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Nearly 100 candidates seek school board seats in Contra Costa County

As the election filing deadline neared in Contra Costa County on Friday, nearly 100 candidates had taken out papers for more than 20 school board races.

The filing deadline will be extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday in 11 districts where some incumbents are not seeking re-election. These include: The Acalanes, Brentwood, Byron, John Swett, Lafayette, Moraga, Mt. Diablo, Orinda, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and West Contra Costa districts.

Just before the filing deadline, it appeared that nearly all of the races would be contested, with most incumbents facing challengers. Here is a list of the races and candidates who had qualified for the ballot by 5 p.m. Friday, followed by potential candidates who had taken out papers, but had not yet completed all the ballot requirements.

County Board of Education, Area 2: Incumbent Christine Deane and Ray Andersen.

County Board of Education, Area 4: Incumbent Richard Asadoorian and Mike Maxwell.

County Board of Education, Area 5: Incumbent Cynthia Ruehling and Jeff Belle.

Community College, Ward 1: Incumbent John Marquez and Cheryl Sudduth.

Community College, Ward 3: Tim Farley and incumbent Matthew Rinn.

Community College, Ward 4: Incumbent John Nejedly (unopposed).

Acalanes: Incumbent Susan (Susie) Epstein, incumbent Nancy Kendzierski, Kristen Correll and Robert Hockett.

Acalanes (short term): Incumbent J. Richard Whitmore (unopposed).

Antioch Unified School District: Incumbent Joy Motts, Incumbent Gary Hack and Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig.

Brentwood: Incumbent Emil Geddes, incumbent Heather Partida, John A. Fjeldstad, Scott S. Dudek, Susan Wallace, Johnny Rodriguez, Christina Bell and Marci Lapriore.

Byron Union: Incumbent Jill Marlene Sprenkel, Felicia Schweller and Tania Salinas. Not yet qualified: Karri Jo Murayama.

Byron (short term): Incumbent Betty Sanchez. Not yet qualified: Gina Larmar Parish.

Canyon Elementary: Incumbent David James Smith, incumbent Ian Llewellyn and incumbent Geronimo Bernard.

John Swett: Incumbent Brian Colombo, Michael Kirker and Deborah A. Brandon.

Knightsen: Incumbent Liesel Williams, Patrick Hulleman and Kristen L. Fuller, incumbent Ralph Adam McMeans and Robin Denise Pastor.

Lafayette: Incumbent Teresa Gerringer and incumbent David Gerson and Suzy Pak.

Liberty: Incumbent Roy Ghiggeri, incumbent Daron Spears, incumbent Joanne Louise Byer and Pauline Allred.

Martinez: Incumbent Deidre Siguenza, incumbent Roberta “Bobbi” Horack and Ronald Skrehot.

Moraga: Incumbent Parker Colvin, Heather O’Donnell and Jonathan Nickens.

Moraga (short term): Not yet qualified: Heather o’Donnell.

Mt. Diablo: Incumbent Linda Mayo, incumbent Cheryl Hansen, Michael Langley, Herbert Lee, Debra Mason and James Ryan Egnor-Keil.

Oakley: Incumbent Gloria Jean Lott, incumbent Mark Jordan and incumbent Arthur Fernande.

Orinda: Incumbent Juliane Rossiter, Hillary Shayne Weiner, Carol Brown and Jason Kaune. Not yet qualified: incumbent Christopher Clark Severson.

Pittsburg: Incumbent Joe Arenivar, incumbent Duane Smith and De’Shawn Woolridge. Not yet qualified: Daniel Borsuk.

San Ramon Valley: Incumbent Ken Mintz, incumbent Rachel Hurd, incumbent Denise Jennison and Jerome Pandell.

Walnut Creek: Incumbent Barbara Pennington, Stacey Schweppe, Aimee Moss, Heidi Hernandez Gatty and Sherri McGoff.

West Contra Costa: Incumbent Madeline Kronenberg, incumbent Elaine Merriweather, Elizabeth (Liz) Block, Chester Stevens, Raquel Donoso, Otheree Christian, Mister Phillips and Peter Nicholas Chau. Not yet qualified: Charlene W. Harlan-Ogbeide, Valerie Cuevas and Giorgio Cosentino.

Which candidates do you support?

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Election, John Swett district, Lafayette school district, Liberty district, Martinez school district, Moraga, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Orinda, Pittsburg school district, San Ramon Valley school district, Walnut Creek School District, West Contra Costa school district | 14 Comments »

Middle and high school students can vote in mock statewide election this fall

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

To interest students in the candidates for governor and proposition issues on the November statewide ballot, the Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction are sponsoring an October 28 mock election.

“Mock elections are a great way for young people to experience firsthand what it’s like to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, in a prepared statement. “As students learn about the candidates and issues, they discover how government and politics affect every part of their lives.”

