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Ray of darkness, ray of light – and an NCLC note

Submitted by on 1, March 12, 2008 – 7:32 amNo Comment

Tonight, the fine folks on our school board answered a question that has been plaguing this blogmistress for the past couple of days: Why is the district asking the board to prioritize which of the recent budget cuts will be restored if the parcel tax passes? Won’t it generate enough money to restore them all?

Apparently, this kind of flummoxed some of the board members too. Because the parcel tax Will. Restore. All of the cuts.

“Everything that was on the list that was cut – there’s more than ample revenue for those things to come back (if the tax passes),” a noticeably exasperated Board President Bill Schaff said. He and other board members pledged to restore all the cut items if the tax passes in June.

The list had the effect of pitting a number of the interests supporting the tax against each other. One elementary school music teacher pressed the board to restore music to at least part-time status, while PTA president Trish Spencer asked if earlier cuts like middle school sports and health clerks could be restored. The athletic directors for Alameda and Encinal high schools, who plan to meet with families next Thursday night at Kofman Auditorium about mobilizing to support the tax, want to be able to tell them that the $256,000 in cuts the board to athletics programs will be restored.

Well, they will. (That’s in addition to almost $53,000 that has been raised for our high school athletic programs by KNBR radio, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, Encinal grad and Detroit Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis and other donors.) Music for the younger kids will return too, as will smaller class sizes for high school freshmen. In fact, the district may even have some wiggle room if the state’s budget cuts aren’t as bad as the governor has proposed.

And if it doesn’t? Last night the board handled the grim task of preparing to hand out layoff notices, and the district’s chief financial officer, Luz Cazares, even invoked the specter of possible county control if the district doesn’t make the cuts it has approved.

In further school news, Rob Siltanen attended the Alameda County Office of Education meeting last night to catch their board hearing the ACLC/NCLC’s proposal for a K-5 charter. Our school board turned NCLC down in January, saying their proposal lacked sufficient detail. Rob reports:

The Board had a public hearing during which Board members neither asked nor answered any substantive questions. As a result, they didn’t give any indication of where they stood, unless one is prepared to read a lot into body language such as the occasional nod of the head.

For the most part, I think it is fair to say that no startling new arguments were raised by anyone. ACLCNCLC was given ten minutes for a presentation and then speakers were strictly limited to two minutes for comments. The meeting room was full, probably with about 80 people. I know that 10 people spoke against the charter. I’d estimate that about 20 spoke in favor.

With one exception, I thought the comments on all sides were slightly more subdued/calm than during the “last round” in front of the AUSD Board. The one exception was when Carleton Grizzle accused NCLC “detractors” of being, among other things, “thieves.” He also used the verb “kill,” though I can’t recall the exact phrasing. I think it was something like the NCLC detractors were killing the learning opportunities or spirit or something of kids. He also gestured/pointed dramatically in the general directions of those of us opposed to the charter while making one of his accusations. I think it was when he called us “thieves,” though it may have been when we were “killers.”

The EHS students were quote good at making their points, as usual. Ms. Rideout (may not be correct), one of the students who spoke was one of the very last speakers. She responded quite effectively (and extemporaneously) to Mr. Grizzle’s accusation by identifying herself as one of the “thieves” and then pointing out all the ways EHS in particular helped ACLC. I found her rebuttal smart and, if I can say so, ballsy.

The meeting was being videotaped, so I suspect it will be on their website at some point. the whole thing took about an hour, from roughly 7:00 until roughly 8:00.

The county is expected to decide whether to grant the appeal in late April. If they turn NCLC down, the charter could go to the state. Thanks for the update, Rob!

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