Former School Board President Barbara Inch’s abrupt resignation has touched off a search for a new boardmember.
Inch tendered her resignation shortly after the June meeting that saw the school gymnasium named after legendary Emery High basketball coach Elio “Abe” Abrami. Abrami was chosen over trans rights pioneer Steve Dain who Inch had put considerable lobbying effort into.
Qualified Candidates Emerge from Nomination Process
After opening the nomination process to the public, Abrami received 21 of the 56 nominations submitted to Dain’s 4. Other nominations included Warriors guard Steph Curry, former Emery High star Darnell Robinson and other non-local figures.
Abrami was considered a logical choice for the naming of the gym as a basketball coach for the district for 38 years. Abrami passed away last year at the age of 92.
Dain, who we recently profiled for Pride Month, was a former Emery High Teacher of the Year who was controversially fired from the district after transitioning to a man in 1975. Dain passed away from cancer at the age of 67 in 2007.
Naming of Gym Pits School Board Against City Council
At the emotional meeting, three members of Abrami’s family were on hand to speak on his behalf. “It didn’t make a difference what you did before, it’s what you do again,” cited Abrami’s nephew as wisdom his uncle imparted to those he mentored.
“We have a chance tonight to make history by naming a municipal building after a transgender hero,” noted Councilmember Dianne Martinez who spoke in favor of Dain at public comment along with fellow Councilmembers Scott Donahue and Christian Patz. Martinez identified herself as having two children in the district.
Inch spoke of “righting a wrong” and the history and attention the district could achieve if it chose Dain.
Boardmember Brynnda Collins seemed put off by the political pressure being applied on the board by City Council who have no direct control over the district. “The nomination for Steve Dain is political,” she noted during her opportunity to speak. “We don’t want to make history or the newspapers by naming our gym. We want to make history with our test scores. The person this gym is named after needs to be a pillar of the community. It’s about community, not politics.”
Other School boardmembers, while expressing sympathy toward Dain’s unjust dismissal, mostly sided with Abrami noting the length and inspirational nature of his tenure at Emery High.
Abrami won a ranked choice voting contest and a motion was carried 4-1 to approve naming the gym after him (Inch dissenting).
Although the gymnasium will be named after Abrami, there seemed to be some inertia around acknowledging Dain in another way.
Inch Abruptly Resigns Following Defeat
Inch announced her resignation shortly after the meeting. Her brief letter to the County Office of Education did not state the reasons for her departure, but it clearly stemmed from her frustration and inability to influence the vote of her fellow boardmembers.
Inch later revealed her feelings to the LGBTQ-focused news website Bay Area Reporter. Inch seemed particularly betrayed by Boardmember Nguyen who despite being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, sided with the other boardmembers in selecting Abrami. “I was shocked and confused by member Nguyen’s comments and reasoning,” Inch told B.A.R.
Inch, husband of Emeryville Councilmember and current Vice Mayor Christian Patz (a former boardmember himself), was elevated to President shortly after the 2018 fall election that saw the installation of three new boardmembers. The three candidates were lobbied for heavily by our current city council and seemed to signal an idealogical shift giving Inch a mandate to push their priorities. Her tenure as President ended up being short-lived though.
Three Candidates Apply for Vacancy
Inch’s departure with over a year left in her term left a vacancy in the board and the remaining boardmembers voted to make a provisional appointment as opposed to holding a special election. The position comes with a modest $120/mo. stipend and is prone to frequent and often personal attacks from local politicos.
Having a child within the district is not a qualification for being a school board member and Inch/Patz have opted to use a local charter school for their family’s education.
Three candidates have applied for the vacant position including Charles Jackson, Lauren Salazar and Michelle Smith. The board interviewed two of the candidates at the August 28th meeting and will interview the third and vote at a special September 3rd meeting.