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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Emery Schools Chief John Rubio Appeals to Parents: Don't Listen to the Tattler

Rubio Speaks

His Tattler Bashing Letter Claims He's Doing a "Great" Job

The Tattler's revelatory recent story of plunging test scores amid the imposition of racist practices at Emery Unified School District and the role the Superintendent of the Schools has played in that has caught the imagination of parents and guardians at the ECCL campus and caught the attention of the Superintendent who has responded with a widely distributed countering letter.
The September 16th Tattler story reveals that after nine teachers testified at a June 15th School Board meeting that the Superintendent, John Rubio, had installed what they called racist practices at the District, their warnings that a drop in academic achievement for black students would likely be forthcoming have been prescient, at least when using test scores as a metric.
Emery Superintendent
John Rubio

Reporting the teacher's side
is so unfair.
The Emeryville Tattler is
the enemy of the people.  It's
standing in the way of Making
Emery Schools Great Again.
Interestingly, Mr Rubio uses his counter letter to tell parents/guardians how much he respects the teachers; strange to hear after the nine teachers testified against him at the June 15th Board meeting describing a culture of "bullying" by the Superintendent against them.  Perhaps the claims of his respect for teachers are exaggerated.

Superintendent Rubio has been distracted by the Tattler story, so much so that he sent the letter (below) to the parents/guardians of every Emery student, refuting the Tattler story's veracity (without mentioning it specifically).
Mr Rubio accuses the Tattler of posting untruths, a charge we patently decry as false, and we hereby challenge Mr Rubio to back up his claims with specifics. The easiest thing in the world for someone in the Superintendent's position to do who has been called out for a gross lack of leadership is to make blanket claims of a prevaricating press, to shoot the messenger as it were.  We can think of another 'Great Leader' doing the same thing on the other side of the continent.  

The following is the text of the letter from a distracted Superintendent Rubio, received yesterday, with the Tattler's responses in red, directed at the Superintendent:

Dear Parents and Community Members,

The State of California is preparing for their official release of certified Smarter Balanced test scores from last spring.

From year to year, we have seen our test scores fluctuate. This is year three and they have not fluctuated, they have stayed at the bottom of the area.

The over all percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in English and in Math increased from May of 2015 to May of 2016, and those overall percentages went back down to about the same 2015 levels this past May. The scores dropped below the 2015 levels. It should also be noted the there was a shift in who was tested in those years, 2015 to 2016.

This is not a surprise to our school staff. Consistent positive growth takes time, a district-wide focus on classroom instruction, having a great teacher in every classroom, and a concerted effort on the part of all members of our community. Zero growth over three years is not the same as consistent positive growth. It is zero growth.

If you break the data down by grade level and into different groups, we see that our English language learners are doing great in some areas and not as well in others. We see our African-American students outperforming African-American students in neighboring districts, and our English language learners greatly outperforming English language learners in neighboring districts but still not doing as well when compared to last year. The terms "great" and "greatly" are not the correct modifiers. Statewide, 13% of ELA students were proficient or above in English Language Arts and 12% in Mathematics. In Alameda County, the scores are the same in ELA and slightly higher in Math (13% and 15%). Emery’s scores are about the same in English and slightly higher in Math (12% ELA and 18% Math). This is not doing great. Nor did African-American students greatly outperform nearby districts. Emery was one or two percentage points above our neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley, that falls within the statistical error rate. Countywide, 26% of African-American students met the ELA standards and 16% met the Math standards compared to 20% ELA and 17% Math in Emery.

As an organization, we have to face our challenges and recognize areas for improvement, while we continue to work to be the best we can be. After three years, zero growth is the best we can be?

We know that the quality of the teaching staff is critical in improving student achievement. We interviewed over 200 applicants in person last spring for seven teaching positions. Your process is to interview 30 candidates for each position? That seems inefficient. Industry standard is 3 to 5. To be extremely diligent, 10 should be more than adequate. If you are interviewing 30 candidates for each position, that is not something to brag about. At the elementary level, which most of these positions were, you could be seeing 60 candidates for the same job. This is a point of pride? Did you screen the same ratio, 30 to 1, of candidates to interview? It would be impressive if 6,000 teachers applied for the 7 positions. This reads like you did zero resume screening and just interviewed everyone.

If you measure the quality of our schools by the quality of our teachers in each and every individual classroom, then this year looks like it will be our strongest in the last four years. All the teachers that have left were not good teachers? Does this include the Yale Scholars that have left? The past Teachers of the Year?

For the first time in three years, I can walk through all of our three schools: the elementary, the middle, and the high school, and see strong teachers in all of our classrooms. I think this is uncommon in public schools, and yet we have now achieved it. Your disrespect for public schools and teachers is impressive. The majority of public schools have strong teachers in every room. It seems the common denominator of the halls you walk is you. Maybe you have only worked at schools that struggle.

