The Oakland Ed Week in Review 3/23/24-3/29/24 

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices.  With all of the news that we’re gathering for y’all, we’re trying a new format this week by showcasing what’s happening and why it matters. Hit us up with any feedback!

Here’s what’s been going on: 

Here in Oakland |  Oakland parents, led by Stephisha Ycoy-Walton and Families in Action, are challenging poor academic outcomes for Black and brown students, prompting a movement to redirect funding and political focus to core academic subjects in order to double proficiency rates in the next decade through resolutions being introduced in City Council and OUSD, while other initiatives in Oakland include efforts to improve college access, sustain library services, promote global perspectives through cultural exchanges, and advocate for systemic change in mental health crisis responses and community engagement.

In the Greater Bay Area |  SF High Schools are changing admissions policies to be more equitable, while a diverse high school like Mission High School shares what it does to send graduates to elite colleges. The BUSD reparations survey shows strong support for educational reparations and curriculum changes among Black families in Berkeley, highlighting community preferences for addressing historical injustices and promoting educational equity, while other stories include the closure of DCP Alum Rock High School due to financial challenges, the potential financial takeover of Alum Rock Union School District, layoffs in West Contra Costa Unified School District impacting essential positions, ongoing struggles for gender-neutral spaces at San Jose High School, the appointment of a new chief business officer for Sunnyvale School District, and staff shortages affecting Bay Area school kitchens and meal services, all reflecting significant challenges and changes in education systems and services.

Throughout the State of California |  California’s school transportation system faces challenges due to limited buses, raising questions about equity and accessibility for students; a former California education official’s embezzlement of $16 million emphasizes the need for financial oversight in educational institutions; AB 2583 aims to enhance safety in school zones by lowering speed limits, following a tragic incident involving a child; LAUSD and partners provide affordable housing for families experiencing chronic homelessness, addressing a critical issue within the school community; Morgan Hill Unified School District’s staff cuts due to budget shortfalls spark concerns about impacts on class sizes and resources, highlighting ongoing financial challenges in education; and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond receives the Cesar E. Chavez Opportunity Award for empowering farmworker families and underserved communities, underscoring the importance of advocacy and support for vulnerable populations in California.

Across the Nation | .The United States faces a surge in student absenteeism post-pandemic, highlighting broader shifts in education and family dynamics; a survey in Washington reveals concerning outcomes for students with disabilities after high school, emphasizing the need for improved transition services; low enrollment of homeless infants and toddlers in early education programs reflects gaps in supportive resources for vulnerable populations; a delay in correcting FAFSA forms impacts college applicants’ financial aid review and enrollment; legal battles over critical race theory and compensatory services for students with disabilities underscore ongoing debates and challenges in education policies and equity.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Furious Oakland parents are declaring war on politics and status quo in schools: “This is a call for excellence,” School board member Jorge Lerma said. “We’re ready to raise the battle flag.”  

What’s Happening: Oakland parents led by Stephisha Ycoy-Walton are rallying against poor academic outcomes, particularly for Black and brown students, aiming to address stark disparities in literacy and math proficiency rates. 

Why It Matters: Supported by Families in Action, the movement seeks to redirect funding and political focus to core academic subjects, demanding accountability from officials and aiming to double proficiency rates for students of color in the next decade. 

By Jill Tucker for SF Chronicle 

More in-depth coverage: Oakland resolution to help Black and brown students qualify for college  

What’s Happening: The Oakland School Board is set to vote on a new resolution aimed at increasing college access for Black and brown students following a recent study showing significant eligibility gaps among these groups. 

Why It Matters: The resolution seeks to implement policies and allocate resources to help Black and brown students meet college eligibility requirements, emphasizing the need to move beyond inflated graduation rates and grades to ensure meaningful college preparation and opportunities for these students. 

