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LGBTQ Team Biographies

AUSD’s LGBTQ Round Table Member Biographies

Gene Kahane | Marcelle Trzcinski | Olivia Higgins | Terri Elkin  |

Susan Davis | Kale Jenks | Kaitlin Alcontin | Ella Burk  | Henry B. Villareal | Rev. Laura Rose

 

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Gene Kahane, Co-Chair, Teacher Representative

Gene Kahane has been teaching for over thirty years, most of that time in Alameda at Haight, Wood and Encinal. He is also an actor and director and has worked with the Alameda Children's Musical Theater and the Altarena Playhouse. It was through theater that Gene became more aware of and involved in the LGBTQ community. In 1994 he saw "Angels in America" on Broadway and later directed the play at Encinal in 2008. That production was recognized in 2010 by New York Magazine. As an English teacher Gene was responsible for bringing "The Laramie Project," "The Hours," and "Two Boys Kissing" to the curriculum at Encinal. His essay on LGBTQ literature was published by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2011 and led to his working with the Alameda Harvey Milk Day Committee which lead to his joining the Round Table in 2013. He is proud to be an ally and advocate for LGBTQ youth in our schools.

Olivia Higgins, Consultant

Olivia Higgins began advocating for queer friendly schools as an Early Childhood/Elementary Education major at Temple University in Philadelphia. In her final semester, she successfully initiated a petition requesting to update the core curriculum to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) topics. Olivia graduated magna cum laude and was awarded the Elementary/Early Childhood Education Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching.  Shortly afterwards, she was inducted into Temple University’s Gallery of Success. After a brief period teaching elementary school, Olivia relocated to the Bay Area where she worked for almost five years as the Support Service Provider for Sexual Minority Youth for the San Francisco Unified School District. In this position she facilitated trainings, developed lesson plans, coordinated Gay Pride for the district and provided crisis response assistance as needed.  She stayed in this position until 2005 when her first child was born.

Shortly after moving to Alameda, Olivia joined the steering committee of the grassroots community group Alameda Community Alliance Resource for Education, which advocates for safe and inclusive schools. In 2012 she was invited to join the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) LGBTQ Roundtable.

As a member of the 2013 Alameda Harvey Milk Day planning committee, Olivia initiated and co-coordinated a Harvey Milk Day Poster/Poetry contest for Alameda students.

In 2012 Olivia began consulting for the Oakland Unified School District. Within this role, she developed the OUSD LGBTQ Tool Kit that will be used throughout the district. She continues to consult for OUSD by facilitating trainings, collaborating with community-based organizations and providing assistance as needed.

Olivia launched Queerly Elementary in 2013 to maximize the impact of her work by creating a platform to connect with the growing number of teachers, schools, school districts and families increasingly committed to helping schools welcome and celebrate the queer community.

Olivia and her wife are proud to be raising two beautiful children who attend an Alameda Unified School District elementary school.

Terri Elkin, District Liaison

Terri Elkin has been a teacher and administrator in Alameda Unified School District since 1986. She taught upper grades at Woodstock Elementary for ten years, taught at Chipman Middle School for nine years, was a co-founder of BRAVO, served as a middle school math coach for three years, and taught math at Island High School for one year. This is Terri’s sixth year at the district office. She has been involved in lesbian and gay issues since college and was a part of the loosely defined Alameda Network of Gay and Lesbian Educators, a local version of the larger Bay Area Network of Gay and Lesbian Educators. This group was formed to provide informal support to gay and lesbian educators in the late 1980s and 1990s and went on to more acquire formal training and engage in political work. She has participated in and co-led diversity trainings and is passionate about insuring that our schools and communities are safe, empowering places for everyone.

Susan Davis, Communications Liaison

Susan Davis has been working in the communications field for more than 25 years. As AUSD's Senior Manager, Community Affairs she works with community members, the press, and across AUSD schools and departments to increase understanding of achievements and challenges in both the district and public education at large. She has been working on LGBTQ issues since 2008, when she helped advocate for an anti-gay bullying curriculum called "Lesson 9."  She lives in Alameda and has two children who attended AUSD schools.

