Recap of ECDC September 27, 2017 meeting

at El Cerrito High School Cafeteria


WCCUSD Superintendent Matt Duffy described the district’s strategic Roadmap 2022 as a way of summarizing the key features of the much more comprehensive state local control plan (the L-Cap).  He indicated that the district started with aspirations and set ambitious goals: specifically that in 5 years, our district of achieving students, engaged communities, and invested employees will graduate 80% of students college-ready; 80% of parents and students will report high levels of satisfaction; and 80% of employees will stay with us for at least 5 years.  Significant obstacles to this remain since, for example, currently only 3 out of 10 3rd graders are reading at grade level and only 4 out of 10 graduates are college-ready.

Duffy described 6 district investments to help meet the 2022 objectives:   1) Sites:  Moving funding back to the schools;   2) School leaders:  funding full or half-time assistant principals at some schools, while adding ~ 20 teachers at the high school level to lower class size, and some teachers at the middle schools;  3) Building communities of practice around, e.g. math;  4) Language learning – establishing a district-run Mandarin school, and providing dual English-Spanish immersion as a high school option;  5) Supporting high-priority schools and teachers by e.g. replacing more than 40% of teaching staff who departed the subordinate schools feeding Kennedy High School.   Other goals mentioned are retaining 15% more teachers in 2017 than in 2016, and investing in “a learning organization.”


Question and Answer Session:

  1. 1. How do you compare the needs of the Adult School students with those of the Mandarin school program that displaced them?
  2. The Mandarin School is now using 3 classrooms at the Adult School. We know the Mandarin School can’t stay at Sierra, so the question is how long will it remain there.


  1. 2. What’s the status of funds for Fairmont Elementary?
  2. Fairmont has dollars in the current bond program, but only for critical needs, such as expanding the school area toward BART. Dollars to actually rebuild would require a bond measure.


  1. 3. The city of El Cerrito has recently approved new housing developments. How will new housing translate to newly arriving students at El Cerrito schools?
  2. We are looking at how many new kindergarteners came in this Fall as a test. We did see some increased enrollment at Korematsu, but only tiny growth at El Cerrito High School.


  1. 4. How are district finances impacted by charter schools?
  2. Dollars travel with students, but it’s hard to reduce commitment to teachers in proportion. For one thing, we have a retiree liability of $667/per student ($20M/30K students).


  1. 5. What will be the effect of additional charter schools on enrollment?
  2. It’s unclear if we will lose students and where we would lose them from. For example, to date, Richmond High lost a lot of students to charter schools, as did Lincoln Elementary. But it’s unpredictable where future losses would be.


  1. 6. What is the status of teacher retention?
  2. I’ve pinned my future on teacher retention. We did exit interviews with departing teachers this summer. They say they left because of 1) compensation issues (dollars for salaries and professional development being lower in non-charter schools than in charter schools); 2) culture; and 3) working conditions (e.g. supplies, heating/cooling).  The board has ratified more compensation.


  1. 7. Do you have a goal of creating more K-8 schools?

Yes, research shows the value of K-8 schools.  But since we are losing kids at grade 9 (e.g. Kennedy High, Richmond High,) we’re also exploring the benefit of K-5.  Many communities are using the K-5 model.


  1. 8. Will there be a special needs school at the former St. Jerome’s location?
  2. Not that I know of.


  1. 9. How are you ensuring students have adequate access to teachers and staff of color?
  2. We have discussed how to recruit a diverse workforce.


  1. 10. What is District position on using vacant schools, such as Adams?
  2. Adams is not earthquake safe and a seismic retrofit would be very costly. By the way, charter schools can build to a slightly different standard. Alvarado, for example, is not in condition for students (e.g. no kitchen) and would cost millions to put back in condition.


  1. 11. How does the district ensure funds are spent for the intended purpose?
  2. There is a district L-Cap committee and the county Board of Education monitors our spending.


  1. 12. The district set a teacher retention goal of 5 years. Why not longer?
  2. I don’t know if, in future, there will be 30-year teachers. We are seeing a part bell curve where the bulk of teachers have either less than 5 years of teaching experience or greater than 25 years.


  1. 13. Our Fairmont principal could use an assistant principal. How did the district prioritize funding assistant principals at some schools?
  2. Where there were 500 or more students and an unduplicated count of low income students, that was where we put the assistants. We are looking at the next iteration.


  1. 14. How can you avoid pulling students out of class for music lessons?
  2. The question is money. I’m a fan of music and would like to get out of the pull students out of class model. For high-achievers, or students who have an instrument, leaving class is less of a problem.


