Bigger Than Bathrooms: Making Schools Safe for EVERY Student

A guest post from Ash Whipple, an Oakland student and one of Oakland’s Energy Converters.

I’m sure when you’re out in public, or at work, all you worry about when going to the bathroom is if it’s clean or not. Nobody likes public bathrooms, they’re dirty, and you never know who you’re going to come across in them, though usually it’s okay.

I want you to pause and think about that for a moment, every time you’ve been uncomfortable going into a public bathroom or have just decided to wait until you get home. Now I want you to imagine that doubled, tripled, quadrupled even. Imagine you need to go to the bathroom and you only come across one for the opposite gender. Compound that anxiety and imagine fearing for your life when doing something as simple but as necessary as going to the bathroom because you know you don’t belong.

That’s what it’s like for me when I try to go to the bathroom. I am transgender. I am neither male nor female. There is no bathroom for me. To be safe, I have to go to the bathroom that matches the gender people think I am. People give me looks, and I feel unsafe.

It’s a miserable experience. Sometimes at school, I wait all day until I get home because I don’t want to have to pick male or female. I am neither, and I shouldn’t be forced into one.

It’s a conversation no one wants to have, but we must discuss.

Transgender students need to feel safe going to the correct bathroom and not feeling alienated over such a simple necessity. This is a struggle I face everyday of my life. I look forward to being able to make educating others on this issue as well as helping the world become more inclusive for people like me.

Thanks to Energy Converters for sharing this—helping Black folx #navigate education. S/O 2 people converting negative energy to positive all over. #BeAnEnergyConvertor #DoWork Founder: @ccoleiii

The Oakland Education Roundup Week of October 6th

Our weekly look back on everything Oakland education; the OUSD budget and enrollment numbers, good looks at homelessness in Oakland and beyond, the latest CA poll numbers, recaps of OUSD meetings, opportunities to help educators and more, please take a look

If you want this regularly please follow me on FacebookTwitter or subscribe to the blog at the bottom of this page or on the right side.


The Good the Bad and the Troubling in the OUSD Budget
Opinion: It Should Not Take A Natural Disaster in Oakland
The Report Oakland Needs to Read
Oakland shelter gives homeless teen hope for a future
Amid affluence, youth homelessness surges in the Bay Area
Opinion | The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs
GO Oakland Roundup: October 5, 2017 Digest
Breaking the Cycle in Oakland- A Woke Grandparent’s Story – Great School Voices

For Oakland youth and Families

Radio and Podcasting Class for Youth from KALW and EOYDC
Free Flu Vaccine Available For All Participating Oakland Elementary Schools

Meeting recaps

OUSD audit Committee 
Measure N – College and Career Readiness Commission
OUSD Budget and Finance committee
Community Advisory Committee for Special Education
New poll: ‘Safe and positive school environment’ more important than higher test scores
Lawsuit: Foster child died after ingesting meth for second time
Schools face challenge bringing homeless children out of the shadows.
Shelters, cars and crowded rooms
LA County Office admits it shouldn’t have approved Long Beach’s LCAP

Best of the Rest

Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular
Latino dropout rate hits new low as college enrollment hits record high

Educator Opportunities

School Retool Fellowship Application

How you can help

Help an Oakland student and educator whose home was destroyed by fire
Support students with Listening Tools
Bring Coding and Engineering to Life with Lego Robots


The Good the Bad and the Troubling in the OUSD Budget
Oakland Unified finally got some good news in its enrollment numbers, but there is still a financial crisis and given some statements by staff there is an even larger cultural crisis.

The Report Oakland Needs to Read
OUSD’s predicament of being a declining enrollment district while charter schools grow is not unique and it needn’t be so painful according to a new report out.

Oakland shelter gives homeless teen hope for a future
An audio story on the challenges facing homeless students in Oakland and the resources available to them, like the Dreamcatcher Youth Shelter.

Amid affluence, youth homelessness surges in the Bay Area
Nearly 15,000 children living in shelters, motels, cars or “doubled up” with other families.

Opinion | The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs
The administration thinks law enforcement is the answer, but education works better. Their story looks at Oakland International High School.

OUSD Audit Committee meeting was held on 10/2, you can see the agenda here

GO Oakland Roundup: October 5, 2017 Digest Dear GO Supporter, Welcome to the GO Oakland Roundup for the first week of October. In this edition, we’d like to update you on some tough decisions being faced by OUSD, as well as exciting developments within.