Since 2004, the Secretary of State’s office has sponsored a mock election for middle and high school students every two years. Participation has grown from 647 schools a decade ago to a record 735 schools in 2012, including 88 from the East Bay.

This year, the state is hoping that even more schools will sign up for the 2014 My Vote Mock Election, which will include the race for governor and all seven propositions, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State.

“We have a few hundred registered and we’re looking to surpass our record of schools participating,” she said. “For some schools, it’s simply a civics or history or government teacher distributing the ballots on a single date.”

But at the other end of the spectrum, Winger said, some schools conduct mock debates between students who study the positions of candidates or proponents and opponents of ballot measures.

“Some students and teachers will really get into it and build classes around elections or civic engagement,” she said. “Some will pick issues, such as the water bond.”

A science teacher could use the Proposition 43 water bond proposal as a starting point for discussions about the drought and how it affects residents and farmers, Winger said.

The Secretary of State’s website includes information about registering your school at Click on “My Vote: Student Mock Election.” Schools that register by Sept. 19 will receive free instructional materials and student voter information guides in time for the election. Those registering by Oct. 27 can print materials from the website.

After the Oct. 28 mock election, registered schools can report their results to the Secretary of State to be included in an announcement of the statewide student voting results that will be released Oct. 29. Students can also get “I voted stickers” just like adult voters receive.

Posters and fliers on the My Vote website can help students understand that voting is one way for citizens to help make changes in the state.

One poster says: “Change your ringtone. Change your hairstyle. Change your playlist. Change your oil. Change your BFF. Change your shoes. Change your attitude. Vote. It may be the best change you make all year.”

Schools are encouraged to share ideas for making the mock election fun online. Ideas posted from previous mock elections include:

— Voting in official booths used in the real election or in booths created by wood shop classes

— Enlisting parent volunteers or students to act as poll workers and sign in students, before voting

— Creating “Vote Here” signs for the mock polling site

— Encouraging students to make posters for and against propositions

— Mock debates covered by journalism students with mock press passes

— Inviting guest speakers to address students about the election process and media coverage

— Encouraging students who are 18 or older to talk to classmates about their experience of registering to vote and voting

— Partnering with an after-school program, which could provide a pep rally the day before the mock election and count the votes afterward

Voting in the mock election can help engage students in assignments related to the real election.
“Part of the debriefing was to analyze voter participation in California and the nation,” one teacher wrote. “Students also analyzed and evaluated exit poll data. The fact that they participated in the mock election made these activities more meaningful and relevant.”

Will your school participate in the mock election?

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014
Under: Education, Election | 1 Comment »

MDUSD special education Community Advisory Committee meeting is tonight

Here is the agenda for tonight’s Mt. Diablo school district special education Community Advisory Committee meeting tonight:



DATE: December 4, 2012

TIME: 7:00 – 9:15 p.m.

PLACE: Dent Center – Board Room

1. Call to Order 7:00

2. Introductions (7:02 – 7:10)

Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting

Please let us know if this is your first time attending a CAC meeting

3. Adoption of Minutes – November 6, 2012 (7:10 – 7:15)

4. Presentation – Autism Magnet Program – Jenny Carvalho (7:15 – 7:35)

5. Chairperson’s Report – Lorrie Davis (7:35 – 7:45)

5.1 New CAC Member Nomination – Janine Payne

6. Old Business (7:45 – 8:15)

6.1 Interim Assistant Superintendent’s Report – Dr. Kerri Mills

6.2 Board of Education Report – Lynne Dennler

6.3 Board of Education Comments – No Report

6.4 Budget Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

6.5 Equity Advisory Team – Dorothy Weisenberger


7. New Business (8:25– 9:00)

7.1 QIAT – Christian Patz – No Report

7.2 Autism Task Force – Lorien Quirk

7.3 Advisory Commission on Special Education – No Report

7.4 Parent Liaison – Hilary Shen

7.5 Sub-Committee Updates
Parent & Community Education Committee – Julie Nibblett
Membership & Publicity Committee – Vi Ibarra
Legislative Committee – Denise Lambert
Blog Committee – Autumn Green

8. Public Comment (9:00 – 9:10)
Public comment is an opportunity to share concerns and comments with the CAC. In the interest of time, speakers are limited to three (3) minutes each with a total of fifteen (15) minutes for all speakers. Please respect student and personnel privacy. CAC members and district staff might not be able to respond to individual concerns in this forum, but will take your contact information and follow-up with you.

9. Information Items/Announcements/Adjournment (9:10 – 9:15)


Do you think Mills should answer the CAC’s remaining questions related to the FCMAT transportation review?

