Beyond Sanctuary Schools. Más Allá De Las Escuelas Santuarios.

Sigue abajo para leerlo en español

Mirella Rangel grew up in the Bay Area and in Mexico and began doing community organizing for educational justice while studying biology at the University of California at Berkeley. She is an Oaklander and Xicana mother working for a more just, loving, and sustainable world. Follow her on Twitter: @mirella_rangel.

I’ve worked in Oakland schools for 19 years as an educator, administrator, and organizer. During that time I have met hundreds of relentless family leaders. I have learned from the Jingletown families who didn’t ask for permission, and instead demanded decision-makers hear their demands, and the persistent families who launched the Small Schools Movement that started schools like ASCEND, Think College Now, EnCompass, MetWest, and many more.

And more recently families in East and West Oakland who have sounded the alarm about the unacceptable learning conditions at their children’s schools.

Oakland’s families of color are boss. And I am not talking about the regular attendees of school board meetings whose children attend some of the most sought-after schools in OUSD. I am talking about the families whose access to a great school feels largely out of reach.

For those families, especially Oakland’s immigrant community, it has never been so hard to advocate for change at their school.

I write this blog from the perspective of some of the families I have worked with who have given me permission and blessing to share their story.

Organizing to change power relationships is never polite. These families tell stories of being pushed and shoved in school hallways, and yelled at by school staff for their organizing efforts. They took this in stride, and even when they feared for how their children would be treated at the school site, they persisted.

But what made them pause was when they had school staff threaten to call ICE on them. I don’t mean a casual comment in passing, I mean letters sent home telling families that ICE would be contacted should they continue their organizing efforts. Steps were taken to address the issue with this individual, but the fear lingered.

Recently, I met with a few of these leaders to discuss local and national education issues. In that meeting, one leader told me that in reflecting on her organizing efforts from previous years. She shared that she and the other families would have NEVER organized at the school site if Trump had been president. The risks now are too great.

My heart sank. Second guessing your every move is a daily reality for immigrant families leaving under the threat of deportation, but now under the new regime, mothers who would stop at nothing to advocate for their kids feel silenced. These are the families whose voices need to be heard and it is a loss to our schools and community. Recent reporting across the country reflect that immigrants are changing their relationship to social services and opting to stay out of institutions that are perceived to increase risk of deportation.

I applaud OUSD’s declaration of being a Sanctuary District and the charter schools who have followed suit. And I was glad to see Superintendent Dr. Trammell’s op-ed on July 17th reiterating that OUSD does not ask for proof of immigration status and sharing resources for the Oakland Immigration Project.

Oakland is doing groundbreaking work here, but it is not enough. If those who are closest to the pain are to demand and identify solutions, we must do better as a city to ensure that families can live, work, play and organize, without the fear—even if we disagree with them.

What are we doing to make sure all employees see themselves working in solidarity of immigrant families and those under attack? In addition to striving to provide excellent education for all students, we need all staff in all schools, district and charter, to commit to making schools welcoming environments for students and families regardless of their citizenship status, race, gender and ability.

 


En Espanol

He trabajado en las escuelas de Oakland por 19 años como educadora, administradora y organizadora. Durante ese tiempo, he conocido a cienes de líderes familiares implacables. He aprendido de las familias de Jingletown que no pidieron permiso, y en cambio exigieron a los que toman decisiones escuchar sus demandas, y las familias persistentes que lanzaron el Movimiento de Escuelas Pequeñas que comenzaron escuelas como ASCEND, Think College Now, EnCompass, MetWest y muchas más.

Y más recientemente familias en East y West Oakland que han sonado la alarma acerca de las inaceptables condiciones de aprendizaje en las escuelas de sus estudiantes. Los que mandan son las familias de color.  Y no estoy hablando de que asisten las reuniones de la junta escolar con frecuencia cuyos estudiantes asisten a algunas de las escuelas más solicitadas en OUSD. Estoy hablando de las familias cuyo acceso a una buena escuela se siente fuera de su alcance.

Para esas familias, especialmente la comunidad de inmigrantes de Oakland, nunca ha sido tan difícil abogar por el cambio en su escuela.

Escribo este blog desde la perspectiva de algunas de las familias con las que he trabajado y que me han dado el permiso y la bendición para compartir su historia.

Organizar para cambiar las relaciones de poder nunca es amistoso. Estas familias cuentan historias de ser empujadas en los pasillos de la escuela, y gritadas por el personal de la escuela por sus esfuerzos de organización. Ellos tomaron esto como campeonas, e incluso cuando temieron por cómo sus estudiantes serían tratados en la escuela, persistieron.

