Parents United Endorses Donald Macleay in District 1

Prior to 2012, Oakland school board elections had historically been narrowly watched, with limited expenditure of limited funds, mostly raised from local donors. In 2012 that all changed when GO Public Schools, through its Political Action Committee (PAC), raised $184,000 from organizations and individuals, many from outside of Oakland. GO used those funds to elect School Board candidates who went on to support the market reform agenda of their big money donors: the expansion and proliferation of charter schools, at the expense of our traditional public schools.

District 1 has twice elected Jody London to be its representative on the School Board. In 2008, Director London ran against Brian Rogers — a founder of GO Public Schools — and won. In the next election, in 2012, Jody won again, without the endorsement of GO, who did not endorse in that race. In 2013, Director London publicly declared that she would not vote for any more charter schools in Oakland, a position that was contrary to positions taken by GO and its major donors, the Rogers family and the California Charter School Association. But times have changed, Director London has voted to approve charter schools, including, most recently, a school that GO founder Brian Rogers sits on the board of. This year, Jody London has been endorsed by GO Public Schools as their candidate of choice in District 1.
donWe believe it is time for a change in District 1. Jody used to be an independent voice on the board, but she no longer is. Parents United for Public Schools believes that Donald Macleay will be an independent voice for parents who believe that we need to focus on creating and supporting strong public schools, not privately-managed charter schools. Accordingly, Parents United joins the Oakland Education Association, the Oakland Justice Coalition, and numerous others in endorsing Don Macleay for School Board in District 1.

The contrast between Don’s answers to our candidate questionnaire, and Jody’s answers, is troubling:

  • Don believes that we need to end the school-to-prison pipeline by providing restorative justice counselors and a decreased police presence on every campus. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don understands that we need enrollment reform, not common enrollment. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don does not support an “Equity Pledge” that hasn’t come from community needs or demands and which doesn’t hold charter schools accountable. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don believes that the OUSD office tasked with ensuring oversight of our charter schools should be fully staffed with independent staff members who have the training and experience to hold charter schools accountable. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don has committed to refusing campaign contributions from organizations or individuals which have an agenda of charter proliferation. Jody isn’t sure.

district-1-side-by-sideIn this time of unprecedented spending by wealthy individuals and organizations from outside of Oakland, we need someone who is sure they will not be politically influenced, and who will focus on keeping public schools public, transparent and accountable. Don’s campaign motto is “Accountability Matters.” We believe that Don Macleay will be accountable to parents, students, teachers and community leaders. We believe that Don will hold charter schools accountable for serving all students. We believe that Don Macleay is the best candidate in District 1.

Without GO behind him, Don will need our help in reaching out to voters in District 1. Come meet Don on Wednesday, September 28th at 6:30 p.m. at an open education forum at 4920 Telegraph Avenue. Go to Don’s website to volunteer or to make a donation: http://www.don4ousd.org/  Let’s continue to work to take back our school district and keep our public schools public, and elect Don Macleay to the School Board in District 1.

You can read Don’s complete answers to our candidate questionnaire by clicking here.

Parents United Endorses Kharyshi Wiginton in District 3

kharyshiIn this Presidential election year, there has been a great focus on getting big money out of politics in recognition of the negative impact it has on our democracy. Here in Oakland, over the last handful of years, an unprecedented amount of money has poured into our local school board elections from largely out of town big money donors. The majority of the current members of the OUSD Board of Education were elected with contributions from corporate interests, and those board members have consistently voted in ways that reflect those interests. Parents United for Public Schools believes that our public schools need strong leaders on the school board who are free from the influence of Wall Street billionaires and corporations who have an agenda to privatize our public school system.

In District 3, we believe that Kharyshi Wiginton will be just that type of strong independent leader who will fight for the public schools that all our students deserve. Kharyshi – affectionately called “Ms. K” by the students and families at McClymonds High School in West Oakland where she works – has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from GO Public Schools, the California Charter School Association, and other corporate interests focused on replacing our public school system with a private top-down business model of education.

When you meet Kharyshi, you can’t help but be drawn-in by her enthusiasm and passion for her students and her West Oakland community. Ms. K runs the after school program at McClymonds, where she is involved in multiple aspects of the school, including as a member of the Intensive Support re-design team. Through her involvement, Kharyshi has seen first-hand how OUSD fails to authentically engage the community about the direction of our District, instead making decisions behind closed doors or in secret committees, and then attempting to sell major changes to the community as community engagement after the fact.

