What I Learned from Taking Action on Attendance

Cliff_and_Jackie.jpg

Pictured above: Clifford Hong, Principal at Roosevelt Middle School, Jacqueline Calderon Perl, Principal at East Oakland PRIDE, and Jamie Lopez, Community School Manager at Garfield Elementary School

This past Saturday was the Taking Action on Attendance conference, held at Acts Full Gospel Church, and focused on learning from the OUSD schools who have the most effective and promising practices around attendance.  I was really impressed by the amazing work that some of our schools are doing, and also liked learning from the experiences that our families and students have with our schools.

Volunteers.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was ably assisted at the conference by an amazing team of volunteers, Chris Rodriguez, Robert Green, Crystal and Lirio Zepeda, Nirvana Felix and Katelyn Karnes.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was hearing about the experiences of parents John Moore and Faozia Al-Debashi, from Life Academy and CUES.  John shared that many students at Life Academy were struggling with transportation as a barrier to getting to school on time, and that he has started to pick up other students on his way to drop his children.  He believes that the strong involvement of parents at Life is what has made that possible; the feeling of shared responsibility for all students at Life. 

Faozia's story was very inspiring for me.  She got involved at CUES out of her concerns about the experience her children were having.  Her children were experiencing bullying, and feeling isolated and excluded at school.  Their Yemeni culture requires particular dress for female children, and there are cultural practices that other students at CUES did not understand.  It was hard for Faozia to get involved at the school because all school meetings were conducted in English (and sometimes Spanish). 

Through meeting with an organizer from Oakland Community Organizations, Katy Nunez Adler, Faozia and other Yemeni parents were able to start to press for fuller inclusion in the school community.  Now there is an Arabic interpreter that attends meetings at the school to ensure that Yemeni parents can participate, and Faozia has become involved in school governance, and even helped to select the new Principal for the school.  She never believed that she would become a leader in the school community, and it was inspiring to see how she has grown as a leader through learning to advocate for her children.

The student member of the panel was Gwen Santos from Oakland High, who spoke about the importance of relationships with teachers and school staff in student engagement and desire to go to school.  She has had both very positive and very negative experience with teachers, and she discussed the impact of both in her desire to attend school.

Hedy Chang, pictured below, gave a great presentation on Oakland's Attendance Journey, that provided an overview of what OUSD has tried to do to improve attendance.  My main takeaway from her presentation was that we have lots of bright spots and promising practices in OUSD, but they aren't distributed uniformly.  This is partly due to our budgeting process that gives schools a great deal of discretion about how they spend their staffing dollars, which means that some schools invest in staffing to support attendance work with families and some schools do not.

Over the years since OUSD started to make attendance a focus, there has been improvement, but we have plateaued recently.

Hedy_Chang.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the day for me was learning from staff at Garfield Elementary School about their practices to strengthen attendance.  What they really emphasize at Garfield is the importance of positive relationships between students and families, and the need for frequent communication between families and the school.  Garfield families meet with teachers five times per year, which is not the norm in OUSD schools.  The trusting relationships that are built between the school and families makes it much easier to have sometimes difficult conversations about student attendance.  I was struck by the amount of time that teachers spend on this, and that teachers must feel strongly about the importance of relationships with families to be willing to put in that kind of time.

Also, Garfield makes strong efforts to recognize all students who show improvement, not just those with perfect attendance, and they put a tremendous amount of time into publicly celebrating student accomplishments around attendance as well as academics.  Their model requires a great deal of staffing in order to reach out to families about their challenges around attendance, and they have a strong school partner in the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which has written successful grants that have allowed Garfield to hire supplemental staff who can support the school around family engagement. 

Garfield's diverse community (and strong commitment to family engagement) means that they have family engagement bodies that meet in Vietnamese, Cantonese, Spanish and English, in addition to an African American Advisory Council.  Most of these committees are staffed by EBAYC staff.  The strong relationships between families and the school are largely a consequence of the numerous opportunities for them to engage, as a result of these bodies.

My main takeaway from the day is that strong work around attendance requires a lot of people, a school community that values and works hard to build strong, inclusive relationships with students and families, and time that allows teachers to reach out to families, while still doing their main work, and a willingness to devote precious minutes during the school day to celebrating students for their attendance.

What I would like to see change in OUSD is to ensure that all schools have adequate staffing for family engagement around attendance, by including such staffing in the base staffing allocation for each school, and to change the incentives for schools to take attendance more seriously.  Every school needs sufficient staffing to build relationships with families that allow us to work with them more closely on attendance issues.

