School board picks Hu for seat
School board picks Hu for seat
A former college professor and newcomer to Alameda has been chosen as the new member of Alameda's Board of Education.
Philip Hu, an assistant general manager for Public Employees Union Local 1, has lived on the Island for only seven months. But he won the trustee’s post Tuesday night after another finalist, Jane Grimaldi, withdrew from the race.
Hu will replace former school board trustee Trish Spencer, who was elected mayor in November.
Grimaldi’s withdrawal ended a four-hour board meeting marked by numerous tie votes, speeches by trustees backing certain candidates and statements from 10 applicants for the open seat.
“Let’s get to the finish line and get back to business,” she said, voluntarily breaking the board’s deadlock.
Hu and Grimaldi became the finalists after the board could not agree on a single candidate and both applicants had received at least two votes on previous ballots.
Niel Tam and Gary Lym alternately backed Hu and candidate Sherice Youngblood, a mother of three who sits on the governing board for The Academy of Alameda charter school, while Solana Henneberry and board president Barbara Kahn voted for Grimaldi. Will C. Wood Middle School parent Blanche Kim and Anne DeBardeleben, a former president of the Alameda Association of Realtors who has led school parcel tax campaigns and been an active presence at school board meetings, were also considered during several rounds of voting.
Lym and several members of the audience praised Youngblood, saying that she would bring diversity to the board and help foster educational equity for low income at-risk students. Youngblood, a social worker at San Francisco General Hospital, has two children attending district schools and a third at The Academy of Alameda.
“For me I believe that on the equity issues there needs to be someone that they (students) see as a role model,” Lym said.
But Kahn, an opponent of charter schools, created a controversy by stating that Youngblood had not revealed her membership on the charter school’s board of directors and would have to resign that post if she were elected to the public school board - forcing her to defend her choice of schools.
“She still brings with her an attitude toward charter schools that is less than skeptical,” Kahn said. “I believe in that skepticism because of the law and the problems we as a district face from the expansion of charters, I felt that that was important that we not have a representative of that point of view on the board.”
Youngblood responded that she was open about her membership on the charter board and that she placed her son at The Academy to take advantage of an after-school program on the campus.
“I feel personally attacked and shamed by your comments. I have been very open and it has been announced that I am on the board of the Academy of Alameda,” she said.
Youngblood said that if she had chosen her neighborhood school, her son would have to take a bus and be without supervision until she came home at 6 p.m.
“That’s the choice the district gave me. I had do the best I could with what I was given,” she said. “And I think it’s extremely sad and a testament to this community, those comments you made, and it shows why we need diversity on this board. You clearly proved my point."
Hu has taught English in the California State University system and at community colleges for 19 years. He is a former member of the San Gabriel school board, and trustees said they liked his experience in education.
Hu told The Alamedan that his goals include reestablishing trust between the school board and the public, providing students with a 21st century education and creating a long-term vision for the district that promotes “out of the box” thinking.
“I’m stunned, I’m incredibly humbled,” Hu said after he was voted in, “I really have no words to describe what happened.”