By Curtis Valentine, Reinventing America’s Schools, Guest Contributor
Lakisha Young is no stranger to education reform. A former Teach For America corps member and founding member of a KIPP Charter School, Young knows the power parents can wield when they demand educational options for their children. The daughter of a single mother who enrolled her in a traditional public school, a Catholic school, and later a private high school, Young expected to have the same power to make choices for her children when she became a mother.
A single mother of three, Young is satisfied with the choices she’s made: Her sons attend a charter school, and her daughter attends a selective high school. However, successfully securing places in these schools was no easy feat. Young knows firsthand the aggravation of dealing with the Oakland school lottery. She also understands the anxiety parents feel not knowing whether their children will have to enroll in a low-performing neighborhood school should there not be enough seats available at quality schools. Her personal experience led her to organize other parents and teach them how to advocate for their children.
In 2016, Young founded the Oakland Reach, which she describes as a “parent-run, parent-led group committed to empowering families from the most underserved communities to demand high-quality schools for children in Oakland.” Since then, the organization has informed more than 4,000 parents on the state of Oakland schools and trained over 300 parents in advocacy through its Oakland Family Advocacy Fellowship.
“If you’re black and low-income in Oakland, you have to fight for the right to a good school,” Young says. Two-thirds of black students in Oakland attend a school rated below the state average and only 1% attend a school rated above the state average (For more information visit the Oakland Reach website.) So Young looks for “parents willing to speak truth to power—and kinda trouble makers.”
Oakland Unified School District, faced with fiscal problems and too many half-empty schools, is closing school buildings to save money. Young and Oakland Reach decided to ask the district to give preference in high quality schools to students whose schools are closed. They dubbed this policy “The Opportunity Ticket,” worked tirelessly to advocate for it, and won a victory when the school board voted unanimously for it.
“Having to choose a school and having access are two different things,” Young explains. The Opportunity Ticket will give more low-income families access to the district’s best schools.
Oakland Reach wants all parents to have the same opportunities Young had, when she enrolled her sons in a public charter school. Today, more than 31% of Oakland’s public school students attend charters. Young fought to have her sons enroll in a school that, on average, graduates 86% of its students on time, compared to 75% in traditional public schools. Young’s sons and their classmates are also more likely to be accepted to college. In Oakland, 34% of African-American and Latino charter graduates are accepted to college, exceeding the district average of 15%. (For more information visit http://library.ccsa.org/OUSD%20Charter%20Report%202017.pdf)
Young is part of a wave of black women leading parent advocacy organizations around the country, including Aretta Baldon in Atlanta, Maya Martin Cadogan in Washington D.C., and Sarah Carpenter in Memphis. To Young, parents most impacted by failing schools have not been at the decision-making table. “We are at the table now,” she says. “Parents bring a certain level of urgency [because] we don’t have an out. All black mommas needed were resources. Black mommas have been fighting for their kids since fighting to keep kids from being enslaved.”
Philanthropic investments in parent-led organizations like Oakland Reach have shifted the landscape for black women in leadership. “The missing components were resources to fight,” Young says. “There hasn’t been enough resources put behind black mommas and black daddies. This is new, this is like putting on a new suit … for us and for funders. People with resources trusting us.”
While Young celebrates the voice of black women, she recognizes that the Opportunity Ticket was successful thanks to an alliance with upper middle-class parents. “You need multiple stakeholders at the table,” she says. “Passing the Opportunity Ticket took a coalition of white allied parents and a focus on quality and equity for all kids.”
In a city looking for stability after 13 superintendents in 20 years, Oakland Reach has become a steady source of support for parents. Young is excited about the future and quite surprised that what was once just an idea has become a refuge for parents. She describes how overcome she was when one mother told her, “If I want to learn more about being better advocate for my kids…everybody is telling me that I need to be part of Oakland Reach.”
“I didn’t know what was possible” with Reach, Young admits. “I was moving with sheer will, I’d be fighting this fight — with Oakland Reach or not. I did not expect it to get to this point. I’m not shocked, though. This is what happens when you get fired up parents together.”