By Amber Lee for KTVU Fox 2 News

The City of Oakland celebrated 35 schools that raised the bar in preparing students for college with 80% A-G Completion Rates for Black and Latinx Students, but that’s not enough

What’s Happening: Our full coverage begins here with profiles of four of the schools honored on Thursday night – Aspire Lionel Wilson Prep, East Bay Innovation Academy, AIMS College Prep High School, and EFC Cox Academy – for achieving standards, showing double-digit growth, and/or committing to raising the bar in A-G completion, Math and ELA proficiency.

Why It Matters: As Charles Cole, III and Kimi Kean, both co-founders of Families in Action, noted in the press conference and at the awards itself, 35 of 120+ Oakland schools, with only 3 high schools with 80% of Black and Latinx students meeting A-G requirements –  just isn’t enough and using grades to mask proficiency is, to put it lightly, a disservice to Oakland’s youth and community. 

Catch the broadcast on our YouTube here

In a related story, Oakland’s Black, Brown students lag behind state levels for reading, math: report  What’s Happening: A new report reveals significant academic disparities in Oakland, with half of Black and Brown students not meeting basic college eligibility requirements. 

Why It Matters: The data underscores persistent challenges in Oakland’s education system, highlighting the urgent need for effective leadership and targeted interventions to address the longstanding achievement gaps faced by minority students. “It is really disturbing. We are looking at very little progress in Oakland education, for particularly Black and Brown students,” says Kimi Kean. She is CEO of Families In Action, which works to help parents better advocate for their students. 

By Anser Hassan for ABC7

Almost every OUSD school has a library now. But it will take more money to keep them running 

What’s Happening: The Measure G parcel tax has significantly improved library services in OUSD schools, providing access to dedicated staff and dynamic book collections for 95% of students, but sustaining these gains faces challenges due to funding constraints. 

Why It Matters:  The resolution aims to maintain and expand these gains by addressing financial sustainability issues and advocating for increased investments at both district and state levels to ensure ongoing support for libraries and literacy programs, which are crucial for student success and achievement. 

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

East Oakland kids travel the world through Castlemont’s Pacific Bridge Club 

What’s Happening: Castlemont High School’s Pacific Bridge Club is sending 15 students, mentors, and chaperones on an international trip to Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines, marking a significant opportunity for cultural exchange and personal growth. 

Why It Matters: The Pacific Bridge Club’s mission to expose students to diverse cultures, languages, and experiences not only enriches their education but also fosters leadership skills, confidence, and a deeper appreciation for global perspectives, highlighting the importance of such initiatives in promoting inclusivity and understanding among youth. 

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

East Bay community group wants no more police for mental health calls amid SoCal teen shooting

What’s Happening: Community members in the East Bay are advocating for police to no longer respond to mental health crises after recent incidents of police violence against autistic individuals. 

Why It Matters: The demand to decriminalize mental health care and autism reflects a broader call for systemic change to prevent unnecessary deaths and ensure appropriate responses to mental health emergencies without relying on law enforcement. 

By Ryan Curry for ABC 7 Bay Area News

Black Teacher Project Bay Area Meetup  

What’s Happening: The Black Teacher Project is organizing a Bay Area Meetup titled “The Joy In Our Existence Is Our Resistance” on April 20 at Kinfolx, promising a unique and vibrant experience.  

Why It Matters: This event is significant as it brings together Black teachers to celebrate their joy, foster community, and provide a platform for networking and support, enhancing their overall well-being and professional development. 

For more info, check out the event here

OPD Spring Eggstravaganza: Fostering Community Celebration in Oakland Schools 

What’s Happening: OPD held its sixth annual “OPD Spring Eggstravaganza” at three schools, uniting 400+ OUSD students in a community celebration with Officer Cottontail and engaging activities.

Why It Matters: The event underscores the importance & dedication to community engagement, showcasing collaborative efforts among police associations, POT, and community members like Ms. Singleton to create unity and joy in Oakland schools and neighborhoods. 

