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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Basketball Controversy at Sherwin Williams Park: Who Are Parks For?

PARC Group Sees Basketball Court as Threatening to Their Neighborhood

Planning Commission Says Park Should 
Be For Everyone:
Let Basketball Be Played

News Analysis
"Destination Park"
Fitness and fun maybe but look who
might show up in our neighborhood if we
build a basketball court in our new park.
As the Sherwin Williams development firms up final plans for the 10 acre mostly residential project site on Horton Street, a new point of contention has risen regarding a proposed basketball court in the public park for the site, questioning whether public parks in Emeryville should really be public grounds or rather be defacto private grounds.  
At issue outwardly, is whether at the Sherwin site there should just be a single basketball hoop or an actual court for games to be played, leaving unsaid questions of xenophobia and possible racial motivations behind the insistence of neighborhood locals to keep 'outsiders' out of the public park.  The locals are insisting the new park not become a “destination park”.    

A majority of Planning Commissioners have said since there’s plenty of space for a full basketball court, people should be allowed to play games in their new park but a group of residents insist that a court would draw people from outside the immediate neighborhood to play basketball games.  
An exclusive group of residents that have banded together to weigh in on the Sherwin Williams project called Park Avenue Residents Committee (PARC), has announced that they find a basketball court unacceptable.  “We support keeping the basketball area as an informal hardscape with a basketball hoop, rather than a formal full size basketball court” the group said in a November 10th position paper meant for the City Council's purview.  Reasons as to why a full court is unacceptable were not offered by PARC. 

Emeryville Planning Commissioner
Miguel Guerrero

Thinks a basketball court is a good idea.
'I'm dying to have a place to play in town.'
As the Sherwin Williams project moves along its approval process, so far proponents for the single basketball hoop ‘non-destination park’ are winning the argument as far as providing for this kind of “urban” recreation at the new park.  But a majority of Planning Commissioners are unmoved by any dog whistle verbiage, racial or xenophobic,  embedded in the ‘destination park’ argument.  Planning Commissioner Miguel Guerrero said at an October 26th Planning Commission meeting on the topic, “Right now it’s a half of a court and here in the city, I’m dying to have a place where I can go and play a game of basketball.”  Commissioner Steven Keller joined him, adding that he didn’t see why people shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball at the new park, “It’s a very popular sport, it’s a definite way for people to get their fitness and be outside” he said.

The PARC group, exclusive in its membership, is adamant however that there be only a single hoop and the dreaded ‘destination’ concept, what they derisively call a “recreation center” has been strongly rejected they say by the whole community that they claim to speak for.  PARC favors instead that the park be a “recreation area.”  The group gave no distinction between these two concepts, seemingly nearly analogous in their lexicon but apparently existentially divergent in their practice somehow.  PARC is advising the City Council that a basketball court, if one must be built, be located in some other place in the city, not in their backyard.  

Ultimately the City Council will decide the question of just who we’re building this park for; the whole community or just local (mostly white, presumably non-basketball playing) neighbors. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville
Hello friends and neighbors!
Please join us Saturday, Nov. 18 for the next meeting of RULE, and help make Emeryville a great place to live and work!
Doyle Street Co-Housing
5514 Doyle Street (Common Room, 1st floor)
10 AM to noon 
Share a late breakfast and coffee, meet your progressive neighbors, and speak your mind!  We encourage residents to bring up issues of concern.

Here's our agenda so far:
  • Emeryville School District: declining enrollment, low test scores, and an exodus of roughly 40 teachers in just two years. We would like to have an open, creative discussion with parents, teachers, and residents about what they think can and should be done to improve the quality of education provided by the Emeryville School District. Please spread the word to anyone you think would contribute to the conversation.
  • The Incorruptables:  Anna Callahan of The Incorruptables will talk about the organization and how RULE might contribute to its work. The Incorruptables works to elect officials at all levels of government who will fight for economic, racial, environmental, and social justice. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Emery is Failing to Support & Care For Children Says California Department of Education

