Category: Education/Schools/Youth

Patricia Williams-Myrick,80, Beloved Oakland Street Academy Principal

Patricia Williams Myrick (right) and her daughter Kelly Mayes in 1976.

By Post Staff

 Dozens of family members and hundreds of students mourn the passing of Patricia “Pat” Williams Myrick, who raised generations of young people as the principal of the Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy.

She was also the matriarch of a wonderful family – her daughter Kelly; her three granddaughters – Mechele, Tiani, Genai and four great-granddaughters – Chazae; Chalynn, Avri, and Chazity.

“She made kids want to learn,” said Kelly, who spent much of her young life at the Street Academy and speaks with pride of her mother’s accomplishments.

Pat, the oldest of nine children, is credited with a remarkable combination of love and determination, which made the Street Academy an oasis of peace for the 40 years that she led it and to the current day.

The school has no security guards, no police and virtually no fights. Because families trusted Pat, she always knew the news, both good and bad, and she could head off problems before they occurred.

She trusted the faculty to create and carry out culturally relevant and rigorous curriculum. The school was one of the first in the country to require an ethnic studies history course, in addition to math and science courses that could lead to college admission for all students.

Gina Hill, the school’s current principal, says that Pat was the person she always called for advice in the years after Pat retired. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Ms. Pat. She is my West Coast auntie who believed and stated often, ‘Together we can make a change.’ “We need to believe this today more than ever. Ms. Pat loved and led fiercely, and I am proud to stand on her shoulders.”

Corrina Gould, a leader of Oakland’s Ohlone community, graduated from the Street Academy in 1984 and sent her own children to the school. She talks about Pat’s leadership on Facebook:
“She ran a school that was safe, and it didn’t matter what ‘hood’ you rep’d cuz when you were at Street, you were a student, and she would find out stuff about you even if you were messing up on the weekends. She would hold you accountable for your actions. “She never really had to yell; she could talk to you low and quiet and get your attention. She was always dressed to the nine’s and kept up her hair and ‘those nails’…

“I will miss her laughter and the way she stood up so straight that you felt like she could tower over anyone. She was bigger than life and I love her. I thank our ancestors for allowing us to cross our life paths.”

Musician and Street Academy Executive Assistant Bobby Young worked with Pat for 40 years and says of her, “The fact that the Street Academy continues today and is so effective is her legacy.”
Toynessa Kennedy, a doctoral student at Mills College, credits Pat with changing her life. “She helped me in high school; she helped me get to college; and she helped me get together with my now husband.”

There will a celebration of Pat’s life during the Martin Luther King Day week-end and more stories about her in next week’s Oakland Post.

Published December 28, courtesy of the Oakland Post

State needs to help maintain, not close, Oakland schools

Roots International Academy, a middle school at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland, is slated to be closed at the end of the school year.

The Oakland school district is considering closing 24 more public schools. Oakland has already closed 15 schools, even though the city population is growing.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

An extensive study of public school closures, conducted by the National Education Policy Center, indicates that closing schools in urban communities does not save money and causes the greatest harm to the lowest income students. Closures do not save money on buildings, because the district may be forced to give the closed facility to a charter school, and the school to which students are transferred often needs renovation to accommodate the transferring students.

Closing schools disrupts the lives of children and drives more students out of the district, resulting in lower enrollment and further budget problems. A 2012 audit of Washington, D.C.’s closure of 23 schools found that the cost of the closures was $39 million, four times what the district was expected to save.

In Oakland, the school closings are especially unfair. Of the 24 threatened schools, all are in the low-income flatland neighborhoods; zero are in the affluent hill area; and zero are charter schools. The 15 schools that were already closed are also in the lower-income areas. When these facts are raised the hand-wringing begins. “We know these are difficult decisions, but…”

These are not difficult decisions. They are wrong and unnecessary decisions. So who is making them?

In 2003, the state took over the Oakland school district, a step which has since been condemned by many. The district argued that it did not need a loan because it could borrow from its own construction bonds, a step which had been taken by other districts.

