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School Board Questionnaire

We thank Tracy Lynn Jensen and Mike McMahon for participating in the questionnaire, giving voters an in-depth look at their positions before heading to the ballot box in November. Regretably Daniel T. Herrera failed to respond before our publication deadline. Please feel free to send your comments on the questions & answers. We'll publish them as soon as we receive enough for a new page. Note that email addresses will not be published or otherwise used.

Home City Council Q & A Mayoral Q & A

1. Why should the Green Party support your candidacy? What sets you apart from the other candidates? Be specific.

Tracy Lynn Jensen:
The Green Party should endorse me because I am the only candidate who actively supports environmental issues. I am currently a member of the Alameda Recycling Coalition, and the Alameda City Transportation Commission's Pedestrian Task. In every year that I have been on the Board I have actively campaigned for Safe Routes to School, and worked with Alameda Police Department to develop alternatives to vehicle drop off of children.

In addition, I led the development of the District's "Wellness Policy", which will improve the health of our students and staff through education, environmental improvements, and appropriate decision-making. I believe that not only should schools provide good nutritional and physical activity opportunities, but school sites should be safe from threats to students, and school staff should model safe and healthy behaviors. I am tired of seeing big business attempt to sell more products by stealth marketing poor nutrition and bad habits to our children.

Finally, my entire career has been spent in social services - working at the state, federal and local level to ensure that under serviced populations are recognized and valued. In 1996 while working for the Department of Human Services in Washington DC helped to develop the Healthcare Security Act, which would have provided access to healthcare for all Americans. Later I worked for Vice President Gore's "Reinventing Government" initiative, where I developed a system to help low income parents more easily obtain health care for their children through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP or SCHIP). I currently serve as the Senior Services Administrator for the City of Oakland, where I advocate for seniors My objective is to provide access to the services that will keep senior residents in their homes and out of institutions.

The main thing that sets me apart is the fact that I am the only candidate who attended Alameda public schools, as did my mother and grandmother. I value the Alameda community, and I understand the important link between community and schools. In addition to being entirely an Alamedan, I am a progressive, and I understand that in order to ensure student achievement we must give them all the tools available in the 21st Century. The School Board cannot sit back as science curriculum is diluted by fundamentalist ideology, nor allow big business to determine whether our children understand the impact we have on our world. finally, I am the only candidate to have extensive experience in government.

I am the only candidate with experience in social services, public affairs, and government administration. I have worked for the US Department of Health and Human Services, for former Vice President Gore's "Reinventing Government" initiative, for the Maryland legislature's health care policy committee, for the City of Oakland and for the Maryland Democratic Party. I understand politics, policy and government like no one else on the Board, and I know how to get things done for Alameda Unified School District.

During my tenure as School Board President the District received $72 in additional revenue per student from the state budget. Working together with the community and the school employee unions we consolidated 3 schools and hired a new superintendent. We also cut over $2 million from the District budget. All that was facilitated by my leadership, and my knowledge of effective governance. And finally, the District will be moving soon to give a substantial raise to all local unions in the coming months - a salary increase which I believe is overdue and well-deserved.

Mike McMahon:
During my first four years on the School Board, I have attempted to make the decision making process and the information used for those decisions accessible to Alamedans via my website: By being as transparent as possible I believe we can improve public education by gaining the trust and confidence of its citizens.

2. What is the number one issue facing our school district? What plan(s) have you to address it?

Tracy Lynn Jensen:
I think that the number one issue facing our school district is the lack of financial support for schools from state and federal governments. I have been working to address the issue by meeting with local legislators and supporting state budgets that increase school funding. Our local and national priorities must be re-examined, in order to ensure that all children have access to a high quality education that meets their needs. We are not paying enough attention to the increasing diversity in the classroom, and by instituting mandated curriculum and testing we are stifling the creativity that made this country great.

My plan to address the lack of financial support is to continue to work closely with Senator Don Perata, Assemblymember Wilma Chan, and other state legislators to ensure that alameda Unified School District is given the resources necessary to ensure student success. Having said that, I must add that I will also continue to work with private funders like the Alameda Education Foundation, and look for alternative resources in order to fill the financial gaps. The community of Alameda is generous and giving, and no one knows better than I how to reach out to the community to garner support for our schools.

Mike McMahon:
The number one problem facing Alameda is declining enrollment. Ironically, our main charge of improving the schools is one of the main reasons for increasing housing vlaues in Alameda and has contributed to young families leaving Alameda to buy their first home.

