Tom Butt
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  WCCUSD School Board Elections - Madeline Kronenberg
October 31, 2014

I support Madeline Kronenberg for the WCCUSD School Board. Here is what she was able to accomplish during the last eight years, most of which was during an unprecedented recession, when the District funding from the State of California was cut by $29 Million.

• raised state test scores, graduation rates, college acceptance rates and attendance
• began implementing full day Kindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten programs
• decreased suspensions and expulsions (added programs - like Mindful Life - to support students' emotional needs and help them be able to learn)
• passed two parcel taxes to keep counselors and reduce class size (attempted a third for even more which did not pass)
• served on the Academic Subcommittee and the Common Core Task Force – supporting teacher-led professional training
• support the movement to Full Service Community Schools that bring needed social services into the schools that need them
• created and chaired the Technology Committee to fully partner with teaching staff to


• made the painful choice to balance the budget (ending benefit commitments we could no longer keep)
• paid off the State debt (early) and got out of receivership
• raised our ratings from the Wall Street financing agencies - who see us as having a strong financial management team
• solicited matching funds from state agencies and received over $185 Million from the state to support our building program

• led the effort to partner with our community to rebuild or renovate 37 dilapidated schools – schools that are now safe and technologically up-to-date
• built schools to district-wide standards – providing equitable sites to everyone
• partnered with school communities to design each school – formed site committees made up of students, faculty and community members from each school to determine that school’s needs
• built state-of-the-art facilities for our disabled students – allowing us to serve them here in the District (reducing expensive private institution placements)
• included community kitchens in each new school – so that the school is equipped to serve the community in an emergency and to become a hub for community activity

This election seems to have devolved into a debate solely about charter schools fueled by campaign spending that looks more like a City of Richmond election than a school board election.
It’s not like the current board, including Kronenberg, are anti-charter schools; they are simply cautious about turning the District into a charter school district. As a member of the board, Kronenberg supported using millions of dollars of bond funds to rehabilitate the historic Maritime Center for use by Richmond College Preparatory School, and she also supported far more than that to build a new school for Leadership (charter) High School. In 2013, of the nineteen public elementary schools in Richmond, Richmond College Preparatory – a charter school – held the highest Academic Performance Index score (API), with 828 points.
Charter money controversy in West Contra Costa school board race
By Theresa Harrington Contra Costa Times
Posted:   10/31/2014 06:24:46 AM PDT8 Comments
Updated:   10/31/2014 06:25:23 AM PDT
RICHMOND -- Controversy is brewing in the West Contra Costa school board race over hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school advocates to support two board candidates and to defeat one incumbent.
Nearly 30 district residents are circulating a letter to "friends and neighbors" raising questions about more than $260,000 spent by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and the Education Matters independent expenditure committees to support candidates Liz Block and Valerie Cuevas and to defeat longtime board member Madeline Kronenberg.
But charter association advocates and local developer Steve Chamberlin, who funds Education Matters and leases space to the Summit Charter in El Cerrito, insist they are pouring money into the race because they want what's best for local kids.
And Block and Cuevas say they didn't ask for the support of charter advocates, who have contributed to independent expenditure committees they don't control.
"My campaign has drawn supporters from all across the district," Cuevas said Thursday. "My opponents are being funded by groups with conflicts of interest."
Campaign filing information posted on the Contra Costa County elections website as of Thursday showed Kronenberg had raised $95,323; a major portion of that is from architects, contractors, labor unions and consultants, including $7,500 from the Seville Group, which manages the district's $1.6 billion bond construction program.
Kronenberg defends these contributions, saying she has reached out to the community to improve dilapidated school facilities. She said she's concerned about the large amount of money being spent by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expendure Committee to support Cuevas and Block and to defeat her. As of Thursday, the association had spent $113,502 to oppose Kronenberg, plus $73,748.75 to support Block and $50,164 to support Cuevas.
Kronenberg said she feared the organization wants to increase the number of charter schools in the district, which could lure engaged parents away from neighborhood schools and leave the district to educate more challenging students, including special education students.
"If my fears were unfounded," she speculated, "they wouldn't put in all this money in against me."
But Gary Borden, a spokesman for the charter advocates, said he was not aware of any plans for new charters in the district, aside from two organizations that already have submitted charter petitions. Instead, he said the association wants to help tell voters about the construction interests that have typically funded Kronenberg's campaign, while also supporting two candidates who have strong track records working to improve public schools.
"No one historically has been able to compete at that level of funding that construction companies have provided," he said. "In effect, they have been the only ones to participate, and it's allowed them to effectively buy the vote. We're attempting to level the playing field in this election. The voters haven't heard the story of the district's poor academic performance. We're spending in part to tell the story of the failed leadership over these past few years that has not been highlighted in these elections of the past."
Similarly, Chamberlin, who has poured $250,000 into the Education Matters independent expenditure committee, says he's doing that because he lives in the district and cares about education. He is circulating a response to his friends and neighbors in response to accusations on Kronenberg's website.
"Many people before us vetted the candidates and, in solidarity, decided to support strong, ethical leaders," his message states. "We are standing alongside these individuals, and donating significantly, to give voice to the group."
Cuevas said she doesn't think voters will be fooled by the controversy that has erupted over the independent expenditures.
"The issue in this campaign is not charter schools," she said. "The issue is the track record of the incumbents."
More information: Complete campaign contribution details are available by visiting

