OEA Questionnaire Part II

Second in a series - My answers to the teachers union endorsement questionnaire:

  • What connections do you have to the OUSD School Board district you are seeking to represent? Describe the ways you have been active in the community and in the schools.

 

I have been involved in our schools almost constantly since 2003, when I started working in Oakland with SEIU’s Building Skills Partnership to teach English as a second language to union janitors as part of the Justice for Janitors campaign. 

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OEA Questionnaire Part I

Just before the Corona Virus Shutdown, OEA asked all school board candidates to answer a questionnaire - I will publish my answers in this space one by one over the coming days.

 

  • Please provide us with a brief summary of your background. Education, length of time in the community, family members in our district, union involvement, boards you serve on, and any other information you believe pertinent to your candidacy.

 

My career has been in education. I was a teacher in adult education for 10 years, 7 of which were in Oakland as a member of OEA, the last 5 on the Manzanita campus as a family literacy teacher. I was an OEA site rep for Adult Ed's Family Literacy Dept. for two years and a member of the OEA contract bargaining subcommittee on adult education issues. 

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Why we should dissolve Oakland's school police department

At a press conference last week, Oakland's Black Organizing Project (BOP) reiterated their demand that the Oakland School Police Department be dissolved.

Oakland is the only school district in Alameda County with its own police department: schools in other districts rely on their city police departments in case of emergencies. The Oakland Schools Police Department has a chief, three sergeants, and eight officers.

According to KPIX, three Oakland city councilmembers and two school board members support BOP's demand to eliminate the department. I do as well, and if elected, I will work to help make it happen.

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Why OUSD Should Stop Closing Schools

At the school board meeting last week, four directors (a majority) floated the idea of closing several more schools at the end of this year, the so-called "ripping the Band-Aid off" plan. This came up as a way to address the devastating budget cuts that OUSD faces due to the state-wide combination of increasing costs and severe under-funding of education.

The Band-Aid metaphor is offensively flippant. Closing schools is more like major surgery, and just like surgery we should not undertake it without a clear understanding of the risks and benefits. In surgery, we need informed consent from the patient for it to be ethical and successful. That information and consent is clearly lacking here.

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Upcoming North Oakland Social Events for Schools

This Saturday, Feb. 15th, parents from several North Oakland schools (especially Kaiser, Peralta, Sankofa and Santa Fe) will have another potluck to build community and support the Kaiser/Sankofa merger. It's from 1 to 4 pm at Bushrod Rec Center (560 59th Street). There have been several of these gatherings and hopefully will be many more to come!

There are also a bunch of school fundraiser events coming up in North Oakland:

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Strong Oversight, Not Just Hindsight, For Oakland School Construction Funds

Our school district has aging buildings and changing needs, and the school construction fund has run out of money to pay for them. The solution would be for the voters to pass a construction bond measure to replenish the fund. But voters are rightly skeptical: a recent Alameda County Grand Jury report told many stories of financial misdeeds, many of them related to this same fund.

The list of what went wrong with spending on school construction funded by Measure J is a long one: overspending on a few big projects that ran way over budget, ridiculously long delays in construction, many important projects that had been promised were cancelled, even a whistleblower lawsuit alleging corruption, etc., etc.

At the same time that spending from Measure J (a school construction bond from 2012) was out of control, spending from Measure N (a parcel tax from 2014 for high school programs) has been put to good use and has been the unsung victory in OUSD: high school graduation rates are up at high schools in every part of Oakland, and I have not heard of any allegations of misspending of Measure N funds, which is great in a district where you hear those kinds of allegations all too often.

What's the difference? Why did Measure N succeed where Measure J did not?

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Update on Yu Ming Charter Expansion

Yu Ming Charter School is a dual-immersion Mandarin/English K-8 school in North Oakland. The school applied to the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) in October to expand from 488 students to 1400 students over the next 10 years. On Tuesday, the county board voted down the expansion by a vote of 4 to 3.

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Thoughts about being a white guy and doing this work

I was asked to tell the story of my experience with Faith in Action East Bay at their annual breakfast, and this led me to some reflections on white privilege, gentrification and collective action.

The photo is with Saran Russell, a parent at Oakland Tech who is on the SSC and is one of many great community leaders in Faith in Action, and Rev. Damita Davis-Howard, a pastor at First Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, and a long-time activist for reducing gun violence and mass incarceration who currently works with the City of Oakland's Ceasefire program.

Here is what I said:

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The amazing Oakland International High School

As part of lifting up successes in Oakland Unified that are not being sufficiently celebrated, I am happy to get to write about Oakland International High School (OIHS).

Last week I went to an open house at the school, which is a very successful program for students who are newcomers to the U.S. The other attendees were teachers and administrators from other nearby districts who were coming to learn from the OIHS model since it has become so well-known.

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School Tours at North Oakland Public Schools

The enrollment window for OUSD is open from November 4, 2019 - February 7, 2020. More information is available at www.ousd.org/enroll

The following are dates and links for prospective family tours at North Oakland public schools.

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