The school board should not sign 40-year leases during this crisis

Tomorrow, the Oakland School Board is planning to sign a 40-year lease with the Aspire charter school management organization for the Golden Gate site in my neighborhood. I have serious reservations about this plan.

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OEA Questionnaire Part V

Fifth question with my answer from the OEA school board candidate questionnaire:

Do you support the Black Organizing Project’s demand for Police Free Schools?

Yes, students need to feel safe in our schools. It was heart-wrenching for me to see Student Director Mica Smith-Dahl’s face when the School Board refused to cut police officers at their March 4 meeting. She, like so many students of color, feels unsafe when she sees an officer with a gun on her campus, because of our country’s terrible history of police violence against people of color. I knew Mica when she was an elementary student at Manzanita SEED so it felt personal to me.

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OEA Questionnaire Part IV

Fourth question from the OEA Endorsement Questionnaire with my response:

  • What do you see as the effects of charter schools on OUSD students? What do you believe should be the relationship between OUSD and the charter sector?

Charter schools were first sold to us as a few experimental schools that the public schools would learn from. But in Oakland, 30% of students go to charter schools, which is destabilizing our ability to have neighborhood schools. The schools have become a marketplace where charter and public schools compete, but it is not a fair competition since many charter schools do not serve students with special needs, newcomer students, and other subgroups that require more resources to support, at the same rate that our public schools do.

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OEA Questionnaire Part III

Third question from the OEA Endorsement Questionnaire with my response:

  • Given the eternally limited budget resources of the public schools, what current programs/proposals do you feel are successful? What would you keep and build on? How would you restructure the OUSD budget to meet the needs of students and the teachers and educators serving our students?

We need to maximize resources to school sites. Caring adults at school sites are the people who make the difference in students’ lives, especially students who are dealing with the trauma of racism and poverty on a daily basis. School site teams such as a well-organized SSC including the principal, staff, and parents, are the best equipped to make the decisions about what their sites need most.

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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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