Next Stop? Young is in search of “What tables [parents] need to be sitting at in Sacramento.” Watch out state capitol, here she comes!
This article is a part of The ‘Reinventing America’s Schools’ series. This series highlights Change Makers from our community who are walking reflections of what’s possible when we place Accountability and Autonomy at the forefront.
The Post Salon co-sponsored a community dialogue on schools Sunday, Dec. 9. along with Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), Educators for Democratic Schools, the New McClymonds Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of Parents and Education.
Speaking at the meeting were Oakland teachers, parents and community leaders concerned about low teacher salaries, upcoming budget cuts and the threat of closing schools and selling or leasing the campuses to charter schools.
Mike Hutchinson from OPEN said, “There’s only one way to stop this. That’s to organize.” And he presented information to indicate that the district is not really in a deficit. Taylor Wallace explained why the state does not have Black and Latino teachers and called for changing this serious situation. Oakland teacher Megan Bumpus represented the Oakland Education Association and explained the teachers’ struggle with the school district.
Among ideas presented at the Salon was a brief draft program that includes demands on the State of California, which bears much of the responsibility for Oakland’s problems.
While the district may be guilty of misspending, it is the State of California that is responsible for funding and is depriving the public schools of the money they need to serve the needs of Oakland children.
And it is the State that decides who is allowed to teach and creates obstacles that keep some of the best young teachers out of the classroom.
More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.
At the end of the dialogue, participants adopted a motion to hold a press conference at the State Building in January.
Draft of a People’s Program:
1. No public school closings. Closing schools does not save money. It hurts kids and neighborhoods.
2. No sale of public property. A major element of privatization is selling off the legacy of publicly owned property and institutions left to us by earlier generations of Oaklanders.
3. No budget cuts to the schools. California is one of the richest economies in the world. It has a budget surplus, a Democratic majority in the legislature, and the capacity to fully fund schools.
4. End the teacher shortage and the lack of Black, Latino, indigenous and Asian teachers by eliminating such barriers as multiple standardized tests and multiple fees and by reforming the non-elected, unrepresentative State Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
5. Rescind the remainder of the debt imposed on Oakland by the State legislature 15 years ago and spent by state-appointed administrators without input from Oakland residents
6. A living wage for all school employees. A first-year teacher, a custodian, a school secretary should all be able to live in the city where they work, if they wish to do so. That’s a “community school.”
7. End the discrimination against schools below the 580 freeway.
8. FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) out of Oakland. Democratic control of our school budget and school governance.
9. Open the books of the Ed Fund, which was created by non-elected State Administrators and does not provide transparency.
10. Reduce class sizes, standardized testing, test prep, age-inappropriate expectations, unnecessary bureaucracy, and mid-year consolidations.
Engage parents and teachers in a collaborative recreation of special education and the education of immigrant and emergent bilingual students.
If you have thoughts or comments on this draft program, send an email to Salonpost02@gmail.com
Oakland has long been the birthplace of justice movements. Our collective essence is one of resistance to injustice and persistence in the face of hardship. It’s no wonder that a small group of community members have banded together to create a space of academic healing for our most vulnerable learners.
The Academy for Restorative Education (AFRE) is a new Oakland non-profit whose focus is to close the achievement gap for under performing African-American students, and promote restorative educational practices to teach healthy responses to past educational neglect.
The primary mission of the AFRE is to aid in the development and support of specific, proven and meaningful educational models to improve academic achievement. Many underperforming students in Oakland lack the basic healing spaces and equipment to thrive academically.
After years of navigating a barren and, at times, hostile educational landscape for African-American children in the public school sector, several community members in Oakland joined Dr. Lasha Pierce, the Executive Director of AFRE, and decided to start SILE: School for Innovation, Leadership, and Efficacy. With an eye on closing the opportunity gap for African-American students, they have successfully formulated an innovative, inclusive curriculum rooted in Restorative Education. AFRE plans to join the legacy independent schools in the bay area in providing an educational alternative for African-American students.
The organization’s final 501C(3) designation with the IRS is still pending, but they are carrying on with fundraising, and organizing efforts cannot drag on. All community support is welcomed.
