Welcome back to the Oakland Ed Week in Review! Each Friday, we’re gathering key news articles from Oakland and around the state and nation to help you stay up-to-date with what’s going on. This was a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices. Here’s what’s on tap this week: lot of Oakland school board news, with Nick Resnick resigning and the the board looking for ways to pay for academic and staff retention needs; the first gender-neutral bathroom bill for schools in the country is working its way through the California legislature; plus more news from around The Town, the state and the nation. What did we miss? Hit us up in the comments below. (Photo credit: East Bay Times)
Nick Resnick resigns from Oakland school board
“I recognize I can continue to contest this election for months and that for months we can spend precious public funds on a legal process and have uncertainty about who is ultimately going to occupy this seat,” Resnick wrote. “At this time, I don’t think that is what’s best for this community and I don’t think that’s going to help get our schools where they need to go. Instead, at this time, I am making the choice to congratulate my opponent and share that I will no longer be opposing the election contest, and therefore resigning from the D4 seat.”
OUSD board weighs budget cuts and how to fill vacancy following Resnick resignation
During Wednesday’s school board meeting, district staff emphasized that while the district is not in financial crisis and is projected to have about a $14 million surplus in its 2023-2024 budget, it won’t be enough to cover all district expenses plus additional spending to support academics at school sites and staff retention.
“These two areas are going to require significant investments in the tens of millions,” said Troy Christmas, OUSD’s senior director of strategic projects. “We don’t have extra tens of millions laying around, so we’ll have to look within the tens of millions we have deployed elsewhere.”
Valarie Bachelor talks about balancing the budget for Oakland schools
A year ago, the Oakland Unified School District voted to close several schools, citing declining enrollment. In January, they voted to reverse the decision.
Valarie Bachelor, a new member of the school board, speaks about the challenge of keeping neighborhood schools open.
America’s after-school afterthought
The bustling after-school program at Prescott Elementary school in Oakland, California, offers a vision for what a future of adequately funded after-school programs could look like.
California is the only state in the nation that has taken it upon itself to invest robustly in after-school care. For two decades, it has spent more than all 49 other states combined, and is marching forward to build a universal after-school system for all children.
While most after-school programs nationwide have no public money, Prescott benefits from three different public funding sources: two grants from the California legislature, plus Oakland grant money. The result has been more flexible program hours for parents, more competitive wages for workers, and enhanced activities for kids, ranging from robotics and dance lessons to culinary classes and tutoring.
Jefferson Award: Program bridges language barriers in Oakland’s Fruitvale District
An East Bay woman helps make sure that new immigrants with no other educational opportunity can learn beginner English in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood.
Corinna Bekiers-Sassano is on the move, walking up and down hallways, to make sure the teachers are all ready for class.
She popped her head into one classroom — “You guys need anything or are you good?”
“We’re good,” affirmed the volunteers in the room.
A year after Oakland educators went on hunger strike, was the protest successful?
Their initial goal for the hunger strike was simple: force the board to reject the closure plan and keep all schools—not just Westlake—open. In the days leading up to the board’s Feb. 8 vote, school board directors Sam Davis and Aimee Eng announced an amendment to the plan that removed Westlake and several other schools from the list. But the bulk of the closure plan—seven closures, one merger, and two K-8 downsizings—remained unchanged.
Despite the removal of Westlake from the closure list, Omolade and San-Chez continued their strike. And as the days passed, their demands changed. The pair requested meetings with the school board and superintendent, and said a meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom would bring an immediate end to the strike. But as the strike wore on with their demands unmet, their expectations changed too.
The State of California
Gender-neutral bathroom bill introduced for California schools
State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) has introduced legislation which, if passed, would require all K-12 schools in California to have at least one gender neutral restroom – the first bill of its kind in the nation.
“It’s hard enough to be questioning your gender or sexuality at that age. But to not be able to use the bathroom without some combination of anxiety, stigma, shame, bullying? That’s just a terrible place to put kids,” said Newman, who is also chair of the Senate Committee on Education.
