Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fred Korematsu: A Worthy Name For The New 9th Grade Campus At San Leandro High School

The new 9th grade campus for San Leandro High School is being built one block from the main campus of the high school. When opened in the Fall of 2010, 700 freshman students will have their own school site and the overcrowding at San Leandro High School will be eliminated

Moreover, the new school creates the opportunity to concentrate resources and attention on 9th grade students. Ninth grade is a critical year for students. One or two failing grades can seriously jeopardize the likelihood the student will graduate and attend college. As explained in a Los Angeles Times article:
Freshman year can be a trying time. Teens are at a difficult age, on the bridge between childhood and young adulthood. Relationships are changing, bodies are maturing, and hormones are in overdrive. Parents sometimes become less involved in overseeing homework just as teens are being given greater responsibility in school. And they are leaving middle schools for high schools that can be as large as colleges and include students old enough to vote.
All this creates turmoil. Freshmen are more likely than upperclassmen to fail a class or be suspended. More than 30% of high school students quit before graduation, and in most states the greatest share of that loss occurs in ninth grade, according to a 2006 study by the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education Research Center in Bethesda, Md.

The school board has decided to name the 9th grade campus. It will be "San Leandro High School, ___________ Campus." And the board has invited the community to submit nominations for the name.

I am glad the school board has adopted this approach. By naming the school, the school board is providing an opportunity for students and the community to participate in the creation of the new school. Moreover, selecting a name provides the opportunity to inspire students of today and tomorrow to achieve educational success and become active participants in our local community and democracy. As noted in survey by several educational researchers,
The names that school boards give to schools both reflect and shape civic values. They reflect values because naming a school after someone or something provides at least an implicit endorsement of the values that the name represents. And school names can shape values by providing educators with a teaching opportunity: teachers at a Lincoln Elementary, for example, can reference the school name to spark discussions of the evils of slavery and the benefits of preserving our union.
What criteria should the school board use in selecting a name for the new campus? The school district policy for naming facilities states that names may be any individual, living or deceased, who made outstanding contributions to the community, state, country or world.

The school can also be named after the geographic area in which the school is located. I hope such an approach will not be used as it would not serve the civic mission that naming a school after an individual offers.
Although this is not part of the policy, the school board could also consider, and I hope they will, additional factors such as whether the individual had a strong nexus to San Leandro and reflects the diversity of our community today. None of the persons the San Leandro schools have been named after had a connection with San Leandro as far as I am aware, and all were white persons.
There is only one person with a strong connection to San Leandro who made contributions of historical significance to our nation that immediately comes to my mind. He was also a person of color. His name was Fred Korematsu (1919 - 2005).
Korematsu was an American citizen, born in Oakland and worked at his parents flower nursery in San Leandro. In 1942, he was arrested for the crime of being of Japanese ancestry and refusing to report to authorities in order to be sent to an internment camp for the duration of World War II. As Korematsu explained in 2004,
In 1942, I was arrested and convicted for being a Japanese American trying to live here in the Bay Area. The day after my arrest a newspaper headline declared, "Jap Spy Arrested in San Leandro."

Of course, I was no spy. The government never charged me with being a spy. I was a U.S. citizen born and raised in Oakland. I even tried to enlist in the Coast Guard (they didn't take me because of my race). But my citizenship and my loyalty did not matter to the federal government. On Feb. 19, 1942, anyone of Japanese heritage was ordered excluded from the West Coast. I was charged and convicted of being a Japanese American living in an area in which all people of my ancestry had been ordered to be interned.