  1. 15. Why are kids leaving the district?
  2. They say because of 1) safety and 2) rigor.


  1. 16. How can the district achieve its goals for minority students?
  2. We want accelerated goals for minority (Black, Latino) students. We are tracking their scores.


  1. 17. What is happening with funding for the visual and performing arts?
  2. We are keeping the resources we have.


Todd Groves, who retired from the WCCUSD board, on campaign financing:


I was a member of the board’s Governance subcommittee.  We saw rising dollars for school board races, including the influence of super PACs with deep pockets.  People are concerned about this principally because it would mean that individual board members who receive charter school campaign funding could represent narrow interests in the district.

The current board’s Governance subcommittee is talking about a $1K campaign limit that would apply to non-PAC contributions.  I opposed this because this control cannot touch PACs which have unlimited campaign funding opportunities to influence a school board ele          ction.  And that unlimited funding means heavy influence by charter schools which will hamper individuals not supported by charter school funding.  Moreover, large amounts of charter school funding going to a few school board members will mean that ordinary people cannot run for office.   They will lack the funds to compete.  In my case, in 2012, I raised $12K and spent $4K.


Going to a ward structure (as has occurred in Oakland and LA) does not help board members and the public have a greater voice.


WCCUSD Board member Val Cuevas asked to respond.  At this point, other board members excused themselves from the room to avoid any Brown Act issues.


Cuevas:  Regarding a limit on non-PAC campaign funding, our Governance subcommittee intent is how to make sure that your tax dollars have the same impact as monied interests.  AB 2523 did not pass, so we reached out to Common Cause.  Expenses can’t be limited, per the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. F.E.C decision, so we are looking how those with monied interest cannot make contributions that reflect their business interest, e.g. vendors.  We will not move the issue forward to the board until we feel we are comfortable.  By the way, Berkeley has a $250 campaign contribution limit.  [Note:  This $250 limit does not apply to PACs.]


SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, October 28, 2017
Site: Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave. in Kensington

This year’s selected caterer is LARB – a recently opened Thai restaurant in El Cerrito that is continuing to get highest ratings from their customers.

You will have a choice of a vegetarian entree and a curry chicken entree, as well as the usual variety of fresh salads, (pre-dinner snacks) appetizers, beverages, wine, coffee and delectable desserts.

Tickets: $25 per person
A choice of payment methods will be made available by Friday, August 18.

Our guest speaker will be Delaine Eastin, candidate for California Governor 2018

Thanks to all who have contacted me, as your dinner committee coordinator this year, to volunteer your time and also for your food/beverage and service contributions. Special thanks to those who continue to serve our Club at this annual dinner year after year.

Request: We are in need of “clean up” assistance.
If you can assist us, please contact me at

ECDC July 25, 2017 Meeting Recap

In Memory of Yvonne Steffen:

Executive Vice President Mister Phillips opened the meeting with a tribute to the memory of ECDC member and Sierra Club member Yvonne Steffen who was a true Progressive, a true Democrat, a very caring person and who walked El Cerrito streets, tirelessly and effectively canvassing for Democratic candidates and causes.  An obituary is here.

Candidates for Assembly District 15 and Nov 4 Candidate Forum:

Mister Phillips reminded everyone to Save the Date of November 4 from 11-1pm for the Black Caucus’s hosted AD15 candidates forum at Contra Costa College–and acknowledged several candidates present at the ECDC meeting :  Andy Katz, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto and Judy Appel.

Sponsoring Young Dems to attend the YD Convention in Dallas:

This is our chance to enable young Dems to participate in a Party convention.  Many cannot afford the cost of airfare, a hotel and meals.   Some are first generation Americans, young parents, and juggling school and work.  They estimate a shortfall of $5K to send 25 Young Dems to Dallas, so a donation of $100, $250 or $500–or other amount– would be gratefully received.  Checks should be made out to:  California Young Dems and can be sent to Gabe Quinto, 6438 Conlon Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530.

Guest speaker:  Kimberly Ellis, Candidate for California Democratic Party chair and Executive Director, Emerge California

Kimberly opened with thanks to elected officials who are making a difference in the community:  Mister Phillips, Gabe Quinto, and Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto (a graduate of Emerge).  She especially singled out the extraordinary help and support of Hilary Crosby, her right hand everything in the campaign.

The Campaign

The campaign was two years long, beginning in 2015 on a beach in Kauai when I made the decision to run for party chair.  During a remarkable, two-year marathon, the campaign:  reached about 743,000 Democrats via social media; raised $500,000 from about 1,700 donors; visited 68 Democratic clubs throughout the state in 50 of 58 counties;  held 22 townhall meetings and engaged in 15 debates;  obtained endorsements from 12 county central committees;  made 5 videos (including one focused on healthcare for all); and spoke to thousands of Democratic activists.

