OEA Kicks Off Campaign for Endorsed Candidates

Tonight was the Campaign Kickoff for the Oakland Education Association, so I got to hang out with Oakland's finest, and also the other OEA-endorsed candidates, including Dan Siegel (Candidate for Mayor), Karl Debro (endorsed for School Board in District 4) and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who has endorsed me for School Board.

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Also included in this photo are Doug Appel, who works for CTA and Janan Apaydin, who teaches at Kaiser Elementary.

It is such an honor to be endorsed by Oakland's teachers, who show such tremendous grace under pressure every day.  They are the lowest paid teachers in Alameda County, serving some of the most challenging kids.  I am really looking forward to working with them to address some of the problems facing the district.

Some additional photos are below.  I have to admit that schmoozing was not something I enjoyed at the start of the campaign, but I am enjoying it now, and I got to talk to lots of teachers who will be walking and phoning in my race, many of whom also live in my district.

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Me with Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

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Me with Stella Collins, who teaches at the Arroyo Viejo CDC, and whose family lives in my district.

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Fun Neighborhood Project with Campaign Volunteers

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This weekend I helped some of my campaign volunteers with a fun neighborhood beautification project.  We planted trees and plants at the Valero gas station at 73rd and Bancroft.

It looks much nicer now, so thank you Jose and Daniel for your leadership on this project!

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My main job was to corral and bag the monte (weeds), as we say in Spanish.  What can I say - all God's creatures have a place in the choir!

Jose and Daniel are having a house party for my campaign on August 5, and all are welcome.  Please RSVP to gonzalesforschools@gmail.com if you'd like to attend.

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Why I'm Supporting the Linked Learning Parcel Tax

The Oakland School Board recently approved a resolution that will place a parcel tax on the November ballot for the purpose of expanding opportunities for Linked Learning in Oakland middle and high schools.

Linked learning is a method of integrating classroom curriculum with real-world opportunities for students to apply their new knowledge through internships and work opportunities.  The research on linked learning demonstrates that opportunities for both in-class and out-of-class learning can increase student engagement and help make the curriculum more salient for students.  Linked learning also boosts graduation rates, college enrollment rates and can also increase earning potential.

The specific goals of the tax are to increase access to college prep classes, to provide work-based learning in every high school, to increase supports to students in danger of dropping out, such as counseling, tutoring, and mentoring, and to help students through their transition to high school and college.

What is especially exciting for me is that linked learning fills a critical gap that currently exists in helping students to navigate and transition to the world of work.  Even students who do everything right struggle to figure out how to get to where they want to be in their careers.  If you do well in high school, you can go to college, but then what?  How do you translate a degree into a career?  What are your options if you don't want to go to college?

Linked learning can help students to build relationships with professionals who will ideally become mentors and help them to navigate these tricky questions.  Through having hands-on work experience, students will also learn what, specifically, they do and do not like doing within their chosen field.  And they learn about the norms of the workplace, which are different from high school and college, and do take some experience to learn, and are essential to learn to be successful in the work world.

In my own case, my first internship was in college, and I interned with an Alameda County program.  Both of my parents are public sector workers, but I realized pretty quickly that the public sector was not the right fit for me.  I have enjoyed my career in the non-profit sector, however it was largely unpaid, rather than paid, work that helped me discover my passion for leadership development.

My first real job also afforded me the opportunity to work with two managers who have continued to be great mentors and friends, long after I stopped working for them.  These relationships have been critical to helping me navigate my career choices.

There is no handbook for young people to figure out how to build a successful career.  What I know is that it takes a variety of experiences for people to figure out what interests them, and strong relationships to establish a successful career.  Investing in linked learning is an investment in both of these important things, and will help make this difficult transition a little easier for Oakland's students.

Yes on the College and Career Readiness for All Act!

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Endorsed by Oakland Teachers!

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I have the distinction of being the choice of Oakland teachers for the Oakland School Board District 6 seat!  This is a huge vote of confidence, and as the daughter of a teacher and the granddaughter of three teachers, I'm proud of this accomplishment.

Oakland already has some great schools, and we also have some that have a long way to go to catch up.  Our teachers are critical partners in our efforts to improve education in Oakland, and I look forward to working side by side with them in the work ahead.

Above is a picture of me with Keith Brown, a supporter and teacher at Bret Harte Middle School, who is also on the Oakland Education Association Executive Board.

More dispatches from the campaign trail coming soon!

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Close Encounters of the Ecological Kind

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I had the fun experience a couple of weekends ago of meeting some parents and community members from the Melrose Leadership Academy for the painting of a new mural at the school.  They received funding from stopwaste.org for a mural to teach kids about composting.

I learned about their programs for schools, which I didn't know anything about, and I took the pledge to compost, which is the theme of the mural I helped paint.

I had never painted a mural before; it was fun, and so was meeting some of the Melrose parents and neighbors.  If you get a chance to stop by and see the mural, check out the ants - I painted them!  See below.  I also painted some of the vines in the bottom photo. 

