The fall semester is weeks away, but after a brief summer recess, tension came flooding back to the Oakland school board room this week.
I wasn’t at the Wednesday night board meeting when this went down, but it didn’t look pretty from my screen.
One minute Joel Velasquez — a Westlake and former Lakeview parent who has been perhaps the most outspoken and persistent critic of Oakland’s school closures — was at the podium, speaking about working closely with the superintendent and school board and becoming “allies.”
In the next, he was being escorted out of the school board meeting room by Oakland School Police after having threatened to stage protests at board members’ homes.
It wasn’t an empty threat; Velasquez and other supporters of the weeks-long Lakeview sit-in did march to Superintendent Tony Smith’s house in July. Smith, his wife and two elementary school-age daughters weren’t home at the time; Velasquez told him at the meeting that none of the protesters were trying to intimidate him or his family.
First, Velasquez was reprimanded by President Jody London and – later – her board colleague, Gary Yee, for addressing Superintendent Tony Smith as “Tony” while he was on the dais. (“Excuse me, can you refer to the superintendent as the superintendent please?” London told Velasquez. “This is not a first-name setting.”)
Visibly irritated by the interruption, Velasquez asked for more time. Later, when he was told his time was expired, he questioned whether he’d received his full allotment and asked for a chance to complete his remarks. His request was denied.
VELASQUEZ: C’mon you guys, really, this is how you want to do this?
VELASQUEZ: Ok, then we can march to your home next, Jody London, President Jody London. Is that what you want?
SMITH: Officers — please no personal threats, please?
VELASQUEZ: When I try to follow the process, and you guys don’t listen, that is what happens. We end up at your home because you don’t listen to the people. This is completely unnecessary. Gary Yee, all of you, we’ll end up at your homes.
LONDON: We need to continue the meeting. Can we help the speaker leave the podium, please?
What did you make of this showdown?