Nov 132015
photo stolen from the Pioneer

photo stolen from the Pioneer

This letter is written by former Mayor Stephen Cassidy. If you have children at SLUSD schools or are a student there, I urge you to read it.

Summary – The school board is considering implementing major changes to the program for students at our middle schools and high schools starting next school year.

While this undertaking is well intentioned and likely will result in positive reforms for our students, the school board has not sufficiently brought parents into the planning process and the changes are too significant for the district to implement well by August 2016.  Parents need to know the exact changes under consideration and how they will affect their children’s education.
The school board should make clear to the community as it reviews the proposals that – if adopted – they will not be implemented until the 2017-18 school year.
Dear Friends & Neighbors:
On Monday, November 9th, I attended a meeting the school district held for parents and community members on major changes under consideration for middle school and high school as part of what is called the Secondary Redesign.
Under the initiative of the Superintendent and with the approval of the school board, a group of teachers, principals and administrators – the redesign committee – have been meeting since last school year to consider how to best meet the needs of our middle and high school students given the changes in society and education over the past decade.  You can read about the work of the committee at
It’s my understanding that the redesign committee is considering changes to the class schedule – such as eliminating the traditional periods schedule and adopting a block or modified block schedule, ways to incorporate career pathway instruction into regular academic courses, how effective the academies at the high school are in serving students and ways they can be improved, alternative education pathways for high school students beyond what the district currently offers, and ending the focus of the Fred Korematsu campus on 9th Grade students and converting into a site for academies.
The Superintendent and school board established that redesign committee would make its recommendations for changes at the middle and high schools in time for implementation by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.  Given the large lead time needed to implement such potentially far reaching changes, if the school board decides to adopt the proposals, the school board needs to act in January 2016.  And that is what current secondary redesign timeline calls for – school board review of the proposals in January 2016.
The meeting on Monday night was the first chance for parents to learn about the work of the redesign committee. The meeting room at the San Leandro High School library was packed with parents along with many students.  This link from the San Leandro Education Foundation​ website provides a summary of the discussion.
In a nutshell, parents were told what has occurred to date and why the committee was formed.  The emphasis was on process.  No summary of recommendations by the committee – which is still meeting and considering proposals – was provided.
However, there was great concern expressed by many parents and students concerning a possible move back to a block schedule for the high school.  District administrators stayed until after 9 p.m. to answer every question.
We were told that the school board planned to have a work session on the redesign committee proposals in December and would formally consider the proposals for adoption at its January regular board meeting.  Aside from an online survey that will be made available next week for parents to complete, the meeting on Monday night was the sole opportunity for parents to ask questions on the secondary redesign changes that district planned to hold.
I commented at the meeting that hosting only one community forum (that didn’t review any actual proposals) was insufficient.  I asked that another forum for parents be scheduled in January before the school board votes on any proposals. District administrators were responsive and agreed to do so.
In considering the matter further after the meeting, I decided to attend and speak at the school board meeting on Tuesday night.  During public comments I requested that the board postpone any significant changes to our middle and high schools until the 2017-18 school year.  I emphasized that I am not opposed to thoroughly examining all aspects of our secondary programs and working to improve them.
Far reaching changes, however, require extensive engagement with internal and external (parent) stakeholders.  The current schedule proposed by the school board – even if modified to add a community meeting in early January – remains deficient in providing for meaningful input from parents on the changes under consideration.
Without going into too much detail, I am further concerned that the significant changes if adopted will require extensive teacher training and professional development.  This can only occur during the school year.  And this is simply not going to occur between January and June of 2016. The reform under consideration is too significant for staff to undertake and roll out – well – on the first day of school next August.
My children attend San Leandro public schools.  Our schools are moving in the right direction under the current district leadership.  However, the secondary redesign timeline is too rushed.  It appears that the majority of the school board does not realize they made a mistake in approving this timeline.  Nor is the school board working to modify it.
The core role of the school board is to serve as the interface between the community and district.  The board’s number one job is to ensure that the policies and initiatives of the district are in the best interests of our students and that parents and the community have the opportunity for meaningful comment and review before any significant changes occur.
Here is a link to the email addresses of all board members:  Please write them and share your views.
One final note, I serve as board member of the San Leandro Education Foundation.  I am not speaking on behalf of the foundation.  I am speaking solely for myself.
All the best,
Oct 072015

marinaawardAnd I win for Best Restaurant!