Study Shows Emery Fails to Engage/Support Students

Children Don't Have an Adult on Campus They Feel Cares About Them

Children Don't Feel Safe at ECCL Says DoE

A new study released by the State of California shows the schools at Emeryville's Center of Community Life failing to provide students with a safe campus and Emery Unified School District failing to support and engage students there.  The study, called the School Climate Index (SCI) and conducted for the Department of Education reveals Emery failing students in 'overall support and engagement', scoring single percentile digits against other school districts in the state.  But Emery is doing above average as far as providing a campus with low violence and low substance abuse among students the study also shows as revealed by surveys and interviews with students, parents and teachers.
Since 2011 however, the first year Emery participated in the statewide SCI survey, there has been a steady downward trend in student support and engagement.

For 2017, Emery High School emerged with a SCI score of 198 out of 500 in the domain of 'overall support & engagement' putting it in the bottom 2% of all schools statewide.  When compared with schools of a similar demographic, Emery rises but only just to the bottom 6% of schools statewide the study shows.  The two worst scoring sub-domains for Emery in the Index are 'high expectations and caring relationships' and 'school connectedness' both of which placed the school at the bottom 1% statewide or the bottom 2% when compared with schools of a similar demographic.  According to the study, it can be shown definitively that a clear majority of students at Emery don't feel there is an adult at the school that cares for them, they don't feel close to anyone at the school and they don't like being at the school.

Emery Unified isn't alone to blame for the bad numbers however; the District's partner, the City of Emeryville helped shepherd the Center of Community Life and that built facility net a SCI score of 228 for '[student]perceived school safety'.  That puts our new bond funded $200+ million campus in the bottom 8% for perceived safety among students statewide, hardly a ringing affirmation of the 'community' part of the ECCL.  Either through the campus as built or the programs run by Emery Unified School District or a combination of both, the students attending school every day on the new campus don't feel safe, a likely contributing factor in Emery's low academic achievement numbers.
Another contributing factor in Emery's low student support and engagement SCI numbers is the extremely low rate of teacher retention since Superintendent John Rubio was hired.  Supporting documents for the study indicate high teacher turnover, especially among veteran teachers alienates students and drives down student/school connectedness and engagement, both critical for effective student learning.  Accordingly, the Tattler has reported on how Emery's slide in academic achievement since Mr Rubio took over has translated into the District becoming the second worse ranked school district in the entire Bay Area.

The School Climate Index documents Emery's fall since 2011 in overall student support and engagement when the high school scored higher than average.  That year Emery ranked 77% compared with 25% this year and most of the fall has been in the student support and engagement domain.  The biggest fail has been in the category of 'caring relationships' where children feel there is an adult on the campus that cares about them; that has fallen from an above average 359 points in 2011 to just 200 now, and that translates now to the bottom 1% ranking (2% as compared with school districts of a similar demographic).

The SCI shows the District is clearly failing in its charge to educate and care for our children and the School Board will take up discussion of the disturbing trends revealed by the Index starting Wednesday but it is unlikely they will take action since the majority of members have repeatedly shown they will stand by Mr Rubio.  They have shown no propensity to be moved by the constant stream of bad numbers hitting the District and hence the children, be it teacher retention, academic performance or school ranking generated by the Superintendent since they hired him.

Emery scores for 2011 and 2014
Broken out are the categories in the two domains (overall support/engagement
and violence/substance abuse).  Together the combined score is called the SCI score.

Emery SCI scores for 2011 and 2014.

Emery scores for 2017
Broken out into categories

Emery Scores for 2017As translated into percentiles.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Follow Up Friday: Racist Stereotyping at Police Department Taken Care Of

Emeryville City Hall Stops Police Department 
Racist Stereotyping

'It's Being Taken Care Of' Says City Manager

At 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.

After the Tattler twice reported on the racist nature of the Emeryville Police Department’s monthly crime blotter posted on the City’s website, the City Manager has moved to banish the formerly steadfast racist posts.  The Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada, had been outed by the Tattler in two stories, one in December 2016 and another in February 2017 for injecting racist stereotyping into the City's official crime report.
 City Manager Carolyn Lehr acted after she received complaints from City Council members, by ordering the Chief to stop using overt racist stereotypes in the blotter.  Ms Lehr told the Tattler, “It’s being taken care of” some months ago in response to questions about if the City’s website would continue to post a suspect’s race as the only identifying quality of reported crime perpetrators the blotter chronicles.  

