Category: Education/Schools/Youth

Young McClymonds Warriors Tour South Africa

McClymonds High School's "Culture Keepers" left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

McClymonds High School’s “Culture Keepers” left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

By Post Staff

A group of young women from McClymonds, their mentors, and teachers – known as “Culture Keepers” – left Monday from the San Francisco International Airport for a tour of South Arica.

The travel program is designed to help students “collectively gain a better understanding of who African American women are culturally; expand our roles as global citizens, and to build an intergenerational, transnational understanding of what it means to be Black women and girls,” according to Kharyshi Wiginton, the primary organizer of the trip.

“We plan to use our knowledge and experiences to educate our families and communities. In short, the ultimate goal of this project is community transformation,” she said.

Many community supporters have stepped forward ensure the young women have the opportunity to travel abroad and experience South African culture.

“Exposure to foreign culture can help youth challenge their thoughts, beliefs, and personal comfort zones, which is a catalyst for growth,” said educator and organizer Carroll Fife.

Participants in the tour include: Kierra Bassette-Cotton, Jonae Scott, Dana Nicole Williams, Reginae Hightower, Axia Fuller, Leahnna Smith, Fanae Clark, Nakaya Laforte, Alexis Hill and Cierra Marzette.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 23, 2015 (

The San Francisco Foundation Donates $34 Million to Oakland Nonprofits

Huge grant will mean jobs, training and affordable housing

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) announced on Tuesday that it is donating $34 million dollars to a number of Oakland nonprofit community organizations, a gift of an anonymous donor.

TSFF, now headed by Fred Blackwell, former Oakland City administrator, is one of the largest community foundations in the country and gives out millions of dollars every year through grants and fellowship programs.

According to Jane Sullivan, the foundation’s vice president, this is the first time TSFF has made a donation of this scale.

“The foundation wanted to invest heavily in Oakland’s key organizations and infrastructure,” said Sullivan. “We know people in Oakland are being displaced and being withheld from tech opportunities. We are looking to help create the opportunities for those in Oakland that need it the most.”

The grants are estimated to result in 731 new affordable housing units being built, 2,502 new jobs created and ultimately 62,570 people served.

The foundation made the announcement of its awards at a well-attended press conference at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which provides support under-served youth in poor neighborhoods and one of the recipients a large donation.

Having recently made renovations and additions to their facility—including a more expansive wellness center, a dance room, and martial arts dojo—EODYC will use its $1 million grant to pay off the debt it accrued with one-third of what it is receiving from TSFF, said Regina Jackson, president of the center.

“With the $ 2 million grant we acquired from the foundation, Asian Health Services is devoted to expanding access to health services for underserved communities, newly-arrived immigrants and sexually exploited minors,” said Sherry Hirota, CEO of Asian Health Services.

“This includes establishing school-based clinics that help address issues of trauma that so many of youth experience in Oakland.”

The Unity Council received $3 million in support of building the second phase of the Fruitvale Transit Village, which will develop 270 units of housing in Fruitvale, 80 of which will be affordable housing.

Other beneficiaries included:

The EastSide Arts Alliance, which received $1 million to secure its building;

Urban Strategies Council, which was awarded $1.2 million to pay for CEO transition and low-income housing development;

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which received $1 million to support its Restore Oakland/Restaurant Opportunity Center;

Destiny Arts Center, which was awarded $1.3 million to eliminate the organization’s debt service, expand its work with incarcerated youth at the Alameda Juvenile Justice Center and increase participation of LGBTQ youth in the organization’s “Moving the Movement” program; and

A $4 million grant, which will support seven Oakland based high-tech programs: Black Girls Code, David Glover Center, Hack the Hood, Hidden Genius Project, Qeyno Labs, #YesWeCode and Youth Impact Hub – designed to ensure that a diverse workforce is available for technology employers.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (

McClymonds High’s Original Warriors Celebrate 100th Anniversary

McClymonds graudates

McClymonds graudates

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

McClymonds High School, the school of champions and home of the original Warriors, is celebrating its 100th anniversary next week with a series of events that honors generations of graduates and recognizes the continuing importance of the school in the West Oakland community.

