Next Week’s Election Will Decide Future of Education for State, County

Election Day is one week away and the results will tell us the kind of schools and school leaders we will have. I have two very quick pleas for the public good:

First, if Proposition 30 does not pass our public schools and safety will be adversely affected. In this county alone, up to 11 school districts would be so strapped financially they would be on the verge of insolvency. Our children deserve better. I strongly support Proposition 30. It is far too close in latest polling for the educational and safety communities to breath easy.

Prop. 30’s official ballot argument in support of a “yes” vote accurately portrays the importance of its passage. “To protect schools and safety, Prop. 30 temporarily increases personal income taxes on the highest earners—couples with incomes of over $500,000 a year—and establishes the sales tax at a rate lower than it was last year. Prop. 30’s taxes are temporary, balanced and necessary to protect schools and safety.”

I would have said it a little differently. A generation of children will be harmed if it fails, digging the state deeper into the economic abyss. We as village elders must take care of the children and public safety, first and foremost. Please vote “yes” and tell your friends/neighbors to do so, too.

Second, if you have been following the SCCOE Board race for Trustee Area No. 5 between Anna Song and David Neighbors, I would like to weigh in as a board colleague of Anna Song’s for the last four years. I endorsed Trustee Song, because, as the Mercury News wrote, “Song is steeped in policy and a strong advocate for disadvantaged students.” (Editor’s note: The Merc endorsed Neighbors in this race.)

For the last four years, Song has been the policy wonk of the seven-member board, sometimes discovering important legal precepts that even the county’s professional staff was not familiar with. She spends scores of hours between meetings conducting research on critical votes. Trustee Song has been a fighter for the teachers and for the students in our alternative schools—serving students who are incarcerated, expelled and/or failing.

She and I have disagreed passionately at times, but we always did so with respect for the other’s opinion. We disagreed for a variety of reasons on the December 2011 Rocketship vote for 20 new charter schools, and for the renewal of Bullis Charter School for five more years. Anna and I worked for a year to create the county’s first Charter School Summit, attended by 250 on a Saturday morning in 2010. The goal was to enhance collaboration and cooperation between charter operators/schools and the traditional public world of schools. This work needs to continue with a renewed exigency.

I strongly believe in the sanctity of the electoral process. Voters should decide whom they want to serve as elected office. However, I believe our electoral system is badly broken in America. The vast sums of money spent, on both sides of the political aisle, are too often used for misleading and negative messaging. Fortunately, for the school board elections I am familiar with, including mine in 2008, the critical issues were discussed and no negative messaging infected the process. That all changed in Santa Clara County this year and, perhaps, going forward.

As my readers know, I believe public education is the single most important issue of our day, nationally and locally. It’s increasing importance is evidenced by what is happening in Trustee Song’s race in the 130,000-registered voters in Trustee Area No. 5.

According to a Patch article by Rachel Stern, residents of this trustee area—which includes Milpitas, Santa Clara, and Berryessa School Districts—residents received three different attack ads denouncing Song. Stern wrote, “The group backing the ads, the SCC Schools PAC, is financed almost exclusively by groups and individuals that sit outside Trustee Area 5, including its founder, who lives in Canada. The main funders are Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow; the CA Charter School Association, of which Bullis Charter is a member; Reed Hastings; and John Fischer, according to a filing document from the Registrar of Voters office in San Jose.”

I am saddened that at the very grassroots local level, money now contaminates the dialogue. It is imperative during school board elections we discuss issues like charter schools, student achievement, teacher tenure, teacher evaluations, counselors, career technical education, teacher compensation, strategic plans, consolidation of school districts, management of budgets, technology, etc.

It’s worrisome that the school board election process will become tainted by large sums of outside money. Please do your research on who would make the best candidate for Trustee Area No. 5.

Joseph Di Salvo is chair of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

12 Comments

  1. Just to show I don’t disagree with DiSalvo on everything, let me second his endorsement of Anna Song over David Neighbors for the county board of education.

    Both of them are elected officials where I live, and David was elected to a four-year term on the Berryessa school board just two year ago.  I voted for him, but we must stop this jumping from job to job, leaving the district holding the bag to replace the fleeing office holder.  Let’s keep David on the local school board to finish his four-year term.