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Under: Election, Mt. Diablo school district, special education | 4 Comments »

Contra Costa Times editorial board endorses Lawrence and Mason in MDUSD race

Since many blog readers appear to be interested in commenting on the Times’ endorsement of Brian Lawrence and Debra Mason, I am reposting the editorial below. Please note that I am not on the editorial board and did not write this editorial. As a reporter, I do not endorse candidates.

“Contra Costa Times editorial: Lawrence and Mason for school board in Mt. Diablo Unified

© Copyright 2012, Bay Area News Group

As voters select two Mt. Diablo school trustees on Nov. 6, they should reflect on recent years of district leadership plagued by arrogance, deception, secrecy and ethical lapses.

In 2010, trustees and Superintendent Steven Lawrence misled voters about the long-term costs associated with an ill-conceived $348 million bond issue. They also promised a cap on the resulting tax rate for property owners. After voters approved the bonds, trustees reneged and exceeded the cap by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, during the election, the superintendent held private meetings with Chevron at his home. The oil giant was vying for a $66 million solar installation to be paid from the bond proceeds. The company was also treating him to drinks and he was soliciting golf discounts from the firm.

After the election, the district was headed toward awarding the contract to Chevron without competitive bidding until this newspaper started asking questions. When Chevron actually had to compete with other companies, it didn’t bother.

Then, in 2011, disenchantment with administrators at Clayton Valley High sparked the largest teacher-led conversion to a charter school in Northern California. While district officials complained about the extra cost, they ignored that they brought it on themselves by being tone-deaf to the concerns of teachers and parents. District trustees rejected the charter, but the county Office of Education overturned that decision, allowing the school to open in July.

Meanwhile, parents seeking information, as well as this newspaper, have been repeatedly stonewalled by administrators, including school district attorney Greg Rolen, who deny or delay access to public information.

This circle-the-wagon mentality must end. And that must start at the top with the removal of one of the intransigent board members, Sherry Whitmarsh, who happens to work for Chevron, sees nothing wrong with Lawrence’s cozy relationship with the firm and spearheaded early contract renewals for Lawrence and Rolen. She also tries to perpetuate the fantasy that the district is open and responsive to the public.

Whitmarsh is the only incumbent seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 election for two board seats. We urge voters to instead support Brian Lawrence of Walnut Creek (no relation to the superintendent with the same last name) and Debra Mason of Bay Point.

The fourth candidate, former principal Barbara Oaks, didn’t understand the bond program nor realize most of the money was to go for school construction. It was a stunning admission.

Lawrence and Mason understand the program. Both regularly attend school board meetings. Lawrence brings financial expertise while Mason brings the experience of 22 years as a district instructional assistant and would add much-needed geographic diversity to the board.

(A fifth candidate on the ballot, Ernie Detrinidad, dropped out of the race.)

Lawrence and Mason argue for district transparency and question the cost of the bond program. The district was antagonistic to teachers and parents during the charter school review, Lawrence says. Mason says she was appalled by how they were treated.

It’s time for responsive leadership that’s open, honest and ethical. Elect Lawrence and Mason.”

It’s my understanding that the editorial board interview conducted by Dan Borenstein will eventually be posted online at

Do you agree with the Times’ editorial board’s endorsements?

NOV. 1 UPDATE: Here is a link to video of the Times’ editorial board interview:

Posted on Monday, October 29th, 2012
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 114 Comments »

MDUSD superintendent informs community about Props. 30 and 38

I have just received an email with the following “news update” from Mt. Diablo school district Superintendent Steven Lawrence. Since it is not yet posted on the district’s website, I am posting it below:

“Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First
October 18, 2012

District staff and site administrators have been asked questions by parents and community members about the impact of Propositions 30 and 38. By-law district personnel cannot advocate for any Proposition or candidate utilizing district resources. However, in the case of a Proposition we can provide the facts about the Proposition and the impact it would have on our school district.

The following information about Proposition 30 and 38 is directly from the Official Title and Summary prepared by the Attorney General.

Overview of Proposition 30

State Taxes and Revenues

Increases sales tax rate by one-quarter cent for every dollar for four years.

Increases personal income tax rates on upper-income taxpayers for seven years.

Raises about $6 billion in additional annual state revenues from 2012-13 through 2016-17, with smaller amounts in 2011-12, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

State Spending

If approved by voters, additional revenues available to help balance state budget through 2018-19.

If rejected by voters, 2012-13 budget reduced by $6 billion. State revenues lower through 2018-19

Local Government Programs

Guarantees local governments receive tax revenues annually to fund program responsibilities transferred to them by the state in 2011.

Overview of Proposition 38

State Taxes and Revenues

Increases personal income tax rates on annual earnings over $7,316 using sliding scale from .4% for lowest individual earners to 2.2% for individuals earning over $2.5 million for twelve years.

During first four years, allocates 60% of revenues to K-12 schools, 30% to repaying state debt, and 10% to early childhood programs. Thereafter, allocates 85% of revenues to K-12 schools, 15% to early childhood programs.

