These past two weeks, we covered and followed Oakland Black Cultural Zone, OUSD properties, racial backlash, homeschooling and remote independent study, early education challenges, and spotlighted an incredible recent high school grad. Here’s our Oakland Ed week in review:
A guest post from Families in Action.
Blanca Hernandez is a recent OUSD high school graduate who never imagined herself being a graduation speaker. Despite having to overcome a number of obstacles to get to this special day, Hernandez is not letting that define her. She helped her family launch its own food business Comida Carlos Y Blanca, did all of her entire senior year virtually on her phone, and learned much about her own spirit and grit during quarantine. This fall, Blanca will be attending CSU Northridge. It’s going to be a big change — for her and her parents. Her journey exemplifies the true spirit of the Town.
OUSD is the city’s 2nd largest landowner. However its own staff and families continue to be pushed out of the city. Recently, OUSD put in a bid for to start workforce housing and other development on the Edward Shands site. This would create opportunities for job training, housing, and support Black businesses along the BCZ. However, two of the projects trustees seem to be against the project. Both Director Hutchinson and Director Williams, have lodged objections with no viable alternative.
“If we understand ourselves to be revolutionaries, and if we accept our historic task, then we can move beyond the halting steps that we’ve been taking…. Then there will be a new day in Babylon, there will be a housecleaning in Babylon.” —Eldridge Cleaver, 1969
“The OUSD has a physical footprint in nearly every neighborhood in the city of Oakland and our education system has deep, historic roots that, if tapped, will allow us to address every challenge from illegal dumping to safety and homes for the unhoused,” Harris said. Read his reflection on his work with the Oakland School Board for the last eight years here.
One junior high school student is now known as an Olympic weightlifting US champion. Seth is a straight A student, an eighth grader at Madison Park Academy, who happened to start weightlifting two years ago at the age of eleven. Evans not only believes that weightlifting is a great sport, but also adds that it helps the perfect transformation of young people who may be on the wrong path. Seth won the championship at the USA Weightlifting Youth Nationals in Detroit. USA Weightlifting is the single national organizing committee for Olympic weightlifting and the committee that sends athletes to the Olympics.
Many California students will likely still be learning at home even after schools re-open in the fall.During the height of the pandemic, almost 35,000 California families filed an affidavit with the state to open a private home school, EdSource reported.
Alongside the alarming rise in anti-Asian attacks in California, another bleak statistic for the state last year has arisen: Hate crimes against Black people increased to their highest number in more than a decade. Last week, a report released by the California DOJ revealed that 457 hate crimes with an anti-Black or anti-African American bias were reported to law enforcement in 2020. That represents a nearly 88% increase from 2019. With the pandemic that disproportionately infected and destabilized people of color, America also experienced once-in-a generation civil unrest over police brutality and systemic racism.
Districts must offer students an independent study option this fall, but with improvements from what was available during the shutdown and pre-pandemic. Schools are expected to fully re-open this fall. But some parents and students, especially those who are medically vulnerable, aren’t ready to return to “normal.” For the 2021-22 school year only, school districts would be required to offer students a distance learning option for the upcoming school year through independent study, a remote educational model that was voluntary for districts to offer pre-pandemic. This is all detailed in SB 130, known as the TK-12 education trailer bill.
Acorn Woodland Elementary shares its campus with a preschool and the 81st Avenue public library branch, is less than half a mile from the AB&I Foundry, which manufactures cast iron pipes. For many years, AB&I —which melts down scrap metal and emits dangerous chemicals into the air through its smokestacks—and other industrial polluters in the area, has been suspected of causing the unusual health problems. Members of the school community have joined neighbors and environmental justice organizers in East Oakland to call on environmental regulatory agencies to do more to protect them from air pollution.
The problem with many “no excuses” schools is that the motto is often imposed on children but not adults. “No excuses” is a powerful two-way promise, rather than a means to shovel blame on children and families. However it can fall short. Black families rely on schools more than most, so when it comes to the school model, we are risk-averse. “As a school there is no excuse for us not to figure out how to serve you, and as a student—once we remove these barriers and genuinely understand and support you—there is no excuse for you not to give your best,” Tillotson said in Education Post.
Of all the ZIP codes in Alameda County, 94603, home to Madison Park Academy, has been perhaps the most brutalized by the pandemic. Located in the part of the city sometimes referred to as deep East Oakland, it had a COVID infection rate eight times that of the ZIP code with the lowest infection rate, 94618, which covers the affluent North Oakland hills at the other end of the city 10 miles away.
Children living in these two ZIP codes, and in similarly segregated neighborhoods around the state, have not experienced the pain of the pandemic equally. Many of those lining up to cross the temporary stage on the school’s football field had seen COVID race through their homes, sickening them and their family members. What does toxic stress and trauma in children look like?
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law to help alleviate the pandemic’s effect on grades and graduation credits by giving California students an opportunity to redo a grade level. Assembly Bill 104, now law, creates a range of grading options to accommodate K-12 students who struggled during the 2020-21 academic year, when distance learning disrupted classroom routines.