Emeryville Police Chief Jennifer Tejada 
The oath of office doesn't include perpetuating
racist stereotypes.
The monthly crime blotter reports crime in the city and gives descriptions of the suspects as they are given to the police from citizens. The blotter reports specific crimes, their locations, time and a description of the suspect(s) if known.  Sometimes the get-away vehicle is described or direction of travel of the suspect.  Physical descriptions of the suspects commonly include sex, height, weight, age, race, facial hair, hair length/color and distinguishing body characteristics.  The idea is to provide the public with information that could possibly lead to capture of criminals in our town.  The problem before the Tattler shone a light on it was that commonly the blotter would only report the suspect’s race (usually black) with no other identifying characteristics, leaving no way for the public to help the police capture a perpetrator.  That valueless description could only help perpetuate racist stereotyping.

Despite the Tattler stories on the subject, Chief Tejada initially stood by her racist blotter posts until she was forced by the City Manager to stop.  Now Emeryville’s monthly crime blotter leaves off a suspect’s race unless it is accompanied by other distinguishing characteristics, the way other cities in the Bay Area report crimes. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Emery's Costs Per Student Among Highest in the Bay Area

Emery Unified:  High Cost, Low Performance

$14,713 Per Student

News Analysis
Considering the fact that Emeryville is so robustly growing and its residents are so highly educated (70.5% with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, among the highest averages in the Bay Area), one would think the school district here would likely reflect the high value residents conspicuously place in education. Yet the reality is Emery Unified School District is highly dysfunctional and becoming more so over time; its schools fading, enrollment and test scores dropping, even in the face of a rising city. 

Tracking a slide in test scores and a resultant drop in ranking among Bay Area school districts, the Tattler has shown how Emery Unified School District has suffered from a lack of leadership especially over the last three years.  However not reported in the October 24th story is spending; is Emeryville spending enough to get the results we expect?  The answer is an anomaly; it's not for a lack of money, Emeryville spends more on its school kids per student than all our neighbors do even while the same neighboring school districts far outpace Emery in academic ranking.  
Bay Area school districts generally spend more than the statewide average of $11,176 per student.  A quick look at the numbers is revealing; Oakland Unified spends $13,813 per pupil, Berkeley comes in at $14,367 while Piedmont Unified, one of the State’s highest scoring school districts spends even more at $14,561.  Emery spends $14,713, the third highest in the State of California among districts our size*.  For all Emeryville's spending, our district ranks the second lowest academically in the entire Bay Area.  

Emery is hamstrung over the fact that its small size exacerbates State mandates that each district must meet, making us provide the same minimums as large districts who can spread costs over a larger budget.  This means Emery must pay more for administration as a percentage of its budget than the larger districts.  A look at our neighbor's costs confirms this; both Oakland and Berkeley have 8% admin costs while Piedmont, even though it’s smaller than those two spends 7% of its budget on administration costs, bucking the trend.  Emery’s administrative costs are 13%.   
However, because we've had two successive superintendents binging on hiring more administrators, even when compared with other school districts its size, Emery’s admin costs are still very high.  Only one school district in California, Modoc Joint Unified, comes in higher (16%), but Modoc’s per pupil spending is only $10,200, almost a third less than Emery’s.  Statewide, the administrative average for all school districts is 6%.

Emery: Expensive and Top Heavy
California's small school districts weigh in.  At an average daily attendance of 665, Emery spends almost $15,000 per pupil with an administrative cost percentage of 13%, more than most school districts its size in both categories.
The high cost per student combined with the high administration costs would tend to give credit to those who increasingly argue Emery Unified should merge with Berkeley Unified, the likely increase in student academic performance that move would net notwithstanding.  This possibility of melding with Berkeley Unified is being compared with when the Emeryville Fire Department merged with Alameda County Fire Department several years ago netting Emeryville residents a better service profile for far less money.  Emery’s academic scoring would likely improve and its regrettable costs per student would probably change for the better were such a merging of the two districts take place.
*Numbers are for 2016, the last year reported by the State

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance is Back at Emery!

