Point/Counterpoint - Why I’m Voting ‘No’ on School Bond Measure this November

I am a retired teacher and professor who taught for 43 years at the junior high school, community college and university levels, mostly at Merritt College in Oakland and Berkeley City College in Berkeley (formerly Vista College). In all that time, I have never met a school bond approval or sales or parcel tax increase that I did not support and vote for — until now!

Recently, many Bay Area school districts sought bond or tax increases from their local communities. Most of them failed. They failed, I think, because people have little faith in the ability and quality of the leaders — chancellors, superintendents and trustees — who run their local school districts. That is certainly the case with me regarding the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD).

AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital penned a letter entitled “District is Fiscally Responsible.” She concluded by listing her phone number and email address, inviting people to contact her. I emailed on Saturday, May 31, three weeks before she headed south. I asked her why her letter did not address the land deal that involved the city, the school district and the Alameda Housing Authority. I asked why all the meetings about the deal were held behind closed doors and why no professional appraisal was done. 

I told her that answering these questions would go a long way to dispelling doubts about supporting the school districts’ request for additional bond money. “I have never met a bond or parcel tax request for income that I haven’t liked, supported, and voted for. I would like to do the same this time,” I wrote. “Please, help me. I look forward to your response.” I never heard from her. 

If the academic leaders will not or cannot answer basic questions about their behavior and use of public resources, they certainly do not deserve to have more of those resources placed at their disposal. A vote for a bond is, after all, a vote of confidence in the people who will administer the funds, and that is not how I feel about the current leadership of AUSD.

Still, I would like to vote for the bond referendum that’s coming. I’m waiting for a response to my questions to determine how I will vote. I hope to get a response — a real response with detailed information and accurate numbers — before the November election. If not, I will do all I can to oppose the bond, and I will urge others to do the same. 

Leaders, above all, must be trusted, and one way to earn trust is to answer questions and provide the public with information when it is requested. To date, AUSD has failed to do that. 

Mark Greenside is a resident of Alameda.