Exciting things are happening in Oakland’s public schools. Graduation rates are at some of their highest levels in years, due in large part to the success of some of our most traditionally underserved groups, like English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and foster youth. Equally promising is that more of our student graduates are leaving our schools with the requirements necessary to succeed at the UC- and CSU-level. We owe a large part of that success to the Oakland Unified School District’s focus on innovative programs, like Restorative Justice, college and career pathways, and the Office of African American Male Achievement.
As the school year begins, we are also mindful of the November 8, 2016 school board elections that will play a significant role in shaping the future of our schools and students. The majority of the school board seats are on the ballot this year, and it is imperative that we continue and accelerate the improvements made for our children. While our schools have improved, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Oakland needs strong leaders to champion this work for our students.
On July 16th, over 100 members of GO’s coalition of families, educators, and community members gathered to listen to the candidates for Oakland school board and recommend those who will do the most to make students their first-and-only priority. Over the past month, families and educators who participated in our endorsement process wrote about why they advocated for the candidates we chose to endorse. Today, we want to punctuate their powerful statements about this group of student-centered candidates.
For District 1, we endorse Director Jody London.
When Jody was elected to this board, OUSD was in state receivership. Today, our district is not only caught up on audits, but has made fiscal transparency a top priority. This is due in large part to Director London’s leadership. Jody has proven herself willing to put in hard work on every issue affecting our students, from college and career readiness to improving student nutrition to a better facilities management plan. Jody has proven to be a thoughtful, strategic, and responsive board member. Her depth of knowledge is critical to the future success of Oakland’s schools.
For District 3, we endorse Director Jumoke Hinton Hodge.
Jumoke has been a voice and force for equity on this board for the past eight years. She has been a leading advocate for the creation of the nationally recognized Office of African American Male Achievement, championed new programs for English Language Learners and newcomers, and has pushed for the creation of the African American Female Initiative that launches this year. She supported alternative forms of discipline, leading to a dramatic drop in suspension rates, particularly among our students of color. Jumoke will continue to bring positive change to Oakland schools in the coming years.
For District 5, we endorse Huber Trenado.
As a student in Oakland Unified, Huber Trenado was deeply impacted by his teachers. That’s why, after attending UC Berkeley, he returned to the Fruitvale, the neighborhood where he grew up, to teach. As an educator, Huber has proven himself willing to go above-and-beyond for our students by founding an Aim High program in East Oakland to better serve his students over the summer. Huber will not only be a dedicated and hardworking leader on the school board, but will bring a unique perspective as an Oakland student and teacher. He is the leader that District 5 needs.
For District 7, we endorse Board President James Harris.
Elected board president twice during his first term, James has been an exceptional leader on our school board. His efforts supporting Measure N helped to bring $120 million to Oakland high schools to give our students more opportunities through college and career readiness programs. During James’ presidency, OUSD teachers received their largest salary increase in over a decade. James earned our endorsement through accomplishments like these, but also for his continued, relentless focus on improving outcomes for students in East Oakland, his dedication to empowering school communities, and his deep understanding of the important issues in Oakland schools.
Oakland has made significant positive progress over the past four years and to ensure it continues we need leaders like Jody London, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Huber Trenado, and James Harris on the school board focusing on our students and educators. Our endorsed candidates have shown a commitment to equity by championing programs that specifically support our most traditionally underserved students. Jody, Jumoke, Huber, and James have shown an awareness of the issues our educators face either from the board by prioritizing the most significant employee raise in over a decade or from the classroom by organizing a home-buying seminar for teachers to keep them in our communities and teaching in our city.
This is the right direction for our schools. We need a board that will continue this progress.
When our candidates are elected, more progressive school and student-focused changes will continue to energize and strengthen Oakland’s public schools. Our schools are not yet where they need to be and there is much work still to be done. But we believe with this team standing behind our students, Oakland has the opportunity to create an even brighter future.
David Castillo, Gloria Lee, Autumn McDonald, Brandon Nicholson, Carmelita Reyes, Elissa Salas, Amy Saxton, Brian Stanley, David Stein