To honor Latinx Heritage Month, Latinx Literature read in we hosted a citywide appreciation of Latinx writers and illustrators from October 2-6, schools across Oakland will host volunteer read-alouds in classrooms, Family Literacy Nights, cross-grade buddy reading, and more.

Measure N – College and Career Readiness Commission met on 10/3, you can see the agenda here

OUSD Budget and Finance Committee had a meeting on 10/4; you can see the agenda here

ACOE Program and Agency Budget Committee Meeting were held on 10/6.

Community Advisory Committee for Special Education met on 10/6 at Bret Harte Middle School. Committee members and other participants heard learning’s from the September Study Session and discuss initiatives and changes currently underway for Special Education in OUSD

Breaking the Cycle in Oakland- A Woke Grandparent’s Story – Great School Voices
Connie Williams is a mother and grandmother of Oakland public school children, she also graduated from Oakland public schools.

Opinion: It Should Not Take A Natural Disaster in Oakland
The wake of the disasters that are plaguing our sister states and countries around the world, students, faculty, and staff from across Laney College.

For Youth and Families

Free Flu Vaccine Available For All Participating Oakland Elementary Schools. Shoo the Flu program will return this fall for teachers and students at elementary schools throughout Oakland.

Radio and Podcasting Class for Youth from KALW and EOYDC – Calling all East Oakland Youth 14-18! Tell a story you care about, in your own voice– take the Radio and Podcasting class from KALW and EOYDC.


New poll: ‘Safe and positive school environment’ more important than higher test scores A survey of California registered voters also shows strong support for school districts to devote more funds and resources to addressing the needs of the state’s.

Lawsuit: Foster child died after ingesting meth for second time. Attorneys for the family of a foster child who died after ingesting methamphetamine filed a federal lawsuit against Alameda County on Monday.

Schools face challenge bringing homeless children out of the shadows. A non-profit journalism website reporting on key education issues in California and beyond.

Shelters, cars and crowded rooms – An EdSource special report on how the housing crisis has forced more students into homelessness.

“Education for All: Serving California’s Most Vulnerable Children.” Edsource’s annual conference on 10/5 focused on looking at what schools and communities can do to ensure that all students succeed, especially in the wake of California’s landmark reforms and how current federal policies may undercut them

LA County Office admits it shouldn’t have approved Long Beach’s LCAP County officials are now demanding districts do a better job of justifying spending for low-income students and English learners under the funding formula.

Best of the Rest

Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular Activists can’t persuade their contemporaries—they’re aiming at the next generation.

Latino dropout rate hits new low as college enrollment hits record high. The high school dropout rate among U.S. Latinos has fallen to a new low while a record number of Hispanics are attending college, a Pew Research report finds.

Opportunities/Funding for Educators

10/15 – School Retool Fellowship Application: Oakland Winter 2018 Cohort Educate78’s School Design Lab and the Rogers Family Foundation, in support and collaboration with Oakland Unified School District, are excited to announce a second Oakland-based School Retool. Cohort.School Retool is open to school leaders in public schools throughout Oakland. We are seeking leaders who want to change the status quo of public education, are passionate about access to Deeper Learning for all students, are willing and ready to try out a new, immersive learning experience, and are committed to fully participating in the work of the fellowship. You can find more info here

12/16 – West Oakland School and Resource Fair Public · Hosted by Enroll Oakland Charters

Oakland families are invited to learn more about their public school options. There will be:
* School Booths (Elementary, Middle, High schools) – Visit with school principals, teachers and families
* Enrollment Booths – Explore and compare public schools using Oakland’s school finder. Get help with your online application and/or enroll online.
* Resource Booths – Learn more about support services provided by local community organizations.

How you can help

Help an Oakland student and educator whose home was destroyed by fire. Huber was an Education for Change student, and is now an Education for Change teacher in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. He and his family represent Oakland at its best, and in the early hours of Friday, September 8th, they awoke to their home on fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but you can imagine the pain, stress, frustration, and anger in seeing your family home on fire. We are asking that you donate whatever you can to help Huber and his family respond to this loss quickly so that he can resume the job he loves and support his family. Help spread the word! 

