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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and if someone forwarded this to you and you haven’t already, join our email list.
- 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