You will proud to know that I have just been awarded the “Best of San Leandro 2015” award, in the restaurant category, for Marina Restaurant.  You didn’t know that I owned Marina Restaurant? I didn’t either, though given that I’ve been getting their spam mail for years, I might as well.  It’s time that my sacrifices on behalf of the business were recognized and I thank the San Leandro Awards Program (SLAP) for the honor.

According to SLAP’s press release, the award is granted to businesses that have “achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.”  And, you have to admit that marketing yourself as the owner of an award-winning restaurant by doing nothing at all is quite a feat. I must be some kind of  marketing genius.

I found out of my award last evening, through an e-mail which my obviously faulty spam filtered, tried to keep away from me.  The e-mail had few details but it offered a link to my very own award web page.  There, I was able to read how this award can help my company (though being the marketing genius that I am I don’t need no help) and have my frequently asked questions answered.  I now know that Marina Restaurant is the *only* restaurant in San Leandro to get his award (so, if any other local restaurants get the award, it’s surely a mistake) and that the full list of awardees will be published after all the e-mails are delivered.  I can’t wait to see who else is there!

The page also gave me a link to change my information. I can change the name of my business, the category, the city or the state – but I can’t actually change my e-mail address (more proof that this award is for me and not for the actual owners of Marina Restaurant).

The FAQ also explained very helpfully that as SLAP does not charge membership dues, it must charge for the award (the press release is free!).  I can get an award plaque for only $150 or a beautiful crystal octagonal award for just $200 (plus $20 in shipping & handling).  All I have to do is give this company I never heard of but who promises to sell my name, address and e-mail to their “strategic partners”, my credit card information.  In just two to three weeks I should have the award in my hands.  And did I mention how I get to choose whether I want a blue, green, red or yellow background? Which one do you think I should choose?

Call me suspicious (you never could really pronounce Marga, could you?), but I did a little bit of research on the San Leandro Awards Program.  I couldn’t find any records of them existing as an actual organization, but I found that the domain name they use,, was registered for the first time yesterday, 10/6/15, by someone using what seems to be a fake name and the address of the Chamber of Commerce in Hinsdale, Illinois.  Press releases and shopping carts are hosted at a different domain name,, which was registered for the first time in early September 2015 and uses the address of a Christian Counseling Center in Detroit, Michigan.  They do provide a phone number to get more information on their award, 888-509-9915, and a google search for this number leads to warnings from local BBBs and newspapers about an award scam associated with that number.  I am shocked.

Business award scams have been around for quite a few years, so I imagine they are pretty successful.  Who doesn’t want to get an award, after all, and $200 for the actual trophy doesn’t seem too bad, specially if your business is actually doing well.  I can only imagine how disappointing it must be for business owners to find out that it their award was just a scam.  They can take heart on the knowledge that most awards are scams anyway. Nonprofits give awards to celebrities in order to sell tickets to award ceremonies.  Universities give honorary degrees to big donors and politicians to big supporters.  Even business organizations use awards as a hook to get membership.   The only award that ultimately should really matter to a business is the loyalty and happiness of their customers.  They can assess the former by how often they see them and the latter by reading Yelp reviews.

If you are a business and feel the need for a trophy, why not just take a particularly good customer review, print it and buy a fancy frame for it? Or even have it engraved in some crystal.  Or just get your creative juices going and make up your own award! It’ll be cheaper.


Apr 102015

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog for a while.  After four years blogging, I am taking a break from San Leandro politics to recharge.  I will be back blogging in a month or two. Update: I’m enjoying my break from San Leandro politics too much.  But I’ll be back blogging and more after the kids go back to school in late August.

Feb 102015
Mike Katz-Lacabe on SLPD's use of Licence Plate Cameras - and on Stingrays

My husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe, is a human rights and privacy advocate. Several years ago, he discovered that the SLPD was secretly using license plate cameras to photograph both cars and the areas around them – and were keeping those records indefinitely.  Since then, police departments have refused to share this data from citizens, but if you drive a car in the Bay Area, you can assume that the police has access to hundreds of photos of your car, you and the area around it. Mike’s activities have been covered by the news media. Here, in reverse chronological order, are stories [Continue Reading]

Feb 062015

These are Mike Katz-Lacabe’s tweets from this year’s San Leandro Police Department report on itself to the City Council.  While video of the meeting is available online, the Council no longer takes minutes of its meetings. This meeting took place on Feb. 4, 2015. There was no discussion of racial profiling. ⇒ indicates an instance in which San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli “misspoke”. My comments are in italics. – San Leandro Police Dept. annual report to the City Council at 7pm tonight at City Hall – 835 E. 14th St. Agenda – San Leandro City Council meeting on annual [Continue Reading]