At the insistence of then-state Sen. Don Perata, the state imposed a $100 million loan which was three times more than the highest estimate of the district deficit. The power of the elected school board was removed; a series of state administrators had total authority over the funds with no input from anyone in Oakland. Most of the money was spent on items that had nothing to do with the stated purpose of the takeover — correcting the finances.

And, by the end of the takeover period, the district’s finances were in worse shape than before the state took control.

Yet the state continued its power over the district through the non-elected, Bakersfield-based Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team and a state trustee. With all this “help,” the district now owes $40 million, which is more than the highest estimate of what Oakland needed in 2003.

There are other ways that the state makes both the financial and educational situation difficult. The state is in charge of who gets to teach. Its nonelected, nearly invisible Commission on Teacher Credentialing increases bureaucratic requirements, tests and fees almost every year, leading to an artificial teacher shortage, particularly of Latino and African American teachers who are least likely to afford the extra time and money required to jump through the ever-expanding series of hoops. A school with a constantly rotating set of temporary teachers is unlikely to be the first choice of parents.

And then there are the charter school laws, which do not allow a district to control how many charters open within its jurisdiction and will not allow districts to close any of them.

The State of California is the fifth largest economy in the world. It has a super-majority of Democrats in its Legislature and a large budget surplus. Yet for 15 years, it has played the role of hostile mortgage-holder to the Oakland schools.

The State of California needs to rescind the remaining debt, help the district maintain rather than close its community schools, and reform the laws that make quality education for nonaffluent Californians impossible. We hope that newly elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond will take up that task.

Kitty Kelly Epstein is an education professor and the author of two books about Oakland.

Published December 19, 2018 in the San Francisco Chronicle


Opinion: School Board Plan to Close Flatland Schools Is a Rerun of a Failed Policy

 

Protest in 2012 against closing Lakeview Elementary School on Grand Avenue near Lake Merritt. District said the school was next to the 580 freeway, and it was unhealthy for any students to go there.  Site now houses a charter school. Photo courtesy of indybay.org

By Mike Hutchinson

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD school board has released the first draft a proposal it calls the “Citywide Plan,” which would reduce the number of schools in Oakland by 24 through a combination of closures and mergers.

Mike Hutchinson

The school board, which released the draft in November, will vote on the final plan by March 1 and soon will be announcing the names of the first schools to be closed.

Under the plan, half of the schools in East Oakland will be closed while none of the most privileged schools in the hills will be closed.  The school board says OUSD has too many schools and must “right size” the district by closing schools, which will enable them to “expand access to quality.”

In evaluating the exaggerated claims of those who justify closing schools, it is important to take a look back at the 2011-12 school year, the last time Oakland experienced the trauma of mass school closures.

At that time, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall, Lakeview, and Santa Fe elementary schools were closed, displacing over 1,000 students and nearly 200 teachers and support staff.  The schools, which were all 50-100 years old, had been valued anchors of their neighborhoods and were closed despite huge community opposition.

After the school board voted 5-2 to close those five schools, the community continued to fight the decision culminating in a 17-day sit-in/occupation at Lakeview that started on the last day of school.

The school board gave a variety of reasons for why the school closures were needed in 2012.  They said that the district had a structural deficit of $30 million and that they needed to close the schools to balance the budget.

However, other options for changing the budget priorities were never looked at, like limiting the use of consultants or reducing the central administration.  They said the district had too many schools and too many empty classrooms and that they needed to close schools that were under-enrolled. But Oakland is not a shrinking city, and the district controls enrollment through the central office.

OUSD promised that students from closed schools would receive free transportation and have the option to attend a higher performing school, but that never materialized.

Ultimately, the five schools closed in 2012 were in fact never really closed. Rather, neighborhood public schools were replaced by three private charter schools and one K-8 Spanish dual immersion, and one campus is being used to house Glenview Elementary while that school’s facility is being rebuilt.

In fact, all five “closed” schools are still open, only the previous students and families have been displaced.

The reasons given for the closures in 2012, structural deficit and too many schools, are the same reasons now being given to justify the Citywide Plan.

It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  No one – not the school board, the state trustee or the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), has produced any evidence to show that closing those neighborhood schools saved the district any money.