Provides K-12 funds on school-specific, per-pupil basis, subject to local control, audits, and public input.

Prohibits state from directing new funds.

Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact:

Increase in state personal income tax revenues from 2013 through 2024. The increase would be roughly $10 billion in 2013-14, tending to increase over time. The 2012-13 increase would be about half this amount.

In each of the initial years, about $6 billion would be used for schools, $1 billion for child care and preschool, and $3 billion for state savings on debt payments. The 2013-14 amounts likely would be higher due to the additional distribution of funds raised in 2012-13.

From 2017-18 through 2024-25, the shares spent on schools, child care, and preschool would be higher the share spent on debt payments lower.

Two nonpartisan organizations California Budget Project and EdSource have each created a side by side analysis of the two propositions. You can view the California Budget Project analysis at , and the EdSource analysis is available at .

Under the current State budget that was signed by Governor Brown in July 2012, if Proposition 30 passes we will not see any additional funding; however, if it does not pass K-16 education funding will receive an immediate mid-year reduction. For most K-12 unified school districts the estimated amount of this reduction would be $440 per student. For Mt. Diablo Unified School District this would result in an on-going annual reduction of approximately $13.5 million. This type of reduction would be equivalent to permanently shortening the school year by fifteen days.

If Proposition 38 passes it will not prevent the mid-year reduction of state funds for K-16 education. However, it will provide significant new preK-12 funding that comes directly to local school districts. If you would like to get an estimate of the amount of funding that will be provide for the Mt. Diablo schools, please Google “Proposition 38 school funding calculator.”

If both Proposition 30 and 38 pass, the Proposition with the most votes will be implemented and the other Proposition would not take effect.

Another informative article by the California Budget Project that analyzes school funding in California and discusses the disinvestment in California schools is School Finance Facts, October 2011. This article can be found at .”

Do you support Props. 30 and/or 38?

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 84 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad drops out of race

I have received the following statement from Mt. Diablo school board candidate Ernie DeTrinidad, announcing his decision to withdraw from the race. Please note that he will still be listed on the ballot.

“As residents of the Mt. Diablo school community continue to face really tough challenges, the need to change the makeup of the School Board is without doubt the most important and vital. It is critical for residents to elect new members, members with new ideas, solutions and, most important, new approaches. We must build a more positive, productive, collaborative, and inclusive environment for our students, teachers and district staff, to achieve their very best – because successful students are essential for a healthy and prosperous community.

It is my belief that two candidates offer the Board exactly what is necessary, a genuine passion for positive change. Barbara Oaks and Debra Mason bring educational, community and organizational experience to the table. They are independent, yet can collaborate on creative solutions for the benefit of our students and our community.

We don’t need someone who will use the Board as a stepping-stone in his political pursuits, and falsely labels himself as an educator. We don’t need someone who has had ample opportunity as a current Board member, and yet has failed to lift our School District out of low performance results, instead filling the Board with negativity and distancing the Board from the very communities it serves, alienating District employees and staff.

In order to bolster our opportunity to achieve positive change, I have decided to withdraw from candidacy for School Board. This is a most difficult decision, but one I make in the best interest of our students. Instead I stand ready and ask that our community join me in support of the two best candidates for MDUSD School Board; Barbara Oaks and Debra Mason.

Ernie DeTrinidad
Parent/Candidate for MDUSD School Board”

Do you agree with DeTrinidad’s decision to drop out of the race?

OCT. 15 UPDATE: Here is the link to the CCTV MDUSD candidate forum:

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 145 Comments »

CCTV to air school board election forums

Last week, political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen moderated several candidate forums taped for broadcast on CCTV.

Here is a list of the school board forums and air dates and times, provided by Vorderbrueggen:

“Antioch Unified School District — Channel 24: 8 p.m. on Oct. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28, Nov. 2 and 4.

Brentwood Union School District — Channel 24: 7 p.m. on Oct. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 26, 28, Nov. 2 and 4.

Lafayette School District — Channel 26: 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28, Nov. 2 and 4.

Martinez Unified School District — Channel 28 in Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Clayton: 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov. 4 and 10 p.m. on Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and Nov. 5.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District — Channel 27: 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, 7 p.m. on Oct. 7, 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 14, 7 p.m. on Oct. 21, 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 28, 7 p.m. on Oct. 30 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 4. Channel 28 in Walnut Creek: 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4. Channel 28 in Concord: 3 p.m. on Sept. 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 26, 27, 28, Nov. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Orinda School District — Channel 26: 9 p.m. on Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25, Nov. 1 and 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4.

Pittsburg Unified School District — Channel 24: 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28, Nov. 2 and 4.

