Archive for June, 2013

Teamsters Dispute with Local Trucker Haunts Army Base Project

Bill Aboudi

Bill Aboudi

By Ken A. Epstein

A high profile lawsuit has reignited a long simmering dispute between Oakland Army Base small businessman Bill Aboudi and the Teamsters union.

When you hear what the sides are saying, it sounds like you are talking about two different people. The union accuses Aboudi of criminally mistreating his workers and says he should be shut down.

But many of his employees and West Oakland community leaders repeatedly turn out to defend the businessman as a “stand up guy” who goes out of his way to improve the health and well-being of the community and gives jobs to the formerly incarcerated.

Aboudi is owner of AB Trucking, a company with 12 employees and six trucks that does business with the Port of Oakland.

He also owns Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), which has earned national recognition for providing a place where air-contaminating trucks can park on port land away from the West Oakland community, which had been suffering from off the charts asthma rates.

OMSS is also the home of 18 small businesses: a mini-mart, doctor, sign painter, truck repair, tire replacement and scales where big rig truckers can find the services they need without driving into West Oakland.

The Teamster’s opposition to Aboudi seemed to be vindicated on May 21 when an Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a court order in a wages and hours lawsuit, ordering him to pay 73 workers about $965,000 in back wages and interest, dating back to 2004.

Doug Bloch

Doug Bloch

“We know that for the past several years that the word inside (City Hall) has been that the big bad Teamsters have been trying to take out the small local businessman who has done good for West Oakland,” said Doug Bloch, political director for Teamsters Joint Council 7, speaking at last week’s meeting of the City Council’s Community and Economic Development committee.

The real issue, said Bloch, is that the “Alameda County Superior Court has just handed down a … verdict against AB Trucking. Good people were hired… and not paid at all for the work that they did.”

Defending Aboudi at the CED meeting was Margaret Gordon, former port commissioner and co-director of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, who has been a leader in the fight for breathable air in

West Oakland.

“I’ve known Bill since 1996,” she said. “When we started the maritime air quality improvement plan, the Teamsters weren’t there. Bill was there.

“OMSS has been a life saver for West Oakland. (Bill) has always participated in every event that we have had. He’s been there when the union was not there.”

According to Aboudi, the legal dispute is not settled.  He said he is appealing the ruling, arguing that the judge based his decision in part on state regulations, not federal Department of Transportation rules for the trucking industry.

He also emphasized that the lawsuit and judgment was against AB Trucking, which is a separate entity from the OMSS.  He accuses the Teamsters of promoting the suit against AB Trucking as a reason why the city should cancel its rental agreement with OMSS.

The issues for the Teamsters have their roots in the federal deregulation of the trucking industry in the 1980s, which resulted in the creation of many low-paid, non-union owner-operators with only one truck, as well as small operations like Aboudi’s.

The Teamsters want to organize owner-operators into the union.  In their Oakland campaign, the union has focused on Aboudi, portraying  him as an enemy of labor. A Teamsters website describes him as “a greedy California hustler who doesn’t care about the port truckers.”

Outspoken in his position, Aboudi says the choice should be up to the owner-operators. He argues they have the right to choose to become employees and join a union or continue to own their businesses.

As for the owner-operators, many of whom are people of color, there is widespread concern that should the industry become unionized, they would not be the ones to be hired in those jobs.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

Somewhere along the line Aboudi also ran into conflicts with Master Developer and Army Base landlord Phil Tagami.  Aboudi claims that the city’s agreement with Tagami allows him to benefit financially if OMSS loses its rental agreement with the city.

Dexter Vizinau, a consultant who represents some of the businesses at the Army Base, also spoke in favor of Aboudi.

“I am pro union,” he said. ”I have a client that has come under attack, and in the past I have tried to mediate.

“I don’t agree to the way they (the Teamsters) go about trying to fill their ranks by attacking (him). The way you get people is to educate them, embrace them and show them what the benefits are,” he said.