In 2012, the school board made promises to the community that they didn’t honor, so how can we believe them now?

The results are clear: schools were never really closed, but neighborhood schools were displaced, only to be replaced by schools neighborhood families can’t attend.

Since California law will allow most of the closed public schools to be converted into charter schools. the end result of the Citywide Plan may make OUSD a majority charter school district.

Given all of this, why does the school board want to close and merge 24 schools over the next five years?  It’s not too late to stop this latest attempt to close our schools.

Please come to the Jan. 9 school board meeting and join our call for no cuts and no closures.

Mike Hutchinson is a spokesperson of Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN).

Published Dec. 22, 1018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Teachers Share Frustrations Over Charter Schools

Public school advocates say a proposed 625-student charter school in the Fruitvale District would drain students from existing nearby schools, such as those at the César Chávez Education Center, located at 2825 International Blvd.

By Zack Haber

Though Oakland Unified School District superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell and the school board have both recently proposed that the district collaborate more with charter schools, some Oakland teachers decry the regimented curriculum, long work days, and the dumping of struggling students who might lower the schools’ test scores that they’ve experienced working for charter schools.

When Jesse Shapiro left his job at Aspire Lionel Wilson College Preparatory, a charter school, to teach at Oakland High School in 2008, he took a $4,000-a-year pay cut. He doesn’t regret his choice because Oakland High, a public school, allowed him to join a teacher’s union and have freedom to choose what he teaches.

Those opportunities weren’t available at Aspire Lionel Wilson.

Shapiro taught at the charter at the same time as Hillary Clinton was running against Barack Obama in the 2008 California presidential primary. School administrators discouraged him from teaching about the event as it occurred and encouraged him to follow the school’s regimented teaching timeline, which insisted he teach “The Federalist Papers.”

Algebra teacher Angelique Alexander, who recently left her job after one year at KIPP King Collegiate High School, a charter in San Lorenzo, to teach at Dewey Academy, a public school in Oakland, also said she felt frustrated with the school’s regimented teaching expectations. Her lesson plans had to be meticulously scripted, and administrators allowed little flexibility to reteach lessons if students did not understand what was taught the first time.

Alexander also felt her work schedule was excessive and unsustainable. Her on-site work¬day started at 7:30 a.m. and lasted until 5:30 p.m. Those hours did not include time for lesson planning. Her workday at Dewey Academy is shorter, running from 8 a.m. until 2:30 or 3 p.m. Though she took a $10,000-a-year pay cut to work at Dewey, she loves her new school and does not regret leaving KIPP King.

“The extra pay isn’t worth it,” she said.

Both Shapiro and Alexander felt pressured by their charter school’s administration to mark students’ grades higher than they felt many of their students deserved, and they both suspect they were pressured to inflate grades to improve their school’s reputation. They didn’t experience these practices in public schools.

KIPP King allowed many students into advanced math courses before Alexander felt they were ready. She thinks students were placed into advanced courses only to make KIPP King look more successful.

Although Aspire Lionel Wilson boasts higher test scores than most public schools in the district, Shapiro noticed that many of his students who were struggling to perform well academically left for other schools before they had the opportunity to take the standardized tests that schools use to measure their performance.

He thinks the school encouraged these transitions.

“I was teaching a class of about 60 kids at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year in it was in the low forties,” he said. “So, you’re talking about a third of my students getting shipped away, and it was all the struggling students.”

Since funding for charter and public schools in California is based on total enrollment per student at the beginning of the school year, charter schools do not lose funding when they send students to another school mid-year. But public schools are required by law to accept the transfer and must absorb the cost of educating the student without receiving any of the student’s allocated funding.

Shapiro noted that since public and charter schools draw money from the state that would otherwise go to the public schools, the presence of charter schools harm nearby public schools.

“If anything is going to undo public schools right now, it’s going to be charter schools,” he said

Published December 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Defend and Transform Oakland’s Public Schools

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

 By Post Staff

The Post Salon co-sponsored a community dialogue on schools Sunday, Dec. 9. along with Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), Educators for Democratic Schools, the New McClymonds Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of Parents and Education.

