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


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. 


 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.


 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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Thank you, Oakland!


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!



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.

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Strong Support from Education Supporters


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.

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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.


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.


Me with Assemblymember Rob Bonta.


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


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!


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 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!


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


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 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. 















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!


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


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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