    I voted for Anna for the county board and contributed to her campaign four years ago.  It turned out to be a great investment because she is a hard-working official who has earned another four years.  She is unafraid of taking a stand and she argues it politely, but effectively.

    Campaign consultant Jude Barry has launched a Victor Ajlouny-style smear campaign against her with three mailings so far seeking to portray her exactly opposite to her true character and dedication.  Jude Barry may fancy himself a “king-maker” in San Jose politics, but his recent ventures have met with abrupt and refreshing failure, especially two and four years ago.

    Let’s recognize Anna’s service to students. And let’s rebuke campaign consultant smear campaigns as well as candidates who abandon four-year terms after just two years.

  2. Thank you Mr. DiSalvo for writing about Prop 30 and the County Board of Education Area 5 election.

    SJ Inside readers should also see the blog of Los Altos School Board member Doug Smith, who weighs in on the issue of the outside PAC money trying to buy an election in our County Board of Education Area 5.  His school district provides space for Bullis Charter School, which according to the Patch article, is at the center of what’s going on in the Area 5 County Board of Ed election even though Bullis is located in Area 1, not here:

    http://lasdobserver.blogspot.com/

  3. Dale, my friend, you know I live in Santa Clara and get the mail.  The hits on Anna have been very mild, and focus on votes taken, which even Joe acknowledges happened on previous blog posts.

    I, as a endorser of Anna Song’s know for a fact that none of those points are based on anything except actual facts.

    Jude Barry, is aware, I am sure of far damaging infomation on Chris and Anna, and I sort of admire him for not using it.

  4. Joe

    You cite the Patch article which quotes two highly suspect sources, Ina Bendis and Christine Kolterman,

    Bendis’ behavior in meetings is jaw-dropping. She doesn’t just question
    board members and district staff. She interrogates them, denigrates their work—her voice dripping with sarcasm—and sees conspiracies everywhere. Staff, the board and Superintendent Bobbie Plough spend absurd amounts of time dealing with fallout from her actions. Staff members rarely go before the board, even with good news, for fear they’ll be the target of one of Bendis’ “gotcha” traps. The board reprimanded her two years ago for creating a hostile work environment, but not much has changed.

    Here’s one example: Earlier this year, Bendis and Koltermann angrily objected when Plough was appointed to the board overseeing the shutdown of the city of Santa Clara’s redevelopment agency. This board’s decisions will affect school budgets. Bendis and Koltermann implied, incredibly, that Plough would not act in the best interests of the district. She’s the superintendent! The uproar unfairly undermined not just Plough but the district Bendis and Koltermann were elected to protect.

    Mercury News, September 27, 2012

    The Patch article also fails to mention that Anna Song has formed a PAC with David Corthright funded by the California Teachers Association PAC which is one of the most well funded PACs in California.  This is significant that another PAC would be involved in this race.

    • James Rowen was outed on the Patch article. I found the following comments in response to James Rowen’s comment on that article:

      11:05 am on Sunday, October 28, 2012

      “Santa Clara residents DO support Dr. Kolterman and Dr. Bendis. Don’t believe everything you read in the Mercury News, the editors have their own political agenda. Plough voted to give the $34,000,000 redevelopment money to the 49’ers, Not to the children of Santa Clara County. It seems bizarre that school board members would be criticized for supporting the children of our County, not the billionaire owners of the 49’ers. Do we want a “Stepford” school board of nice girls who don’t ask the tough questions? I Do we want money to buy elections? Is David Neighbors their yes man to replace Anna Song?”

      AND
      “I. M. Wright

      11:49 pm on Friday, October 26, 2012

      Don’t bother replying to James Rowen—he’s a known cyberbully in Santa Clara. Some candidates in the city hire him as a “political consultant” specifically to conduct character assassinations against their opponents. That’s what he is trying to do here. He has been banned on most newspaper comment boards for his outrageous, libelous comments.

      In addition to his cyberbullying, he harasses people on the phone at home, and he contacts his victims’ employers to make false statements to the employers.

      He’s a chronically unemployed man in his 50s who still lives in his parents’ house—at least until the foreclosure sale is complete.

      His a great example of the very worst in Santa Clara politics.”