Also, we should ensure that schools that make progress on attendance receive increased funding as a result of their improvement, so that there is a stronger feedback loop between their efforts and the rewards for improvement.  I believe that we should begin to pass along any additional revenues that result from improved attendance directly to the relevant school.

And finally, making progress on attendance requires a sustained focus on the part of the school staff, which in turn requires  stability in school personnel.  This has contributed to Garfield's success, but is still an issue in many of our flatland schools. Seriously addressing attendance is going to require addressing our turnover problem as a district. 

Add your reaction Share

Parents and Teachers Learn about Organizing at Inaugural Training

Amalia___Ann.jpg

This past Saturday was the inaugural training for the coalition group the Schools Oakland Students Deserve (SOSD).  The coalition will be working to build community consensus around the need for community schools (schools that address all of students' needs) and democratic control, and popular education will be part of the strategy for the group. 

Parents were well-represented at this first training.  Pictured above are Amalia Castanon-Hill, a parent at Westlake Middle School (at left), and Ann Swinburn, a parent at Melrose Leadership Academy (at right). 

The part of the day that was most interesting for me was about the history of the district, and what happened when OUSD was put into receivership by the state.  That part was taught by Dan Siegel, who served on the OUSD School Board for eight years.  He was brilliant.  It was recorded and I will post it on the Resources page as soon as I get the link. 

Dan's basic message was that parent organizing was critical to the improvement of OUSD schools, and was the reason there was so much rapid improvement in the early 2000s, and so many schools redesigned.  He also believes that we need that level of parent activism again if we want the priorities for OUSD to be the right ones.

Akiba_Bradford.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I met Akiba Bradford, above, through my campaign.  She raised important points at the training about the relationship between education and the criminal justice system, and pushed for the need for programs to disrupt the school to prison pipeline to be included in the platform for SOSD.

At the next training, it is my hope that youth will be better represented.  The coalition will be offering training regularly on a number of topics.

Sharon_Allene_Floyd.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Some of my favorite Oaklanders taking a lunch break.  Left to right: Sharon Rose, Allene Warren and Floyd Huen from Block by Block Organizing Network.

Add your reaction Share

What I've Learned from my First Six Months

We passed the budget and LCAP last night, and dealt with many other important matters, and now I have about six weeks until the board meetings resume in August.  I thought I would take the opportunity to share with constituents a little of what I have learned so far, and what I feel I have accomplished in these first six months.

First and foremost, I wanted to be a visible, accessible and strong School Board member who was creating space for some of the neglected and critical conversations that are long overdue in Oakland.  For example, OUSD does not provide training to the general public on understanding how our budget works and how citizens can influence it.  So I held a training, with staff from OCO, PLAN and EBAYC, who know the OUSD budget inside and out.  It was well-attended and family engagement was a priority identified by the group, specifically home visiting, to get families more involved in their students' education.  I am pleased to report that the budget just passed will provide some resources for a home visiting pilot.  It's not enough, but it's a start.

I also held sessions for the community about how public education advocates should talk about education with the general public, what is needed to reduce teacher turnover in Oakland, what the challenges are for special needs families and teachers, and about the strategies different schools employ to foster family engagement.  And I have held numerous meetings of my Education Advisory Committee meeting, to hear from constituents about their concerns.

Another goal of mine is broader inclusion in OUSD decision-making.  When there is controversy about what OUSD does, it often stems from the feeling that the public has not been sufficiently included in decision-making.  I feel strongly that inclusion in decision-making is not just the right thing to do, because we are using public funds.  I also believe that we get better decisions and better policy when we consult more people. 

My commitment to making myself available to constituents is part of how I am addressing this goal, but over time I want to see OUSD more oriented toward seeking out and embracing community voices in decision-making.  The district is investing much more in community engagement staff for next year, but engagement does not always translate into meaningful inclusion in decisions.  It is very evident when engagement is being done to build support for decisions that have already been made.  Part of my job is to ensure that those investments in engagement actually translate into genuine community participation in OUSD decision-making.

I continue to feel that we are underinvesting in the engagement of families, both in terms of the staff that OUSD employs whose job this is, but also when we look at the facts that the majority of OUSD schools do not have a dedicated space for families in the school or sufficient staffing to reach out to families whose students are missing school.  Also, many schools do not have a high-functioning SSC that is well trained, supported and empowered to help make good decisions on behalf of their students.  I feel that we are underinvesting in the training of these parents to support their students' education.  OUSD has made a modest increase in this area for the coming year, but we are not anywhere close to where we need to be.

