COVID update, budget issues, school consolidations, and upcoming forum

Buckle up—this is a long newsletter on two deeply controversial topics: COVID safety and school consolidations. 

But first, I want to announce a forum/Q&A on Oakland Unified’s Financial Challenges, co-hosted by Director Williams, Board President Yee, and myself, on Monday, January 24, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm (Zoom link here).

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Pandemic Response, Budget Reductions, and more: December newsletter

Pandemic Response

Oakland Unified gave at-home test kits to 20,000 students before the Thanksgiving break, and will again be providing as many as possible to families before the Winter break, so that students can test themselves before coming back to school in January.

Most elementary schools also now have pooled PCR testing on a regular basis for students whose families give permission. There is also regular testing offered at middle and high schools.

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Monday’s Budget Town Hall and Other News

There will be plenty of time for questions and answers at the Budget Town Hall I am hosting this Monday, Nov. 15 from 5:30 to 7:00 with Chief Business Officer Lisa Grant-Dawson. We will delve into some of the root causes of budget issues, and the timeline for upcoming budget reduction decisions. To register and get the Zoom link, click here.

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Updates from School Board Director Sam Davis

It’s great to finally have some photos besides Zoom screenshots! I want to start by deeply appreciating everybody who is working so hard in our schools this year. I know that with staffing and substitute shortages, complicated COVID safety protocols, and the strain of returning to in-person learning, it has been a huge effort.

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OUSD is Hiring; Gov. Follows Oakland's Lead; and more news

OUSD is hiring!

Thanks to federal and state pandemic relief funds, Oakland Unified has many new job openings to help students enjoy the benefits of being back on campus. These include everything from entry-level positions as Academic Tutors and Early Literacy Mentors, to teaching, paraeducator, social worker and office roles, and many others besides. If you know somebody who wants to make a difference in our schools, please send them to our jobs listing website.

Our teachers, principals and school staff are stretched thin right now due to staffing shortages, so please show them your love, support and appreciation!

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How the recall affects your school

Classrooms could only reopen this fall because this is the one year when California schools got sufficient funding, after decades of under-resourcing due to the impact of Prop 13.

This one-time pandemic relief funding is a victory for the growing power of the new face of California. The recall against Gov. Newsom is a clear backlash against that power, the same anti-democratic impulse that we are seeing across the country.

Please be sure to vote NO on the recall and remind all your friends and family in California to do the same - tomorrow is the last day to vote, so fill out your absentee ballot and mail it back now!

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Should vaccines be required for students aged 12+?

COVID Safety Panel/Q&A

Thanks to student board directors Samantha Pal and Natalie Gallegos for co-hosting a COVID Safety Panel/Q&A that I organized on August 26 with speakers Dr. Nicholas Moss, Health Officer for Alameda County, Chaz Garcia, 2nd Vice President of OEA, and school district staff.

The student directors added several great ideas to my list of questions, and we covered many topics such as quarantines, testing, ventilation, and more. 

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COVID Safety Panel/Q&A on Thursday Aug. 26

Along with student board directors Samantha Pal and Natalie Gallegos, I am hosting a community meeting next Thursday, August 26, from 6:00 to 7:15, on Oakland Unified’s COVID safety plan.

The panel discussion will include Dr. Nicholas Moss, the Alameda County Health Officer; Chaz Garcia, second Vice President of the Oakland Education Association (OEA); and school district staff. There will be time for Q&A from the public after the panel.

You can join the webinar on Thursday at: https://ousd.zoom.us/j/89513202835

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Back to School Newsletter

Coming Back to Campus Safely

We are all very excited to come back to full-time in-person instruction on Monday. The experience of students around the world shows that it is possible to be in school safely with the help of indoor masking, vaccination of those 12+, contact tracing, and other measures, even when the new Delta variant is present.

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Crossing Guards, Central Office, and More...

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).

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