Archive for August, 2017

Oakland Schools Open with Students and Community Volunteers Hard at Work

 

Oakland Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, second from left, is joined at a press conference on opening day Monday by students, parents and teachers at Oakland SOL, a new school in East Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell kicked off the first day of school with a tour of hill and flatland schools, starting the day at Montera Middle School, which she had attended as a child.

She visited Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in West Oakland, taking part in a backpack and school supply giveaway courtesy of Kaiser Permanente, Lend a Hand Foundation and others.

At Fremont High School in East Oakland she visited an architectural drawing class, a multilingual media arts class and woodshop. At Franklin Elementary she went to classes and to the cafeteria where students were eating lunch.

She also visited Rudsdale Newcomer Program at Hillside Academy where more than 100 employees of the Golden State Warriors were assembling furniture, beautifying the grounds and painting the campus.

Johnson-Trammell’s last stop of the day was for a brief press conference at the brand new dual-immersion language middle school, Oakland SOL, which was created through a three-and-a-half year partnership between the district and students, parents and community members, including Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

What was most outstanding about the day, she said, was “seeing all of the community and all of the city support for our schools.”

“It´s been a great day seeing all of the hard work,” she said. “That’s how we´re really going to have community schools, having everyone pitch in together.

“I know many times people outside of education think we are relaxing in June, July and August but all of us here know the real deal. That’s when the real work happens,” she said.

“After all of the planning and the thinking, we’ve (finally) been able to see the fruition of all of that,” said Johnson-Trammel.

School Board President James Harris underscored the excitement the board, district staff and the school community feels about having such a highly qualified, homegrown superintendent.

“We are very excited as a school board and as a community,” he said. “I don’t think I´ve ever seen this level of excitement about our leadership, about our superintendent,” he said. “I am extremely happy to be able listen to a superintendent talk about coming up in Oakland.”

“Our students can see the path to their success,” Harris continued. “We have our own legends living today, who came from this soil.

“It’s important that we know that Oakland is much more than the news headlines, and it is a place of winners. It is a place of people with faith. It’s a place of people with commitment.”

Published August 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland SOL is City’s First Spanish and English New Public School in 10 Years

Hard work and vision of educators, families and community make middle school a reality


Some of those who worked to create Oakland SOL, the city’s new dual-immersion Spanish and English middle schooll, were (L to R): SOL’s principal Katherine Carter, Luz Alcaraz and daughter Nathalia, Almarie Frazier and daughter Kamari, OCO organizer Katy Núñez-Adler and Ajene Snaer. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

It was a coincidence that Oakland’s first new public school in more than a decade, called Oakland SOL, opened its doors Monday – the same day as the solar eclipse.

However, the School of Language (SOL) itself was not an accident but the product of community perseverance and vision.
Created through three-and-a-half years of hard work and careful planning – overcoming countless obstacles – this dual-language immersion, English and Spanish, middle school was developed as a partnership between the community and the Oakland Unified School District.

This year, the school – located at 1180 70th Ave. near International Boulevard – will serve 75 sixth graders and will phase in seventh and eighth grades during the next two years.

The school is still accepting new students – open to families that want their children to learn English and English-speaking students who want to learn Spanish.

At Oakland SOL, which is based on the energy and commitment of its families, the parents and students chose the principal and teachers. The site itself was a ”fixer-upper,” according to the parents, and families pitched in to paint and make the needed improvements.

“The district was had budgeted money to fix up the space. However, funds were severely reduced because of the budget deficit,” according to one of the organizers.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell enthusiastically endorsed the school, saying that community-based schools like Oakland SOL are the path forward for improving the Oakland Unified School District.

Exhilarated after finally being able to see the fruition of their efforts, members of the parent and student design team talked to the Oakland Post on Monday afternoon about what it took to make their school a reality.

The idea for the school started at Manzanita SEED – an East Oakland elementary school – when parents began to think about the need for a dual language immersion middle (sixth through eighth grade) school their children could attend after they finished fifth grade.

The families soon realized that other schools and other parents shared their interest, and they all would be stronger if they worked together.

Teaming up with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), which is based on a network congregations and schools throughout the city organized to improve conditions, they began to involve families and students from different schools and different backgrounds and cultures.

“We started involving families in different school communities, to make sure that there were opportunities for families from different cultures and different socio-economic backgrounds to participate,” said Alcaraz, a parent and member of the design team, as well a member of the board of OCO.

Team members learned to write grants and proposals to OUSD and other partners, which helped pay for them to visit schools in other communities and helped research existing models for what they wanted to accomplish.

