October 9, 2008
School Board Candidates Debate the Issues
By Shelly Meron
It's tough to find anyone in Albany who is happy to see current Albany School Board president Charlie Blanchard leaving his post.
But after more than four years on the school board, Blanchard announced this past summer that he would not be running again, now that both of his children have graduated from the Albany school system.
"It's time to make room for new people with some fresh ideas. I think it's appropriate for people who have kids in the school to serve on the board," Blanchard said.
Along with Blanchard's departure, Board member Ron Rosenbaum, a long-time educator and former principal of Albany High School, is up for re-election. Vying for the two school board seats alongside Rosenbaum are newcomers John Kindle and Patricia Low.
In a forum with The Journal, the candidates discussed some of the current issues facing the school district, and how they would work to solve them.
One of the hottest topics in Albany remains the overcrowding of schools and the presence of inter-district transfer students. The three candidates all support building more classrooms as part of the new pool project at Albany High School, and moving forward with a mixed-use project on Solano Avenue that would include housing, retail and space for the district.
When it came to inter-district transfers, the candidates had slightly varying takes on the issue. Low said Albany should look at what other districts are doing to control overcrowding, and try to find ways to cut down on "cheating," mainly those who provide a fake Albany address to enroll their children. She said using "a shaming technique" without naming names, and possibly having district staff visit students' homes could help.
Rosenbaum said the district's capacity for inter-district transfers is capped, yet acknowledged that he liked the diversity inter-district transfer students brought to Albany schools. Rosenbaum said the district's new policy of verifying residency in third, sixth and ninth grade has not worked as effectively as some have hoped, and recently netted only three cases of addresses that didn't meet district requirements. He said the problem was not with those who follow the rules and go through the official inter- district transfer process, but rather with those who avoid the process altogether and use a bogus address.
Kindle said district officials had been telling parents for years that inter-district transfers have stopped, but that it wasn't the case. He acknowledged that many children who didn't live in Albany had a legitimate reason to be at Albany schools, and said he supported guaranteeing spots for children of Albany teachers who live out of the district. Still, Kindle said facilities are a big problem and that priority must be given to children in K-12 grades when it came to classroom space.
He said adult education classes, with the exception of English as a Second Language classes, should be held at night.
Candidates also had varying views on the new pool project and what design would make most sense. Rosenbaum and Low said they both supported the two-pool design the district is moving forward with, while Kindle said he was not convinced two pools would generate more revenue than one pool alone.
Rosenbaum said he believed the pool project must serve students first. He said the two-pool design would allow for more flexible scheduling and programming, and would bring in more revenue than one pool.
Low said she was nervous about the district losing money if the pool doesn't generate enough revenue, but supported moving forward with the two-pool option because she feels it will benefit the community as a whole. They said the district must be honest with taxpayers about its financial concerns regarding the pool, but still must meet its promise to provide a new pool complex.
Kindle said he was not convinced about income projections for the two pools, and wasn't sure the new complex would draw as many people as some hope.
He said Albany youth may prefer pools like the one in El Cerrito, which has more features.
Staff writer Shelly Meron covers Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington. Reach her at 510-243-3578 or [email protected] UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD: JOHN KINDLE, PATRICIA LOW, RON ROSENBAUM
Occupation: Animal control officer
Education: GED and four years of college
Background: Former member of Albany's Parks and Recreation Commission and Arts Commission; member of Ocean View Elementary PTA, including two years as president and one year as secretary; secretary of Albany Middle School PTA; member of the Albany Unified School District's Wellness Committee.
Occupation: Educational non-profit project director
Education: Bachelor's degree in English from UC Berkeley; master's degree in English; teaching credential; Ph.D. in education from Stanford University.
Background: Board member of the Cornell Elementary School PTA; member of the Cornell Elementary School site council; member of the superintendent search community advisory committee; manager of the Albany/Berkeley Soccer Club team.
Occupation: Retired educator; current member of the school board
Education: Bachelor's degree in chemistry; master's degree in chemistry; master's degree in school counseling; administrative credential.
Background: Teaching, counseling and administration since 1971; former principal of Alhambra High School in Martinez, Oakland Tech, and Albany High School; former assistant principal at Berkeley High School; teaching and counseling experience at Oakland Unified School District.
Originally published by Shelly Meron, Staff writer.
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