School board opening draws nearly two dozen applicants

School board opening draws nearly two dozen applicants

Michele Ellson

The onetime leader of the College of Alameda, the head of Alameda Little League and no fewer than three onetime school board members are among the nearly two dozen people who have applied to fill the remainder of Mayor Trish Spencer’s term on the school board.

Candidates will be able to make their pitch at a public meeting set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Island High School. At that meeting, the school board will pick finalists for the position.

The board will interview the finalists and select someone to fill the open seat on February 3. Spencer vacated the seat after being elected mayor in November, with two years left in her school board term.

"We are excited that so many community members applied," school board president Barbara Kahn was quoted as saying in a district-issued press release. "We're looking forward to interviewing them and then collaboratively selecting the person we believe is the best fit for this board."

The 23 candidates who applied to fill the final two years of Spencer’s term include Jannett Jackson, who left the top post at the College of Alameda in 2013 to run the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, and Alameda Little League chief Ron Matthews.

Mike McMahon, who served on the school board for a dozen years before losing a three-way race for two school board seats in November, also applied for the seat, as did onetime school board member Barbara Rasmussen and Philip Hu, a union leader who served on the San Gabriel Unified School District Governing Board from 2009 to 2014.

The list of candidates includes Steve Good, who runs a nonprofit charter school organization that was founded by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and now serves more than 3,000 students across 30 locations, its website says.

Former PTA Council president and school board candidate Tom Lynch was one of several applicants who have been engaged in local schools issues, along with Anne DeBardeleben, the immediate past president of the Alameda Association of Realtors who helped lead efforts to pass a school parcel tax and served on the oversight committee; and Sean Cahill, who led efforts to implement curriculum that is more inclusive of gay youths and parents.

Also on the list are a pair each of charter school administrators and school PTA presidents, a schools administrator from a neighboring district and Alamedans who have served on city boards and commissions. They include:

  • Helen “Suzy” Forrester, attorney and president of the Lincoln Middle School PTA
  • Jane Grimaldi, president of the Wood Middle School PTA, and parliamentarian Blanche Kim
  • Sherice Youngblood, clinical social worker and member of the Measure A Oversight Committee and Academy of Alameda board of directors
  • Patricia Petersen, education office at the San Francisco Ethics Commission and member of the Measure A Oversight Committee and Nea Community Learning Center governing board member
  • Diane Gardner Lang, interim principal at Anna Yates School in Emeryville
  • Gina Mariani, attorney and former member of the city’s Planning Board and Recreation and Park Commission
  • Nicole Blake, attorney, former teacher and member of the Social Service Human Relations Board
  • Jeff Cambra, event producer, attorney, mediator and chair of the city’s Open Government Commission
  • Michael John Torrey, member of the Restoration Advisory Board, which oversees toxic cleanup efforts at Alameda Point

All but three of the candidates for the seat – Jackson, Cambra and Torrey – have children.

Issues the new board member will help their dais-mates address will include new teacher contracts, a plan to fund rising pension costs, the continued implementation of new Common Core standards and a new state funding scheme, and the future of high schools on the Island.

A complete list of candidates and their applications for the seat are available on the school district website.

Island High School is at 500 Pacific Avenue, and community members are invited to attend and offer their views on the candidates and the selection process. The meeting will not be televised, but a recording will be posted to the school district’s website.


Kimberlee MacVicar's picture
Submitted by Kimberlee MacVicar on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

[This might be a duplicate entry.]

Thank you for publishing this list. I hope the board will appoint a parent currently involved with the PTA. We need that perspective/connection to a school, and not someone just looking for a political office to springboard to other elected offices.

Great to see so many want to get involved.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Honestly, I really think someone with children in school currently are the best qualified to know and understand the issues. You have to be in the trenches. My son is already in college and I cannot imagine I would really understand what the issues were at the moment for someone whose child was in say first grade. Times change so quickly. Yes, age and experience is important, but if your experience is 10 or 15 years in the past, you really can't understand what is on the table today. Many of us voted for Margie because she was a great principal back in the day. Then, we saw her crash and burn attributing passe experience to the current reality.

Submitted by Sylvia Gibson on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Teachers are the heart and soul of our schools. I'd like to see the school board appoint someone who values the vital role of educators.