Crossing Guards In Danger
The City of Oakland’s proposed 2021-23 budget cuts school crossing guard positions by about 40%. Before the pandemic, our schools had about 67 Crossing Guard posts financed by the city Department of Transportation, and these would be reduced to 45.
This is short-sighted, because crossing guards are low-wage workers who provide tremendous support for traffic safety around our schools, and are beloved by students who will be returning to campus en masse this fall.
Crossing guards also support the School Safety Patrols that students like my son have volunteered in for many years (photo from 2015).
In the year preceding the pandemic, two parents were killed by speeding cars outside Oakland schools. Without our crossing guards, there would likely have been more such tragedies.
In District 1, we have crossing guards at school intersections on busy streets like Shattuck, Alcatraz, and Piedmont Avenues.
I am very grateful to Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Dan Kalb for supporting a restoration of these essential worker positions in the council’s budget counterproposal.
Please thank them and encourage their colleagues to support keeping our Crossing Guards, not just in District 1 but across Oakland. The proposal to restore the Crossing Guards comes to the Council this Thursday.
Controversy Over Central Office
Since the old central office building on Second Avenue was ruined by a bad plumbing leak in 2013, the school board has struggled to make a long-term plan for where to put central staff.
As a result, Oakland Unified continues to rent headquarters at 1000 Broadway going on over 8 years now.
Earlier this year, the board directed staff to explore dispersing central office out to vacant space at school sites. However, the plan that staff developed met with opposition from the affected schools.
The board is now wrestling with whether to explore other ways to distribute central office staff to school sites, or to revert to an earlier plan to build a $45 million office building at the Cole site in West Oakland, or alternatively to build a $75 million office building at the original site on Second Avenue.
Personally, my position is that we should continue to explore ways to use existing space at school sites to house central office.
The funding in Measure Y should be prioritized for renovating our schools, not for building new office space, especially at a time when we have so much underused space in OUSD, and when office workers have become expert at working in a distributed way due to the pandemic.
From an OUSD presentation depicting the proposed office space at Cole
Thankfully, the pandemic continues to recede in California. OUSD is reaching out to students aged 12+ and families to invite them to our pop-up vaccine clinics at school sites across the city—click here for more information.
Pfizer is planning to file for FDA approval for the vaccine for ages 5 to 11 in September. It is up to the state legislature to decide what vaccines are required for school attendance, so that is not an OUSD decision, but I strongly encourage all who can get the vaccine to do so.
We are planning for full-time in-person instruction in the fall, and most likely masks will continue to be required for all students at most schools in California. There will continue to be air purifiers in every classroom, and we are looking into further ventilation improvements.
Planning for the Future
At our board meeting this Wednesday, we will get a first look at our budget, our 3-year Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), and our 3-year Strategic Plan. The final vote on these will be at our June 30 meeting, and then the Board takes a one-month recess until August.
The new Strategic Plan is an inspirational document, focusing on literacy for all by third grade, preparing students for post-secondary success, providing joy, inclusivity and beauty in our schools, and promoting diversity and retention of our staff.
I am glad to see that Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell has aligned the Strategic Plan with the LCAP so that we are moving forward with unified plans. In education, we often want to address all the many issues at once, but we have more success when we move forward with focus and unity.
As we consider our budget, I am bringing forth a resolution on June 23rd along with Director Hutchinson directing staff to prepare a plan to pay off the balance of our state loan from our fund balance. A silver lining of the terrible pandemic has been lower transportation and utilities costs, resulting in a higher-than-expected end-of-year fund balance.
Paying off the loan in full is the fiscally responsible thing to do, because it would remove the debt payments from our yearly expenses. And, if we can pass a fiscal systems audit, paying the loan off would also end 18 years of state oversight that restricts our independence as a district. Fiscal responsibility and independence are important goals for our district, so we need to seize this opportunity while we have it.
Free Summer Meals
There are daily free lunches for students at all summer school sites until at least the end of July. There is a list of sites on our website, and there are also free lunch locations provided by the city listed in this article. Families can also sign up for free home delivery of food—details available here.
New Youth Poet Laureate Named
Congratulations to Myra Estrada, who was named Oakland’s Youth Poet Laureate for 2021-22. Ms. Estrada was born in Oakland and attends Oakland High School. In an interview, she says she loves to write to get out her feelings of stress or anger.
June is LGBTQ Pride month, and I will be bringing forward a resolution to fly Pride flags at our Oakland schools in June, and to recognize our alternative families and LGBTQ students and staff. Castro Valley Pride has generously offered to donate Pride flags to our district and we are grateful for their support.