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Labor negotiations update

After our Board made difficult budget adjustments at the beginning of March, and district staff did the complex work of figuring out how much space that created for the future, the teachers’ union and Oakland Unified were able to make tremendous progress in negotiations right before spring break.

The district released a statement on March 31 describing the “significant compensation increase” in their latest offer, which includes salary increases that kick in for those who work in Oakland for at least three years, designed to incentivize teacher retention.

While the salary range in effect this year is from $52,905 for entry-level to $80,215–$98,980 for teachers with 32 years of experience, the district’s proposal for next year ranges from $56,149 for teachers just starting out to $97,433–$117,699 for tenured teachers with 19 years of experience and at least three of them in Oakland (and notice there’s a much shorter runway to the top of the salary schedule).

As an example, I stopped teaching in OUSD in 2011, but if I quit the board and went back to the classroom on Monday, I would be earning $82,405/year (step 11 column 6). Under the district’s latest proposal, that would go up to $101,929 next year.

On a related topic, I have received many emails asking about the school calendar for next year. The calendar is subject to bargaining, and the two sides have not yet reached consensus, but the district has proposed a calendar with a start date of August 7, 2023.

The union and the district are continuing to negotiate, and I am hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon.

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Students perform traditional Maya Mam dance at the 23rd Annual OUSD Latino Student Honor Roll event at Fremont High School last month.

Measure Y Spending Plan Revisions

In 2020, Oakland voters approved Measure Y by almost 78%, which authorized $735 million in bonds repaid by property taxes to fund facilities improvements at campuses across the town.

Like many urban districts, Oakland has aging school buildings, and there is currently no dedicated funding from the state to pay for repairs and upgrades. These municipal bonds will be issued over several years so as to keep the impact on property taxes low. 

In 2021, the Board passed a spending plan that divided the funding between several major projects, a district-wide fund for smaller projects, and a contingency fund, with funding spread over four “draws” from May 2021 to June 2027.

Some of the major projects where design was already completed, such as Claremont’s new Multi-Purpose Room, the Laurel early childhood center, and the Castlemont field, are in construction now and will be completed soon.

Three larger projects at McClymonds HS, Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), and Roosevelt Middle School, are in the design phase, but with high inflation and supply shortages in the construction industry, staff are concerned that the spending plan does not allocate sufficient funds for those projects to meet the needs at those sites.

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I joined a tour of McClymonds HS last month, where I saw new water heaters (top) and water filter with new pipes (bottom right) installed with construction funding, and deteriorating flooring (bottom left) that needs replacing. As part of planned renovations, old pipes that contain lead at McClymonds would be completely replaced.

McClymonds and Roosevelt were promised significant renovations with the previous bond (Measure J) but due to how those funds were managed by the previous superintendent, Antwan Wilson, their projects never got off the ground and they have been left waiting for many, many years.

CCPA is on a campus designed as a middle school but now serves grades 6 through 12 and has grown tremendously, so they have very urgent needs for a new building that provides high-school-appropriate facilities.

Lastly, design has not even started yet at Garfield Elementary, another major project, but they have urgent seismic issues. With the recent images of children being pulled from ruins after the earthquake in Turkey in my mind, I wouldn’t want our district to have defunding Garfield’s project on our conscience when the Big One hits Oakland, God forbid.

For that reason, the Facilities Committee (which I chair) discussed revisions to the Measure Y Spending Plan at our last meeting, and will consider recommendations from staff at our next meeting on Thursday, April 20 at 6 pm. These will then go to our full board on April 26.

Some additional funding for McClymonds, CCPA and Roosevelt can come from the contingency fund (that’s what it’s for), but to fully fund their projects, we would need to remove some funding from another school’s, which unfortunately may be necessary in order to make those projects successful.

It’s not an easy conversation or decision, so as we take it up, it’s important to center student needs and equity, recognizing that some schools have more urgent needs than others, and also that it is our job to work to remedy the systemic racism that over time has privileged some communities over others in Oakland.

The state legislature is also considering AB 247 (Muratsuchi), which would put a state-wide school facilities bond on the November 2024 ballot. While that might bring in some additional funding for Oakland’s school buildings, that will take a long time and this decision cannot wait until then.

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Members of the Girls Equity Movement talking to Oakland Tech students about internship opportunities at the school's Summer Opportunities Fair last month.

College and Career Readiness Commission Presentations

It was so moving and rewarding to hear our high school academic teams present their Education Improvement Plans for 2023-24 to the commission that allocates Measure N (and soon Measure H) funding.

High schools are supporting students to explore their hopes and dreams for the future, through internships, work-based learning, dual-enrollment college classes, and amazing college and career-related experiences on campus, from mock trials to 3-D printers to informational interviews with professionals that visit their classrooms. 