The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, in a yet-to-be-determined location.
Recruitment for students and families has begun. For more information, to volunteer time or resources, or to enroll a child, email email@example.com.
The Rosie’s Girls Summer Camp made its annual trip to the Chevron Richmond Refinery on Thursday, where members typically tour the facility and participate in a career panel.
But this year, the local middle-school girls did not act as tourists – but rather scientists.
Led by Chevron Bay Area Executive Women’s Group, Women’s in Progress, which regularly holds events aimed at inspiring and mentoring local girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), over 30 girls from the Rosie’s Girls summer camp conducted a daylong experiment in learning how to make bio-fuels.
Rosie’s Girls is an annual summer camp offered for free to local youth from low-income families. Like the WWII-era Rosie the Riveters, students in the camp learn skills and career pathways that are considered nontraditional for women, such as welding and carpentry.
At the Richmond Refinery Thursday, their skill base and experience was expanded to include STEM fields.
“We began earlier this morning by talking about what energy is, how one makes bio-fuel, and why we are interested in bio-fuels,” said Stacy Moffitt, community engagement specialist with Chevron Richmond.
They then conducted a related experiment using water bottles, each containing a different combination of substances – water, yeast, milk powder and a lactase tablet – as an introduction into how biofuels are made.
“They’re basically looking at fermentation and seeing what’s happening,” Moffitt said. “Even though milk has sugar, yeast can’t convert that sugar without the lactase tablet, which is a catalyst. Which is what you typically need when you use plant-based material to convert to fuel.”
The students conducted experiments in groups, with each group advised by women who work for Chevron. During the experiment, they made regular observations, and at the end of the day presented their findings to the group. Throughout the experience, the volunteer employees mentor the girls, talk about their futures and offer advice, Moffitt said.
“Rosie’s Girls give girls a wonderful summer opportunity to be ‘hands on’ with lots of cool things,” said Barbara Smith, VP of products and technology or Chevron Oronite. “It was fun today to do science with them, and at the same time talk about their interests and aspirations – and how STEM and college can give them so many great options for the future.”
The Executive Women’s Group has also worked with the Richmond nonprofit Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County. Last year, the women volunteered to collaborate on technical and leadership projects with 16 of the nonprofit’s young members at the state-of-the-art Fabrication Laboratory at Kennedy High, which was launched with funding by Chevron.
More than 30 girls from the Rosie’s Girls summer camp conducted a daylong experiment at Chevron Richmond Refinery to learn how to make bio-fuels.
The Oakland Unified School District has rehired widely respected administrator Tim White as Deputy Chief of Facilities to oversee construction and renovation projects on numerous major facilities projects that are underway.
“I am excited to come back to the place where I spent 14 years, supporting young people with outstanding educational facilities,” said White.
White worked for OUSD from 2001 to 2015 as Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and later as Deputy Chief of Facilities before being forced out his position in 2015 during the administration of former Supt. Antwan Wilson.
After leaving Oakland, White served as Executive Director of Facilities for Berkeley schools, working closely with the superintendent, Construction Bond Oversight Committee, and school board to determine long-term planning for the expenditure of facility construction bonds approved by voters.
He was also responsible for the expenditure of the district’s school maintenance tax ($5 million annually) used to keep schools safe and well-maintained. White previously worked in the Compton Unified School District.
“Tim brings extensive experience, an accomplished track record and a deep commitment to Oakland and communities. We are excited about Tim’s leadership and the new team that will be assembled in our Business and Operations division,” said OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.
“My previous time in OUSD will help me transition into this new role, enabling me to hit the ground running. There are many exciting projects well underway, including the rebuilding of Glenview Elementary and the new school building at Madison Park Academy, plus many in the early stages such as the new Central Kitchen,” said White. “I look forward to completing all of them as soon as possible, while ensuring that we are effective stewards of taxpayer dollars for the voters of Oakland.”
A group of nine young leaders from East Bay schools, organized and led by Regina Jackson of East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), will participate in the “March for Our Lives” demonstration for an end to gun violence Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee urged Jackson to organize the delegation so that Oakland would have a presence in the historic march. Lee contributed money to pay for part of the trip, and a micro-grant covered the rest.