The celebration will feature Joe Ellis, who played in the NBA for the Warriors, who will be master of ceremonies; and keynote speaker Ben Tapscott, former McClymonds coach and teacher.

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

A special honoree will be Inez Gray-Harvey, 100 years old, who graduated from the school in 1933.

The Oakland Post will be honored at the celebration for its long-term commitment to the Oakland community.

A free meet and greet for members of the extended McClymonds family will be held Friday evening, July 24, at 6 p.m. at the E-One Entertainment Club at 200 Hegenberger Road in Oakland.

McClymonds band

McClymonds band

A free memory tour of McClymonds High School, including the gym, library and cafeteria, will be held Saturday morning, July 25, 10 a.m., at McClymonds High, 2607 Myrtle St.

The main event, which is already sold out, will feature dinner, live music and a program at the Sequoyah Country Club on Saturday, July 25. A souvenir book, “McClymonds High School’s First 50 Years,” will be distributed to guests.

The “School of Champions,” started in 1915 as a summer school, was named after former OUSD Superintendent J.W. McClymonds. In 1927, McClymonds transitioned into a standard school for both junior high and high school students.

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

It was first located at 14th and Myrtle, now the site of West Oakland Middle School. The school moved to its current building on 26th and Myrtle in 1957.

Initially, student enrollment at McClymonds was predominantly white, according to George Randolph, class of 1960, and Tina “Teague” Dright, class of 1961. Students of color began to attend the school in the 40s and 50s during the Great Migration of African Americans to the area after World War II.

img_19712“A lot of people that came through those doors have gone on and done great things in the world,” said alumnus George Randolph. “The spirit that came out of those people, we see it in what they’re doing now.”

McClymonds has a long list of notable graduates, including:

Lionel Wilson, a superior court judge and Oakland’s first African American mayor;

Ron Dellums, former U.S. Congressman and mayor of Oakland;

Nicholas Petris, State Senator;

School board members James Norwood, Sylvester Hodges, Lucella Harrison and David Anderson;

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Many professional athletes, among whom are Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Fame; Frank Robinson, MLB player, Hall of Fame; Curt Flood, MLB player; Vada Pinson, MLB player; and Jim Hines, Olympic Gold medalist, 100-meter dash record holder.

In the field of music, graduates include jazz musician Pete Escovedo, MC Hammer, Grammy award-winning rapper, and musician Yancie Taylor.

“The events will be fast paced, but there will be plenty of time to talk and reconnect,” said Sylvester Hodges, class of 1960, who is part of the group that has been organizing the celebration for the past year.

Also at the Saturday night celebration, guests will be asked for a resolution calling on the Oakland Unified School District to promise to never change the name of McClymonds High School, no matter what reforms or redesigns the district adopts in the future, said Hodges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 18, 2015 (

Peralta Community Colleges Receive Accreditation Warnings

Teachers’ union warns of “rogue” accrediting agency

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

By Tulio Ospina

Laney College, Merritt College, College of Alameda and Berkeley City College – the four community colleges that make up the Peralta Community College District – have been issued warnings and imposed probations by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

According to the accrediting commission, the Oakland colleges—which serve about 34,000 students in Oakland—must meet a variety of requirements before October 2016 to avoid losing its accreditation from the commission.

Berkeley City College

Berkeley City College

Colleges that are not accredited are not eligible to receive public funding and, as a result, are forced to shut down.

None of the problems that ACCJC has cited against the Peralta district colleges are related to quality of education or teaching standards.

Rather, the accrediting organization is finding fault with the colleges’ bureaucratic processes such as irregular course and personnel assessments, providing online distance learning without gaining proper approval and failing to give appropriate attention to long-term financial planning.

A number of organizations, however, including student groups and college teacher unions, have expressed concerns about the motives and methods of the ACCJC.

According to Edward Jaramillo, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers (PFT), the teachers’ union is in support of faculty and administration’s efforts to work with the district to review the recommendations.

Merritt College in Oakland

Merritt College in Oakland

“On a larger level, we support the efforts of the California Federation of Teachers to push through legislation and bring more transparency and some guidelines to ACCJC’s process of accreditation,” said Jaramillo.

ACCJC is the organization that nearly revoked accreditation of City College of San Francisco in 2013, causing widespread protests of students, teachers’ unions and community members, ultimately resulting in a court-ordered suspension of the revocation.