By strengthening our staff through the hiring of high quality teachers who joined the ranks of a group of high quality veteran teachers, we will see test scores increase this spring. If this is a goal, it should be quantified. Given that one in five students is proficient in Emery, test scores could go up by simply asking students to guess on multiple choice questions.

I know that having test scores that go up and then back down opens our district to negative attacks, untrue exaggerations, and an attempt to shame the district and our teachers online. Reporting on bad test scores is not an attack by fake news and only the School Board should be shamed. As for untrue exaggerations, see your above uses of "great" and "greatly".

Our teachers are working extremely hard, and they don't deserve that. Hard working and effective are two different things. Emery teachers would be more effective if leadership did their job and not require teachers to participate in 20 to 25 unnecessary interviews (in addition to all the interviews driven by the constant replacing of teachers because Emery, under your leadership, has the worst teacher retention of any school district in the East Bay).

No matter where we are sitting, we are improving, and we will continue to improve. We will do it by holding each other up and supporting one another as we continue to improve our practice, our strategies, and our great program offerings (e.g. Scientific Adventures for Girls) which cannot be found in most other schools. As we want to avoid exaggerations, programs like Scientific Adventures for Girls are available on most campus and Scientific Adventures is on eight school campuses, four libraries, including Golden Gate across the street from ECCL, and one club.

We have every reason to believe that our scores and enrollment will go up as we move into the 2018-19 academic year because of the changes we made this year. Based on your previous statement that the drop in test scores was not unexpected, did you not have this expectation last year? You made bold claims about EUSD being a destination district this year, you have this year’s enrollment, is it up or down?

I would welcome anyone to come walk through the hallways and visit the classrooms in our schools and see our students, our great teachers, and great administrators all working hard. What time on Monday should we be there?

My glass is half full, I have a positive mindset, and it will remain that way because that's how we support, build up, and respect our teachers. When 1 in 4 students have met the standard in English, that is not half full, that's one quarter full.

We are all committed to do this work, because we are committed to the success of our children.

We will build off of our positive improvements in areas where we are doing well, and we recognize and will make changes where we have to improve - that's the work to be done every day and every school year. We should be interviewing 30 Superintendents, is that the work?

Thank you,
Dr. John J. Rubio

Thank you,
Emeryville Tattler (redlined responses)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Release of Test Scores Reveals a Failing Emery School District

Prospects for African American Students 
Dim at Emery

Teachers Warning of Consequences of "Racist Practices"
Appear to be Vindicated

Black Students "Not Served"

News Analysis
Emery Unified School District released an early peek at last season’s yet to be officially released state sanctioned student test scores at Wednesday’s School Board meeting revealing a school wide drop in academic achievement and a district with vexatious problems educating African American students specifically. The disturbing figures come on the heels of a June 15th School Board meeting where nine teachers rose to give warning of such negative consequences as a result of “racist practices” implemented by School Superintendent John Rubio.
 At the Wednesday night meeting, high school principal Jessica Goode said the numbers she called “repugnant”, showed that African American students “are not being served” at the beleaguered school district despite an attempt by Mr Rubio to spin the data to show the opposite.

The presenter of the data at the meeting, Dr Kell, an Emery administrator, indicated the District has formulated a plan to deal with the plunging test scores involving "integrating horizontal and vertical coherence" and a call to "improve the organizational climate" among other ideas. The three Board members attending the meeting Wednesday night seemed to take the bad news in stride but member Cruz Vargas said he was happy the District had come up with a plan to turn the numbers around for next year.
School Board Member
Cruz Vargas

A self described "numbers man",
Cruz didn't say anything about the low
test score numbers but he's happy
there's a plan to turn test scores
 around for next year.

The taxpayer investment of $100 million in a new school campus last year had no affect on a persistent pattern of falling test scores at Emery since Superintendent Rubio was hired three years ago. Despite a decade of promises that the gleaming new facilities at the Emeryville Center of Community Life would help bring up scores on their own, the bad numbers revealed Wednesday were seen by the Superintendent as a chance to countervail the charges of racism from the teachers by using the data to show a rising African American student cohort as compared with others even as test scores within that cohort still showed a decline.

District Spins Racial Achievement Gap 
The achievement gap is measured as the difference between the highest achieving racial cohort, traditionally Asians at Emery and their inverse, African Americans.  Mr Rubio took pains to show a closing gap between academic school year 2015-16 and 2016-17 by using plunging test scores of Asian students, an 11% drop, contrasted by African American student’s drop of 4% netting a 8% drop in the achievement gap in English Language test scores.  The exercise in abject legerdemain by Mr Rubio net a 9% drop in the math achievement gap using the same tactics, leveraging a 12% drop in Asian student test scores against a 3% drop for African Americans.  If the Superintendent was queasy massaging the numbers to show student success by highlighting one group of student's relative uptick by leveraging the failure of another group, he didn't show it.