“Recently we did a listening session with Oakland Lee about gun violence. She asked me to coordinate the student delegation. I will be leading the group of students, who have all been affected by gun violence, ages 13-18,” said Jackson.
Members of the EOYDC delegation: Damoni Nears, senior at Moreau Catholic High; Destiny Shabazz, senior at McClymonds High; Devlynn Nolan, senior at Castlemont High; Jada White, 8th grader at Edna Brewer Middle; Khali Walker, freshman at Castlemont High; Kia Hanson, senior at Fremont High; Nala Lazimba, 8th grader at Alliance Academy; Rasheem Haskins, sophomore at Skyline High; and Ramaj Walker, junior at Envision Academy.
Organizers of the Washington D.C. march are students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and adults died.
The young Oakland leaders spoke about how gun violence has impacted their lives.
“I have first-hand experience with gun violence,” said Jada White, aged 13.
“I lost my father when I was just a baby. I am going to the march to share my experience and my hope for stronger gun education and policy.”
Seventeen-year-old Kia Hanson said, “I lost my brother to gun violence. My pain is real every day. I am going to the march to represent him and my hope that no one ever have to experience a tragedy like mine ever again.”
The young people plan to write a blog about the march after they return draft some language for bills to be considered at the state and federal level.
Over 800 rallies and marches are scheduled across the country Saturday in solidarity with the protest in Washington, D.C. In the Bay Areas, marches are planned for San Jose and San Francisco.
A rally will be held Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in front of City Hall in Oakland, and then attendees will go by BART to join forces with marchers in San Francisco.
A recent report produced by a pro-charter school policy organization says that the continued rapid expansion of charter schools in the Bay Area, including Oakland, has been significantly undercut by the shortage of affordable facilities in a region notorious for out-of-control real estate prices.
To counter the slowdown, the report proposes passing state laws to “require or incentivize” school districts to close or “consolidate” public school properties and turn them over to charter school operators.
The growth rate of Bay Area charters, which reached a highpoint of 18.2 percent in 2012-2013, has fallen to an estimated 3.8 percent in 2017-2018.
The 25-page report, “The Slowdown in Bay Area Charter School Growth: Causes and Solutions,” was released in January by Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). The research was funded by the Silicon Schools Fund and supported by the California Charter Schools Association, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
Among the report’s proposals:
Tighten the state law, called Prop. 39, which requires school district to provide space in public schools for charters that ask for it.
“Prop. 39 helps, but it doesn’t help enough,” the report said. New regulations, for example, could modify the current year-to-year lease agreements “allowing or requiring a multiyear Prop. 39 lease;”
Offer districts “consolidation grants” to close facilities and maximize use of classrooms at fewer school sites;
Require a district to “house charter students” before it is allowed to go to the voters to pass a school bond to build or renovate school facilities. An aggressive step would be to require districts to pay a tax to the state “as long as the district fails to consolidate or close under-enrolled district schools.”
Even more aggressively, the state could take “building ownership rights away from districts that fail to manage them efficiently.”
“The state could simply require that districts that fail to reduce costs responsibly get out of the property ownership business by having the state assume ownership, by placing the buildings into a third-party trust, or by establishing a cooperative to which charter schools have equal rights.”
An additional factor slowing charter growth may have to do with intensifying political backlash, nationally and locally, against charters, according to the report.
“Teacher unions…have stepped up their resistance strategies and are increasingly coordinating opposition campaigns,” the report said. Further, “school districts have become adept at limiting charter growth by blocking access to facilities.”
Contributing to the backlash is “the perceived (negative) fiscal impact of charter schools on local districts,” the report said.
In Oakland, there are currently about 14,000 students enrolled in 43 charter schools, compared with over 36,000 students in 86 district schools.
This means that about 39 percent of the total students in public schools attend charters, costing the district about $100 million a year in lost revenue, according to district figures.
To counter the political “backlash” against charters, pro-charter organizations – like GO Public Schools in Oakland the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) – are involved in charter advocacy and “running successful campaigns for school board races.”