Erick Gaines, who identified himself as a former addict and an ex felon, told the audience at the CED meeting that Aboudi had saved his life when he hired him nine years ago and gave him the opportunity to give back to the community by training others to drive trucks.

“When I crossed over, I got a second chance at a first class life – it all feels good now,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d go” if Aboudi’s trucking company closed, he said. “I don’t think there’s any more people like Mr. Aboudi,” who would give him a job and allow him to use the company’s equipment for free to train new drivers, said Gaines.

“He’s been a pillar to the community, and it would be a travesty to lose him.”

The Teamsters website is http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2013/03/big- ftrouble-for-teamster-hating-union.html. Bill Aboud’s website is www.helpabtrucking.com

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Community Groups: “Cut Police Bureaucracy, Increase Officers”

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

By Ken A. Epstein

Contrary to what city officials are saying, Oakland can reduce the number of sworn officers while increasing the number of  police responding to crime, according to PUEBLO, a local group  that has long advocated for police accountability, and city  unions that are currently negotiating for a new contract.

“Hiring civilians to replace sworn officer doing jobs unrelated to crime fighting means that sworn (officers) can be reassigned to patrol or criminal investigation, where they are needed to cover ‘hot spots’ and respond to calls for assistance. Moreover, these reassigned  senior officers will hit the streets much more quickly than the year it takes to get the academy rookies out on patrol,” said Rashidah Grinage, PUEBLO’s executive director in a prepared statement.

“We have identified 48 sworn positions in the Oakland Police Department that could be effectively civilianized, “ which would save the city $6.8 million a year and achieve a one-time savings of $6 million in academy in training costs by transferring officers from desk jobs to the field, according to the proposal written by SEIU Local 1021.

The pay of a typical sworn officer in one of these positions, including wages, benefits and overtime, is $246,659.  A civilian in that that same position would cost a total $85,918, according to the union.  “The average total annual cost of a sworn officer is significantly higher – almost three times higher – than that of a civilian position.”

“Clearly we live in a city where police are not responding to certain types of crimes because they say don’t have enough officers on the streets, said Dwight McElroy, president of Local 1021 Oakland.

Dwight McElroy

Dwight McElroy

“We can no longer operate as a city under these conditions,” he said. “We can put these (sworn officers) on the streets tomorrow,” he said,  but it takes about a year  to select and train officers at a police academy.

The trend in the U.S. for the past two decades  in police departments has been to hire civilians to do jobs  that do not require sworn officers. A 2008 report commissioned by the Oakland Police Department identified at least 48 positions staffed by sworn officers that could be filled by qualified civilians at much lost cost, Grinage wrote in her statement.

“Former OPD Chief Anthony Batts included this recommendation in his five-year strategic plan,” she  wrote.

Positions that could be civilianized include sworn officers who perform work in clerical work in Internal Affairs as well as those in the Records Unit, Communications Unit, the Training Unit, Police Information Technology and Background and Recruiting,

Some members of the City Council, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana seem committed to the belief that“We need to increase the number of sworn officers in the Oakland Police Department,” Grinage wrote, while in fact, “What is needed is more personnel at OPD, but not necessarily more sworn officers.”

Transferring already trained officers to crime fighting  also makes sense, Grinage says, because the cost of recruiting through the  pre-academy and post-academy process is “extremely wasteful.”

The cost of obtaining 55 successful graduates from an original pool of 4,000 applicants is $5,018,000. Of the 55 graduates, only 40 are actually hired by the police department, she wrote.

PUEBLO is proposing that the new 2013-2015  civilianize at least 25 positions and omit one scheduled police academy.

The city would have more money to fight crime, Grinage wrote, “if civilians took accident reports, collected evidence, worked in…  crime mapping, oversaw communications and other non crime-related activities.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Anne Campbell Washington Appointed to School Board

Anne Campbell Washington

Anne Campbell Washington

By Post Staff

The Oakland school board this week appointed Anne Campbell Washington, chief of staff to Mayor Jean Quan, to serve as District 4 member of the Board of Education.
Chosen over eight other candidates who applied for the position, she will complete the term of Gary Yee, who resigned to take over as acting superintendent on July 1 when Tony Smith leaves for a new job in Chicago.