Another goal is to increase resources for Oakland students.  This is a longer-term goal that has to be addressed at both the local and statewide levels.  There is an exciting statewide campaign called Make it Fair to reform Prop 13 so that California corporations pay their fair share for public services such as education.  I am holding a community meeting on July 7 with organizers from ACCE and Courage Campaign to highlight this work and the need to fix Prop 13 so that schools and other public services get the resources they need.  Please attend!  Details here.

Locally, we will likely be going to voters in 2016 for a bond measure or parcel tax.  We have great facilities needs in OUSD.  Just here in District 6, Skyline High School needs a lot of work to make the campus safer, the old Adult School (Shands) is in need of repairs, we are a doing grade expansion at Greenleaf, and Frick Middle School will be making some upgrades to support the new programs they will be doing there.  The new administration building is also a big-ticket item. 

We also have instructional needs to support, and two areaa that we really need to focus on are vocational training and preparing students for the trades, and making summer school available to all students, not just those who are short of credits to graduate.  The scope of need makes it easy to get overwhelmed.

But I see our long-term fix as internal capacity-building, and this is where I have experienced the most frustration this year.  We will never have enough resources to do all that our students deserve using outsiders/contractors.  However, we can develop our own people's skills and capacities to support students - our staff, families, teachers and administrators - and those skills never go away, unlike when we bring in contracted people.

So that is one area where I will continue to focus in the coming school year, on addressing the reliance on contracting out and increasing our reliance on building internal capacity for the people in our school communities and on our staff. 

Staff are sometimes more expensive than contractors, but they are also more invested in the long-term success of the organization, and they can develop others in the organization if the culture supports it.

Finally, I believe that we need a stronger School Board.  I do not believe that the board ever really recovered from the period of state receivership, and I think that passivity can be dangerous.  We were elected so that there would be checks and balances, and it is not only appropriate to ask questions and pose alternative courses of action, it is absolutely necessary.  I have pushed for additional training, better onboarding, and will be working on a governance manual that I am hoping will get future board members up to speed quickly.  But I am also hoping we will have some new blood in the next few years, people who see the oversight role as a critical part of the job.

So there you have it; my report back after my first six months.

As always, please let me know if you have questions.

Add your reaction Share

What I Learned from Passing the Torch II

Experts.jpg 

Today was Passing the Torch II, the second installment in what will be a yearlong series of conversations between design team members from the Intensive Support Schools and the many folks in Oakland who have been part of redesigning schools. 

All of the intensive support schools were represented at today's event, with the exception of Castlemont, and though the group was a little smaller than last time, I thought the intimacy was actually helpful and created more openness than at our last gathering.

Our presenters/storytellers were Robin Glover (far left, above), the Founding Principal of Mandela High School, which was one of the small schools on the Fremont campus, Chaz Garcia (far right, above), a founding teacher at Esperanza (where she still teaches) and Liz Sullivan, a former OCO organizer who was involved in the founding of many of Oakland's small schools.

Other experts who were represented were our Moderator, Steve Jubb, who, through his work for BAYCES, supported the founding of many of Oakland's small schools, Susan Audap, Jean Wing and David Montes de Oca, who worked in New School Development in OUSD for many years, Carmelita Reyes, the founding Principal of Oakland International High School, and Emma Paulino, an OCO organizer.

Tiffany_and_Tammie.jpg

Tiffany Gibson and Tammie Adams, picture above, are part of the Brookfield Elementary design team.

What I took away from the first session of Passing the Torch was that what happens post-implementation of a school design is just as important as what happens during the design and planning; that intentional succession planning, deep inclusion of families and the community, and continual revisiting of the vision are critical. 

Today there was a lot of discussion about trust and how critical that is in the design and implementation of schools.  There was discussion about how much authority design team members actually have, about whether the vision of the design teams will be respected by district leaders, and about whether adequate resources will be available as time goes on for teams to bring their visions to fruition.

There was also discussion of the way that the small schools movement came about, and how there was more dialogue from top to bottom at that time, because the need to transform schools was driven by grassroots parent and community activism.  The broader inclusion of everyone in the debate and discussion contributed to more trust in the process. 

