Emery School Board turmoil as President steps down, incumbent Joy Ashe enters race as Write-in Candidate

5 mins read

The wild world of the Emery School Board just got even more interesting. Just days after School Board President John Affeldt stepped down, incumbent Joy Ashe has declared her candidacy as a ballot write-in. While a long-shot to win, her emergence throws a wrinkle in the race for the two seats being vacated by her and Brittany Collins-Rogers (daughter of Council candidate Brynnda Collins).

The race is an interesting one to say the least. Current School Board member Christian Patz, whose term has two years left, is running for City Council. Barbara Inch, his wife, is running for one of the vacating school board seats. Should Inch win and Patz lose his Council bid, they would be on the school board together (would dinner conversations be a “Brown Act” Violation? ;).

EPOA Video: School Board President John Affeldt announces his resignation.

Sincerity and genuineness are rare commodities in politics. People often run under the premise that they want to improve their communities but there are always underlying ambitions and personal motivations. Joy Ashe is an exception to this and about as selfless as one can be.

Ashe’s term was about to end and she had opted not to run because of the time constraints of working and having a 1-1/2 year old son. “The emotional energy that you have to put into it is probably the most draining. Teacher cuts, dealing with controversy. It’s been a difficult five years. But I’m still a big believer in the ECCL and the co-location concept. It’s how I grew up.”

The deadline to file had elapsed and the Emeryville Teacher Association (ETA) had expressed publicly that they were not confident in either Inch or Bukowski. To compound things, Affeldt resigned to take a sabbatical in Spain throwing the board into disarray. Ashe was approached by the ETA to consider running as a write-in candidate and she consented. “I immediately went down to the County office in Oakland and filed the paperwork”.

One of the ideas being bandied about by some of the candidates is merging the EUSD into one of the adjacent school districts (BUSD or OUSD) for fiscal reasons. This is something strongly opposed by the ETA but Inch and Bukowski have avoided publicly stating they are against it. “It would raise property taxes in Emeryville significantly” added Ashe.

A write-in candidate actually winning has long odds but Ashe hopes even if she doesn’t win, it sends a message to whomever does. Ashe also made a strong case for fellow candidate Cruz Vargas. “I met with him and I understand his values and what he stands for and I think he’d be a great addition to the school board”.

Profiles of the Four Candidates:

JOY ASHE: Parent/School Board Incumbent (write-in candidate)

I have had the honor to have sat on the Emery Unified School Board for the last 5 years and was not planning on re-running for a second term. After having my son last year, I did not file paperwork to re-run for election as it has been challenging balancing the school board with work and now a family. However the teachers association has asked me to run as a write in due to their lack of confidence in two of the candidates, Ken Bukowski and Barbara Inch. I originally became involved with the school district as a member of the citizens oversight committee. I was a firm believer in the ECCL project and the countless opportunities it will provide to our community. After approximately a year on the COC, I was urged to run for the open seat of the school board. Over these past six years, I have worked with great people in our district towards a unified mission of bringing top educational and full service support to all students. I am a very community based individual. The children of our schools, whether they reside in Emeryville or Oakland, will be a part of our community regardless. We need to have a wrap around, village-raises-every-child attitude in order to make our community stronger, not an exclusive one. And although I struggle with the thought of continuing the juggling act, the thought of a merger or dissolution is not something I can sit back and watch happen. The students, teachers and staff deserve better.

Email: joymashe@gmail.com

CRUZ J. VARGAS: Parent/Marketing Executive

cruz-vargas-emeryville-school-boardOccupation: Parent, Marketing Professional, Community Volunteer and Children’s advocate.

My education and qualifications are: B.S. UC Berkeley (Business Administration). 10+ yrs of experience in Marketing, currently for Paypal. Emeryvillian since 2011.

Emeryville deserves high quality schools that match our beautiful new facilities – that’s why I am running for School Board. Lets increase our 3 out of 10 grade in GreatSchools.org within 3 years as it simply does not match our community. With your vote, let’s focus on: 1) parent/guardian participation, 2) retaining/attracting great teachers, 3) equal opportunities for all children 4) sustain a bully-free environment.

As a school volunteer and soccer coach, I know our children are happy and full of potential. I also love Emeryville! On weekends, you’ll see me biking around town with my 10-year-old daughter, catching Pokemons in our parks, or eating at Hot Italian, Best Coast Burritos or Grato Burger.

Most importantly, I believe my marketing skills complement the current school board and help us ensure that every dollar invested provides a return in our children’s futures.

Since I am not a politician, 100% of my energy and passion will be focused on improving our schools. With your vote, we’ll lean into this goal together!

Phone: (619) 339-2732
Web: www.iloveemeryville.com
Email: cruzjvargas@gmail.com

BARBARA INCH: Parent/Web Developer

My family settled in Emeryville in 2003. I am a mother and web developer, dedicated to the community and schools. Both my professional experience and my time on the Parks and Recreation Committee will enable me to add value as an objective, impartial member of the Emery Unified School District Board.

As an active parent at my son’s school, I know that cooperation between the teachers, parents, and administrators is vitally important in creating an environment where every child has the opportunity to succeed. This requires leadership, communication, and a focus on learning. I support fiscal responsibility and joint use of the recreational facilities. I strongly support social skills education to ensure a safe learning environment. Schools need to educate children from all backgrounds and abilities to become lifelong learners that are engaged in their community.

I will be talking to as many community members as possible regarding ways to improve our schools, and will be available to talk to anyone with concerns or suggestions.

Together, we can tackle the quality-of-education, equity and fiscal challenges, while representing diverse interests. I would be honored by your vote.

Web: facebook.com/barbaraforemeryville
Email: barbarainch@yahoo.com

KEN BUKOWSKI: Videographer

ken-bukowski-emeryville-school-board-thumbI served on the Emeryville City Council for 24 years.

I was the councilmember responsible for merging our city fire department with Alameda County Fire Department. As a result, the city saves over a million dollars each year, and the consolidation provides more equipment, and more personnel to do the job.

We should examine the feasibility of merging the Emery School District with another district. Maintaining a separate district for such a small number of kids must be impacting the amount of available funds the district has for programs and services.

Many parents are paying to send their kids outside the district when they would potentially send them to our school. As a result, the district is importing students from outside the district. This means those parents have no voice in electing members to serve on the school board.

I believe the school board needs to open more dialogue with parents and teachers. I propose the creation of a live broadcast event to discuss issues in the schools, including an opportunity for parents to call in during the broadcast.


  • Co-founder of City-School Committee (regular joint meetings of the City Council and School District Board).
  • Co-founder of Emeryville Child Development Center
  • Founder of the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce.
  • Volunteer provider of links to video record public meetings and events. This includes providing video links to all the school board meetings, many city meetings and meetings of regional agencies.

Phone: (510) 305-0000
Email: ken.bukowski@gmail.com

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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