While not as dire as City College’s circumstances were back in 2013, Peralta’s situation has brought many to question ACCJC’s interests and draw parallels between the two situations.

“The areas they’re both being attacked in have to do with record keeping and finances,” said Joe Berry, a retired teacher and member of AFT 2121, the faculty union at CCSF.

“Neither one has been about quality of education being delivered to students, whose benefit is the core mission of accreditation bodies in general.”

Berry helped fight against the ACCJC’s actions in 2013 and has noticed many community and junior colleges facing similar issues under their jurisdiction.

“Something is amiss. This is not the pattern anywhere else in the country. It at least wasn’t the pattern in this state until the present administration of ACCJC came to be,” said Berry. “They are engaged in imposing more sanctions in the institutions they are accrediting by a factor of ten than any other (accrediting organization).”

On Tuesday, PFT posted a letter on its website calling upon its members to “help reform the broken community college accreditation system” by calling their state senators and requesting they vote ‘yes’ on two pieces of legislation during next week’s Senate Education Committee.

“AB 1397, the California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of 2015, will force the rogue Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to have greater transparency, and restrict its ability to issue crippling sanctions like the one it imposed on City College of San Francisco,” says the letter.

Furthermore, “AB 1385, Ending Blank Checks for Accreditation Legal Fees, would prevent the ACCJC from billing community colleges for its mounting legal fees without a vote of the colleges.”

Jeff Heyman, a spokesperson for the Peralta district, confirms that the Peralta colleges are not unique in their accreditation status with ACCJC, referring to nearly 30 colleges that are on their list in some form.

According to Heyman, Peralta’s accrediting issues stem from “a fair amount of recent management turnover, so the institutional memory isn’t there.”

“The district is already addressing OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) and the student assessments,” he said. “It’s been easy to look at the list of requirements, assemble the team and start taking it seriously.”

Meanwhile, Peralta Colleges remain fully accredited, offering all their classes, with every unit transferrable to other colleges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (

Oakland Street Academy Teacher Betsy Schulz Retires After 40 Years

By Jaron Epstein

Jaron K. Epstein

Jaron K. Epstein

Betsy Schulz, who has taught generations of high school students at Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, has retired after 42 years

Schulz began her teaching career at the small alternative school, inspired by school’s commitment to the values of the Civil Rights Movement. And she never left.

“It was during the 70’s an era of activism and change, and I wanted to do something where I felt like I could make a real difference,” said Schulz. “I felt like urban education was an area I could do that.”

In an interview with the Post, Schulz did not talk about her retirement plans but about the school that has been her life’s work.

Betsy Schulz

Betsy Schulz

What continues to make the Street Academy unique is its philosophy of social justice and overall attitude towards students, she said. If students did not succeed or fit in at previous schools it, was not their fault.

But if they are ready to learn and believe in themselves and their future, the staff at the school does everything it can to encourage that belief and help the young people make that future a reality.

Schulz says that what has kept her invigorated in her role at the school is the freedom teachers have had to design curriculum to fit students’ changing needs.

As problems within society have worsened, teachers and staff have seen the problems of the students worsen as well.

“We have added both restorative justice and life skills to our curriculum to help deal with the issues which students are faced with,” she said.

The combination of a social justice curriculum – including African American and La Raza Studies – as well as a focus on restorative justice/transformative life skills and commitment to student’s college success make Street Academy a very special school, she said.

“We are always questioning and fine tuning, finding better ways to serve our students, said Schulz.

The restorative justice/transformative life skills program with Nairobi yoga teaches students about focused breathing and strengthening their breathing, said Schulz

“It allows students to acknowledge the stress and tensions brought on throughout the day – and then to be able to put aside whatever is bothering you to be able to focus on the day,” she said.

All Street Academy staff are trained in restorative justice, and the school deals with conflict and discipline in a much different way than most schools.

The student has a chance to make amends with the person who was harmed and then is welcomed back into the community.

“It works often and is a different way of thinking,” she said. “It takes a while for both staff and students to incorporate it into their thinking. Students start off seeing it as a sign of weakness.”

Street Academy class

Street Academy class

It’s not the normal way to deal on the streets.”

Partners in the restorative justice work, who also support the overall mission and philosophy of the school, have been the Native American Health Center (NAHC), Rose Foundation and Bay Peace.

One of Schultz’s contributions has been a unit in her physiology course. “The students look at not only the biology of diabetes but the social forces that contribute to its prevalence in communities of color,” she said.

street academy one

Street Academy

Schulz says a critical part of the school’s approach is the Counselor/Teacher/Mentor (CTM). Each member of the staff serves as an academic teacher and is also a counselor and mentor for about 20 CTM students.

Staff members work with students daily and meet with parents quarterly about students’ progress. Staff members check in with parents if the student is missing class or not doing homework and will also call to talk about how great the student is doing.

“When I think back over the years, my CTM students are my fondest memories,” she said. “Parents have said this school is the first one my child has done well at.”

Schulz said she has been luck to find herself in the enviable position where she has been able to do work in which she believes.

“Street academy made it possible to merge the personal with the political,” she said. “Most people live separate lives between what they do for work and what their passions are.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 15, 2015 (

Oakland Youth Make Their Voices Heard on Police Reform

Young people discussed their proposals for police reform

Young people discuss their proposals for police reform.

By Tulio Ospina

The City of Oakland’s Youth Advisory Commission, which serves as a liaison between local policymakers and young people, recently released its recommendations on improving relations between local law enforcement, the communities they police and the city’s youth.

Several young people presented the recommendations at last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, advising councilmembers about issues the impact their lives.

The Youth Commission brought together nearly 75 participants between the ages of 13 to 21 from many community-based organizations. The young people discussed what steps can be taken to ensure the welfare of their communities.

“We asked each of the groups to come with five recommendations ready, and then the entire assembly chose their top five,” said Chantal Reynolds, a member of the commission’s staff.

“Now they’re having those conversations with city officials, and some of the youth met with the Chief of Police and went through the recommendations with him,” she said.

Brooklyn Williams, a youth leadership advocate who helped convene the youth meetings, said she was responding to absence of young people’s voices in many hearings and decision-making meetings.

“What adults need to understand is that when you partner with youth, you automatically increase efficiency and maximize resources because they are our most valuable resources,” said Williams.

Mack McGhee, who was a Student Voice Ambassador for Oakland Unified School District’s All City Council at the time, was one of the students who spoke with Chief Sean Whent and presented at the Public Safety Committee.

“Before going through this process, I wouldn’t have even spoken to a police officer unless there was no way around it, because of the way things are happening throughout the country,” said McGhee.

“What the experience did was it re-humanized police officers for me but also taught me there’s a lot that needs to change with law enforcement as a system,” he said.

The top five recommendations selected by the youth were:

Create a committee to retrain law enforcement officers to use non-lethal force when subduing suspects. Also implement Youth Lead Trainings that would help teach officers about the culture and lives of Oakland’s inhabitants;

De-militarize the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The report states that, “OPD should not use weapons used in war (e.g. tanks, military trucks, other military weaponry, etc.) against the residents and citizens of Oakland;”

Youth should be asked to serve on police hiring panels and committees;

The city should hold “Know Your Rights” trainings throughout Oakland for residents to understand the proper ways to “safely navigate encounters with law enforcement officers;”

Police officers should be required to live in the communities they patrol for a certain number of days per week, and law enforcement agencies should develop a more diversified police force.

According to the report, youth feel that law enforcement does not reflect the population it comes in contact with, and many officers are not from Oakland. Instead, they come to Oakland to police residents and then go home.

“This does not lead to vested interests in a community or sustained relationships with residents,” says the report.

Some additional recommendations in the report include the establishment of a Youth Citizens’ Review Board for all law enforcement agencies; eliminating paid leave when officers are suspended during investigations for misconduct and officer-involved shootings; a database to document the victims of officer-involved homicides and brutality; and a special prosecutor from outside the local system assigned to review all officer-involved shootings.

According to Williams, the youth groups had created the recommendations about a month before President Obama’s Task Force—a team of experts researching policing— unveiled their own recommendations in the wake of the Ferguson protests.

What the Youth Commission saw was that most of the experts’ proposals for improving relations between law enforcement and communities directly aligned with those that had been made by the team of young people.