Roxy_and_Robin.jpg

Roxy Isaguirre, left, is a former student of Robin Glover's, right

There was a lot of discussion about the importance of consistent leadership, and what a challenge that has been at some of the redesigned schools that have not succeeded, as well as the need to figure out how to address the retention of principals and teachers in Oakland.

I also heard a theme throughout the presentations about the need for humility, the need to be honest with others (especially those under you) that you don't know everything and to be open to the ideas of others, because leaders do not always know best.

Chaz_and_Steve.jpg

Chaz Garcia with Steve Jubb

 

I was really struck by the way that the need for trust came up again and again, and it's something I want to think about more.  It is an essential ingredient in the work of school redesign (actually, pretty much everything good that happens in schools), but also feels elusive and hard to achieve. 

David Montes de Oca shared at the event that there are restorative circles being planned for all of the intensive support schools as a way to rebuild trust and address hurt feelings.  I think that is going to be a very positive step.

I continue to be proud to be associated with these events because I think participants are getting a lot out of them, and I look forward to the next one.

 

Add your reaction Share

Photos from Frick Impact Academy Launch

Me_with_Lopez_Family.jpg

Last night was the launch for Frick Impact Academy, and I wanted to share some of the photos I took. Above is a photo of me with the Lopez family.  Juan and Blanca - and their two kids - have been involved from the very beginning in the redesign process, and the school is so lucky to have the family as part of the community.  The dedication and commitment of the parents to the school has been very impressive to me.

Me_Johnell_Christina.jpg

Christina Anderson, top left, is a Special Education teacher at Frick, and is one of the co-leaders of the school's design team.  Her passion and energy for the school have been an inspiration to me.  Johnell Antonio, is a parent at the school.  And while her son will be moving on to Skyline next year, she is committed to staying on and seeing through the redesign of the school.

Me_Jeffrey_Lei.jpg

This is me with Jeffrey Taylor, Frick's Principal, and Lei Fili, another dedicated Frick parent.  Lei was one of the first Frick parents I met, and has been a Frick parent for over a decade, because many of her children have gone to Frick. 

Me_and_Doshia.jpg

This is me with Doshia Battiest, who lives in the neighborhood.  Her son is not old enough to attend Frick yet, but she has attended the community meetings because she wants to make sure there is a great school in the neighborhood for him to attend when he is ready to enter middle school.

I am very excited about what is taking shape at Frick, because they are focused not just on Frick's academics, which is clearly important, but also on how to get students more engaged in school.  Frick will be a sports, sports medicine and STEM school (science, technology, engineering and math).  They have the facilities to support a strong athletic program, and research shows that students who are physically active and involved in sports do better in school.  Students will also be more likely to come to school if there are activities they are excited about, like sports.

They are also looking at how to make the school feel more welcoming to all families, by working on the culture and climate.

The commitment of the design team families and teachers is inspiring to me, and I'm excited to see what comes out of their work.  The design team is doorknocking families this weekend to tell them about the new school and get them interested in attending.  Volunteers are meeting Saturday 5/2 at 10 am in the library, if you would like to join them.

Add your reaction Share

Dewey Students Voice Concerns About 2nd Avenue Project

Me_with_Dewey_Students.jpg 

Today I had to the chance to meet with recent Dewey graduates Jachai O'Guinn and Grecia Palma about their experiences at Dewey Academy and what they see as the priorities for OUSD's goal to rebuild the former administration building at 1025 2nd Avenue. 

Both students talked about how Dewey has been a sanctuary for them after the traumatic experiences they had at larger high schools where they felt anonymous and unseen.  They shared how Dewey is smaller and the staff know and care about each student and their specific needs. 

Both students arrived at Dewey missing necessary credits to graduate, and not having attended school regularly before, but shared how Dewey staff helped them to recover their credits quickly through intensive tutoring and after-school study, and got them more engaged.  Jachai became involved in All City Council and is now Vice President of the citywide Student Council for OUSD.

They shared with me their priorities for the 2nd Avenue project, and I wanted to share them here, because I thought they made a compelling case for the safe haven that Dewey provides for so students who face a great deal of instability in their lives. 

1. They do not want any project that will force Dewey students to relocate.  Many students come to Dewey because they do not feel safe at their previous school, due to gang violence or other kinds of violence or exploitation, and have had historical difficulties attending school regularly.  If Dewey students are relocated, many students are likely to stop attending school.

