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School board okays master plan

Submitted by on 1, February 24, 2010 – 6:00 am10 Comments

The Board of Education has okayed a five-year master plan for Alameda’s public schools that seeks to create more specialized educational options while maintaining neighborhood elementary schools. The plan also calls for increased class sizes and more off-Island students.

The plan is predicated on securing philanthropic funding and on voter approval of a parcel tax that would bring the district $14 million a year. The board is slated to vote in March on whether to put a tax on the ballot, and they said they’ll consider a vote-by-mail election set for June 22.

Without the money, the board would consider closing schools in 2011-12 and cutting programs to balance their budget, the plan says.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the plan, with Trustee Trish Hererra Spencer casting the lone “no” vote. Spencer said she thought the district should consider consolidating schools in order to maintain small class sizes, and she questioned a plan to create a new magnet school because it costs more than a regular public school.

But her fellow board members and Superintendent Kirsten Vital said that closing schools would force the district to increase class sizes and that it wouldn’t save the district that much money. And Interim Chief Financial Officer Robert Shemwell reeled off a list of Alameda County school district, most of which are increasing class sizes.

The plan seeks to broaden school choice in part by creating a magnet school and setting up a series of academies at Encinal High School. A request for proposals for a magnet could go out in March.

Parents came to the meeting to ask the board to reconsider the proposal to increase class sizes in kindergarten through third grade from 20 students per teacher to 25. They said the small classes are more beneficial for the district’s youngest charges. Spencer said 400 parents with students at Bay Farm and Amelia Earhart elementary schools had signed petitions to ask the board to maintain the smaller class sizes.

Other parents turned out to ask that Encinal High School stay open even if a parcel tax is not passed. Closure of Encinal is not laid out in the plan, but parents and students fear it will be closed since it is the smaller of the Island’s two mainstream public high schools.

Still other parents turned out to urge the board to unanimously support the new parcel tax, which would replace the district’s existing but soon-to-sunset taxes. The board is considering a split roll tax that would charge homeowners $659 a year and commercial property owners 13 cents per square foot of lot up to $9,500 for each of the next eight years.

A new group, A Plus, will work to get the parcel tax passed.


  • tom charron says:

    Dear Michele:
    As regards Alameda Public Schools Master plan.
    1.) Do you have any information on “off island” students?
    2.) Who pays for them?
    3.) How much per student?
    4.) Requirements for enrollment etc?
    Tom Charron

    • Hey Tom,

      The district has 434 off-Island students according to the master plan PowerPoint we heard last night, and the money to pay for their education comes from the state in the form of what the district calls ADA. I think the ADA per kid is just shy of five grand.

      The enrollment requirements, as I understand them, are that the student has to sign a contract saying they’ll adhere to certain behavioral standards and that they have to maintain their grades (I think they need to keep a B average but am not 100 percent on that).

      My understanding of the conversation the board had around this last night is that the district had a policy to accept off-Island kids before passage of the master plan, but that the plan calls for more actively bringing kids in to fill seats. I think there was a question about how much it costs the district to educate each student, and that’s something I don’t have an answer to yet.

  • R. Beck says:

    A Plus is not a new group, it’s KASE with a new name. KASE was created to promote Measure H and is now in charge to promote the new parcel tax. Since AUSD and the non profit AEF can not legally promote a tax measure, they will use A Plus. I watched the BOE meeting last night and I am totally amazed, at what is being recommended by Superintendent Vital. Have they not learned from the mistakes they made with Measure H? Have they not listened to the business community and commercial property owners? Even board president Mooney called Measure H a fiasco and felt responsible for it! Will he now support the new tax, that is just as divisive as MH?
    We all agree, the schools need funds and the support of the community, but proposing a split roll again is exactly what got AUSD into trouble and two lawsuits followed. A split roll is illegal and until the California Supreme court rules otherwise, we will insist on “uniformity” as stated in school parcel tax law 50079.
    A flat tax or a per square footage for every parcel is the only way to make this tax uniform.
    I comment Superintendent Vital for her dedication and vision for the future of Alameda’s schools, but in today’s economy, when people are loosing their jobs and homes and businesses are struggling and closing, it is not the right time to ask the Alameda community to underwrite the AUSD grand vision.

  • EHS Grad says:

    Alameda no longer has the students to support a 2 high school, 3 junior high district. It’s time for AUSD to stop whoring itself out for the Average Daily Attendance Funds. Remove ALL the out of district children. Close and reconsolidate schools and THEN ask me for more money.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    As a fellow EHS grad I agree. But the problem goes back decades to the creation of the formula upon which each city’s ADA (Average Daily Attendance) was computed. It was based on the amount the City paid per child. Since Alameda was a built out district, and the federal government was paying large amounts for children of military living on the base tax free, Alameda residents paid less than other districts which were new and constructing new schools,e.g. Dublin, Pleasanton. So these cities get much larger state ADA amounts than say Alameda or Oakland.

    As a starting point this antiquated formula needs to be equalized throughout the State of California. It would result in Alameda getting millions of dollars more. It is such a basic form of equality, I do not understand why it has not been done. When we had Don Perata, a former EHS teacher, as President of the Senate, and our own Wilma Chan as head of the Assembly, they were not able to do this. I do not know if they even bothered to try. It is apparently much easier for local school districts to tax existing residents, than to bring needed pressure on elected officials to do the right thing.

    Each student in the state needs to get the same base amount. Then if districts decide they want more, they can go to the voters. Right now, we are just being asked to pay more because our current elected officials cannot fix our dysfunctional government. They find it easier to make us pay than do their jobs properly.

  • David Hart says:

    How many schools could the district close if it got rid of 443 out-of-district students?

  • Susan Davis says:

    Hi Dave,

    My understanding is that those 434 students are spread across a number of school sites (in 2006 it was 15 school sites). And those sites include elementary, middle, and high schools. So I don’t think that getting rid of the inter-district transfer students translates into an obvious consolidation solution (i.e., they are scattered across too many sites).

    Also, those inter-district transfer students bring to the district about $2.1 million in state revenue, which is more than the district would save by closing one or even two schools.

    I also think there’s an ethical argument to be made for allowing children from other districts to come to our district if we have the seats — especially since district data shows that these students tend to be as well-behaved and as high-achieving as Alameda students. But that’s another argument altogether.

    • Just to follow onto Susan’s comment with a little bit of additional data, roughly half of those kids are at our high schools (off-Island kids make up just shy of 12 percent of Encinal’s enrollment), maybe 30 percent are at our elementary schools and the rest are at the middle schools. Back in October the district did a breakout for one of the master plan sessions, and at that point the bulk of the off-Island kids were at the district’s West End schools (30 at Washington, 14 at Ruby Bridges, 11 at Paden, 30 at Chipman, 118 at Encinal and 61 at ASTI).

  • David Hart says:

    That was exactly my point, Susan — there aren’t enough interdistrict to students to warrant a closure, and the ADA they bring is a benefit.

  • Susan Davis says:

    I figured that, Dave. I was just answering the question for anyone else who might be wondering, like “EHS Grad,” for instance.

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