Support students with Listening Tools – A strong listening center is much needed in all elementary school classrooms. The stacks of CD’s and cassettes on a day to day for engagement, enrichment in both love for learning and academic standards. My students need a protected space with a CD player and timers to listen, learn and be heard.  Be the first to donate | $484 still needed, Ms. Semana Aspire College Academy, Oakland CA

Bring Coding and Engineering to Life with Lego Robots at Oakland Sol. This is the second phase of our great robot adventure, where students experiment with engineering concepts and coding practice, as well as learning about the design phases of a technical project. My students need these EV3 Mindstorms kits to take their skills to the next level! 2 donors | $466 still needed… Give to Mr. Davis

Inconvenient Truths in Oakland’s Charter School Wars

Oakland has more school aged children that don’t attend a district or charter public school (17,572), than attend charters (11,774).  Further OUSD has only lost 55 students since 2013-14, declining from 36,869 students to 36,814.  These facts found in last week’s Board packets, further challenge the narrative that charters are the problem in OUSD and that declining enrollment is driving the fiscal crisis.  And to get to solutions we need to start with facts.

With all the yelling from a small contingent about charters being “the devil” we are missing what is really happening.  And until we face the facts and the real challenges we will never solve them. Charter schools are not the main area where the district is losing students, and in the recent history, OUSD is barely declining.  Further, that decline is within its control. OUSD has a whole set of structural challenges it needs to reckon with, and until it addresses those, no amount of scapegoating will help.

Where are 17,572 Oakland Youth?

More Oakland youth, do not attend an Oakland public school (district or charter) than attend charter schools.  Check the numbers, of the 65,740 school age youth in Oakland, 36,392 went to a district school, 11,774 went to a charter and a whopping 17,572 students went to neither a district school nor charter.

Smartly OUSD’s enrollment office is reaching out to these parents. But why isn’t the status of these children a priority and subject of debate?

Is Declining Enrollment the Root of Fiscal Problems?

OUSD has decreased by only 55 students since 2013-14 according to the FICMAT report. That is fewer than the number of entering students at OUSD’s newly opened Oakland School of Language. And while some of those students likely would have attended other OUSD schools, some of them would not have.  Check the table below.

OUSD is a smaller district than it was 10 years ago, but to blame the current fiscal crisis on declining enrollment is missing other contributing factors. And until we address those structural challenges in the OUSD budget, we will never right the ship.

Why it Matters

Our current charter versus district narrative misses the larger issues taking place, and will not help us solve them.  Yes charters are a convenient scapegoat, and yes charters may contribute to some of the districts woes.  But the issue is really one of quality and access.  Some OUSD schools are under-enrolled and some schools get 5 applications for every seat.  In many cases families are not satisfied with the schools they have and vote with their feet, or pocketbooks.

Truth be told, you could hypothetically eliminate every charter, and the district would still have the same problems and families in Oakland would have even more.  Nobody can make a credible argument that things were better for Black and Brown children in Oakland before charters, check the numbers.

Blaming charters does not help kids, families or the district.  OUSD needs to take a hard look at its portfolio of schools, structure of its budget, and the familiar areas of overrun.  It also needs to find a productive way to engage with the charter community, and coordinate to better and more equitably serve families.

It is time for us to get to facts in Oakland.  And while scapegoats may rally the partisans, they don’t carry us towards solutions.

They stall us while our real problems fester.

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

2 Big Takeaways in the Latest Charter and District Comparisons in Oakland

If you haven’t seen Informing Equity: Student Need, Spending and Resource Use in Oakland’s Public Schools, you should.

It is a critical first step in understanding what is happening in the difference public education sectors in Oakland and across the range of schools. I will excerpt the reports own big takeaways, but there are two critical ones I want to start with.

The Sectors Need to Talk

First, we need to talk, and share data across public school sectors in Oakland. Charters are more than a bit player—at roughly 30 percent of public school students—and the collection and thoughtful comparison of data is a critical step in understanding better what is actually happening, and then what we can do about it.

This effort to actually share across sectors, conducted jointly by The Oakland Achieves Partnership and Education Resource Strategies, was the most collaborative I’ve seen in Oakland.

I know there are critics to district–charter collaboration, but this should be evidence against that position.

