Members of the OUSD school board listen to community members at one of the final meetings of the 2021-2022 school year. The board will hold its first meeting of the 2022-2023 school year on Wednesday, August 10. Credit: Amir Aziz

Thousands of Oakland Unified School District students, teachers, principals, and staff returned to their campuses on Monday for the start of the 2022-2023 school year. The start of a new academic year also means the resumption of school board and committee meetings. Here’s what you should know about changes on the board, this week’s meeting agenda, and how to participate. 

New faces on the school board

In June, the board selected Kyra Mungia to replace former District 6 Director Shanthi Gonzales, who resigned in May. Mungia will serve out the remainder of Gonzales’ term, through Jan. 2, 2022. At that time, whoever is elected in November will be sworn in. That could be Mungia, who is running. Mungia currently works in Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office as the deputy director of education. 

Linh Le, a senior at Oakland High School, is also joining the board for the first time as one of its two student directors. Le has been involved in student leadership in OUSD and previously served as the president of OUSD’s All City Council, the student union. Student board directors are elected by their peers each year. Natalie Gallegos Chavez, who served as student director last year as a junior at Oakland High School, was re-elected and will remain in the position for her senior year. 

When and where to join upcoming school board meetings

The school board will meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, beginning Aug. 10. The meetings will be held in person at the La Escuelita campus at 1050 Second Ave. Meetings begin at 4 p.m. with a closed session for board members only, followed by a public session at 5:30 p.m. or soon after. 

Committee meetings also resume this month, including those for the budget and finance committee, facilities committee, charter matters committee, and various citizens’ oversight committees. The calendar of upcoming meetings can be viewed online, and meeting agendas and recordings are also posted online.  

What’s on Wednesday’s agenda?

At every regular meeting, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell gives updates on districtwide initiatives, highlights from specific schools, COVID safety protocols, and other issues. On Wednesday, she’ll be discussing the latest enrollment figures, which will continue to fluctuate during the first few weeks of school as families finalize their school decisions. As of Aug. 2, 34,835 students were enrolled in OUSD—about the same as last year’s enrollment of 34,428.

County trustee could block new OUSD hires

Because Oakland Unified is still making payments on a loan from a state takeover nearly 20 years ago, an appointed trustee, Luz Cazares, has oversight of the board’s budget decisions. Cazares can veto or stay any decision relating to the budget if she thinks it could imperil the district’s finances.

Last month, Cazares emailed district leadership regarding several new positions, including electricians, gardeners, administrative assistants, and tutors, that the board approved in June, stating that she would stay, or pause, all new positions supported by one-time funding, “until staff identifies current ongoing dollars to fund them.”

Cazares also warned that she would stay all new administrative office positions, except for a Title IX Coordinator, until a promised analysis of the central administrative office was complete. On Wednesday, the board will discuss these updates and other budget adjustments. 

More changes to OUSD’s student vaccine requirement?

Last year, the Oakland school board was one of the first in California to implement a COVID vaccine requirement for students. In a split vote, the board decided that vaccines would be required for all students 12 and older unless they had a medical or personal-belief exemption. In January, the board decided to delay enforcement of the vaccine requirement until this fall. 

On Wednesday, the board will again consider updating the district’s COVID-19 vaccine policy to more closely align with the California Department of Public Health, which also requires vaccines for students but doesn’t include the same exemptions.

The latest update from the California Department of Public Health also states that its vaccine requirement for schools will not be enforced until at least July 1, 2023.

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.