VanCedric Williams, District 3 director, will be the new board president for Oakland Unified School District. Credit: Kathryn Styer Martínez

Three new directors were sworn in to the Oakland Unified School District board on Monday amidst controversy and a court challenge over one of the seats. 

Jennifer Brouhard, a retired OUSD teacher, Nick Resnick, an education company CEO, and Valarie Bachelor, a labor organizer, begin their four-year terms on the OUSD school board this week in districts 2, 4, and 6, respectively. Mike Hutchinson, who represents District 5 on the board but ran for District 4 in the November election, is contesting Resnick’s win in that district.

Also on Monday, the new board elected VanCedric Williams and Clifford Thompson as president and vice president, respectively. Williams teaches at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in San Francisco and represents District 3 on the board. Thompson teaches at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Richmond and represents District 7. Both were elected to the board in 2020.

Williams replaces former District 4 Director Gary Yee as president. The school board president has the power to set meeting agendas and schedule board votes. One of the first issues the board could consider this month is school closures. 

In November, Hutchinson presented a resolution to stop five schools from being closed and one from being downsized this year, which the board had previously voted to shutter. Many community members have called for the board to rescind the remaining closures early this year, so that those schools can be included in the enrollment process for the fall, which ends in February. On Monday, Williams said he intends to call for a special meeting to vote on it.

“Reversing school closures would be my first move,” Williams said. “I will be a strong advocate and use our collective voice as a community on the school board to push OUSD to increase investments in our kids.”

The first regular school board meeting is Wednesday. The board is also expected to meet earlier on Wednesday so Board President Williams can make committee assignments.

Resnick assumes D4 seat—but for how long?

The uncertainty still swirling around the District 4 school board seat brought an element of uneasiness to the proceedings on Monday. 

Resnick cast his first votes as a board member—including supporting  Hutchinson’s and Sam Davis’ unsuccessful bids for board president—even as some members of the public suggested he should abstain from voting until the controversy surrounding the District 4 seat is resolved. 

After the Alameda County Registrar of Voters completed the initial vote count in November, Resnick was certified as the winner of the District 4 race. But on Dec. 28, the registrar announced that the vote-counting software it used had incorrectly tallied 235 ballots that didn’t have a first-choice candidate selected. Once the error was discovered and those ballots were added back to the candidates’ vote totals, Hutchinson had gained enough votes after ranked-choice tabulations to make him the winner of the election, according to a presentation that county registrar chief Tim Dupuis gave to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors last Thursday. 

City Attorney Barbara Parker explained during a joint meeting between the Oakland City Council and school board on Monday that the city clerk was obligated to read Resnick the oath of office, since the November election results had already been certified. 

“To date, the registrar has not changed those election results which are the only official results that we have. They have not changed their website, nor have they sent the city clerk or anyone in the city different certified results,” Parker said. “The city will await the results of the election contest lawsuit, and will comply with any order that the Alameda County Superior Court issues in that action.”

Director Mike Hutchinson addresses the media outside of Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, where he filed a petition to contest the District 4 OUSD school board election. Credit: Ashley McBride

Late last week, Hutchinson filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court asking a judge to declare him the winner of the race, but the case could take weeks or months to resolve. An initial hearing in the case is scheduled for May 22, according to court records. Hutchinson’s term representing District 5 isn’t up until 2024, but last year he decided to run in District 4 because redistricting changes that took effect last year moved his home address from District 5 to District 4.

“It’s really important that we get the message out to the community that this is not a problem with our elections. This was a human technical error that has now been corrected,” Hutchinson said to media during a press conference outside of the Rene C. Davidson courthouse on Friday. “We’re presented with a choice now: Do we want to accept results that we know are incorrect? Or do we want to go through the process to make sure that everyone’s vote is counted properly?”

Correction: This story previously stated that OUSD committee meetings aren’t happening this week. The budget and finance committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Jan. 12.

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.