Part III: Re-Engagement and Renewal: Making Great School Voices Greater. 

Six months ago today, on October 1, 2021, we lost Dirk tragically as he joined the one too many, who have succumbed to Oakland’s gun violence. While I was certainly overwhelmed at the prospect, I knew our work —Great School Voices, SOBEO, our nonprofit, and Dirk’s collective movement would continue. Just as SOBEO had done, we broke bread many times. We grieved. We commiserated. We planned. These conversations then continued over the past six months, and starting next week, we are re-engaging even more forcefully in the work, and renewing it in ways that provide you, our readers, with more opportunities for engagement. Dirk’s shoes are large to fill. Oakland needs many to pound the pavement to fill them.

Given Dirk’s legacy, what will Great School Voices look like now? 

We will have the same, new vision that we shared with you explicitly yesterday:

Great School Voices will build and sustain an engaged community of education-minded readers, where we will primarily showcase local voices and contribute to the conversation that will advance education equity in Oakland and beyond.

We will continue to be the online hub where parents, teachers, and most importantly, students have a voice to share their experiences, thoughts, and ideas within our community. We will start the conversations on the page and continue to have them, both online, and more importantly, in person with convenings through the State of Black Education (SOBE). Great School Voices is your forum, and we will make it as easy as possible to share, participate, amplify, and advocate for your child.

What content will you see? 

Beginning next week, Great School Voices will be online again with ongoing content. Coron Brinson takes over the helm as our lead curator. Immensely influenced by his mentor Dirk, he will take this valuable space to continue sharing his experiences as a Black male educator in Oakland. (And, as a little inside nod to our readers, our Coron is an unapologetic supporter of, drum roll please, unions!) Even more, he’ll be on the road, profiling and sharing your stories, and amplifying your voice. Coron is committed to ensuring that this space continues to keep Dirk’s vision breathing as all of yours now. As your dedicated curator, if you are interested in having your voice heard through writings, interviews, or through our digital platforms. please feel free to reach out to him at [email protected].

Here are the content and hashtags you will see from us beginning next week:

  • Voices on the Issue of…: When education issues that matter most to you demand community perspective and voice, you’ll get them here. As a reader, you’ll witness perspectives from all sides of the issue, and we’ll have editorials featuring parents, teachers, and students. 
  • Great Student Voices: Our most critical stakeholders here are your children. Our students will document their experiences and lend insights on the issues facing their education. 
  • Teacher Features: The most important adults in the room will share their voices as they always have here. We will showcase rockstar and passionate educators and celebrate their work.
  • Parent Perspectives: We hold space to hear the voices of the other most important adults in the room. We want to hear from you about the great things happening at your schools and at home with your children’s education. With the intention to amplify and shine a light on the challenges you face as the solutions you’d like to offer.
  • Guest Voices: From our partners in education, to activists, to experts in the field, we will feature local and national voices on the issues important to your community. 
  • Live with Coron: Coron will document and lend his perspectives when he hits the road on conferences, interviews, school visits, and other spaces that highlight educational equity… wherever this journey takes him, you’ll hear his voice as he rebuilds our community.
  • In Review: We’ll not only summarize the major local and national education news of the weeks before, but we’ll continue to share community events and recognition.  Have an event to share?  Send us a message.

Even more than before, Great School Voices will bring you along, and bring you into our community well beyond reading our posts:

  • *Your* Voices on the Issues: After every series On the Issue of…, we’ll invite you to participate in the discussion, not just with comments on our discussion boards and social media, but in live events. To meet you where you are, we will aim to have hybrid opportunities for you to participate. The format will respond to each circumstance, but expect hosted forums, panels, Q&As, and in-person convenings when possible.
  • Convenings with the State of Black Education: We will take the conversations live, in person and virtual. These gatherings will hold sacred time to listen to your concerns, identify the solutions, and develop the recommendations that will shape education policy in your district.  We will also celebrate and build community amongst us.
  • On the Page, and in Person: As often as we can, we will host live Q&As from our compelling guests, providing you the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.
  • Broadcasts and Podcasts: Our content won’t be limited to the page or screen. As we grow, we’ll launch new and follow-up series that you can watch live on YouTube from your computer or phone, or listen to recorded podcasts on your favorite platform. 
  • Discussion Forums: Whether directly on the website, or on social media, we’ll be monitoring and participating in the discourse, and look forward to seeing you there!

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ve queued up this content for you:

  • Voices on the Issue of school closures, where you’ll hear from longtime community advocates, a teacher, a bevy of students, and a founder of a school slated for closure in 2023. You’ll hear about their experiences and perspectives, and then you’ll get to join a live discussion in May. 
  • Great Student Voices: Look to see our first piece next week from Nuvia Alvarez, a senior at Cristo Rey De La Salle East Bay High School who will share her thoughts on affirmative action, as she sets forth on her decision to attend college from one of twenty acceptances!
  • The Last Mile: The pandemic has laid bare even more inequities than we experienced before, especially with something that we feel is human right: access to the internet. Kennan Scottwill take you on a journey over the Last Mile every other Friday afternoon beginning in April. He’ll share with you the state of our push for Internet for All, available programs to secure affordable internet and what the push for fiber internet means for our communities. Even more, he’ll take a deep dive into a utility that has so many implications and just amazing, incredible opportunities for our communities if we invest the time to demand ownership of our internet access. Stay tuned!
  • SOBEO Rants: Stay tuned as well as the inimitable Marquis Evanslaunches his podcast, and digs deep into Oakland schools and presents the opportunities to make a difference. 
  • OUSD Candidate Debates, moderated by Great Student Voices: as high school students aged 16 and above will vote in OUSD elections for the first time ever this fall, we will look to them to ask the hard questions of those running for office. If you or your high schooler are interested in taking part in this open call as a moderator, please reach out to us!  We will most certainly field as many questions as possible to assure all voters are fully informed for the polls this fall. 

Dirk was our Great School Voice, and he channeled your voices in the work that he did. We will always hold his  non-negotiable critical beliefs that 1) public education must include authentic community voice, especially our students’; 2) we always speak the truth, grounded in narrative and data, to amplify the community’s power; and 3) we will never accept any less than every student benefitting from a quality education that fits their unique learning styles and needs. 

While he is with us in spirit now, I alluded to you yesterday that Dirk’s humanity drove all of what you’ve seen here.  If you believe in those core values, then you are one of us.  I look forward to Great School Voices renewing the work with you.
Feel free to contact us with events, questions, suggestions at [email protected]

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