San Ramon Valley Unified School District — Channel 27: 9 p.m. on Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, 9 p.m. on Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 9 p.m. on Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4.

West Contra Costa Unified School District — Channel 28: 8 p.m. on Oct. 3, 1 p.m. on Oct. 5, 10 p.m. on Oct. 9, 9 p.m. on Oct. 13, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Oct. 14, 12 p.m. on Oct. 16, 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, 1 p.m. on Oct. 26, 9 p.m. on Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, 10 p.m. on Nov. 3, 1 p.m. on Nov. 5, 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Station notes
— Contra Costa Television (CCTV) airs countywide on Comcast Channel 27. It also airs on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99 and Astound Channel 32 in Concord and parts of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.

— Channel 26 airs on Comcast in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Alamo and Danville.

— Channel 24 airs on Comcast in East Contra Costa County.

— Residents in the following communities can watch their local forums on Comcast Channel 28: Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord and a combined Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Clayton.”

Also, the forums will be archived at in the near future.

CCTV forums for the Moraga, Liberty and Oakley school district were canceled because most of the candidates were unable to attend. Forums for some smaller districts were not conducted, due to limited air time available.

Do these forums help you decide whom to support?

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Under: Education, Election | No Comments »

Candidate filing period for Nov. 6 election opens July 16

The filing period for local candidates planning to run for open seats in the Nov. 6 election opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10, unless an incumbent fails to file for re-election. In that case, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15, according to political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen, who has compiled a long list of open seats in local agencies.

Here’s an excerpt of her list, which includes school board openings in Contra Costa and Alameda counties:

Contra Costa:

Acalanes Union High School District (two seats)
Antioch Unified School District (three seats)
Brentwood Union School District (two seats)
Byron Union School District (two seats)
Canyon Elementary School District (two seats)
Contra Costa County Board of Education (two seats)
Contra Costa Community College District (two seats, wards 2 and 5)
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (one seat, Ward 7)
John Swett Unified School District (two seats)
Knightsen School District (three seats)
Lafayette School District (two seats)
Liberty Union High School District (two seats)
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (two seats)
Martinez Unified School District (three seats)
Moraga School District (two seats)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District (two seats)
Oakley Union Elementary School District (two seats)
Orinda Union School District (two seats)
Pittsburg Unified School District (three seats)
San Ramon Valley Unified School district (two seats)
Walnut Creek School District (two seats)
West Contra Costa Unified School District (two seats)

Alameda County:

Alameda Unified School District (three seats)
Castro Valley Unified School District (three seats)
Dublin Unified School District (three seats)
Fremont Unified School District (three seats)
Hayward Unified School District (three seats)
Livermore Unified School District (two seats)
Mount House Elementary (one seat)
New Haven Unified School District (three seats)
Newark Unified School District (three seats)
Pleasanton Unified School District (three seats)
San Leandro Unified School district (three seats)
San Lorenzo Unified School District (four seats)
Sunol Glen Unified School district (1 seat)

In the Mt. Diablo district, incumbents Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh have not yet publicly announced whether they intend to seek re-election. The teachers’ union has endorsed challengers Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor. District residents Ernie DeTrinidad and Debra Mason have also told me they intend to run.

What are you looking for in a candidate?

AUG. 22 UPDATE: I have received a phone call from Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Guy Moore informing me that MDEA has endorsed retired College Park HS Principal Barbara Oaks, now that Attila Gabor has pulled out of the race due to health concerns.

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 63 Comments »

A closer look at East Bay school tax measures

By Theresa Harrington

In the Tuesday election, 46 of 63 school bond measures statewide passed, compared to only two of 18 parcel taxes. That’s a 73 percent passage rate for bonds and an 11 percent pass rate for parcel taxes. Bonds needed 55 percent voter approval to pass, but parcel taxes needed 66.6 percent.

The East Bay’s percentages were higher.

Eight out of nine bond measures passed (with the ninth too close to call) and two of five parcel taxes passed — the only two parcel taxes to pass in the entire state. This resulted in an 88 percent passage rate for bonds and a 40 percent passage rate for the parcel taxes.

Here’s a rundown of the East Bay results (not including some late-arriving mail or provisional ballots):


G — Ohlone Community College district (Fremont): $349 million
Yes: 62.2 percent or 27,815 votes/No: 34.9 percent or 16,583 votes

I — Berkeley school district: $210 million
Yes: 76.7 percent or 21,752 votes/No: 23.3 percent or 6,621 votes

J — Emery school district: $95 million
Yes: 73.2 percent or 1,430 votes/No: 26.8 percent or 523 votes

M — San Leandro school district: $50.1 million
Yes: 62.7 percent or 7,929 votes/No: 37.7 percent or 4,713 votes


K — Martinez school district: $45 million
Yes: 64.9 percent or 4,200 votes/No: 45.6 percent or 197 votes