Kharyshi believes in a model of pro-active community engagement that really listens to students, parents and the community – especially those on the margins, including families of color, working class families, and special education families. Kharyshi has pledged that when she is elected, these stakeholders will have a permanent seat at the table, leading to true community-led reform. With a strong community service orientation, she views a position on the School Board as “The People’s Seat,” and vows to “grow leadership” from within  her district if elected.

Kharyshi believes in the community school model, saying, “a true community school model will see the student as an entire being and work to develop her/him holistically as opposed to just focusing on academic achievement. This includes providing programs and supports for the family as well.” Kharyshi and Parents United believe that expanding that model is a critical step in strengthening all Oakland public schools.

Kharyshi is also committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, getting police out of our schools and training more school-site staff in restorative justice practices, including School Security Officers.

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For all these reasons, and more, Parents United believes that Kharyshi Wiginton is the right leader to represent Oakland public schools in District 3, and we are proud to endorse her for School Board.

Because Ms. K doesn’t have the kinds of corporate-backed support that the incumbent does, it is important that she gets the grassroots community support that can win this election. Volunteers are knocking on doors in District 3 every Saturday from 10-12, meeting at Ms K’s campaign headquarters at 1523 Myrtle St. You can email khayastar@gmail.com for more information on door knocking, phone banking, and event support.

You can read Kharyshi’s complete answers to our candidate questionnaire here.


WONDERING HOW TO VOTE IN RANKED-CHOICE VOTING?

Because the Oakland Board of Education race is decided using ranked-choice voting, and there are multiple candidates on the ballot in District 3, Parents United encourages you to make your other choices for candidates that are supported by and funded by the community, and not Wall Street billionaires and other corporate interests focused on the privatization of our public schools.

Therefore, we recommend that you DO NOT USE ANY OF YOUR VOTES for incumbent Board member Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, who has consistently been endorsed and funded by GO Public Schools and the California Charter School Association, and has voted in line with those interests.

Director Hinton-Hodge acknowledged receipt of our questionnaire but did not respond, despite being given extra time to do so.

Parents United sent out its questionnaire to all three active candidates in District 3. You can see the answers to our candidate questionnaire from Ben Lang, another District 3 candidate who has also committed to reject corporate funding and expand community schools, on our website.

 

Privacy and Equity Concerns about GreatSchools being given access to information about our kids

great-schoolsLast week, OUSD parents and caregivers got an email fromGreatSchools.org targeting K-8 students. It would seem that Oakland Unified School District has given (or sold) to this private organization a list of parent email addresses and (at a minimum) the grade level of our children, and that it did so without approval from our elected School Board. This is concerning because Great Schools – a data-mining company posing as a resource to help parents find good schools – has partnered with Zillow.com to guide home buyers to choose communities according to color-coded school ratings posted online. In other words: Great Schools practices modern-day educational redlining . On their advertising page they promise that if you purchase ad space on their site, you will “get your message in front of our large audience of active, educated and affluent parents.” Great Schools was launched by charter interests and is funded by Wall Street education privatizers, like the Walton Family (of Walmart fame), Goldman Sachs and Bill Gates. Parents United’s research has found NO evidence that our elected school board has voted on this troubling violation of our privacy and stated Equity values, and we have been provided with NO explanation about how our information can be used. We have asked our elected school board for more information on this troubling development, and will keep parents updated on what we hear. #TakeBackOUSD

Parents United Endorses Chris Jackson for Board of Education in District 7

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Parents United for Public Schools believes that this election of 2016, where four of the seven school board seats are on the ballot, presents a unique opportunity to elect strong, independent leaders who will work with parents, students, teachers and community to strengthen and transform our public schools.

We need community-driven change, strong accountability and a board that understands its role is to create policy and direct its Superintendent to carry it out. We need a board whose budget priority is classrooms and not consultants and central administrators. We need leaders who are willing to invest in proven, community-based reforms that will rebuild strong public schools in every neighborhood and serve every child.

Parents United believes that Chris Jackson is that leader in District 7. Chris is an OUSD parent with a long history of educational activism and leadership who will be a strong voice for parents, students, teachers and community.

Chris Jackson is an Oakland native who has lived in the Bay Area all of his life. As a student at San Francisco State University, Chris fought to give working class and students of color access to affordable college. After graduation, Chris continued his advocacy for youth and education, serving on the San Francisco Youth Commission and was twice elected to the Board for City College of San Francisco where he served as Vice President and the chair of the Budget Committee. In coalition with teachers, students and community, Chris and the Board successfully pushed back against attempts to privatize the college accreditation process.

