OUSD school board sitting behind the dais during a meeting
The OUSD school board at a meeting on Jan. 11, 2023. Credit: Carla Hernández Ramírez

With the start of the school year also comes the resumption of  Oakland Unified School District board meetings, where directors discuss, hear from the public, and vote on pressing issues like enrollment, the budget, and charter schools. 

This year, the OUSD board must contend with balancing the budget while accommodating a new teacher contract that comes with significant raises. The board must also anticipate a decline in revenue due to lower enrollment and attendance rates, and expiring COVID relief funds that have paid for things like masks and air purifiers, laptops, and literacy tutors. 

Figuring out how to keep and attract more families to Oakland Unified—enrollment decline is impacting public school districts across the state—will be a major focus this year, along with increasing school safety , managing a $750 million bond measure for upgrading the district’s aging school buildings, and recruiting and retaining qualified educators. OUSD started the school year on Monday with dozens of teacher vacancies across its school sites.

The board will need to tackle these issues with only six members for the next several months due to a vacancy in District 5, which could cause some votes to end in a tie. A special election for the District 5 seat will be held in November, with the winner serving through the end of 2024. Those interested in running for the District 5 seat must submit their nomination paperwork to the city clerk by this Friday, Aug. 11.

The first school board meeting of the year is Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 4 p.m. We’ve put together this guide to make it easier for you to participate in this school year’s meetings. 

Who is on the Oakland school board?

The school board has seven members who are elected to represent the seven districts in Oakland. If you’re unsure what district you live in, you can find out by looking up your address on the city’s interactive district map

Here are the six current board directors, minus the vacant District 5 seat:

District 1: Benjamin “Sam” Davis (elected in 2020)

District 2: Jennifer Brouhard (elected in 2022)

District 3: VanCedric Williams (elected in 2020)

District 4: Board president Mike Hutchinson (elected to District 5 in 2020, District 4 in 2022)

District 6: Valarie Bachelor (elected in 2022)

District 7: Board vice president Clifford Thompson (elected in 2022)

School board directors serve four-year terms, and elections occur every two years, alternating between elections in even and odd-numbered districts. The directors in odd-numbered districts will be up for re-election next, in 2024.

There are also two student directors who are elected by OUSD students and serve for one academic year. For the 2023-2024 school year, the student directors are Oakland High School senior Anevay Cruz and Life Academy senior Vida Mendoza. 

Who has voting power on the OUSD school board?

The seven elected board directors vote on school board matters. Student directors can cast a preferential vote, but it does not affect the outcome. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell attends board meetings and weighs in on discussions, but does not cast votes. Most votes are determined by a simple majority.

What are the Oakland school board’s responsibilities?

The role of the school board is to set school district direction and policy, pass a budget, and evaluate and hire the superintendent. The OUSD board is also responsible for approving new charter schools, but charters are run by their own boards. Most of the work of the school board takes place in public at open meetings. The meeting agenda, which lists all of the meeting topics, reports, and presentations, is posted three days before every regular meeting online.

For more details about what the school board does, The Oaklandside published this explainer ahead of the 2020 election.

How often does the Oakland school board meet?

The OUSD board meets regularly on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from August to June. Typically, the meetings start at 4 p.m. before the board goes into closed session to discuss personnel issues, legal matters, expulsions, and property matters. At 5:30 or 6 p.m., the board comes back to the public session for the remainder of the meeting. 

At times, the board has deadlines to vote on contracts or other pressing issues that don’t fit into the regular meeting schedule, and the board president will call a special meeting. 

The OUSD board also has committees that directors sit on: budget and finance, facilities, and charter matters committees meet once a month and often discuss topics in more depth before those policies come to the full board for a vote. Earlier this year year, a teaching and learning committee was also established, but it has yet to meet. 

How can I participate in OUSD board meetings?

Regular school board meetings take place at La Escuelita Elementary School, 1050 Second Ave. near Lake Merritt and Laney College. Meetings are also broadcast live over Zoom (links are available in the board agenda), and on the district website. During meetings, there are several opportunities to make comments on agenda items, and comments can be shared in person at meetings, live over Zoom, and online ahead of time.

In addition to the board committees, OUSD also has several citizen oversight committees that residents can join. Right now, there are vacancies on the district’s audit committee, bond committees, and parcel tax committees. 

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.