Watch the link for more and press from the City of Oakland’s website

The Bay Area

Students at this S.F. high school defy odds to get into UCs, elite colleges. What’s the secret? 

What’s Happening: For years, the school has been a standout in University of California acceptance rates, especially at UC Berkeley, where 43% of 90 applicants were admitted for the fall of 2023, edging out academic powerhouses like Lowell High School, where 14% were admitted. And 92% of Mission seniors were accepted to at least one UC campus — the top of California’s three-tier public university system.

Why It Matters: The majority of Mission’s approximately 1,000 students — nearly 61% — are from low-income families, and 38% are English learners. Nearly two-thirds are Hispanic/Latino, 13% Black, 6% Asian American and almost 8% white.  The school is proof that with the resources – including college access courses and multi-level supports from the Mission High Foundation – focus and determination to make the students believe in themselves, and a lot of hard work, the odds against these kids shift.

By Jill Tucker in the SF Chronicle

S.F.’s elite Lowell High School may change admission testing for public and private school students

What’s Happening: Under the proposal, all students, from both public and private schools, would use the STAR test taken during the winter of eighth grade for Lowell admissions. SFUSD students already take the STAR test during school time, and private school eighth graders would take the STAR test on an evening or weekend during the winter testing window.

Why It Matters: Lowell’s admissions policy has been under a spotlight in recent years. During the pandemic, the district temporarily changed the elite public high school’s admissions to a lottery system because of the lack of adequate grades and test scores. All students applying to Lowell would have scores from the same test taken at the same time, providing “equitable access” to Lowell, the district said. 

By Danielle Echeverria in the SF Chronicle

BUSD reparations survey finds support for educational payments, curriculum changes 

What’s Happening: BUSD’s survey shows strong support for educational reparations and curriculum changes related to chattel slavery among Black families in Berkeley. 

Why It Matters: The survey findings are significant as they reflect community preferences for addressing historical injustices and promoting educational equity through reparations and enriched curriculum. 

By Supriya Yelimeli for Berkeleyside

San Jose charter school closes as Bay Area districts face declining enrollment & million dollar budget deficits  

What’s Happening: DCP Alum Rock High School is closing due to declining enrollment and a significant budget deficit, affecting over 200 students who will need to transfer to other schools. 

Why It Matters: The closure highlights the financial challenges faced by schools, particularly charter schools, due to declining enrollment, reduced funding, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting students and communities. 

By Molly Gibbs for East Bay Times

East San Jose school district money problems may prompt takeover 

What’s Happening: The Alum Rock Union School District in East San Jose is facing a severe financial deficit, potentially leading to a county takeover due to a projected $20.8 million budget shortfall.  

Why It Matters: This situation raises concerns about the financial stability of the district and its ability to provide essential services to its students. The potential for school closures and the need for drastic budget cuts highlight the challenges faced by many school districts in managing their finances effectively while ensuring quality education for students.  

By Lorraine Gabbert for San Jose Spotlight

Dozens of educators to be laid off in West Contra Costa 

What’s Happening: The West Contra Costa Unified School District plans to lay off dozens of educators in the upcoming school year, including grant-funded positions, due to budget constraints.  

Why It Matters: The layoffs will impact various essential positions such as assistant principals, instructional specialists, psychologists, bilingual paraprofessionals, and others, potentially affecting classroom staffing, support for English learners, and overall school community outreach and engagement. The decision has sparked concerns about the quality of education and support services provided to students in the district.  

By Monica Velez for Ed Source

It took 7 years for this San Jose high school to establish a gender-neutral locker room 

What’s Happening: Seven years after San Jose Unified School District pledged accommodations for transgender and nonbinary students, issues persist at San Jose High School, where promised gender-neutral spaces remain locked and inaccessible, prompting outrage among students, parents, and teachers.  

Why It Matters: The ongoing struggle faced by trans and nonbinary students underscores the importance of creating inclusive environments in schools. Lack of clear policies and accessible spaces can lead to alienation, discomfort, and feelings of unwelcomeness, affecting students’ mental well-being and educational experience.

