Stiff competition in Oakland’s school board races

Two years ago, I wrote about how few people were running for school board in Oakland. It’s much different this year. Below is a list of 13 candidates that have announced at some point that they were running for seats 1, 3, 5, or 7. I’ve learned of a number of new candidates since my blog post in late May.

Friday, Aug. 10 is the filing deadline. You can see for yourself who’s supporting whom and who’s filed on the City of Oakland’s online campaign portal. If you want to see all the filings, select “search filings by date.”

District 1: Incumbent Jody London is running for re-election against Thearse Pecot, who sued the district this spring, saying the district’s school closure policies discriminate against poor, minority children.

District 3: Incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challengers Vicente Cruz, Richard Fuentes and Sheilagh Polk.

District 5: An open race between Roseann Torres Cindi Reiss and Mike Hutchinson, another vocal school closure critic.

District 7: Incumbent Alice Spearman is being challenged by James Harris and former OUSD student-trustee Christina Jiang (Skyline Class of 2007). Mieko Scott also announced, on Twitter, that she would run, and it says so on her bio, though I haven’t found any campaign material for her.

Am I missing anyone?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nontcair

    The schools are micromanaged by thousands of government regulations, so it really doesn’t matter who sits on the board.

    Did you get that?

    Imagine that you could assemble a dream team to run OUSD. Ken Betts, Billy Beane, Al Davis, Steve Jobs. You name it.

    Nothing would change.

    Of course, we should still reject the shrew and the assaulter.

  • Ethan Brady

    anybody, but somebody that (respectfully) asks the burning questions in open session, and engages in (respectful) dialogue as long as it takes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 15 minutes… accountability for this circus, please!

  • Observer

    Personally, I think electing people to what is an unpaid, volunteer position mostly used as a stepping stone to either political or business careers (maybe both?) is fruitless. The majority of past and present school board members are sitting on those seats for their own gain and are blind-sided and completely inept at handling the expectations placed on them. Plus, there’s too many—San Francisco also has 7, but so does Los Angeles the largest school district in the state. Oakland should have no more than 5, probably should have a different system in place all together. And now we have people who are even more inexperienced and have an even more narrow focus on what they say they hope to gain (hello? WHAT ABOUT THE MIDDLE CLASS CHILDREN THAT ARE HANGING ON BY A THREAD IN OUSD??? HOW COME THEY NEVER COUNT???).

  • http://www.movingforwardedu.com Lacy Asbill

    I think it is absolutely remarkable that there is so much interest in these public service opportunities! Considering how many seats have been uncontested in school board elections over the years, I’m proud to see so many people stepping forward to offer their time, energy, and support to Oakland schools and students. Make no mistake–this is a volunteer position, and few of those passionate about Oakland schools can make this level of commitment to being part of the shift. We should applaud those who do.

    The board members and their choices DO affect the lives of Oakland youth and OUSD employees. They can’t change the cuts that we face in education at the state level, but they can build a plan to make the best choices with the resources we have. These decisions matter!

    I have met one of the candidates personally (James Harris), and found him to be incredibly passionate, knowledgeable, visionary, and articulate. This is exactly the kind of new generation leadership that Oakland needs to actualize its strategic plan.

  • makeitgoaway

    OK – way to cynical. Let’s hope good people still step up to do their best for the public, otherwise we are sunk as a society.

  • Nontcair

    #4 wrote: this is a volunteer position .. We should applaud those [passionate about Oakland schools .. prepared to make this level of commitment]

    All the elected officials in my small hometown were unpaid, part-time. That didn’t prevent them from funneling city contracts to their regular employers, or *paid* city gigs to friends and family.

    Surely you’re aware that while a current national political figure’s star was rising his wife was getting big promotions (and salary increases) at her job?

    Surely you’re aware that while another current national political figure’s star was rising her daughter was hired at a very attractive salary by the industry her mom was supposedly overseeing?

    Surely you’re aware of the number of ex-elected officials who move on to lucrative service careers in “government relations” (lobbying).

    So don’t feed me that jive that someone who holds an unpaid civil office is acting nobly.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    The Board members are not volunteers. Please read:

    The current compensation for Directors is $787.50 per month. Compensation is restricted by the State Education Code 35120, and can be increased by the board by 5% annually.
    Board members are reimbursed for all expenses incurred in the performance of duties, or when making trips on official district business when authorized in advance by the Board. Board members may participate in the health and welfare benefits program provided for district employees. The District is to pay the cost of all premiums required for Board members electing to participate in the district health and welfare benefits program. Health and welfare benefits provided to Board members are to be extended at the same level to their spouses, dependent children under the age of 21, dependent children under the age of 25 who are full‐time students at a college or university, and dependent children regardless of age who are physically or mentally incapacitated. Any member retiring from the Board after at least one term may continue the health and welfare benefits program at their own expense if coverage is in effect at the time of retirement.

  • Nontcair

    #7 wrote The District is to pay the cost of all premiums required for Board members electing to participate in the district health and welfare benefits program.

    Very interesting.

    In the real world (Fortune 500), Directors are considered to be (though in fact are not always) “key” people whose special capabilities play a crucial role in the firm’s prosperity. In return for their rarified expertise, they are commonly awarded annual fees, restricted shares, and meeting-related expenses.

    IRS regulations might have something to do with this, but I believe that perks like family health insurance coverage would be somewhat exceptional nowadays.

    Keep in mind that school board members are anything but exceptional individuals, as evidenced by OUSD’s dismal reputation.

    I’ll start supporting free healthcare insurance coverage for all OUSD Board members (and their families) when that same benefit is available to all OUSD taxpayers.

  • Lacy Asbill

    I do still consider $787.50 a month for the workload of a board member practically a volunteer position. I do not know anyone who takes on this role after doing a cost-benefit analysis.

    I still side with being grateful for those who spend their time in service of Oakland students.

  • On The Fence

    In this case, I really do think that one must acknowledge and factor in the benefits in addition to the stipend/salary. The total package seems to be more significant than a simple ‘token of appreciation’. Does anyone know the value of the total package for a family of 4?

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    @ # 9
    Then you must not know how much an entry level teaching position in Oakland takes home.

  • http://saveoaklandschools.org Tim Terry

    The current board led by the superintendent, Jody London and Jumoke Hinton-Hodge makes the argument for austerity with passion, poise and skill. They are true believers. If we don’t exercise our democratic right to remove them come November, they can claim a clear mandate to destroy Public Education as we know it. They will have the whole City thinking that Oakland is “broke”. The truth is that a handful of the super-rich are bleeding us dry while OUSD bureaucrats have set up 40 charter schools at the same time originally wanting to close 30 public schools.

    We can prevail. But we need everyone to get involved. We need to defeat their arguments not push watered-down alternatives. We need to make OUSD’s 48% drop-out rate, the closure of 5 elementary schools and the fact that our teachers have never had a contract under Tony Smith election issues. We need to get the candidates to go on the record on our issues and use in-district events to show which candidates are willing to help stop this robbery (even if they need a push sometimes) – and which ones are driving the getaway car.

    The current board will use complexity as a weapon of deception to hide how a handful of people are robbing us. OUSD has made the whole conversation about budget numbers. But it’s not. It’s about our future, our children! We can never forget that. We cannot back down.

  • Nontcair

    Oakland *is* broke. Municipal bankruptcy can’t be that far off. In the last mayoral election there was only one candidate talking about it. That person was demolished by the “serious” candidates. You know the ones: the career politicians in the pockets of the public unions.

    Who are these “super rich” people allegedly “bleeding us dry”? Do you mean public union members?

  • J.R.