“The level of brilliance of our Oakland youth is really inspiring,” said Williams. “I’m hoping that more leaders and decision-makers have this awakening so that all of our departments eventually have their own youth panels and advisory councils.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (

Fremont High School’s Student-run Newspaper Shuts Down After 104 Years

Fremont High's newspaper, The Green & Gold, is produced by the school's Media Academy.  This is a photo of the class of 2011-2012, taken when the Media Academy was flourishing.

Fremont High’s newspaper, The Green & Gold, was produced by the school’s Media Academy. This is a photo of the class of 2011-2012, taken at a time when the Media Academy was flourishing.

By Ken Epstein

Fremont High School in East Oakland has shut down its award winning school newspaper, the “Green & Gold,” which has been training young writers and reporting school news for past 104 years.

“We are working off a limited budget – We received a substantial cut in funds and personnel,” Principal Emiliano Sanchez told Green & Gold staff reporter Nelia Mungia, as reported in the June 10 edition of the newspaper.

The newspaper is produced by Fremont’s Media Academy, which pays for printing costs but not the adviser.

Next year, the school will no longer offer the newspaper production class. The major cost to the school is paying for one teacher to work on the paper for two class periods during the school’s eight-period day.

“That is crazy and stupid because we (have had) the Green & Gold for a while, wrote one junior on the paper’s staff. “I think we should have a newspaper because then everybody (is) going to know what is going to happen.”

The Post contacted Oakland Unified School District administration to ask if OUSD is going to find the money to save the newspaper.

According to district spokesman Troy Flint, “OUSD’s central office staff only recently became aware of the decision to shutter the Green & Gold and will evaluate it to see if other options are available within the confines of the school budget and district finances in general.”

“No outcome is certain at this point, but a full review will be conducted in the next few week,” said Flint.

When the school’s Media Academy was at its height, students produced nine issues a year. Over the years, the prerequisite classes for working as part of the newspaper staff have been eliminated. Classes in basic reporting skills and digital newspaper layout and design were cut.

In the past two years, students and their advisor put out three issues year.

According to Green & Gold writer Quenajonay Frazier, the newspaper has made a difference in her education.

“The newspaper is one of the main reasons why people on the newspaper (staff) got good grades in English,” she said.

“It also helps with the community,” she continued. “People get to know more about the school.”

Frazier said she decided to join the Media Academy “because I am into writing.”

“And I got better,” she said. “I wasn’t very good at grammar, but the teacher took the time to help me.”

Some people at the school point out that student enrollment in the class has been low in recent years.

But according to the program’s defenders, media is important, and writing is important. They admit student enrollment has declined, but argue that the decline is mostly a reflection of the cuts that little by little reduced the program to only one poorly funded production class.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (

School District Proposes to Change Fremont High School’s Name to Innovation High

Fremont HIgh School

By Quenajonay Frazier

Green & Gold

Quenajonay Frazier

Quenajonay Frazier

Fremont High will no longer be Fremont High after next year — it will be called Innovation School of Oakland.

This change is one of many outlined in a 37-page document that the Fremont Design Team submitted to the Oakland Unified School District on May 20.

It was the only proposal made in response to Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s “Call for Quality Schools,” which asked for groups inside and outside the school district, including charter companies, to compete to recreate Fremont. Four other schools also were put out to bid for new designs.

The school board will vote June 24 on the plan for Innovation School of Oakland, which would open in August 2016. Construction for a new facility would start at a later date.

Members of the design team said that the name would better fit the goal of the new school, which will focus on “design thinking,” technology, engineering, health and international studies along with the three main career paths it now offers.

But not everyone likes the new name or the concept of the new school.

“I am disappointed because I wanted to be an alumni [of Fremont High],” said senior Jessica Lindemulder. “Little did I know I would not be able to return to the school I know.”

Under the plan, Media Academy, Architecture Academy and Mandela Law & Public Service Academy will stay on campus but will be broadened into pathways with additional courses. Media will be part of the Digital Media & Technology pathway; Architecture will be part of the Architecture & Engineering pathway; Mandela will be part of the Public Service & Global Studies pathway.

And a new Science, Health and Forensics pathway will open in the new school.

