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

Hands Off Oakland Public Schools! / ¡Manos fuera de las escuelas públicas de Oakland!

SOSD m25
Wednesday, May 25, 5pm
Kaiser Convention Center Parking Lot (10 10th Street)

(Para leer el español, vea abajo)

Hands off Oakland Public Schools

Wednesday May 25

Kaiser Convention Center Parking Lot

10 10th St

  • 5pm – T-shirt & sign-making
  • 5:30pm – Kid Zone & Rally
  • 5:45pm – Hands off tha Town! Anti-Gentrification Tour & Teach-in

Our Communities know what we need: To transform – not dismantle – Oakland public schools

Decisions are being made without the consent of participation of black & brown families and working-class communities. Join the Schools Oakland Students Deserve coalition to learn about the privatization and planned destabilization of OUSD run schools and how this is connected to gentrification in Oakland.

Schools Oakland Students Deserve is a people of color-led group of parents, teachers, students and community members working to stop the corporate takeover of OUSD. 

https://schoolsoaklandstudentsdeserve.wordpress.com

Follow us on twitter @takebackousd & fb @schoolsoaklandstudentsdeserve

Facebook event page is here:
____

¡Manos fuera de las escuelas públicas de Oakland!

 

Miércoles, 25 d mayo

Estacionamiento del Kaiser Convention Center (Centro Kaiser)

10 Calle 10, Oakland

  • 5:00 p.m. Artesania de camisetas y letreros
  • 5:30 p.m. Zona de niños y manifestación
  • 5:45 p.m. ¡Manos fuera de Oakland! Guia y lecciones contra la gentrificación

 

Nuestras Comunidades saben lo que necesitamos: Transformar – No desmontar – las escuelas públicas de Oakland

 

Se están tomando decisiones sin el consentimiento de participación de las familias Afro-Americanas y Latinas y comunidades de la clase obrera. Únese a la coalición de Escuelas que los Estudiantes de Oakland Merecen para aprender acerca de la privatización y la desestabilización planificada de escuelas dirigidas por OUSD y cómo esto está conectado a la gentrificación en Oakland.

La coalición de Escuelas que los Estudiantes de Oakland Merecen es un dirigido de personas de color siendo padres, maestros, estudiantes y miembros de la comunidad que trabajan para detener la adquisición corporativa de OUSD.

https://schoolsoaklandstudentsdeserve.wordpress.com

Nos puede seguir en twitter@takebackousd y facebook@schoolsoaklandstudentsdeserve

What is the Status of the CCSA Lawsuit?

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The California Charter School Association (“CCSA”) sued OUSD claiming our charter friendly district wasn’t being friendly enough and should be handing over prime school sites to charter schools under prop 39. Since then, the board has voted to impose co-locations with charters on 4 district campuses, extended the leases of three schools and approved a potential 30 year lease term for American Indian High School (a school which the board attempted to close several years back). In addition, the District proposed a potential 40 year lease for KIPP at Lafayette Elementary, forcing those families to relocate the elementary students on the West Oakland Middle School campus, that will presumably come up for vote shortly. All of this without a word of what is happening with the CCSA lawsuit for injunctive relief.

Parents United sent a letter today to the board asking for a public update of the status of that lawsuit (you can read the text below). We encourage all parents and community members to call or email the board members and let them know that you also believe that our board should update the community about what is going on in that lawsuit and shine a light on what, if any, deals the District is making with CCSA (an organization that is a member of the Equity Pledge Executive Committee and which was a major donor to the campaigns of 5 of the 7 board members).

Here is the contact information and read on for the letter.

President James Harris (District 7): james.harris@ousd.org or 879-2167
Vice President Nina Senn (District 4): nina.senn@ousd.org or 879-2164
Director Jody London (District 1): jody.london@ousd.org or 879-2161
Director Aimee Eng (District 2): aimee.eng@ousd.org or 879-2162
Director Jumoke Hinton Hodge (District 3): jumoke.hintonhodge@ousd.org or 879-2163
Director Roseann Torres (District 5): roseann.torres@ousd.org or 879-2165
Director Shanthi Gonzales (District 6): shanthi.gonzales@ousd.org or 879-2166

Dear Directors,

This letter is to request that this Board issue a status report on the legal action filed against Oakland Unified School District by the California Charter School Association (“CCSA”) on March 8, 2016 in Alameda Superior Court in connection with the Proposition 39 offers. Specifically, we request that this Board answer the following questions:

1.      Is the lawsuit for injunctive and other relief still pending? If yes, are hearings scheduled on this matter? Please provide an update on all action taken or planned on this matter.