Campbell Washington’s term will end January 2015.  She has two children at Montclair Elementary School, where she is a PTA member.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Councilmembers Propose Police Reform Budget That Saves City Services

City Councilmembers (L to R) Noel Gallo, Desley Brooks and Larry Reid. Photo by Adam L. Turner.

City Councilmembers (L to R) Noel Gallo, Desley Brooks and Larry Reid. Photo by Adam L. Turner.

By Ken A. Epstein

Three Oakland Councilmembers – Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid – have submitted an alternative  city budget  that they say will not just throw money at the police department but will increase public safety  and invest in the whole city, “including front line services, because we believe (residents) deserve a safe city, a clean city, a livable city and a city that honors and respects its employees.”

“Our proposal funds the exact same number of officers as those proposed in both the mayor’s and the  Council President (Pat) Kernighan’s proposals,” the three councilmembers’ statement said, adding that the city will end the fiscal year with revenues approximately $15 million higher than anticipated.

Unlike the other two proposals, the alternative budget proposal  includes $1.85 million dollars to fund the compliance director’s remedial action plan designed to help the police department to institute constitutional policing required by federal Judge Thelton Henderson.

Their proposal includes funding for follow up on confirmed fingerprint identifications that will help in solving burglaries and robberies; funding for improved radio equipment; funding for less lethal weapons; funding for training for our officers; funding for modification of  the police department’s background check process to free up sworn officers to do police work.

“We rejected the mayor’s proposal to add five additional dispatchers at OPD for the simple fact that there are a number of vacant positions within this unit.  Currently OPD has a dispatcher position (vacant since November 2012), two communication operator positions (vacant since May 2012) and others.”

Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney says she sees merits in all of the budget proposals. “I think all of the budgets present an opportunity for robust discussions,” she said. “(The three councilmembers have put forward a budget that looks at environmental concerns, and those needs are critical. I don’t think any of the budget proposals out there right now will as be accepted in whole.”

The alternative budget proposal also pointed to the sizable  commitment of resources the city has devoted recently to public safety.

“In the past eight months the council has approved funding for two academies, over $1 million for the California Highway Patrol Contract, $350,000 for the Bratton/Wasserman contract, $200,000 for the Alameda County Sheriff’s contract.  We now have a new police chief, the Bratton/Wasserman plan, the Frazier plan, and we have already graduated one academy class.”

While hopeful that these expenditures will produce results, the three councilmembers called for a balanced approach to funding city services. “We can ill-afford to fund one department to the exclusion of the other departments of the city,” they wrote.

“The main differences between the Brooks, Reid, Gallo proposal and the Kernighan proposal do not have to do with public safety. They have to do with our approach to how we create a safe, clean city that takes into account the needs of all of its residents.”

Many streets and neighborhoods throughout the city are “filthy with illegal dumping, graffiti, and blight – all of which contribute to crime in our neighborhoods,” according to their proposal, which includes $3,185,489 dollars per year to  combat these forms of blight.

Kernighan’s budget proposes  $40,000 for paint to help abate graffiti and only $232,352 for additional code inspectors,  they wrote.

The councilmember say their proposal calls for the full restoration of Head Start, while Kernighan’s  would only restore  Head Start program in her district.

In addition, they rejected Kernighan’s and the mayor’s proposals to add top administrative staff.

“We rejected (Mayor Quan’s) proposal to add three more positions to the City Attorney’s office for a cost of $1,231,304 over two years; …. to add one additional staff member to her office for a total cost of $239,000 and  … (and) to add an additional staff member to the City Administrator’s office for a total cost of $238,603,” they wrote.

“Kernighan proposal not only accepts all the above positions, it adds another three positions to the City Attorney’s office for a grand total cost of $1,846,956.”

The three councilmember’s budget also calls for raises for city employees, who have given up 25 percent of their salaries since 2007.