Chris returned to Oakland to care for his mother, continue his social work to help the formerly incarcerated find homes, training and employment, and raise his children with his wife. When his daughter’s OUSD-run preschool, without parental notice or input, changed the drop-off from 8 to 9:30 (a hardship for many working parents), Chris became concerned that parent voices were not respected in OUSD and, like he has all his life, he decided to become part of the solution by running for School Board.

Chris understands that budgeting is a matter of setting priorities, and he wants to prioritize programs that will benefit our most at-risk students, including smaller class sizes. Chris knows that smaller class sizes matter, yet OUSD spends $35 million LESS (on an adjusted basis) on instruction than comparative Districts, but $13.7 million MORE than average on central administration. Chris is committed to putting those resources back in our classrooms.

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Chris also sees the destabilizing role the District’s current school reform model is playing in many of our public schools. The school improvement process has failed to engage parents in ways that make it truly community-led, and the School Board’s decision to continue to grow the number of charter schools has reduced enrollment and funding in many of our public schools. Chris has pledged to work to make sure school improvement efforts are led by school communities and has also pledged to support the moratorium on new charter schools called for by the Movement for Black Lives, the National NAACP and Journey for Justice.

Chris will work to make the budget process more transparent and the district more inclusive of parents, students, teachers and community. Chris understands that change needs to come from the community, not from highly paid consultants or administrators. Like Parents United, Chris is concerned about the influx of corporate money into our school board races through groups like GO Public Schools and the California Charter Association, and has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from corporate-backed charter interests.

For all of these reasons, Parents United for Public Schools believes that Chris Jackson is the candidate in District 7 who will best serve all of our public school students and we are proud to endorse him for the Oakland School Board.

Because Chris doesn’t have the kinds of corporate-backed support that his opponent does, we will win the election the old-fashioned way, by getting out into the streets and talking to voters. To do that effectively, we need your help.

Join Chris and Parents United on September 24th from 10 am to 2 pm for coffee and donuts followed by knocking on District 7 doors to let voters know why we believe Chris is the best choice for School Board. Sign up for the event on facebook or let us know that you can come by emailing us.

Check out Chris’ website for more information about his campaign and ways to help through donations, community door knocking (Saturdays and Sundays) and phone banking (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings):http://www.chrisjacksonforoakland.org/

You can read Chris’ complete answers to our candidate questionnaire here:https://ousdparentsunited.wordpress.com/elections/

Candidate Questionnaire Responses

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The Candidate Questionnaire was sent to each of the candidates* in all four districts who were given two weeks to complete the Questionnaire and return it to Parents United. Those candidates who did not return the Questionnaire by the deadline were given an additional 3 days to complete it, should they choose to do so. The responses will be posted here as we issue candidate endorsements, and will be given below in their entirety.

District 7

Chris Jackson

James Harris: Did not respond, despite being offered (and thanking us for) several additional days to complete the survey.

 

*We were unable to reach one candidate in District 3, Lucky Narain, despite multiple attempts.

Parents Raise Concerns about Ed Fund access to private data

Today, Parents United for Public Schools sent the below email to our elected School Board members raising concerns about two new ways in which the Oakland Education Fund (“Ed Fund”) has access to student and family information, and further is acting as “gatekeeper” to parents who volunteer in their children’s school. This year, when four of our seven school board seats are up for election, the Ed Fund’s close ties with organizations active in funding and pushing candidates for election, while also being given access to unprecedented parent and family information, is concerning. Parents have the right to opt-out of providing student Directory Information to the Ed Fund by submitting their intention in writing to the district, and parents who are concerned about this unprecedented use of student information are encouraged to do so. A suggested “opt-out” form which tracks the district’s own form is provided as a guide, below the letter.

