ELECTION 2014: Your ballot in brief (part two)
ELECTION 2014: Your ballot in brief (part two)
Last week, we offered you our quick takes on your candidates for mayor and City Council. Today we’ve got part two of that story, with a rundown on three candidates for two school board seats and also, the Measure I school bond.
The winners of the school board contest will be charged with helping pick a permanent superintendent, overseeing the continued implementation of new Common Core educational standards and a new funding formula, considering a replacement parcel tax in advance of Measure A’s 2018 expiration and, if it passes, overseeing Measure I bond-funded school facility fixes.
Solana Henneberry: Political newcomer Solana Henneberry is a special education teacher and technology specialist in the neighboring West Contra Costa Unified School District and a mother of three kids in Alameda schools – factors she has said will offer a unique perspective should voters choose to elect her to the board. Henneberry has said she supports the Measure I bond measure and also said she thinks the school district needs to ask voters to replace the district’s Measure A parcel tax before it expires. She also supports a proposal to fix up and reuse shuttered portions of Historic Alameda High and opposes another to combine Alameda’s two comprehensive high schools. She’s a fan of the district’s innovative and magnet programs and has expressed reservations about the growth of charter schools on the Island. She’s excited about Common Core implementation but thinks cell towers near schools deserve more scrutiny. Key endorsements: Assemblyman Rob Bonta, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Mayor Marie Gilmore, Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, City Council members Lena Tam and Stewart Chen, school board members Margie Sherratt and Barbara Kahn, the Alameda Education Association, California School Employees Association Chapter 860.
Gary Lym: Gary Lym, who is also new to Alameda politics, is an accountant and retired professor, parent and co-founder of the Alameda Vipers youth basketball league who has volunteered at several local schools. Lym, who grew up in Alameda and attended local schools, has raised concerns about the Measure I bond proposal before voters. He voiced support for Common Core implementation and innovative and magnet programs at schools. Lym said he would address distrust toward the school district and discord with teachers by being open and accessible. Key endorsements: School board members Niel Tam and Trish Spencer, former school board members Bill Schaff and Janet Gibson, former City Councilwoman Karin Lucas, Alameda and Contra Costa County Retired Teachers Association president Gretchen Lipow, California School Employees Association chapters 27 and 860, Alameda Education Association.
Mike McMahon: Incumbent Mike McMahon has been on the school board for 12 years, and while many have praised his unmatched command of all things schools, the district’s employee unions are doing their level best to make this school board term his last after McMahon voted against new contracts that gave schools workers pay raises. McMahon brokered the deal that put Measure I on the ballot, and he has consistently voted in favor of asking voters for more tax money to support schools. He’s a fan if the school district’s innovative and magnet programs and a charter school skeptic, he said, and he’s also skeptical about how successful new Common Core standards implementation will be. McMahon runs a personal website with an encyclopedic array of schools information and has personally engaged the community on schools issues through online surveys and other tech tools. Key votes: Again, McMahon engineered the deal to put Measure I on the ballot and voted in favor of putting the Measure H, E and I taxes before voters. He voted against new contracts for teachers and other schools workers and also, former Superintendent Kirsten Vital, saying it was irresponsible to offer raises before schools funding was fully restored to prior levels. McMahon voted to move the district office from Historic Alameda High, which the district has long known was not earthquake safe, into rented space in Marina Village. He originally voted against including anti-gay bullying lessons in the district’s elementary school curriculum but later voted in favor of books that were more broad-based. He also originally voted in favor of a contract to put cell antennae on the roof of Maya Lin School. But he has since said that it’s clear families don’t want them and offered that additional cell tower contracts “will not happen” while he’s on the board. Key endorsements: McMahon’s personal website contains a long, indexed list of supporters that includes fellow board members Barbara Kahn, Margie Sherratt and Niel Tam; former board members David Forbes, Bill Garvine, Ron Mooney and Bill Schaff; Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft; City Councilman Tony Daysog; Alameda County schools superintendent Sheila Jordan; and the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.
Schools leaders are seeking permission to seek up to $179.5 million in bonds for a list of fixes at Alameda schools. After rejecting a proposal to spend most of the money to fix up the Island’s two comprehensive high schools – Alameda High and Encinal High – the board voted, 4-1, to spend half of the money on elementary and middle school projects from a list of potential projects included in the bond language and half on high school projects that would be decided on with the community’s help if the bond measure is approved. The bond measure could add up to $60 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed value for homeowners and other property owners for the term of each bond series, which could stretch to 25 years. The types of projects the money would pay for at the Island’s elementary and middle schools include new classrooms; technology upgrades; safety and security fixes; and critical mechanical, electrical, accessibility and roofing needs. The bond will pass if 55 percent of voters say yes; unlike parcel taxes, seniors will not be exempt from paying. Argument in favor: Proponents say the need for the fixes the money would pay for has been clearly and thoroughly documented; a 2012 assessment found that Alameda’s schools need $92 million in fixes and upgrades, while the facilities master plan the district generated lists projects estimated to cost $585 million. Argument against: Opponents say the measure doesn’t specifically spell out what the money would be used for, and also, that property owners will have a tough time figuring out what they’ll owe.