I fought my conviction at that time. My case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 my efforts to seek protection under the Constitution were rejected.After I was released in 1945, my criminal record continued to affect my life. It was hard to find work. I was considered to be a criminal. It took almost 40 years and the efforts of many people to reopen my case. In 1983, a federal court judge found that thegovernment had hidden evidence and lied to the Supreme Court during my appeal. The judge found that Japanese Americans were not the threat that the government publicly claimed. My criminal record was removed.
After the war, Korematsu returned to the East Bay, and was active in our community. He served twice as the President of the San Leandro Lions Club and was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Council. He often spoke to students about the Japanese American internment and inspire them to respect and cherish their civil rights. As reported in the May 14, 1994 edition of the San Leandro Times, Korematsu gave a lecture to students at San Leandro High School:
Korematsu said that students must be aggressive when they feel their constitutional rights have been violated. "any of you can be interned because of whom you resemble." Korematsu told the students they should be proud of their diversity. "Just because you look different doesn't mean you're not American."
In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, saying,
In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls. Plessy, Brown, Parks . . . to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.
As noted by Tim Holmes, co-owner of Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro, "Our history and his are quite inextricably linked." Holmes added: Korematsu "stands for something very important and inspiring. His is not a story of capitalism, or success in the traditional way, but a hero in the most important way . . . he was just an ordinary man who was wronged by our government and stood up for himself and then spent the rest of his life championing that cause for the sake of others."
For me, Korematsu was a true hero of the civil rights movement. While he lost his case in 1944, the reasoning of the dissenting justices in the opinion twenty years later became the majority view on the Supreme Court. The Korematsu decision was cited by Chief Justice Warren and others justices in one landmark civil rights case after another.
Naming the 9th grade campus after Korematsu will serve as an affirmation by the school board and our community that San Leandrans respect and value the civil rights of all persons and admire the determination Korematsu showed in standing up for his rights and that of all Americans not to be deprived of their liberty simply because of their race, ethnicity or national origin.
Nominations must be submitted in writing no later than November 18, 2009 via email to newcampus@sanleandro.k12.ca.us or mail to: Board of Education, 9th Grade Campus Naming. 14735 Juniper Street, San Leandro, CA 94579. Please include your contact information and use the following format:
____________ Campus.
Why the campus should be named this (150 words or less):
I will be submitting a nomination for Korematsu. I hope that you do as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Working To Create A Better San Leandro

I care deeply for San Leandro. I have decided to run for mayor to work with the community to create a better San Leandro.

To achieve this, the city budget crisis first must be solved. Even though crime is widespread, the mayor and city council eliminated six police officer positions. Funding for senior services, school crossing guards, libraries and pools was also cut.

Despite these cuts, the city is actually spending more this fiscal year than last year, including millions in deficit spending. The city is rapidly burning through its reserves. Finance officials project $36.5 million in red ink over the next six years. If significant action is not taken, the city could be forced to declare bankruptcy.

In response, the mayor and city council are actively considering an increase in the sales tax, raising it a quarter cent to 10%. If approved, San Leandro would have the highest sales tax of any city in Northern California.

I have a better plan. I will restore San Leandro to fiscal health without raising taxes. I will stop the deficit spending by bringing expenses under control and operating city hall efficiently. As mayor, I will not take a salary until the city budget deficit is eliminated.

I will apply my knowledge and skills as an attorney and former small business owner to support small and large businesses in San Leandro, and bring new companies to our city, including ones in the rapidly growing green economy. This will provide quality jobs and generate revenue to rehire police officers, fully fund senior services, libraries and pools, fix our streets, and support our schools.

I will listen to the community and bring it into the process of finding constructive solutions to the challenges facing San Leandro. I will take a collaborative approach to governing. I will work with all council members to create a new culture of open and honest dialogue between city hall and the community.

As a parent and former school board trustee, I know strong schools make a strong city. I was at the forefront of the campaign to build the new 9th grade campus and performing arts center. I will form a real partnership between the city and both school districts.

I am an active member of the coalition to Save San Leandro Hospital. I am committed to keeping acute and emergency care at the hospital.

I pledge to always put the interests of the people of San Leandro first. Together, let's make San Leandro a clean and vibrant community with safe neighborhoods and high performing schools.

Very truly yours,

Stephen Cassidy

P.S. Please visit www.cassidyforsanleandro.com to learn more about my plans to improve San Leandro. There is a link to a community survey. Please share your views on the key issues facing our city.

For those on Facebook, please also join the group Stephen Cassidy for San Leandro Mayor at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=149957097021

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eat Out for Education In San Leandro

Here is a great way to help our local schools and restaurants: have lunch or dinner tomorrow at a restaurant in San Leandro to support San Leandro Education Foundation's first Eat Out for Education.

On the first Wednesday of each month, participating San Leandro restaurants (so far, Paradiso, CreAsian, Luke's, Chang's, and Little Namking) will give 10% of sales to SLED from patrons who present a SLED Eat Out for Education coupon.

In November, SLED reports that The Englander and a new restaurant, Boulevard Burgers - in the old Sonoma's space on MacArthur - will be participating.