The Path Forward- A Note from the Superintendent

February 10, 2020
Dear OUSD Community,

Every day, we welcome and serve thousands of students. My children are among them. Our mission is to serve the whole child, and we will. That is why we are creating a stable environment in which students and staff can thrive. In order to realize that mission, we have to continue to put our district on solid financial ground. 

Our students are counting on us. We can no longer allow difficult decisions to be passed along to future generations. This is my third year as superintendent, but I have been an Oakland educator for decades. I have been rooted in the same priorities for the past three years and I can see our actions bearing fruit. We are moving out of crisis and into building on a vision for the future. I do not want to be having the same conversations in five or ten years. It is time to take on the long standing challenges facing this district.

This email lays out the road map for the coming few weeks. Below you will find general background information, ways to share your perspective, and the overall budget timeline.

As we gear up for another critical budget prioritization process and feel the pain our current plans will cause students, schools, and the central office, I ask you to pause with me for a moment and remember who we are. The changes ahead seem scary and they will no doubt hurt. As a community we have faced even more difficult challenges than this before. During State receivership, we saw dramatic, sweeping changes imposed on us. During the Great Recession, we saw our district budgets actually shrink by millions of dollars. During those times, we came together. 

For this coming year, we are not responding to a crisis, but prioritizing how we use our resources. This is the reality of budgeting when our needs are greater than our resources. We have to make responsible choices.

I know we will come together again because regardless of what happens, our students walk through our doors every day and rely on us. 

I hope we can approach these coming weeks with compassion. We are going to have some painful program reductions and layoffs to create a new reality for the 2020-21 school year. As we evaluate these numbers and reduction of jobs let’s remember that these represent real people and their families. Our friends and colleagues will face unnerving changes. As we move through the coming weeks, we have to keep them in our hearts as we treat them and each other with kindness and respect.
Background:We are in the midst of identifying $21.5 million in budget changes. At the First Interim Report, our Multi-Year Projection (MYP) indicated a need to reduce spending and/or increase revenue by at least $15.5 million for 2020-21. However, that MYP did not include approximately $6 million of likely new costs (including providing competitive compensation for five labor unions within OUSD and staffing of the new Central Kitchen). It also did not include information from the Governor’s Proposed Budget that was released in January. For more details, please see the First Interim Report Preview we shared in December.
Resources for Building Common Understanding:We are sharing a few resources to build common understanding of our budget challenges:
An updated Budget FAQSummary of Early Stakeholder FeedbackFeb. 3 Budget and Finance Committee Presentation: MemoPresentation, and Video (of the meeting).UPCOMING – Feb. 12 Board of Education Meeting: Presentation and Memo (memo includes overall summary; site-by-site impact; comparison of this year to last year, and a summary of initial community feedback).
Community Input: Stakeholder Meetings and Two Surveys
We need your input. Please push our thinking. Bring your knowledge and passion. 

We will continue to meet with stakeholders throughout this entire budget prioritization process. Thus far, we have met with principals, labor unions, students, lead delegates for the Parent Student Advisory Committee, the district-wide School Site Council Summit, and the Budget and Finance Committee. 

Following our initial meetings, we shared a high-level survey on some preliminary thinking (click here to see the results).

We are now releasing a second community survey open through the end of February. This survey is similar in what it asks, but different in that the new proposal is more complete and is being publicly shared with the Board. It has two elements. The first asks for your overall impressions and thoughts you would like to share. The second is an opportunity to identify specific changes about which you would like to provide feedback and share new ideas. Both are available at
Budget Prioritization Timeline:Budget and Finance Committee Meeting: Feb. 3: Best Thinking discussed at Budget and Finance Committee Meeting.Special School Board Meeting: Feb. 5: Special Board meeting to discuss Board process for using upcoming Board meetings to reach final decisionRegular School Board Meeting: Feb. 12:  Initial discussion on budget reduction proposalsCommunity Survey: Feb. 7 – end of Feb.:  Community Feedback Surveys. Your input is key.Regular School Board Meeting: Feb. 26:  First Read of Budget Prioritization and Reduction ProposalSchool Board Meeting: March 4 (tentative): Final Adoption: The Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal.
Again, it is incredibly hard to face the reality of layoffs and programmatic reductions. Thank you for bringing your best thinking into this process and keeping our students at the center. Together we can realize our mission to serve the whole child.Please share your thoughtsRespectfully,
 Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
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