If you haven’t already voted, I’d like to encourage you to vote for:

Liz Block (El Cerrito)
Valerie Cuevas (Richmond)
Ayana Young (Hercules)

for the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school board.

Here is my background in the school district.

The main thing about this election is that the district kingpin, Charles Ramsey, is out, but his machine remains: Madeline Kronenberg, his second wheel, Peter Chau, his designated heir, and that huge pile of construction-interest money that has flooded every school board election before. We have the opportunity to finish the exit of the Ramsey machine by rejecting his candidates and finding new leadership willing to focus the district on student achievement and not simply passing another bond…and another. In looking at the candidates I rejected the incumbents and the people I felt were using the Board as a stepping stone to higher office. Normally, this would be a little arbitrary, but I feel this is an important juncture and requires less tolerance for failed incumbency and using the school board as a politician’s bush league. I’m also looking for candidates who are more supportive of reining in our bond program and less interested in getting into silly battles like the Summit charter application.

Liz Block is someone who has worked as a principal turning around a school, doing what many of us (but not all) would like to do at the district level. She also has substantial experience working with special education issues as a school psychologist. Special eduction is an important and complex part of what a public school district does.

Valerie Cuevas is a director at an organization that advocates for educational opportunities for all (The Education Trust – West). She has also worked as staff for the Assembly committee on higher education and for a LAUSD school board member. Her knowledge of the ins and outs of educational policy should complement Todd Groves’ more homegrown wonkishness — well once the dust of the election campaign settles.

The third person I’m going with is Ayana Young, a lawyer and parent of children in the district. Her educational background is training in a Special Eduction masters program and working as a substitute teacher in Oakland and here. I like her as a candidate, because she is direct and honest.

When you look at a board, you have to think of how everyone will meld together. A mix of Randall Enos, Todd Groves, Liz Block, Valerie Cuevas, and Ayana Young would have the right balance of differences in perspective and style while still having common connections.

Whatever board is elected, it’s important to move beyond the hypocritical whining about the other guy’s campaign funding, but not your own. The board has received proposals before about addressing campaign finance. Now that the monopoly has become a duopoly, perhaps the board can finally take this issue up seriously.

Note: Yes, Cuevas and Block are benefiting from funding from the state charter school association and Steve Chamberlin’s group presumably, in part at least, because they are least likely to get “into silly battles like the Summit charter application” and they have a better chance of winning. For an excellent follow-up on the campaign finance story with all the numbers, check this CCT reporter’s blog post.

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