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Below are some of the volunteers I got to work with.  Pancho Pescador, the art teacher at the school, designed the mural.  He and the Melrose students have painted most of the murals at the school.

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Endorsed by Progressive Majority!

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I'm pleased to announce that I have been endorsed by Progressive Majority.

Progressive Majority works to elect progressive champions, and seeks to recruit progressive candidates of color and bring new people into the political process.  They care about the same things I do: economic justice, civil rights, healthcare,
the environment, reproductive freedom, and most importantly, a quality public education for all.

You can see my candidate page on the Progressive Majority website by clicking here.

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Community Organizations Hold Forum on Improving Oakland High Schools

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Last night I was pleased to be invited by Oakland Community Organizations to their Community Action for High School Transformation forum with members of OUSD and the School Board.

The discussion was focused on the low graduation rates at Oakland high schools, especially for black and Latino students.  Fremont High School in particular has a 54% graduation rate -- far lower than the district average of 62%.

Patricia Segura, pictured above, shared her frustrations as a Fremont High School teacher about the high number of inexperienced teachers, due to successive rounds of budget cuts, which has led to many teachers leaving.  She also made a strong case for the need for additional counselors. 

There is just one counselor for 700 students at Fremont, which is problematic because so many students at Fremont are the first in their families to go to college, and need extra support in understanding how to prepare for college.  Many students also are attending school soon after arriving in the country, or dealing with issues of community violence.  Segura advocated for creating a full-time Parent Liaison position at Fremont in order to help families navigate these issues.

Students also raised the issues of safety, along with the lack of resources, the lack of college prep and AP classes, the poor facilities for STEM classes, such as labs, and the lack of counselors for the students. 

The district introduced the staff working on improvement of Oakland high schools: Maria Santos, David Montes and Kevin Taylor, and the School Board President David Kakishiba said that fixing the city's high schools is the number one priority of the board.  He also invited the community to attend upcoming budget study sessions on the Local Control Accountability Plan on April 21, 30 and May 21.

The forum was very well-attended, though there weren't many Fremont parents in the room, which was disheartening for School Board Member Rosie Torres, who pointed out that parents have a critical role to play in ensuring the academic success of their students.

I am glad there are organizations like OCO that bring the community together to learn about the issues facing the low-performing schools, but I am concerned about the lack of regular opportunities for families to engage with the district.  Yes, anyone can show up at the School Board meetings and give a very brief comment, but there is no interchange and no time to really explore issues together.

It seems to me that there should be regular opportunities for families to interact with the district for information and idea exchange, not just delivering information to the public (or in this case, to the board and district). 

Simply delivering information is not how consensus around common priorities and a shared agenda are developed. 

Inclusion in decision-making and sustained interaction are the building blocks of trust.

We don't currently have a culture in the Oakland schools that builds trust and leads to a shared vision or a common agenda that people agree on and are willing to work on together. 

But that is what we need in Oakland - a shared understanding of the priorities and a willingness to work on that agenda together. 

This is why I am running for School Board; I want to be part of changing our practices so that we can build trust and forge a common agenda.

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Project Work Stimulates Curiosity!

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Last night I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Lilian Katz lecture at Mills College on awakening and focusing curiosity through the use of projects for kids.  She defined projects as extended, in-depth investigations into topics that are worth learning about. 

I was really inspired by the stories of how students as young as three and four designed their own research, and were the agents of their learning rather than passive recipients of knowledge.  The role of teachers is to facilitate learning, provide resources and coach the students.

One project Dr. Katz described asked students to study "ball-ness," or what are the characteristics of balls.  So each student was asked to bring a ball from home.  What showed up was a large collection of round objects - bowling balls, marbles, globes, baseballs, rubber balls.  The teacher asked them if the globe was a ball, and they said yes, because it was round.  So she held up a paper plate and pointed out that it too was round.

Then the students broke into groups and designed their own research into what makes a ball.  Some studied the weight of balls, some studied circumference, some studied the travel velocity of various round objects on an incline.  The students asked teachers for instruction on how to measure circumference, record their measurements, etc, and for help getting the needed materials.  Each group presented on their findings to the other groups, with the teachers helping them to think about what they wanted to tell the other groups.

This type of work is exciting to me because I believe that awakening intellectual curiosity is the real puzzle in education, and is a key factor in motivating students.  Dr. Katz thinks project work is a critical strategy because:

  • Recall and retention is better with 'slow learning' like project work, and there is genuine understanding as opposed to just knowledge.
  • Project work gives kids agency, rather than placing them in passive learner roles.
  • Project work emphasizes frequent sequences of contingent interaction, a key strategy in brain development for young children. 
  • Project work helps kids to develop social competence and can disrupt negative recursive cycles that hinder the social development of some children.

