Secret (and Illegal?) Meetings, No Instructors, A Forced Conversion? and No Answers—What the F is Happening at Oakland’s Reach Institute

The Reach Institute is one of Oakland’s most effective leadership development programs, cultivating and providing some of the most important educators the region.  It is a local resource, with local leadership and catering to local talent.  Or at least it was.

Monumental changes are taking place, at a speed only rivalled by the Barrett confirmation hearings.  You can read the details here, where current students and alumni make the case to a seemingly detached board.

But the short of it is, the abrupt firing of leadership, changes in the board, and the seeming elimination of any actual support for students (details below), alongside a very questionable record for the new overlords.  These decisions are largely being made in secret.  Which might be OK, in some circumstances.  But here, at least one former trustee argues that the Brown Act Open Meeting Law should apply (details below), which sets very specific circumstances and procedural requirements for closed meetings—requirements that have not been followed.

Please sign our petition and demand accountability.

A Call for Transparency That May Be a Legal Requirement

Former board member Derek Mitchell, made a compelling argument that the Reach Institute board is bound by the California Open Meetings Law or Brown Act.  You see Reach’s board is not just any board, it has the OUSD superintendent on it and receives state money.  As Derek Mitchell stated,

“I think Kyla’s participation on the board, and it’s receiving funds from and being duly authorized by a CA legislative body (CTC) both require their compliance with the brown act.

The governing boards of private entities are subject to the Brown Act if either of the following applies: (i) the private entity is created by an elected legislative body to exercise lawfully delegated authority of the public agency, or (ii) the private entity receives funds from the local agency and the private entity’s governing body includes a member of the legislative body who was appointed by the legislative body (Section 54952). The Brown Act also applies to persons who are elected to serve as members of a legislative body of a local agency who have not yet assumed the duties of office (Section 54952.1). Under this provision, the Brown Act is applicable to newly elected, but not-yet-sworn-in councilmembers.”

So they may not be legally able to meet in secret, as they please, they may be required to allow public comment and the public to oversee deliberations, and the kicker is that if they violated the Brown Act, say in firing leadership, then that decision and any other decision made in violation of the Brown Act is rescinded.

So, all these moves they have made over these last few months could be invalidated, including the firing of leadership.

No Support or Instructors

The current leadership seems to have abandoned students, perhaps in an effort to push them out, and eliminate the local mission of Reach.  This from a current student.

Dear Mallory And Reach Board of Directors

It has been nearly 4 weeks since the firing of Victoria and Dennis. ILA year 3, cc’d above, still has not been paired with an appropriately credentialed coach or an instructor to teach our classes.

In the last town hall you told us we would have this taken care of  last week. Again, you have failed to follow through on this communication. You have repeatedly given us a deadline of October 15th to withdraw from this program, and due to your continued lack of follow through it appears our concerns are valid, that you wish to close our program entirely.

When will we have appropriately credentialed coaches and instructors? We are three days from your deadline, and have not had time to consider this new staff.

Thank you
(Name Removed)
3rd year ILA

Reach’s Forced Conversion?

Beyond the legality of the meetings themselves, the lack of a actual program to support students, maybe the most troubling issue is the seeming changed focus of Reach from a local non denominational leadership institute to one that seems focused far away and may be based more on religious dogma than educational expertise.  You can read the allegations below, from a letter that was shared with the Board.

Mallory’s affiliations with faith-based organizations and her lack of professional capital in education and equity work will ultimately weaken the reputation and heart of what Reach stands for.   

In 2018, the same year that Mallory submitted her 501(c)(3) application for OTA and just months before she went into partnership with Reach, Mallory was a Praxis Lab Fellow. This fellowship is part of an organization called the PRAXIS LAB, which promotes something called “Redemptive leadership” . To give you an idea of what this organization is about here is a quote from its website: “Our endgame is for our ventures to be agents of redemption as we act as the hands and feet of Christ in the world, knowing that He is “making all things new.” We work for impact that approximates the ultimate restoration that we know is one day coming.”  

She has 2 years experience as a school leader in a beleaguered and heavily contested charter school. She has approximately 4 years experience as a teacher as a credentialed Spanish teacher. Her lack of experience shows in the way that she has attempted to lead this change process. She has been dismissive of the students in the town hall engagements. She has failed to secure credible faculty to lead the current program. She has been unable to provide any details to assure students that the CTC will honor the credential applications given the change in faculty and lack of coaching hours.  She has shown no interest or inquiry into who her stakeholders are and what we value in the organization. 

We are deeply concerned about her capacity to have the professional capital, the equity lens, or the interpersonal skill to lead the effort that is needed.  We believe that the Board assumed that Mallory’s vision of expansion included our local context and serving our communities in the Bay area. However, there has been no mention nor interest in serving the community. In fact, she is encouraging current students in the program to leave if they feel that the program is no longer serving their needs or if trust is “too broken”. This has led us to believe that she is willing to sacrifice the current programming and the needs of this community for her personal mission. We would like to know, what is the mission and vision of this new Reach University? Where do we, the community long served by the Reach Institute, fit in? 

The End of Reach as Know It?

The last chapter has not been written in the Reach saga, and it is up to the community to fight for an institution that is needed and has served us, but given the new overlords and the unknown future direction, it will take a fight.  If you want to get involved please sign the petition, and stay abreast of the community’s fight for this school.

What do you think?

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