Photos from Munck Oratorical Competition


Regina Bryels was my fellow judge.  She runs the food distribution program at Brookins AME Church.

Today I had the pleasure of judging the Oratorical Competition at Carl Munck Elementary School.  The event qualifies students to advance to the citywide Martin Luther King Jr Oratorical Competition, which is a 37-year tradition in OUSD. 

Historically, District 6 schools have done very well in the competition, and Burckhalter students took home the prize last year.

It was fun to see how much talent our students have, and also passion about their heritage.


A kindergarten class at Munck.

Some of the things I do as a School Board member are not so fun, so this was a special treat, even if judging super young kids who can't sit still and follow directions well is really hard to do!


Denise Burroughs (left) is the Principal at Munck Elementary.  She is one of the longest-serving principals in District 6.
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Parents Organize Against Common Enrollment Issue


Parents talk during a house party in Oakland's Melrose District.


This Tuesday evening the 12th of January is the fourth of what is turning out to be numerous parent-led house parties organized by OUSD Parents United, where other parents can learn about the idea of a common enrollment system in Oakland.  Common enrollment systems do not exist anywhere in California, but Superintendent Wilson has proposed that OUSD adopt the first one in the state. 

The proposed common enrollment system would be administered by OUSD staff, but would include charter school students along with OUSD students.  OUSD Parents United believes that we need enrollment reform, but not common enrollment.

In other places where common enrollment systems have been adopted, like Newark NJ, it has led to the closure of many public schools, displacing families and staff.  Though the Superintendent's staff and some of my fellow board members have acknowledged that this could be a consequence of adopting a common enrollment system, there has been no information provided to the board or the public regarding projections about how such a system could affect our schools and families, nor any plan for addressing the possible consequences of adopting a common enrollment system.

Parents object to OUSD's scarce funds being used to administer a system that will assign students to competing schools, thereby undermining the stability of our own schools, and they point out that there is no articulated plan to ensure that the families that most need better schools for their students are the ones who will be targeted for outreach under a new system.














This house party took place in Maxwell Park in my district.

One of the compelling arguments for a common enrollment system from my perspective is the idea that we could use such a system to prevent the illegal and unfair exclusion of special education students, English Language learner students, and students who are more challenging to serve as a result of discipline issues.  These students are often discriminated against in admissions procedures and are often also targeted for school push-out (for an especially notorious case, check out this New York Times artlcle on Success Academy in New York's "Got to Go" list).

I believe strongly that all schools in Oakland need to play by the same rules (and that's the law), but there is no agreement in place between OUSD and charter schools that would actually address these exclusionary practices.  The Superintendent has expressed interest in a district/charter "compact" that would do this, but it does not exist yet.

I am very pleased to see parents organizing around this issue, because parents have historically been an extremely positive force for improving Oakland schools, and because I believe that parent involvement is ultimately going to help us get a more fair enrollment system.

You can see the list of upcoming house parties on the calendar page on my web site, and please RSVP if you would like to attend one of them.














 Parents from Sequoia and Melrose Leadership Academy talking about common enrollment.
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Latino Read-In Was So. Much. Fun.


Rebecca Edwards is the Librarian at CUES, and we also serve together as Friends of the Martin Luther King Jr Branch of the Oakland Public Library.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Latino Read-In, an annual event (there are also African-American and Asian Read-ins, and I'm already scheduled for the African American one in February) focused on having guest readers visit OUSD classrooms to read to kids, usually a book that is culturally or historically relevant.

I read to a 5th grade class at Community United Elementary School (5th grade is my favorite age) a book called Separate is Never Equal, about an important civil rights case for the Latino community, concerning discriminatory student assignment practices in Southern California.  It's by Duncan Tonatiuh.  



As you can see, the kids were totally engaged and had lots of questions - deep questions!  About racism, history, whether I liked serving on the School Board, and more.  It was so much fun, and I'm looking forward to reading again in February.

When the student asked if I like my job on the School Board, I said that if I got to read aloud to students every day, it would be a lot more fun.  


If you have not participated in one the read-ins, I encourage you to volunteer.  The next one will be the first week of February, and you can sign up with the Oakland Public Education Fund.

