Last night, Superintendent Tony Smith announced he had chosen Chris Chatmon, of 100 Black Men, for a new role in the Oakland public school system: executive director for African American male achievement, a position funded by private donors.
It will be Chatmon’s task to change the trajectory of the city’s black boys.
Let’s take the Class of 2008, the most recent data available from the California Department of Education. In the fall of 2004, 956 African-American boys entered the ninth grade. Four years later, 377 black boys graduated. Of those, 89 graduated with the grades and credits required to attend a state university.
It’s far from an exact estimate, as kids surely came and went from OUSD throughout those four years. But if you look at the raw numbers, it works out to fewer than 1 in 10 ninth graders leaving the district with UC/CSU requirements, and only about 4 in 10 graduating with their class.
But Chatmon won’t be dealing strictly with academic outcomes. The night before his appointment, Oakland lost another black teenager: 17-year-old Raymen Justice, who had just transferred from Oakland High School to LIFE Academy.
Chatmon said the boy’s death was humbling, a sobering reminder of the work ahead of him. “I thank Tony and the leadership of OUSD to actually have the audacity to put together a plan that addresses the crisis facing black males,” he said.
Chatmon is the husband of LaShawn Route Chatmon, the executive director of the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, where Smith and his wife used to work, and which is soon to become The National Equity Project. Want to learn more about him? Here’s his bio:
Prior to starting his new position as the executive director of African American male achievement, Chris was the principal of Youth Chance High School in San Francisco for two years. Prior to his position as principal he was the executive director of the Urban Services YMCA in Oakland for 10 years and served as a certified trainer for the YMCA of the USA for the past seven years.
A Bay Area native and recipient of public school education, Chris earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from SFSU, his master’s in teaching from Brown University, and taught history and physical education for over ten years. Presently, Chris is the education committee chair for 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, Inc. and sits on the National Education Committee for 100 Black Men of America.
Chris is a father of three sons, all of whom attend OUSD schools. In his spare time he supports the Panthers Baseball organization that he co-founded 6 years ago, The Man Up Life Skills Conferences, Young, Gifted and Black youth poets, 2nd Annual Carter G. Woodson Black History Competition and is working with the local and national chapters of 100 Black Men to bring the Eagle Academy for Boys to the Bay Area.
What do you hope Chatmon will accomplish, and how do you hope he’ll go about it? We’ll have a more in-depth story about him soon.