Tyron Jordan is a California native, born in Ventura, a coastal town in Southern California and who moved to Oakland in 2009. He graduated from California State University-Sacramento with a B.A. in Political Science. Coming from a military family, Tyron served in the United States Army (Aircraft Maintenance) and continued his service to the community as: a union rep for public sector employees; the Vice President of the Board of Directors for a West Oakland non-profit; the Oakland Library Commission from 2018 to 2021; and a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Tyron is currently a Paralegal Legal/Administrative Assistant for a global law firm.
Great School Voices sat down with Jordan to ask him some questions on behalf of Oakland’s students.
ED REFORM PLANS: The state of public education in Oakland has been in crisis for generations, and with the pandemic, it has only gotten worse, with estimates being that half of high school students haven’t returned. What will you try differently to improve the outcomes for us students, and how will you measure your success?
The important thing is that as Mayor, I will have an open dialogue with the parents of these students and the students themselves, and create a student-based liaison between the Mayor’s office and students themselves and their parents for them to come up with suggestions as to how we can keep them in our schools. I think it’s also important to consider the fact that the lack of affordable housing here, especially people being evicted or being displaced, also plays a role as to the number of students in certain schools in certain districts. So that’s what I would do. I would try to make housing affordable for students and their parents to remain in their districts, particularly within schools that they wish to attend. And I would also have an open dialogue with parents and students on a regular basis.
SCHOOL CLOSURES: What is your stance on school closures? How do you think Oakland should make sure that students don’t fall through the cracks as schools get larger with consolidation?
I think the school closures are kind of disgraceful, because from what I read, most of the schools that are proposed to close have a significant population of students of color. I don’t think that this is a coincidence. Then the background or the main premise of closing these schools is to save money. There is no evidence which indicates that closing schools helps save money. I look at it this way. All of the schools that are closing have a significant number of students with special needs. So I have to question: “Where do these students go?” If it’s a matter of money, we need to work with the state to come up with the funding. We need other sources of revenue to keep some of these schools open. If we can’t keep them open, we must come up with clear alternatives.
The schools in the flatlands, most of which are the ones closing, need to have the same opportunities, same learnings, the same number of teachers and the same quality education of those living in more affluent areas. The school closures are disgraceful, and trying to save any kind of money will actually hurt us all. That’s my view.
TRUANCY: Truancy is a pressing issue for a lot of Oakland students who see their friends and classmates become a part of the juvenile justice system, essentially putting a young person through the school to prison pipeline. Do you think there should be an alternative solution for addressing truancy and what would that be?
I believe in restorative justice. Once a student becomes truant, gets deeper and deeper in trouble and perhaps gets involved with the criminal justice system, there’s no turning back. We need to have alternative programs to address the reason why the students are not attending classes— it could be the classroom environment, home environment and a several number of reasons. We need to address that and reach out to the students about why they’re not attending schools. Maybe they feel unwelcome or they feel hostility in the school. Maybe they have a lack of teachers who look like them or who can relate to them, and maybe those teachers that don’t look like them may have low expectations of these students. With low expectations, it demotivates students from attending school.
That means no one is pushing them to attain their utmost potential, and this leads to more truancy. We need to know what’s going on in the classroom and not to be intrusive, we need to know what’s going on in the student’s home life. We need to have counselors to speak to these students and find out what’s the heart of the matter as to why they don’t feel comfortable going to school and what the issues are.
DUMP THE D: Where do you stand on Dump the D, a campaign dedicated to making D a failing grade so that students can retake courses and get a C or higher so that they will be eligible for UCs, which consider D a failing grade? What are your plans on giving students more information about what it takes to be eligible for a UC before it’s too late?
I know that as Mayor, I can’t get too deeply involved in educational issues but what I can do is use the Office of the Mayor as a platform. I think Dump the D is something I would address. We need to do whatever we can to make students prepared to enter the UC or CSU system. As mayor, I would emphasize how important it is for the school board, for parents, and for everyone involved in the community to help these students move forward and be prepared for college level work, if they choose to attend college. I see the Mayor’s Office as a huge platform. I think the intangible power of being a mayor, a high-profile mayor, is to set the tone, to set standards. And I will use that as my platform as far as how I feel we can better educate our students, particularly our students of color, and prepare them for college. I would do that on a regular basis.
