Newark school trustees decline superintendent’s offer to rescind resignation

Lots going on in Newark on Friday afternoon/night. First, the Newark Unified school board interviewed at least one candidate in closed session after 100 people crowded a Silliman Center room, urging the trustees to keep Superintendent Dave Marken. After three hours in closed session, the board announced it had declined Marken’s offer to rescind his resignation and had selected a finalist (still unnamed) to replace him, pending official approval at an Aug. 19 meeting. Later, trustee Charlie Mensinger announced he will not seek re-election in November. Busy night.

NEWARK — With a November election now set to feature three challengers against one incumbent, the school board was enveloped Friday by the campaign’s biggest issue: whether to replace a popular superintendent.

Board members — including incumbent Nancy Thomas — had a vested interest in the question. After three hours in closed session, they declined Superintendent Dave Marken’s offer to rescind his resignation, and identified a finalist who could replace him.

Also, school board member Charlie Mensinger said after the meeting that he had withdrawn his candidacy papers Friday and will not seek re-election.

“I am withdrawing due to the negative climate surrounding the election,” Mensinger said. “I feel it is better to go away quietly than to participate in something that is tearing the district apart.”

Each announcement likely will affect the election prospects of Thomas and the board challengers — Elizabeth Brazil, Tom Huynh and Christopher Wecks.

Keeping Marken on the job would improve the education prospects of Newark’s children, said a dozen speakers among 100 people who crowded into a Silliman Center room Friday. A few waved signs with scrawled messages: “We love Marken” and “You asked. He said yes!”

The special meeting had been scheduled for trustees to interview at least one candidate to replace Marken, whom many credit with lifting Newark Unified to unprecedented heights after three years on the job.

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Newark schools superintendent rescinds resignation

NEWARK — Superintendent Dave Marken rescinded his resignation Thursday, telling school board members in a letter that he will continue to lead Newark schools until his contract expires next June.

“My duty is to the students of Newark, and so I will no longer remain unresponsive to the overwhelming support of the community and leadership of the district,” Marken said in the letter. “I am rescinding my resignation, effective immediately, and will fulfill the terms of my contract.”

His letter was sent a day before the five-member school board planned to interview at least one candidate to replace him. The interview is scheduled for closed session at a special board meeting at 3 p.m. Friday, at the Silliman Center, 6800 Mowry Ave.

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Fremont: Free electric vehicle test drives scheduled Saturday

FREMONT — Anyone curious about getting a charge out of driving an electric vehicle can do so Saturday at Pacific Commons.

The free test drives will be part of the “Experience Electric — The Better Ride” campaign and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the shopping center parking lot at 43484 Boscell Road.

Drivers there can get behind of the wheel of the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Volkswagen E-Golf and other electric vehicles.

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Union City sues financial consultant, says errors cost nearly $140,000

UNION CITY — The city has sued a financial consultant, saying that errors in handling a sanitation rate hike cost the city nearly $140,000, according to court documents.

Willdan Financial Services and Union City have negotiated for months over the money, but city leaders filed the lawsuit Friday after talks stalled, said City Attorney Benjamin Reyes.

“Willdan has not met any of the demands that the city has presented to date,” Reyes said.

Two other California communities have also accused the Anaheim company of costly errors.

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Halal fest to return Saturday at NewPark Mall

NEWARK — As nearly 10,000 people last year crowded into the state’s first-ever Halal Food & Eid Festival, its unexpected popularity caused long lines and food shortages, leading organizers to rethink this year’s reprise.
 Co-organizer Irfan Rydhan says now they’re ready for a throng of revelers outside NewPark Mall, where the festival Saturday will celebrate food prepared according to Islamic dietary rules.

“We’re going to do a few things differently that will help things run more smoothly,” said Rydhan, a San Jose resident and architectural designer.

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Fremont: Warren Avenue reopening Monday as BART extension project continues

FREMONT — Lanes closed for more than a year on a short section of Warren Avenue will reopen Monday, likely leading commuters, Fremont pedestrians and Silicon Valley transit leaders to breathe sighs of relief.
The reopening will unsnarl jammed traffic and nearly complete a $24.5 million project intended to make the Warm Springs district roadway safer and to help BART reach the South Bay, linking Santa Clara County businesses and residents to the rest of the Bay Area.
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Newark: Schools superintendent candidate interview set for 3pm Friday

NEWARK — At least one candidate will interview for the superintendent position Friday at a special school board meeting.

