Oakland Unified School District board members at a meeting in August 2021. Credit: Kathryn Styer Martínez

The final school board meetings of the 2021-2022 school year are Wednesday, and Oakland Unified School District leaders have a full agenda of topics to address before taking a summer recess. Here are three big items school board members will be voting on this week: the District 6 vacancy, school closures, and the budget for the 2022-2023 school year. 

District 6 vacancy

It’s been almost two months since former District 6 Director Shanthi Gonzales stepped down from her seat after seven years on the board. Soon after her resignation, the board voted to fill her position by appointing a District 6 resident who applied and interviewed for the role. 

Nine people applied for the job. Last week, the board interviewed them about issues ranging from OUSD enrollment and the district budget to school closures and problems in District 6 schools. 

On Wednesday, during a special meeting that’ll happen before the regular meeting, the six remaining board members will vote on who will replace Gonzales. The appointee will hold the position from July until January.

The District 6 seat will also be up for election in November and the winning candidate will be sworn in in January. A few applicants have declared that they will be running for the full term, which some school board members may take into consideration when deciding on the interim appointee to avoid giving that person an advantage in the election.

If the board can’t decide on a new representative by July 1, the county superintendent will call for a special election.

For an overview of each of the applicants, you can read The Oaklandside’s story from June 15 for summaries and links to each person’s application. For coverage of the interview round, this Twitter thread documented the three-hour session. The video recording of that meeting is also available to watch online.

School closures

The board is also expected to take one more vote on closing schools. 

In February, the OUSD board voted to close seven schools by 2024. This year, Parker K-8 and Community Day School shuttered, and next year Brookfield Elementary School, Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Grass Valley Elementary School, Horace Mann Elementary School, and Korematsu Discovery Academy would close. 

The school consolidation plan also shrinks two K-8 schools, La Escuelita and Hillcrest, into K-5 schools, and merges RISE Community School with New Highland Academy. 

Since that early February vote, protests have overtaken school board meetings, students and teachers have participated in walk-outs, hunger strikes, and a one-day teachers strike, and families have moved into Parker K-8 and turned it into a community-run summer program. The board has considered postponing this year’s closures, but rejected those proposals in two votes since February 8. 

Some families impacted by the closures submitted their own resolution to reverse the board’s decision, which the board will consider and vote on this week. Over the past several months, none of the school board members have changed their minds on closures. Last week, they voted the same way on postponing them that they did in February. 

Budget update

Every year, by June 30, the school board must adopt a budget for the following school year. On Wednesday, the OUSD board will vote on the 2022-2023 budget, which tops $700 million. The budget presented Wednesday will include cuts of about $40 million, which the board approved earlier this year, and nearly $61 million in one-time COVID-relief funding. 

Some of that COVID funding is going to things like technology, safety precautions, tutors and other positions to address learning loss, mental health support, and more. 

OUSD chief business officer Lisa Grant-Dawson has emphasized that one way for the district to increase its revenues is to increase attendance, since district funding is tied to student attendance. 

Prior to the pandemic, OUSD’s attendance rate was around 94%. But this year it’s dropped to about 90%, which means millions of dollars in lost revenue. As part of Wednesday’s budget presentation, Grant-Dawson’s team also included a scenario of the budget if OUSD could get its attendance rate back up to 94%—an additional $11 million in funding.  

How to watch Wednesday’s meeting

The board’s special meeting to select the new District 6 representative begins at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Members of the public can attend the meeting in person at La Escuelita, 1050 Second Ave., or watch online on Zoom or the district website.

The regular meeting begins at 4 p.m. with a closed session, when the board discusses private topics like student discipline and legal matters, and the board returns to the open session around 5:30 p.m. That meeting will also be held in person at La Escuelita and streamed online. 

Meeting agendas can be downloaded from the district website. 

After Wednesday, the board is scheduled to have a retreat on Aug. 5 to review board procedures, and the next regular meeting will be Aug. 10. The first day of school is Aug. 8.

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.