Leverage the Strength of Five

 

The Board of Education is made up of elected community members. Some candidates for these offices are backed politically and financially as well as by special interest groups. Once elected, they become part of an elected team that serves to improve the quality of education in Alameda. 

Each newly elected member comes with a particular skill set. Board members with a variety of skill sets, dedicated to serve, can become a cohesive and effective team. Success of a board is not the strength of one, in a particular area, but the strength of five working together as a team.

I attended the Board of Education meeting on Dec. 13, 2018, when Mia Bonta and Gary Lym were sworn in as board members. What followed in no way supported the idea of “the strength of five working together” but instead had the appearance of a power play by three using the term democracy as their weapon. 

During that meeting, President Gray Harris presented a proposed revision to board bylaw, to reverse the current rotation process to an election process. Under the current bylaw method, Ardella Dailey and Jennifer Williams would advance to president and vice-president respectfully, positions previously supported by a 5-0 vote of the board.

The public spoke in support of Dailey’s installation as president and the current method of rotation, which was initiated in 2015 and supported by Harris and Lym and other board members by a 5-0 vote. They questioned the urgency to impose such a change that would not allow for the rotation to be completed. They questioned the motivation behind the proposed change. No public comment supported the bylaw change but instead urged the board to support the continuation of the rotation until 2020.

Harris then provided her rationale for placing the item on the agenda. She stated that she believed that the democratic process of electing officers each year was justified. 

Both Bonta and Lym supported that process. Harris then stated that Dailey did not possess the organizational skills to be president. The ensuing dialogue was demeaning to both members Dailey and Williams. Unfortunately, the proposed change was approved with Harris, Lym and Bonta in favor and members Dailey and Williams opposed.  

Based on the adopted bylaw, the following were elected by a 3-2 vote: Bonta, president; Harris, vice president and Lym, clerk. Both Dailey and Williams were nominated to serve in lesser positions, but each denied the nominations. It is seldom, or maybe never, that a newly elected board member is nominated and elected president.

Dailey is a most qualified, if not the most qualified, board member. Pushing this agenda item and demeaning fellow board members and allowing these results has left many angry. 

Of the 35 years I have supported education issues in Alameda, I have never been so embarrassed than by the actions of these three elected officials. I am reminded of the importance of watching what people do as opposed to believing what they say.

Two additional concerns arose for me during that meeting.

  • A possible violation of the Brown Act
  • The impact the three board members’ shameful behavior will have on students.

Under the Brown Act, newly elected board members who have not yet assumed office must conform to the act’s requirements. Three members may not meet or make use of serial contacts, like phone calls or emails, to discuss board business.

As board members, they exhibited disrespectful behavior toward a peer; and they chose power and divisiveness over working together. We teach our children to be respectful of others and to take turns in kindergarten. 

It is my hope that the minutes of the Dec. 13, 2018, meeting will be amended to reflect the disrespect shown to Dailey and that the leadership of the board will reconsider their actions, publicly apologize to Dailey and initiate steps to do the right thing. 

Success of the board is not the strength of one, in a particular role or area, but the strength of five, working together as a team.

Laurie Hobson-Blomberg, is the former administrative assistant to Alameda Unified School District’s Superintendent of Schools.