This election, there is only one contested school board race (District 4), because the Directors in District 2 (Aimee Eng) and District 6 (Shanthi Gonzales) are running for re-election unopposed. In District 4, Director Nina Senn has decided not to run again, a courageous choice given the last decade of poor decision-making and misplaced priorities of our Board. OUSD kids need change, not more of the same. Director Senn’s decision means that we now have the opportunity to elect a dynamic new school board member who can bring policy-making and fiscal experience, along with a history of strong leadership and grassroots organizing to the board, and we are excited to endorse Clarissa Doutherd for the job.
OUSD parents, educators and students are only too aware that the district has had years of fiscal mismanagement which resulted in $50 million in budget reductions and cuts over the last two years, and a projected $60 million more to come in the next two. This mismanagement is not new; the 2013-14 Alameda County Grand Jury found “year after year, the district has repeated errors that continue to threaten the education of its students. While progress seems to have been made with the required audits, the students of OUSD will continue to suffer until OUSD gets its financial house in order.” (emphasis added) This, after OUSD was taken over by the state in 2003 and local control was restored in 2009. Oakland families know that this is a deeply rooted and long-standing problem that will take vision, determination and community support to resolve.
That is exactly why Parents United is endorsing Clarissa Doutherd for School Board in District 4. Clarissa has experience with fiduciary oversight and building strong organizations. As the Executive Director of Parent Voices Oakland (“PVO”), a non-profit organization advocating for early childhood education and affordable childcare, Clarissa has increased the organization’s budget by 1,100% while successfully winning legislation to help children and families.
According to Doutherd, the key to that growth was “smart investments and strong fiscal management,” along with an emphasis on investing in the community, which she says “runs counter to the idea that total austerity saves organizations.” She said her budgetary experiences at PVO have prepared her to handle the school district’s difficult fiscal situation. “I know how to balance a budget, I know how to read financial statements, I know how to deliver results through financial challenges and transition in organizations,” she said. (Oakland North, 9/28/2018)
Clarissa has advocated for early education at the local and state level for many years, working closely with our state legislative delegation: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymen Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond (who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction). They have all endorsed Clarissa as the candidate most qualified to represent District 4.
I am proud to endorse Clarissa Doutherd for Oakland School Board District 4. In working closely with her on education issues at the State level, I have seen the strength of her leadership and her capacity to deliver results. Our community turns to her on the tough issues, and can count on her vision, integrity, and organizing skill to lead us into the future. She will fight to restore fiscal accountability and put kids and families first. Our schools are fundamental and every child deserves the opportunity to realize their dreams and meet their full potential– that’s why I support Clarissa Doutherd for the future of our public schools in Oakland. – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (Clarissa’s endorsement page)
They are not alone in supporting Clarissa, she has also been endorsed by the educators of the Oakland Education Association, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, the service employees of SEIU Local 1021, the East Bay Women’s Political Alliance, the Alameda Labor Council – which represents 135,000 working families in the county — and many more. In fact, Clarissa has received every major organizational endorsement to date (with the exception of billionaire-backed GO Public Schools) from political, labor, parent and community organizations as the candidate best suited to meet the district’s fiscal challenges while truly putting students, families and educators at the center.
And that would be a new direction for the board. Parents, families and educators across the District have long decried the lack of participatory governing in OUSD, which has instead chosen a paternalistic, “we know what’s best” approach to governance. Clarissa is an OUSD parent – her son Xavier goes to Laurel Elementary School – but she is also, at heart, a parent organizer who works everyday in partnership with a myriad of stakeholders to create change, and that is what she will bring to OUSD’s board.
Doutherd is also campaigning on the promise of being a new type of voice on the school board. “It’s been sort of very top-down, and administrators and superintendents and the school board leadership telling community what they deserve and what should happen, rather than really working in partnership with the community,” Doutherd said. She says she will bring her leadership style—“collaborative, participatory, one that is really rooted and grounded in community leadership”—to the board. (Oakland North)
Clarissa understands that one of the most important keys to building strong and stable community schools is to retain good educators, and that is why she is supported by teachers, nurses and other represented staff members. OUSD has a teacher retention crisis that is negatively impacting our students. Educators are underpaid, under-supported and overworked, and after more than a year, still do not have a contract. Clarissa supports teachers as professionals and is committed to prioritizing a contract that allows them to live in Oakland and supports them so that they can focus on our students.
For all these reasons and more, Parents United proudly supports Clarissa Doutherd for District 4 School Board. It is time to move forward, not make the same choices that led us to this point. Clarissa’s collaborative leadership and dynamic energy and vision are a contrast to her opponent, long-time retired school board member and former interim superintendent Gary Yee. Dr Yee has dedicated his life to education in Oakland, and for that we have great appreciation. But Dr. Yee is also a big part of the long history of paternalistic, top down, “color inside the lines” district leadership that overspent, underinvested and generally failed to institute strong fiscal policy in the District. Our children need change, and we believe that that Clarissa Doutherd is the leader who will fight for them.
Read more about Clarissa Doutherd here.