To the Tattler-
I’d like to respond to the points you raise [in your story 'Emery School District Botches Measure K Parcel Tax Rollout'] . These are my own views on the matter. I have not discussed this response with other board members and it is not an “official” district response.
Your assertion that "some classes at [Anna Yates] this year have more than 35 children" is wrong. As of the Sept. 18 enrollment data, only two classes exist with over 30 students at AY; both are 4th grade classes and their enrollments are 33 and 31.
The class size reduction focus in Emery (and across the state and nation) is primarily on Kindergarten to grade 3. Emery Unified kept Kindergarten to grade 3 class sizes at or near 20 students during the massive state budget cuts occasioned by the Great Recession—even after the State ended its Class Size Reduction funding. We still keep K-3 class sizes at those levels. Most other districts do not. I regularly hear stories of K-3 classes with 27 to 30 students. The parcel tax is why we've been able to maintain K-3 class sizes around 20 to 1.
The 4th grade class sizes are higher than I would like, but we have to recognize that the 4th grade bump is the inevitable by-product of maintaining 20 to 1 class sizes K-3. 4th grade transitions to 2 teachers for the loop, instead of 3, for 60-odd students. Having 3 teachers would be great, but that would mean adding a third teacher to both the 4th and 5th grade loops and reducing class sizes in those grades to 20 to 1 as well--something districts in California, including ours, cannot afford. It's also worth noting that those 4th grade classes are split in half when they attend art and science. Many districts don't have separate art and science teachers in the elementary grades. Only because of our strong parcel tax have we been able to support a separate art and science teacher at Anna Yates.
The music program at the high school is quite strong, led by an excellent teacher in Mr. Salvatore. I agree that it's unfortunate that Mr. Carroway's passing and tight budget times have led to discontinuing a regular music program at Anna Yates. Fortunately, Superintendent Rubio plans to reinstitute music at AY if the parcel tax passes. I understand he informed you of that commitment last week. That's a pretty significant commitment from the district's superintendent to fail to quote or specifically mention.
You are also wrong to say the district has never quantified how the parcel tax supports our teachers. The district has been able to hire and retain a stable of excellent teachers and, also of professionals who enable our teachers to do their job better and to want to stay here. Together, these staff are one of the reasons I am most proud of Emery Unified. The parcel tax directly supports the salary of many of these teachers and instructional support personnel. This has been quantified in reports to the Measure A oversight committee and, most recently, was reflected in an attachment published at the June 25th Board meeting (to the item regarding the Local Control Accountability Plan).
That document reflects that the parcel tax pays the salary of 3 English teachers at ESS; 1.2 elementary teachers at AY; the science teacher at AY and one of the science teachers at ESS; 2.2 math teachers at ESS; the music teacher at ESS; the librarian at AY, and the Wellness Coordinator and the school nurse among other personnel. Last time we looked, our district’s teacher salary was highly competitive in our labor market and our benefits package was one of the most, if not the most, generous in the area. By supporting so many of our personnel directly, the parcel tax has obviously enabled us to retain these staff. Given that the parcel tax is 25-30% of the district’s budget, it is also true that it has been a key factor in our ability to maintain a competitive salary and benefits package to attract and retain our quality teachers.
You also inexplicably assert that the district has “failed to meet” requirements concerning the Oversight Committee for Measure A. You don’t explain the basis for this. The district has appointed a Citizen’s Oversight Committee for Measure A. It meets regularly; reviews parcel tax expenditure reports; approves or, if it sees fit, challenges district proposed expenditures, and issues an annual report. To my knowledge, the district and the committee have fulfilled the legal requirements for oversight committees. I know of no reason to believe otherwise. As evidenced by the fact that it constitutes ¼ to nearly a third of our budget, the parcel tax provides a great many critical personnel and programs to our district. I want to see those people and programs continue. I will be supporting Measure K. I hope all other Emeryville citizens who care about our children will too.
John Affeldt has a son at Emery's Anna Yates Elementary School and was appointed to the School Board in July 2012. For over twenty years he has worked on educational equity issues at Public Advocates in San Francisco where he has twice been recognized as an Attorney of the Year in California for his education work. Mr Affeldt will face Emeryville voters in November as he seeks election to the School Board.
The Tattler Responds:
To Mr Affeldt-
Thank you for commenting. To get straight to it:
There is at least one class as of the first day of school with 36 children at Anna Yates Elementary School (AYES) and at least one with 35 children. The source of this information is the Superintendent of the Schools, John Rubio and two teachers who shall go nameless. If there was some drop-off by attrition over time, that would be considered a good thing in this case but still 33 children cannot reasonably be construed as a small class. Your explanation about other districts and grades 4-12 at Emery matters not. The point of the story is Emery is giving the voters the impression that class sizes will be small here if we vote for this measure. If it only pertains to K-3 well, the District should make that clear to the voters. If we're funding this by taxing ourselves more, there should be no equivocating or deception involved on the part of the District. You should tell us exactly what we're getting.
You are correct in conceding that the District killed the music program at AYES. That is a violation of the provisions of the previous parcel tax Measure A it should be known. Now we're being asked to fund a music program with measure K without any admission about this double dealing by the District. It's true Mr Rubio made a personal commitment to actually follow through this time with a music program if Measure K is passed and that's going to appear in a forthcoming Tattler story. Still, the charge remains; we paid for a music program at AYES and we didn't get it.
Regarding teacher retention as Measure K requires; again, we asked the Superintendent directly, how is the Measure K money going to be spent to retain teachers? His response, "I don't know". This is from the top and again, this will be highlighted in a future Tattler story. We hope your claim that Measure A money has been spent on teacher retention is true and we will include this in the future story.
Lastly, regarding that the District has failed to meet Oversight Committee meeting requirements; we stand by our claim. The Committee is supposed to meet twice a year, Spring and Fall to oversee Measure A spending and that has not occurred. You claim this is false but we have hereby given you a reason to believe otherwise... now please check our claim with the secretary of the Superintendent. The point of mentioning that the Oversight Committee has not met regularly as it is required to do is not to point out technical violation to play "got cha". The reason it's important to know this is that a committee that is properly functioning would know that the music program had been killed and moved to remedy that improper situation.
Remember, you as a School Board, have no choice: when you ask the public to voluntarily fund something by a parcel tax, you have to spend the money the way we agreed to. Otherwise, it's a breach of the public trust.