L — Pittsburg school district: $100 million
Yes: 69.3 percent or 4,929 votes/No: 30.7 percent or 2,187 votes

N — Knightsen Elementary district: $5 million
Election night:
Yes: 54.4 percent or 235 votes/No: 45.6 percent or 197 votes
Yes: 55.24 percent or 253 votes/No: 44.76 percent or 205 votes
(Final election certification expected by Nov. 30)


H – Berkeley school district: continue 6.31¢/sf residential buildings ($63.10/1,000 sf), 9.46¢/sf commercial buildings, $20 unimproved parcels for 10 years
Yes: 80.2 percent or 22,239 votes/No: 19.8 percent or 5,743 votes

K — Fremont school district: $53 per parcel for 5 years
Yes: 69.4 percent or 25,093 votes/No: 30.6 percent or 11,040 votes


L — Oakland school district: $195 per parcel for ten years
Yes: 65.1 percent or 48,535 votes/No: 34.9 percent or 26,009 votes
(Could pass if late ballots push percentage up to 66.6)


J — John Swett school district: $96 per parcel except industrial/commercial parcels, which would be 1.5 cents/sf; four years
Yes: 56 percent or 1,756/No: 44 percent or 1,380 votes

M — West Contra Costa: 7.2 cents/sf of building area ($72/1,000 sf), or $7.20 per vacant parcel, for five years
Yes: 60.1 percent or 22,343 votes/No: 39.9 percent or 14,848 votes

Jack O’Connell, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, said a majority of bond measures passed because voters have a great passion for improving their local school districts, even in tough economic times.

“Californians voted to invest in their schools and their children’s futures,” he said in a written statement.

He said that 11 more parcel taxes would have passed if the threshold for approval were changed to 55 percent, instead of two-thirds.

The total amount approved for school construction and modernization was $3.6 billion, according to the California state Department of Education.

O’Connell authored Proposition 39, a measure approved by voters in 2000 that lowered the local school bond-approval threshold to 55 percent, down from two-thirds. Without the lower threshold, only 14 of the school bond measures would have passed statewide.

O’Connell advocates lowering the passage rate for parcel taxes to 55 percent. Dozens of school bond measures have been approved between the 55 percent and 66.6 percent margin since the approval of Proposition 39. These bonds give districts the ability to seek matching funds from the state for the construction of facilities improvements.

“Local communities should have more control over funding for essential school services,” O’Connell said. “That’s why I urge lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment that would let voters consider lowering the parcel tax approval threshold level from 66.6 percent to 55 percent.”

Brannin Dorsey, president of the Fremon district teachers’ union, said their tax passed because the community joined together to support schools and there was no organized opposition. Also, the campaign only asked for $53 per parcel for 5 years, which is less than others in the East Bay.

In addition, the district has already increased class sizes and teachers have taken a 3.2 percent salary cut with six furlough days, showing they are being frugal.

“The money isn’t a magic bullet,” Dorsey said. “We’re hoping that with the federal jobs bill and the money from the parcel tax, that these things are going to help us through this horrific economy without gutting our education system.”

In the John Swett district, Rodeo refinery ConocoPhillips opposed the parcel tax, which would have cost the company about $700,000 a year, according to a story by reporter Shelly Meron, who covers West Contra Costa County schools. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association also opposed both the John Swett and West Contra Costa school district’s parcel taxes.

“I was surprised so many (tax measures) passed,” said Kris Hunt, executive director of the taxpayers association. “When it comes to bonds, I still maintain people don’t understand how bonds are funded. People really don’t get where bonds are coming from and how much they cost and a lot of times they never even see it because it shows up in their impound accounts. So a lot of those kinds of things are invisible to the public.”

Whereas parcel taxes clearly state how much property owners will pay, bond measures merely ask voters to approve the bond amount, without saying on the ballot how much it will cost them.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, said the school bond passage rate has dropped from about 90 percent approval, during good ecomomic times.

“The fact that so many parcel taxes were tuned down and only 70 percent of bonds were approved shows that people are in a grim mood and unless they see some improvement in the economy, you’re not going to see any improvement in the future,” he said. “When people are doing well as individuals, they tend to be very generous when they vote. When they’re frightened, which they are now, they tend to vote No. The fact that more of them didn’t pass is an indication that people are frightened about their future.”

Nationwide, there were $16.5 billion worth of bonds up for a vote in 461 issues, according to Amy Resnick of The Bond Buyer. Voters approved 71.9 percent for a total of $11.8 billon worth of debt in 278 issues, she said.

The bond measures were proposed to pay for roads, development, electric power and other facilities improvements, as well as education, she said.

There were 259 education bond issues on ballots, totaling $11.6 billion worth of bonds. Voters approved 75.3 percent or $8.3 billion in 149 issues, Resnick said.