“Some members of the team helped write grants, but this was not done with a lot of money,” said Alcaraz.

Besides parents and students, the design team included educators, including design team leader Katherine Carter, who is now principal at the school.

A lot of the work was done by volunteers, and OCO provided staff support to help with organizing, she said.

“In reality, my experience was that it was faith and commitment that led to this school,” she said. “I wanted this for my daughter Nathalia.”

“It’s been a long haul, but it doesn’t feel like that long because it’s what our hearts wanted.”

Almarie Frazier explained that she got involved because she wanted to make sure her daughter Kamari could continue to be bilingual when she went to middle school.

An OCO organizer “invited me to come to meetings about building connections with other parents. That´s how I got caught in the little web,” she said.

“I didn’t think about coming in and volunteering for all these years. But it was a great experience, getting to know better some people I wouldn’t usually get to interact with on a daily basis,” she said.

“This is our future – we live in a diverse place,” said Frazier. “I feel like I was part of something. I helped build it.”

Ajene Snaer, a sixth grader at the school, has been part of the design team from the beginning as a second grader.

“When I think about it, (I realize) I actually helped to build this school,” he said.

“We started with just a few people,” he said, “and it ended up being a big group of people, agreeing on the same things and making it into a reality.”

To find out more about the school or enroll a student call (510) 636-7992 or email Oaklandsolinfo@gmail.com

Published August 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

East Bay leaders speak at a press conference Tuesday, prolcaiming that local communities are united against against hatred and bigotry and committed to nonviolence. Left to Right: Supervisor Keith Carson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

Congresswoman Barbara and other East Bay political leaders held a press conference at Berkley City Hall Tuesday to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence as local communities prepare for white supremacists rallies planned for Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Berkeley.

“President Trump has emboldened white nationalists, but we must hold steadfast to our progressive values as a community, regardless of the challenges,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“We cannot allow anyone, certainly not the president, to roll back the clock on progress. We must stand united against hate,” she said.

Growing up in the South, she said, “I have seen the kind of world these demonstrators want to create.”

Joining Congresswoman Lee at the press conference were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District Attorney Nancy O´Malley.

Some protesters are planning to confront the white supremacists in downtown Berkeley. Others are calling for a rally, supported by labor, faith-based organizations and Democratic clubs, in another part of Berkeley to demonstrate the Bay Area’s commitment to oppose racist terrorism.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguín urged people not to to confront the white supremacists.

He underscored the city´s support for free speech for all points of view but drew a distinction between those who want to express themselves and those who come to town seek to terrorize the community.

“We are working to keep our public safe,” he said. “We are not going to allow bigotry and hate in our community.”

Organizers of the rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley claim they are not white supremacists, but according to Mayor Arreguín the discussion on social media about the events indicates otherwise.

Senator Skinner announced she is introducing a bill to strengthen California´s anti-hate crime laws calling on local, state and federal law enforcement to treat white supremacists as terrorists and direct law enforcement to use all available options to prosecute members of these groups.

“If their intention is to terrorize our communities, it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists,” she said.

Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement distinguishing between free speech and marching with guns and other weapons with the intent to commitment violence.

“Thee ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble,” the statement from directors ACLU’s Northern California, Southern California and San Diego chapters says.

“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

A large coalition of groups and individuals is holding a “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” which is not organized to physically confront the white supremacists.

According to the rally announcement, “fascists and white supremacists are meeting in Berkeley to try to intimidate us and incite violence. We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, to speak to each other about the world we want. Join us, bring snacks, bring signs.”

The rally, hosted by Unite for Freedom Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Crescent Lawn, Oxford and Addison streets at UC Berkeley.

Published August, 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bay Area Protests Against White Supremacy, in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Rep. Barbara Lee calls on president to remove bigoted White House aides

 

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

 

By Post Staff

Protests last took place across the Bay Area over the weekend in response to the killing of an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, part of a nationwide upsurge of anger against the resurgence of white supremacists and Nazis and President Trump´s support for bigotry.

Protests were held Saturday and Sunday in Oakland. The Saturday march was called, “Charlottesville We Got Your Back, Bay Area United Against White Supremacy.” Among the signs marchers carried were ones that read, “White Silence Equals Violence” and “Call it what it is. White supremacy.”

Oakland’s Sunday evening protest was held in front of City Hall, “for unity and (to make) a firm stance against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism and hate,” according to a Facebook calendar page.

A march was also held in Berkeley, and candlelight vigils were scheduled at City Hall in San Francisco, the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, Adobe Park in Castro Valley and Poinsett Park in El Cerrito.

