Who Trump’s “Bad Hombres” Really Are?  The Real Face of Deportation in Oakland and What You Can Do

We are seeing our first close up look at Trump’s deportations in Oakland and they are not making us safer or greater.  On Tuesday the ICE plans to deport an oncology nurse working at Highland hospital, and her truck driver husband, who by all account have lived exemplary lives, in the US.  This will leave behind three children including a junior in high school, who will have to make their way without their parents.

Let me repeat, she is an oncology nurse at Highland hospital.

Given all the issues we have, it’s hard to see how this is a priority use of resources and even harder to see how it is the “right” thing to do.  No criminal issues or any issues whatsoever in 23 years, successful children who will contribute to society and both of them have worked, paid taxes and tried to find a path to legal residence, applying for asylum, and deliberately identifying themselves to the government in an effort to get legal.

It was 23 years ago Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, her husband Eusebio and daughter crossed the border.   There has to be a way to make that right, without breaking up this family.  And if this is the way it is going to go.  If this is the immigration enforcement policy for the next several years, we need to resist.  That starts with a protest on Monday (more info below).

Senator Feinstein, summed this up perfectly in an interview in the Chronicle, “These are the kind of people we should welcome into the United States with open arms,” the California Democrat said. “Tearing this family apart doesn’t make anyone safer, it only places incredible hardship on their three children who will remain behind, forced to navigate their lives without their parents.”

So please stand with me and others in the Bay Area against this injustice.  The East Bay Democratic Socialists of America are organizing a protest on Monday August 13th at Highland from 12-3, and there are free shuttles from the Lake Merritt Bart, the details are here.

Please join us. Injustice festers, when people of conscience sit silently.  It’s time to stand up.

What We Learned from Our Superintendent’s First Press Conference

It was a strong start for OUSD’s new superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell in her first press conference, mostly for what she didn’t say.  Normally the new superintendent comes in with a new slogan sourced through a marketing firm, 9 point plan that has a smartly created acronym attached to it, a fancy powerpoint, an iconic backdrop and a bunch of prepared bullsh*t that leads nowhere.  That is not what we got yesterday at the press conference.

Dr. Johnson-Trammell, had a restrained approach, listening, focusing on fundamentals, and it was notably devoid of the big shake up, and that’s a good thing.  She reflected on Oakalnd’s history and is a student of it, going back to the iconic 70’s OUSD superintendent Dr. Marcus Foster’s speech remarking on the similarities between the challenges and opportunities then and now.

“We’re shook up a lot in this District,” she noted disapprovingly.   And her focus is on the relatively boring fundamentals, fiscal vitality, access to quality schools, and organizational resilience.  These are the right foci.

Big Challenges, Big Plans, and Little Progress

OUSD seems to teeter on the edge of fiscal crisis every few years, with overruns in predictable categories and somewhat predictable revenue shortfalls.   And it faces a set of structural challenges; underfunding, a very challenging teacher market where OUSD struggles to compete on salaries with nearby districts while housing costs soar, immense achievement gaps, and many students with very high needs.

And yes, schools in Oakland are underfunded, and extra funding for high needs students doesn’t approach the true costs, or the support they deserve.  But that is not changing in the near term.  Similarly the regional teacher market isn’t improving nor are we seeing a decrease in the number of high needs students that come to Oakland.

We have always had to make a dollar out of fifteen cents in Oakland, and that ain’t changing.  So I appreciate her honest responses around the need to make and evaluate tradeoffs in budgeting, and also the need to think of better ways to do things, and to keep moving forward amidst financial constraints.  We have to spend money smarter in Oakland and maybe rethink some of the assumptions that we have long held.

Is a 500:1 student to counselor ratio reasonable in a city whose children are often marked with trauma?

Do we have too many buildings when OUSD once had over 55,000 students and now has less than 38,000?

Do traditional school building even make sense, when our most demanded high schools focus on internships and career pathways, where students’ most important educational experiences happen out in the field?

Why can’t we better utilize the wonderful human resources we have in the community, even in more non-traditional roles?

And many more.

Fostering Stability through Needed Change

This is a challenging balance, to rethink how we best foster learning in students, while building a stable organization and workforce.  But that is the challenge, it won’t be solved in a day, by a slogan or through a superhero(ine), and it will be an ongoing challenge that we will have to continue to adapt and respond to.

But by having a school year start with the boring fundamentals rather than the shiny distractions, we are off to a good start.  We don’t need another shakeup or detour to nowhere, we need a sustained, thoughtful focus on stability and an analysis of our investments to see what is working and what isn’t and how to better target funds to students that need them.

Oakland has long been a city of promise, Marcus Foster’s speech 40 years ago saw the district on the “brink of bankruptcy” full of “dissent and turmoil” and “much that persons of goodwill can disagree on…with chasms between promise and performance.”

As our new superintendent said, those words could apply today as then.  It is on us to bridge that chasm and the superintendent’s first press conference was a small and deliberate start.