Most states only require a majority of votes, instead of a “super majority” of 55 percent, which California requires, she added.

The nationwide bond approval rate of 71.9 percent was the lowest since 2003 for a general election, when it was 60.8 percent, she said.

“I would think it has to do with the economy,” Resnick said. “It’s not so low that it’s a repudiation.”

She does not track parcel taxes.

A statewide list of school tax measures on the Tuesday ballot is on the California Coalition for Adequate School Housing’s Website at

Do you think the threshold should be lowered to 55 percent for parcel taxes?

Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010
Under: Education, Election, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Surprised by Mt. Diablo school board results?

By Theresa Harrington

With the election of three women to the Mt. Diablo school board, no one can call the district “an old boys’ network.”

Here are the final results in the race between seven candidates for three open seats (not including results from some late-arriving mail ballots or provisional ballots):

Cheryl L. Hansen: 18.78 percent or 20,068 votes
Linda K. Mayo: 18.33 percent or 19,581 votes
Lynne B. Dennler: 17.01 percent or 18,172 votes
Brian T. Lawrence: 15.43 percent or 16,484 votes
Jeffrey L. Adams: 14.72 percent or 15,725 votes
Roy A. Larkin: 10.66 percent or 11,391 votes
Jan Trezise: 4.77 percent or 5,091 votes

Newly elected trustees Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler will join re-elected incumbent Linda Mayo and trustee Sherry Whitmarsh on the board, along with Trustee Gary Eberhart — who will be the only man on the five-member panel starting in December.

The three women beat three men and another woman in a race that has surprised many, because Hansen and Dennler weren’t well-known by voters and didn’t provide ballot statements.

“I was really surprised,” said Allen, the day after the election. “I think things have changed this year. I always thought voters went by the candidate statement, interviews they saw on television and the newspaper articles. I felt Linda would win because of her name recognition and the things she’s done in the school district. And I’m glad she’s on there, because she’ll provide some stability and we’ll need that.”

Eberhart has served on the board 15 years, but Whitmarsh is a relative newcomer with just two years as a trustee. Like Allen, Eberhart was surprised that two candidates who didn’t provide ballot statements defeated two who did: Brian Lawrence and Jeff Adams. Mayo was the only other candidate to provide a ballot statement.

“Why does someone get elected and someone else doesn’t?” Eberhart said Wednesday. “Who knows? If you had asked me a week ago, ‘Could someone get elected without a ballot statement?,’ I would say, ‘No,’ because I would think voters would want to read something about them. I guess the ballot designation was more important than the ballot statement in this situation.”

Hansen was designated as an “educator” on the ballot and Dennler was listed as a “retired teacher.” Hansen garnered an endorsement from the district’s Local One Clerical, Secretarial and Technical Unit and Dennler was endorsed by the Lamorinda Democratic Club.

But Lawrence (designated as a “technology executive”) and Jeff Adams (designated as an “attorney”) appeared to have stronger community recognition and better organized campaigns. Yet, Lawrence and Adams came in fourth and fifth in the seven-candidate race.

Retired CFO Roy Larkin and retired real estate appraiser Jan Trezise — who both ran very low-key campaigns — placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

“People respect teachers,” Eberhart said. “To have a teacher sit on a school board, a lot of people look at that and say, ‘That’s valuable knowledge to have a grasp of, as you’re trying to deliberate about the policies of a school district and how those policies are going to meet the needs of kids.’ Then, you look at other candidates that have been around for a long time, that have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to get elected.”

Hansen is an instructional coordinator for the Contra Costa County Office of Education and former Mt. Diablo school district principal. She is the sister of Ron Hansen, a retired Local One Maintenance and Operations rep.

She had a few signs posted around the district and participated in three candidate forums, but didn’t send out any campaign mailers (as far as I know). Here’s what she said about her victory in an e-mail Wednesday night:

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner, but today was actually a full day of work for me. I just returned from training a group of middle school teachers in one of our county’s districts.

I am honored that the MDUSD community gave me their vote of confidence, and I look forward to representing the best interests of our students, parents, community members, and employees. These are very challenging times in our district, and I am pleased to offer my educational experience to help rejuvenate a sense of MDUSD pride and purpose.”

Dennler participated in a CCTV forum and special education panel, but didn’t join in a later forum in Pleasant Hill. She didn’t post any campaign signs or send out mailers, since she worried her inability to persuade the teachers’ union to endorse her would make her candidacy less viable in the eyes of voters.

Dennler told me she was surprised by her win, but is determined to make a difference for teachers and students.

“This is all really new to me,” she said before the election. “This is really important for me and it’s an emotional thing for me. I was really an ordinary elementary school teacher who was obsessed with just doing the best job possible. Every night between 7 and 10 p.m. I would sit at the table and grade papers and make up new questions, based on what I got. I know it can be done well, and that’s why I’m distressed by what’s going on. I know it can be done well without having a script. So much of the teaching that teachers are given now is done by script. You’re supposed to stay on script and you have to sort of limit questions. And those ‘teachable moments’ — you’re not as able to jump on those.”