In the South Bay, protests were scheduled Sunday at San Jose City Hall, Mountain View’s Gateway Park, at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center and at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with the “Quad Caucus,” sent a letter this week to President Trump demanding he immediately remove white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House.

Issuing the statement were Congresswoman Lee and leadership of the Congressional Quad-Caucus, composed of chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

“The white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville have brought vile racism, hatred and bigotry to the forefront of our political discourse once again,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without honestly examining its influence on the Oval Office.

“President Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. From the Muslim Ban, to raids on immigrant communities, a ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, attempts to revive the failed war on drugs and an all-out assault on civil and human rights, the influence of the alt-right is clear in the Trump Administration’s policy agenda.

“Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller have long embraced the views of white supremacists, white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. These prejudiced ideologies have no place in the highest office in our land. I urge President Trump to remove (them) from the White House without delay.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said:

“It is shameful that Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who each have ties to extremist and white nationalist ideological groups and leaders, are serving as President Trump’s top advisors.

“Extremists groups have used their presence in the White House to legitimize their divisive and violent rhetoric, ideology, and actions. They should have no role in creating national policy or pushing their twisted political agenda.”

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

New Citizens’ Police Commission Could Become Among Strongest in Nation

 OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

 

By Post Staff

A selection panel made its final choices this week for the city’s new citizens’ police commission, established by an overwhelming vote in November, which will have significant power to investigate and punish police misconduct and help set policies for the Oakland Police Department.

Four commissioners were picked Monday by the selection panel. Three additional members were appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. Two alternates, one picked by Mayor Schaaf and one selected by the panel, were also named.

Edwin Prather

Edwin Prather

Originally, almost 150 Oakland residents applied to be on the commission. The selection panel ultimately interviewed 28 finalists.

A number of observers have argued that Oakland’s police commission, which has the power to fire the police chief and recommend a pool of finalists to replace the chief, could end up being one of the strongest in the nation.

According to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, “The selection panel was absolutely stunned” that so many applications were turned in, including 50 that came in on the last day.

The members of the panel had a huge amount of work  sorting through the applications and contacting references, she said. “(But) I think they came out with an absolutely great group of people. I think they did a fabulous job.”

The idea of utilizing a selection panel composed mostly of residents, not politicians, to pick the members of police commission “has never been done before” anywhere in the nation, she said.

Once the City Council comes back from recess in September, it will have to vote on confirming the commissioners, giving the public a chance to weigh in, she said.

Regina Jackson

Regina Jackson

The City of Oakland also has to hire two positions that were budgeted to staff the work of the commission.

“I think by October the police commission should be ready to start work,” said Grinage.

Panel appointees:

Mubarak Ahmad works for AC Transit. He coaches little league baseball and is a basketball coach for Montera Middle School.  He is the father of six children and six grandchildren.

Jose Dorado, an Oakland native, runs a tax and bookkeeping business in the Frutivale District. He is the longtime leader of Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which works on public safety issues. He also served on the Measure Y oversight committee.

Jose Dorado

Jose Dorado

Ginale Harris lives in East Oakland. She currently works as a San Francisco deputy court clerk. She has worked as a probation and parole advocate helping formerly incarcerated people. In 2012, she served on SFPD Chief Greg Suhr’s violence prevention committee.

Mike Nisperos, who was raised in Oakland, has served as an Alameda County prosecutor and an associate in the John Burris law firm handling police misconduct cases. He authored the Oakland Mayor’s 2001 Public Safety Plan. He has been arrested by OPD four times.

Alternate Maureen Benson is a 17-year Oakland resident. She has worked as an Oakland teacher and principal.

Mayoral appointees:

Edwin Prather is an attorney in San Francisco. He has worked with the Asian Law Caucus and for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Thomas Smith serves as the political action chair of the Oakland NAACP. He previously worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Company. He helped set up a charter school in Massachusetts and was on the board of a charter school in Oakland.

Regina Jackson serves as president and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Alternate Andrea Dooley is an attorney and an arbitrator who has worked at Kaiser Permanente.

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Communities Mobilize to Repeal State Law That Restricts Renter Protections

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

By Post Staff

Rob Bonta and two other member of the State Assembly are sponsoring a bill, AB 1506, to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act, which prevents local governments from passing laws to protect California communities from the runaway rental crisis that is engulfing the state.

Affordable housing advocates are asking supporters statewide to support the bill authored by Assemblymembers Bonta, Richard Bloom and David Chiu.