The CCSA spent more than $12 million on candidates for school board and other races in 2016 and 2017, the report said.
The proposals backed by Oakland-based charter organizations are less blatantly argued than those of their state and national counterparts, but their goals are the same.
They want to close public schools so charters can acquire school real estate and students.
Utilizing the rhetoric of school reform, local charter groups have written that Oakland has 30-35 too many public schools and have recommended closing schools as way to improve the quality of education and strengthen the district’s precarious finances.
Trish Gorham, president of the Oakland Education Association (OEA), the teachers union, told the Oakland Post that she found the report similar to other charter plans to undermine public education.
“The only thing surprising is how blatant it is,” she said.
“This is the kind of playbook that charter school supporters are following to privatize public education,” she said. “Oakland has been their target for a long time.”
“The bottom line is they need more space, and the only way to do that is to close more public schools,” Gorham continued. “That has to be watched. We are not going to close schools just to give the property to charter schools.”
Adding to the school district’s difficulties in maintaining its independence and solvency, charter organizations are deeply embedded in Oakland, and the district and school board, therefore, finds it difficult to disentangle itself, according to Kim Davis of Parents United for Public Schools.
“We’re very interlaced with these charter folks,” going back to 2003, she said.
There are four main pro-charter organizations in Oakland: Educate78, GO Public Schools and its affiliated organizations, the Rogers Family Foundation and the Oakland Public Education Fund, which has its office in the district’s headquarters.
Additionally, the California Charter Schools Association plays a major role in the city, especially at election time.
By Michael E. Connor, Ph.D.
Professor Alliant International University and
Professor Emeritus CSULB
When many/most folks think about psychology, they are likely thinking about clinical psychology—the branch which provides therapy and counseling. Some therapists may focus on children, others on adults, some on adolescents and others on geriatrics. The approaches, methodologies, interactions and parameters vary with each population. Additionally, some practitioners may work with individuals, some with groups; others with businesses; some with families or with an admixture of the above. A primary goal is to change thinking and activity in order to become more proficient, less stressed, more relaxed and more self-sufficient, which could result in more happiness and self-sufficiency.
Michael E. Connor, Ph.D., Professor Alliant International University and Professor Emeritus CSULB
A variety of techniques, procedures and processes are utilized, ranging from talk therapies to exercise to mindfulness training to medications (under the auspices of a medical doctor). The field of Black psychology has devoted itself to creating healing techniques and therapeutic practices design specifically for African American persons, families and community.
The focus on this month’s Critical Black Mental Health Issues is child and family therapy. When one considers the collective history and toxic context in which African American people were forced to live in the US, it is surprising that any of us have survived.
Yet, thousands have done so—this speaks directly of our (and our ancestors’) strengths, resolve, genius, and life lessons. However, living with constant stress and social toxicity too often results in physical and mental problems, including essential hypertension, diabetes, obesity, family violence, death at the hands of police, strokes, depression, anxiety, broken homes, the inability to care for self and others, and poor self esteem, to name a few.
All of this suggests the need for collaborative and culturally congruent healthy approaches to daily living which may include therapy.
In Black psychology the major works of Akbari, Bynum, Kambon, Grills, Myers, Parham, White, etc. provide a treasure chest of theory and practice that can serve as the basis for understanding and repairing the dehumanization of African people. As Black Psychologists, we especially want to note that in considering therapy, Black people should keep in mind that all behavior occurs in a social-historical-cultural context. Given our culture, when working with younger children (those who cannot yet engage in abstract thinking), it is important to include parents, grandparents, caregivers and other engaged adults (in this sense, for Black people, all therapy should or could be viewed as a form of Family Therapy).
In working with younger children, an approach I found most useful involved shaping and reinforcing desired behavior, using social reinforcement— while ignoring the undesired behavior (note, it is important to be aware of reasonable age appropriate child behaviors). In this model, primary caregivers are trained to observe the problematic behavior, to help determine appropriate preferred behavior and to reinforce approximations of that preferred behavior until the desired result is reached.
