Who will represent District 7 on the Oakland school board? James Harris — for now.

Staff PhotojournalistStaff Photojournalist

On Jan. 7, James Harris is sworn in as the new representative for OUSD’s District 7 seat.

But just two weeks later, he goes back to court, where a judge might declare him ineligible to serve on the board because of where he lives (in Oakland City Council District 7, but in the San Leandro school district) — and the seat, vacant.

Judge Evelio Grillo initially sided with Harris and against Alice Spearman, whom he beat handily on Election Day. But at a hearing today, Grillo raised more questions — and set another court date for Jan. 23.

Spearman says she’s confident that not only will she prevail in court, but that she’ll get her seat back, either through appointment or a special election.


Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Steve H

    You know, this really isn’t even funny any more. Where is the money for this litigation coming from? If OUSD is spending anything on this I’m going to be mighty pissed.

  • Jonathon

    I for one certainly believe that the court should rule in favor of James. The city charter is pretty clear that school board districts should mirror city council districts – the districts should be updated to reflect this (And additionally all districts should be adjusted based on the recent census data). It would seem very odd to me if he could run for city council, but not for school board.

  • Yazstremski

    Jonathon…that is the question I was asking…how was it possible for him to even get on the ballot if he doesn’t live in the right district?

  • Doug Appel

    It’s a quirky situation for sure. The charter states that the boundaries for the city and district must be the same–but they aren’t. State law (Education code 35107)imposes few restrictions in order to be eligible for a school board seat, but it requires that a person reside in the school district. Harris probably doesn’t.
    I’m aware of other cases where there were attempts to fraudulently establish or retain residency in an area for the purpose of holding office, but not of any where an accident of the process of annexation resulted in a dispute of this type. Where is Solomon when we need him?

  • Fact Check

    Quirky indeed; Specifically, though the Judge initually ruled in Harris’ favor, Spearman’s attorney made a spirited and compelling argument: That Harris could not even vote for himself, he could not vote for Measure J, and is not subject to Oakland’s Measure J or L, pays the San Leandro Unified tax-rate (nothing to Oakland Schools, and that San Leandro claims his area as their Trustee Area 2. What the judge wants to know is if Harris is eligible to run for SLUSD Trustee Area 2. If so, he will be deemed ineligible. It would not be wise of Harris to be sworn in and be embarrassed two weeks later…

  • Fact Check

    @Jonathon: The charter is not clear. The District boundary clause in the charter is for governing purposes, not qualifications to be elected. One MUST be a qualified elector and a resident of the district from which he is a candidate, in order to qualify as a School Director. Harris is neither for District 7 School Director. The rememdy, here, is not that Spearman will get seat, but that the school board can either appoint a director for D-7, and/or leave vacant until special election. And, special elections cost money, and the school district will have to pay, because the City Attorney and the CIty Clerk of Oakland did not do their due diligence.

  • Yazstremski

    @ Fact Check- so what you are basically saying is that he should not have been allowed to run in the first place. If so, then why wouldn’t Ms. Spearman get her spot back, she ran and came in 2nd?

  • Fact check

    Exactly! City Clerk and City Attorney never checked with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, who will likely and ultimately be called upon to decide this case. It’s the registrar of voters that runs elections for san Leandro unified since its boundaries are not coterminous with city of san Leandro boundaries. Nevertheless, oakland city council must address the flaw in the charter as it relates to Sheffield village and the mandate of the city charter and school district boundaries.

  • oaklandedlandscape

    This move by Spearman is not surprising. She never thought Harris had a chance at the polls, and then she lost big. I’d be upset too if I thought I had the support of my constituents, only to have them turn their backs on you. The voters do not want her. She should move on. Worst case scenario is a special election. If she runs again, she will have lost twice (or find another legal challenge). Maybe Harris moves right smack dab into the district, and then runs again. Best case scenario, judge rules in favor of Harris. Either way, Spearman loses twice.

    Gallo will be remembered for his service and for leaving graciously. Spearman. Not so much.

  • Juanster

    Gentlemen prefer blonds.

  • SaveOurSchools

    These school board elections have brought a lot to light about the school district in general. Many of the people who have sat on the board in the present and the past have interests that do not match the community interests. In this election Hodge, Torres and Harris were back by donors with very specific interests (charters, a corporate executive and a venture capitalist). Who has our children’s true interest at heart. There is more info on this topic in this article: http://classroomstruggle.org/2012/12/24/election-2012-the-true-impact-on-oakland-schools/

  • J.R.

    One thing is for sure, ex-director Spearman lost the election big and should not be handed the seat. The people voted for change and they should get it(the board should appoint someone qualified and skip the extra expense of a special election).

  • J.R.
  • J.R.


    You are arguing a logical fallacy, even if the devil himself backed charters does not mean that public school and their administration are automatically good. You must look at the record of achievement(or lack of same) to determine quality. Once people realize this fact, we may get the change for the better that our children deserve.

  • Juanster

    J.R. The devil can’t back charter schools because he’s committed to the public schools, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. Amen Bro

  • Sophiesmom

    Judge Grillo just released his decision: Spearman’s challenges were denied. James Harris remains District 7’s representative.

  • J.R.

    Very good judicial decision because people essentially voted for an alternative to Spearman which is the crux of the matter in this situation.