By Mike Melendez
The Alameda Unified School District's mission statement is simple: “AUSD will effectively use our limited resources to ensure that every student succeeds.”
The statement recognizes that AUSD does not have unlimited funds to meet the objective for student success. No matter what the issue, the AUSD School Board should answer a threshold question before proceeding: “Will the Board’s action help ensure student success?”
If the answer is “no,” the analysis ends, and the Board should take no action. If the answer is “yes,” the Board must then take into account available finances and how funding any action will affect the bigger picture.
During the Measure A campaign, AUSD outlined the parade of horribles that would ensue if the measure were defeated. By a razor-thin margin, the measure passed, and Alameda parcel owners are now paying a significant yearly tax for Alameda schools. Alamedans voted for the measure because we were told that it was necessary to AUSD’s mission. The electorate’s expectation was that the School Board would be prudent and frugal stewards of our money.
But after Measure A passed, the Board, by a 3-2 vote, entered into a six-year, $550,000-per-year lease to house the District offices in Marina Village. This, despite AUSD having sufficient available alternative space that would have required no rent.
The purported reason given for why the available AUSD space would not work was that the 100 or so District office employees need to be in one place. If one can suspend reality and assume that this purported reason somehow fits AUSD’s mission to ensure student success, the question remains whether this was a prudent expenditure –especially when weighed against other student needs.
The key component to this reason seems to be that the District employees need to be able to communicate. Seemingly, creative solutions for that problem were available.
For example, one modern technological advance, the telephone, allows people to speak to one another from remote locations. That should have been sufficient to address the problem.
But even if were not, and the employees truly needed to share “face time,” AUSD could have purchased each employee an iPad for $500 or less, and they could have Skyped each other as necessary.
Although a $50,000 expenditure to buy each employee an iPad still would have been improvident, it certainly beats spending $550,000 per year on an unnecessary lease.
AUSD needs to do the best job it can with the resources we have at a level that is sustainable. Of the incumbents seeking re-election, only Trish Spencer voted against the Marina Village lease.
During her first term, Trish has shown that she understands AUSD’s mission to advance student success and that she takes seriously spending money that has been entrusted to her by the voters.
Trish has the fortitude to vote against measures that do not fit AUSD’s mission and therefore are unnecessary, even when she is in the minority. Her campaign slogan, “Kids First,” reflects the focus for her public service. Quite simply, Trish gets it. She has my vote.