Hierarchy Has Hijacked Schools

Former Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Superintendent Kristen Vital’s self-indulged columns extolling her virtues were hard to "swallow," however, she is now among her "piers" and hopefully Alameda can resolve the past and future debt she left in her wake.

Thanks to her, Alameda voters must ponder a $179 million school bond. Scheduled for the ballot box in November, only 50 to 60 percent of the $179 million is dedicated for specific projects, the remaining $70 to 90 million will remain under AUSD’s control pending decisions on high school modernization. But then AUSD has yet to decide if there will be one or two high schools and where it or they would be located, never mind that presently there exists no plans for any such project.


Have we not learned over the years that placing non-dedicated funds in the hands of public entities without public oversight and control is not a good idea? We should all be aware that once funds are appropriated and under control of any government or public entity there exists a chance of the funds being used for unintended projects not approved by voters.

I seem to recall there being questions and issues regarding expenditure of funds on Vital’s projects, such as the "fence" surrounding HAHS and the leasing of property for administrative purposes with the intent of purchase.

I have a great idea, let’s spend some of the school bond funds to remove Vital’s fence from the Historic Alameda High School (HAHS) property, which now has the appearance of a detention center.

Vital cut a wide path, left debt, wrote columns extolling her accomplishments, none of which appeared to be other than what she was hired to do, at a very high salary.

However, I fail to understand her accomplishments concerning improvements in students’ test scores. According to the state of California Star reports published by the state’s Department of Education, there appears to be no significant improvement in Alameda students’ test scores over the past several years despite Vital’s claims to the contrary.

We need more money to buy more bells and whistles, including free lunches. (I was always taught there was no free lunch!) However when we compare the state’s test results we are still not competitive with some other countries, including third-world countries such as India. Having lived in that part of the world for several years I am more impressed with India’s educational system that our own. They do far more with far less.

The educational process has been taken over by an educational hierarchy, which over the years has created "new" math, science and English and rewritten history. Unfortunately our graduating students appear to not be competent in math, science or English and certainly cannot have a discussion about history with anyone over the age of 65.

I recall when "new math" was implemented in the 1960s, it was a disaster then and continues to be a disaster now. However, no one will admit it or attempt a fix. Few students can do math individually using "numbers," even professionals now depend on computers to

solve all mathematical issues, possibly why there are so many issues with major building projects such as the new Bay Bridge.

Not to be misunderstood, I appreciate education, and appreciate educators. However, over several years of being involved in hiring and supervising young people entering the work force I was appalled at their lack of acceptable written and verbal skills. Voters have approved bond issues over the years to provide students with the latest electronics but have failed to prepare them to be individually competitive in the world today with regards to basic math, science and grammar. I say voters because it remains our responsibility to vote for and oversee those that manage our public education system and make changes when it is not working.

Alameda voters have much to ponder in the fall elections, new seats on the City Council as well as the School Board. The teachers’ union and the Alameda Education Association (AEA) president Audrey Hyman has informed school board trustee Trish Spencer that Spencer needs to remain where she and not run for mayor. Perhaps Spencer has used the word transparency too often, however. This has much to do with AEA’s support for Mayor Marie Gilmore and her reelection.

Spencer, of course, has had issues with those presently on the school board who appear to be divisive, opinionated, impressed with their self-importance and certainly disengaged from the public. One could certainly agree with Spencer that her staying on the school board is nonproductive. Some on the board have been there too long to be credible. They no longer have the ability to bring a balanced, logical approach to issues before them.

Over the past several years the board has disregarded public opinion and failed to build a sense of community in Alameda with regard to educational issues.

Public education was a product of the people, not the government. However, the process has been hijacked by the government and existing unions for their own personal benefit. The government collects monies from the public for education, not all of which is passed down to school districts. The teachers unions have become a dynamic political force and dominate collective ideas with regards to improvements or changes to the current educational process.

Was it not Jerry Brown who allowed public employees to form unions? I believe Alameda needs to elect a school board that will allow collective ideas from the public to rebuild a sense of community, which the present board has failed to do.

Harold Mackenzie lives in Alameda.