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Decision 2010: Election cheat sheet (school board race)

Submitted by on 1, October 28, 2010 – 4:45 am5 Comments

Here’s the last in our series of cheat sheets on candidates for local office, which we’ve run this week. You can check out our earlier pieces on mayoral and City Council candidates here and here, and Jan Greene’s rundown on hospital board candidates and issues here. And of course, if you’re looking for links, answers to candidate questionnaires and more, you can always peruse our Decision 2010 page.

There are five people running for school board this fall: Mike McMahon, Clay Pollard, James Pruitt, Margie Sherratt and Rand Wrobel. (A sixth candidate, Sheri Palmer, dropped out of the race.)

Mike McMahon: McMahon, who has served on the school board for eight years, said the sense of despair around the future of Alameda’s schools is the most pressing issue the board faces. And he said strong leadership and community involvement are needed to fight that. He has been a strong advocate for a new parcel tax, and he has said he thinks the amount should be based on building square footage. Another issue, he told The Island, is to consider secondary restructuring. As to changes for how the district delivers services, he said he wants requirements that students pass courses needed to get them into the University at California, expansion of Advanced Placement class offerings and the use of online courses to expand choices.

Clay Pollard: Pollard, a businessman and parent of a high schooler, said he’s a fresh face in the face who will employ common sense to fix the school district’s problems. Pollard, who said the district’s most pressing issue is its financial troubles, said he would cut and consolidate where possible, control spending where possible, ask parents to volunteer in the schools and seek out partnerships with business. He said he would support a short-term tax that focuses on class sizes and test scores and is based on square footage; originally, he said the tax didn’t have to be a parcel tax, though this is the only type of tax the district can legally levy. Pollard said he wants the district to focus on closing the achievement gap between different groups of students, and he said he thinks this can be accomplished by gaining the trust of parents and business owners and soliciting their help and raising test scores. He was a vocal opponent of the board-approved anti-gay bullying Lesson 9.

James Pruitt: Pruitt, a director of labor negotiations for Kaiser Permanente, said he’d use his decades of experience with large budgets and negotiating experience to help the school district deal with its financial woes. He said he’d support a “fair” parcel tax and would examine Alameda Unified’s financials if in office, and that he’d find increased class sizes and school closures and consolidations difficult to support. One change he would make once the district’s immediate funding crisis is resolved is to expand the district’s use of technology.

Margie Sherratt: Sherratt, who worked for more than three decades at Alameda Unified as a teacher, counselor and administrator, said she’d put that experience to work in dealing with the district’s financial and other issues. She cast herself as a morale-building and consensus-maker who would tackle possible changes in grade configurations, programs and budget issues. Sherratt also said she would support a parcel tax and that she’s leaning toward one based on building square footage, though she said the district also needs to engage in a community discussion about the future of Alameda’s schools. In terms of changes, she said she’d like to see the district expand its use of online courses and build partnerships with community colleges.

Rand Wrobel: Wrobel, a business process management consultant with two teens in Alameda schools, is saying he thinks Alameda Unified should become a charter school district. Wrobel said he thinks the move would save the district millions of dollars on administration. He said the “unfair nature” and mishandling of the Measure E parcel tax and his desire to save money by restructuring led him to run. He said the district’s budget crisis is its biggest issue, and he blames the current board for failing to listen and for what he says is its lack of original thinking. He wants the district to offer voters a range of parcel tax options to vote on – his suggested targets are $7 million, $9 million and $11 million – and he said he supports a tax rate that blends lot and building square footage. In the long term, he wants the district to go charter, and to contract out its administration. In addition to his day job, Wrobel also founded and runs LilliWorks, a nonprofit special education foundation.


  • Jon Spangler says:

    Clay Pollard – and perhaps James Pruitt – sponsored a campaign event Tuesday night that was misrepresented as a “Save Our Schools candlelight vigil.” (There is some question as to whether Pruitt or his campaign were officially involved in this “vigil.” Attendees were holding signs supporting him and the event was sponsored by the Committee to Change the AUSD School Board, which endorses both Pruitt and Pollard.)