Rubio Celebrates 'Student Success' 
While the Superintendent unveiled his brand after he was hired by the Board in the form of a new slogan for Emery, “Partners Power Student Success”, Emery Unified’s state testing results have deteriorated since the implementation of the new slogan, this year’s being the worst yet. The preliminary data given Wednesday proved 75% of students did not meet the state standards in English Language Arts.  Last year less than 1 in 3 students met the English Language Art Standards.   Only 30% of the students were proficient or above in ELA, tied with Oakland Schools.  Now down to 1 in 4, it’s possible Emery has dropped below Oakland.  In Math, the story is even worse.  About 1 in 5 students met the standard for mathematics.  Only 79% of the students failed to meet the standard. Last year, Emery was 1% higher than OUSD causing speculation about if that stays true, or given the trajectory, if Emery is now already at the bottom of Alameda County Schools.

A Brief Rise Before Rubio, Then Return To Failure 
The goal of building the Emeryville Center of Community Life was to build on the success that Emery achieved after coming out of receivership.  From 2007 to 2010, Emery improved its academic achievement each year.  Testing was suspended by the state as California transitioned to the Common Core and computer based ‘Smarter Balanced’ assessments.  Testing resumed in Mr Rubio’s first year with the district and that’s when the progress stalled, then reversed.  Each subsequent year as test scores are released, Emery struggles to paint a rosy picture and urges patience until a new plan takes effect for the next year.  Last year at a presentation by the new high school principal, Ms. Goode, she described her plan to improve math performance.  One Board member at the time, Christian Patz (currently a City Council Member) questioned how the new plan was different from the previous plan.  Ms. Goode did not have an answer.
The same could have been asked of the newest plan, rich in arcane academic jargon but lacking in detail, regardless of the excited exclamations from Board member Vargas who as a self described “numbers man” has said he understands that ‘rebranding’ matters and the use of words like ‘innovation’ are good tools to flash.

Black Students Not Served
There were some positives in this year's test scores, white students improved their math and language arts scores by 5%.  Interesting since Mr Rubio worked hard to change Emery’s previous mission statement which included the phrase, “To End Racist and Classist Practices.” Since that change, outgoing staff have told the school board about their concerns about how people of color are treated on campus.  Now the achievement gap, the difference between the how students of color do versus white has grown, despite the Superintendent’s attempt to obscure that fact.  White students attending Emery were twice as likely to have met the standards in math than African American students.  The gap was even larger in English Language Arts.  The achievement gap at Emery is significantly smaller than the gap in state test scores (based on prior year tests) because white students in Emery score well below the state average, as do African American students.  Asian students in Emery had the biggest decline, dropping double digits in both Language Arts and Math.  English Learners remained about the same, while Latinos, the fastest growing group at Emery and the state, matched the District’s 5% drop.

It should be noted that the scores reported come from the district’s presentation to the school board on September 13, 2017.  The state has not yet released scores to the public.  Comparisons to other districts or the state for this story were made using last year’s scores and the numbers just pre-released by Emery.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

City Staff Holds General Plan in Contempt

Contemptuous Staff and Weak City Council Means the People's Will is Ignored

Family Friendly Homes Keep Getting Torn Down Because That's What the Staff Wants

The feeling that (a person or) a thing is beneath consideration or worthless.

News Analysis

For the upcoming City Council September 5th meeting, Emeryville’s city staff, in seeking to grant a developer permission to tear down two houses on Doyle Street, has prepared a report for the Council that deprives them critical information that the two single family houses are in a General Plan protected ‘zone of stability’ and shouldn’t be torn down.  This comes after the staff also hid that fact from the Planning Commission in July.  
It’s not a mistake; the failure to inform the Council (and the Planning Commission) about such houses has been an ongoing issue for the staff ever since the General Plan was implemented in 2009.  It’s part of a pattern and practice that’s been firmly established by a recalcitrant Emeryville city staff that’s contemptuous of our General Plan.

Contemptuous is not too strong a word. Seven times in the last two years, homes in the zone of stability have been proposed by developers for demolition.  In seven out of seven cases, the staff has recommended the Council approve demolition.  That fact tells us the staff, specifically the Planning Department, doesn’t like the zone of stability provisions within the General Plan. Rather, they prefer to tear down homes in our town, zone or no zone.  But more tellingly and more contemptuously, for seven out of seven of those cases, the staff has seen fit to deny the City Council and Planning Commission the fact that the houses in question are in the zone of stability; the very information the decision makers need to make an informed decision.  In fact not once in eight years has the city staff informed the decision makers the information they need to know that a home in question is in the zone of stability.  It betrays their not-so-hidden contempt for democratic processes and contempt for our General Plan.
City Manager Carolyn Lehr
During her tenure at least four houses
in the zone of stability have been demolished
or approved for demolition in accordance

with her recommendations.
As an overseer of the Planning Director, she 

has made sure the City Council has
been unaware the homes were 
in the 
zone of stability as they 
approved destruction.