Dear Directors,
Parents have contacted us with concerns about two items at the outset of this school year which we would like to share with you and request information and feedback regarding same.
WHY IS STUDENT DIRECTORY INFORMATION BEING SHARED WITH ED FUND?
At registration this year, for the first time, parents were notified that OUSD would be sharing personal student information with the Oakland Education Fund (“Ed Fund”) unless parents “opt-out” (which the form indicates “most parents do not choose” to do). In years past, the Directory Information was shared with “… qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teacher organizations, college recruiters, or employers.” Parents who wanted their information shared with their official PTA organization often chose not to opt out. Many parents did not realize that this year the Ed Fund would now have access to that information in addition to their PTA, and now that they do realize, they are concerned with how this happened and what it means for their student’s privacy.
While we appreciate that the District identified the Ed Fund as a recipient, it does not anywhere state why the Ed Fund is now granted access to personal student information. A review of Board of Education records does not turn up any discussion or approval of such a change. Ed Fund is not one of the “qualified” groups identified above (PTA, College recruiters or employers), therefore it is completely unclear why the Ed Fund is now authorized to receive Student Directory Information.
We would appreciate an explanation for parents about how and why this happened, a disclosure of any contracts or agreements between OUSD and the Ed Fund regarding Student Directory Information, an explanation of what the information will be used for and restrictions, if any, placed on Ed Fund in using or sharing this information with others. In addition, we request that this Board notify the Superintendent or his designee that given the confusion arising from the unexpected inclusion of a private third party in the Directory disclosure “opt-out” form that the District be prohibited from sharing this information with Ed Fund until such time as the District can answer the above questions AND give parents, with notice from the District, a set amount of additional time to “opt-out” as required under your own Board Policy 5125.1:
Notification to Parents/Guardians
At the beginning of each school year, all parents/guardians/caregivers shall be notified as to the categories of directory information the school or district plans to release and the recipients of the information.  The notification shall also inform parents/guardians/caregivers of their right to refuse to let the district designate any or all types of information as directory information and the period of time within which a parent/guardian/caregiver must notify the district in writing that he/she does not want a certain category of information designated as directory information.  (Education Code 49063, 49073; 34 CFR 99.37)
WHY IS THE ED FUND MANAGING THE OUSD VOLUNTEER PROGRAM?
Also new this year is that the Ed Fund is apparently managing access to school volunteering and has sent out information to parents which is confusing and misleading about the steps that parents must take in order to volunteer in OUSD schools. Again, a review of Board of Education records does not turn up an approved contract or agreement for the Ed Fund to take over this function which has been led in the past by Be a Mentor (a company with experience in managing volunteer systems) or by the District itself. Having the Ed Fund, a third party, manage this system gives them access again to information about OUSD families and may act as a deterrent to parents who would like to volunteer at their child’s school, but for whom having the Ed Fund have access to information is a concern. In addition, the Ed Fund website and information sent to parents incorrectly leads parents to believe that fingerprinting and a background check with the FBI are required to volunteer. Further, the Ed Fund requests employer information to volunteer, something that seems to be totally unnecessary and both concerning and off-putting to parents, and could effectively prevent some parents from being willing to volunteer at all. Rather than making the system more welcoming, this “gate-keeping” is serving as a deterrent to volunteerism in the classroom, something that we know can make a big difference in student success.
We request that the Board disclose, or direct the Superintendent’s office to do so, the basis upon which the Ed Fund has been granted oversight of the volunteer program, whether a contract or agreement was entered into and approved by the Board, and also the amount being paid to the Ed Fund for this service as well as any restrictions on use of the information gathered by the Ed Fund and safeguards for parents of their personal information. We also request that the Board direct the Superintendent’s office to notify parents that they do not need to provide employer information nor be fingerprinted to volunteer in their own child’s classroom or on their own child’s field trip, but should submit their negative tb test results directly to their school. Parents should not be required to share data with the private Ed Fund to volunteer in their child’s school.
We would appreciate a response in writing as soon as possible which we will then share with parents across the District.
Respectfully submitted,
Parents United for Public Schools
Ann Swinburn
Tony Daquipa
Kim Davis
Michael-David Sasson
SUGGESTED “OPT-OUT” LANGUAGE FOR PARENTS: 

Decline Release of Directory Information to Oakland Education Fund ONLY
I do not want the District to release “directory information” for my child to Oakland Education Fund only. By choosing this option, I am stating that my child’s “directory information” may be released to other “qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teachers organizations, college recruiters, or employers” as stated in the OUSD Opt-Out form provided at my child’s registration. This form supersedes any form which I may have signed previously this school year.

