School Board Agrees to Disagree

Vote split 3-2 on what to revive if Measure H passes

Board of Education members dug in their heels over a handful of options for bringing back slashed programs at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, ending the discussion with a 3-2 vote for the superintendent's recommendations.

The board approved a resolution on March 4 calling for a special emergency parcel tax to offset the $4 million loss in state funding due to the state's budget crisis. Measure H is the proposed school parcel tax awaiting a June 3 vote; if passed, it will generate enough revenue to keep athletics, music and other programs running, supporters say. The language of the proposed parcel tax includes a call to prioritize restoring cut programs, such as "music, athletics, advanced placement courses and other programs," according to the text of the measure.

But varied interpretations of the language caused board members Tracy Lynn Jensen and Janet Gibson to bristle; Jensen asked how the board could go ahead with a "restoration" process that was based on a budget that the district has yet to receive from the state, and Gibson repeatedly called for restoring board members' stipends — something left off the superintendent's list.

District officials will get an updated revenue estimate next month, when the governor releases his revised budget. State Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as estimating the state's budget deficit ballooning to between $11 and $14 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1. Earlier estimates pegged the figure at $8 billion. If the prediction holds true, it could mean even deeper cuts for Alameda and other districts than previously thought.

Should Measure H win approval, the prioritized list of items to be immediately restored in school year 2008-09 includes elementary music for grades 1-3; high school athletics and swim centers; ninth-grade class size reduction; advanced placement sections; middle school counselors and clerical support at Encinal High School. Cut items that were left off the comeback list include the board's stipends (about $100 per month each), a spokesperson's position at the district office, and the reduction of janitorial services.

Superintendent Ardella Daily answered Gibson's charge, saying that "the language in Measure H does not support administrative salaries," and she took that to mean no board stipends, in keeping with the spirit of the measure in saving programs first. Gibson argued that it is important for board members to be trained, and that being a board member can add up, cost-wise. "Some people don't need the stipends; some people do. I think it should be up to the individual," she said. ""It's not very effective to make such a small token sacrifice."

Other board members sided with Dailey's interpretation. President Bill Schaff said that the entire discussion was based on the passage of Measure H, "and that is still a big 'if,' by the way" and said he was comfortable with Dailey's assessment of the stipend issue; Schaff said he sees his role as a volunteer community-service position. "Even if [the stipend] seems like a small amount, it makes a very strong statement that we're putting the district first," he said before calling for a vote.

In the end, Schaff, members Mike McMahon and David Forbes voted to accept the superintendent's list, while Gibson and Jensen voted against it. "I don't feel comfortable doing restoration without a budget," said Jensen.

In other business, the board appointed new student affairs and compliance officer Jeff Knoth. Knoth will replace outgoing administrator David Dierking, who is retiring.

***

Patricia Sanders, president of the Alameda Education Association, invited the board and residents to attend a public rally in Oakland May 14 in support of more state funding for education, as well as a town hall meeting hosted by Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (16th Assembly District) at Encinal High School Saturday, May 3, to discuss action steps for more funding.

Julia Park Tracey can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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