support and promotion services for the Towne Centre Summer Beats concert series.

While the community has given generously already, AEF says it is still collecting school supplies for 500 classrooms. Teachers need dry-erase markers, reams of copy paper, new office supplies, craft paints, paint brushes, glue sticks and other items.

Thus, community members are asked to give to AEF’s Teacher Supply Store when they have a business or office that is moving or need to get rid of supplies — new and gently used.

Plus, AEF aims to provide art supplies worth at least $1,000 to each school site to support volunteer-driven art docent programs. Musical instruments are also requested for the middle and high schools.

Donations are being accepted at the AEF Teacher Supply Store on Atlantic from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday. To host a donation bin, contact info@AlamedaEducation.org; cash donations are also requested.

AEF says that $5 is needed to buy a backpack for a needy student, and $15 provides a year’s worth of supplies. Donations may be made by check and sent to AEF “School Supply Drive”, PO Box 1363, Alameda, 94501. Contact Christine Strena for more information: Christine@AlamedaEducation.org

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Alameda Salutes Education, Tonight

It’s a busy weekend for benefits, Earth Day events and more around the Island.

But if you would like to support Alameda’s public schools and have some fun, head on out to the Alameda Education Foundation’s Salute to Education event this evening at Rock Wall Wine Co., Alameda Point.

According to event organizer and AEF athletic director Vicki Sedlack, there is great agenda for the April 16 affair, which goes from 6 to 9 p.m.

6:00 p.m. Alameda Jazz Band (which recently won gold medals at a national music festival)
6:45 p.m.  Welcome by AEF President Bill Sonneman, introductions, invitation to guests to look at the innovative program presentations, introduction of dignitaries, menton of auction items and more
7:15 p.m.  Alameda Jazz Band
8:00 p.m. Recognition of businesses, sponsors and other dignitaries
9:00 p.m. Good-byes

There should be some inspiring programs to learn about, Sedlack says, and school programs will be featured in an on-going multi-media presentation, as well as on posters posted around the room.  Each school site also has nominated a volunteer or volunteers who will be recognized.

A silent auction and raffle are scheduled, too.

Gourmet hors d’oeuvres are provided by by Bistro Zafari (Angela’s) and wine by Rock Wall, R & B and Blacksmith — all local school supporters.

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AUSD school board report

I was otherwise occupied, but The Island‘s own Michele Ellson sat through last night’s school board meeting and issued this detailed report. Of the hot topics on the table were a growing population of East End kindergarten students hoping for spots in their neighborhood schools, teacher contracts, and, tabled until April, the curriculum that the district has put together to help students learn to respect and act respectfully toward all students.

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School board trustee Mike McMahon launches blog

Mike McMahon’s web site has long been the motherlode for school-district-related documents and information. And now he has launched a blog.

And while all heads have been turned toward the change in leadership at the national level, there are lots of fish to fry re the state budget and school funding in particular. McMahon’s site is sure to be a good resource.

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State Republicans propose $22 billion in budget cuts

Despite having strong majorities in both the California Assembly and the Senate, California Democrats have little power to take action to make budget numbers line up. Any new taxes in the state require two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies, so staunchly anti-tax state Repubs can block any legislation they like. It’s pretty much the reverse of majority rules.

Republican cuts in the package presented today:

* Cutting monthly payments for supplemental security income recipients – to $830 from $870 for singles, and to $1,407 from $1,524 from couples

* Cutting nearly $10 billion from K-12 education over the next 18 months

* Cutting $6 billion from higher education funding

More state budget crisis details here and here and here and here.

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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.

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Rob Siltanen: “Defend Measure H”

Blogger/government teacher/Alameda parent Rob Siltanen has a post up today at School 94501/94502 detailing 1. the nasty state of California’s budget and 2. the importance of Measure H funds to the Alameda Unified District’s budget. Highlights:

…AUSD has very little control over its revenues. The overwhelming majority of AUSD revenues come from the state. So when the state economy is in a recession and the state budget is in free fall — as happened for 08-09 and as will happen again for the 09-10 budget cycle — AUSD’s revenues will drop precipitously. Even though “the district” and “the Board” have the responsibility of dealing with the resulting budget crisis, the situation is not of their making.

Furthermore, unlike a business that can balance its books by closing divisions and operations, AUSD may not cut costs by, for example, shutting down its highly unprofitable “special ed division” or suspending any of its other services for high needs (and therefore more expensive) students. AUSD must educate all students wishing to enroll in public schools in Alameda.

He goes on to detail the current state budget crisis and its impact locally:

The state budget is in such dire straights that the Governor has called a Special Session of the legislature to enact additional budget cuts for the CURRENT SCHOOL YEAR (”mid-year cuts”). Among the “highlights” of the Governor’s proposal to cut 2.5 billion more from the education budget for this school year – yes, those would be cuts for the year for which school districts were required to approve a budget last June — are (1) retroactively eliminating the COLA for 08-09 and (2) retroactively reducing revenue limit funding (i.e., general funding) by 1.79 billion. Even more ominously, this draconian Special Session plan only addresses 11 billion of the state’s projected shortfall. The Governor projects another 13 billion deficit for 09-10. That means that in January we will hear about even more cuts ON TOP OF THESE for the next, fast-approaching budget cycle. If the legislature is unable or unwilling to act in the Special Session (which I think is likely), the whole problem of a 24 billion deficit would be carried into 09-10.

The whole post is here. And, yes, it is long, but is a clearly-articulated, reality-based portrait of the current state budget crisis and its local impact.

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Alameda’s Measure H…no new votes released today

So it sounds like there’ll be no release of votes today for Measure H, Alameda’s school parcel tax. This just in from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters‘ Spokesperson Guy Ashley:

There will be no update today of results for the June 3 election. Folks spent the day processing provisional ballots. Some work remains remaking damaged ballots as well… We most likely will update our results again on Wednesday.

So the vote stands at very, very close—the ‘yes’ votes have 66.66 percent. Stay tuned.