Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, an Oakland school board member who represents District 3 (West Oakland, Jack London, Lake Merritt and Adams Point), gives us a recap of an event Mayor Jean Quan held on Feb. 5 in West Oakland and shares her hopes for the city’s new leader. – Katy
The meeting was held at the Lowell school site, which is home to West Oakland Middle School and KIPP Bridge Academy. The mayor plans to hold a town hall in all seven districts by the completion of her first one hundred days in office. I was pleased to hear that she chose to hold her first town hall in District 3, and I appreciated that it was held at a school as a reminder to folks that schools are the center of our community.
There were over 250 people at the town hall, most of whom stayed for the entire 2½ hours. I was excited about the turnout, the diversity of community members, and the breadth of West Oakland leadership present. The town hall began with a welcome from West Oakland Middle School Principal Cenne Carroll-Moore. Next, Mayor Quan gave a speech and introduced the city staff that would facilitate small group discussions on nine topics, ranging from public works to economic development.
I participated in the education group, which was facilitated by Lewis Cohen, the mayor’s new special assistant for education. Our group of about 20 folks huddled around chart paper to create a list of our top concerns for District 3 schools. We came up with 18 very real concerns, varying from the exodus of children from West Oakland schools to the need for more counseling services. We then voted for our top three concerns and yielded these results:
1) Collaboration to solve community problems
2) Quality and community-linked schools
3) Parent engagement
During this conversation, we spoke about solutions to the complex challenges these needs entail. I was truly impressed with the depth of conversation and energy for change within our group. Our discussion really represented District 3. Mr. Cohen described the conversation as very influential to his work in supporting the mayor’s role in education within our city.
My hopes for our new mayor
- I hope the mayor broadens her collaboration between the city and the school board directors before and during the remaining six town hall meetings. I trust that her publicity for future town halls will more strategically reach education-minded folks and school communities. I hope more young people will participate in the other six town hall meetings.
- I hope that Mayor Quan remains committed to her campaign promises of promoting community schools, the joint use of city and school sites, and greater collaboration between city and school programs and personnel.
- I hope that the mayor recognized the opportunities that existed for collaboration within the cafeteria walls last Saturday. For example, there was great alignment among the public safety and education discussion groups, as many West Oakland kids feel unsafe going to and from school and need safer pathways, potentially through more community policing.
- I hope Mayor Quan utilizes cross-agency research in her efforts to target the three neighborhoods with the highest crime, unemployment, and dropout rates. She stated that she is considering the ACORN housing development as a focus area. She will find greater success by bringing OUSD, Alameda County Health Services, Oakland Housing Authority, and OPD (and others!) together from the start.
My Priorities for 2011
- I am working to protect West Oakland schools from the impending budget and staff reductions.
- I am promoting a campaign for higher quality public schools in West Oakland so that we can get students back to our schools.
- I am supporting the African American Male Achievement Task Force to promote more culturally relevant professional development for teachers.
- I want to support a city-wide parent engagement effort that addresses the persistent barriers that leave families out of the equation, such as the need for greater economic development and advocacy training.
- I will be working with West Oakland schools and the Full Service Community Schools Task Force to do family engagement around their visions for schools as community hubs and wrap-around service providers.
Have Your Voice Heard
I also remind folks to remain engaged in OUSD’s strategic planning process, by participating in a task force or by inviting a task force representative to your school or community group. (You’ll see me at the African American Male Achievement Task Force!) See the district’s Thriving Students web site for more information.
I appreciate the opportunities to talk with District 3 residents regarding their concerns and possible solutions. I welcome thoughts and meetings requests by email (firstname.lastname@example.org.)