Decision 2010: Election cheat sheet (school board race)
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.