“We have a significant number of employees who have lost their homes due to foreclosure; (and) we have employees who work full time at the city and then go to work at a part-time job to make ends meet.”

The City Councilmembers are requesting comments on their alternative budget at  DL-CouncilMembers@oaklandnet.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

City Workers Prepare to Strike

By Post Staff

City workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 and IFTPE Local 21 announced Thursday in front of Oakland City Hall that they are prepared to go on strike for the first time since 1946.

Dwight McElroy, Oakland Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021, speaks to union members Thursday at Oakland City Hall.

Dwight McElroy, Oakland Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021, speaks to union members Thursday at Oakland City Hall.

Ninety-four percent of Local 21 workers were in favor of striking while 95 percent of SEIU 1021 members voted to authorize a strike. A strike authorization vote provides the unions’ bargaining teams with the discretion to call a strike if negotiations are not successful.

“If we have to, we will strike,” said Dwight McElroy, Oakland Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021.

The two unions, which together represent more  than 3,000 city employees, say they have given back more than 25 percent of their take-home pay and as layoffs continue, public services continue to decline.

Although Oakland is projected to have a surplus at the end of the budget year in June, employees say the city is asking them to accept further concessions. Negotiations are continuing, and the contracts will expire June 30.

In response to questions from the Post, Mayor Jean Quan said she was willing to discuss worker wage increases. “To help us reach a fair contract, I am asking the council to keep some room in the budget that would allow the city the flexibility to seriously consider employee compensation issues at the bargaining table,” she said Thursday.

Renee Sykes, Oakland vice president of Local 21. Photos by Ken A. Epstein

Renee Sykes, Oakland vice president of Local 21. Photos by Ken A. Epstein

The unions complain that the city continues to pit workers’ needs against increased funding to the Oakland Police Department.

“We live here, too, and see the great need for a police force that is accountable to the public,” said McElroy. “But we also know that it takes public services like Head Start, programs for at-risk youth and seniors as well as maintenance of our neighborhoods to make our community thrive again.”

As the city is doing better financially, workers are looking for a no-concessions contract and a cost of living increase, which has n0t happened for more than five years, McElroy said. “We believe there is room for both OPD and civilian employees to get the funding we both so badly need.”

IFPTE Local 21 represents professional and managerial city workers: engineers, city attorneys, planners, accountants, managers and supervisors in many departments. Members of SEIU Local 1021 include street and parks maintenance workers, civilian employees in the Oakland Police Department, librarian assistants and housing inspectors.

“The city has the money to fund public safety, service restoration and a small cost of living increase to get us back on our feet.  Yet they are instead wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring expensive executive management consultants.  This is not acceptable and shouldn’t be to any Oakland resident,” said Renee Sykes, Oakland vice president for Local 21.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

June 15 Deadline to Save Army Base Businesses

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

With a June 15 deadline looming for Oakland City Council to decide whether or not to take eviction action against several business tenants occupying warehouses in the old Oakland Army Base, city and Port of Oakland and Army Base development officials continued extended negotiations this week to try to break the roadblock to moving those businesses over to the port side of the base property.

Several port-related businesses representing hundreds of workers—including Pacific Coast Container Logistics, Oakland Maritime Support Services, and Impact Transportation—must soon move from warehouses on the city portion of the old Army Base property in order to make way for the first phase of California Capital and Investment Group’s massive development of the base.

The businesses were originally scheduled to vacate the property on May 31, but the Ccouncil granted them a two week extension to give the relocation negotiations a chance to be completed.

The businesses have been promised facilities on the Port of Oakland side of the old Army Base property, but relocation has been delayed while the Port, the city, and CCIG work out the financial details of the move.

Noting that in the past local businesses have suffered when the city and the port have battled over land issues, District 3 Oakland City Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, who represents both the port and Army Base areas and has been part of the relocation negotiations, told council

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

members at this week’s regular meeting that “there is an African proverb that says that when the elephants wrestle, it’s the grass that suffers,” adding that she hoped this wouldn’t be the case this time around.

