This Friday, May 2, at 7 p.m. in Kofman Auditorium (in Alameda High) there will be a benefit concert to try to keep music in grades one, two and three in our district’s schools. The concert is brought to you by Bay Farm parent Lorri Garrett and a host of other hardworking volunteers in the Save our Music crew. You can buy tickets to the hip-happening event online here and also learn more about the class acts, including on- and off-island talent as well as many of our district’s bright-eyed third graders. If you can’t make the show, there’s also an online auction, with items including tickets to the San Francisco Opera, a $100 gift certificate to Scott’s Shoes and a drum head signed by Metallica.
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The Education Report‘s Katy Murphy has a new post (with some interesting discussion) on the bill written by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson to halt the creation of charter schools in Oakland. Assembly bill 2008 is relevant to Alameda because, as a district like Oakland with declining enrollment, our town is poised to face, on a lesser scale of course, some of the financial challenges brought by the creation of charters.
Ever since music was axed from grades one, two and three in the last round of Alameda Unified budget cuts, parents at Bay Farm Elementary have been working hard to raise enough money—about $200,000—to fund those elementary music classes district wide.
So far Bay Farm parents and their PTA have raised a total of $10,375 (which includes the 1,210 rolls of coins pictured left) as well as cash and check donations of $7,300.
There’ll be a SAVE THE MUSIC benefit concert on May 2 at Kofman and other schools are working on fund raisers as well. Bay Farm parent of two Lorri Garrett:
It’s no use saving music for just our school if we don’t save it for the whole district. We’re unified with the district. We have a strong fund raising community at Bay Farm, and we want to save music for the district. We are motivated and together we can do it.
In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon many of Alameda’s main streets were lined with protesters in trash cans drawing attention to some to the features of public education—arts, music, athletics, counselors, clerical staff, ‘children’s futures’—that are, by way of catchy slogan, ‘too valuable to throw away.’ The protest was an upbeat, cheerful affair, drawing lots of yells and honks of support.
Pictured below in trash cans are Edison Elementary students Liam John with Tyler and Julia Kennedy as well as Alameda High teacher, Rob Siltanen. There’s also a shot of trash cans/protesters from the kickoff rally held on the steps outside AUSD’s district offices.
Some of the younger students in trash cans report learning this lesson: if you drop your sign and lean over to get it without someone else anchoring the trash can, you will fall on your head.
[Ed. note: The California Progress Report has a nice piece (with lots of pictures) on yesterday's protest.]
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.
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.
I 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.
I’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.
Wait! What is it, parked outside Alameda’s Edison Elementary School.
Let’s get closer.
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.
USA Today’s prep sports blog picked up the news of budget cuts here in Alameda, asking readers to respond to this question: “Where would you be without Prep Sports?”