The ineradicable protections of the zone of stability language notwithstanding, the staff is free to recommend the Council approve a tear down for any home a developer wants to demolish, even those in the zone.  It’s their job to recommend whatever they feel is best, given their encircling directives.  However they are not free to withhold information, especially as derived from our General Plan, that could effect the elected official’s decisions.  Clearly, of all of the houses demolished since 2009, the fact that they were in the zone of stability if made known to the Council, would have affected their decisions about tearing them down.  There is a chance some might have been saved.

The Tattler has alerted the Council and the staff of this governmental breakdown for years but the staff persists in keeping the Council members in the dark regarding homes in the zone of stability.  There’s no conceivable rational argument to be made there’s anything going on here other than a rouge agency pressing its desires by means of deception... and that constitutes contempt.

It should be pointed out that the General Plan represents the will of the people of Emeryville.  The stuff in there is what we want.  We know that by virtue of the fact it’s in the democratically vetted Plan.  We know the staff doesn’t like the General Plan.  It probably feels constraining to them. We know the City Council up to now has not done the people’s bidding with regard to the zone of stability, otherwise at least some of these homes would have been saved over the years.  
We also know that the type of housing protected from demolition by the General Plan, detached single family homes, represent the most family friendly housing there is.  That’s been well documented.  The people of Emeryville had an innate sense of this when they crafted the General Plan.  The elite in Emeryville don’t care about any of that as judged by their record on this.  
Regardless they’re being kept in the dark by the staff, we shouldn’t be facile about this; the Council has been busy tearing down this family friendly housing stock, built before the term ‘family friendly’ was invented, and over the last two or three years, the Council has been trying to build new “family friendly housing” by use of developers.  The result has been disappointing by any metric.  Emeryville continues to be the worst city in the East Bay as far as families go.

The politics in Emeryville is locked.  The pro-developer former City Council majority hired the staff we have and the new ‘progressive’ Council majority so far hasn’t found the strength to impose its own vision for development in our town.  Perhaps it puts too much stock in the juris prudence artifice of stare decisis.  Appearently the people, as they say, will have to wait.
Earns Two Smiling Nora Davis'!
Nora Davis smiles down on her 
hand picked city staff.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Emeryville Police: Babies and Batons

Emeryville sent their police to help Berkeley PD keep the peace at an anti-Nazi rally at Berkeley City Hall today. The peaceful demonstration included many Bay Area social justice organizations, including labor groups such as SEIU and clergy from interfaith groups.  The protest was attended by many families including lots of babies.  Emeryville police were there, in muscular force (if not their awareness of the bad optics) with full riot gear and they donned their gas masks amid the grandmothers and baby carriages.
Notable among the police forces: virtually no other police (including Berkeley and Oakland) had the gas masks on.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: 8/28 10:35  An Emeryville police spokesperson reports that some Berkeley police had gas masks on (perhaps five or so) at the time.  Oakland police did not and neither did the vast majority of Berkeley police.  The babies there also did not have gas masks on.
Today at 1:30 PM in front of Berkeley City Hall, Emeryville sends its representatives:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Follow Up Friday: Pledge of Allegiance Quietly Dropped at School Board Meetings

Loyalty Oath Coercion Deemed Inappropriate at School District 

Follow Up Friday: we look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

First it was the Emeryville City Council meetings, and now it's the Emery School Board meetings: it seems a wave of godless communism has washed over our city.  Or non-divisive rational politics.
A spokesperson from the Emery Unified School District who wishes anonymity reports that Superintendent John Rubio and Board President Donn Merriam have decided the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance has no place at School Board meetings and it's been quietly dropped.

Long Time Coming
After decades of dutifully administering the Pledge before meetings, suddenly the Board announced they would consider eliminating the controversial religious and robotic loyalty oath in 2011 after parents complained.  At the time, then Board President Josh Simon told the Tattler he expected they would eventually remove the Pledge agenda item from meetings but cautioned it would take "more than a month or two" of deliberations.

The Tattler long made hay of the mindless recital of the Pledge, noting it had the effect of cancelling out a self stated School District goal that students learn critical thinking skills.  It was an argument that parents took up, several making their views known to the Board.  In the end, the Board deliberations, if they even occurred, stretched on for six more years before they dropped the god and country 'right or wrong' trope and succumbed to rationality based non-divisive meetings earlier this month.