SAFE SCHOOLS: What do you think is the appropriate balance in making schools a safer place without criminalizing students? How do you think schools should address threats of shootings?
As far as shootings, looking at the larger community, we need to work with the state and the federal government to get these guns off the street. They need to enforce background checks, enforce or penalize gun sellers who sell guns without conducting a background check. We need to take guns away from people who have a history of domestic violence and violence in general. With school shootings, I’ve noticed there’s been more talk of having security. There’s no indication that bringing security on campus has really had any effect on making students feel safer or has it prevented any type of violence.
In fact, security may also be prone to profiling Black and Brown students. That can just escalate matters. Gun violence needs to have a broader approach like working with the state government. Working with the state and government, we just need to get handguns in particular off the street. When people think of shootings, we mostly think of mass shootings, assault rifles, and assault weapons. We also need to consider the fact that there are tons of handguns out there that’s causing a lot of these issues and we need to work more diligently to get these guns off the street no matter what. That’s the broader picture. Gun violence is a crisis. I’m a military veteran and I was in the Army, even I find the number of gun shootings here and this gun violence shocking. It’s a crisis that needs to be dealt as if it is a real crisis.
MEASURE QQ: What will you do to make sure that Measure QQ is implemented next election, considering the let down that we cannot vote this November? What can you do to encourage youth civic engagement and involve youth in your role considering we cannot vote?
I strongly supported the proposal for 16 and 17 year olds to vote. If I become mayor, I will continue to support that because it makes perfect sense to me that students should have a say on how schools are being run or what they need in their schools and what they can expect in their schools.
As I mentioned earlier, they’re on the ground level, they would know. And as a mayor, I would have a program where 16 or 17 year old or any high school students can have an ongoing conversation with the Mayor’s Office. Not only via an internship program but regular communication and a liaison between students and the Mayor’s Office where the students can make suggestions on certain policies.
And it’s important to hear their views and their opinions because 16 and 17 year olds these days, they’re very mature. All of them are very mature. They’re not like the way I was when I was 16 or 17. Most of our students are very politically savvy and socially aware. I would not marginalize high school students as Mayor and their opinions and thoughts will be welcomed in my office.
Regarding Measure QQ, I would use my platform to express my support for this measure. I would discuss this issue with parents at town halls. I would put plain old-fashioned public pressure to [implement] this measure because I think it’s essential. I would utilize parents and students, those in the public sector and the private sector and use my power to push it forward and let people know where I stand on that issue.
Do you have any closing words or final statement that you want to make?
Well, I would say this briefly. I serve my community. One important aspect of my community service was when I served for three years in the Oakland Public Library Advisory Commission. I was appointed by Libby Schaaf and served from 2018 to 2021. When I mention the Commission, folks think it’s kind of a low-key position, but I’m proud of the fact that I was able to work on a partial tax measure during that time, which helped fund and provide revenue for Oakland’s 18 library branches. I helped on a campaign to provide that funding. That funding went towards extending library hours, preventing closures, maintaining staff, and most importantly, the additional revenue helped maintain the 200+ programs that our libraries offer. Many of these programs are after school programs and adult literacy programs and computer literacy programs.
I’m just mentioning this because I’m proud of that fact that I and many other volunteers was able to pass that partial tax bill back in 2018 to keep our libraries going as they are an essential part of any community, just like a grocery store, because it provides several social services. So I’m just pointing that out because that’s something tangible that I think I could bring to the table because I believe in tangible results. That’s the only reason I mentioned that. I just feel that a lot of candidates will say they’ll do this, they’ll do that, but very few can point out as to what they’ve accomplished as tangible. That affects people on an everyday basis. People being able to go to the library for their children to go to a safe place. I think that’s essential. That’s something everyone benefits on a regular basis and it improves the quality of life in any community.
I’ve enjoyed this interview, and I think these questions are very good. Like I mentioned, I’ve been to City Council meetings, this meeting, and that meeting over the past several years and I’ve always had the impression that when teenagers, 16, 17, 18 year olds speak before the City Council or public officials, I don’t think they’re being heard. I don’t think they’re taken seriously enough. I think that’s a big mistake. I think students should have a say in how certain policies are developed and how their schools are developed. And as Mayor, I’ll make them a very inclusive part of my decision making, not exclusive.