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Agendas in AUSD Master Plan

by Dennis Green

Alameda Superintendent of Schools Kirsten Vital says that the new Master Plan is the result of “…eight community workshops, 25 meetings held by community volunteers and 30 school-site meetings led by principals and surveys.” And I believe her.

Why is it then that the resulting Master Plan is a series of agendas by special interest groups cobbled together by the spin doctors of a political public relations consulting firm? These agendas make it obvious that the whole process was hijacked by the usual suspects.

The most familiar agenda is “maintaining neighborhood schools” — keeping under-enrolled schools open rather than merging students from, say, the Gold Coast’s Franklin School with a different ethnic and socio-economic population in the West End. Code language for “separate but equal,” or de facto segregation.

Another agenda, promoted by the teachers unions, is “maintaining reduced class size,” which means keeping more teachers employed in a market with declining enrollments. As the demographics have changed nationwide, the trend toward smaller classes is the only thing standing between thousands of public school teachers and pink slips.

A third agenda in the Master Plan is the scheme to bring in students from outside the district to “optimize enrollment.” That serves a similar purpose as class size reduction, but brings in less ADA money than it costs to educate the students. A small but vocal minority of Alameda parents believes that bringing in, hopefully, more “Asian” students from Oakland will raise test scores and teaching standards.

Another familiar theme is “strengthening enrichment programs,” which simply means hiring extra counselors and teacher’s aides, as well as hiring P.E., art and music teachers for elementary school kids! And converting classrooms to “flexible learning spaces.” Such programs add considerably to the cost of basic education.

Parents, alumni and other supporters of Encinal High got their agenda into the Master Plan as well, keeping it open as a “magnet school,” rather than merging the two high schools. In reality, if only one high school were kept open, it would be Encinal, which has far greater acreage for future expansion. But that would mean closing Alameda High, an even more sacred cow serving the Gold Coast and the East Enders.

Finally, to convince the voters that economies have been made, there is a reference to “redesigning the central office,” which means things like eliminating intra-campus student mail delivery, and also to “building partnerships with non-profits, businesses and philanthropic organizations.” I would assume this would not include all those smaller businesses and maritime industries hit hardest by the upcoming parcel tax structure, and forever alienated from Alameda schools.

Furthermore, this partnering has been attempted in the past, by development directors and by the Alameda Education Foundation. And the monies raised have fallen far short of what is needed, or even what this Master Plan anticipates in the way of revenue.

So the AUSD Master Plan, after all those meetings and all that hard work, is just a compilation of the same old ideas that have been kicking around in this town for many years. The agendas of various special interest groups — from parents to teachers to administrators — who will all be outvoted in the June election by those of us who don’t buy into their agendas.

In California, 35% of mortgage holders are “underwater,” and even more are defaulting on their credit card debt. Such an economy does not encourage higher taxes, and most of us have seen enough bailouts to last us a lifetime.

2 comments to Agendas in AUSD Master Plan

  • Barb

    Make that enough bailouts to last several lifetimes and I agree with everything. Franklin has already been closed once due to declining enrollment and lack of money. My children “suffered” through that debacle and ultimately graduated from UC Davis and UCLA. They survived and received good educations.
    I used to give a substantial amount of money annually to Encinal rather than any other school which I attended. After the mismanagement of the district forced the parcel taxes on homeowners I saw no more point in trying to help out. EHS was doomed.

    Bringing in out of district children, does not guarantee that ADA for the incoming children will cover their basic cost, let alone any other costs coming from having attended school in lesser districts elsewhere. They come primarily from Oakland which has some of the worst and most dangerous schools in the state. If one were able to do a cost per student breakdown, it would probably reflect that the out of district students cost more than Alameda students to educate. Who can blame the children or their parents for wanting to come to better schools?

    So now we are going to be asked to pay $659.00 per year probably forever, while the district adds more and more children from Oakland to keep schools open, which children will in turn rack up the costs even higher, triggering a need for more money, which will then trigger more recruiting of out of town students as more students from Alameda go to private schools which will then trigger . . . . . a never ending spiral upwards.

    We need to equalize the ADA per student, so that each student no matter where he or she lives will feel comfortable staying in his or her own neighborhood or City’s school. And we need to get back to basics, which in my humble opinion does not include a staff lawyer, Webmaster etc.

  • Thanks, Barb. I got most of my information from a careful study of the Master Plan and four interviews of the principles, including the Superintendent and two Trustees. But you add an invaluable historic context that most of us “newbies,” (I’ve only lived here 22 years myself!), just don’t have. But if enough of us take an interest and really dig into these things, instead of accepting the promotional stories at face value, we’ll make more informed choices in the future. And thanks to David for maintaining this site!

    Dennis

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