The City Council voted to remove the loyalty oath from public meetings in January after years of cajoling from the Tattler.  It's noteworthy and likely telling the Council finally took action on this fake patriotism right before President Trump took office, avoiding the unseemly spectacle of Emeryville City Council members effectively pledging their loyalty to Donald Trump.
Watching their lips closely over the last few years, it became more and more obvious that neither the City Council members nor the Board members themselves were actually verbalizing the Pledge after they had been asking the public to "stand and join" them each time.
Emeryville from 1896 to 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Acquiescent City Council End Runs Around Noise Ordinance

All Developers Get Free Pass on 
Noise Ordinance 

New Interpretation Strips Ordinance of Meaning

"Public Benefit" Drives Waivers
Diminished Law Exists Only Now in Name

News Analysis/Opinion
The Emeryville City Council moved to greatly expand the conditions for noise ordinance waiver requests from developers on July 25th when the developer of the Public Marketplace was issued a permit to work on Saturdays in order to “finish the project more quickly”.  The new paradigm revealed itself when the Council majority (Patz, Medina dissenting) ceded to the pleading developer after they found that because the project has public benefit, ipso facto a waiver should therefore be granted.  The bold new idea is that any project that has public benefit should supersede and be allowed to bypass the public’s expectation for peace and quiet. To speed the benefit of the project to the public you understand.

How thoughtful of them.

In fact it was a remarkably egregious City Council assessment that turned a deaf ear to the original precepts for Emeryville’s beleaguered noise ordinance but perhaps more astonishing was not what was said, rather what was left unsaid: every development project approved by the City of Emeryville has public benefit.  They don’t get approved around here if they are found to not have public benefit.  And that means every development from now on gets a carte blanche noise ordinance waiver.  It’s taken as a tautology.  And that means there’s no need for the City of Emeryville to have a noise ordinance any more.
Mayor Scott Donahue &
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez

They swear to get developers their
noise ordinance waivers.

Frankly, we’ll miss watching developers squirm before the cameras.  For the new metrics of the noise ordinance finally puts to bed the endless procession of poor, woeful developers sheepishly appearing before the City Council asking for waivers for a host of reasons including the ever popular ‘rain delay’.  Because rain unexpectedly falling in the rainy season is not something that could be planned for so can you give us a break Emeryville City Council? (because who could have anticipated THAT?), made even more brazenly when it was invoked by Turner Construction as they built the ECCL during last year’s worse ever drought in California.  Sometimes developers will dispense with all that and report they should get a waiver just because they really, really want one (as Wareham Devlopment did recently). 
Each time since the ordinance was encoded, developers seeking waivers have publicly contorted or even debased themselves, the Council has felt their pain and granted a waiver, no matter the reason provided.  The groveling spectacle has brought much comic relief to the sometimes boring Council meetings; watching these greedy developers go through their stations of the cross before the Council (themselves also performing for the cameras, feigning resident fealty), on the road to delivering their maximized quarterly profits to their shareholders.
Vice Mayor John Bauters
It's best if we can speed
up these projects.
The noise ordinance only
slows them down.

The new interpretation of the ordinance; dispensing with the sideshow of developers carping about what constitutes a reasonable hardship and simply granting the waivers pell mell based on speeding up public benefit will certainly speed up the meetings and remove embarrassment for all concerned but we have an even better idea. Let’s stop the charade and finally get rid of this asinine noise ordinance of ours.  It’s never worked as it was intended to and has only served to give a sense of legitimacy for our town (see? Emeryville’s got a noise ordinance too, just like real cities).  

The removal of the Noise Ordinance, if the Council has the cajones to do it, will finally bring some kind of silence, if only poetic;  it’s abolishment will likely happen quietly in the night.  Residents will not notice any change whatsoever in the extra weekend traffic, dust and loud construction.  That goes on unabated in Emeryville, with or without a noise ordinance. 
Earns One Smiling Nora Davis!
Nora Davis Smiles Down on 

Scott Donahue, Dianne Martinez 
and John Bauters.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Follow Up Friday: EBI Pedestrian Path

EBI Path Traded Away, Nothing Gained

City Hall Promises Forsaken

Introducing a new Tattler feature: Follow Up Friday.  We look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

The City of Emeryville has reneged on its own requirement to spend $525,000 to build a replacement pedestrian amenity, money made in trade for removing a developer's requirement to build a bike path at a San Pablo Avenue construction project in 2016.  The EBI pedestrian path, a General Plan mandated pedestrian corridor would have connected 45th and 47th streets and helped pedestrians in the Triangle neighborhood make north/south connections in that notoriously disconnected neighborhood.
The EBI Path was "in the can", all the details worked out and ready for construction.  Residents in the Triangle neighborhood would now be using the path except the City Council in April of 2016 voted to amend our General Plan to remove the path at the insistence of the Escuela Bilingue Internacional, a private school on San Pablo Avenue.
At the time, the City Council told Triangle residents they needed more exercise and the removal of the short-cut path would force them to walk more, a good thing.  Providing other reasons to remove the pedestrian amenity, the Council also stated the path would be a safety risk and asserted gang rapists would be lurking there.
Nonetheless, after giving away the path, the Council told Emeryville residents they would use the in-leau fees paid by EBI to instead make a replacement path connecting the same streets but further east.  The Tattler reported that switch would cost an additional million dollars at least but the City officially continued to work towards that goal.
Until recently.
The mid-block replacement connection nixed, City Hall has now also ruled out using the EBI money to open the long lost "Pickle Works" path connecting Doyle and 53rd streets, long a source of frustration for bikers and walkers seeking convenience in our town and once talked about as an alternate thing to spend the EBI money on.  High costs associated with seizing the property from a private land holder is cited as the reason.

Any replacement path would cost more than the $525,000 the City got from EBI and the budget being in turmoil at City Hall such that it is, it appears pedestrian needs, once traded away, will not be addressed by Emeryville. City Hall has no plans whatsoever to replace the lost EBI pedestrian path, the money remains unspent and pedestrian needs unmet.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Alameda County District Attorney Brings Charges in Emery Sexual Assault Case

District Attorney's Charge Questions Emery Schools Superintendent's Aplomb

Rubio Twists in the Wind

News that the Alameda County District Attorney's office has brought charges against a 17 year old student for sexually assaulting a 15 year old at Emery Secondary School last May and not reported to police by the Superintendent brings fresh allegations in the ongoing story against the Superintendent who continues to claim he was correct to not call the police upon learning of the assault.  News of the charges brought by the County was reported by East Bay Times investigative reporter Matthias Gafni today who also alerted readers that Emeryville's Chief of Police has backtracked on initial reports that Mr Rubio had violated mandated reporter law by not calling the police after he learned about the alleged assault (along with another alleged assault the week before at Emery).
Mr Rubio's insistence he did nothing wrong by not calling the police is refuted by Bill Grimm, senior attorney for the National Center for Youth Law whom the East Bay Times story quotes, "School personnel mistakenly believe that they need to conduct some investigation of suspected abuse/neglect before they report [to police]...If in doubt, report!"

The mandated reporter law requires professionals who work with children, including teachers, school administrators, psychologists and others to notify police or child protective services when they receive a report of alleged abuse.  The law states that “No proof of abuse or neglect is needed, only ‘reasonable suspicion’ that child abuse or neglect may have occurred.” 
Emery Schools Superintendent
John Rubio

He says he knows the children lied
about the assaults.  The Alameda County
District Attorney believes the children.
The Superintendent has invoked a clause within the mandated reporter law that permits someone such as a school superintendent to not report if there is absolute certainty no crime happened.  For Mr Rubio, who was not witness to the alleged crimes, to not be guilty of the law's failure to report provisions, he would have to have no doubt whatsoever that the incidents did not take place and be in a position to provide reasonable evidence to support that claim.

However, Mr Rubio's claim is severely weakened by the fact that the guardians of the abused children thought the assaults had taken place and they themselves, without the District's help, filed police reports.  Further eroding Mr Rubio's claims of innocence is today's revelation from the East Bay Times that Alameda County puts enough stock in the belief that at least one assault took place that they directed prosecutors to bring charges in the case.

The East Bay Times story reveals another case of twisted logic needed to clear the Superintendent in our town.  In an interview with the Times and its 500,000+ circulation, Emeryville's Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada appears to be protecting Superintendent Rubio.  Regarding what the newspaper calls a "backtrack" on Mr Rubio's culpability, Chief Tejada is now positing that Superintendent Rubio could not have known for certain that assaults did not take place and also simultaneously that it is acceptable that he did know that with certainty and that he is therefore innocent of violating the mandated reporter law.  For its part, the Alameda County District Attorney says there is not enough evidence against Mr Rubio to bring charges for violating the notoriously difficult to prosecute mandated reporter law.

Emeryville City Council members have expressed desire to further investigate the case involving Superintendent Rubio and the Emery Unified School District to whom they are contractually bound to with the city/schools campus at the Center of Community Life, the site of the alleged sexual assaults.

The Tattler broke the story HERE.

The East Bay Times story is HERE.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

We Need a New Schools Superintendent: Time For Rubio To Go

Three Board Members Hold Emery's Future in Their Hands

It has become increasingly clear that it is time for the Emery School Board to fire Emery Schools Superintendent John Rubio.
Seemingly every week, fresh revelations centered on the Superintendent brings the drip, drip, drip of more scandal to a District that's already up to its neck in it.
This last week we are spectators to the ECCL warranty train wreak: the Superintendent hiding the fact that the District only has a few months left on the construction warranty for the new ECCL schools/community center campus, the remainders of just one year, after assuring us for months we would have two full years.  Taxpayers will likely be left holding the bag on a poorly built project, with no recompense because we'll have run out of time to effect repairs under warranty.
A thorough investigation of the construction defects at the ECCL, actively (albeit reluctantly) under discussion by the Board, becomes more imperative with the revelation of the new time constraint.  But in a one-two punch to the taxpayers, this is unlikely because of obstinacy from the Superintendent.  As such, Mr Rubio let his insubordination flag fly last month when he told the Board that he wouldn't be willing to do work towards initiating any audit of the ECCL project, neither construction, performance nor financial.

It was pretty unseemly hearing a superintendent tell his employers he won't do as he's told but three years into the Rubio administration at Emery, we weren't really surprised.  Before last week's scandals, Mr Rubio has been called out for racism by the teachers, accused of breaking the law by hindering transparency by community members, chastised by a City Council member for not paying taxes for the District, failed to provide required documents to the press, booed by parents at an after school celebration (!), charged with holding secret white staff only interviews, and yet another teacher has resigned from the district, despite the Superintendent's assertion that would not happen, bringing the total this school year (2016-2017) to fourteen, fifteen if you include the Elementary Principal.
That degradation only adds to another Rubio fiasco; the deplorable state of teacher retention at Emery, the worst of any school district in the entire Bay Area on his watch.  And of course we shouldn't leave out mention of the 'mandated reporter' scandal; Superintendent Rubio's failing to call police after two reported cases of student sexual assault on campus.  Parents believed their children's accounting and went to the police with the assault allegations on their own but the Superintendent said the students were lying and he never notified the police of the incidents as the law states he must (please use the search bar above for more information on all these scandals).

Indeed, Mr Rubio's entire term here at Emery has been one scandal after another, starting his first week on the job when, without even a cursory public records check,  he hired a well documented sexual predator to serve as principal of the elementary school, costing the District almost $100,000.  Mr Rubio's penchant for secrecy net Emery at least two disparaging newspaper articles by the East Bay Times after he orchestrated a major Brown Act violation.  He was caught holding a behind closed doors meeting in his office with a Board quorum before a regularly scheduled Board meeting.  Under discussion at the secret meeting were fiscal matters, as the District was preparing to sell another municipal bond. After at first lying about the meeting, he later apologized after the East Bay Times made hay of it.

As reported in the Tattler, on June 15th, nine individuals spoke to Rubio's racism and incompetence. Board members Donn Merriam, Cruz Vargas, and Bailey Langer sat in disinterested silence as the parade of disgruntled educators described the toxic environment Rubio has created at the ECCL.  Given the number of speakers and information covered, Mr Rubio took the video of the meeting home to "prepare the minutes." The result was a white wash of the Board minutes; all reference to his poor job performance scrubbed from the official record of the meeting.  
The Board's refusal to rewrite the minutes to accurately document the teacher's charges against Mr Rubio tells us this Board majority isn't interested in doing the work needed to provide a base level of stability or competency any education agency needs to properly function, let alone teach children.  
And that is at the root of Emery's existential problems; a deluded and compliant board majority in the thrall of a dysfunctional superintendent.  Outwardly, this is a seemingly intractable problem for Emery.  That's why we need to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of this thing; cause a change up.  We've been demoralized having now had two bad superintendents in a row.  But we don't believe in fate or the turpitude of original sin.  We're not paying now for some past horrific transgression; we can find a good superintendent for this beleaguered school district.  There are good people out there, we could find one.  Any change in leadership will almost certainly bring relief to the long suffering citizens, teachers, parents and children of Emery Unified.

For these reasons, we call on Board members Donn Merriam, Cruz Vargas, and Bailey Langner, so far inextricably standing by the Superintendent, to acquiesce to the ceaseless drip, drip, drip and fire Rubio now for cause (plenty of that) as opposed to waiting out the end of his contract.

Bailey Langner
Donn Merriam

Cruz Vargas

The three Board members above need to stop looking out after the interests of John Rubio and start looking out after our interests: citizens, parents and children.  We don't deserve all this chaos.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oops! Construction Warranty on New $100 Million School Covers One Year, Not Two

Forced into a corner, Emeryville School Superintendent John Rubio reveals construction warranty ends in a 
matter of months.

By Lillian Schroth

Emeryville School Superintendent John Rubio notified the School Board and City Council Monday that the construction warranty on the city’s new $100 million school campus – plagued by ongoing construction problems since it opened last fall – expires in just a few short months.

This despite repeated public assurances from Rubio and the liaison for builder Turner Construction that any problems with the city-school project, known as the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL), would be covered under warranty through 2018.
Superintendent John Rubio
Claims he "just found out."

Perhaps more surprising is Rubio’s failure to notify the School Board and City Council sooner. Despite the looming deadline, and a long list of needed repairs, Rubio sat on the information for weeks. In fact, he shared the news only after repeated questioning from this reporter, saying he "just found out."

Rubio disclosed the truth Monday night after a meeting of the Measure J Citizens Oversight Committee (COC), which is charged with monitoring school project expenditures. After the meeting, several COC members were questioned about significant, ongoing issues with the building. COC member Josh Simon, former Emeryville School Board President and director of a non-profit that builds affordable housing, said it was important that the district submit a “warranty list” within year one of the warranty to ensure repairs are made.

