OUSD school board members Aimee Eng, Gary Yee, and interim Superintendent Sondra Aguilera listen to a report during the Nov. 30, 2022 board meeting. Credit: Amir Aziz

Parents are set to have a greater voice at Oakland Unified school board meetings after board directors approved a resolution on Wednesday setting aside a portion of the meetings for presentations by a local parent committee.

The decision will allow OUSD’s Parent and Student Advisory Committee (PSAC) to report once a month to the board and public about its work and recent actions. The PSAC is made up of 28 parents and nine students representing schools across the district. They meet monthly to help develop OUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a three-year plan required by the state that determines how the district will support students, including specific groups like foster youth, English-learners, and low-income students. 

Many PSAC members and supporters attended Wednesday’s meeting to advocate for the measure, which was introduced by the committee in October.  

“We volunteer hundreds of hours to engage others. We do it because we believe that diverse parent and student voices can transform our district,” said Caitlin Khurshid, a District 1 parent and PSAC member. “We work continuously to bring in new voices and this resolution will help us reach more families.”

At a future board meeting, OUSD staff will present an updated agenda format that includes the PSAC segment. The addition will be the newest change to the school board meeting agenda, which directors amended a few months ago to streamline their lengthy meetings.

Outgoing OUSD board makes key facilities decisions

Wednesday’s school board meeting was the first since election results were settled. In January, three new directors will begin four-year terms on the board: Jennifer Brouhard, a veteran teacher who retired this year, will represent District 2, Nick Resnick, an OUSD parent and CEO, will represent District 4, and Valarie Bachelor, a labor organizer, will represent District 6. 

Board President and District 4 Director Gary Yee and District 2 Director Aimee Eng will be stepping down. Kyra Mungia, the interim District 6 director, lost her race to Bachelor. 

In their second-to-last regular board meeting together (the final meeting of the year is Dec. 14) the directors made several facilities decisions Wednesday involving the district’s central office, the former headquarters at 1025 Second Avenue, and a former early-childhood center near Piedmont Avenue Elementary.

The board supported a measure to demolish the building at 1025 Second Avenue. In its place the district plans to construct a hub for career and technical education that will also provide resources for students transitioning to adulthood out of foster care, the juvenile justice system, or homelessness. 

Board members declined to extend the district’s lease at 1000 Broadway, which means OUSD will end its occupancy of its downtown office in August 2023. The district’s headquarters have been at 1000 Broadway since 2013, when the previous office at 1025 Second Avenue flooded. 

The move downtown was always meant to be temporary until OUSD could renovate an existing property to move into. In 2020, Oakland voters approved Measure Y, a $735 million bond that included funding for a new district headquarters at the former Cole Middle School in West Oakland. But delays with the Cole project pushed back the timeline for moving out of 1000 Broadway. The latest hurdle was soil contamination at the site that has to be addressed before moving forward with construction, said Jody Talkington, OUSD’s senior director of strategic projects. 

The Cole project was initially forecast to be completed in August 2022, but the move-in date is now expected to be between April and June 2024. As a result, the board has had to modify its lease agreement for 1000 Broadway several times, most recently in March, when it was extended for a year to August 2023. 

At this week’s meeting, the board was asked to approve an additional six-month extension, but directors expressed their frustration with the construction delays at Cole and additional rent costs, and with many staff still working from home, questioned whether the expense is worth it. 

“It just is a strange investment to continue investing in renting space in a downtown office building,” said District 1 Director Sam Davis. “We know that with these kinds of projects, there’s often continued delays. There’s just some lack of clarity about when Cole will actually be finished, so I think at this point, we should move on and not renew the lease.”

Directors Mike Hutchinson, Eng, and Yee supported the lease extension at 1000 Broadway, while Davis, Mungia, and Williams voted against it. District 7 Director Thompson was traveling on district business and absent from the meeting. 

After the downtown office closes in August 2023, staff at the district’s central office, which includes departments like human resources, finance, academic departments, and others, could be dispersed to other OUSD sites until the new office is ready in 2024. Without the lease extension, district staff estimated that OUSD could spend up to $2.5 million on temporary spaces while it waits for the new building to open. 

Also on Wednesday, the board agreed to a 50-year lease with the city of Oakland to turn a former child development center on Piedmont Avenue into a public library. The Piedmont Avenue Branch library currently exists in a portable on the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School campus. 

Director Hutchinson, who voted against, said he’s opposed to leasing OUSD properties to other entities. 

“I actually am offended that there’s so many groups lining up to want to use our properties,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not our job to provide the city with a building and a space to have a library.”

Others opposed to the resolution also questioned the terms of the approved lease, which set the rent at $4,000 per month to start, with a 10% increase every five years. The city would not be obligated to pay any rent until March 2026 or until it receives an occupancy certificate. The Oakland City Council will also need to approve the lease to make it final.

During Wednesday’s meeting, parents and teachers from Piedmont Elementary expressed their support for the plan, saying it would provide students with access to a larger library, which their school doesn’t have. 

“The Piedmont Avenue library branch is crucial to our students,” said Arthi Srinivasan, the school’s Parent Teacher Association president. “Our students take field trips but currently since the library is housed in a portable, the classes have to rotate. If we were to have the [child development center] building as the library branch, more classes would be able to go more frequently, so this would be huge for our school.”

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.