President Trump Would be Pleased to Know Jesus is Back at Emery!

Colin Kaepernick: If You Ever Find Yourself in Emeryville, Keep Traveling

Yes, THAT Jesus.  After a four month hiatus, the Pledge of Allegiance is back at Emery Unified School District, in all its God fearing automaton-like saccharine inducing patriotic glory.  It would appear the Tattler's story back last August on the demise of the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance at Emery Unified School District was premature.  Or maybe the School Board voted to reinstate the Oath (3-2; Inch & Langner dissenting) taken at the start of every meeting BECAUSE of the Tattler.  Either way, under God, the Board can read the tea leaves and they think this kind of symbolic patriotism is de regueur in this age of Donald Trump.
So it's hats off, hands on hearts and to hell with critical thinking at Emery Unified.  Children must learn to support the government, right or wrong, no matter what.  Next comes ROTC, morning flag drills and bonnets for the girls at our patriotic little school district.

Praise be to God, Jesus, President Trump and Board member Cruz Vargas, the true blue American, for bringing this back to Emery.

10/25/17 Video Communist Alert: Listen closely and you'll hear Board President Donn Merriam (center) forsake God during the Pledge.  Board member Barbara Inch (right...should be left) doesn't even partake at all, a tell-tale sign of a godless communist.

Number 7 is not welcome at Emery Unified School District.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ECCL Ineffective in Raising Student Enrollment: Drop Continues

Emery Student Enrollment Continues Slide

New ECCL Campus Has No Effect
Promised Increase a Chimera 

Despite building the ambitious Emeryville Center of Community Life campus two years ago, a bond funded whole new campus that school district officials had widely touted as a fail safe remedy for perennially sagging student enrollment figures, newly released enrollment data at Emery Unified School District reveals that the district is having ongoing troubles attracting children.  Year two into the ECCL era, the gleaming new school campus has shown little to no effect on raising the perniciously dropping student enrollment.  
In fact, the numbers show it's gotten worse; the district is in a multi-year general downward trend that's culminated in 698 students enrolled in 2015/16, the year before taxpayers built the new $75 million campus, dropping to 687 for the first year at ECCL followed by slight uptick this year at 692, but still lower than before the ECCL. 

Emery has been plagued with poor leadership; a series of failing superintendents cycling through every three or so years, resulting in plunging test scores and a dropped ranking, landing the beleaguered little district at the bottom among East Bay school districts as the Tattler reported October 8th.  Also discouraging for district officials is the consistently low numbers of Emeryville residents with children who attend Emery schools.  Last year 46% of children at Emery resided in Emeryville, a number that has remained stuck below 50% for years.

The School Board plans a big turn around for Emery in the form of a new set of guidelines for the District that includes bumping up enrollment including the ratio of Emeryville residents attending Emery, dramatically increasing teacher retention and a big increase in test scores.  Board member Cruz Vargas drafted the new guidelines that he forwarded to the Board at a recent meeting but he didn't say how the new goals would be met.  The Board has not yet voted on the new guidelines.

School districts receive money based on the number of students enrolled and the continuing drop for Emery has had a deleterious effect on the budget, resulting in cut backs over the years.
 Superintendent John Rubio didn't return calls regarding Emery's newly released dropping enrollment numbers.