When asked when that first year of the two-year warranty was up, Rubio said he wasn't sure. When pressed, he said “I think” the entire warranty is actually only one year (not two) from the time construction was completed last fall. He also suggested that the warranty period might be different for different buildings. For example, the gym was the first building to be completed, he said, so the warranty for that would expire first.

When asked if he had told the School Board, he said “I think I told one or two members.”

Shortly after the Monday evening discussion, Rubio sent an email to the entire School Board and City Council notifying them of the update. He explained there had been a "miscommunication" around the length of the warranty.

“It’s Kind of a Big Mistake”

Rubio insisted that he had “just found out,” as did John Baker of Swinerton Construction, the high-priced middle man between the School District and Turner. Baker was tasked with monitoring, negotiating, and communicating construction details and costs. The School District recently closed out the Swinerton/Baker contract for more than $1 million.

“It’s kind of a big mistake,” Rubio said Monday of Baker’s failure to know and/or communicate the limited warranty period.

In a follow up email exchange today, Rubio explains:

I didn’t recall specifically how this came to light so I went back to search my email and discovered it was a conversation that you actually prompted in mid-May as an email question to John Baker.
This resulted in a conversation between him and Turner, where Turner told John Baker it was a 1 year warranty.
That later resulted in another response that Swinerton disagreed and had different documents that showed 2 years.
I asked an attorney who reviewed their email (and … was involved in the ECCL construction contract negotiations between the city, district and Turner in 2014), and he was able to identify and confirm that outside of items specifically calling for longer warranties (e.g. the roof), all other areas fall under a one year warranty. 

John Baker, the $1 Million Man
Despite his very expensive advice and
monitoring, the School District
suffered costly mistakes.
Perhaps he was one of them.
John Baker’s May 19th response to the email question cited by Rubio above: “The warranty started at Final Completion (12/5/16). The Lease-leaseback contract stipulates a 2-year warranty period.” He never followed up with the public, the School Board or the City Council, when he realized his mistake.

It is possible that Baker, and perhaps Rubio, knew much sooner. During a March 25 School Board meeting, Baker presented a slide that showed the warranty expiring at the end of this year. Rubio nor the School Board questioned it. When a local resident did, Baker said it was a “typo.”

In a series of progress reports to the Board prior to March, Baker said the project was covered under a two-year warranty.

In an email sent today, Rubio said “city staff and I have confirmed that the warranty period allows us to submit items up until 12/5/17.”

He added, “It’s my understanding that the standard for construction projects of this size only usually have a 1-year warranty.”

Two Year Warranty(?)
John Baker presentation slide to the School Board
August 24th, 2016
He said there are several items that have longer, manufacturer warranties including door hardware and “Package Terminal” air conditioners.

Two Year Warranty(?)
John Baker presentation slide to the School Board
January 25th, 2017
Following are Rubio’s email answers to questions about the warranty period, the warranty list, including rusting gates, and a possible audit of Measure J/ECCL funds. (The exchange has been edited down for readability.)

Q: When did you make the call on the metal to be used on the gates? … So, you got ungalvanized when it was supposed to be galvanized?

A: I am upset by this issue. The city and district had a long list of items we considered to save money. It was not, unfortunately, ever pointed out to me or the city staff that the original gates/gate design came back into the project (and I believe off of the budget savings list) in a different form that meant that they would not be galvanized – and more importantly, no one explained or communicated the implications or importance of this. In other words, I don’t believe I was ever specifically asked to make a decision about the gates as one particular item (i.e. they were part of a very long list of potential savings items), and certainly I wasn’t informed of the pro’s or con’s (or any information that I recall) regarding this. If you were told otherwise, I think that’s false. Turner is being responsive to this issue and they are returning in the next couple weeks to redo the gates.

Q. How much did we pay John Baker and what was his formal job title/role/responsibility?

A. I am not aware of his salary – or what other projects or jobs he managed besides ECCL during our project. The overall budget for everything going into this project seemed to me to be always set to be as low as possible to attempt to keep the project below a specific amount the council had in mind for several years – that seemed to be the mindset when I arrived - the problem (or reality) was that the economy and thus bay area construction costs were quickly going up when the project was finally approved in August of 2014 – so the amount paid to Swinerton, Turner, and all the subs I think created some limitations to the amount of time and staff (and design) of the project.

Q. One more thing - you said you were organizing some kind of meeting with all the people involved in the project - architects, turner, etc. What is the purpose and what school board meeting is it scheduled for? Are you thinking this is in place of an audit?

A. I haven’t made progress on this yet, but I was planning on having all of the entities present to the board and take questions so the board could determine if they believed an audit was needed. 


Lillian Schroth is a journalist, activist and founder/editor of The Secret News, a local blog (currently on hiatus).  She has lived in Emeryville for 14 years.