She’s excited that the union was recently able to convince Superintendent Steven Lawrence to pay for clerical help to fill in bubbles on “Scantron” tests for primary level students, but she questions the value of the tests, which are intended to help teachers modify their instruction based on the results. (Lawrence intends to discuss district assessments at the Parents Advisory Committee meeting next Wednesday.)

Mayo’s second-place finish surprised some people, since she had the most experience, and nabbed several endorsements. She also put up several campaign signs and sent out a mailer.

But Allen said Mayo may have been lucky to win re-election, since some people are unhappy with the district and a few incumbents in other races lost.

“She did very well to win,” Allen said. “Look at the County Board of Education. Incumbents lost big-time.”

In that race, incumbents Michele Foster, Glenn Ruley and Daniel Borsuk all lost their bids for re-election.

Mayo, who endorsed Jeff Adams in the race, said she was happy to be re-elected, but disappointed that voters didn’t seem to know about the many contributions Adams has made to the district.

“I value Jeff’s commitment to our district in supporting Measure D (the failed 2009 parcel tax) and Measure C ($348 million bond voters approved in June) and being one of the founders of UMDAF (the United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation) and also working so hard on the music foundation, as well as his continued support of his children through their schools (El Dorado Middle School and Concord High),” she said. “Both he and his wife have been very active. It’s sad that the community wasn’t aware of the service that he’s provided in those areas.”

Adams, who ran and lost in 2008, said he doesn’t know if he’ll try again in two more years.

“It’s premature to even consider that at this point,” he said, adding that he would serve out his term on the UMDAF board. “I’m certainly going to fulfill my commitment to the foundation. We’ve got to keep sports going.”

Adams also said he’s pleased that Mayo was re-elected.

“Whenever something had to be done, she was there,” he said. “When I’m at the meetings, she carefully considers the issues. I’ve always appreciated her dedication to the students and the district and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to do a great job.”

Lawrence posted large signs around the district, sent out at least one mailer and was endorsed by many local Democratic Party officials. Here’s his reaction to the election results, from an e-mail he sent today:

“I’m disappointed in the results, but I am proud of the campaign we ran. Starting from scratch eight weeks ago, we were able to get over 16,000 votes on Election Day. My only regret is that I didn’t have a few more weeks to introduce myself to the voters. It looks like ballot designation played a big role in the results.

I will absolutely continue to be involved in MDUSD, starting with the PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) meeting next week. My wife and I will also continue to be very active at Monte Gardens (Elementary), which is where our eldest child is in kindergarten.

I will certainly consider running again, but that decision is a long way off.

I personally congratulated Ms. Mayo, Ms. Hansen and Ms. Dennler yesterday, and I am hopeful that we can all work together to improve the district for the benefit of students.”

Larkin may have been the first candidate in the county to retrieve all his signs. He told me his grandchildren made four signs and he posted two in Concord and two in Pleasant Hill.

Right after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Larkin went out and picked up three of the signs. The fourth was missing, he said.

“It was obviously a bit surprising to me and a little disappointing, obviously,” he said of the election results. “I would have liked to have done my part and helped turn the district around. And so it goes.”

Yet, Larkin won’t be sitting idle. He will be sworn in on the Mt. Diablo Health District board for a seat he won with no opposition.

He said he also plans to keep up with what’s going on in the Mt. Diablo district and speak up, or write letters to board members or the newspaper, if he feels it’s necessary.

“I guess I’ll see what happens over the next couple of years,” he said. “Right now, yeah, I’d be more than happy to run a second time.”

Trezise couldn’t be reached for comment after the election. She said during a CCTV forum that she would drop out of the race because she was pleased with the caliber of her opponents, but she later reversed that decision and ran a low-key campaign.

Eberhart said he’s committed to helping the new board members get up and running, because they have a lot of work ahead of them.

“I’m eager to get things done,” he said. “This board is going to be facing a lot of challenges…negotiatons….the budget issues. We’ve got a school closure committee that’s likely going to be coming forward with a recommendation. We’ve got some tough issues and at the end of the day, a lot of them have to do with the fiscal health of the district. So, if there are folks that don’t like the direction we’re going, we’re going to have to figure out how we move in a direction that accomplishes what the community wants, while balancing the budget.”

“It’s going to be tough for a new board member,” he said. “I think the learning curve is going to be straight up and they’re going to have to get a really good understanding. And it’s going to be incumbent on us that have been around to make sure they get all the information they need so they can make some decisions. It will be fun.”

Were you surprised by the results? How well do you think the new board members will work together?

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »