Vital deserved contract extension

I would like to correct some of the errors in the Nov. 1 Mike Melendez letter about the 4-1 vote to extend the superintendent's contract.

First, Superintendent Vital would not receive $500,000 if the board were to terminate her contract. She would receive $300,000 in what is essentially 18 months' severance pay.

Second, this 18-month severance pay provision is standard practice across the state. So, too, is negotiating an extension on a superintendent's contract 18 months before it expires standard practice here -- as it gives superintendents time to find new jobs if their boards vote against extending the contracts.

Finally, letting a superintendent leave before the end of his or her contract ends without penalty is also standard practice in California. (It is not standard in all states.)

Sadly, one important fact that some community members seem to miss in these discussions is that the superintendent actually took a pay cut with the contract extension, as she is no longer receiving performance pay and is paying the same amount toward her benefits as other district employees. This is a positive step.

I cannot speak for all of the Board of Education members, but I voted "yes" on extending the superintendent's contract because I approve of AUSD's direction under her leadership -- including the passage of a jobs- and programs-saving parcel tax; the creation of innovative educational programs; and the streamlining of the district office and budget. This is the kind of progress I like to see in our district.


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Niel Tam

president AUSD Board of Education

Food banks need aid more than ever

Nov. 2 was a big day for the Alameda Food Bank.

As usual, we did our monthly Client Food Selection program. CFS is a national "best practice" for food pantries; it eliminates waste because clients have more control over what they can take home. Instead of prepackaged boxes, clients get a choice of canned goods, produce and breads. On a given day, we serve 30 to 50 people. Typically, at our monthly CFS program, we serve 200 to 250 people.

Nov. 2 was the first day of extensive cutbacks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as "food stamps." More than 4 million Californians will be affected, losing the equivalent of about 26 individual meals per month. As anticipated, our numbers were up. We served nearly 280 folks for our CFS program. The average this time of year is more like 250.

What I love most about the Alameda Food Bank is that it is so wonderfully local. Clients need to show us an Alameda address to receive food. Many of our volunteers and donations come from right here on Alameda and Bay Farm islands. We are truly neighbors helping neighbors.

But our care for each other will no doubt be affected by the incessant budget slashing and gridlock in Washington. It is a time of year when we at the AFB need all the help we can get. We can use your donations of money or time. Please visit www.alamedafoodbank.org to see how you can donate or volunteer

But the hungry can also be helped by their neighbors' strong advocacy. Please contact our congressional representatives and let them know that further cuts in the SNAP program hurt us here. If we can stop further cuts in assistance programs in Washington, we can be much more effective helping smaller numbers of needy in Alameda.

Troy Gilbert

executive director Alameda Food Bank

Conditions awful at animal shelter

The situation at the Alameda Animal Shelter/FAAS is outrageous and the time is long past to make all aware of what is really happening to our innocent animals.

Animals are being killed (not humanly euthanized as is the rehearsed answer) without proper protocol or true expert evaluation because there is a young, unqualified animal coordinator making very bad decisions regarding assessments.

Mim Carlson, the executive director, is only a paper pusher, numbers cruncher, grant writer and administrator with no relationship with the animals, but she has the power to order the animals' deaths. She accepts the so-called professional evaluations in lieu of having actual contact and firsthand knowledge of the animals in question.

Mim and the animal coordinator are so fearful of what an animal might do that it is easier for the shelter to kill it (even though the animal has done nothing) than to risk possible liability.

The suspect animals that come in are left in the kennels for weeks with no chance of any human contact. They are not allowed to be walked or handled in any way, which causes severe stress and a condition referred to as being kennel-crazy. This stress is then used as an excuse for killing the animal, even though it has been caused by their treatment in our shelter.

I ask the board to please not accept what is being reporting to them and to do their own research, ask the staff workers and volunteers who no longer work at the shelter and allow the volunteers to anonymously report what is truly going on.

I don't want to stop donors from giving to the shelter. That will only hurt the animals further. Enough bad decisions are already being made. It is time for new management across the board -- the executive director, animal coordinator, volunteer coordinator and kennel manager.

Flo Galli

Shelter improved under its managers

My daughter and I have been Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter since 2006, when we began volunteering as dog walkers, part of her school's community service requirements. Then, it was a city-run shelter. In early 2012, the city entered into agreement with the nonprofit FAAS. As a result, we've seen our shelter go through changes.

For our benefit, there are now safeguards in place that weren't there before. The staff posts information about the dogs' behavior and personality -- important to know before entering a kennel to leash up an animal. It's information that makes me feel more confident than ever about letting my child with special needs come into contact with the animals.

Another improvement: a renewed commitment to education. Volunteers attend obedience and canine enrichment classes. We receive instruction on how to make our time with our friends productive. We're taught to intentionally go beyond just leashing up for a walk, although burning off steam is essential. We're encouraged to socialize in the kennel, where, frankly, dogs spend most of their time, so they know good things happen even in that confined space. We're instructed on teaching the dogs basic commands.

Recently, the San Jose-based pit bull advocacy/rescue group taught a class. All these opportunities not only make the shelter a safer place to work, but they make our dogs more adoptable and, perhaps most importantly, make their time with us, even in a homeless shelter, happier.

Marcy Morrison Pearce

Thanks to all for supporting Scouts

I would like to thank Safeway on Island Drive and the Harbor Bay Community for the support they showed Cub Scout Pack 1076 for the past month as the boys learned salesmanship during their annual popcorn fundraiser.

I am overwhelmed at the generosity people showed our young scouts not only monetarily but more importantly in kindness. The power of kindness is extraordinary and leaves marks on its recipients. By being friendly, approachable and open to our scouts, I saw an increase in their courage, self-esteem and worth. I watched young boys ranging from Tiger (first grade) to Webelos (fifth grade) step out of their comfort zones as they learned salesmanship, leadership, teamwork, perseverance, patience, how to overcome frustration and righteous pride in their achievements. Additionally, the sales helped some of our Scouts learn business skills as they counted and tallied inventory and learned basic accounting. This experience would not have been the same without the loving support of the community. On behalf of Pack 1076, I once again thank the community for supporting and nurturing the growth of our young Scouts.

Pepper Hoyt

Classroom backers much appreciated

October was a busy month for the Adopt a Classroom program, with 66 teachers receiving $500 Adopt A Classroom grants. That is $33,000 that went directly into the hands of teachers that they can use to best fit the needs of their classrooms. I would like to thank October's generous donors:

2013-2014 Bay Farm Families; The Tamaoki Family; Johngkeel Lee & Jungah Kim; Brian & Sherri Bunger; Kenneth Rainin Foundation; The Long & Peddada Families; Jim & Kate Meyers; The Families of Ms. Garcha's 1st Grade Class; Families of Ms. Davidson's 1st Grade Class; The O'Pecko Family; Gabriel/Chac, Burton, Cunningham, Atkisson, Labatt and Taggart Families; Abbott on behalf of The Chen Family; The Samford Family; Murphy & Samford Families; Families of Ms. Guha's 1st Grade Class; Families of Ms. Russi's First Grade Class; Attack, Byrne-Sarno, Carvalho, Dean, Farris, Kohler & Stollman Families; Families of Ms. Meyer's 3rd Grade Class; Wilson, Wang, Lozeau de Guzman, Baltutis and Anderson Families; Families of Ms. Norman's 5th Grade Class; Kyle & Elgina Connor; Families of Ms. Kernkamp's 4th Grade Class; Khyle Jones/Honey Experience LLC; Anonymous; Jennifer Bullock & Matthew Humphrey; The Family of Jack Toyama; TaoMedix, Inc.; The Villarete-Minor Family; The Pace Family; Jim & Mandy Tham; The Family of Becka Feldman; Alameda Collision Repair; Respecting Our Teacher's Fund; Cargill, Inc.; The Kruger/Do Family; and The Hagey Family.

Teachers were adopted at schools across the Island including Bay Farm, Earhart, Edison, Franklin, Haight, Lincoln, Lum, Maya Lin, Otis, Paden and Ruby Bridges.

We are well on our way toward our goal of adopting 150 teachers this year. If you would like to help us reach our goal -- and help support our wonderful teachers -- please visit www.AlamedaEducation.org to make an adoption.

Kathleen C. Woulfe

Adopt A Classroom chair Alameda Education Foundation

Shelter for women grateful for support

Many thanks to those individuals and groups who have contributed to the Midway Shelter's Adopt-A-Bed program for abused women and their children. The people below contributed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31. A number of the listed donors have contributed several times during this period:

Anonymous I, Pacific Coast Real Estate, Beverly & Robert Buhnerkempe, Betty Sanderson, Ruth Brown, Barbara Anderson, Christ Episcopal Church, Cucina di Cannelora, Virginia Krutilek, Community of Harbor Bay Isle, Lois Pryor, First Christian Church of Alameda, Zara l. Mannion, Keith Nealy, Arthur & Carol Glaser, Sheila & Thomas Lewellyn, Sarah Cruz, Kiwanis Club of Alameda, Diane Nutter, Sherri Bernardi, Carol Gerdes, MD, Kusum Kanji, via United Way Bay Area.

Donations may be sent to Alameda Homeless Network, P.O. Box 951, Alameda 94501. For further information, call 510-523-2377 or go to www.midwayshelter.org

Ginny Krutilek