One educator from Skyline HS (I didn’t get her name!) spoke eloquently to how they are helping students overcome the challenges they face, especially socio-emotionally in the wake of the pandemic. “Students are struggling to see a future for themselves,” she said. 

The team from Castlemont was inspirational as they described how they are transforming outcomes for their African-American students by "making school feel like life—because they’re out there building a Black Cultural Zone, they’re out there learning construction skills at Laney College," said pathway coach Marvin Boomer.

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The Castlemont High School team presented to the College and Career Readiness (Measure N & H) Commission this week.

We’ve seen graduation rates climb and climb in Oakland as we have implemented this strategy. As a parent myself, I’m so grateful for all the internship opportunities that are available through OUSD for my teenager next summer as he is starting to think seriously about both college and career possibilities in his future. 

Some families like mine might have the privilege and background to be able to set up college visits or summer work plans for our kids on our own, and all of our young people should have these opportunities. Yet so many of our families in OUSD don't have connections to university and paid internship experiences, and these programs help many more to access those. 

Studies show that first-generation college students are much more likely to persevere if they enter college with a career goal in mind. College can be hard, but it’s easier to stick with it if you feel like you have a strong reason to stay committed. The College and Career for All initiative has been successful at helping our students to find those career goals, and to build off of them to make that commitment to college or other post-secondary success.

Please join me in virtually volunteering at Oakland High School as part of this initiative, giving 90 minutes of your time between April 17–28 to participate in mock job interviews over Zoom with tenth-grade students. This helps students develop their interview skills by speaking with local professionals like yourself. You can sign up at this link.

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I rode with Ride for a Reason to Sacramento in 2019, and will be glad to join them again this year. Let's see if I'm still up to doing 68 miles!

Ride for a Reason

Next Saturday, I will ride with hundreds of others to Sacramento as a fundraiser for Oakland public schools. Ride for a Reason, which started in 2008, has a dual goal of raising $180,000 this year to support our schools, and also calling attention to underfunding of public education in California. Please join me in donating at Ride for a Reason!

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Students jaywalking in front of traffic and a green light at Oakland Tech last week

Traffic Safety at Oakland Tech

Thanks to Councilmember Dan Kalb’s chief of staff, Seth Steward, as well as principal Martel Price and OUSD chief of staff Dexter Moore, Jr., for meeting with me in front of Tech last week to observe students’ jaywalking behavior and discuss what the city can do to make things safer. 

Last month a student was hit by a car, though thank God not seriously injured. We should act now to prevent something worse from happening.

While we all continue to do everything we can to encourage teenagers to act safely—for example, not to jaywalk while posting on Instagram—the reality is also that Broadway is a major thoroughfare with cars speeding past the largest school in Oakland. 

I hope to work with students and local organizations as well to pilot traffic-calming efforts during lunch and after school at that location.

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Oakland students meet with state Senator Lena Gonzalez (Long Beach) to learn more about SB 252

Divesting from Fossil Fuels

Oakland students went to Sacramento this week with a group called Youth Vs. Apocalypse to lobby for divesting the state teachers’ pension fund, CalSTRS, from the fossil fuel industry. 

CalSTRS currently has over $6 billion belonging to teachers and former teachers like myself invested in an industry that is contributing to the extreme climate change that we have all been experiencing in recent years.

While in the short run, these may be profitable investments, in the long run if the entire state is either on fire or under water, it may be difficult to redeem those investments. SB 252 (Gonzalez) would direct the CalSTRS board to phase out their fossil fuel holdings.

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Citywide Celebration Tomorrow

On Sunday, April 16, Mayor Sheng Thao will lead a parade from Children’s Fairyland to City Hall with your state basketball champions from Oakland High (Boys Division III) and Oakland Tech (Girls Division I). The parade starts at 11:30 am and the celebration at City Hall will be from 12 noon to 3 pm. It will be a fun time for all to celebrate our victories! Go Bulldogs and (this is hard to say) Wildcats too!

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Free Family Concert Tomorrow

Thanks to former Oakland Unified principal Diane Lang for inviting Oakland families to a free concert at the Paramount Theater, Sunday, April 16 at 4 pm. Kedrick Armstrong is conducting with vocals by Tiffany Austin and Solas Lalgee. You can get free tickets before they sell out by clicking here.

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Oakland Tech’s drama program presents its spring production, The Play That Goes Wrong, with performances Thursday through Saturday for the last two weeks of April. Tickets are $5 for students and staff, or $10 general admission. I’ve been promised a rollicking hilarious good time, and Tech’s drama department never disappoints!

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