Great Oakland Public Schools, a local advocacy group that started with funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, wants to see some new blood on the Oakland teachers union’s executive board and representative council next year. It wants district leaders to emphasize high quality instruction as well as service hubs, and a “new and better response” to an unnamed principal who has complained about the required retention of mediocre teachers.
Below is a letter from GO’s director (and former OUSD administrator) Jonathan Klein, followed by the 10-item wish list. Which of the points do you agree or disagree with?
Dear neighbors and advocates for Oakland students,
If you spend time in Oakland public schools, you know there is much to celebrate, both in the achievements of our students and in the work of the adults who serve them.
In 2010, Oakland Unified was again the most improved school district in the State of California. And in tough economic times, 66 percent of Oakland voters supported Measure L — a parcel tax to benefit Oakland public schools.
Still, our public schools face tough challenges:
The system continues to be underresourced and more cuts are coming in January. The Oakland Education Association’s leadership is threatening another strike over compensation — despite withholding their support for Measure L. Oakland continues to be challenged by violence. And many families leave Oakland public schools because of perceptions regarding safety and academic quality.
Yet, I remain hopeful. There is abundant evidence that our community, our new mayor, our superintendent, our police chief, and the thousands of men and women who work in our schools are deeply committed to giving our children and youth a healthy, bright future.
I have strong memories of election night 2008 — standing in a friend’s crowded living room — many of us with tears in our eyes — watching as West Coast polls closed and news organizations announced that Barack Obama would be our next President.
We were hopeful that night, despite understanding the enormity of our challenges.
We are still the ones that we have been waiting for.
2011 brings renewed opportunity for us to get things done for Oakland students.
Oakland Education Policy 2011 Top 10 Wish List
1. Participation from Oakland’s best teachers in the Oakland Education Association’s Representative Council and March 2011 Executive Board Election.
2. A Deputy Mayor for Education in Mayor Quan’s office who knows the issues, speaks for all students, and is empowered to convene and align agencies and partners.
3. Wisdom within Oakland’s education leadership to ensure that Thriving Students (OUSD’s new strategic direction) puts Oakland public schools on a path to be both hubs of services and centers of learning and high-quality teaching.
4. An outcomes orientation for these final 6 months of OUSD strategic planning that sees the forest through the trees and doesn’t spend all its time and energy on process.
5. A new and better answer to an Oakland principal who in a recent meeting said that the biggest pain point within OUSD is having to retain mediocre teachers.
6. Audacity and resilience among West Oakland leaders to come together to do something different and bold on behalf of West Oakland public schools and students.
7. Specificity within Thriving Students about the positive role charter public schools play in providing quality educational opportunities to Oakland children and youth.
8. Constructive dialogue to address long-standing critiques of Oakland’s charter movement (e.g. access to special education programs, “creaming,” expulsion, etc.)
9. Increased vision and emphasis on the roles of education technology and virtual learning environments in our public schools as we endeavor to do more for our students with fewer resources.
10. Generosity of spirit across neighborhoods, communities and organizations with renewed mindfulness of the proverb that rain does not fall on one roof alone.