CORRECTION 10/24 8:35 am: The School Board did not vote on the new guidelines as reported.  The story has since been updated.
Total Enrollment Emery Unified School District

Emery Secondary School (high school) Total number of Enrolled Students

There were 20 more K students in 2015-16, which is what accounted 
for the enrollment increase. It off set the high school drop. 
From 15-16 to 16-17, the drop was in K with increase of plus 2 in 6th,  
plus 5 in 7th, plus 3 in 9th and 10th.  Also noteworthy is the drop from 
10th grade in 2014-15 to 12th grade in 16-17 and the actual graduation 
number which could be as low as 30.  
Following the cohort from K in 2014-15. The group started with 63 kids, 
most of them likely Emeryville residents, 
now there are 43 students in that cohort. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Progressive neighbors making our city a great place to live and work 
Next Meeting:  After a summer hiatus we're back at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., October 21, 10:00 - 12:00
        Council Member Dianne Martinez is guest speaker:  to be discussed.... your concerns (let us know)!
        School Board member Barbara Inch initiates forum on Emeryville families:  "How to attract and retain families in Emeryville"
Bring breakfast and tea provided 

 All welcome...See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cop in Schools Idea Causes Meltdown Between City Council & School Board Member

Cop on Campus?:
Rift Between City Council and School Board Member Opens

Board Member Vargas Makes a Power Play

Testy Exchanges at Meeting

Vargas to Subvert Will of the Council

In an impassioned imbroglio played out before the cameras on October 5th, Emery School Board member Cruz Vargas, citing student discipline problems at the ECCL campus, proposed to fellow members of the City/School Committee that a full time Emeryville police officer with the right to arrest students exhibiting behavior issues be provided and paid for by the City of Emeryville.  It was an idea that landed with a resounding thud but not before the City Council members present directed a strongly stated contradictory barrage at Mr Vargas leaving him pained but undaunted, pledging to take his idea on the road and go around the holders of the purse strings, straight to parents.  Surprisingly, the cost to the City for such an officer, likely more than $100,000 per year, was hardly even mentioned by the City Council members, concerned as they were over what they characterized as the inappropriateness of the whole thing.  

School Board member
Cruz Vargas

He's going over the City Council's heads
and take his cop in the school
show on the road.
The ‘cop in the school’ idea, called a ‘school resources officer’ (SRO), has many critics but regardless been used by some school districts to bring 'order'.  However, in schools with large numbers of black and brown children, it has been universally panned by pedagogical experts, social justice champions and those concerned with equity issues nation wide.  Police officers trained in arresting adults, thrust into an environment where normal adolescent behavior can be misconstrued as criminal activity, SROs have been credited with contributing to the oft referenced ‘school to prison pipeline’ especially for young African Americans, what Council member Christian Patz calls a “reframe to criminality”. 
Regardless of the popularity of SROs among law and order types, the City Council attendees at the meeting took their turns joining with member Patz soundly rejecting member Vargas’ SRO objective, notably Council member John Bauters who delivered a memorably devastating and indelible riposte from the dais (see link below).  Admonishing Mr Vargas’ claim the SRO would be good for the police as well as the children, Councilman Bauters countered that schools are “not a place for PR for police” adding, “When cops encounter children who are acting like children, their instinct in many cases its treat them with the training they know.”  He talked at length on the negative effects ‘over policing’ has on many African American children before he clarified that he is not anti-police, and specifically not anti Emeryville police he stressed.

Council member Ally Medina expressed concern over inequity resulting from the use of SROs that academic studies have shown.  Noting the lack of training police have in dealing with child psychology, a problem that in America skews against schools with high levels of minority students like Emery, Councilwoman Medina quoted such studies when she addressed member Vargas, “Suspension levels are higher for minority children in heavily secured schools” she said.

Council member Christian Patz told his colleagues member Vargas had not presented a cogent reason why a police officer is even needed at ECCL, noting a lack of complaints over student behavior issues and the large numbers of administrators and teachers on the campus that has a palliative effect on discipline, let alone any possible criminal behavior.  Mr Patz counted 13 administrators on campus making for a top heavy 1:53 admin to student ratio.  If teachers are added, that makes it a 1:14 ratio and if the entire adult staff on campus is added, then there is a 1:10 ratio with students, an extremely large percentage among school districts.  Besides the highly monitored effect this large number of adults watching over the children has on tamping down bad behavior, it is also a primary reason why Emery spends so much money per student, higher than all neighboring school districts it was noted.  Mr Patz reminded Mr Vargas of Emery's low suspension rates and high attendance numbers to further illustrate his point that an SRO is not needed.