They also feel strongly that they need to be within walking distance of Laney College and the school's onsite health clinic.  The school works closely with Laney's culinary academy and also helps students to start college while still in high school, so that they have a headstart on their college education. 

2. The students feel strongly that the open space and the easy access to nature they have on the campus is part of what lends the school its peaceful and calming atmosphere, and that any design of Dewey needs to maintain these features, so that the school continues to provide the same kind of nurturing space for students.

3. Safety for students was another issue that came up a lot.  They are concerned about having a parking structure as part of the school, because of the difficulty of keeping students safe in spaces that tend to be dark and hard to monitor.  They are also concerned about the distraction and potential danger to students of having classrooms and other student areas facing the street.  They believe that Dewey works partly because students are sheltered from the outside world when they are on campus, which keeps them safe from the dangers and distractions they encountered at previous schools, such as fear of violence while at school.

The concern for student safety is also why they don't want want housing to be built on the site.  They are afraid of what additional traffic and people who are not part of the school community could mean for Dewey students' safety and ability to be free from distractions when at school.  

4. Finally, students said that if the project goes forward, students should see some benefits to their school and programs, such as a soccer field and a real kitchen (right now they just have a warming kitchen), which would add to their offerings to students in the culinary arts pathway.

Dewey_Students_1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jachai O'Guinn, left, is Vice President of All City Council, after being in danger of not graduating just one year ago.  Grecia Palma, right, graduated last year from Dewey and now works at the school.

 

My conversation with Jachai and Grecia was striking to me for two reasons.  The first was that they have felt disrespect from OUSD as a result of the way that this project has been approached, and they have felt that their education was of secondary importance to district officials where the 2nd Avenue project is concerned. 

Secondly, it was clear that they have been engaged and thoughtful in the process, and in thinking about how to meet the needs of both their fellow students and the district's staff.  They suggested that OUSD run a shuttle between Lake Merritt BART and 1025 2nd Avenue, rather than building a parking structure, or if a parking structure is absolutely necessary, it should be built on E 10th Street, as far from Dewey as possible, to keep students safer and free of distractions. 

Being new to the School Board, Dewey is the first continuation school I have visited, and I was struck by how quiet and peaceful the campus is.  I can see why the students and staff are alarmed by the prospect of a large construction project bringing noise, traffic, cars and people into their sanctuary.  I am only one person on a board of seven, but I will be supporting only projects that will be minimally disruptive to the students at Dewey and can be completed as fast as possible, because I want to see Dewey continue to be a place of calm and nurture for many generations of Oakland students to come.

 

Add your reaction Share

Special Education Teachers and Families Come Together to Discuss Shared Challenges

Cintya_and_Bethany.jpg

Bethany Meyer, left, is a Resource teacher at Piedmont Elementary, and Cintya Molina, right, is a parent of a special needs child at Grass Valley Elementary (and works at United for Success).

 

This week I held a community forum called Building a Shared Agenda for Special Education Families and Teachers, with the goal of bringing families and teachers together to discuss the common challenges they face in their work to support the success of OUSD students.  It was a great opportunity for parents to hear the challenges that OUSD SPED teachers face, and for teachers to hear about the challenges that SPED families face.  I wanted to share some of what I heard with constituents, because it was very powerful. 

And if you weren't able to attend, don't worry, because I think we will do more sessions in the future.

Building_a_Shared_Agenda2.jpg

Cintya Molina, left, was one of our speakers.  She has been a very active parent in OUSD's Community Advisory Committee.

Cintya Molina shared her experience as a SPED parent, and discussed the difficulty of having brand new and inexperienced teachers for her son's first two years of school, and how that led him to fall behind.  She discussed how her son is often isolated from other students at the schools he attends, because the integration of SPED programs with everything else at the school is very shallow.  Sometimes this leads to a successful program falling apart when an exemplary teacher leaves, because their practices do not become institutionalized at the school.

She also discussed how critical the mix of students is in Special Education classes, and shared that her son basically 'missed' his third year of school because three violent children were placed in the class midyear, and their needs were so great that other students didn't get sufficient attention.

Cintya feels strongly that all Oakland schools need to offer services for Special Education students, and to offer the breadth of support from mild to severe disabilities.  She believes that this is the only way to offer real inclusion, and that the way we do special education currently means that students get less both inside and outside the classroom, because many of the schools that are doing the best work with students (trips, enrichment etc) in Oakland do not offer special education services.

