Oakland Unified School District board members and superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell at the first in-person board meeting in 18 months on August 11, 2021 in Oakland, Calif. Credit: Kathryn Styer Martínez

The Oakland Unified School District board is looking to fill the District 6 seat recently vacated by Shanthi Gonzales by the end of June. At last week’s school board meeting, the board decided to fill the vacancy through an appointment rather than a special election. The appointee will be chosen from a pool of applicants by the other six school board members and will serve out the remainder of Gonzales’ term, which ends on Jan. 2, 2023. At that time, the winner of the District 6 race in the November election will be sworn in.

Read on for details about how and when to apply, and to learn about what the school board director job entails. 

How do I apply for the District 6 seat?

The three-part application is available on the OUSD website in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. Completed applications should be emailed to Edgar Rakestraw, the district’s manager of legislative operations, at BOE6Vacancy@ousd.org by June 1, 2022. 

The application asks for basic information, like your name and address, and includes questions about why you want to be a board member, what you believe to be the biggest issues facing the district, and what expertise you would bring to the board. The second part of the application, which asks about the candidate’s professional and educational background, is optional. Part three, like part one, is required and confirms that candidates meet the eligibility requirements for the position. 

What are the requirements?

The District 6 appointee must live within the current District 6 boundaries, which can be seen on the map below.

This map shows the current district lines for Oakland Unified School District. Credit: Courtesy OUSD

But if the appointee wants to also run for the seat in November, they must live within the new district boundaries that were established by the city’s redistricting commission earlier this year, shown below.

This map shows the new district lines that will take effect in January. Credit: Courtesy OUSD

Besides being a resident of District 6, the appointee must also be 18 or older and registered to vote. 

What does a school board director do?

Being a school board director is a substantial commitment. The school board meets twice a month on Wednesdays for regular meetings, which are held in the evening and regularly run well into the night or even early morning. The board also meets occasionally for special meetings, for board retreats, or to discuss time-sensitive topics. 

Each school board member also participates in one or more of OUSD’s committees for the district budget, charter schools, and facilities. These committees meet at least once a month. Board members are also appointed as liaisons to various citizen committees, or task forces and boards that hold occasional meetings, like bond oversight committees, parcel tax committees, or school board associations. 

The school board is responsible for adopting the district’s budget each year, hiring and evaluating the OUSD superintendent, and setting policies for the district. On top of their monthly meetings, school board members also meet with their constituents and visit the schools in their districts so that they may advocate for them at meetings. 

Directors are paid about $826 per month and do not have any staff. 

For more details about what it’s like to be a school board member, read The Oaklandside’s explainer published ahead of the 2020 election.

When will the position be filled?

Applications are due by June 1. During the week of June 13, the other board members will vote on which candidates will be interviewed, based on their application materials. During the week of June 20, the board will interview the candidates and ask them up to 12 questions that will be made public ahead of time. The interviews will not take longer than 20 minutes each. During the week of June 27, the board will vote on the appointee, who will need to be officially sworn in by the Oakland City Clerk before taking the seat. 

If the board is unable to appoint someone or hold an election to fill the seat by July 1, the Alameda County superintendent will order an election. 

Are there other ways to get involved with OUSD?

Yes. If applying to be a board member seems daunting, OUSD does have several citizens’ oversight committees, school-specific committees, and district-wide groups that residents can join. 

The audit committee, which works with independent auditors to evaluate district policies and recommend changes to the board to improve processes, has one current vacancy. 

The bond oversight committee tracks the various facility projects supported by Measures B, J, and Y to ensure that OUSD is managing those projects and spending the funds wisely. That committee has one vacancy. 

The Measure G committee is looking for three more members. That committee oversees spending from the Measure G parcel tax, which supports school libraries, visual and performing arts programs, and teacher training and recruitment. 

The Measure G1 commission has two vacancies and is looking for individuals to help oversee the funds that support teacher retention and arts and music classes in middle schools. 

All terms last for two years and are volunteer positions. Committees typically meet once a month. To learn more about the various committees and commissions or fill out an application, visit the OUSD website

OUSD schools that receive federal or state funding for targeted groups, like Title I funding, also have school-site councils that are open to parents, community members, teachers, and other school staff. The school-site councils decide how those funds will be spent to improve students’ academic outcomes. Reach out to your school for more information about joining its school-site council. 

There are also districtwide groups for those interested in improving district services for English-language learners, students with disabilities, and foster youth. For more information about joining those groups, visit the OUSD website.

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.