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What Oakland's Newcomers Need


Last week was the Addressing the Needs of our Growing Newcomer Population forum at Urban Promise Academy.  Our goals were for funders and district leaders to hear about what is working for our newcomer students, and what gaps still exist.  Newcomers are students who have been in the US for less than one year.

I learned a lot from listening to our students and teachers, and I have shared some of my learnings below.  The main takeaway for me was that, despite increased staffing for newcomers as a result of this year's budget, we are still severely understaffed where newcomer programs are concerned. The new position created, Newcomer Coordinator, is helping to coordinate services and provide overall guidance to our schools with newcomers, but there are several pressing needs that are still not being met.  














Listening to Fremont High School teacher Michelle de Jesus Guzman.  Fremont High School has one of the largest newcomer programs in OUSD.

1. We need more staff who speak the languages of the families represented in the school.  Many schools have two dozen or more home languages represented in the school, and the ability to communicate with families and students in their language is critical to the success of our students.  It also helps to build trust with populations that often do not trust authority figures, and can help us to better understand the obstacles families experience, which helps to better support students.

2. We need lower student to teacher ratios for newcomers in order to ensure that we can deal with additional needs that newcomers students often have, especially those that have experienced trauma in their countries of origin.

3. There are particular challenges in developing teachers who are trained to work with newcomers, who can speak the students' language AND are trained as Special Education teachers.  This is an area that we need to do better in. 

4. Our elementary schools have not been the focus for our newcomer programs, and as a result, many of the elementary school teachers who attended the forum reported feeling that they have not received any specific training or support as teachers of newcomer students.  We have to provide better support to elementary school teachers with newcomer students.

5. We need to work with the Student Assignment Office to be more intentional about how and where in Oakland newcomer students are placed.

6. We need to improve our projections for staffing for newcomers.  The projections were way off for some schools, which means that we did not have sufficient people in place to prepare for and support our students.

7. We need more wraparound supports for newcomers, including bus passes to make it easier for students to get to school, housing assistance for unaccompanied minor students who are kicked out of relatives' homes, and greater access to mental health services.  Also, students need to be assessed much sooner after they arrive in the school community.  Sometimes it takes several months for students to be assessed, which leads to delays in students getting their needs met.

8. Teachers need more support and training in order to work with newcomers, especially in the areas of curriculum development and language training.  One teacher suggested that we incentivize teachers to learn the home languages of our students, by offering tuition reimbursement or paid time for teachers to take language classes.  Another teacher said that there is a great need to adapt standard curriculum to meet the needs of newcomers, which is very time-consuming, especially with the large number of newcomer students with histories of interrupted formal education. 

9. I learned that not all students are eligible to be tested in their home languages, especially after a student's first year in the US.  That was disturbing for me, because schools are often evaluated on the basis of standardized test scores.  We have numerous schools in Oakland that have large numbers of newcomer students who are still learning English, however the students are being tested in English.  Those results tell only a small part of the story about how schools are serving students, and are often inaccurate representations of how students are doing.

10. The last thing that I heard loud and clear is that there are not yet common standards and practices between newcomer programs in Oakland, and there is a need for more consistency among programs, and for each site to have a Newcomer Coordinator.

This is clearly a long list of needs, and we probably cannot address them all in the coming year.  This year we managed to get classrooms opened for newcomers based on our projections of the students that would be coming, which was a big win.  We also started a partnership with Mills College to provide professional development to newcomer teachers, and are working with the Teaching Channel to share strong newcomer teaching practices more widely.

I hope that we can get some of the items I listed above resourced in the coming year.

One opportunity I am particularly excited about is hiring more interpreters, because I believe that can help us make progress on many fronts.  It will help us reach out to more families about attendance and school discipline issues in their language, we can better support student achievement when teachers can communicate more easily with families, and it will also strengthen school governance teams, and make it possible for a wider variety of the school community to participate.

It is clear that adequate staffing is critical to the success of newcomer students, and we need to allocate more resources to strengthen our newcomer programs.  

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What I Learned from Taking Action on Attendance


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.










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.











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. 

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Parents and Teachers Learn about Organizing at Inaugural Training


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.














 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.














 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.

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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.

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What I Learned from Passing the Torch II


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 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 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 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.


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Photos from Frick Impact Academy Launch


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.


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.


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. 


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.

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Dewey Students Voice Concerns About 2nd Avenue Project


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.

















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.


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