Sixth of the questions from the OEA Endorsement questionnaire:
This answer is from a month ago which is why it refers to COVID-19-related budget cuts as a possibility rather than a certainty.
- OUSD’s Blueprint for Quality Schools employs a portfolio model for our district. Educators, students, and families propose the Community Schools model as an alternative vision for Oakland schools. Community Schools require a strong culturally relevant curriculum, high-quality teaching, inclusive/shared leadership, community support services, restorative practices, and family and community engagement.
- How would you use the community schools model to invest in our neighborhood public schools and improve learning outcomes?
This week, the spectre of a recession due to the corona virus pandemic is starting to look very likely. When I worked at Manzanita SEED, we were in the middle of the Great Recession and budgets were extremely tight. However, we still managed to draw on so many community services and non-profits, such as the Alameda County Food Bank, the Safety Patrol in cooperation with OPD and the County Dept. of Health, the Farmer’s Market program, OCO, La Clinica, and more.
Even when some of those services were cut in the depths of the recession, we still had a strong parent volunteer program, a strong SSC, support for teacher-developed curriculum, and other elements of the Community Schools model. I saw the magic that community partnerships and deep parent involvement worked on our school, not in spite of but because of the fact that most SEED families were low-income.
As a board member, I would ask our Superintendent to implement a Community Schools model - not by creating new central office positions or departments or projects - but by creating standards and expectations for our community school managers, and seeking grant money to fund growing and supporting partnerships between school site staff, community agencies, and parent volunteers.
b. What is your position on school closures and Blue Print for Quality Schools(BP6006)?
Assuming Schools and Communities First passes in the fall, we need to stop closing schools. In the Blueprint process, decisions were made at central office without involving parents, teachers or staff, and that led to disastrous decisions.
There needs to be a transparent assessment of the effects of the closures/consolidations at Elmhurst/Alliance, Futures/CUES, Roots, Frick/SOL and Sankofa/Kaiser: what happened to enrollment, teacher turnover, and student outcomes at each school, not to mention what were the actual costs and savings? There is a convincing argument that closing schools lowers enrollment and does not save money, but there is an absence of facts, and the community deserves to know these facts.
BP 6006 is much broader than school closures. It is a grand call for a ‘city-wide plan’, but the district has never produced anything on that scale, instead closing schools here and there in a piecemeal fashion, and not addressing other issues such as strengthening feeder patterns from elementary to middle to high schools, or improving charter accountability.
In fact, the biggest flaw in BP 6006 is that it includes charter schools and public schools as equal partners in the city-wide plan, but in reality, charter schools refuse to be accountable to the district, as they demonstrate by appealing denials to the county or state, by not participating in OUSD’s SELPA, and by suing the district over Prop 39. They are happy to be partners when it is to their advantage, such as in common enrollment plans, but not when it is not, such as doing their share for students with special needs.