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Yee to serve another term as board president

Gary Yee, Oakland school board presidentJody London

Gary Yee will be president of the Oakland school board for 12 more months. Jody London was elected vice president at the same meeting this week.

In his acceptance speech, Yee said he believed the district should focus on high-quality teaching; safe and healthy schools; ensuring that all students have a “college prep course of study”; and a renewed commitment by the board to govern effectively and broadly, rather than in each member’s own interests.

Here is the full text, via OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint:

“I thank you for re-electing me to represent you as Board President, and I couldn’t be happier knowing that Director London will be the vice president. I know that in these roles, we represent the entire board and our commitment is to listen to and talk with you to be sure that we speak as a board in matters of policy.

Eight years ago, we had a school board with three mayorally appointed board members and faced a state takeover. Four years ago, we wondered whether we would have a future as a locally elected and governed public school system. Today, I stand here with you to say that the Oakland Public Schools has a bright future and we can be proud of the difficult work we’ve done this past year. We balanced the budget under the most difficult state fiscal challenge to face public education in California, by cutting $122 million. I personally apologize to the city for the reduction in services and programs we were forced to approve in order to preserve our core mission to graduate every Oakland student.

Despite the cuts, we have demonstrated once again as a district that we are on an upward arc as the most improved urban school district in California for the past six years. Along with our Superintendent, we commit to accelerate and expand this success to every corner of our city.

For the new year, I suggest four areas that we need to focus on together—three of which we adopted last year as priorities in our Thriving Students strategic framework: effective instruction in every classroom; safe, supportive and healthy schools; college and career readiness; and a fourth that is crucial to make this happen: a recommitment to coherent governance.

Effective Instruction in Every Classroom: Effective instruction begins with effective teaching. Our first priority is to work with local educators to establish norms for effective teaching and then to ensure funding priorities reflect a commitment to building effective teaching teams at all our schools. One key to this I know will be to ensure that we retain effective teachers, especially in our high-need schools. We were so close this past November with Measure L, to providing a dedicated funding stream for this purpose. I hope we can build on that support.

Safe, Supportive and Healthy Schools: We received a major investment from Kaiser Permanente this year to increase the capacity of our school-based health centers which provide services to our secondary students. Last year, we adopted a broad-based restorative justice resolution that we need to implement this year. We also need to be sure that our asset management plan is completed so that we can make decisions that will best utilize our facilities. I know that the mayor is interested in joint use of some of those facilities, and I support this.

College and Career Readiness: We have excellent academies and small high schools that have demonstrated to our students the relevance of high school to their future. Making sure that every student has a college prep course of study (A-G), and that staff help them connect what they are learning to habits, skills and knowledge that are useful in future careers is essential. Mayor Quan’s commitment to recruit 2,000 mentors for our students is an important way the city can help us with this.

Recommitment to Coherent Governance: Finally, as a board we need to find ways to govern efficiently and effectively. School boards are often seen as fragmented and guided by narrow interests. We made a commitment years ago to practice coherent governance, which focuses on results and clear and public expectations of our superintendent, and he has delivered a District-level work plan that will result in our five-year strategic plan assembled for review in June. For our part as a board, we need to align our policies and practices with that strategic plan. I suggest a review and possible realignment of our committee structure to best provide policy review and oversight of the District’s work and resources in accordance with that plan. I’ve assigned this work to the board rules and ethics committee, and I want Vice President London to collect any ideas you might have about our work.

Let me end by saying that after Governor Brown’s dire fiscal forecast, this could be seen as the worst of times for education; I choose to believe that like the Fox Theater, which was transformed from a ghastly shell to this beautiful building, the best is still before us. And best of all, thriving students will mean a thriving city!

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.