The five-member board of trustees will conduct the interview in closed session at 3 p.m., after which they might select a finalist, said Don Iglesias, a consultant hired to find a new superintendent.

A finalist for the job would not be hired until Aug. 19, when the next regular board meeting is scheduled, he said.

Iglesias would not reveal candidates’ names or how many will be interviewed Friday, saying that the search is confidential.

The special meeting at 3 p.m. Friday will be held at the Silliman Center, 6800 Mowry Ave.

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Newark: Nancy Thomas seeking re-election to school board

Newark Unified school board member Nancy Thomas has decided to seek re-election this November. Below is Thomas’ guest blog entry and announcement of her seeking a fourth term …

By Nancy Thomas

I’m reaching out to the Newark community in the wake of Superintendent Dave Marken’s resignation. I am deeply saddened by Dr. Marken’s departure. Under his leadership our district’s API scores have soared, eclipsing all other districts in Alameda County in the last round of state testing. He was voted the region’s Superintendent of the Year. For the first time in 12 years, we have not just one, but two schools reaching Distinguished School status. Many of our schools have reached the 800 API test score threshold signifying academic excellence.

We are being told that board members’ negative behavior is behind the superintendent’s resignation. To be clear, board members know how they should behave. We have agreed to our norms and protocols in multiple meetings, and have documented them in our Governance Team Handbook. Among other things, the message to the board by NEWMA was to “stay within your function and stop trying to personally fix problems.” They asked that we visit schools to “observe and learn,” not to openly criticize or question operations and activities, and that we honor confidentiality.

Not every board member has crossed the line. For NEWMA to paint us all with the same broad brush vote of no confidence is disheartening. I have filed my papers for re-election because I feel my experience and knowledge are more important than ever to the success and stability of the district in this period of transition.

If elected, I will continue to support the programs advanced by Dr. Marken. He has not shied away from courageous moves. He championed an A-G default curriculum to ensure students’ eligibility to enter the CSU/UC system. He has instituted a full-day kindergarten starting this year, and he wants to institute a middle school model for grades 6, 7, and 8 next year. His pursuit of a least restrictive environment for our special education preschool students is the right move.

While supporting the educational vision of district leadership, I have not shied away from challenging district leadership in other areas. We board members need to ensure the district’s fiscal solvency, and we must address issues such as the mishandling of funds that are brought to our attention.

For example, I supported massive cost-cutting when Newark was in real danger of being taken over by the State. It was painful. Jobs were lost. But it was the right thing to do. The board supported my request that sexual harassment training be required for all employees, not just management. I brought forward a whistleblower protection policy. Thanks to whistleblowers, several incidents of gifts of public funds have been corrected.

In closing, a big thank you to the many community members who have voiced their support and are encouraging me to run for re-election.


Ohlone College accredited for next six years

FREMONT — Ohlone College has earned eight commendations for displaying “academic quality and institutional effectiveness,” according to a report that reaffirms its accreditation for the next six years.

Ohlone’s accreditation, which will run until 2020, ensures that it remains eligible for state funding and that its students can receive financial aid and transfer their credits to other colleges.

The accreditation report also recommended several improvements for the Fremont community college.

“The college does meet or exceed standards,” said Eliza Chan, spokeswoman for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which reviews 117 campuses statewide. “However, the whole idea behind accreditation is to have continuous improvement.”

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Fremont electric scooter startup comes to ‘Innovation District’

FREMONT — The city’s strategy to attract cleantech companies to its growing “Innovation District” has begun yielding results, as another electric vehicle startup has moved to the area.

GenZe, an electric-powered scooter maker, moved last month from Palo Alto to south Fremont, where Tesla’s factory and other green companies have set up shop. “We wanted a lot of space and an area that’s encouraging for electric vehicles and innovation,” said GenZe CEO Vish Palekar. “We naturally landed in Fremont.”

GenZe has moved its headquarters near an 850-acre area where Fremont hopes to add up to 4,000 housing units, 12,000 jobs, shopping and entertainment, restaurants, hotel and convention facilities, and parks and open space. The zone is anchored by the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station, which will open late next year.

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