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

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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. 

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 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.

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 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.


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