Speaking at the meeting were Oakland teachers, parents and community leaders concerned about low teacher salaries, upcoming budget cuts and the threat of closing schools and selling or leasing the campuses to charter schools.

Mike Hutchinson from OPEN said, “There’s only one way to stop this. That’s to organize.” And he presented information to indicate that the district is not really in a deficit. Taylor Wallace explained why the state does not have Black and Latino teachers and called for changing this serious situation. Oakland teacher Megan Bumpus represented the Oakland Education Association and explained the teachers’ struggle with the school district.

Among ideas presented at the Salon was a brief draft program that includes demands on the State of California, which bears much of the responsibility for Oakland’s problems.
While the district may be guilty of misspending, it is the State of California that is responsible for funding and is depriving the public schools of the money they need to serve the needs of Oakland children.

And it is the State that decides who is allowed to teach and creates obstacles that keep some of the best young teachers out of the classroom.

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

At the end of the dialogue, participants adopted a motion to hold a press conference at the State Building in January.

Draft of a People’s Program:

  1. No public school closings. Closing schools does not save money. It hurts kids and neighborhoods.
  2. No sale of public property. A major element of privatization is selling off the legacy of publicly owned property and institutions left to us by earlier generations of Oaklanders.
  3. No budget cuts to the schools. California is one of the richest economies in the world. It has a budget surplus, a Democratic majority in the legislature, and the capacity to fully fund schools.
  4. End the teacher shortage and the lack of Black, Latino, indigenous and Asian teachers by eliminating such barriers as multiple standardized tests and multiple fees and by reforming the non-elected, unrepresentative State Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  5. Rescind the remainder of the debt imposed on Oakland by the State legislature 15 years ago and spent by state-appointed administrators without input from Oakland residents
  6. A living wage for all school employees. A first-year teacher, a custodian, a school secretary should all be able to live in the city where they work, if they wish to do so. That’s a “community school.”
  7. End the discrimination against schools below the 580 freeway.
  8. FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) out of Oakland. Democratic control of our school budget and school governance.
  9. Open the books of the Ed Fund, which was created by non-elected State Administrators and does not provide transparency.
  10. Reduce class sizes, standardized testing, test prep, age-inappropriate expectations, unnecessary bureaucracy, and mid-year consolidations. Engage parents and teachers in a collaborative recreation of special education and the education of immigrant and emergent bilingual students.

If you have thoughts or comments on this draft program, send an email to Salonpost02@gmail.com

 

Published December 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Unified Looks at Closing Up to 24 School

School board members Shanthi Gonzales, Nina Senn, Jumoke Hinton Hodge and Aimee Eng.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Education is moving ahead with a “Community of Schools Policy” that will mean closing as many as 24 schools over the next several years, arguing that these closures are the best way to improve the quality and equity of schools across the district.

Pushing the district to make the cuts have been a number of outside agencies – a state-supported nonprofit called Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), which has been pushing for school closures in Oakland for almost 20 years; a state-appointed trustee who has the authority to “stay and rescind” district budget decisions; the Alameda County Office of Education; and pro-charter groups like GO Public Schools, stand to reap the benefits of the reductions.

“OUSD will need to operate fewer schools. OUSD currently operates too many district-run schools for the number of students we serve,” according to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) produced by the district.

The number and names of schools that will be closed or “consolidated” will not be made public until February when the board releases a “final Citywide Map” that will include the number and location of “surplus properties,” which may be offered for sale.

District officials have gingerly approached the prospect of shutting down and merging schools, one of the most explosive concerns in Oakland that over the years has mobilized the angry opposition of parents, students, teachers and school communities.

Adding to the potential for conflict, other budget-related issues are coming to a head – the possibility of a teachers’ strike for a new contract in the next few months and the already approved budget cuts of $30 million that will deeply impact school site programs.

The district says it is not committed at this point to closing all 24 of the 87 schools it currently operates.  The reduction of the number of schools by 24 would leave the district with the estimated minimum number of schools it would need operate, say officials.