      AND

      ” James Rowen is Santa Clara’s resident cyberbully. He’s currently on the campaign payrolls of Assembly Candidate Chad Walsh, Mission College Trustee canddiate Bob Owens, and Santa Clara City Council candidate Mohammed Nadeem. Since 2006, Rowen has had a blog which harasses, cyberbullies, and libels elected officials, candidates for office, and anyone who dares to write a letter, speak in front of our city council, or in any way publicly show opposition towards the use of public funds for the stadium. Rowen harasses people at home and at their work through phone calls and emails, calls and emails employers, puts in numerous cpra requests which cost public dollars to address, puts in numerous false FPPC complaints which cost public dollars to address, and stalks female elected officials. He has had police reports filed against him for his harassment/stalking.”

  5. Read the Merc article at the link below.
    Does anyone really believe that David Neighbors doesn’t know what this PAC is doing?  Really? If Neighbors can only get elected by tearing down another candidate then Neighbors does not deserve to be elected – to anything.

    New article today in the SJ Merc by Sharon Noguchi:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_21896419/pac-money-floods-local-school-board-races

    Pac Money Floods Local School Board Races

    “The Santa Clara County Schools Political Action Committee has raised nearly $200,000 from Jan. 1 through Oct. 20, and financed auto-dial calls plus four mailers slamming Song and three supporting her challenger, trustee David Neighbors.

    “It’s an outrageous amount of money to take out one school board member,” said Song, who’s running for a seat that represents areas served by the Santa Clara, Milpitas and the Berryessa school districts.

    Neighbors, who has benefited from $76,000 worth of PAC mailers and auto-calls for his candidacy and against Song, said about the PAC, “I don’t know much about it.”

    • Thank you, Taxpayer.  I read the story.  Then, I laughed when I read Anna Song’s quote about outrageous amount of money.  This is the woman who voted $300K for Weis’s salary.  Then, she gave him a sweetheart mortgage loan that leaves us taxpayers stuck with a downtown condo.  She deserves to be thrown out of office for that alone.  How many teachers got laid off because of those stupid decisions?

      • The entire 7 member board voted for Weis’s salary and the condo.
        Grace Mah, who voted for Weis’s salary and condo, is also currently running to keep her seat on the County Board of Ed. in Trustee Area 1, which includes Bullis Charter School in Los Altos.
        This very same PAC that launched the highly negative campaign against Anna Song – ostensibly based on Weis’s mortgage – is backing Grace Mah, when Mah voted exactly the same way that Anna Song did on the Bullis Charter renewal as well as Weis’s compensation package.

        Why does this PAC funded by big money from outside of our area oppose Song and support Mah when they voted the same way?  Grace Mah’s opponent, David Cortwright, appears to be less charter friendly than Mah, that’s why.

        It’s not about Weis’s salary and mortgage (although the entire board is responsible for poor decision making in that case).  It’s about outside big money trying to control county board votes when charter schools come before the county board.  And that’s just wrong.  The people here deserve to have a trustee who represents us – not the big money from outside of our area.

        This PAC money trying to buy a a County Board of Education election is exactly like the $11 million in PAC money that has flowed into CA from Arizona to influence our votes on our state propositions.  It’s legal, but it’s ethically wrong.

        • Huh?  The people funding the PAC are all publicly named and they’re all local high tech folks who have great reputations. I got no problem with that.

          I got a problem finding the logic in the argument that Anna and Grace made bad votes, but they were just going along with the rest of the board. That’s just dumb. Each politician is accountable for her own votes and they have to defend them during elections.  They should have thought about that when they were wasting our tax dollars then, not now.

        • The entire 7 member board is guilty of voting for a sweetheart deal for Weis.
          The point is that the PAC is hypocritical in creating/mailing hit pieces on Anna Song for the Weis mortgage when Grace Mah voted exactly the same way.

          And the funders aren’t ‘local high tech folks’.  None of them are from SCCBOE Trustee Area 5.  I define ‘local’ as ‘living in the Trustee Area.’

          Anna has been a champion for the students/taxpayers from her Trustee Area.  She deserves to keep her seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

  6. The Huffington Post has now picked up on the San Jose Mercury News’s article of this morning, which discusses the PAC money.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/pac-money-floods-local-sc_n_2056263.html

    David Neighbors says that he doesn’t know what the PAC is doing.  Really?  One could believe that for the first hit piece, but the hit pieces after that – which contain Neighbor’s picture, he really knows nothing about?  Really?  Many voters have a hard time believing that.

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