Student’s Name:

Parent/Guardian Signature:

Date:

OR: 
Decline Release of Directory Information to Oakland Education Fund and all others
I do not want the District to release “directory information” for my child to Oakland Education Fund OR to any other individual or group. By choosing this option, I am stating that my child’s “directory information” may NOT be released to ANY “qualified individuals or groups, such as official parent-teachers organizations, college recruiters, or employers” NOR may it be released to the Oakland Education Fund as stated in the OUSD Opt-Out form provided at my child’s registration. This form supersedes any form which I may have signed previously this school year. Student’s Name:

Parent/Guardian Signature:

Date:

 

Antwan Wilson: superintendent@ousd,org
District 1        jody.london@ousd.org
District 2        aimee.eng@ousd.org
District 3        jumoke.hodge@ousd.org
District 4        nina.senn@ousd.org
District 5        roseann.torres@ousd.org
District 6        shanthi.gonzales@ousd.org
District 7        james.harris@ousd.org

Parents United Changes and Upcoming Events

Dear Oakland Parents & Caregivers:

We began as OUSD Parents United in 2014, when it became clear that OUSD’s priorities included paying exorbitant salaries to top administrators, but not paying classroom teachers enough to live on and raise their families in Oakland. OUSD’s priorities were off, and parents at dozens of schools – first at school sites, but soon working district-wide – collectively demanded that OUSD put the experiences of children first. Oakland parents began working across the district to help collect postcards, attend school board meetings, hold accountability meetings with school board members, and organize a 500 person march.
We are writing today to let you know about some organizational changes we are making based on the realization that Oakland parents and caregivers are still deeply unsatisfied with how the district is being run and we need to step-up our efforts to hold OUSD and our school board accountable.
There is a lot of work to do to change the direction of OUSD. Here are just a few of the most pressing items we need to work on:

  • Reduce Class Sizes: Teachers and students need small class sizes to increase teacher retention and student achievement. Class sizes are too big, while OUSD throws hundreds of thousands of dollars to no-bid contracts, creates new six-figure central office positions, and gives raises to top administrators.
  • Invest in Community Wrap-Around Schools: Until we increase investment and support in Oakland public schools that need them the most, the opportunity gap will continue to grow. We must invest in community wrap-around schools that address the systemic economic and social challenges that lead to struggling schools.
  • End the School-to-Prison Pipeline: The school-to-prison pipeline is real, and the increase of charter schools is making it worse for the most vulnerable children. We need to keep our students in school by increasing school site counselors, strengthening culturally-relevant community partnerships, and increasing teacher supports. We need to keep the police off of school campuses and institutionalize restorative justice practices at at every public school.
  • Stop the Decentralization of the Special Education Program: The process begun this year to massively overhaul SPED is neither clear to, nor inclusive of the people who know best what the Special Education program’s needs are: SPED families and staff.
  • Demand Board of Education Accountability to OUSD-Run Public Schools: The steady growth of charter schools in Oakland has contributed to the destabilization of our public schools in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of poverty. We must elect school board members who are accountable to Oakland and not out-of-town billionaires and charter school lobbyists who fund their campaigns.

In order to move forward, our steering committee agrees that we need to make important changes as well.  We have heard and agree that – in order to continue to address these critical challenges facing our public schools – we must prioritize the voices of the parents, caregivers and students who are most impacted by OUSD’s misplaced priorities: those in low-income and working class communities of color. We are taking intentional steps toward building a multi-racial organization that reflects this town’s diverse families and communities, all of whom have a stake in democratically-run public schools in Oakland.
We have also changed our name to Parents United for Public Schools, to reflect our deep commitment to democratically-led PUBLIC education.
We are energized and excited about the work ahead, and hope that you are too, because there is much to be done. You may be wondering “What can I do?” Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Hands Off Oakland Public Schools: Next Wednesday, May 25th @5pm, join other Oakland parents, teachers and students on a family-friendly anti-gentrification tour and teach-in linking the corporate takeover of our public schools with the rapid gentrification of Oakland. Facebook event here: Hands Off Oakland Public Schools and more information on our website.
  2. Questioning Common Enrollment: Join us on May 31st at 6pm for “Questioning Common Enrollment in Oakland Schools: Lessons from Around the US and Abroad” – a panel discussion about the effects of common enrollment in Newark, New Orleans and other places from nationally-recognized education experts and OUSD Director Shanthi Gonzales. The event is at Race Forward (900 Alice Street, 3rd Floor). Please RSVP here and share widely!
  3. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and if someone forwarded this to you and you haven’t already, join our email list.
  4. Share this message with your friends and family who also care about public schools in Oakland so they can join us as well. Click here to forward to a friend.

We hope to see you soon!

– Parents United for Public Schools