Five seek open school board seat

Five seek open school board seat

Alamedan Staff

A former school board member and a onetime president of the local teachers' union are among the five people seeking appointment to the Alameda Board of Education.

Board members will consider candidates for the vacancy left by the passing of Nielsen Tam at a public meeting to be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Island High School. Each candidate will have 20 minutes to make their pitch for the appointment and to take questions from school board members; a candidate will need votes from three of the four board members to win the seat.

The candidates include Mike McMahon, who served three terms on the school board until losing election for a fourth term, in 2014. McMahon said that strategic alignment of the district's resources is the biggest issue facing the board.

Gray Harris, a former Alameda grade school teacher who served as head of the Alameda Education Association during contentious contract negotiations with former Superintendent Kirsten Vital, has also applied for the seat. Harris, who left in 2013 for a position with the California Teachers Association, said passage of a new school parcel tax when Measure A expires is the biggest issue facing the district.

Anne McKereghan, a local Realtor who was active in three recent parcel tax campaigns and has served on the boards of the Alameda Education Foundation, Alameda Association of Realtors and the Alameda Boys & Girls Club, said funding is the district's chef concern. McKereghan, who also served on a committee overseeing Measure A parcel tax spending, was among 10 finalists for the remainder of Mayor Trish Spencer's unexpired school board term - a contest that drew nearly two dozen applicants.

Occupational therapist Hazel L. Lau and Dorota Sawicka, an adjunct chemistry professor at the College of Alameda, are the other two candidates for the appointment. Lau said she's running because she thinks education is the key to success and that America needs to keep improving it to remain a superpower; Sawicka said she's interested in serving in order to provide parents a voice on the board.

Four of the five candidates said they think the district should put a parcel tax on the ballot to replace Measure A when it expires, in 2018. McMahon said the board should analyze the impact of losing of the $12 million a year the tax provides, identify programs it would fund, decide how it should be structured and find volunteers to run a campaign.

The board has until July 24 to pick a successor for Tam, whose term runs through 2016. Tam died in late May after battling leukemia.

The five aspirants' applications are available on the school district's website.

Island High School is at 500 Pacific Avenue. While the meeting won't be broadcast live, the district typically live-tweets school board meetings, and a recording will be made available online after the fact.