First and foremost, I couldn’t be more excited to be back! I wasn’t born in Oakland, but I married in and have long-standing admiration and care for our community, our students, and our educators. I’m fired up to the have the opportunity to work with you as GO’s new Executive Director in Oakland. Having previously worked in the Oakland Unified School District, I know the passion and commitment that Oakland has for our students and their futures. I offer this letter as a brief personal introduction about who I am, what I’m about, and why I’m excited to to work in their service with you.
I am the product of a multi-generational familial pursuit of the American Dream. My great grandparents, Abraham and Rumalda Ybarra, migrated to Texas from Mexico in search of a better life for their children – all 17 of them. Of those 17, none went to college and all were relegated to hard, earnest lives with the continued hope of a better life for their own children. My grandmother, Lucy, had seven children and my father, Michael, would be the only one to graduate from college. I am the oldest of four, and we have all gone to college.
I know without a doubt that my father’s college education led to the lives my siblings and I have lived. Additionally, his education and the professional success born out of it have stabilized not just our immediate family, but our extended Ybarra family as well. Because of this, I have dedicated my life to working in public education to ensure that in the future, children in families like the Ybarras will not have to persevere for multiple generations to defy the incredible odds within underserving public school systems to realize their American Dream.
“I have dedicated my life to working in public education to ensure that in the future, children in families like the Ybarras will not have to persevere for multiple generations to defy the incredible odds within underserving public school systems to realize their American Dream.”
— Ash Solar, Executive Director, GO Oakland
I’ve served in Houston, Oakland, and Memphis. Through my experiences working with students and educators in these communities, I have become focused on creating access to great neighborhood schools for our most underserved students and providing tremendous supports and resources for our greatest educators who are willing to meet these students wherever they are and serve them well in their communities.
I’ve also come to believe that we need to embrace the grey, the area where solutions live. We need to depolarize and rehumanize our dialogue about improving public education. We have to lean in to courageous collaborations and conversations to address structures that perpetuate inequalities across race, class, and home language.
My wife, Sara, and I first met while she was teaching at Markham Elementary in Oakland. At the time, I was teaching in Houston, and Sara always spoke passionately about how much she loved living and working in Oakland.
While in graduate school at Stanford, I spent a summer as an Education Pioneer fellow in OUSD and through that experience I fell in love with Oakland as well.
After grad school, I worked full time in OUSD for three years. Through my work managing the principal matching process, I got to know over 30 school communities. I was also honored to have the opportunity to work and collaborate with OEA and teacher leaders from across the district to draft a framework for supporting effective teaching for OUSD. I was privileged to work with and get to know over 200 teachers on the project.
While I was professionally learning the ins and outs of OUSD, Sara and I loved becoming a part of the Oakland community. Among many other things, we particularly loved the diversity, the gritty pride, and the fact that even though many may disagree on how, just about everyone wants to make Oakland a better place. So when we left Oakland four years ago, we always knew in our hearts that it was where we wanted to be for the long-haul, and we couldn’t be more excited to be coming home.
The opportunity to significantly improve the educational opportunities for our most underserved students and to meaningfully support Oakland’s great educators has dramatically improved since I left Oakland almost four years ago. The GO team and network have been one of the many driving forces behind creating the context for this opportunity.
As the Oakland community assesses and makes the most of the opportunities in front of it, this very likely requires significant change, which in turn requires incredible leadership to navigate the scary, murky unknown waters that change represents. I’m fired up to return to Oakland and join a GO team that has devoted itself to developing the leadership and bringing to the forefront of the dialogue the voice of underserved students and families and ensuring that their voices, along with those of great educators, are the driving force behind any change that directly impacts them.
No one wants more for children than their parents and guardians; no one knows better what will best meet their needs. Much work remains to be done to ensure that any opportunity seized in Oakland regarding improving education reflects their dreams, desires, and interests. I couldn’t be more excited to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each of you in the work ahead as we embrace the gray in service of our students, their dreams, desires, and interest.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to working and learning together,