State Supreme Court deals another defeat to San Diego Unified’s student COVID-19 vaccination mandate
The California Supreme Court struck down the San Diego Unified School District’s student COVID-19 vaccination mandate and affirmed an appeals court ruling that school districts cannot create their own vaccine mandates.
On Feb. 22, the state‘s highest court rejected a challenge to the lower court’s November ruling in favor of Let Them Choose, an initiative of the anti-mask-mandate group Let Them Breathe.
Gov. Newsom tours community schools in Sacramento to highlight their gains
For years, California’s school system has lagged behind many other states. A recent report by Scholaroo ranked California as number 45 out of 50 when comparing for student academic success, student safety, and school quality.
One way the state is hoping to change that is by utilizing a $4.1 billion investment in community schools included in the state’s 2021-22 budget act. Newsom hopes that over time, that funding will hit one in every three California schools.
Girls Inc. Shows Alameda County Girls Possibilities
By the time Wilson graduated from high school she had learned to swim, spoken before the Oakland City Council on behalf of a building project benefiting Girls Inc. of Alameda County, attended workshops to prepare for a college entrance exam, tried her hand at glassblowing and swung from a trapeze.
“It gave me an opportunity to see my life beyond Oakland,” said Wilson, now 29, who is pursuing a marketing degree to become a medical sales representative at the biotechnology company where she works.
Book-banning talk heats up in Bay Area school district
The tension is palpable as the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board members prepare to discuss on Tuesday the controversial idea of banning books. As seen increasingly across the nation, certain books dealing with race and LGBTQ+ topics have sparked passionate debate among students, parents and community members.
During the meeting, parents will get the chance to learn more about the process of banning specific books. No vote is expected to take place.
Across The Nation
HBCUs play big role to train diverse teachers amid shortages
HBCUs play an outsize role in producing teachers of color in the U.S., where only 7% of teachers are Black, compared with 15% of students. Of all Black teachers nationwide, nearly half are graduates of an HBCU.
Having teachers who look like them is crucial for young Americans. Research has found Black students who have at least one Black teacher are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to be suspended or expelled. Some new research suggests the training found at HBCUs may be part of what makes an effective teacher.
A recent study of elementary school students in North Carolina found Black students performed better in math when taught by an HBCU-educated teacher.
Report: Class of 2022 left $3.6B in free college aid by skipping the FAFSA
High school graduates left billions of dollars in free college aid on the table by not filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in 2022. Among the class of 2022, 44% of high school graduates skipped the FAFSA — and eligible students left behind $3.58 billion worth of Pell Grant money — per a January analysis by the National College Attainment Network, or NCAN.
The need-based Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program offered to U.S. undergraduates, and 2022 high school graduates who qualified for it received an average award of $4,686, the NCAN report found. A Pell Grant does not need to be repaid; it’s free money.
Read the article by the East Bay Times
Lead-tainted water persists in US schools despite some states’ work to fix the problem
Over the last few years, despite a lot of testing, policy changes and the replacement of water infrastructure, many children are exposed to lead at school, authors of a new report called “Get the Lead Out,” published Thursday, say.
Lead exposure, including from school water fountains and taps, can harm health, even in small amounts, with effects on the brain and nervous system. Studies tie elevated lead levels to a lower IQ, decreased focus and even violent crime and delinquency. The persistent threat is affecting students at the same time many are trying to recover from pandemic-related school closures, as well as created and natural disasters.
Read the article by Kayla Jimenez of USA Today
The school district that’s enrolling Ukrainian refugees—and hiring their parents
Mostova is one of eight adult refugees—most of them parents or relatives of Ukrainian children—who work in Topeka public schools, part of a concerted district effort to hire the family members of refugee students as employees and volunteers to help ease them into life in a new country. It’s also a way to help families gain financial stability and begin planning for the future.
Through early February, nearly 30 Ukrainian students had enrolled in the district, from kindergarten through high school. Their family members work as paraprofessionals, in food services, and in custodial services, according to the district.