Recursive cycles are processes in which children who are already socially competent become more competent through positive interactions with other kids.  So children who are articulate are more accepted and have more friends and social interactions, which leads to them becoming even more articulate, and the cycle continues.

It also works the other way too, though, with children who are inarticulate being avoided by other children, leading to them becoming less articulate over time and gradually becoming more isolated.  The research shows that kids who fail to develop social competence by about the age of six are more likely to drop out of school.

I was excited about the potential for project work to disrupt negative recursive cycles because Oakland has an issue when it comes to drop-outs. 

The lecture was part of the Arlene Shmaeff Memorial Education Lecture Series.  I will be going to more of these going forward, because I was impressed.

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What's Happening at Burckhalter

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Dorothy Jean Collins is the Administrative Assistant at Burckhalter Elementary

 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the School Site Council meeting at Burckhalter School.  There was really good parent turnout, and like most of the schools in D6, they were focused on how to allocate their discretionary funds for next year's budget. 

There were two discussions among the parents that especially interested me, one about traffic in the area and the need for a crossing guard.  It has been a struggle to get this approved because it involves doing studies of the traffic in the area.  Their first request was rejected, but now it is looking like their second request will be approved, which will keep the students at the school safer.  This is a project of the newly organized PTO group at the school.

The other large discussion was about some parents' concerns about the options for middle school in the area.  One family indicated that they would likely be leaving Oakland when their daughter ages out of Burckhalter because of their dissatisfaction with the middle school options.  I know that this is a huge issue in Oakland, the large number of families that leave the district schools after elementary school, so it was good for me to hear their concerns. 

Burckhalter has a beautiful library that is staffed by volunteers from the AAUW two days a week.  They do tutoring, maintain the library, help the kids check out books and do story time.  This is a real service the AAUW is providing to kids in District 6.

I also learned that Burckhalter students are also accomplished orators.  They won the Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Contest last year, in multiple categories.

Finally, I had the chance to meet Dorothy Jean Collins, the school's Administrative Assistant.  She shared that candidates often focus on the issues facing teachers and administrators, and don't think about the role of other school staff.  Dorothy pointed out that Burckhalter has grown in recent years, but the size of the administrative staff has not.  It was a good reminder about the ecosystem of the schools, and all the many people who make schools nurturing places for kids.  Thanks Dorothy!

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Inspiration at Melrose Leadership Academy

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This week, I had the tremendous pleasure of visiting the PTSA meeting at Melrose Leadership Academy (MLA), located in Maxwell Park.  I was inspired by what I saw.  MLA is a dual immersion (Spanish/English) school, led by Moyra Contreras. 

During my visit, I was struck deeply by the commitment of the parents to the vision of the school.  The meeting was conducted in Spanish, with translation into English for the parents who don't speak Spanish.  The meeting was largely focused on an issue that many schools in Oakland struggle with, how to engage parents on a more sustained basis in the PTSA and other activities that help the school achieve its mission. 

Moyra also shared with the group that the teachers at MLA will soon be presenting on their research on teaching for the year.  All the teachers at MLA participate in the Mills College Teacher Scholar program, a program that affords teachers the opportunity to improve their teaching practices through research into their craft that they design and carry out themselves.

Teachers select an aspect of their students’ learning they see as important in improving student learning outcomes, and meet monthly to discuss their questions with their colleagues and to examine the data that they collect to answer their questions, including classroom video data, student work, student interview data, and observational data.

The Mills Teacher Scholars staff provides facilitation and coaching to help move teachers forward in their thinking and to support them as they document the changes they make in their teaching and how these changes impact student learning. At the end of the year, the teacher scholars present their findings to their colleagues. 

In fact, one of the MLA teachers is using the program to improve her Common Core math instruction

I was very excited to learn about the participation of the MLA teachers because I know that teacher retention is a critical strategy for improving Oakland's schools, and I believe these kinds of programs are essential in recognizing the professionalism and expertise of our teacher workforce. 

These opportunities for recognition demonstrate to teachers that they are our most valuable asset in the Oakland schools, and keep teachers thinking critically about their teaching and sharing what they learn in order to help colleagues do the same.

I will keep looking for and sharing these exciting opportunities to improve teacher retention as I continue my campaign. 

I was also delighted by the way that the school's values are reflected in the visuals of the school.  As you enter the school, to the left is a gratitude tree.  Students are encouraged to reflect on their feelings of gratitude toward others in the school community and to jot them down for addition to the tree.  Then once a month a couple of the notes are drawn and the students get a small token of appreciation.  The tree itself is the Oakland tree, but as a rainbow to recognize the school's commitment to inclusion and diversity. 

I think an emphasis on gratitude and appreciation is good to cultivate in any setting, and it is also a way of recognizing the efforts of the students to build the school community.

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I also took some photos of my favorite murals at the school - there are lots of them - to share.

There are more under way.  If you haven't been to see them, you should. The art teacher Pancho helps students to paint them. 

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This is my favorite one, along with the puma, below.  All the animals pictured are native to California.

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