"I don't know what it was in my remarks that 
led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  
I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it".
-Council member Christian Patz

With a recalcitrant Board member Cruz Vargas and an equally oppositional City Council, a testy exchange between the Council members and member Vargas ensued.  Despite a united front of the City Council against the SRO proposal, the five individuals Mr Vargas would have to sway to pay for it, he saw fit to counter attack, perhaps giving hint to his next move.  After warning them he would go directly to parents to force the issue he scolded the City Council, “I don’t appreciate this issue being politicized” he said adding with vituperative finish, “the majority of the people at this table are out of touch with the parents.”  
Driving his point, member Vargas said he had been to a PTO meeting and gleaned, “the vast majority of parents in the school” support his SRO idea to which Councilwoman Dianne Martinez, who’s husband was at that meeting fired back, “I don’t appreciate you speaking for me as a parent” after asking if he was sure about his “vast majority” deduction, she questioned him; “Are you extrapolating?”   Mr Vargas shot back that the Board supports his SRO idea prompting Mr Patz to inquire, “Are you speaking for the whole Board?”  After some retrenching speech by member Vargas when Board member Barbara Inch volunteered she is not in favor of the SRO idea, it was revealed the School Board had only voted to place the issue on a future agenda to discuss it.  Having caught Mr Vargas in the fabrication of Board support, Mr Patz pounced, “[Putting it on an agenda is] very different than saying the Board supports it. It says the Board supports talking about it”

To get his cop in the school idea funded, these are
the five people Cruz Vargas needs to convince. 
It's the same five he has gone to war with

After the City Council members finally all had their say, none of it supportive of the SRO idea, member Vargas told everyone present he would hold a town hall type meeting about this and that he was happy the City Council was open to the idea of bringing a police officer to the ECCL campus and spending taxpayer money for it.  He thanked the Council for "having an open mind on this" and for their receptiveness for holding a town hall meeting.  Council member Christian Patz was incredulous upon hearing that, "I apologize, I don't know what it was in my remarks that led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it" he said.  Council member John Bauters was less circumspect, "Not one Council member should have given the impression to you [that a police officer on the campus is a good idea]. It would be political adventure for you to hold some sort of meeting to do what we have told you is not of interest to us" he protested. 

The entire dramatic City/School Committee meeting may be viewed HERE.
John Bauter's historic speech within the meeting may be viewed HERE.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Emery Schools Drop Precipitously: Now Below Oakland Unified

Emery Ranks Last in East Bay

Three Straight Years of Lowering Test Scores 
Yields Second Worst District in Bay Area Status

Emery Unified School District is reeling after the State of California finally released last spring’s academic testing data, revealing its drop in its ranking to the lowest in the East Bay as test scores have fallen for the third straight year according to the annually conducted California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP).  The bad news for Emery was presaged by a ‘sneak peak’ in mid September when three year Emery Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio, pre-released some of the test score data, possibly with an eye to soften the blow of the precipitous drop in ranking as compared with neighboring school districts shown by the CAASPP report.
 Despite Superintendent Rubio’s attempt to spin the bad news, on his watch, academic performance at Emery has consistently dropped, records show.  

The data just released by Sacramento shows an Emery Unified School District in crisis academically.  The district has become the worst scoring in the East Bay, ranking now lower than districts it was above just four years ago including West Contra County, Pittsburg, San Leandro, Hayward and Oakland (who improved their scores last year).  A quick purview of districts throughout the entire Bay Area shows Emery as second only to Ravenswood Unified in East Palo Alto, a district that consistently ranks as among the lowest in the entire state.

The test score data was announced by City Council member Christian Patz at the City/Schools meeting on Wednesday at the ECCL campus.  Mr Patz made the announcement, which included a handout he furnished, as part of a point he was making as the district was pressing its case for installing a police officer at the ECCL campus, a tangent for that agenda item.  Mr Rubio had earlier, during agenda negotiations for the meeting,  refused to allow any CAASPP test data discussion as an agenda item for the Committee.  The Superintendent, who appeared visibly annoyed by Mr Patz’s action, nonetheless refused to answer Tattler questions about why the testing data should not be an agenda item for the Committee.  It should be noted that the City/Schools Committee, a liaison group consisting of all the elected officials of Emeryville (the City Council and the School Board), invests itself with helping provide "quality education" as one of its goals. 

Test score data, especially from a single year, is a problematic barometer to use to show the quality of education a school district offers.  Studies have consistently shown instead academic test scores show the relative affluence of the parents/guardians; poor children testing at lower rates due to a variety of factors unrelated to the school itself.  However, as test scores show the ranking of neighboring districts, especially when compared with those of similar socio/economic conditions, this data is useful to show a district's trend line in the education of its children.  Test score ranking clearly shows Emery falling after three years of Superintendent Rubio at the helm after a brief period of rising scores and higher ranking before Mr Rubio's term.
Superintendent Rubio's tenure has been a rancorous one marked by an ongoing battle with his teachers that has net the worst rate of teacher retention in the East Bay among other calamitous distractions as the Tattler has chronicled. 
Superintendent John Rubio's Legacy
Academic achievement has plunged at Emery since Mr Rubio
was hired at the start of the school year 2014.
Emery's ranking has fallen to last in the East Bay since 2013, 

the last year before Superintendent Rubio came on board. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

City Council Revokes Noise Ordinance Waiver for Public Marketplace Developement

Council Majority Takes Unprecedented Move in Revocation

Dissenting Mayor Donahue Feels Developer's Pain; "They've Been Punished Enough"

Market Place Developer Tim Bacon
"Embarrassed" to be asking for a
third chance to honor his agreement. 
The developer of the Market Place project on Christie Avenue, by twice violating the terms of a waiver of the Noise Ordinance he received, drew a revocation of the waiver by the City Council at the regularly scheduled September 19th Council meeting.  After the City’s Planning Director issued Tim Bacon, Senior Vice President of Public Market LP an unprecedented stop work order on August 29th for job site violations to the waiver agreement, the City Council heard testimony from Mr Bacon who said he was sure the agreement would be followed if the Council would give him a third chance. Unimpressed, the Council voted 4-1 (Mayor Donahue dissenting) to revoke the waiver, a first for the City of Emeryville.

At issue was a 10:00 AM Saturday start up time for the construction as agreed upon as part of a waiver to the Noise Ordinance that precludes weekend construction.  During negotiations with the City Council, Mr Bacon had requested a 9:00AM start up time for his crew but was rebuffed, the Council citing letters of complaint from neighbors to the massive 13 acre 462 rental unit mixed use project.  After agreeing to the 10:00 starting time, workers on the site ignored the order and began starting work early anyway said Council member Christian Patz who documented the violations on two subsequent Saturday mornings.  The developer received a warning from the City after the first Saturday violation.  
Mayor Scott Donahue
The developer has been
"punished enough".

Before the vote on the 19th, a contrite Tim Bacon expressed dismay at his subcontractors whom he said had been violating the agreement and he told the Council he felt “embarrassed” to be even asking for a third chance. He added, “Frankly I was close to asking this be pulled from the agenda tonight because it didn’t seem fair to reconsider it because we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain”.  Mayor Donahue, breaking with his colleagues, said the developer had been “punished enough”.
Weekend work will now not be allowed for the duration of the construction project.

Not once has any developer been taken to task by the City Council for violating the Noise Ordinance or even for violating a waiver.  Since 2009 when the Noise Ordinance was enacted, waivers have been routinely given to developers and numerous violations have been brought to the City’s attention (the Tattler has highlighted several) but the City Council has never taken corrective action until now. 
The City of Emeryville has gotten a reputation over the years for not representing the resident’s interests and taking the developer’s side with regards to the Noise Ordinance and as such, both the stop work order and the subsequent revocation of the Saturday work waiver represents a new direction for the City.
Historic Document for Emeryville
A stop work order has never (before August 29th) been issued to any developer
for a Noise Ordinance violation despite the fact that nearly every developer
has violated the ordinance in our town since 2009.

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)