By Molly Gibbs for Mercury News Group

Sunnyvale School District names new chief business officer 

What’s Happening: Arthur Cuffy has been appointed as the new chief business officer (CBO) for the Sunnyvale School District, taking over from Lori van Gogh. 

Why It Matters: Cuffy’s role as CBO is crucial as he will oversee various important aspects of the school district, including business services, maintenance, operations, transportation, student nutrition, and facility bond projects, impacting the overall management and functioning of the district.

By Anne Gelhaus for Mercury News Group

Staff shortages plague Bay Area school kitchens as demand for meals increase  

What’s Happening: Schools in California, like Miller Middle School in San Jose, are grappling with understaffed kitchens as a result of increased meal demand and low retention rates among food workers.  

Why It Matters: The shortage of kitchen staff impacts meal quality, the overall ability of schools to provide nutritious meals and most importantly student food security & engagement, highlighting the need for improved wages and working conditions to attract and retain qualified food workers. 

By Hannah Poukish for East Bay Times

The State of California 

Why Doesn’t California Have More School Buses? 

What’s Happening: California’s school transportation system faces challenges due to limited buses, impacting how students commute to school.  

Why It Matters: The shortage of school buses in California, stemming from historical funding limitations, raises questions about equity, accessibility, and the overall effectiveness of transportation services for students across the state.  

By Katrina Schwartz for KQED News

Former California education official who embezzled $16M bought jewelry, handbags, tequila  

What’s Happening: Jorge Armando Contreras, former senior director of fiscal services at a school district in Orange County, has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $16 million over several years.  

Why It Matters: This case highlights the seriousness of financial fraud in educational institutions, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and measures to prevent such incidents, which can significantly impact the resources and services available to students and communities.  

By Josh DuBose for KTLA5

New California bill seeks to lower speed limits in school zones 

What’s Happening: AB 2583, known as the Safer School Zones Act, aims to lower speed limits in California school zones to “20 mph or less” regardless of children’s presence, enhancing safety.  

Why It Matters: The bill’s introduction follows a tragic incident involving 8-year-old Jacob Villanueva, emphasizing the need for stricter speed limits and improved safety measures in school zones to prevent accidents and protect students, teachers, and school staff. 

By Iman Palm for KTLA5

LAUSD, partners provide 25 affordable housing units for district families  

What’s Happening: Twenty-five units of permanent, supportive housing have been made available to families of LAUSD students who have experienced chronic homelessness, marking a collaborative effort between district officials and partners like Many Mansions. 

Why It Matters: This initiative addresses the critical issue of homelessness among students and their families, providing them with stable housing and access to essential services. It showcases a commitment to supporting vulnerable populations and improving overall well-being within the school community.  

By Mallika Seshadri for Ed Source

Millions of dollars in the red, Morgan Hill schools announce staff cuts to fight budget shortfall 

What’s Happening: Morgan Hill Unified School District is making significant staff cuts due to a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, sparking concerns about potential impacts on class sizes and resources. 

Why It Matters: The budget cuts raise concerns among teachers and parents about potential increases in class sizes, reduced student and teacher support, and the need for alternative budget reduction strategies to minimize the impact on students’ education.  

By Luis Melecio Zambrano for East Bay Times

State Superintendent Thurmond Honored with Cesar Chavez Award for Empowering Farm Working Families and Underserved Communities 

What’s Happening: State Superintendent Tony Thurmond has been honored with the Cesar E. Chavez Opportunity Award for his impactful work in empowering and influencing farmworker families in rural communities.  

Why It Matters: This recognition highlights the crucial efforts to support underserved populations, especially during challenging times like the COVID pandemic, emphasizing the importance of advocacy and support for farmworkers, rural communities, and immigrant families in California.  

From the California Department of Education Newsroom

Across The Nation

Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere  

What’s Happening: The United States grapples with a significant rise in student absenteeism since the pandemic began, affecting various demographics and regions across the country, from affluent areas to working-class communities. 