Pero lo que los hizo detenerse fue cuando el personal de la escuela amenazó con llamar ICE a ellos. No me refiero a un comentario casual al pasar, me refiero a las cartas enviadas a casa diciendo a las familias que ICE sería contactado si continúan sus esfuerzos de organización. Hubo respuesta de la escuela acerca esa persona pero el miedo se sintió por mucho tiempo.

Recientemente, me reuní con algunos de estos líderes para discutir temas de educación locales y nacionales. En esa reunión, un líder me dijo que al reflexionar sobre sus esfuerzos de organizar compartió que ella y las otras familias NUNCA habrían organizado en la escuela si Trump hubiera sido presidente. Los riesgos ahora son demasiado grandes.

Mi corazón se hundió. Las vidas diarias de los inmigrantes consiste en calcular los riesgos cada dia y ahora con Trump de presidente estas madres que pararian a nada para mejorar la escuela de sus estudiantes se sentían silenciadas. Estas son las familias cuyas voces necesitan ser escuchadas. Es una pérdida para nuestras escuelas y comunidad. Se ha reportado que en todo el país los inmigrantes están cambiando su relación con los servicios sociales y optan por mantenerse fuera de las instituciones que se perciben aumentar el riesgo de deportación.

Aplaudo la declaración de OUSD de ser un Distrito del Santuario y las escuelas charter que han seguido el ejemplo. Y me alegró ver el Op. Ed. Del Superintendente Dr. Trammell el 17 de julio reiterando que OUSD no pide pruebas de estatus migratorio y compartiendo recursos para el Proyecto de Inmigración de Oakland. Oakland está haciendo un trabajo innovador, pero no es suficiente. Si aquellos que están más cerca del dolor son para exigir e identificar soluciones, debemos hacerlo mejor como una ciudad para asegurar que las familias puedan vivir, trabajar, jugar y abogar sin miedo aunque no estamos de acuerdo con ellos.

¿Qué hacemos para asegurarnos de que todos los empleados se trabajen en solidaridad con las familias de inmigrantes y los que están siendo atacados? Además de esforzarnos por proporcionar una excelente educación para todos los estudiantes, necesitamos que todo el personal en todas las escuelas, distritos y fundaciones, se comprometan a hacer que las escuelas sean acogedoras para los estudiantes y familias sin importar su estatus de ciudadanía, raza, género y habilidad.

 

Mirella Rangel creció en el Área de la Bahía y en México y comenzó a organizar para la justicia educativa mientras estudiaba Biología en la Universidad de California en Berkeley. Es una madre, Oaklandista, Xicana y organizadora que trabaja para un mundo más justo, sostenible, y fundado enamor. Síguela en Twitter @mirella_rangel

After 8 Schools and Almost Giving Up, I’m Graduating From MetWest and Headed to UC Davis

This guest post is by Camille Marley Brewster (aka Mars), who is graduating from MetWest High School in Oakland Unified School District this month.

During my time in Oakland I’ve been to eight different schools, some district, some charter, one home-schooling program twice, and then finally ending up at one very different and special high school, MetWest, that I graduated from this June. Also, I’m excited to say that come next September, I’ll be attending UC Davis as a part of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with an interest in Clinical Nutrition.

Who am I? My name is Camille Marley Brewster, but I go by Mars and I’m a born and raised California city girl. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most prominently, Oakland, have become my hometowns. I was only 7 when my single mom and I moved to Oakland after being on the East Coast to take care of family for eight months. I went to kindergarten out there and began the rest of my education here.

When I first started school in Oakland I went to the local public school a few blocks down from our apartment building, Lakeview Elementary. They didn’t have a proper after-school program and just let the kids out to the busy intersection of Grand and Lakeshore, right at the highway exit. My mom felt really uneasy about my safety as no staff member ever seemed to be watching over those kids until they got picked up. Right away, my mom decided I needed something different and put me on the waitlist for EBCC (East Bay Conservation Corps Charter School), a charter elementary school in Emeryville that focused on Civic Literacy.

It always seemed, at first, like I had more and better opportunities at the charter schools than the district ones. It took a little more than a month, but I was accepted into the school and almost instantly got to participate in so many life changing events, even as an elementary school student. As early as the first grade, I was learning about the four R’s: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot” and I never would have been able to go out to Washington, D.C., as a second-grader to give a speech about “Buddy Reading” to the Congressional Congress of Civic Literacy (an audience of about 400 leaders) if it wasn’t for the school’s imagination and innovation.

