Chamberlins Fire Back at Kronenberg and Chau

The Chamberlins’ foun­da­tion owns the site where the Summit char­ter is hosted. They have also en­tered the elec­tion by giv­ing money to two can­di­dates that I sup­port: Valerie Cuevas and Liz Block. Here they fire back against their de­trac­tors in this let­ter that was re­cently sent out. For now, I’ll just post. (Game 7 is an hour away.)

To: Our Friends and Neighbors

From: Susan and Steve Chamberlin, Richmond Residents

There is much dis­cus­sion sur­round­ing this year’s elec­tions, in­clud­ing the school board races. Honest de­bate is healthy, and we want to be clear about our in­volve­ment. We have noth­ing to hide.

We think school board lead­er­ship is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant, as do many oth­ers in our com­mu­nity: par­ents, teach­ers, com­mu­nity lead­ers and or­ga­ni­za­tions, and other res­i­dents. Many peo­ple be­fore us vet­ted the can­di­dates and, in sol­i­dar­ity, de­cided to sup­port strong, eth­i­cal lead­ers. We are stand­ing along­side these in­di­vid­u­als, and do­nat­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to give voice to the group.

In hopes of hon­or­ing the cur­rent healthy de­bate, we also wanted to ad­dress a few state­ments made by Madeline Kronenberg and Peter Chau.

THE STATEMENT: “Corporate out­siders (are) try­ing to de­stroy our pub­lic schools….and BUY the school board.” – Madeline Kronenberg, as posted on her web­site

THE FACTS: For more than a decade, con­struc­tion com­pa­nies across the state have fun­neled over $2.5 mil­lion into the West Contra Costa bond mea­sures and school board races. Madeline Kronenberg and Peter Chau have been the re­cip­i­ents of their largess. In fact, this elec­tion sea­son, Madeline has re­ported about $100,000, pri­mar­ily from big out­side con­struc­tion com­pa­nies. All of these firms di­rectly or in­di­rectly do busi­ness with the dis­trict. Most peo­ple con­sider this to be “pay for play.”

Let’s be clear: Madeline op­posed cam­paign fi­nance re­form for WCCUSD in 2010 that would have lim­ited cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. So who ex­actly are the cor­po­rate out­siders, and who ex­actly has been try­ing to buy the elec­tions? You de­cide.

THE STATEMENT: The Chamberlins are try­ing to “un­seat me and put in a team that will work to change every­thing we’ve been build­ing in the dis­trict over the past eight years.” – Madeline Kronenberg, as posted on her Facebook page

THE FACTS: We have to con­cede, in some ways, that this is true. We would like to im­prove a few things:

  • Our children’s aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance: Our schools and stu­dents used to out-per­form Oakland (an ad­mit­tedly low bar), yet the Oakland schools leapfrogged our over­all aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance in 2010. This is not progress.
  • Our children’s col­lege readi­ness: More than HALF of our high school grad­u­ates don’t meet the ba­sic ad­mis­sions re­quire­ments to even ap­ply to the Cal State or University of California sys­tems, as re­ported by the California Department of Education. This is un­ac­cept­able.
  • Our pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of fa­cil­ity im­prove­ments: Yes, our new school build­ings are beau­ti­ful. But the cur­rent board lead­er­ship has pri­or­i­tized ex­trav­a­gant fa­cil­i­ties (like the $21 mil­lion foot­ball sta­dium for El Cerrito High School) while stu­dents in Richmond still learn in win­dow­less class­rooms. Our bond pro­gram is over 15 years old. How did this hap­pen un­der our school board’s watch?

THE STATEMENT: “They (California Charter School Association) are tar­get­ing races across the state to make sure we have char­ter-friendly school boards.” – Madeline Kronenberg, as posted on her Facebook page

THE FACTS: This too is partly true, ex­cept in this race, the char­ter as­so­ci­a­tion does not have “pro-char­ter” can­di­dates. Yes, Liz Block and Valerie Cuevas ap­pear to be open to par­ents hav­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tional op­tions, but above all, they’re fo­cused on dis­trict schools, en­sur­ing in­struc­tion – not con­struc­tion – is the num­ber one pri­or­ity. Both have deep ex­pe­ri­ence in im­prov­ing dis­trict schools and that’s why the lead­ers of the BlackBoard are sup­port­ing them, along with teach­ers and fam­i­lies who want some­thing bet­ter for their kids. It’s also why the Contra Costa Times called Liz Block, Valerie Cuevas and Raquel Donoso (an­other great can­di­date), “a trio that de­serves your votes….Indeed, it’s been a long time since the dis­trict has had trustees of their cal­iber. Residents de­serve a bet­ter school board.”

THE STATEMENT: “For-Profit Charter Schools…” – Peter Chau, a ref­er­ence made re­peat­edly at can­di­date fo­rums

THE FACTS: This is just flat wrong. There are eight pub­lic char­ter schools in the dis­trict bound­aries. All eight are run by ed­u­ca­tion not-for-prof­its.

THE STATEMENT: “Charters are not re­quired to hold pub­lic board meetings…so there is no pos­si­bil­ity of trans­parency…” – Madeline Kronenberg at the Contra Costa Times en­dorse­ment in­ter­view

THE FACTS: Surely, af­ter eight years on the school board, Madeline must know this is patently false. The California Education Code is clear on this mat­ter. Directly from the state web­site, “Although char­ter schools are ex­empt from most laws ap­plic­a­ble to school dis­tricts, they are not ex­empt from laws that gen­er­ally ap­ply to pub­lic agen­cies, in­clud­ing the le­gal re­quire­ment to hold open meet­ings.” California Government Code Section 54950 et. seq.

