Candidates — and endorsements — in Oakland school board races

Great Oakland Public Schools, a school reform-minded coalition of families and school employees supported by the Rogers Family Foundation and other groups, has become increasingly involved in Oakland school district policy since its founding a few years ago. Now, for the first time, its board of directors has endorsed school board candidates in the November election, through this process.

GO Public Schools announced today that it had endorsed two of the four candidates for District 3 (West Oakland): incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challenger Sheilagh Polk. The organization is also backing one of its founding members, James Harris, who is challenging incumbent Alice Spearman for the District 7 seat (East Oakland-Elmhurst).

Under the ranked-choice voting system, voters will rank up to three candidates in November.

As you can see, the District 3 and 7 races have no shortage of candidates so far. It appears to be a different story for District 1 (North Oakland) and District 5 (East Oakland-Fruitvale). I’ve yet to hear of a challenger for incumbent Jody London in District 1 — or of anyone interested in Seat #5, which is wide open. Noel Gallo, who’s represented the area for 20 years, is running for City Council.

Know of someone who’s running for one of those seats? Let us know.

District 3: Dr. Washington Burns, a GO Public Schools board member (and director of West Oakland’s Prescott-Joseph Center) quoted in the announcement, said Hinton-Hodge has been a “consistent voice for equity.” Another, David Stein, said that Polk, formerly of Education Trust-West, would bring “a vision and level of passion that our school board needs.” The other two candidates for the West Oakland seat are Richard Fuentes, policy analyst for Ignacio De La Fuente, and Vicente Cruz, who posted this You Tube video about his candidacy.

District 7: GO didn’t mention Spearman in its endorsement of her challenger. The announcement described Harris, a former high school English teacher, as “an innovative and strategic thinker” who “will be a force for civility, teamwork, and progress on the School Board.”

Spearman also faces a challenge from Mieko Scott, founder of the Imagine That! education foundation. Speaking of English class, I found this homonym mix-up on the foundation’s website this afternoon: “please bare with us as our site is under construction”.

Candidates don’t officially file for office until mid-July, but you can view many of the various campaign documents, including some of the latest contribution disclosures, on the city’s online campaign portal. (Tip: Search by date to see all of the filings.)

Although the interest may be sparse for two of the seats, it’s an improvement from 2010, when only one of the races was competitive.

Katy Murphy

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

  • James

    I imagine this was a tough decision! I was impressed by all three of the endorsed candidates and would be thrilled to have any of them on the board. At our interview day, all three spoke with passion about the need to reform OUSD to ensure that it meets the needs of our kids. These are the candidates we need to push Oakland forward for ALL children, working in partnership with OEA and charters alike. Good luck!

  • Mary

    It’s great to see so much interest in school board! In a healthy democracy, there are challengers to incumbents, and elections stir robust debates about the direction of the district/city. There is a candidate for District 5, Rosie Torres. She is an attorney and a parent. I heard her speak and was impressed.

  • Jordan

    I attended GO’s endorsement interviews for the District 3 candidates, and I’m very pleased with GO’s endorsements. I was particularly impressed by Sheilagh Polk, who spoke with amazing passion about the conditions at her daughter’s school, and the broader context of her West Oakland neighborhood. Unfortunately, I live just outside of District 3 and won’t be able to vote for Sheilagh, but I’ll do all I can to assure she is elected in November.

  • Elliot

    It’s so exciting to see so many strong advocates for students stepping up in Oakland! GO looks to have been thoughtful and thorough in their decisions, and all three of these individuals seem like the type of leaders who will put the interests of students front and center, and keep pushing Oakland education in the right direction!

  • Jim Mordecai

    I’ve posted below the 6/4/12 agenda for the Rules and Ethics Committee.

    Do any of the candidates, or their supporters, have an opinion on these documents?

    Or, perhaps they haven’t a clue having not done their homework about the Board’s Governance Handbook, its Theory of Action (based on Theory of Action from the book authored by Don Adams, formerly President of the Houston School Board), Board policies and proposal before the Committee to repeal the Coherent Governance policies.

    11-2784 Governance Handbook
    Adoption by Board of Education of Governance Handbook.
    Attachments: 11-2784 – Governance Handbook.pdf
    Legislative History
    10/12/11 Board of Education Tabled
    12-1159 Theory of Action
    Discussion and possible recommendation(s) of revision of Oakland Unified School
    District’s Theory of Action (adopted by the Board on 12/14/11).
    Attachments: 12-1159 Theory of Action
    12-1279 Board Bylaws and Policies
    Review and possible recommendations by Committee regarding Board Bylaws (9000
    Series), Board Policies (0000-7000 Series including embedding Goals for Student
    Achievement) and repeal of Coherent Governance Policies.
    12-1279 Board Bylaws and Policies
    12-1279 Proposed Actions for 6_4_12 Rules Committee

  • Cranky Teacher

    Interesting that GO endorsed the school board member most associated with repeated and public teacher bashing: Jumoke Hinton Hodge

  • momaof1

    GO support Ms. Hinton-Hodge???
    She is not a parent in the oakland public schools – by her own admission!
    She is among the most unprepared, inarticulate, unintelligible directors sitting on that board presently. I have never been more disappointed in her representation of “all the children of Oakland” stance when her action have done nothing but show that she is only focused on her part of the city.
    During some of the most divisive times last fall, she called parents’ choices – to their faces – “disappointing” because they did not fit her visions, and resorted to name-calling and denigrating parents at some of the only elementary schools that provide the results needed for Oakland’s children.

    Further, she is a fervent supporter of charter schools and organizations, which are bleeding this district of it’s limited financial resources, while not honoring any of their debts and failures in any measurable consequences.

    After the closure debacles last year, can we truly trust an endorsement such as Go just put forth, for a present member of of the Board of Education, and call themselves impartial???
    Go has an agenda and it’s not for the greater good at all.

    Shame on Go Oakland Schools for supporting for re-election such an obvious failure in leadership !!!!!

  • J.R.

    Momof1 wrote,
    “She is among the most unprepared, inarticulate, unintelligible directors sitting on that board presently”.
    You really have to split hairs to say that, she is far from the worst. Everyone on that board has an agenda, and looking at the results not one of them seemingly understands real-world economics and or budgeting(although Dobbins and Yee should). There are too many community activists with questionable degrees that have no real world application. Voters need to look closely at qualifications( but maybe that is asking to much from a substantial number of the voting public. We reap what we sow!