It’s Election Day 2014 in WCCUSD!

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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Your eyes are get­ting sleepy. Very sleepy. Listen to my voice. Now open your eyes. Fill in the ovals shown in the graphic. Now wake up when I snap my fin­gers.