Growing up in New York...

Growing up in Queens, New York, I took advantage of neighborhood-based busing to go to a middle school and high school that were far from the struggling schools near where I lived (in a rougher part of Queens called Jamaica - famous for musical stars like 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj). 

At these schools, I saw how tracking and my own middle class/white privilege separated me from the mostly African-American students who were on the same bus as I was every morning. We would take the bus together to school, but then I wouldn’t see those other students for the rest of the day because my middle school tracked students into the ‘honors’ classes, the ‘regular’ classes, and the ‘special’ classes - if anybody had any doubt, they were actually numbered from 1 to 8 so everybody knew how we were ranked.

In my senior year of high school, I benefited from the demands of the Black and Hispanic Student Union for an African-American history elective...

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This week in North Oakland Schools

(at left: an Oakland SOL student at the SF Youth Climate Strike today)

After that really difficult last school board meeting, I needed to have my faith in humanity restored. The Emerson PTA meeting on Sept. 12 did just that: a wonderful warm gathering of involved parents, with potluck dinner and translators in three languages. Ben Grieff from Evolve did a great presentation to the PTA on Schools and Communities First, the proposed reform to Prop 13 that will raise billions of dollars for education, and only affect commercial property, not any residences. There will be an exemption for small businesses on properties worth less than $3 million.

If you also want to bask in the positive energy at Emerson, you should go to their Superhero Walkathon on Fri., Oct. 4. Volunteers are needed all day from 8:00 to 3:00 pm and you can sign up to help here. There will also be a Fall Family Reading Celebration on Oct. 10 at 5 pm at the school.

This week I also went by Sankofa Academy and Chabot Elementary. Sankofa's Back to School Night had very high turnout, and everybody was moved to hear that the local realtor's office would be donating supplies and volunteer time to the school. Parents voted to form a PTA starting next month. Sankofa will also have a family-oriented event on Oct. 10, a Space Science Family STEAM Event from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Auditorium.

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Board votes to consolidate Kaiser and Sankofa

Wow, that was a rough meeting. The Board voted last night to consolidate Kaiser and Sankofa next fall at the Sankofa campus. Unfortunately, they did not even consider a proposal which started coming together over the past two weeks, to consolidate Peralta and Sankofa at the Sankofa campus, and move Kaiser's program in its entirety to the Santa Fe campus. When I last wrote on this issue, I did not think this option was physically feasible due to Sankofa's current size, but OUSD's FAQ from last night's meeting (see p. 8) states that by adding three portables to the Sankofa campus, they could enroll a total of 456 students (including the two existing Special Day Classes), at a one-time construction cost of $800,000. That would be enough to hold the combined student population of Peralta and Sankofa, assuming there was a small attrition rate as there usually is in any consolidation.

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Debunking misconceptions about Oakland SOL

There's been so much attention on the proposal to consolidate North Oakland schools, but not much on the East Oakland schools. As it happens, I have a long relationship to one of those schools, Oakland's School of Language (SOL).

SOL is a middle school in deep East Oakland where students, both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers, learn in both English and Spanish. When it was founded in 2017, it was the first new OUSD school to open in over 10 years, during a period when many new charter schools opened all over Oakland.

I was there at the beginning - I organized a series of parent meetings, originally with the goal of supporting a new program at Roosevelt Middle School, but as often happens in parent organizing, the group had a mind of its own and went in a completely surprising direction.

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Aug 27 - My Take on the North Oakland Elementary Schools Controversy

The controversy over planned changes in North Oakland elementary schools has been worsened by the District's decision to stick to its original recommendation of merging Kaiser and Sankofa Schools, even after hitting pause for six months to get feedback from parents. Since parents at all the schools argued for changes in the plan, the district's choice to stay the course makes it seem that the parent engagement period was for show rather than substance. Now it is up to our school board to show whether they have truly been listening, or not.

Some parents and school staff have argued against any change, but there are many reasons why it does make sense for the district to do something to change the configuration of elementary schools in North Oakland, most of which have below-average enrollment:

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