This was the work of the Public Schools Equity Pledge or the Public Pledge or whatever it’s called now in its dormant state. But cutting off lines of communication or collaboration, may draw a line in the sand, but it does not help students, families, or the public to understand what is actually happening. And the average family is much less concerned with the governance model, or charter versus district, than they are with the quality of the school. They want the sectors to talk and to provide better information.

Digging Deeper for Insights

Second, this first round of data really does not answer many questions. It should get us asking them. And I have already heard the back and forth start.

Are the lower special education numbers in some charters because they don’t enroll students or because they serve students well without referring them for special education services or because the district over-refers, and tends to put more children in special day classes? For each area of the report there are arguments for and against, but now at least we are in a position to do the next level of analysis—and start asking the why questions, based on valid data.

And there is extremely wide variation across both public school sectors, with some charters vastly over-representing high needs students and others vastly under-representing, same with the district schools. So the sector generalities really don’t apply to any individual school.

The Report’s Key Findings

The report had three big findings. From the report:

This study examines district-run and charter schools in Oakland across three dimensions: (1) student need, (2) resource levels, and (3) resource use. We analyzed data for the 2014-15 school year from every school run by Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), as well as 32 charter schools, which serve 88 percent of all the charter school students in Oakland. In some cases, we also compared Oakland to a set of peer districts from around California or around the country.

On high-needs students:

Student Need: Overall, the student population in OUSD schools had greater needs than did the Oakland charter school student population. District schools are serving a greater proportion of higher-needs students, in terms of incoming academic proficiency, students in need of special education services, and late entering students.

The report also noted some trends and policy issues that may impact the numbers:

  • Compared to peer districts in California and nationally, OUSD places 30 percent more of its special needs students in restrictive environments, which are more costly.
  • The state funding law that caps concentration funds for charter schools is resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue for charters serving high-needs students, making it more challenging for charters to serve them.

So, while charters do serve more low-income students and English-learners overall, based on the data they do serve less of the highest needs students.

Part of this is a function of charter school lotteries, which take place in spring, and by their nature tend to disadvantage latecomers, who on average, will have higher needs.

But that means that as a sector we need to look at some of our practices and get creative.

Getting Creative on Charter Admissions

Rather than using a ranked waitlist, we could re-lottery a percentage of open seats in the summer, so latecomers would have a fair chance.

And we need to think about how we reach and serve foster and homeless students better. And while the charter school common enrollment system is a step in the right direction, and I know they did lot of outreach, I would love to see Enroll Oakland Charters going out to even more shelters, and partnering with more community advocates, working to extend access to our most challenged families. I’d love for our schools to also develop the specific differentiated supports that some students need.

We also need to look harder at admissions preferences for underserved students. These are actually pretty commonplace in New York, but not so here. Alongside a push to reform the funding formula, this would encourage schools to take those higher-need students and get funding for them.

Resource Levels and Use

The report also found that charters get significantly fewer resources than district schools, which may surprise some given the rhetoric we hear about rich charter schools.

Similarly, when we look at how the money is spent, one glaring issue is the amount of public funding spent on private rents—over $2,000 per child in the most extreme situation.

But in terms of whether the resource disparities are “fair,” we need to look harder at the data and ask some additional questions.

From the report:

Resource Levels: In 2014-2015 OUSD spent $1,400 more per pupil than the average charter school on operating expenses, adjusted for student need differences in special education, English-learner status and eligibility for Free and Reduced Price Meals. This adjustment does not capture other potential differences in student need, such high mobility rates and or the number of students entering school significantly behind academically.

Again, we have some raw data to start with, but not the answers as to whether these disparities in funding may be justified somehow. We need to do that next step of answering the question.

Resource Use and the High Cost of Private Facilities

The most glaring issue here is how much money charters spend on facilities and the wide disparities:

Resource Use: OUSD district-run and charter schools used their resources differently in several important ways…

  • Rent for space: Across charters, spending on rent varied from $190 to $2,250 per pupil, with those renting from OUSD generally spending less per pupil than others.

In a state where Proposition 39 gives charters the right to use district facilities, it seems like a waste of resources to pay landlords. Just imagine: that $2,250 per child could make a huge difference if it was invested in instruction.

There will be much more to come in terms of data and analysis, but I hope that this report keeps us talking and asking the right next set of questions based on real data.

That’s what families want, and it’s the only way we will move public education forward in Oakland.