She also discussed that school redesign work in Oakland has typically excluded engagement with the special education community, and so the needs of those families are not usually considered when schools are being redesigned.  My ears perked up when I heard that because I am closely observing the redesign work happening now at Oakland's Intensive Support Schools.  I want to make sure that we do not replicate the mistakes of the past.

Building_a_Shared_Agenda1.jpg

Bethany Meyer shared her experiences as a new teacher in SPED.  As a first-year resource teacher, Bethany was not provided teaching materials or coaching or professional development that was specific to her work.  She improvised her curriculum and materials, partly from materials that were laying around the two schools she was assigned to. 

Being assigned to two schools meant having to develop two seats of materials, one for each school.  None of the teachers in the room on Tuesday, including Bethany, knew how to access the $200/year that is available to them to purchase materials for their classes, so she purchased all of her materials out of her own resources.

What was hardest Bethany's first year was the lack of time available for planning instruction.  She spent 500 hours just on IEPs her first year, and was often pressed to find the time to get students the instruction they need.  It has been an ongoing struggle to find the time necessary to collaborate with general education teachers, even though it is critical for general education teachers to learn about strategies to support students when they are not with the resource teacher (which is most of the time).

Most of the training that SPED teachers get is focused on legal compliance, which is obviously important, but so is learning how to support general education teachers who have the students most of the time.  Bethany also talked about how SPED teachers and students are often invisible in the school community, and they are often excluded from PTA funding, for example.  She believes this is partly because SPED students are often brought to school via busing rather than by their parents.  This means that they do not get to know the other parents, which in turn means that they are often not involved in PTA or the SSCs, and that they get left out of important discussions about funding priorities, etc.

Wearing her parent hat, Bethany also shared that no one really trains SPED parents on their rights, or what they can do to better support and advocate for their students.  Parents need support and need to know that IEPs are drafts and can and should be changed as student needs and capabilities change.

There were many other parents and teachers in the room who shared their concerns.  There was a lot of alarm about the restructuring happening in PEC (Programs for Exceptional Children), especially about the consolidation of programs that have been successful and the changing roles of SPED paraprofessionals.  Several teachers remarked that we need more differentiation between programs and staff, not less, but there is restructuring underway that many teachers believe will not improve PEC's offerings, and that will also increase the high rate of teacher turnover among SPED teachers and paraprofessionals.

Teachers and families also voiced concern about the growing size of special day classes, and the lack of teacher orientation that is specific to the needs of SPED teachers.  They also pointed out that SPED teachers are highly sought after, and that other districts offer bonus pay to SPED teachers, and that this contributes to the high rate of churn among PEC teachers.  They argued for a stop to the restructuring until all existing PEC vacancies are filled.


What I heard most clearly at the meeting was that SPED families and teachers both experience isolation and a lack of support, and I will be thinking about how to reduce this going forward, and how to have deeper integration of SPED families into school communities. 

I also heard that our teachers and staff, despite the many positive changes in PEC, still aren't feeling the kind of support that I would like them to experience, and that we still have a ways to go.  I think that having an orientation specific to new PEC teachers is critical and will be recommending that as a first step to the staff in PEC.

3 reactions Share

Passing the Torch Event Connects OUSD Design Teams and Experts in School Redesign

Minh_Tram_and_Steve.jpg

Minh Tram Nguyen talking with Steve Jubb, who facilitated the gathering

Today dozens of Oakland parents, students, teachers and staff from four of Oakland's Intensive Support Schools gathered to learn from experts who have successfully redesigned Oakland schools.  Teams from Fremont High School, Castlemont High School, Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary came together to hear the stories of Emma Paulino, Minh Tram Nguyen and Nicole Knight, who discussed their lessons learned about redesigning schools in Oakland.

The goal of the event was for team members to learn from (and connect with) these experts, to get coaching on specific challenges they are facing as they begin to draft their proposals, to share with OUSD's administration what it takes to support new school development, and to capture the lessons learned for posterity and for sharing with the wider education community in Oakland. 

Family___Community_Involvement.jpg

 Liz Sullivan, Alison McDonald and Christina Anderson discussing Family & Community Involvement

After the stories were shared, the teams had the opportunity to break into groups based on the relevant sections of the proposals they will be writing, such as culture and climate, leadership, teaching and educational program.  We also had a group on community and family involvement because many speakers noted how critical that has been for the success of many Oakland schools.  The involvement of parents and community members can help a school stay true to its vision as leadership changes and other events lead to shifting district priorities, and also helps to hold the district accountable for adequately resourcing and supporting the work of the school community.