2.      What, if any, agreements have been entered into by OUSD and CCSA regarding the lawsuit which would extend the time to respond or suspend action on the lawsuit?

3.      What, if any, agreements have been entered into by OUSD and CCSA regarding the Proposition 39 offers underlying the lawsuit, including but not limited to accommodations at various schools, and/or agreements to offer extended lease terms to requesting parties including but not limited to American Indian and KIPP?

4.      What, if any, agreements have been entered into by OUSD and CCSA regarding any other aspect of this lawsuit not specifically mentioned herein?

OUSD families and the community have the right to be informed of these matters, and given the board’s commitment to transparent leadership, we respectfully request that this matter be placed on the agenda of the next available school board meeting for discussion and public comment in order that the public may be informed of the answers to the above questions.

Respectfully submitted,

Parents United for Public Schools Steering Committee Members

Mona Treviño

Ann Swinburn

Michael-David Sasson

Kim Davis

Tony Daquipa

Concerns regarding the CCSA lawsuit and the Proposition 39 Co-location offers

The following email was sent to OUSD’s Directors this afternoon (3/22/16) regarding the California Charter School Association (CCSA) lawsuit and the proposed Prop 39 co-locations at Westlake Middle and other schools across Oakland. You can click here to send your own email today.

We are urging the board to do the following as they consider actions regarding these items:

  1. Keep as the guiding principle of decision-making that which is in the long term best interest of the students in OUSD schools;
  2. Independently determine what is required of this District in response to both the lawsuit and the underlying Proposition 39 requests, and;
  3. Make a decision which is statutorily defined and not based solely on fiscal considerations or on what is easiest in the face of strong-arm tactics by the CCSA.

We encourage you to send your own email to them. We have set up an easy web form for you to use here.

OUSD PARENTS UNITED

Dear Directors,

We are writing to express concerns relating to the lawsuit filed by the California Charter School Association (“CCSA”) against the Oakland Unified School District. In response to the lawsuit, the Proposition 39 offers, which were to be presented to the board at the last board meeting on March 9th, were taken off the agenda to be “retooled” and presented at this week’s meeting. As you move forward on this matter, we urge you to:

  1. Keep as the guiding principle of your decision-making that which is in the long term best interest of the students in the schools over which you have responsibility, specifically OUSD schools;
  2. Independently determine what is required of this District in response to both the lawsuit and the underlying Proposition 39 requests, and;
  3. Make a decision which is statutorily defined and not based solely on fiscal considerations or on what is easiest in the face of these strong-arm tactics by the CCSA.

This Board must consider the impact of its actions on the OUSD schools and students it serves:  We recognize that under current California law charter schools are entitled to request unused space in District facilities and, as empty campuses are in short supply, that may result in co-locations at some campuses. That does not mean, however, that charter schools are entitled to space to the detriment of students in District-run schools, or that entire school communities must be moved to accommodate a Prop 39 request. A California Appellate court affirmed last year that principle: “To put the charter school students’ needs over those of other school district students would not “strike a fair balance” between the needs of the charter school and those of the district-run school.”  Westchester Secondary Charter School v. LAUSD (2015) citing International Charter High School v. LAUSD (2012) The International court went on to state that: “A holding that the District must provide facilities a charter school requests, on demand and without regard to overcrowding or the impact on other public school students, would tip the balance too far in favor of the charter school.” Accordingly, this Board need not bend over backwards to accommodate charter school requests when doing so would not strike the “fair balance” that the court identified. In addition, consolidating District-run schools onto one campus in order to accommodate a privately-run charter school would disrupt the lives of the families whose children attend those District-run schools, discriminating against them and treating them as if they were second-class citizens.

This Board should seek independent counsel regarding this lawsuit:  The CCSA is greatly enmeshed with our District in multiple ways. They hold a place on the Common Enrollment executive committee and possibly the Equity Pledge committee as well. They have, in past election cycles, been the single largest donors to the PAC which funds school board elections. Given this level of entanglement, it is incumbent upon this Board to seek independent counsel on the appropriate resolution of the CCSA lawsuit to ensure that the long term best interests of our district and its students are served..

This Board should not approve “In-lieu” multi-year offers which are not statutorily required and which limit the growth of our District schools, especially as those schools are working hard to improve and attract more students: Prop 39 requires only that a school board make a one-year lease offer in response to requests for facilities, yet year after year this Board approves multi-year “in lieu” offers to charters. This practice unnecessarily restricts a District-run school from attracting more students for the period of the lease as it cannot accommodate more students. A school like Westlake, for instance, which has been working toward becoming an Arts Magnet school, attracting neighborhood students as well as those from throughout the District, would lose the ability to absorb new students if its remaining space is locked into a lease term of more than one year. This Board can do what the law requires without discriminating against District-run schools, by approving lease terms of the statutorily-required one year, rather than granting multi-year leases to charter schools under Proposition 39.

We respectfully remind this board that it is your responsibility to keep the best interests of the OUSD students under your care at the center of what you do, and not to be directed by employees or any outside interests when making such decisions. We ask that you act independently and responsibly and not make short term decisions which will have long lasting negative impact on the students in your OUSD schools.

OUSD Parents United Steering Committee

Tony Daquipa

Kim Davis

Michael-David Sasson

Ann Swinburn

Mona Treviño

REMEMBER: YOU CAN EMAIL THE OUSD BOARD TODAY BY CLICKING HERE!

#OneWestlake

Photo of student from letter with Mr KThe letter below was written by a former Westlake Middle School student about Mr. K, Westlake’s Principal, who is being removed from the community he has led for the last 15 years. Mr. K is a visionary leader who has the full support of the Westlake community. It is widely believed that Mr. K is “being punished for not keeping a lid on parent and teacher protests last June, when the district unsuccessfully tried to force the school to ‘co-locate’ a charter high school at the site.” This former student’s words show why Westlake needs Mr. K, and why our District’s leadership needs to support the Westlake community, not tear it apart. #OneWestlake

A Commitment to Excellence

I remember back when V and I (who took his own life after eighteen years on this Earth) would make the journey down to Laney College after school on Wednesdays in hopes that we’d come up on an iPod or a nice watch. I remember when R, J, and I would go down to MacArthur and pick up an ounce from Marv for $20, in hopes of flipping it on the block after school got out on minimum days. I remember M catching his cousin after school down the street from Whole Foods and stomping him out on the curb for stealing a TV from their grandma’s house. I remember B pulling a gun on my little brother.

I don’t recall these things with pride, or to scare away any family thinking of sending their children to Westlake—I attended Westlake seven years ago, and all of my experiences were the product of me actively looking for trouble. If I’d continued down the road I was headed in my preteen years, I would be writing this either from a jail cell or from the beyond. It was in my eighth grade year that I changed course, and I have Westlake Middle School to thank for my life; a Westlake Middle School under the leadership of Misha Karigaca.

When I was caught in the halls of Westlake in my final year, with more than a couple of dimes and intent to sell, it was Mr. K that gave me my wake up call.

“What do you see yourself doing in four years…?” He sat next to me. Even though he was much wiser than the students, he never made us feel small. I’ve dealt with my fair share of authority figures in Oakland, but Mr. K was one of the most successful because he treated each and every one of his students with respect. He knew our parents names, our aspirations (if we had any at that point), and what we intended to do about it. Each of us was a person; not just a student ID number in a computer that could affect the school’s funding.

“Well, I guess we’re supposed to go to college, right? But that’s done now.” My lip quivered. I’d just been caught with weed on me at school, all packaged up and ready to go. I was also thirteen. In that moment, I thought my life was effectively over.

“Why? Because you made a mistake?” He asked me. I nodded slowly. There was a window that looked out to the front yard in the front of the school. Some of my friends were watching me. I wasn’t gonna cry. “If you want to go to college, this isn’t gonna stop you. But what do you want to do?”

Mr. K, who is very open about his experiences growing up in Oakland Public Schools, has successfully (to my own understanding) and lovingly nourished an environment with resources that he had wished for and needed as a young black male in Oakland. Westlake is a place where young people from all racial and social backgrounds come to learn, to succeed, and to thrive. He’s made a commitment to excellence for all of his students, but I think his unique perspective on this is what makes him indispensable to Westlake.

Unlike many other teachers and principals I’ve encountered, Mr. K knew that in the diverse setting of an Oakland Public School, my excellence was not my peers excellence. He knew me as I was in my seventh and eighth grade years: cutting school so much that administration sat me down and had me draft a school law that prevented other students from abusing the middle school office bureaucracy the way I did. But he also remembered who I wanted to be—hanging out with my English teacher after school on Fridays because I didn’t want to go home, making spoofs of body wash commercials and writing poetry.

After being removed from Westlake classes with two months left until my promotion to ninth grade, I went on to become very involved in the arts. I got my diploma, took my SATs, got into college, and went in a different direction. At eighteen years old, I’m supporting myself while living in New York City—working to make ends meet while battling bipolar disorder and following my dreams. Mr. K created an environment that helped me find my calling, and gave me the ambition to pursue it. It was my experience in Westlake and the opportunity given to all students for unique self-searching and reflection that would later lead me to seek a diagnosis for my own quarrels with my mental health.

That understanding of the individuality of young people by an administrator and leader is crucial for individual and group success. If your definition of excellence is defined by your ability to breed cookie-cutter students that can recite helpful acronyms for standardized test-taking, and no outlet for their personal expression and experiences, perhaps Westlake would be better off with a principal that is not Misha Karigaca. That definition of success is a school that produces students that look good on paper—they get accepted into a very great University, where they have a wonderful dorm room with a nice window they can consider jumping out of during their first nervous breakdown halfway through their freshman year. I can’t promise I’ll be sending my children there.

However, if ever you are looking for a man who is committed to the individual excellence of young people, and strives to encourage each student’s specific interests, feel free to offer Mr. K his job back.

Update: Board Meeting Recap

11112717_904128046275068_7725102537898882594_nParents spoke, board members heard, but ultimately they didn’t listen. Parent emails changed the process – instead of being voted on without discussion, the Oakland Public Education Fund (“Ed Fund”) item was pulled from the consent agenda so that questions could be publicly raised, and Director Gonzales asked the questions we had posed.. That would not have happened had parents not let board members know of their concerns before the meeting. Ultimately, however, the board voted unanimously to approve the Ed Fund contract extension. Parent questions also guided the discussion about the proposed Charter school revised Measurable Pupil Outcomes, and since that item was not voted on last night, there is time for the Board to address parent concerns. We appreciate that Director Gonzales and others asked our questions, but are disappointed in the vote and especially in Director London’s statement that she didn’t really think parents knew what they were writing about. Director London is wrong – Parents understand, we are watching and we will have accountability.

Serious Concerns From Tonight’s School Board Agenda

The following email was sent to OUSD’s Director’s this afternoon (2/24/16) regarding two very concerning items on this evening’s school board agenda:

  1. An item which will give all fiscal authority and staffing oversight over privately-financed OUSD funds to the private Oakland Public Education Fund, and pays the Ed Fund a 7% fee for it’s services. This item will take all spending of private funds out of the public’s eye and control, something parents should be very disturbed by. This item is a total abdication of the Board’s fiscal oversight of District funds.
  2. An item which requires certain charters that have opted-in to report additional pupil outcomes to the District. While good on face-value, the proposal does not include any indication that the District will take steps to assure that charter reporting is done on time or with accuracy, despite clear indications that these measures will be used to compare charter schools to District schools.

We encourage you to send your own email to them at the following addresses: james.harris@ousd.org, jody.london@ousd.org, aimee.eng@ousd.org, jumoke.hintonhodge@ousd.org, nina.senn@ousd.org, roseann.torres@ousd.org, shanthi.gonzales@ousd.org. Please copy us at ousdparentsunited@gmail.com.

OUSD PARENTS UNITED

Dear OUSD Directors:

We are writing with concern about two items on tonight’s Board agenda, but also with an overall concern about what seems to be an ongoing pattern of structuring Board meetings and discussions to discourage authentic public review and participation in the decision-making process.

While California open meetings rules require the District to provide a minimal notice of its board meeting agenda, that requirement is only a minimum, and you are permitted to provide a much longer notice. The board, however, consistently waits until the last possible minute to post board agendas, effectively limiting the public’s ability to fully understand, review and provide feedback on agenda items.

As we continue to hear from more OUSD parents who want to be informed, we’re concerned that last minute items without public engagement are a serious accessibility issue which doesn’t uphold the board’s values around equitable community participation. Especially in a week where the board has had two meetings, it is difficult for busy, working families to give the board’s work a thorough review.

While we have concerns about many of the items on your agenda for this evening, our two biggest concerns are as follows:

  • OAKLAND PUBLIC EDUCATION FUND AS FISCAL AGENT

 Our first item of concern is item 16-0357, “Charitable Fund Management Agreement.” We encourage you to reject this item. In addition to concerns about whether it is even a fiscally sound decision to pay 7% of District revenues to a private entity, and the fact that approving this item will result in the continued signing away the District’s oversight and control of projects to be carried out within District schools and other District operations, this item will:

  • Take all privately-funded work out of the public eye. The Ed Fund, as a private entity, is not covered by California’s public records laws or open meeting laws, making it impossible for members of the public – including you, parents, and students – to have ANY oversight over how these funds are distributed. This will make work being carried out within and on behalf of our District secret from the public – which is certainly not within the spirit of California’s public records and open meetings’ laws, if not an actual violation.
  • Make employees paid by these funds – including people working within District schools and administrative offices – employees of the Ed Fund, removing them from not just public oversight, but all rules and regulations that cover District employees. Having clear accountability and control over people working within our public school system should be of paramount concern to you all.
  • Sign-away all rights to intellectual property (such as copyrights) that could, in the future, be used to the benefit of the District.
  • Allows the Ed Fund to use the funds – funds intended to be used to carry out District programs and improvements – to lobby the District. The possibility that the Ed Fund will use District funds to lobby District officials is especially outrageous.
  • Allows the Ed Fund – in addition to the regular 7% administrative fee – to collect additional fees to provide additional services – yet these services are not spelled out in the agreement.

In fact, it seems clear that a vote for this item is such a clear abdication of your jobs as the fiscal oversight body of the District, that we could only take it as a sign that you do not want, or are not capable of, doing the work that you were elected to do by Oakland voters.

  • NEW CHARTER REQUIREMENTS RE: MEASURABLE PUPIL OUTCOMES

Our second item of concern is 16-0374, “Measurable Pupil Outcomes (MPO) Material Revisions – Alignment With Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Metrics and the District’s School Performance Framework – Named Charters.” While this item seems positive on face value – because it will require charter to comply with additional and more consistent reporting of educational outcomes – we have some concerns and encourage you to delay your vote on this item.

First and foremost – there has been no previous discussion of this item at Board meetings and the public has just now become aware of this proposal. We believe that parents, students and teachers deserve more time to consider these changes and understand how they will be carried out, and respectfully request that you delay this vote to allow time for stakeholders to better understand the proposal.

Additionally, because – as District staff has admitted repeatedly during the push for Common Enrollment – we all know that some (if not most) Oakland charters engage in practices prohibited by state law in regard to reporting (namely: “pushing out” of SpEd and other students around test-taking times, effectively manipulating their testing numbers), and our District currently does little to track those practices down and hold charters accountable, it seems questionable whether there is either the will or the means to hold charter accountable to this new reporting.

Further, the agenda item does not include any mention of how the District intends to ensure that this reporting – which will clearly be used to compare charter school performance to public school performance – is accurate. Surely any plan passed by the board should include a clear schedule for monitoring and comprehensive auditing (by qualified professionals) of all charter school reporting on these metrics.

Finally, it is important to understand why nearly a quarter of OUSD authorized charter schools refused to sign on to this. There is no discussion in the Staff Recommendation as to why these charters did not believe it to be in their best interests to agree to a shared metric for reporting charter school performance. At the very least, this information should be discussed prior to this vote.

We hope that you will take our concerns seriously and vote against making the Oakland Public Education Fund the District’s Fiscal agent and delay your votes on the MPO reporting item to allow time for more meaningful public understanding of the District’s ability and intent in regards to accountability. Oakland parents and students deserve better than rushed votes on unwise and unclear proposals.

Sincerely,

OUSD Parents United Steering Committee Members

Tony Daquipa

Kim Davis

Ann Swinburn

Mona Treviño

Michael-David Sasson