3. Please explain the roles of the administration versus the school board.

Tracy Lynn Jensen:
I have worked in government since 1990 when I received Master's degrees in Public Health and Business. During the early 90s I worked for the state of Maryland legislature, where I researched issues that eventually resulted in changes to the law. Later I worked for 8 years as a policy analyst for the Medicare Program, where I wrote many regulations that put the legislation into practice. Now I am an administrator for the City of Oakland where I respond to the City Council's concerns by implementing changes in the operations of the senior centers. And in 2002 I was elected to the School Board to represent the community of Alameda.

As the only candidate with experience at all levels of government - from elected official to administrator to policy developer - I have the understanding of how effective governmental organizations function. The administration must be free to share information about the operations of the district, and they must have the tools to make appropriate decisions about finances, personnel, facilities and other "nuts and bolts" issues. On the other hand, the school board must ensure that the administration is transparent, that all of the programs and policies that the community supports are a priority, and above all that the district is complying with the law and doing everything it can to support student success.

Mike McMahon:
The School Board sets/establishes policy and the administration implements policy. For more visit my website:

4. How would you meet the needs of parents who want more charter schools? Under what circumstances would you approve another charter school?

Tracy Lynn Jensen:
The two Alameda charter schools are successfully addressing the needs of many students who might otherwise have difficulty achieving success in the district public school system. The Independently Chartered Bay Area School of Enterprise - BASE - has established a unique program that allows high school students to identify their interests, develop a unique learning plan, and reach their goals with the support of other students, instructors, community members and staff. The District also has a "dependent" charter, the Alameda Community Learning Center - ACLC, serving children from 6th through 12th grade. The community of learners at ACLC, the individual attention to students, the unique programs of study and the small school environment are aspects of the school that are very popular with students and parents alike. ACLC has achieved extremely high test scores and is viewed by many Alameda parents as an ideal place to send their children after elementary school.

In fact, a number of Alameda community members would like to see ACLC expanded to grades kindergarten through 12. That will not happen at this time however because the Board just this year approved a three-year charter for the school, a charter which does not include expansion. But the charter school model continues to be attractive to many who feel that the public schools are not able to meet the needs of all students.

I disagree and basically I do not want to see more charter schools in Alameda. I think that charter schools dilute the public education system by giving more authority and responsibility to non-educators. I do not want to see charter schools sponsored by religious or even secular organizations in Alameda because I fear that those institutions will foster or support ideals that are not in keeping with the social democratic system of free education that is a foundation of our society. And finally, I am concerned that charter schools drain already limited funds from the public school system, and give those monies to institutions that do not have to meet the same standards as do public schools. So, the only way that I would support another charter school would be if it were a "dependent" charter that was operated by a secular non-profit and required to meet the same standards as do our public schools. Any new charter must not compete with our existing public schools for funding, and a new Charter school must demonstrate that it would serve students that otherwise might not have the tools to succeed in our District.

Mike McMahon:
Alameda has done a good job of working with the three charter schools in Alameda. While the charter schools have a negative fiscal impact on the District, each charter school fulfills its mission of serving children. Given our current fiscal situation, I do not see any circumstance where I could approve another charter school for the foreseeable future.

5. How do you prioritize the budget?

Tracy Lynn Jensen:
As a School Board member I have found that the budget is already prioritized before it comes to the Board for decision. The public education funding formulas are defined very narrowly, with very restricted revenue and expenditure requirements. Each program expenditure comes from a certain account, and new programs are unlikely to receive funding unless it is contained in the state budget formula.

Having said that, I prioritize the budget by making sure that the District is operating in a prudent and fiscally sound manor. Each year that I have been on the Board of Education we have had to cut programs, services, and staff in order to balance the budget. I prioritize the budget cuts by trying to determine how close or far from the classroom the cuts will be. For example, in 2006 the Board of Education combined three elementary schools and in doing so cut $800,000 from the budget. Although some people said that those cuts were classrooms, I made the decision because I knew that closing outdated schools and economizing our operations would allow the District to keep counselors, special education staff, and sports programs. We are fortunate to have a terrific Superintendent and an outstanding financial staff in the District, and I rely on their reporting and analysis to make the right budget decisions for students.

Mike McMahon:
My priority is making sure the District maintains is required reserves and avoids being taken over by the County Office of Education and\or the State.