Closing 24 schools would give the district the minimum number of schools it needs to serve all of its students over the next five years, according to the FAQ.

A recent report from the district does not name 24 schools but identifies them by grade level and location:

  • One high school in East Oakland;
  • Six middle schools, including five in East Oakland and one in West Oakland, and:
  • 17 elementary and K-8 schools, including 14 in East Oakland, two in Central Oakland and one in West Oakland.

Significantly, no closings are proposed for sites that serve hill areas and more affluent students.  Schools that are protected from the threat of closure include: Claremont Middle, Edna Brewer Middle, Oakland Technical High, Hillcrest (K-8), Piedmont Avenue (K-5), Peralta (K-5), Chabot (K-5) and Glenview (K-5).

Officials optimistically say these reductions will produce greater educational equity among remaining schools “long-term sustainability” of the school system.  However, judging by the past aggressive tactics of the charter school industry, there is a hat there is a real possibility that existing or new charter schools would take over the vacated schools, leasing or purchasing the properties, and push he district into a cycle of declining student population and loss of revenue.

Currently 45 charter schools operate in Oakland, serving about one-third of the students in the city. These schools are publicly funded, diverting resources from public schools, but they are privately managed. They are not bound by most of the state Education Code and operate with little oversight.

State regulations for establishing new charters allow them to appeal to the county board of education and the state board of education of the district denies their petition.

The district’s proposal does not examine the performance of charters nor place any of them on the list of possible closures.

Adding to pressure on the district, a recently passed law, supported by Governor Jerry Brown and Oakland elected state representatives, requires the district to cut programs and close schools as a way to obtain temporary extra state funding.

Published November 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Castlemont High Celebrates Coming Out Day

By Zack Haber

This year,  Castlemont High School celebrated National Coming Out Day for the first time. On Oct. 11, Castlemont students, teachers, and staff joined the yearly celebration, a holiday that creates awareness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people while encouraging them to be open about their sexuality and identity.

Steven Reaves, Castlemont’s theater teacher and LGBTQ liaison, organized the celebration by hanging up pictures of famous LGBTQ people around the school and hosting a lunchtime party in his room.

The party featured music and pizza and attracted about 50 people. The attendees were mostly Castlemont students, but Castlemont teachers and one student from a neighboring charter school, Leadership Public School of Oakland, also attended.

“I was shocked,” Reaves said. “I didn’t expect that many people.” Although LGBTQ students showed up for the party, Reaves says he thinks there were also many straight people who “came to support not only their peers, but also me as a gay teacher.”

In addition to the school-wide celebration, some Castlemont LGBTQ students found and created their own meaning for National Coming Out Day. One student came out to his family as gay. Another student, a transgender teenage girl named Luis Salas, announced that she was running for homecoming queen.

Salas’s announcement marks the first time that an openly transgender person has run for homecoming court in Castlemont High School’s history. When asked about why she was running she said that she cared more about changing the school than winning. Salas has been openly transgender since 7th grade, which she said was hard at first but has become easier as time has passed.

“There aren’t really a lot of openly trans people here but there are a lot of gay people,” she said. “Since I started being more open I feel like people have started following under my footsteps.”

Published November 16, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

No on AA: Congress of Neighborhoods, East Bay Times Oppose Schaaf’s Education Initiative

“It’s not clear where the money is going, for there is no plan,” says the newspaper

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods go to City Hall to demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is opposing Measure AA,  a city charter amendment back by Mayor Libby Schaaf to establish a parcel tax at the rate of $198 per parcel for 30 years to fund education services for pre-K through college students and career readiness.

“While we agree that deeper investments need to be made in education, we are concerned that the mayor is prioritizing this issue over immediate needs like the housing crisis,” said the Congress of Neighborhoods in its voters’ guide.

Others raise concerns about the lack of public oversight and accountability of the money that the measure would raise.

“There are too many problems with AA, which is why many public education advocates, myself included, will be voting no,” said Mona Traviño,  an education activist in Oakland.