This excites some students, including freshman Bianca Ramirez, who helped with the design in part by visiting several schools in Southern California.

“I love the new labs because that means more hands on,” said Ramirez.

Other students who were involved in a fight to keep Fremont from turning into a charter school were not happy with all parts of the final plan.

“Students felt betrayed and did not like the fact that the school’s name is changing,” said senior Angel Cornejo. “The teachers were too busy trying to fit in someone else’s norms that they forgot the real purpose of the fight.”

One thing members of the Leadership class generally like about the plan is the flexibility it has for students.

Newcomers and special education students will be able to join all classes and pathways. Students can take classes in other pathways, not just their own.

“We can take the class we want for our career,” said freshman Janet Chavez.

The plan calls on everyone at the school to be learners and for teachers to use technology for blended learning in their classes. That would mean that students would do most of their work independently on computers and they would move at a pace that fits their learning style. The teacher would be roaming the room to help students wherever they are in their learning.

“I do not think that it (blending learning) is the greatest idea,” said senior Loata Fine of the Architecture Academy. “No child should be left behind. Everyone should learn together at the pace so they can learn and build off each other, rather than working on a computer alone.”

Along with asking teachers to adopt blended learning, the proposal gives teachers other new roles.

“Teachers will have advisories,” the plan states. “Advisory curriculum will serve to personalize learning for all students and support them academically, socially and emotionally.”

Richard Charlesworth, a Media and Mandela history teacher, said one of his concerns about the plan is not understanding what “design thinking” actually means. He also worries about teacher turnover. Students cannot learn with different teachers each year, he explained.

But he sees positives of the plan.

“We are good at keeping the strong staff and most of the new plan we have already been doing,” he said. “We do not throw the baby away with the dirty bath water.”

Nidya Baez, co-leader of the design team and a Fremont alumni, said the name of the new school is still pending.

Baez said she believes it is necessary for the name to change because there are many people who view Fremont High negatively and the design team wants people to believe that there will be an actual change on the campus.

However, Baez said just because the name will change does not mean Fremont will no longer be Fremont.

“The name change doesn’t erase the 110 classes” that have graduated from Fremont, said Baez, who hopes the new school will keep many Fremont traditions.

The design team dropped at least one controversial idea from its original plan. It no longer wants to add sixth, seventh and eighth grades to the campus.

Anyone who has feelings about the proposal can address the school board at any of the regular school board meetings. The next board meeting is at La Esquelita Education Center tonight (June 10).

A graduate of Fremont High School’s Class of 2015, Quenajonay Frazier wrote this article for the June 10 edition of Fremont’s student newspaper, “The Green and Gold.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (

Teachers Question Mayor’s Appointment of New Education Advisor

By Ken Epstein

Local teachers and school activists are questioning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to appoint David Silver as a chief policy advisor on education, criticizing her for paying for the position with money

David Silver

David Silver

donated by non-profits that have a record of working to expand local charters schools at the expense of public education.

A number of people see her approach as setting a dangerous precedent.

“I personally have nothing against David – I do not question his integrity or his passion for Oakland students, “said Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Trish Gorham.

OEA President Trish Gorham

OEA President Trish Gorham

“I do question paying the salary of someone with private money that comes with a very clear agenda, using that money to pay for someone who is going to help shape public policy,” she said.

Mayor Schaaf announced Silver’s appointment on June 11, funded through “a multi-year partnership” with the Oakland Public Education Fund, made up the Rainin Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund, the Rogers Family Foundation and the Packard Foundation.

New Schools Venture Fund is an organization associated with the national movement for corporate-driven school reform of public education, accused by opponents of backing policies that seek untapped investment opportunities and to unleash hidden markets embedded in public schools.

The Rogers Family Foundation, which is closely connected to the nonprofit Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools and helped found the Oakland Public Education Fund, has long been associated with efforts to expand the role of charter schools in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and decrease of the influence the teachers’ union and of unionized teachers.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“The Rodgers Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund -what see in Oakland and other urban school districts is that foundations may have started out to help a district pay for its projects, but now they come in with money and their own projects and their own agenda, their own point of view and their own expectations of outcomes,” said Gorham.