Richmond Confidential
Pro-charter school PACs flood West Contra Costa school board elections with spending
The Pro-Charter PACs, Education Matters and California Charter Schools Association, have spent over $350,000 on this year’s school board election.
The Pro-Charter PACs, Education Matters and California Charter Schools Association, have spent over $350,000 on this year’s school board election.
By Hannah Lawson and Zainab KhanPosted 1 hour ago
Richmond’s City Council and Mayoral races won’t be the only hot topics at the polls Tuesday, and Chevron isn’t the only entity flooding money into this year’s campaigns.
Two pro-charter school PACs and one pro-charter school couple have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a School Board race that has not received much attention from financial contributors elsewhere.
In an open letter called “Our Schools Are Not For Sale,” a group of Richmond 28 parents voiced their concerns regarding charter schools and the influx of “campaign money from deep-pocketed charter school supporters.”
“Charter schools concern us because they siphon off students and money from the other schools in the district, without sharing the challenges of educating ALL students,” the letter stated.
This November, three out of five seats on the WCCUSD (West Contra Costa Unified School District) Board of Education are open for election. There are ten candidates in the race. Two of the candidates, Elaine Merriweather and Madeline Kronenberg, are incumbents.
The California Charter School Association, and its subsidiary PAC, has spent over $200,000 in independent expenditures on the school board campaign so far.
Stephen Chamberlin, the retired owner of a real estate development firm, and his wife Susan, have contributed a combined $4000 to the campaigns of Liz Block, Valerie Cuevas, Raquel Donoso, and Elaine Merriweather.
Chamberlin and his wife are also the founders of Education Matters, a pro-charter school PAC, to which they have donated $250,000 of their own money. Education Matters, in turn, has spent over $100,000 on the race.
Three of the School Board candidates, Liz Block, Valerie Cuevas, and Raquel Donoso, have either received direct contributions from Susan and Stephen Chamberlin or have benefitted indirectly through the PACs’ independent expenditures.
Charter Spending Stats
In a statement to Richmond Confidential, Block wrote, “I am not a ‘charter person.’ I am not a ‘district’ person, despite a long career as a district educator. I am a students and student-outcomes person.”
Cuevas stated, “I do not support school vouchers nor do I support for-profit charter education providers. However, I also believe that the parental demand for charter options in our district will not cease as long we fail to adequately see improvement of chronically low performing schools.”
Despite only vaguely allying themselves with charter schools, Liz Block and Valerie Cuevas have benefitted from about $130,000 and $85,000, respectively, in independent expenditures from Education Matters and the California Charter School Association.
In 2013, of the nineteen public elementary schools in Richmond, Richmond College Preparatory – a charter school – held the highest Academic Performance Index score (API), with 828 points. Peres and Valley View Elementary schools – which are not charter schools – came in second and third, with 816 and 815 API points, respectively.
School Board incumbent Madeline Kronenberg has faced the brunt of the PACs’ opposition spending – in total, the California Charter School Association has spent over $100,000 in campaign literature and mailings opposing Kronenberg, and Education Matters has spent just under $25,000 doing the same.
Kronenberg has raised just over $62,000 in contributions for her campaigns, or around half the amount the PACs have spent on her opposition.
Publically against charter schools, Kronenberg argues that the charter school application process pulls engaged families and students out of neighborhood schools, to the success of the charter schools and detriment of neighborhood schools.
“I would expect every school that has 100% engaged parents to outperform schools without that benefit,” said Kronenberg.
The concern among some Richmond parents is that big-money corporations and PACs believe they can buy their way into the city.
Addressing the pro-charter school PACs, Richmond parents wrote, “We can tell you that no magic bullet is going to solve the challenges of public education. Rather, creating success in public schools means rolling up your sleeves and working with your child’s teachers, administrators, and district staff on behalf of all students.”