Along with various therapies in Black psychology, it is important in this discussion to consider the following specific issues when working with Black children:
Establish consistency in their lives—developing and maintaining a schedule (i.e., eating at the same time, going to bed at the same time (seven days a week), getting up at the same time, etc.);
Engage and reinforce the child’s natural curiosity (answer questions, read to them share/discuss their history);
Try not to confuse punishment with discipline;
Do not “treat your kids the same”—rather get to know them and treat them “who they are;”
Remember, fathers AND mothers have important roles to play in their children’s lives—kids need moms and dads;
If possible, have an annual physical exam for your children—keep a copy of the results (mental health and physical health are related); and,
Consistently, model appropriate behaviors for your child
The ABPsi’s 50th Annual International Convention will be held June 27th-July 1st, 2018, at The Marriott Oakland City Center, in Oakland, CA. Come join this gathering of psychologists, university professors, educators, health care professionals, researchers, students and everyday folks and learn about children and family therapy designed for Black people.
The Bay Area Chapter of the ABPsi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OAKLAND POST — The Black College Expo (BCE) state-to-state tour, presented by the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF), will host its 15th Annual Black College Expo Oakland at the Oakland Marriot City Center, located at 1001 Broadway in Oakland, Saturday, Feb.17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In an effort to raise awareness and promote student participation, the NCRF will have boots on the ground in Oakland for the “Power of Me” tour from Feb. 6 through Feb. 17, leading up to the expo.
The “Power of Me” tour includes recent college graduates and celebrities who will be visiting high schools, churches, community colleges and youth organizations, and sharing their experiences about college life and the importance of education along with the various BCE opportunities to minority students.
In recent years, the event has attracted close to 5,000 college hopefuls and millennials. One of the biggest advantages of the expo is a streamlined admissions process for students to be accepted to college on the spot. This feature eliminates the guesswork and the grueling and costly process of filling out application after application, followed by the agonizing wait for acceptance.
Also, the expo provides funding resources options, including scholarships, grants and other special incentives. The highly-anticipated, one-day event is jam packed with information, excitement and entertainment.
BCE Oakland will feature close to 100 colleges and universities that will pre-screen students for college acceptance and provide counseling and information about resource options. Approximately 50 of the colleges represented at the expo will be from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Many of them will be accepting students instantly at the expo, waiving application fees and awarding more than $1 million in scholarships. Students and parents are invited to take advantage of the many seminars and workshops that will go on throughout the day, such as “Booming Careers,” “How to Find Money for College,” and “The 411 for the Student Athlete.”
Plus, representatives from the armed services—the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard—along with a host of corporations and businesses will offer internships and other opportunities for minorities.
Other features of the expo include a celebrity-hosted scholarship presentation ceremony, step shows, live entertainment and lots of free giveaways.
OAKLAND POST — Laney College’s latest tiny home prototype will house two homeless students beginning this spring semester.
Laney College carpentry presents the Pocket House at Capitol Hill. Right to left: Digital fabrication instructor Marisha Farnsworth, Laney student Kim Gordon, Congressperson Barbara Lee, Laney students Daniel Ticket, Miguel Vega, and Rick Rothbart.
Laney’s carpentry department has achieved success building tiny homes. They won a contest hosted by Sacramento Municipal Utility District for a tiny home they built in 2016. Councilmember Abel Guillén spearheaded a collaboration between the City of Oakland and their department with an $80,000 grant to Laney carpentry to build a tiny home prototype for mass production.
The latest model of the Laney-made tiny homes is the Pocket House Model M. It was delivered to West Side Missionary Baptist Church by Martin Kauffman, a truck driver who donated his services.
Art Ramirez is an electrician who will also donate his services to get the tiny home’s water and electricity up and running.
Rev. Ken Chambers said the 200-member Interfaith Council of Alameda County supports this project, and has a goal to house 1,000 people this year.
But the first step is to work with Laney coordinators to interview and select students in need of the home each semester. The parking lot the tiny home sits in is already a safe car park, and Chambers is taking steps toward being able to pay a stipend to the selected students for overseeing the lot. The church will also offer access to health and employment services.
Chambers hopes to create a system that can be replicated throughout Oakland and have a deep impact on the unsheltered communities it holds.