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The “Not In My School Yard” Crowd, The NIMSYs

A letter from Action Alameda News Publisher David Howard

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with a mother from Oakland who plans to move to Alameda to get her two children into Alameda schools. (She currently sends them to a private school and daycare.) Although one friend has encouraged this mom to look at Edison school in particular, another, with a brown-skinned child, explained how she took her own child out of Edison due to racial epithets.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve heard a story like this about Edison school families. And, yes, it is a matter of families – where else do elementary school children learn to talk like that but at home?

According to the latest statistics available from the State of California Department of Education, Edison school has the single highest concentration of caucasian students of any elementary school in Alameda, with 70% of students self-reporting as white. The next closest is Franklin Elementary school, with 51% of students self-reporting as white.

Meanwhile, over in the more ethnically diverse West end of Alameda, where incomes are lower and more of the people are working-class folk, instead of white collar professionals, Longfellow Elementary School was closed, Chipman Middle School was closed due to poor performance, and the State of California has said that nobody need send their child to Washington Elementary if the they don’t want to, because results are so bad there. And Will C Wood Middle School, at Grand Street, is on probation. (Cynically, the Alameda Unified School District used the under-enrollment at Washington, a school with great capacity, to justify threats to close it during their last parcel tax campaign.)

I can hear the howls and protestations from the usual corners over my exposing yet another report of racial intolerance at Edison Elementary. Surely these protests will originate from the same sort of people who write letters to the editor saying things like, “Edison isn’t mostly white, it’s only 70% white!” Many of them normally espouse progressive values of diversity and tolerance – so long as it doesn’t affect them, I suppose. These same people present themselves as egalitarians or civic leaders while working behind the scenes to keep “the element,” as non-white kids from lower-income families are euphemistically called, out of their children’s school.

The reality is that there is a wealthy, privileged group in Alameda – the NIMSYs – whose members are happy to support diversity, but, “Not In My School Yard.” It’s the NIMSYs who organize and push for support for the school district’s parcel taxes every few years, to protect their exclusive access to schools like Edison, or Franklin, which long ago should have been closed for being the least-efficient school on a cost-per-seat basis. (I’ve published my analysis previously – the chief organizers of school parcel tax campaigns, outside of AUSD employees, tend to live either in the Gold Coast, near Franklin Elementary, or in the East end, near Edison school.)

Compounding the problem is a school district administration and board of trustees that panders to the NIMSYs, despite the slogan, “excellence and equity for all students.” Ron Mooney, white and wealthy enough to not need to work – in his smarmy way, he declared himself “unemployed” on campaign contribution forms earlier this year – lives literally next door to Franklin school. Margie Sherratt and her husband, both white and wealthy, enjoy six-figure pensions as former school administrators, drawn from a pension fund that AUSD pays into using your tax dollars. And then there’s Mike McMahon, with three family members on the district payroll. Don’t think for a moment that Superintendent Kirsten Vital doesn’t know the worldview of the three votes she needs.

There is a potential remedy for the defacto segregation along racial and socioeconomic lines in Alameda’s schools, something AUSD could implement. Simply reserve 5% to 10% of each elementary school’s seats for students from outside of the school’s nominal attendance zone. Allow parents in Alameda to apply for any school they like, and hold a lottery for seat assignment. This could be a first step to breaking the stranglehold that the NIMSYs have on our school system and pocketbooks. But don’t hold your breath, given the current composition of the board of trustees.

Over the coming weeks, think about this as you wonder where you’re going to get the money to pay the first installment of your property taxes – AUSD’s parcel tax doubled or tripled for many homeowners. And thank the NIMSYs, who are making everyone, including the families that they hurt, pay for their personal fiefdoms within what is supposed to be a public school system.

6 comments to The “Not In My School Yard” Crowd, The NIMSYs

  • Barbara

    What do we want? Do we want to lower the Edison’s performance or do we want to increase the performance of “other” schools, because if the Edison would perform poorly there would be no issue here. Issue here is to look at the success and model upon it and not destroy it. Race is an issue because we want it to be when it is convenient and it goes both ways. There is a discrimination against whites as well as against blacks and believe me legislation will not change it, except to put it in the closed.

    In addition, money will not fix it our education, but only solid, pure and focused attention on math and English and not social modification. We have buildings; we have children so we need good educators to make things work.

    David Howard for School Board will be a part of my mission.
    With good vision, common sense and integrity Alameda will only benefit, but most of all our children will be ready to take on the world. MR. HOWARD run for School Board, pleeeeese….

  • Michael

    Any Alameda child should be able to attend any Alameda School. All children should have equal opportunity to attend any school in Alameda. The current system only perpetuates inequality. Parents in the wealthier neighborhoods believe that they are entitled to the schools in the wealthier neighborhoods. Challenge that privilege and all hell breaks loose.

  • Barbara

    “Parents in the wealthier neighborhoods believe that they are entitled to the schools in the wealthier neighborhoods.”
    This is not true, because I live in the Fernside District and my kids attended Encinal High School. In my opinion, EHS had much more AP classes, programs and opportunities that AHS did not have.
    Also my son attended Washington and Wood School and the music programs and teachers were absolutely fantastic.
    I took education as a task/step to success not a privilege or given. I never rely on school and their administration to tell me what my kids should be doing. If I did, my kids and I would be on welfare.
    In summary, Alameda School District has now our money to spend, so let’s make sure that they are allocated to the teachers and students, not administration.
    This is why I want David Howard to run for Alameda School Board. He is the ONLY one who will make sure that we’ll try to have successful schools. He can shake the system and move us in the right direction. This I am pretty sure off because he has a conviction and he is right about it.

  • DHL

    AGREE with Barb!!!!

  • DHL

    File and start a campaign; I’ll donate.

  • rg

    property owners pay additional taxes, kids are not really sucessful. Racial, discrimination at Elementary, Middle and high schools, at Encinal in Alameda schools. yeah, David Howard should run for AUSD, he will make sure everyone success at schools.

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