It’s time for our School Board to reassert its authority over the budget

school-budget-pie-5x7ish2

Over the last month news reports have come out that show that our District may be facing up to a $30 million budget shortfall in the coming year, surprising both the public and, reportedly, our elected Board members. Without first seeking the approval of the elected school board, or engaging school communities, the Superintendent and his staff spent the last week telling OUSD Principals about unilateral plans to save money by consolidating schools in East and West Oakland, as well as decreasing the number of schools eligible for an Assistant Principal. These plans are a clear departure from existing Board policy, and the Superintendent plans to  present them to the Board for its “after the fact” approval this Wednesday, January 11th at 5 pm at City Hall. Please call the Board members today to demand the reassert their control over this process.

When Superintendent Wilson arrived, OUSD had 4 employees earning over $200k, now we have 26. When he arrived, we had 30 employees earning over $150k, now we have 140. Nonetheless, when faced with a budget deficit, the Superintendent’s solution is to close, consolidate and make cuts to school sites rather than cutting central administrative bloat. As parents, students, educators and community members, we must demand that our elected school board take control of this situation, reassert its authority as the decision-making body of the district, and seek budget solutions that will not harm our school sites.

The Board will hear an initial proposal from the Superintendent and his staff this Wednesday. Please call and leave a message for your School Board member TODAY to let them know that you will not stand for cuts to schools, and that you expect them to reassert their authority over these types of decisions. You can find a sample phone rap and phone numbers for the Board members here. You can also attend the board meeting on Wednesday, January 11th at 5pm in City Hall.

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

chris-jackson

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.

Displaying

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

logo-questionnaire1

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

What is the Status of the CCSA Lawsuit?

transparency image

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!