I attended the break-out group on teaching.  Nicole Knight talked a lot about the importance of distributed leadership in building a strong school.  This can help a school to better weather changes in leadership, and also prevents burnout among Principals.  Teachers also feel more bought into the vision of the school when they are the keepers of the school's culture and vision.  Aaron Townsend and Nicole also talked about the Continuum of Professional Development which he developed while Principal of Coliseum College Prep Academy. 

This plan helps to focus the professional development offered to teachers, and makes clear to teachers the key areas that they are expected to develop in.  It is also helpful in hiring teachers, because having clear core competencies helps the school community to identify candidates who are fluent in the specific set of practices that teachers at that school are expected to be familiar with.

Passing_the_Torch.jpg

 Kevin Taylor and Ron Smith huddled as the meeting kicked off.  It was brutally hot, but everyone stuck it out.

Participants got a lot out of the event, despite the heat.  There are still many experts that we think it would be good for design teams to hear from, so we expect to do a second gathering next month. 

In terms of next steps, the district will soon be announcing dates for a series of proposal workshops that design team members can attend to get feedback on their proposal ideas.  Watch the Intensive Support Schools website for more information.

We will also be holding another Passing the Torch event, likely on April 18.  Stay tuned for more details.  That event will allow us to hear from some of the experts that weren't able to attend today's event, and hopefully all five design teams will be able to attend on that day.

Additionally, we recorded most of the day and those videos will soon be posted on OUSD's website.  We will also be creating a document about the lessons learned that will be broadly shared in the community.  We aren't sure about the timeline for that document yet, but stay tuned.  It will be posted here once it's available.

Add your reaction Share

Thank you, Oakland!

 Victory_Party.jpg

Me with my dad and his partner Rosemary, who made hundreds of reminder phone calls to voters in the days before the election.

 

Thank you, Oakland voters, for the vote of confidence!  I was elected by a large margin last week, and am honored by your faith in me.

I am determined to be an informed, responsible board member, and am working as I write to put together a cabinet of people who will help me to learn as much as I can in the coming months, so that I can make responsible decisions and provide sound leadership on the board.  There is a lot to learn.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some photos with you from my victory party, which was generously hosted by Rafael Zamora at Digital Design Communications, with food and drinks donated by Otaez and Pepsi.

I was blessed with a great staff and supporters, many of who are pictured here.

More to come as I embark on this journey!

 

Victory_Party_2.jpg

Me with Nell and Elizabeth, two members of my awesome staff!

 

Victory_Party_3.jpgMe with Janan and Vicente, two of the finest teachers and strongest supporters in Oakland.

Add your reaction Share

Strong Support from Education Supporters

 Me_and_Meredith_B.jpg

I have been honored in recent weeks by the growing support among education leaders in Oakland and Alameda County.  Recent endorsements have come in from many of the Peralta Community College Board trustees, including Meredith Brown, pictured above. 

Additional education supporters include:

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Delaine Eastin, Former California Superintendent of Public Instruction

Roseann Torres, Oakland School Board, District 5

Dan Siegel, Former Oakland District 6 School Board Member

Bill Withrow, Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area 1, Former Mayor of Alameda

Meredith Brown, Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area 2

Cy Gulassa, Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area 6

Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area 4

Peggy Herndon, Former Trustee, Fremont Unified School District

Lisa Brunner, School Board Trustee, Hayward Unified School District

Jeff Bowser, School Board Director, Pleasanton Unified School School

Vince J. Rosato, School Board Trustee, San Leandro Unified School District

Corina Lopez, School Board Trustee, San Leandro Unified School District

Diana Prola, School Board Trustee, San Leandro Unified School District

Sarabjit Cheema, School Board Member, New Haven Unified School District

Linda Fernandes, Former School Board Member, New Haven Unified School District

Naomi Eason, EdD, California Executive Director, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

Dr. Rich Sherratt, Trustee, CSU East Bay Education Foundation

Linda Olvera, Member, Latino Education Network

Cynthia Adams, Second Vice President, NAACP Oakland Chapter

Sharon Rose, Education Chair, Block by Block Organizing Network

 

I am looking forward to working with all of these people - and others to come - soon, as a member of the Oakland School Board!  Together, we are going to do great things for Oakland schools.

Add your reaction Share