Why It Matters: The sharp increase in student absenteeism, particularly chronic absenteeism, is a persistent challenge impacting education recovery efforts, highlighting broader shifts in American schooling and family dynamics that may have lasting consequences on student learning and well-being. 

By Sarah Mervosh and Francesca Paris for the New York Times

Survey Finds Poor Outcomes for Students with Disabilities After High School  

What’s Happening: A recent survey from Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reveals that about a quarter of students with disabilities in the state struggle to secure employment or enroll in higher education within a year after leaving high school, with particularly dismal outcomes for those with autism or intellectual disabilities.  

Why It Matters: This data underscores persistent challenges in providing effective transition services for students with disabilities, highlighting the need for comprehensive support systems to improve their access to employment and educational opportunities post-graduation. These findings reflect broader issues faced by individuals with disabilities nationwide and emphasize the importance of ongoing efforts to enhance outcomes for this vulnerable population. 

By Grace Deng for The 74 Million

Homeless infants and toddlers largely unenrolled in early ed programs  

What’s Happening: A recent national report highlights that enrollment in early childhood development programs can significantly benefit homeless infants and toddlers, but only a small fraction of these children are currently enrolled.  

Why It Matters: The low enrollment rates indicate a gap in providing educational and supportive resources to homeless children, which can have long-lasting effects on their academic development and well-being. Efforts to improve enrollment and support services for these vulnerable populations are crucial for addressing the challenges of homelessness among young children.  

By Betty Marquez Rosales for Ed Source

Students won’t be able to correct FAFSA forms until April  

What’s Happening: The U.S. Department of Education announced a delay in updating and correcting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms until the first half of April, adding to the challenges of the new FAFSA rollout. 

Why It Matters: The FAFSA delay impacts college applicants and their families, giving them less time to correct forms and review financial aid packages, prompting concerns about meeting enrollment deadlines and affecting states’ financial aid programs.  

By Natalie Schwartz for K-12 Dive

High school teacher and students sue over Arkansas’ ban on critical race theory

What’s Happening: A high school teacher and two students in Arkansas filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on critical race theory and “indoctrination” in public schools, arguing that the restrictions violate free speech protections and discriminate based on race, leading to a legal battle over educational policies.  

Why It Matters: This lawsuit reflects a broader national debate on how race is taught in schools and the limits of educational policies. It highlights concerns about free speech, curriculum content, and the role of government in shaping classroom discussions about race, history, and social issues. 

By Andrew DeMillo for Associated Press via LA Times

Lawsuit seeking makeup services for NYC students with disabilities survives another legal challenge  

What’s Happening: A class action lawsuit filed by Advocates for Children in New York City is moving forward after surviving legal challenges. The lawsuit seeks to fast-track makeup services for students with disabilities who missed out on key services during the switch to virtual learning due to the pandemic.  

Why It Matters: This case highlights the challenges faced by students with disabilities and their families in accessing essential services during the pandemic. It also sheds light on the legal complexities and delays involved in seeking compensatory services for students with disabilities, emphasizing the need for a streamlined and equitable process. 

By Alex Zimmerman for Chalkbeat News

Oklahoma Adds Virtual Charter Schools, Concerns About a ‘Saturation Point’ Arise |  

What’s Happening: Oklahoma has seen a rise in virtual charter schools, with seven currently operating and an eighth approved to open soon. However, concerns are growing among state officials about potential oversaturation and academic performance among these schools.  

Why It Matters: The increase in virtual charter schools offers more choices to parents like Zari Bigelow, whose son has benefited from virtual education. However, questions about academic outcomes and the need for better performance before approving more schools have been raised by officials like Rep. Mark McBride. Balancing the demand for virtual learning with ensuring quality education and accountability remains a significant challenge for Oklahoma’s education system.  

By Nuria Martinez-Keel for The 74 Million

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