    Susan Davis covered the event here:


    Save Our Schools – the community organization formed to support the passage of a new parcel tax in 2011 – was not a sponsor of this “candlelight vigil,” which was attended by members of groups that strongly opposed the AUSD’s anti-bullying curriculum designed to include and keep safe all students and their families, especially those identified or targeted as being LGBTQ.

    The failure of Clay Pollard, James Pruitt, and their supporters to fully disclose the nature of their event was clearly deceitful. I hope that voters who might have found Pollard or Pruitt attractive will keep this non-inclusive and falsely-advertised event
    in mind when they vote.

    Our household will be voting for McMahon and Sherratt. They have both passed high school Civics 101. (Pollard and Pruitt must not have–they sure flunked the transparency and accountability test Tuesday night.)

  • Leland Traiman says:

    Mike McMahon is the reason Measure E lost. He was determined to copy all of the same mistakes in Measure E that were in Measure H and landed Measure H in court. Measure H only passed by 40 votes and it was reasonable to assume that voters would not vote for a formula which was proven to be flawed for a second time. Reasonable for everyone except Mr. McMahon.

    Mike McMahon voted against Lesson 9, the anti-bullying lesson. Why does Mr. McMahon think is it wrong to teach children they should not bully someone because they are gay, lesbian or transgender or are the child of a gay, lesbian or transgender person? Obviously, Mr. McMahon thinks bullying is OK if it is against a group he hates. Additionally, he chaired the public meetings on Lesson 9 and let people speak against it who had stolen speakers slips and should not have been allow to speak. His irresponsible actions created the hateful circus that unnecessarily upset our community.

    Mr. McMahon has proven himself to be irresponsible, extremely rude to citizens who speak before the board, and an anti-gay bigot. He should be voted off the school board.

  • Susan Davis says:

    Hi Leland,

    I have never seen any evidence that would lead me to believe that Mike McMahon believes it is wrong to teach children “not to bully someone because they are gay, lesbian or transgender or are the child of a gay child of a gay, lesbian or transgender person.” And I certainly have never seen any evidence that he “hates” gays or is an “anti-gay bigot.”

    He did vote “no” on the first Lesson 9, because, as I understand it, he hoped an “opt out” version would calm some of the controversy that, he feared, would endanger the next parcel tax. But he voted yes on the next, expanded version of the curriculum, which includes materials about anti-gay bullying and he has been a consistent and vocal advocate of the anti-gay bullying efforts in the district.

    In addition, throughout the months-long controversy over that curriculum, McMahon maintained a treasure trove of materials on his website (including all of the comments that were sent in by community member), materials that community members couldn’t find elsewhere.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    Mrs Davis:

    If your concern is to improve Alameda’s schools, as you often insist on your soapbox at the SF Gate, why are you so interested in reinstalling the primary source of the problem?

    Why not vote in someone competent, who:

    • is not an officer of the corrupt, SunCal-influenced CADC
    • has not been the author of so many failed attempt to tax our citizens in an unfair and unwanted way
    • is not opposed to teaching our children about equality, fairness, and stopping bullying
    • does not practice nepotism in AUSD hiring practices
    • is not running for his third, unsuccessful term

    There are at least two candidates listed above that fill these qualifications and have experience working in schools and labor negotiations who would be far better choices to serve Alameda’s Citizens, students and schools.

  • Susan Davis says:


    In keeping with Michelle’s new policy of only posting comments that are factually correct, I’d like to point out that during Mike McMahon’s terms as a school board member, only one parcel tax measure for the schools has failed (not “many”).

    And, as I said in my first comment, Mike McMahon is not opposed to teaching children about stopping bullying — he voted YES on the final, expanded anti-bullying curriculum that was developed, one that covers even more protected classes than Lesson 9 did.

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