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Faith in Community Lost, Regained, All in One Night

Action Alameda News received this letter from Sherice Youngblood, pursuant to her participation earlier this week, as a candidate, in a public hearing for an appointment to the Alameda Unified School District Board of Trustees. AUSD school board meeting videos are online here.

Opinion by Sherice Youngblood

I lost faith in my community and recovered it all in one night. For the first time since moving to this magnificent island on May 15, of 2009 I felt embarrassed to be an Alamedan. I felt disrespected, discounted, attacked and discriminated against based on personal choices I made to benefit my family. I felt punished and reprimanded for taking on a leadership role at my son’s school. I was the only candidate of the 23 whose character was personally called into question.

The reality that my elected officials were publicly treating me in this manner was most hurtful. The fact that this treatment occurred as I attempted to continue my efforts to dedicate my time to my children’s education is unimaginable. My dedication to my children has never wavered rather they attended public, private or charter schools. How can a school board member publicly punish a parent for participating at their child’s school? This treatment was unwarranted, unprovoked, unprofessional and outright cruel.

The fact that our school board president Barbara Kahn continues to use over 9,000 children to serve a personal vendetta should outrage every parent and citizen of this city. Parents should no longer whisper “you know what this is really about” when referring to her actions on this board. Parents should be outraged their children are being used as pawns. Despite your feelings about charter schools, I remain confident we all agree our elected officials speak for those they represent not for personal gain or redemption. I encourage you to view the video of the school board’s special meeting held on February 3, 2015.

I was saddened that our newly elected member Solana Henneberry decided to affirm this behavior without exercising her ability to think independently. Henneberry admitted to making a decision about my qualifications, not based on my educational experiences, not based on my volunteer commitments spanning across three island schools, however on the actions of some of my fellow board members at one meeting. Please explain to me how this is collaborative? Making a rash decision based on one incident is not in character for a board member or any critical thinking adult.

Board members Kahn and Henneberry sent a clear message during this otherwise remarkable community engagement process, virtually ignoring their constituents, paying no attention to the countless letters of support and union backing of multiple candidates. It saddens me that my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, my Master’s degree in Social Work, union endorsement, experience working within collective bargaining agreements or two children currently in Alameda public schools were of no importance to these two particular board members. However my decision to send my child to a school across the street from my home was a deciding factor.

I was most offended by board member Henneberry’s comments related to her experience with socioeconomic disadvantaged children. Mrs. Henneberry working in a population 8 hours a day does not compare to living in a population for a life time! The fact that Mrs. Henneberry would make such a statement without recognizing the privilege for which she holds in relation to myself clearly illustrates her lack of familiarity with diversity of any kind.

I remain stunned by the multiple community minded, dedicated, pound the pavement candidates that were overlooked based on any affiliation to a charter school, which is a right afforded to each of us by state law. When public officials restrict access to parents because they don’t think like they do or aren’t fortunate enough to make decisions they’re able to make, this in fact circumvents the democratic process all together.

Thank you to all the candidates I met along the way. Thank you, Steve Good, you are an extremely talented resourceful candidate you are not “the charter guy.” Thank you, Sean Cahill, your community presence remains important to this city. Thank you, Pat Peterson, for returning after the original round to support me. Thank you, Anne DeBardeleben, for serving our students for multiple years. Thank you, CSEA 27 and CSEA 860 for your endorsement. A special thank you to all the community members, district staff members, and candidates whom I don’t know that physically and emotionally held me as I exited one of my neighborhood schools feeling hopeless.

Please excuse my grammar, punctuation or any misspellings as my thoughts and actions are raw with emotion and pain.

–Sherice Youngblood (PROUD Alameda public and charter school parent)

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