Great School Voices’ Oakland Education Preview- Week of 8/7

Our regular look at upcoming educational events in Oakland and regionally, if you have an event you would like to include please email me.

Alameda County Office of Education board meets 8/8 at 6:30, you can see the board agenda here, note that it includes the public hearing for the COVA K-8 charter.

OUSD has a board meeting on 8/9.  The agenda for the meeting is here, looks like several reports on the progress and work plans for the year.  Check out GO’s Board watch for more detail on the meeting content.

Superintendent press conference-On Tuesday, August 8, Superintendent Johnson-Trammell, who assumed the role on July 1, will hold her first news conference. The topics she will cover will include plans for the first day of school, her plans for the District in the 2017-18 school year and beyond and how the District moves on from the challenges that arose last year. Dr. Johnson-Trammell will also share details about growing up in Oakland and explain how those deep roots will help guide her as she leads the District.

WHAT: Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell’s First News Conference
WHEN: 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 8
WHERE: Suite 680, 1000 Broadway, Oakland

Blueprint for Quality schoolsAugust 12– At the third retreat, the working group will study how the number and size of schools in Oakland relates to the size and role of the OUSD Central Office.9 a.m. – 1 p.m.,La Escuelita, 286 E 10th St. More info is here

TEACHERS TEACHING TEACHERS: Community Responsive Professional Development-We are excited to have you join us for the TEN Summer Conference on August 9th and 10th, 2017 in Oakland, California.  At this symposium we will highlight the relationship between educational equity and community responsiveness. As part of the work we are doing at our symposium, we want to provide a space to share resources that will support teacher growth and a positive school culture.  More information is here

LOCATION-Roses in Concrete, 4551 Steele Street, Oakland, CA 94619


8/13 9:00 – 5:00PM  Attend & Achieve Back to School Rally Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA. Oakland students welcome for a backpack and school supply giveaway, as well as for performances, workshops and family-friendly activities. No income qualification needed for backpacks and school supplies. Register online at oaklandnatives.org.


Oakland A’s night for OPEF-Friday, August 11, they’re poised to hit a grand slam for Oakland students. During the A’s inaugural Oakland Neighborhood Night, seats are discounted for all Oakland residents—and $5 of every ticket sold goes to the Ed Fund! 


First pitch versus the Baltimore Orioles is at 7:05 PM on Friday, August 11. For more information, or to purchase a group of 25 or more tickets, please contact Chris Flynn at 510-563-2346 or [email protected].


Every Wednesday Free Haircuts with Good Grades  Beast Mode, 811 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607.  Marshawn Lynch is rewarding students’ academic success with free haircuts.  Anyone from kindergarten to 12th grade can receive a cut for no charge on Wednesdays by bringing a report card. To view an article concerning it, click here.


Further out

Sanctuary schools conference- Bringing Sanctuary to the Classroom is a convening by Oakland educators, for Oakland educators who are prepared to stand up for our families and empower our students to be allies for each other.

This event will include:

  • Keynote Speaker: Artist Favianna Rodriguez, Sat, September 9, 2017, 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM PDT

Add to Calendar

LOCATION-Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, CA 94607

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The Crisis in California’s Public Education System

By Chris Bertelli

There is a crisis in California’s public education system. According to teachers unions and the NAACP, the crisis involves an attempted takeover of the public school system by greedy billionaires and profit machines, led by modern day George Wallaces.

In truth, 90% of California’s public school children attend a district-run school, governed by locally-elected boards. It is these districts, we are told, that are the vanguard of educational quality and accountability.

By avoiding any discussion of whether districts do an adequate job in educating students or are accountable to anyone for results, they attempt to make education debates about governance and process and not about whether students actually receive an education.

It is in the results of the traditional system boosted by these organizations where the crisis truly resides.

Sixty-five percent of California’s low-income students do not meet state standards in English/Language Arts, 76% do not meet them in math. When broken down to consider ethnicity within these numbers, 75% of low-income African American students don’t meet state standards in ELA and 86% fall short in math. For low-income Latino students, 68% don’t meet ELA standards and 80% fall short in math.

This summer, CALmatters contacted the fifteen districts with the highest concentration of low-income, English learner and foster students for whom the state boosted funding in 2013. She wanted to know what they had done with the extra funds and the results of those investments.

The academic results are bad. This is from CALmatter’s report:

A CALmatters analysis of the biggest districts with the greatest clusters of needy children found limited success with the policy’s goal: to close the achievement gap between these students and their more privileged peers. Instead, test scores in most of those districts show the gap is growing.

Most districts also displayed an appalling lack of transparency (emphasis mine):

More than half of the districts refused to respond to any questions about their finances. A few would only say how much extra money for needy students they had received—not how they had spent it. Others complained about the burden of the inquiry.

I’m going to see if that’s something we can identify without going through a forensic audit,” said Marlene Dunn, the chief business official for Lynwood Unified School District in Los Angeles County. “It could take a couple hundred hours of staff time to give you that information in that manner,” she added. “You’re asking us to go back in time and find something we didn’t track.”