McElhaney said that negotiators were “close to resolving the relocation issues between the city and the port” and expected to provide council with a further update on the negotiations by the end of this week.

City of Oakland real estate agent John Monetta, who has been coordinating the Army Base business relocations, told council that if the negotiators were not able to come up with a deal by the June 15 extension date, he would recommend that the council authorize staff to immediately begin eviction proceedings against the companies. Monetta said that such immediate action was necessary in order for the first phase of the Army Base construction to begin on September 3.

Representatives of the Army Base businesses have not been part of the relocation negotiations, and told Councilmembers this week that they are not the ones standing in the way of the relocation deal.

“We don’t want to hold the development up,” said Oakland business consultant Dexter Vizinau, who is representing OMSS and PCC Logistics in the Army Base development project. “”We don’t want stipulations. We don’t want unlawful detainers. We are ready to move.”

OMSS President Bill Aboudi added that “our trailers are packed up and we’re ready to go as soon as the decision [by the negotiators] is made.”

A spokesperson of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bay Area office confirmed that their agency has issued a call for applications to replace PCC Logistics as customs inspector for the Port of Oakland in the event PCC is not able to relocate close to the port facilities.

The customs agency has set a June 25 deadline for applications for the inspection contract.

Last week, West Oakland community leader Brian Beveridge told Councilmembers that the Horizon Beverage property near Raimondi Park on Wood and 20th streets had been purchased by a local business entrepreneur for the purpose of bidding on the port inspection contract.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Restorative Justice: Mending the Lives of Survivors

By Stephanie Renfrow Hamilton

During a recent two-day speaking tour in the East Bay hosted by Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), anti-violence advocates Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix told audiences the traumatic story of how they met.

In 1995, Khamisa’s only son Tariq, age 20, was out delivering pizza in the North Park section of San Diego, when he was shot and killed by Felix’s only grandchild, Tony, then 14.

Ples Feliz (left) and Azim Khamisa. Photos by Jacqueline Barnes.

Ples Feliz (left) and Azim Khamisa. Photos by Jacqueline Barnes.

Khamisa said he was so paralyzed by grief that he felt suicidal for a while. “But I knew that if I did not forgive, I would remain a victim and there is no quality of life for a victim,” he told his audience during an evening discussion at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland last Thursday, May 30.

As young Tony Hick’s guardian who “helped raise him since he was a peanut,” Felix said he and his daughter (Tony’s mother) were also devastated by the young man’s crime.

Tony, who was then a member of a street gang called the Black Mob, was one of the first teenagers in the State of California to stand trial as an adult. But after weeks of acting tough about what he had done, Felix recalled his grandson breaking down and sobbing at the thought of the pain he had caused the Khamisas. He pleaded guilty and is now serving out a minimum 25 year sentence in prison.

Within nine months of his son’s death, Khamisa, an investment banker, started up the Tariq Khamisa Foundation dedicated to mentoring and teaching nonviolent coping skills to youth.

He soon approached Felix who worked in San Diego’s community and economic development office and asked him to help him with his mission to stop children from killing children.

“When Azim first asked me to join him on this journey, I could see in his eyes that he was a God-spirited man,” Felix recalled. “He told me both of us had lost a son that night.”  Since that time, both men have traveled across the country and around the world to tell their story.

Dr. Fania Davis, executive director, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth

Dr. Fania Davis, executive director, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth

It took five years after his son’s murder for Khamisa to join Felix on a visit to see Tony Hicks in prison. “When Tony came face to face with Azim[Khamisa]’s compassion,” Felix told the group at Allen Temple, “I saw Tony turn around mentally, physically and spiritually and open up in ways that he had never been available to before.”

Khamisa told the young prisoner that he would petition to get Hicks released early and that he wanted him to come work for the Tariq Khamisa Foundation when he got out. Since then Hicks has finished earning his bachelor of arts degree while in prison.

Inviting the public to hear Khamisa’s and Felix’s shared story is one the many programs  RJOY has organized to promote a more “restorative” model of juvenile justice that emphasizes helping young law-breakers to take responsibility for– and attempt to repair– the harm done to victims and community members.

