May 31, 2012

Sonobe and Knowles Compete for County School Board

The race for the Area 4 seat Alameda County School Board is between former Oakland teacher Geraldine Sonobe and Aisha Knowles, the current Public Information Officer for the Alameda County Fire Department. Area 4 of the Alameda County School Board includes San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, and other parts of unincorporated Alameda County.

When both of these candidates appeared before the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee seeking the Democratic nomination, neither seemed to know what the Alameda County School Board actually did. Despite that, the Democrats endorsed Knowles.

Knowles unsuccessfully applied to be appointed to the position after long-time Area 4 Alameda County School Board member Felix Elizalde passed away in September 2010.

At a candidate forum held at the Bal Theatre on May 16, 2012, Sonobe and Surlene Grant, representing Knowles, both made a case for why they should be elected.

Sonobe noted her 30 years of experience in education, including five years at Castlemont High School in Oakland. After lamenting the cuts to school districts and to the County, Sonobe noted that the math professional development services provided by the County are “absolutely stellar...I know from the actual professional development that I've taken at Alameda County...how it translates to the classroom.” Sonobe said she would look to companies and organizations for mentor-ships that could help engage students at risk of dropping out. Sonobe concluded by noting that she was endorsed by the Oakland Tribune. Complete video of Sonobe at the candidate forum is below.

Knowles was unable to attend because she was sick and was represented by Surlene Grant. Grant first discussed Knowles failed application for the County School Board vacancy in 2010. Grant noted that Knowles established partnerships in her role at the Fire Department, including some that involved training at-risk kids for fire services. “She will work to improve the communications between Alameda County Board of Education and our local community. She will be working to better prepare our schools for fire and life safety and emergency preparedness...She will assist schools with the challenge of state budget cuts and ensure that we are training, recruiting, and retaining quality teachers.” Grant concluded with a list of endorsements that included the Alameda County Democratic Party, Alameda Labor Council, and National Women's Political Caucus. Complete video of Grant at the candidate forum is below.

In its brief endorsement of Sonobe, the Oakland Tribune wrote, “Geraldine Sonobe holds a master's degree in linguistics and the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. She taught English language development in Oakland schools. She understands how academically unprepared our students are.

Today, she's a director of a program that helps prepare low-income students, predominantly African-Americans and Latinos, for college. It's the sort of education leadership that would make her an excellent county board trustee.”

The Oakland Tribune was not so kind to Knowles, “...we remain perplexed by why her opponent, Aisha Knowles, is running. Knowles, a public information officer for the Alameda County Fire Department, says she wants to improve communications between the Office of Education and the community.

However, she's unable to articulate what that would involve in any meaningful way. Moreover, she has no significant education experience. She unsuccessfully applied for a board appointment to a vacancy two years ago when a trustee died and regards that as a credential for her election. We don't agree.”

The election will be held on June 5, 2012.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at May 31, 2012 6:09 AM | TrackBack
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