CALmatters isn’t the only group to run into transparency issues while trying to gather information. A May Voice of San Diego story chronicled the attempt of parents to get basic budgetary information that the district was using to make layoff decisions. In its investigation, it uncovered the following (emphasis mine):

Earlier this year, [SDUSD Superintendent Cindy] Marten announced the district was under a hiring freeze. But [SDUSD Board Member Kevin] Beiser told me that when he first requested information on the number of staff members who’d been hired during the freeze, he got no answers from Marten. He ended up asking a parent to file a public records request for the information – not that this approach would necessary turn around information any faster.

VOSD analyzed more than 400 California Public Records Act requests filed by members of the public between 2013 and 2016, and found if often takes the district more than 200 days to deliver records to citizens and journalists who request them. One citizen waited at least 517 days for records the district never delivered.

San Jose Unified School District staff collaborated with the local teachers union to kill a proposed charter petition by lying to parents and teachers who signed the petition and by claiming the charter is not needed because of the “great things” being done by district-run schools (emphasis mine).

“We wanted to remind the board that a lot of schools are doing great things and there are a lot of happy and satisfied and engaged people,” said Jennifer Thomas, president of the San Jose Teachers Association.
Parents supporting Perseverance said they wanted other, better options.

At Hoover Middle School, which serves the downtown population targeted by Perseverance, only 25 percent of students scored proficient in English and 15 percent proficient in math on state tests last year.

The disdain for the parents and students they serve has gone beyond hubris and arrogance into full-fledged scandal and crisis in many of California’s school districts. Yet, the NCAAP and union leadership think this is the system in which we should invest more of our trust? Districts that ignore and disenfranchise parents and students while refusing to provide an adequate education?

In the novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Power is not a means; it is an end….The object of power is power.” We are now witnessing what power as an ends unto itself is truly like.

About the author

Chris Bertelli is the founder of Bertelli Public Affairs, an education public affairs consultancy based in Sacramento, California. He specializes in working with clients focused on improving educational equity in California public schools.

2 Things the NAACP Got Right on Charter Schools

While I think there is a lot wrong with the NAACP’s look at charters, they did get two things right.

One is a substantive policy that we should take up, and the other is more of an admission that hopefully will lead us to a better conversation and meaningful action.

First, let’s look at the policy recommendation: ending for-profit charters.

1. For-Profit Charters Have No Place in Public Education

There is no profit to skim from public schools without hurting kids. When private firms are focused around profit, all sorts of mischief ensues.

Further, there is no evidence that for-profit charters increase learning—in fact they seem to deliver worse results than traditional public schools or nonprofit charter public schools.

Just look at the stats on achievement in the for-profit charter sector, which at best is middling and at worst is “abysmal.” Here in California, our experience with the very small for-profit sector is similarly dismal, with a range of fiscally and academically scandalous outcomes.

In my own experience I have seen sketchy practices from the few for-profits I have encountered. Things like loaning money to the school for facilities at exorbitant rates, or selling services of dubious value to charter school boards that deliberately aren’t equipped to exercise oversight and where outspoken and ethical educators can be shown the door for standing up for kids or the community.

Schools cannot serve two masters, and when profits and services compete—kids and families tend to lose.

Thankfully all of our charter public schools in Oakland are run by local not-for-profits, and there are actually very few for-profit charters in California. But we should ban for-profits from running the schools altogether.

In fact, this should actually be an easy one to agree on. When I asked the California Charter Schools Association about their stance—I was a little surprised—they supported a ban.

Sadly, though, it’s not that easy, as some folks would rather play politics than get to agreement (more on this in a later blog).

I have not seen a single, fact-based argument for charter schools run by for profit companies. And I challenge anyone to argue for them on the facts. Seriously, I will even publish it here on the blog.

The NAACP is right: For-profit charters should be banned.

2. This Charter School Debate Is a Distraction

No sector is serving Black children well over all—not traditional public schools, not charter public schools, not private schools or even homeschools—nothing. The numbers tell the story.

And despite all the time and energy devoted to charter bashing, they make up a tiny proportion of the schools (dis)serving Black kids.

So why is there a focus on this 7 percent of schools when it diverts needed attention from the other 93 percent of public schools?

The NAACP has only perpetuated this problem through the process of creating this report, but thankfully they do acknowledge the issue, buried pretty deeply in the report. Here is how Chalkbeat summarized it:

Perhaps ironically after devoting an entire report to the topic, the NAACP suggests that charter schools may be a distraction: “It is a concern that charter schools have had a larger influence on the national conversation about how to improve education in communities of color than these other well-researched educational investments.”

Graduation rates and achievement for Black students, while pitiful, are better than they have ever been. We’ve got to focus on Black student achievement everywhere, in every school. You could get rid of every charter school tomorrow and it would not help the Black community a whit.

In fact I think you would have revolt on your hands from some Black parents, who are being relatively well served by their charters.

There is a raging fire and here we are, arguing about where to spray the hose—with the NAACP focusing on only one room as the house is consumed by flames.