As a result of RJOY’s work since 2007, the presiding judge of Alameda County’s juvenile court set up a Restorative Justice Task Force.  And in 2010, RJOY’s pilot project in West Oakland Middle School inspired the Oakland Unified School District to move away from its zero-tolerance discipline model and adopt the restorative justice model system-wide.

At the close of last week’s event at Allen Temple, Khamisa described the look of deep listening and engagement that he saw on the faces of young detainees in Alameda County’s Juvenile Hall hours earlier. “We changed a few lives today,” he concluded.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

“Remember Them: Champions of Humanity” Sculptures Dedicated in Oakland

Julianna Roosevelt and Ambassador Shabazz

Julianna Roosevelt and Ambassador Shabazz

By Ken A. Epstein

Completed in stages over the last 12 years, a massive bronze sculpture installation in Oakland depicting global and local humanitarians is finally done.

The “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity” memorial, a vision of celebrated local artist Mario Chiodo, was dedicated Friday afternoon at the Henry J. Kaiser Park on 19th Street near the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.

The bronze with cast stone base sculpture measures 52-feet long and 25-feet high, covers 1,000-square-feet and is in four sections weighing over 60,000 pounds.

The monument is the largest bronze on the West Coast and a unique monument in the country dedicated to civil rights.

Joining the celebration were relatives of some of the humanitarians whose images are depicted in the sculpture: Ambassador Shabazz, the eldest of six daughters of Malcolm X; and Julianna Roosevelt, the granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Detail of “Remember Them: Champion of Humanity” sculpture. Shown are (clockwise from top: Nelson Mandela, Shirin Ebadi ,Susan B. Anthony , Malcolm X, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Abraham Lincoln. (Inside, clockwise from top) Elie Wiesel, César Chávez, Sir Winston Churchill. Photo by Ken A. Epstein.

Detail of “Remember Them: Champions of Humanity” sculpture. Shown are (clockwise from top: Nelson Mandela, Shirin Ebadi, Susan B. Anthony, Malcolm X, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Abraham Lincoln. (Inside, clockwise from top): Elie Wiesel, César Chávez, Sir Winston Churchill. Photo by Ken A. Epstein.

“I was very moved by the dedication and the passion that Mario Chiodo has invested in this this project,” said Shabazz in an interview with the Post.   Based in New York City, she is a writer and producer and travels widely as a speaker.

Shabazz said she was impressed by the “uniqueness of the cross section” of those whose likenesses became part of Chiodo’s artwork.  “It comes from the heart of this man who exposed that these people have so much in common,” she said.

Besides Malcolm X and President Roosevelt, the monument contains likenesses of Joaquin Miller, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, “Mother” Mary Ann Wright and Fred Korematsu, an Oakland native who went to the Supreme Court to challenge the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Others who were depicted include César Chávez, Chief Joseph, Oskar Schindler, Mahatma Gandhi, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony, Thich Nhat Hahn and Martin Luther King Jr.

Chiodo was inspired by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to create the memorial, installing section by section in the park since September 2011.

Juliana Roosevelt, who lives and works in Los Angeles area works as a designer for a firm that does landscape architecture, talked to the Post about the impact the memorial had on her.

“It was a moving experience for me – because of my personal legacy,” she said.  “(Chiodo) brought together humanitarians from all walks of life and different cultures, He’s found the common threat – human rights – that unites all of us. “

In the faces shown in the sculpture, Roosevelt said, “He creates an intimacy that allows us to view a little of the what they faced, what we all face, and glimpse a little of their soul.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Street Academy: “40 Years of Empowering Students for Social Justice”

 

By Post Staff

The Oakland Street Academy is celebrating “40 years of empowering students for social justice,” as a small, public alternative school that has graduated generations of local students.

Many graduates, families and former staff members participated in an anniversary event last Thursday evening to express their

Those reconized by the Street Academy were (L to R): Carole Watson, Corrina Gould, Pat Williams-Myrick and Betsy Schultz.

