Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell talked with kindergarten students at Lockwood STEAM Academy on the first day of school. Face masks are mandatory, and on Aug. 11 Gov. Newsom announced all school staff must be vaccinated or tested.
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell talks with kindergarten students at Lockwood STEAM Academy on the first day of school. Credit: Kathryn Styer Martínez

In March, the Oakland Unified School District approved sweeping reparations to provide more resources for Black students. Now, the public will have opportunities to weigh in on exactly how OUSD should implement the plan. 

As part of the Reparations for Black Students resolution, OUSD established a Black Students and Families Thriving Task Force that’s responsible for monitoring Black students’ academic performance and directing funds to various programs to better support them. The task force, which includes parents, teachers, school-site and district staff, has been meeting twice a month since September to plot out its goals and discuss what data will be used to evaluate how students are faring. The public can watch each meeting on Zoom from the district website

The resolution that was approved calls for the creation of a fund (the amount is not yet determined) to invest in several areas to support Black students, including with credit recovery, job training, literacy, and social and emotional learning in the classroom.

Reparations Listening Sessions

Monday, Nov. 15
West Oakland Middle School
6-8 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 16
6-7:30 p.m.
RSVP for link

Wednesday, Dec. 8
6-7:30 p.m.
RSVP for link

Reparations Task Force meetings will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18, Thursday, Dec. 2, and Thursday, Dec. 16.

Join the virtual meetings at https://ousd.legistar.com

Find more information about the Task Force at ousd.org/reparations

Over the next few weeks, the task force will hold several public listening sessions where community members can weigh in and share suggestions for how OUSD can best implement the resolution to repair harm and help Black students thrive and feel loved at school.

The next listening session will be Monday, Nov. 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria at West Oakland Middle School. Virtual sessions will be held on Zoom on Nov. 16 and December 8 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. You can RSVP to the sessions on Eventbrite

The listening sessions will help the task force develop a plan to present to the school board in January. Some areas the resolution could address are disproportionate suspensions, chronic absences, and reading and math levels. The plan will also outline how the task force intends to measure success, which could include things like improvements in literacy and suspension rates, or surveys of Black students and families measuring how welcome they feel at their schools and in the district.

There are 7,343 Black students currently enrolled in OUSD, which is about 21% of the student population. But Black students account for 57% of suspended students and have lost 646 instructional days so far this academic year because of suspensions, collectively. In comparison, Latino students have lost 311 days, and white students just 34 days due to suspensions. On the district’s diagnostic reading test for third to fifth-graders, 43% of Black students scored two or more grades below their grade level, compared to 36% of students overall. In math, 42% of all students were two or more grades below grade level, while about 52% of Black students were.

The reparations for Black students resolution was created after the Justice for Oakland Students, known as the J4OS Coalition, held community events from 2017 to 2019 to learn what Black students and families wanted from OUSD. 

“We heard students say they want to be healthy, they want to be empowered, they want to feel loved and affirmed,” Pecolia Manigo, chair of the task force and executive director of Bay Area PLAN, a parent advocacy group, said during the task force’s first meeting on Sept. 30. “We also heard them say they want to be safe and feel like they belong. And that at the core of all of that, they want to be academically prepared.”

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.