Like any school, though, they had their flaws and my mother withdrew me after my fourth grade year. They were completely unorganized and cared more about their reputation than the students sometimes. I first saw this in my third grade year when they lost my STAAR Testing and then without warning me or my mother, pulled me out of class to retake it.

They never informed the district of their mistake and my anxiety over the event showed in my test score results, which we received the following summer. This is when my mom first found out, because I, as a third grader, of course didn’t understand the situation as clearly as I do now and didn’t tell her when everything first happened.

They say “everything happens for a reason.” So I guess it was perfect that my mom pulled me out of EBCC (who were in the process of changing their name to Civicorps) and then placed me into home-schooling instead, because the summer before my fifth-grade year I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Home schooling was just what my situation called for, as I needed flexibility in my schedule to learn how to balance my life with my new label.

During my semester in home-schooling as a part of the K-12 Cava program, I was my own teacher, sitting at the kitchen table at my mother’s work (she’s a nanny), learning on the computer. The program itself wasn’t the issue, it was my need for social interaction that was lacking. I didn’t have many neighborhood friends, most of my friends were always from school, so without a physical school to go to, I was lonely.

After the first semester of fifth grade and me becoming more adept with my new condition, my mom placed me in another regular district school, Chabot Elementary School. I felt they were unprepared for my medical needs due to lack of resources and although they had a school nurse I found myself avoiding eating all day so that I could also avoid going to the office at lunch for my insulin shot. Maybe I just didn’t want to be treated differently by the other kids, but I soon found out this was impossible anyway.

Middle School was more of the same old same old. I went to Oakland School for the Arts (aka OSA), an arts-focused charter school. They had great ideas on how to improve education while promoting passion among their students for their art emphasis, but they also were extremely unorganized. They were packing the school with more and more students in hopes of receiving more money from the district and sponsors. In the end, it was a disaster and certain art departments got zero funding while others seemingly got it all.

For example, I was in the visual art department and the main art room that we worked out of wasn’t even big enough to hold each one of the middle school students in the department! This issue was never fixed when I attended the school, but three to four times a year the theater department got more funding to go on awesome and expensive field trips while we were cramped in a room without enough chairs.

This seems to be the biggest issue with non-district schools: funding.

After going back to home-schooling for a bit, I ended up at another public school for the second semester of my eighth-grade year. Claremont, despite its reputation, made me feel more connected to its community than I had to any school community in a very long time. I remember one time I was in English class and a boy saw me checking my blood sugar under the table. He then proceeded to ask me if I was a Type 1 diabetic. This was the very first time that anyone had made this kind of distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

I almost cried then and there, simply because for the first time ever I didn’t need to try and convince anyone that I wasn’t a diabetic because I “ate too much candy when I was little” or that I could actually eat anything I wanted as long as I gave insulin for it (so many people mistake Type 1 diabetes for what they think they know about Type 2).

This, to this day, is still the one thing I love about district schools, they don’t have the power to discriminate against kids labeled undesirable because they have to accept everyone. I was always able to find someone, whether it be a student or a teacher, that wasn’t completely ignorant about other people’s struggles and didn’t grow up in a bubble—a feeling I got a lot about the community at certain schools with the power of this “selectivity.”

I went to one of the biggest high schools in Oakland for two years, Oakland Technical High School, and failed miserably due to the lack of attention I received from the teachers and administration.

I really just gave up on school entirely. There were many times in math class when I would sit by the door to the classroom and wait for attendance to be called before slipping out of class simply out of lack of interest, but because of the class’s student to teacher ratio I was never caught. I don’t think the teacher ever really noticed either.

I transferred one last time to this very special school I mentioned earlier, MetWest High School. This school, while a part of the Oakland Unified School District, was more like an independent study school than anything else. It helped me believe in education again and I began to see opportunities to prove my intelligence left and right, after only a few days of being there.

We would have normal school hours three days a week and then spend the other two out in the world learning through internships. My internships have helped me realize my love for working with others my age on projects to better the future or help others. That’s why I want to be a nurse or work out of a hospital, besides the fact I’ve already been close to hospitals and the medical world for most of my life.

I was also given the chance to take college courses before graduating high school and am now that much closer to getting my degree in college in my next few years. I feel like I am actually being prepared for the world.

This is what education should look like and feel like. And I love that every single flaw I could possibly think of in this school is not only being worked on by administrative staff but also includes teachers’ and students’ voices. I was given the amazing opportunity of being on the Student Council and Prom Committee this year as a senior. I’m both sad and happy to be graduating from this wonderful school because while I will miss this type of environment, I now have clear goals for my future and life.