THE STATEMENT: Public char­ter schools “leave a con­cen­tra­tion of our most dis­ad­van­taged and chal­lenged fam­i­lies in our neigh­bor­hood schools … [but] 83% [of char­ter schools per­form] the same or be­low the tra­di­tional schools – only 17% are bet­ter…” – Madeline Kronenberg, as posted on her web­site

THE FACTS: Let’s talk about the char­ter schools in our dis­trict. Families here are choos­ing among five char­ter schools that have been around long enough to have state test re­sults.

  • The state stan­dard for schools is an 800 in the Academic Performance Index
  • Of ALL the mid­dle and high schools in the dis­trict, only five schools reached the state goal of 800; four are char­ter schools and one is the se­lec­tive Middle College High
  • The char­ter schools here are re­quired by state law to be non-se­lec­tive and have open en­roll­ment via a pub­lic lot­tery; these schools work hard to re­cruit those stu­dents that most rely on a trans­for­ma­tional ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence
  • The lo­cal char­ter schools also, in to­tal, have higher shares of dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents and stu­dents of color than the dis­trict

So, yes, the char­ter schools here are per­form­ing well. It’s no sur­prise that every char­ter school in the dis­trict cur­rently has a wait­list. And for those char­ter schools that are not per­form­ing well, the dis­trict and the county can close them, and they should. All kids de­serve a great school.

Let’s re­mem­ber, the char­ter-dis­trict de­bate is a di­ver­sion. Parents just want their chil­dren to have ac­cess to an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion. There are some great dis­trict schools with tremen­dous lead­ers and teach­ers do­ing amaz­ing things; we should cel­e­brate these schools and honor these ed­u­ca­tors. In ad­di­tion, there are great char­ter schools with an im­pres­sive track record. All our kids de­serve to have ac­cess to schools like these.

We will con­tinue to sup­port what works for kids. We’re a re­tired cou­ple who has been for­tu­nate late in life, and we’ve com­mit­ted to try to sup­port pos­i­tive change for kids in our own com­mu­nity. Some peo­ple may not like every do­na­tion or in­vest­ment we make on be­half of kids, but we’ll con­tinue to lis­ten and learn.

The best in­ter­est of stu­dents will al­ways be our North Star.

Thank you for read­ing.

WCCUSD Candidate Forum: Richmond

As we en­ter the fi­nal days be­fore the elec­tion ends for 3 seats on the WCCUSD school board, there’s still time to at­tend a can­di­date fo­rum.

Sponsors: WCCUSD & League of Women Voters
Richmond High School — Little Theater
1250 23rd Street

Be sure to write down at least a draft of your ques­tions be­fore you go.

Want to see some video of other forums?

Contra Costa Time Editorial Board

[link to page]

Election Preview: CCTV, CC Times, League of Women Voters, and CC Elections Department

[link to page]


I dis­cov­ered that Don Gosney had been up­load­ing record­ings of the WCCUSD/​LWV fo­rums and the El Cerrito Democratic Club fo­rum. He doesn’t group them to­gether on his YouTube chan­nel, so I made a playlist with links to them.

WCCUSD BOE Election: Main Institutional Endorsements

There are 10 can­di­dates run­ning for 3 seats on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education. 2 in­cum­bents are run­ning; Charles Ramsey is not run­ning for re-elec­tion.

One as­pect of the cam­paign process is get­ting en­dorse­ments from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions and the main lo­cal pa­per. Just like I did in 2012, here is the cur­rent score­card:

El Cerrito Democratic Club (0)
Central Labor Council (2)XX
County Democratic Party (3)XXX
Local One (4)XXXX
Contra Costa Times (3)XXX
SFER Action Network — West Contra Costa (2)XX
CCSA Advocates (2)XX

The Candidates

  1. CHESTER R. STEVENS (Hercules)
  2. MISTER PHILLIPS (Richmond)
  6. VALERIE CUEVAS (Richmond)
  7. ELAINE MERRIWEATHER (Richmond, Incumbent)
  8. RAQUEL DONOSO (Richmond)
  10. MADELINE KRONENBERG (El Cerrito, Incumbent)

The Endorsers

  1. The Democratic Party is pretty much The Party in West County. The El Cerrito Democratic Club has been an ac­tive party club in the dis­trict for a long time. (New ones for Hercules and West County have started.) Endorsements re­quire a 60% thresh­old, which may ex­plain the lack of any en­dorse­ment this time.
  2. The Central Labor Council is the county ver­sion of the AFL-CIO. They are con­nected through the con­struc­tion pro­gram for the school and the unions for em­ploy­ees. They are a big “door hanger” pres­ence, too.
  3. The county Democratic Party has an elected Central Committee. As I was say­ing, the Democratic Party is The Party around here.
  4. The United Teachers of Richmond (UTR is the district’s teach­ers’ union.
  5. Public Employees Union, Local One is the union for most of the non-teacher em­ploy­ees in WCCUSD.
  6. The Contra Costa Times is the lo­cal pa­per that pays the most at­ten­tion to WCCUSD.
  7. SFER Action Network — West Contra Costa is a lo­cal sum­mer-only stu­dent project of the Students for Educational Reform, a group some con­sider an “as­tro­turf” group.
  8. CCSA Advocates is the ad­vo­cacy arm of the California Charter Schools Association. It’s a state-wide or­ga­ni­za­tion, but some peo­ple are mak­ing them an is­sue at the lo­cal level this elec­tion.

Update: 10/​16/​2014