Those reconized by the Street Academy were (L to R): Carole Watson, Corrina Gould, Pat Williams-Myrick and Betsy Schultz.

gratitude for the work the school has done and present awards to four women – staff and community leaders – whose efforts have shaped the school.

Honorees were: Carole Watson, president of the Street Academy Foundation Board, former president of the Bay Area Urban League and former Chief Community Investment Officer of the United Way of the Bay Area; Corrina Gould, a graduate in the class of 1984, parent of two daughters who attended the school, foundation board member and coordinator at the American Indian Child Resource Center; Patricia Williams-Myrick, the Street Academy´s executive director, who has been at the school since 1974; and Elizabeth “Betsy” Schultz, who has taught at the school since 1973.

Speakers at the celebration included former Monica Vaughn, former Street Academy teacher who is coordinator of Alternative Education for the Oakland Unified School District; City Councilmember Noel Gallo; Dr. Robert Blackburn, a former OUSD superintendent who came to Oakland from Philadelphia with the late Dr. Marcus Foster.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Teach Tomorrow Oakland Honors New Teachers

By Ken A. Epstein

Teach Tomorrow Oakland (TTO) this week celebrated it fifth year of preparing homegrown teachers for Oakland schools.

Teach Tomorrow Oakland’s teachers of the year are (L to R): Josette Neal-DeStanton, Elmhurst Middle School; Virak Saroeun, Howard Elementary; Sabrina Moore, currently at Madison Middle; Precious James, a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; and Michael Williams, who works at Sankofa Academy. Photo by Ken A. Esptein.

Teach Tomorrow Oakland’s teachers of the year are (L to R): Josette Neal-DeStanton, Elmhurst Middle School; Virak Saroeun, Howard Elementary; Sabrina Moore, currently at Madison Middle; Precious James, a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; and Michael Williams, who works at Sankofa Academy. Photo by Ken A. Esptein.

TTO, which began in 2009, has a federal grant that allows it to pick excellent candidates and supports them to become Oakland teachers.  The organization helps them pass teacher exams and overcome other hurdles they face on the path to becoming fully credentialed and provides training and other support for the new teachers in the classroom.

TTO honored its teachers at an event Monday evening and gave awards to its star teachers of the year: Precious James (2010 awardee), a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Sabrina Moore (2011 awardee), currently at Madison Middle; Michael Williams (2012 awardee), who works at Sankofa Academy, Virak Saroeun (2013 awardee), Howard Elementary; and Josette Neal-DeStanton (2013 awardee), Elmhurst Middle.

“These are teachers who have been recognized from among all of our hard working and excellent teachers, based of recommendations of principals and our classroom evaluation team,” said Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard, manager of TTO.

“We are currently in our fifth group, who will be placed in classroom in the fall. We´ve accepted 68 people, but we anticipate we will be able to place about half of them, because of the barriers that new teachers face.”

“But we will continue working with the other 30. We hope to be able to place them in classrooms later in the school year or the following year.”

Seventy-Six percent of TTO’s new recruits stay in teaching, compared with a 30 to 40 percent retention rate nationally, almost double the national average, she said.

Rachelle Rogers-Ard receives love and flowers from TTO teachers

Rachelle Rogers-Ard receives love and flowers from TTO teachers

“What makes Teach Tomorrow different is that we have a community atmosphere.”  said Rogers-Ard.

TTO seeks recruits who represent the diversity of the community of Oakland,” she said. “We are looking for teachers who can work in our community.”

TTO is a project created by the Oakland Unified School District and the office of former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. Funded by the Transition to Teaching federal grant program, TTO is a not a substitute for a university-based teaching credential program. Those who want to teach still must earn a credential.

What TTO does is help those who want to teach find a position as an intern teacher and provide those who need tutors with help to pass the CBEST and CSET exams.

In exchange for the support and training, Rogers-Ard said, “We’re asking for a five year commitment, more than any other internship in the country, because Oakland students deserve teachers who are not passing through, who are willing to stay long enough to become excellent teachers.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)