Alameda School Board Cuts Out the Middle Man

Dateline – Alameda, California:

A tie-breaking vote brought an end to an extended school board meeting Wednesday evening where Gray Harris was selected for and sworn in to the Alameda Board of Education to fill the empty seat of Nielsen Tam, who died of leukemia on May 24.

Board members were at a deadlock between Harris, a former Alameda grade school teacher and head of the Alameda Education Association, and Anne McKereghan, a Realtor who has served on the boards of the Alameda Education Foundation, Alameda Association of Realtors and the Alameda Boys & Girls Club.

…An Alameda resident for 16 years, Harris played a major role in contract negotiations with former Superintendent Kirsten Vital through her work with the Alameda Education Association. She left that position in 2013 to work with the California Teachers Association.

Each candidate had 20 minutes to give personal statements and take questions from the board. When asked by president Barbara Kahn how her involvement with the union might affect her decision-making on the board, Harris stressed that her role is “more of a resource position” rather than an advocacy one and that her decisions would be made based upon “what’s best for the students and teachers” and the district as a whole.

Harris’s “resource position” is that of a regional UniServ director. Part of her non-advocacy duties was this presentation on money in politics in which she asks, “What if we took the time to create candidates who wanted to change this system from the inside out?”

Best of all is this comment from July 2014 regarding a veiled post on an Alameda blog:

Here’s the story I heard from more than one source — Members of the AEA leadership approached [then-board president] Mike McMahon with a proposition. AEA would not oppose McMahon’s bid for re-election if he would do two things: 1) support the appointment of fellow board member Niel Tam as interim superintendent; and 2) agree to appoint former AEA president and current CTA staff member Gray Harris to Tam’s empty seat. That way Harris could serve on the board without having to face the voters.

What they did not tell McMahon was the next step. Once Harris was on the board, she would join with other board members and fire Tam so that they could appoint a union controlled superintendent.

Stories circulate all the time, but Harris is a created candidate, she now holds Tam’s seat, and she didn’t have to face the voters. New superintendent Sean McPhetridge shouldn’t get too comfortable.