In a recent editorial, the East Bay Times wrote, “Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s 30-year, billion-dollar Measure AA “Oakland Children’s Initiative” is a poorly conceived attempt to throw taxpayer money at the problem with no clear budget or plan for achieving the goal.”

According to the newspaper, “It’s not clear where the money is going, for there is no plan. Only guidelines for establishing one. There is no budget. There is no explanation provided of how the amount was determined.”

In addition, the measure does not provide public oversight. It does not “give voters a chance to periodically weigh in on whether they think the money is being spent wisely,” the newspaper said.

Published November 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Elect Clarissa Doutherd for School Board, District 4

Doutherd’s opponent, Gary Yee, supported “top heavy administration” and closed the 25,000-student Oakland Adult Education program

Clarissa Doutherd (holding sign) with supporters at Allendale Recreation Center in Oakland.

 

Clarissa Doutherd, who is running for the District 4 School Board, has a son who attends an Oakland public school and is executive director of Parent Voices, a parent-led organization that advocates for public school children and quality early childhood programs.

As leader of Parent Voices, she has balanced and grown the organization’s budget year after year, leading a successful statewide campaign for childcare resources. Doutherd understands what working families need in their schools and encourages them to take charge of their children’s futures.

Clarissa Doutherd

She’s smart and caring – not only for Oakland’s children but for our whole school community.

Endorsed by all of Oakland’s state representatives – Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, and Tony Thurmond, Doutherd will be a much-needed breath of fresh air and innovative ideas on the School Board.

At a time when there is a very high rate of teacher turnover, she has pledged to hire and retain the best educators. At a time when budget cuts are constantly demanded, she has pledged to shift funds to the classrooms and away from OUSD’s administration.

Where does her funding come from?  It comes from Oakland families in small donations and from the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union.

Her opponent, Gary Yee, is OUSD old school.  He’s been there and done that, and we can see the results.  In 2002, he was elected to the school board to represent District 4.

That year, the district was taken over by the state due to a $37 million budget deficit. Yee continued as a school board member until 2013, when he was named interim superintendent. Throughout that time, Yee led in growing the top-heavy administration at the expense of the classrooms, especially those of students of color.

OUSD emerged from state takeover in 2009 with a huge debt – greater than the deficit that caused the takeover in the first place.  All districts were taking hits that year as a result of the economic recession.

But Yee led Oakland to make the disastrous decision to shut down its thriving Adult Education programs which were serving 25,000 people. Oakland’s most popular Adult Ed programs provided high school diplomas for former dropouts and English as a Second Language for its many immigrants.

Both of these programs served Oakland parents who wanted to better both their lives and the lives of their children.

While neighboring cities like Alameda and Berkeley absorbed some cuts in their Adult Ed programs, they managed to maintain many of their classes and still do to this day.

But in Oakland, neither of these programs have been restored-in a city where they are desperately needed-there are no second chances and thousands of Oaklanders are still unable to get the opportunities they need.

In the 20010-11 school year, OUSD faced a deficit of $18 million and Yee voted for more cuts, including cuts to teachers by imposing a union contract that drove many experienced educators out of our schools.

Later that year, the school board voted to close five elementary schools, including one (Lazear) that reopened as a charter school within weeks.  It remains unclear if any real money was ever saved by school closures, given the burden of expanding other schools and moving students and staff around.

School closures are always associated with loss of students to the district, especially when a charter steps in to scoop up the state attendance dollars.

Gary Yee cannot be counted on to change the culture that preserves OUSD’s top heavy bureaucracy, and he cannot be counted on to understand the needs of today’s struggling families.

Where does his support come from? It comes from GO, a local lobbying group for charter schools, whose major donor is Michael Bloomberg, one of several billionaires who have targeted California, especially Oakland, for takeover by the charter school industry.

 

We cannot afford a return to business as usual. Elect Clarissa Doutherd to the school board for District 4.

Signed:

Pamela Drake, Wellstone, Local Politics Chair

Sharon Rose, BBBON Co-chair

Ellen Salazar, OUSD teacher, ret

Jan Malvin, Educators for Democratic Schools (EDS)

David Weintraub, Chair, Wellstone Education Committee

 

Published October 18, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post