Emery USD School Board President Susan Donaldson is firing back against an opinion blogger and political challenger that she says is spreading falsehoods about the district and their students.
A flyer being distributed within the city claims that the district “have dropped to last place in Alameda County academically” and that too much of their resources were being squandered for administration and consulting.
While the EUSD President doesn’t refute the challenges the district is facing, she wanted to set the record straight on the standing and progress the district has made.
Schoolboard candidate Brian Donahue (brother of outgoing councilmember Scott Donahue) distributed the above flyer stating these claims. It’s not clear what “ranking” or metric Donahue is referring to in his flyer.
The latest state data posted on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) lists Oakland as having a higher percentage of students that did not meet the targeted achievement level for English Language Arts & Literacy. Hayward Unified is another district within the county with similar scores. CAASPP does not provide a uniform “ranking” of Alameda County Schools.
During the League of Women Voters candidate forum, Donahue cited an apparently bogus stat about teacher pay being “$49,000” [25:30]. According to the district, the average teacher salary is $84,535 without benefits and $133,000 with benefits.
Hypocritically, he and members of a supposedly “progressive” group were critical of a ballot measure dedicated to increase teacher compensation. His political allies wrote the ballot argument for voting against it. Measure K ultimately passed in 2020.
Covid has wrecked havoc on the academic progess of school districts and Emery was among the many local districts criticized by parents for being slow to implement safety protocols and returning to in-class learning.
The district has faced a litany of challenges over the years but has been making gains over the last four years under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Quiauna Scott according to Donaldson. Among their many challenges are that over 80% of the enrolled students are from “socioeconomically disadvantaged” households according to the California School Dashboard.
Being a school boardmember is minimally compensated position paying about $1,440 per year. The position typically attracts parents looking to help the district where their children are enrolled, those with a passion for education or politically motivated individuals hoping to use the position to boost name recognition while seeking higher office.
Statement from School Board Incumbent and current President Susan Donaldson
I would like to address some falsehoods being put out into the community about our school district. A candidate for school board claims that we are “in last place academically.” They do not cite a source for this information and according to CAASPP, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, the official assessment system for California, we do not have the lowest scores in Alameda County.
We are certainly struggling, but repeating the falsehood that we are the “worst” academically is not helpful. “We” means our students, and continuing to repeat the message that our students can’t succeed perpetuates a harmful deficit mindset. At the district we have an asset-based approach to education and believe that school success is supported by a culture that reinforces a commitment to the beliefs that all children can learn, a collective responsibility for student learning, and a recognition that while external factors are important influences on achievement, schools can affect change.
Some assets we would like to share:
- We graduated 100% of our seniors in 2019, and between 95% (covid) and 98.3% since, much higher than the state average of 85.8%.
- We have lowered our suspension rate and we have increased teacher retention every year except for 21/22 with the pandemic.
- We had the highest growth on standardized testing in Alameda County for ELA (English Language Arts) in 2019.
- We won the 2019 College Board AP District Honor Roll for increasing course offerings and academic success.
- US News ranked Emery High in the Top 40% of US High Schools.
- Our average teacher salary is $84,535 without benefits and $133,000 with benefits.
With regards to per pupil spending, our district is so small with no economies of scale so we therefor have higher per pupil spending. We have 631 students. The next biggest district is Piedmont with 2596, almost 4 times the size of ours, and most other East Bay districts have between 9500-36,000 students. It is not apples to apples. Over 80% of our students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes and 20% are English language learners. These students require (and deserve!) services that cost more without the benefit of economies of scale.
I am also including a copy of our 3-year Goals for the Superintendent. The job of the board is to work with our Superintendent on setting the vision and goals for the district and keep her accountable. Everyone at the district is prioritizing the opportunity and achievement gap that has been widened by Covid. A culture of trust is a necessary condition for improvement, and the lack of trust impedes it.
Our Superintendent can’t be the kind of change maker we need if she doesn’t have a board that models positive and professional relationships, fosters mutual accountability and transparency, and engages openly with our community. Over the last four years, we have established a culture of trust that has resulted in positive gains with our labor partners and community at large. Hostility and dishonesty has no place in a culture of success.
I urge you to visit the CA Dashboard or the CAASPP database to explore this information and also to explore the district and school sites to learn more about the amazing community we serve. Thank you for helping to change the narrative and celebrate the successes of our students.