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!

Vaccine requirement

A few minutes ago, Governor Newsom announced a statewide vaccine requirement for eligible students once there is full FDA approval, as well as for all K-12 teachers and staff. The requirement will go into effect Jan. 1.

I’m still getting the details on the Governor’s plan, but I’m proud that Oakland led the way by approving a vaccine requirement for students aged 12+ last week. The board directed the superintendent to prepare a plan with timeline and implementation details by the end of this month, as well as to organize a pro-vaccination campaign with students and teachers. 

Based on concerns I heard from student leaders (almost all vaccinated) about classmates being excluded from school if their parents were firmly anti-vaccine, I did amend the resolution to allow a personal belief exemption. Staff are considering how to implement this so that we are encouraging families to get the information they need from a medical professional to get vaccinated.

The Governor stated in his press conference today that there will also be a personal belief exemption for the statewide requirement.

COVID cases declining, testing increasing

Everyone’s glad to see case numbers going down in Alameda County as a whole, and OUSD in particular. Alameda County is one of only a few in the nation to have dropped into the yellow tier on the CDC case rate scale.

But we know that winter is coming, and with it cases might go up again. Oakland Unified is working with an additional COVID testing contractor as well as some community-based health non-profits to expand availability, and to make more testing available at school sites. 

The goal approved by the board is biweekly testing at all school sites, starting with those in neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic. I have also asked staff to add the number of tests by week to the COVID case public dashboard.

School Choice Discussion

If you are deciding where to send your student next year, you are invited to discussions hosted next week by the groups Equity Allies and Integrated Schools Oakland. The three meetings are for families looking for elementary, middle or high school, on Oct. 4, 5, & 6. You can RSVP to get the Zoom link by clicking here.

Oakland Literacy Symposium

The Oakland Literacy Coalition is holding a symposium titled Literacy and Justice for All today and tomorrow, with workshops hosted by educators, experts and advocates. Attendance is free for OEA members with promo code OEA.

Pandemic Relief Funding

The total state and federal funding for pandemic relief projected for OUSD is $283M. Of this, $65M was received and spent last year, much of it on computers, air purifiers, and spring reopening stipends.

Another $112M is planned for this year, much of it for additional positions at school sites in academic support, community engagement, socio-emotional support, and COVID safety. However, some of that may not be spent because staffing shortages are leaving many of those positions unfilled. Many board members are asking for greater transparency on exactly how the $112M is allocated. The list of staff positions funded for this year can be viewed here.

The current plan is to continue some of the additional positions for two more years, at an expected total cost of $94M. However, those plans may change as we consider the long-term financial health of the district.

School Closures/Mergers Postponed

Superintendent Johnson-Trammell did not bring a list of schools for closure or merger this fall because a majority of the board made it clear we did not want to proceed with them during the current crisis. However, after the relief funds have been used, the district has difficult financial prospects because the pandemic has accelerated enrollment decline. There are about 900 fewer students in OUSD this year than last year, which was already down over 600 from before the pandemic.

If California funded education like other states with high cost of living do, this wouldn’t be an issue. We need reforms like Prop. 15 to make the relief funding permanent, not just one-time. Our students of greatest need deserve the support to make our small schools sustainable.

Aviation Program Created at Oakland Tech

Oakland Tech held an assembly in memory of Wanda A. Green, a Tech alumna and flight attendant who died tragically on 9/11 on Flight 93. At the assembly, Mr. Price and Mr. Fairly announced the creation of an aviation program in her honor as part of Tech's Engineering Academy. You can read more about it in this article in Oaklandside.

Student musicians playing at the assembly in Ms. Green's honor

Board Returns to In-Person Meetings

The school board will resume in-person meetings in October in the Great Room at La Escuelita, starting with a brief public hearing at 6 pm on Oct. 6 on OEA’s proposals for COVID safety, and then a full meeting on Oct. 13 with topics to include the pandemic relief funds, early literacy, the expansion of pre-K and TK, and our enrollment stabilization plan.

Meetings will be hybrid, so public comment will be accepted both in-person and over Zoom.

Police Commission Announcement

The Oakland Police Commission wants to hear your opinion about the future of community policing in Oakland. You can review the draft policy on the city’s website, and express your opinion on the Community Policing Survey.

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  • Sam Davis