More of the same, that’s what the School Board voters approved in Oakland last week. All the incumbents prevailed as well as our local school bond, with a whopping 81%. There was a lot of heat and money poured into Oakland around these races, to very little effect.
The results are a good thing. We decided what was best for our children. And it did come down to the grassroots voter, not the shiny mailers. And thankfully folks voted with their wallets.
The voters like the direction of the public schools. OUSD is showing progress in graduation rates and getting its financial act together. And the early polls showed record support for the District and its leadership coming up on the vote—and the voters ratified those polls.
81% really is an extraordinary approval rating for a tax, in a very heavily taxed district.
I wonder whether those who claim to represent parents, and OPPOSED the bond, will rethink that position. They obviously did not speak for the average parent here or represent their interests. Hey, they can always donate their child’s measure G money back if they don’t want it.
And while apologies are, or should be, circulating, I do think one is owed to Director Torres. I can’t say I always agree with her, but the campaign against her was dirty. This was not a local attack. I like to think that we have kept it pretty civil overall in the Town, short of some lawn sign thefts. So we really don’t need outside money muddying the waters here.
Oakland can be better than the national debate, and I hope that going forward we really are. We need campaigns on issues that matter to our students. And there are some hard choices to be made.
The last few years have been rancorous ones, with disruptions of meetings, the hurling of epithets, and overly heated rhetoric. The Board meetings themselves are often toxic, and last so long that the average parent could not hope to attend to get their 2 minutes in. Most of the time is swallowed up by folks that don’t seem to reflect the poll numbers, ranting about doom and gloom and the parade of the horribles, shudder, charter schools.
Things are getting better for kids in Oakland. The pace is too slow and too uneven. But things are better, and we need more than an opposition shouting “no” or relying on fluffy language around “full funding” (while opposing the parcel tax) , or “great neighborhood schools for everyone” with no real plans and huge existing inequities.
Part of this is just committing to some strategies and sticking to them. So often reforms are jettisoned just as they are taking hold. Nothing happens quickly in education. So I hope we can continue to have a board that does deliberate, and generally reach consensus, consistent leadership from the district with committed strategies, and also an engagement with Oakland’s community and strategic issues rather than the symbolic ones.
We have real and practical fish to fry in Oakland. Creating a more equitable enrollment system, where students with greater needs get access to higher performing schools, addressing our looming teacher shortage, practically improving the schools that are struggling, figuring out the facilities mess and much more.
These, and others, are issues that we actually can strategically address. And I hope we spend these next months constructively moving forward rather than continuing to fight old battles, that may make us adults feel important, but have little import in the lives of children.