By Ken Epstein
Parent leader Clarissa Doutherd kicked off her campaign Sunday for District 4 representative on the Oakland Board of Education, speaking to a large gathering at a BBQ in an East Oakland park.
“I am running for my child,” said Doutherd.
“The thing that has been most critical in his development and my development as a parent and a leader in my community is being in a school environment where I feel like teachers are heard, parents are heard, and students are supported and loved in their full dignity and humanity as learners,” she said, emphasizing the values that motivate her vision for public education.
She is challenging District 4 incumbent Nina Senn, an attorney who has served on the school board since 2015.
Doutherd is executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, an East Bay chapter of Parent Voices California. She has worked for over a decade for grassroots, nonprofit organizations. Recently, she was a leader in the effort to pass Alameda County Measure A, a proposed sales tax for childcare and early education.
She is entering the race at a time when the school board is under intense criticism for continuing financial hardships and budget cuts facing the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) brought on by the district’s former pro-charter school superintendent.
“In this moment, we know there’s a clear need for fiscal transparency,” she said. “I have been through many, many budget fights (as a leader of a) parent-run, parent-led organization, advocating for accountability about where our dollars are spent and really building a movement where we’re all working together.”
School district policy decisions must be based on the needs of schools and the voices of parents, teachers and students, she said, “ensuring that school sites and teachers have the tools they need to support every single child and every single family.”
Doutherd currently serves as co-chair of the Alameda County Early Childhood Policy Committee and as a steering committee member of the Alameda County Early Care and Education Planning Council. She also sits on the Alameda County-Oakland Community Partnership Board for the City of Oakland.
She is the recipient of the prestigious Gloria Steinem “Woman of Vision” award, First 5 of Alameda County Parent Advocate Award and the Oakland District 4 Local Heroes Award.
Looking at the impact of charter schools on the school district, Doutherd said she understands why some people choose charters. But charters are not the answer because they will not produce equal education for all, she said.
“Charters are a reality. They are here. But as a movement, I want us to ask ourselves not about the individual choices of parents and the things they have to do because our Black and Brown students are struggling in environments that may be hostile to them.”
But what we need to do is look at is how resources are distributed, she said. “Every single child deserves to have the same quality education, no matter where your zip code is, no matter what school you sign up to.”
“People have had to build alternative systems and alternative pathways for themselves,” she continued. “It’s time to interrupt that. Our schools can get it done.
“As a community, as a movement of parents, teachers, students and youth activists, we have an opportunity to make sure our schools, are performing well, no matter where you live.”
Doutherd said her experiences as a leader have taught her the struggle can be difficult and that it is necessary to speak truth in places where people sometimes want to silence you.
“I’ve been fighting for many years in what (has) felt like an uphill battle,” she said. “But as someone who is willing to fight and not compromise my integrity and my values, I sleep well at night.
“Our elected officials should be able to say the same.”
Doutherd said she talks to families every day “because those are the voices that matter. That is who should be centered in policies.
“That is who our elected officials need to be accountable to. Period.”
For more information, go to www.clarissaforoaklandschools.com
Published June 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post