Letters to the Editor

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The Alameda Sun article (“Country Superior Judge Rules AUSD-Funded Measure Invalid,” April 21) included a quote from former president of the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) School Board Mia Bonta: “Twenty percent of Alameda’s teachers leave our district every single year … largely because Alameda’s teachers are the second-lowest paid in the entire county and many of our neighbor school districts offer higher pay and stronger benefits.”

Teacher attrition is no excuse for violating a county government tax code. The need to gouge property owners does not trump the need to legally gouge property owners. Furthermore, teachers not only depart our district, they also depart all of public education.

I never intended to become an expert on public education; I accidentally landed that dubious achievement. My expertise was empirically arrived at by being a temporary teacher, relegated to the trenches of Encinal High School (EHS) for the last 25 years.

Not to contradict the experts on the school board, the dithering mavens at AUSD puzzle palace nor those temporarily occupying the swivel chairs of the admin department, but teachers quit because teaching under any circumstance has always been difficult and now the degree of difficulty has ratcheted up a notch or two.

As a statistician, I have noticed a linear correlation between the rowdiness of students and the emoluments required to keep teachers in an abusive setting. Teachers of rowdy students get paid more than teachers of compliant lamb chops. Pay for teachers at hoity-toity private schools, averages nearly one-third less — 32.1% depending on where you cherry-pick your numbers — than teachers at public schools.

Private schools have the option of culling the rowdies and sending them packing to public schools. To be brutally honest, many teachers have left EHS for Alameda High School (AHS), while few have departed AHS for EHS. The rows are tough to hoe at Encinal; AHS is a bit easier.

Exacerbating the teacher exodus is the lack of support by administrators. Administrators serve tenuously at the pleasure of the community. Recently, I had parents castigate me for my impolitic columns in the Sun; no mention was made of their child, who, at the time was not even in my class; the administrator arbitrated this ludicrous fusillade of invectives with Brahmic tranquility, feigning indignation after every accusation.

Feeling academically weak or vulnerable in a classroom often translates into gaining a sense of strength by a raft of non-academic behaviors. Defiance, scamming and getting over on the system are a few of the least labor-intensive methods of gaining a false adolescent sense of power over authority figures like teachers.

The district could pay teachers more, but remember the legion of "educrats," numbering over 200 at AUSD HQ, also get a pay raise in accordance with the Law of Baumol’s Cost Disease. The last 6% pay raise netted the grand poohbahs nearly $1,000 extra per month.

Alameda just might pass another parcel tax in order to legally throw money at the problems confronting the district. Before voting on another parcel tax, let us remember that the money cannon will not win the education war.

— Jeffrey R. Smith, Math at Encinal High School

Alameda City Planning, Building, and Transportation Director Andrew Thomas’s article (“Why is Alameda Making Plans to Add More Housing,” April 21) is very informative and accurate with the significant exception of the sentence stating, “Some argue that the Alameda City Council should avoid their responsibility to comply with State law.”

The letters in the “correspondence” file attached to Item 6-B of the May 3 City Council meeting agenda from Alameda Citizens Task Force (ACT), Alameda Architectural Preservation Society (AAPS), and many individuals recognize and support the need to achieve a certified housing element. In fact, the April draft housing element contains an acknowledgement of the assistance of both ACT and AAPS in preparing the draft.

The primary objections expressed in these letters are to the proposal in the draft to increase density in the city’s R-2 through R-6 zoning districts and to the proposed height allowance for residential development above the commercial buildings in our business districts. We do not think either of these proposals are wise or legally required to achieve a certified housing element.

I would urge readers to review the letters in the correspondence file in order to understand the details of our position and those of Thomas. Go to the home page of the city website at www.alamedaca.gov, scroll down to “City Meetings” link to be directed to the May 3 agenda where you will find Item 6-B and a link to the correspondence file and the draft housing element (Exhibit 2).

There is still time for you to write to the City Council to express your views on these important issues. Letters should carry the subject line “Item 6-B, May 3 City Council Meeting Agenda” and should be addressed to mezzyashcraft@alamedaca.gov; mvella@alamedaca.gov; jknoxwhite@alamedaca.gov; tspencer@alamedaca.gov; tdaysog@alamedaca.gov; lweisiger@alamedaca.gov; and athomas@alamedaca.gov.

There will be more opportunities for input at an upcoming May 9 Planning Board meeting. You may also appear at these meetings and speak via Zoom. The instructions appear on the first page of all agendas.

— Paul S Foreman

As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, its devastating effects on our community, the country, and the world have never been clearer. I spent the early part of the pandemic at home in Alameda. While I loved having the extra time with my family, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened by what I’d been seeing around me — empty streets, schools and businesses closing, and most importantly, families struggling and lives being lost.

To me, this emphasized the importance of vaccination. It’s a critical tool that protects ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities — but not everyone has access to them.

Around the world, COVID-19 vaccination rates vary dramatically, especially in low-income countries. Did you know that only 12.5% of low-income, under-resourced regions are vaccinated against COVID-19? What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge backsliding on other vaccination programs for diseases like polio, measles, HPV, and pneumonia. Twenty-three million children missed out on basic childhood vaccinations during 2020, putting them at risk of contracting and dying from these preventable causes.

Everyone, everywhere, deserves a chance to live a long and healthy life. For that reason, I’m calling on our U.S. Representative Barbara Lee and Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein to fully fund global immunization programs. If you support vaccine equity, you should, too.

— Allison Cho, Georgetown University student and Alameda resident