school board directors listening
The Oakland Unified School District board meets at La Escuelita Elementary School on June 29, 2022. Credit: Amir Aziz

At the final meeting ahead of Election Day, the Oakland Unified School District board discussed student safety and enrollment, heard from community members supporting a plan for a long-vacant OUSD building, and from parents advocating to have more of a voice during school board meetings.

Many in the OUSD community are still reeling from a shooting at Rudsdale High School last month that injured six people, including students and staff. Police released video footage of two gunmen running up to the entrance of the school, but have not announced any arrests. Since the shooting, other security incidents at schools have been reported, including threats, a student with autism wandering off campus, and an adult reportedly following a student onto an elementary school campus. 

Student school board directors Linh Le and Natalie Gallegos Chavez reiterated their concerns about student safety and urged the board to make campus security a priority. “Keeping our students safe should be our utmost priority,” said Gallegos Chavez. In addition to safety, student mental health and implementing the youth vote will be the priorities for the student directors and OUSD’s All City Council this year. 

To help the board address school safety concerns, the student directors are putting together a survey to gather students’ thoughts on the issue, and interim Superintendent Sondra Aguilera said district leaders will use the responses to help guide their decisions about security changes on campuses.

Rudsdale, the site of the September shooting, serves students at risk of not graduating high school, and “newcomer” students who recently immigrated to the U.S. after fleeing violence and instability in their home countries. The school shares its campus with Sojourner Truth Independent Study High School and Bay Area Technology School, or BayTech, a charter serving middle and high school students. 

BayTech’s high school principal, Lori Smith, urged the board to keep all of the students at the campus in mind.

“All of us who were there, whether they were targets or others, were impacted. And we need you to understand that this has affected all of us,” Smith said. “I don’t want you to forget about the newcomer students, Sojourner Truth students, Rudsdale students and the continuation school. I don’t want you to forget about the Bay Area Technology School students who were there, and staff who were there who responded to the gunshots, to the victims, and were themselves victimized.”

Three seats on the school board, in districts 2, 4, and 6, are up for election on Nov. 8. District 2 Director Aimee Eng and District 4 Director Gary Yee are stepping down. District 5 Director Mike Hutchinson is running in District 4 because redistricting placed his home there. In District 6, Director Kyra Mungia—who was appointed to the seat in June— is running for a full term. Seven more candidates, including OUSD parents and former teachers, are also running. 

You can find all of The Oaklandside’s coverage of the OUSD races here.

Parents want more time to comment at OUSD board meetings

Several members and supporters of OUSD’s parent and student advisory committee (PSAC) submitted a resolution to the board on Wednesday that would reserve a portion of school board meetings for PSAC reports to the board and the public once a month, similar to the student directors’ reports that happen at every meeting. 

Every school district in California is required to have a PSAC to advise on the implementation of its local control and accountability plan (LCAP), a three-year plan that districts must complete that outlines how they will reach specific student outcomes. In OUSD, committee members are elected.

“As the daughter of a PSAC parent, I see the dedication these parents have when meeting. While these parents could be using their time dealing with household responsibilities, they spend their Tuesday evenings working on their budgeting plans because they’re passionate about their work,” said Vida Mendoza, a student at Life Academy and president of OUSD’s All City Council, the student governing body. “They deserve to have their work shared with you, as well as all the attendees of these meetings, once a month, in a proper report so their work can be shown to the community.”

The resolution asking for regular updates from the parent committee during school board meetings comes a few weeks after two other parent groups, The Oakland REACH and CA Parent Power, submitted a resolution to the board asking for opportunities to weigh in on contract negotiations and proposals between OUSD and its labor unions. This month, OUSD is expected to begin negotiations with the Oakland Education Association on a contract for the next three years. 

It’s up to the board president, Gary Yee, to put the resolutions on the agenda for the board to consider. 

A new resource center at 1025 Second Ave?

Directors Aimee Eng and Clifford Thompson introduced a plan to demolish a former OUSD administration building and replace it with a new building to house a resource center for transitional-aged youth, or young people who are graduating from OUSD and transitioning out of foster care or state custody. 

The resolution will be on the agenda at a future meeting for board consideration and a vote.

The building in question is located at 1025 Second Ave. and has been vacant since it flooded in 2013. If eventually approved, the plan would use bond money from Measure Y to tear down teh building and replace it with the Marcus Foster Educational Leadership Center, named for OUSD’s first Black superintendent who was assassinated in 1973. The center would include housing for transitional-aged youth, plus space for adult, career, and technical education programs, mental health and academic support for students, and event space for board meetings or other gatherings. The building would be next door to Dewey Academy, a continuation school for students at risk of not graduating on time.

“Wouldn’t it be great for students to walk across Dewey’s graduation stage and into a supportive and uplifting environment where they can really put the plans we are making on campus for their future into play?” said Staci Ross-Morrison, the principal of Dewey Academy. “The hub is necessary, and a safe environment is necessary.”

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.