“I don’t think David Silver is going to forestall a privatizing education agenda,” she said.

In her June 11 media release, Schaaf praised Silver for his ability to create equity and help students succeed in colleges and careers.

“(He) has demonstrated a unique ability to pursue and implement strategies to ensure Oakland students succeed in school — with a special focus on correcting unacceptable disparities for underserved communities,” she said.

“I am committed to ensuring that David has the resources and support to transform my vision of a cradle to career pipeline into reality,” she said.

Despite Schaaf’s strong vision, school activists expressed misgivings.

“The Rogers foundation continues to use its money to leverage policy. It’s shocking that the Mayor’s Office in our city would allow its policy to be bought and paid for,” said Mike Hutchinson, a public education advocate.

Added community activist and longtime educator Pam Drake, “I’ve been writing about this on Facebook and Twitter. The language they are using covers up what is really going on. Rodgers and New Schools Ventures are definitely privatizing organizations.”

Silver spoke earlier this year at a school board meeting in support of OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson’s decision to allow charter schools to apply to run five Oakland schools, including Castlemont, McClymonds and Fremont High schools. Speaking in opposition were angry groups of students, parents and community members from the schools.

Ultimately, no charters turned in an application to operate the schools.

Silver until recently served as chief executive officer of College Track, a national non-profit that helps students from underserved communities to graduate from college.

He also helped found and lead Think College Now, a public elementary school in East Oakland.

“I have worked in education in Oakland since 1997, and I have never been more optimistic than today,” he said. “We have incredible students, dedicated teachers and principals, committed families and community partners, as well as a mayor, superintendent, and School Board with a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.”

Silver has a degree from UCLA and a master’s degree from Harvard. He lives in the Laurel District with his wife and son.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (

Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against School District on Behalf of English Learner Students

By Ken Epstein

Several local Latino organizations filed a complaint this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights against the Oakland Unified School District for failing to provide adequate education to English Language Learner students.

Latino Education Network spokesman Jorge Lerma hold a copy of the complaint that was filed this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. Photo by Ken Epstein

Latino Education Network spokesman Jorge Lerma hold a copy of the complaint that was filed this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. Photo by Ken Epstein

The complaint alleges that English Learners are systematically deprived of their rights to equal education under the law, citing evidence based on a review of Oakland’s English-Language programs conducted for OUSD by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.

The Stanford study, which was released earlier this year, “revealed deep and troubling practices and conditions in the English Language Learner program in Oakland,” said Jorge Lerma, spokesman for the Latino Education Network.

“The complaint says OUSD has participated in systematic and multigenerational non compliance in regard to federal and state regulations, which in turn has negatively impacted English Language Learner students for many decades, “ said Lerma.

As a result, he said, “OUSD has created a dual system of education in Oakland, one for English speakers and one for English Language Learners.”

The complaint has been filed, he said, because the “community has been patient and has believed in the good will of school and governmental leaders with no meaningful results.”

Among its specific allegations, the complaint says:

Students are not counseled to take courses they need nor prepared to pass the required academic classes that are required to enter the university, causing many students to end up dropping out of school or not being prepared to go to college;

Many classes that were labeled as “bilingual” were in fact conducted entirely or nearly all in English, disregarding students’ individual needs and level of understanding;

Many students who no longer need English Language instruction or needed more advanced instruction were left to languish in programs that did not challenge them;

The Stanford study found that in 43 percent of middle and high school classrooms and 37 percent of elementary classroom, fewer than one-fourth of the students interacted verbally at last once during a class session. However, the study notes that “academic discussion” is a prime method for teaching English;

English Language Development teachers tend to be newer and have less in-service training than other teachers to prepare them to understand their students’ needs and the cultural context in which the children live.

According to the Stanford study, 30 percent of OUSD students are English Language Learners, and 49 percent speak a language other than English at home.

The district’s demographics last year, when the study was done, were 38.1 Latino, 30.6 percent African American, 14.1 percent Asian and 11.8 percent white.

The complaint was filed Tuesday by the Latino Education Network, the Educational Coalition for Hispanics in Oakland, (ECHO), which has been active in the city for more than 20 years, and the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, founded in 1965.

At press time, the school district had not responded to the Post’s request for a comment.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (