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

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