“This will be a heavy lift and we need all hands on deck,” according to an email sent out by Bonta’s office earlier this year.

“The bill is pretty straightforward as it repeals the Costa-Hawkins law…. We are asking all of our local advocates and their partners to help by sending in letters of support, making phone calls, writing op-eds, setting up meetings with key Assemblymembers and mobilize constituents in support of AB 1506,”
the email said.

For a list of housing committee members, go to http://ahcd.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

Passed in 1995, Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from enacting rent increase limitations on certain kinds of exempted dwelling units, allows rent increases on subtenants following departure by tenants of rent-controlled tenancies and prohibits “vacancy control” — the regulation of rental rates on units that have been voluntarily vacated by the previous renters at an amount other than what the open market would bear.”

Costa Hawkins also prohibits any type of controls on rents or leases of condominium units or single-family homes.

According to James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union and a supporter of AB 1506,“The repeal of Costa Hawkins the is absolutely critical to help stop the displacement that is running rampant in this state – the law prevents cities from enacting any kind of effective control on rents.

“Real estate and landlord groups have been vociferously lobbying against repeal,” Vann said. They were able to block the repeal effort two years ago, but pro-tenant organizations were not as strong at that time, he said.

“We need for tenant and pro housing advocates to lobby the Legislature for the bill to come up next year,” Vann said.

Landlords groups that are fighting the repeal bill argue that developers will not build homes if they fear their projects might fall under rent control.
“Rent control builds no new housing, and that has to be our focus in the Legislature,” said Debra Carlton, spokeswoman for the California Apartment Association in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

For more information go to www.tenantstogether.org/campaigns/repeal-costa-hawkins-re

Published August 17, 20017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

New Oakland Schools’ Superintendent Emphasizes Transparency and Collaboration

 

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

 

By Ken Epstein

In the first press conference of her new administration, Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell spoke about some of the big concerns on the minds of members of the Oakland community: producing quality and equity in schools, transparency and collaboration of the central office in dealing with schools and parents and what will be the impact on school communities of the large hole left in the budget by the last superintendent.

When Johnson-Trammell, 41, took over the leadership of the district on July 1, she became the first homegrown leader of the Oakland Unified School District in over a dozen years.

Born and raised in East Oakland, she attended Montclair Elementary and Montera Middle schools. She has worked for 18 years in the district as a teacher, principal, administrator and interim deputy superintendent.

Addressing concerns about the financial solvency of the district, she emphasized that OUSD faces the same tough issues as city districts across the state, inadequate funds and a teacher shortage, especially in bilingual and special education.

As an urban district, she said, ¨We have been in this state before.”

She said she hopes to avoid or mitigate some of the worst of the possible budget cuts, employing “creative and innovative” methods to save money, in addition to raising money from outside sources.

Underscoring her commitment to collaboration with the school community, she said, ”It can´t be just myself and two other people in the room making those decisions.”

However, ultimately hard choices sometimes must be made between competing needs for limited resources.

“At the end of the day, we´re going to have to say no (sometimes),” she said. “There will be probably be some tension. It´s my responsibility to be a good shepherd of the resources we have.”

Johnson-Trammell said the district has high quality programs and should build on them.

Two high schools that are doing well are Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA) in East Oakland, which has high graduation rates of Latino students, and McClymonds High School in West Oakland, which has high rates of graduation of African-American students.

She said she was committed to providing high quality programs for “newcomer” immigrant students and special education students and that the district will work to hire a stable teacher corps that is reflective of the city´s demographics.

The district will work to improve academic quality, but the role of the central office is not to micromanage school sites. There has to “more team-building,” she said.  “ When we try to tell every school how do it, that´s when we make a mistake.”

Johnson-Trammell rejected the approach that is often popular with new superintendents who promise dramatic changes and a set of quick fixes.

“Most of the problems we have are systemic problems. The tendency is to come and shake everything up,” she said, but the reality is that if the problems were that simple to solve, they would already have been solved.

“We´ve shook up a lot in this district, and that´s part of the reason we´re in the shape we´re in,” she said.

While some people point to the possibility of closing schools as a way to reduce the district´s budget gap, she pledged that no schools would be closed without careful study and consultation with school communities.
Many students, teachers and community members complain about instability at flatland schools, where programs, teachers and principals come and go every year or two.

“We have to support (and train) principals and teachers so they can improve,” she said. “We have to develop the talent in our district so people stay.”

With a deep commitment to equity, the district will have to continue to work “to disrupt our implicit bias that´s inherent” in all public school systems, she said.

Published August 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post