The Work in Oakland No One is Mentioning

There was an article in the Oakland Post that suggested charters were displacing traditional public school. After seeing some conversation on Facebook accompanied by some assumptions, I felt a need to address it. (Editor’s Note: That conversation happened with a very close friend of mine and what’s written below is the response I made on Facebook. Her and I will have Bourbon soon. Enjoy.)

There’s this notion that our urban schools that educate our poorest were operating well up until the moment charters were introduced. The voice of folks that had to attend those poor schools decades ago has been absent. Well, here’s mine. As always, my opinion is mine and mine alone.

I’m responding to this as someone that was both a student at Lafayette Elementary, a school in West Oakland currently being redesigned, and someone that also works for the district and is extremely invested in this project.

1. There seems to be this myth that Lafayette was this thriving school, and black kids were getting an A-1 education. There’s a notion that charters and big money came along and ruined that. That certainly wasn’t the case. No, I got a crap education, and that was 22 years ago before a Kipp was here.

2. The outreach to parents has been a tough one. Folks have been working. I remember at the last meeting stopping parents coming in and leaving the campus basically begging them to be part of these conversations and have their voices heard. These are my people! There were robocalls, flyers, bulletins, etc. I get it. My parents didn’t come to these types of things either. No judgement there, it’s just the truth.

3. Folks never mention the redesign process and money that will be invested in the program for Lafayette and the other corridor schools. The 14 hour days I’ve personally spent to ensure a process where local community folks are educated and can offer their thoughts should speak to our commitment to this school. Those thoughts turned into what is now known as the Regional Criteria — a list of wants and desires from parents that each school going through redesign must adhere to. That never gets mentioned.

4. We also never mention that there are hundreds of folks that still live in West Oakland and have chosen not to go to Lafayette as is. For a building that can hold 500, 170 is the reality. Should we do nothing? We say competition like its a bad thing. Our kids SHOULD be competed for. Absolutely! We are worth it. I was worth it, but now that word sounds like a bad thing. When LeBron came to the NBA, Nike, Addidas and Reebok put together their best offer and competed to endorse him. Shouldn’t we? Folks can get involved in the redesign. Let’s build a school that families WANT to send their kids too. Some of the ideas PARENTS threw around was a dual immersion English-Arabic or English-Spanish school. They want things like extended day. Many of them WANT to be part of a TK-8 structure.

Yo, I’m here. As an alum. As a kid from the Hood hood. As someone that got a super whack education in this district but came to work for it because I’m inspired by the leader and the vision. Drastic change calls for bold leadership. Folks, poor kids, Black/Brown children had been failed far before charters, Walton, or Gates offered to help.

So if folks want to work together and actually see what the community has created so far, then hit me in always down to build.

God Bless.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “The Work in Oakland No One is Mentioning

  1. Thanks Dirk. Also want to point out a few things just to be clear, I was born in Chicago, lived in Paducah, KY and moved to Oakland when I was 9.

    Also, a former Lafayette Principal sent me a really good response that I will be posting as a blog post. I think her perspective is a strong value add to the conversation. Her name is Karen Haynes and you can find her comment on the original posting.

    Best. CC3.

    1. I should have done my homework a little more my bad, made a slight change in your summary bio, we would love to post the principal’s response as well if they are comfortable with that, appreciate the piece and the correction

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