Jorge Lerma, seated on stage in a school auditorium, grins as he holds a mic and notes during a candidate forum.
Jorge Lerma, speaks to the crowd of Oakland families and education advocates at the Families in Action candidate form on Sept. 28, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

The new representative for Oakland’s District 5 on the Oakland Unified School District board will be Jorge Lerma.

On Friday, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters released final certified results for the special election, which saw Lerma and Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez vying for the vacant seat. 

Lerma, an Oakland native who attended OUSD schools before becoming a teacher and principal, received 2,024 votes to Ritzie-Hernandez’s 1,514. Lerma attributed his win to people’s confidence in his experience as an educator and support for his vision, he told The Oaklandside. 

“I think what people saw in this race was a candidate that was born and raised (here) and has committed his whole life to children at many levels,” Lerma said. “I have not just my 34 years of classroom, administrator, and principal experience, but I have a whole lifetime of living in a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual city. And people want to see that flourish into something.”

Lerma could be sworn in within the next month. He’ll join the board at a time when district officials are faced with balancing the budget and stabilizing enrollment. In the spring, school board directors will begin making budget decisions, including considering whether or not to consolidate schools. The board has also recently been confronted with taking a stance on the war in Gaza and whether to call for a ceasefire.

Lerma has not revealed whether he plans to run again for the District 5 seat next year, when that position, along with those in Districts 1, 3, and 7 will be up for election again.

“I’m clear about the mission here, which is to support children in Oakland, to close the achievement gap and get to the root cause of why there is so much disparity between some of the schools in Oakland,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of drama and trauma and name-calling, but my first act as a school board member will be to bring healing, to shake hands, and to move forward.”

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.