The emphasis throughout the campaign was on rebooting the party–and it was a real opportunity to bring the Bernie and Hillary parts of the party together.  We rolled out a 7-point plan that included reinvesting party funds, time and energy in people:   a permanent, full-time fied team to listen to, connect with and organize Democrats.   Unfortunately, the vast amount of party money is being spent on high-paid consultants and TV ads.  

Election Results

Once the CDP chair election results were known, we appeared to have lost by only 62 votes.   Quickly, it became clear that there were concerns about the validity of the election.  We asked for a preliminary review of the ballots, and a suspension of the installation of CDP officers until the review was complete.  The review demonstrated that there were much bigger issues with the votes and so we called for an independent, third-party audit to restore trust in the party and the election.  Our requests were denied.  Moreover, recently, the CDP Compliance review commission recently re-ratified the election despite the numerous issues discovered during our ballot review.  As a result, we are putting together a legal appeal.  It is still our hope that an independent audit will demonstrate that we are a party of integrity and honesty.

The Future

Regardless of the outcome of our appeal, we will continue to fight for what we believe in, holding ourselves accountable and telling hard truths.  Change is hard, but I think we have to be the party that tells hard truths and evolves and is relevant.  This is our opportunity to define who we are and unite all Democrats.  Our party schism was not just Hillary Dems vs Bernie Dems, but reflected many more divisions.  I was surprised that, on the campaign trail, I experienced in-your-face racism and sexism.  But I remain committed to reducing the disconnect between the party leadership and the people– and encouraging talented Democrats (especially women,. people of color, and the underrepresented) to run for office.  

Question and Answer session:

How do we avoid giving away elections to the GOP if too many Democratic candidates run for one office?  

 Anyone who feels the call to lead should run and they should root their campaign in issues, explaining our vision and our platform to the community.  There will be people uncomfortable with truths.  We are not going to please everyone and we must stay true to our values.  I’ve been accused of being an angry black woman, but people who know me know that that is not my disposition at all and in all honestly, the only people who could argue that I am are my kids, because you know, I make them do their homework and chores and stuff.

Our journey is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Be the person who’s not the most liked.  But have the courage to call the question and facilitate the tough conversations.  And have the courage to support a person who is asking the tough questions, so they do not stand alone.

How does the CDP get credibility?

With only about 3,000 votes cast in the CDP chair election, our review saw more than 200 vote issues.  So, we must have the courage to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves about what’s staring back at us – even if it’s not what we want it to be. It’s time for real honesty and transparency, and there are no shortcuts for the party in the future.     

 How do you see the future of the party chair?  

If we don’t change with the times, the party will die.  What attracted me to the chair position was the chance to connect with people in their communities and to use the power of the party to affect solutions for people in the name of the party.  Those community issues should be front and center in our message.

What can we do within the party?   And how do we heal?

Acknowledging that there is a problem is a first step.  Then talk about solutions and demand action.  Call out problem areas and bring solutions to the table.   Clubs can host/facilitate conversations–and can help the party meet people where they are.  This will bring more voices to the table and diversify the party.

How can we work on issues in Red counties?

During the campaign, I said we’d focus on red, blue and purple areas.  We need to hold elected officials accountable.  Unless ECDC and the other clubs in blue areas use their clubs and their county central committees to focus on the issues we have in common across every county in both rural and urban areas such as  poverty, education, and healthcare, we will make no headway.

What were the problems with the election in November?

We lost by fewer than 78,000 votes spread across the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin,  and Pennsylvania.  This was so close, but nationally only 8 people (5 white men and 3 white women) made the key decisions about where and how to spend billions in campaign funds.  Unlike the days of the Obama community organizers, the 8 didn’t invest enough in people and organizations that could organize communities of color (not Black, not Asian, not Latino).   When this happens, as we saw, a community does not know why the Democratic candidate is worth voting for.  We saw the same disparity in California races.  Only a tiny fraction of the money was spent on community organizers and field operations.    And both nationally and in the state races, the campaign wasn’t comfortable talking about real issues like race and jobs and poverty.  

 What are you doing next?

 I’ll continue to fight. And continue to facilitate difficult conversations and tell hard truths. I’ll continue standing up for candidates who are qualified, people-centered and have strong messages rooted in our shared, progressive values.   This is the farthest thing from identity politics.   We do not need threats and bullying of candidates who are qualified to do the job.

Kimberly received a standing ovation at the end of the Q and A.