 

 

 

Kale Jenks, School-Based Health Center Liaison

Kale Jenks is the Program Director of the School-Based Health Centers and a member of the Alameda Social Services Human Relations Board. Kale has been serving the Alameda community through his work at Alameda Family Services for over seven years, providing mental health therapy at Maya Lin, Alameda, Encinal, & Island High. After completing his Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology in 2014, Kale took on the role of Program Director of the School-Based Health Centers. In his first two years as the Program Director, Kale has made efforts to improve the Health Centers' ability to support LGBTQ youth through creating and organizing LGBTQ specific workshops and support groups. Kale lives in Alameda with his wife and their toddler son. 

Henry Villareal, Co-Founder

Henry B. Villareal has an extensive background in education.  He has worked at both public and private institutions that include the Racine Unified School District, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Cornell, Stanford, and Arizona State.

 

Currently he is the Dean of Enrollment Services at College of San Mateo.
His career includes teaching but his primary focus has revolved around student services; particularly with programs that support students of color.  He has also been a strong advocate of diversity related initiatives. At Stanford and then at Arizona State, he was instrumental in increasing the enrollment of students of color in their MBA programs as well as bringing attention to the needs of LGBT students.

 

At College of San Mateo he serves as Chair of the Diversity In Action Group which oversees the College’s Student Equity Plan and is an advisor to the Gay Straight Alliance. Professional activities involved serving as president of the California Association of Community College Registrars and Admissions Officers, treasurer for the National Council on Student Development, and chair of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. Community activities include serving as vice president of the Social Services Human Relations Board and chair of its subcommittee, Alamedans Together Against Hate. He has also been co-chair of the AUSD LGBTQ Round Table, co-chair of the Community Alliance for Resource Education, and co-chair of the Alameda Harvey Milk Day Committee.  Henry received his doctorate in Higher and Adult Education from Arizona State University.  He lives in Alameda with his husband Mark and two cats, Pepper and Peggy Sue.

Katilin Alcontin, Student Representative

Kaitlin Alcontin is a pansexual student representative at Encinal Junior/Senior High School. She joined its LGBTQ+ advocacy group as a freshman in 2014 and has since become President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. As a club officer, her responsibilities have included presenting to faculty and helping to coordinate the Alameda LGBTQ+ Pride Float in the annual Fourth of July Parade. She also supports social equity outside of school as an intern at  Filipino Advocates for Justice and its teen program, Bayanihan Youth Group. 

 

 

 

Ella Burk, Student Representative

Ella Burk, a junior at Encinal High, is an advocate for all human and environmental rights. She is especially active in the LGBTQ+ community as a bisexual and androgynous woman. Ella was Encinal's GSA president in 2015-2016, and a roundtable member since 2014. Ella also organized and conducted the Pride Float in the 2016 Mayor's 4th of July Parade in Alameda. 

Ella is a peer counselor in Encinal High's Student Justice Center, a restorative justice program that implements recuperative rather than punitive practices in conflicts around the school. 

Ella has also established herself on stage. As an elementary schooler, she acted in Oakland's Fairyland Children's Theatre for two years. Starting in 2013, Ella has been a competitive dancer for Dance10 Performing Arts, performing and competing locally, as well as in Disneyland, and in 2016, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York as a Tap Dancing Christmas Tree. 

Ella loves learning, adventuring, creating, reading, and writing. She implements her many passions into her work in her community as a student and outspoken voice. 

 
Rev. Dr. Laura Rose, Adjunct
Rev. Dr. Laura Rose has been the senior minister of First Congregational Alameda, United Church of Christ since 2003. Rev. Rose has been one of our community's leading progressive faith voices advocating for LGBTQ visibility and equality in Alameda schools and beyond. She organized the first “Alameda Faith Communities Coming Out” parade and rally and has served on the steering committee for Alameda CARE (Community Alliance Resource for Education) and the Alameda Harvey Milk Day planning committee. Rev. Rose has written articles for Alameda Patch and the Huffington Post Religion Section and her testimony was included in one of the Amicus Briefs opposing Proposition 8. As part of the United Church of Christ, she and her congregation celebrate a long history of advocating for justice including being the first denomination to ordain an openly gay person and the first to publicly advocate for Marriage Equality for All.  Rev. Rose lives in Alameda with her spouse and young son. Her hope and dream is that her child and every other child and family will experience all AUSD classrooms and the Alameda community at large as a safe, welcoming and affirming place.