Santa Clara County Office of Education Appoints Rosemary Kamei to replace Beauchman

Rosemary KameiIn a surprising move, the Santa Clara County Office of Education has appointed Rosemary Kamei to replace the recently vacated seat of Leon Beauchman.  The appointment will have a significant impact on a board that has approved more charter schools than any other county office in the state.

The board initially split 3-3 after narrowing the field of five candidates down to Rosemary Kamei and Judy Chirco.  Chirco, the appointment frontrunner, was a former San Jose city council member and Cambrian school board member.  Chirco was presumed to be a supporter of charters through her involvement in PACT (a pro-charter community engagement organization).  Kamei is the executive director of Building Futures Now, a non-profit organization that runs after school programs in East Palo Alto.  Kamei, fluent in Spanish, gave inspiring testimony of growing up in a low income household and still managing to find her way to college.

Trustee Green initially cast her vote for Chirco, worrying that Kamei would not be an independent voice on charter schools.  A deadlock vote would have triggered a special re-election, costing taxpayers nearly $1 million.  Grace Mah and Joseph DiSalvo, both ardent charter supporters, solidly support Chirco, while Claudia Rossi, Michael Chang, and Anna Song solidly supported Kamei.  Green changed her vote in order to prevent a special election, which she opposed due to a lack of support on the board.

Kamei came into the meeting with an impressive and diverse list of endorsements.  She was endorsed by San Jose State professors of Education Dr. Susan Meyers & Dr. Elba Maldonado-Colon, SJUSD Trustees Teresa Castellanos and Susan Ellenberg, East Side Union Trustee Frank Biehl, former San Jose mayor Ron Gonzales, Pattie Cortese, 13 California Teacher Association Presidents, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation CEO Muhammed Chaudry.

Kamei’s, educated as a urban planner at San Jose State, has a wide range of experience.  She has served as an adjunct professor of urban planning at San Jose state, as director of fund development for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, as a director of the San Jose Water Company, and as a media specialist for the US Department of Commerce.  Her broad experience will serve her well for the next year and a half of service to the SCCBOE District 3 residents.

Kamei’s appointment signals a shift on the board which until this year leaned heavily pro charter.  Claudia Rossi, who beat out pro-charter incumbent Julia Hoover-Smoot in last November’s elections, has proven to be a supporter of public education, alongside longtime charter critic Anna Song.  The board will likely now have trustees that are willing to hold charter schools accountable, looking to bridge contentious relationships with local school districts.