|Dear Oakland Unified Community,
What happened at last night’s Board of Education meeting is troubling and not reflective of who we are as a community. I am writing to provide some background on recent events.
It is important for us to begin to address this situation from a place of compassion for all of our community members. Even in times of conflict, we must uphold our values and respect everyone’s freedom of speech as well as the democratic process.
Background on what’s happened at recent meetings:
On September 25, several community members stopped the meeting and occupied Board member seats. On October 10, we brought in extra security, but still had to move the meeting into the committee room upstairs. The public comment microphone became unplugged, preventing public comment.On October 21, community members stopped a joint city/school board meeting hosted by the Oakland City Council at City Hall.On October 23, the board meeting was disrupted and resulted in community members being detained and released by law enforcement. (See below for more details.)
More about last night’s Board meeting:
It is clear that the intent of several community members is to stop the Board’s ability to meet, and actions have escalated each time – by both community members and staff, in response.
Last night, in hopes of being able to conduct our meeting, we brought in extra security and a barrier to protect the safety of the Board and allow public comment (as we placed the podium on the dais side of the barrier).
The events of last night began when a community member jumped over the barrier and others pushed through. Our police and security officers prevented access to the dais, instructed the Board and staff to vacate the dais, and allowed the board meeting to continue upstairs.
In the process, six community members were arrested, cited, and released. None was taken to jail. Out of an abundance of caution, all were offered medical care and five of them declined. One person was transported to the hospital, where she was treated and released.
We want our police and security to act with as much restraint as possible at all times. Our senior leadership team is working with the chief of school police to review last night’s events.
I know there will be differences of opinion. School changes are challenging and there will be community members opposed. It’s my responsibility to create a transparent process, work from the facts, listen to our students, families and staff, and set forth a strategic vision for improving our district. The fact that not everyone agrees does not mean that these decisions aren’t right for Oakland’s students.
We are uniting the Kaiser and Sankofa programs at the Sankofa campus to create an improved program – available to more students – and built on partnership. This work has already started. A conversation between some families and some teachers at both schools is now underway.
Previous work under this initiative has already expanded access to three of our highest demand schools and supported a successful merger.
As an Oakland native, OUSD alum, mother of OUSD students and committed educator for over two decades – and now as Superintendent, I take this work seriously. I live in this community and talk to parents with OUSD students every day of the week. I understand the deep feelings and commitment we have for our kids and the schools they attend.
We need to be able to have uncomfortable conversations and express different perspectives and opinions in a respectful and safe manner. The level of disruption, intimidation and effort to shut down board business is counterproductive and could result in unintended consequences and harm to community members, school staff, and board directors.
We cannot allow such behavior to become the normal way we conduct business on behalf of our students.
We are taking on very challenging work to set the district on a long term course of stability and improved quality that our students deserve. We are tackling issues that have plagued the District for far too many years, and I will not pass these problems on to future generations.
I implore all of us to continue to engage in difficult conversations united by our common aim to improve quality education opportunities across the city, and to do so respectfully and with appropriate restraint to maintain a safe environment for all to participate.
I stand by the work of the Blueprint for Quality Schools and Citywide Plan because I know that equity and the success of ALL of our students are at the forefront of every decision made.
Please share your thoughts via this survey.
| Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
What do you think?