Why is OUSD providing Marketing help to Vincent Academy to Stem the Tide of its Declining Enrollment?

WHY IS OUSD PROVIDING MARKETING SUPPORT TO A WEST OAKLAND CHARTER SCHOOL WHEN OUSD SCHOOLS ARE STRUGGLING FOR ENROLLMENT_Last night at the inaugural meeting of the OUSD Board Charters Committee, Director of Enrollment and Charter Schools¹ Sonali Murarka announced the first group of four OUSD-appointed charter board members selected pursuant to Board Resolution  18-0559 adopted November 14, 2018. The resolution was a response to allegations of embezzlement and wrongdoing at BayTech charter which had been renewed for 5 years shortly before scandal became public, and was intended to ensure that OUSD had early notice of significant concerns at OUSD-authorized charters.  One of the four charter schools selected for this first group of appointed board members is BayTech, as well as the Oakland Military Institute, North Oakland Community Charter School and Vincent Academy, all of which are struggling academically and organizationally in different ways. The Office of Charter Schools used a program called “Board on Track” to assess existing board capacity and areas needing support to determine who among the charter board applicants would have expertise in the areas most needed to improve the governance of the charter schools. 

Ms Murarka nominated Edward Huang to sit on the board of an elementary charter program in West Oakland, Vincent Academy. Ms Murarka described Mr Huang as the “Director of Growth and Expansion” at an education technology company with experience in brand building, marketing and fundraising.  For Vincent Academy, the Board on Track assessment determined that Vincent lacked marketing and fundraising expertise. In other words, OUSD is choosing their selected oversight board member specifically to bring his marketing and brand building expertise to help Vincent Academy market itself to Oakland families in hopes of building its enrollment, something which will likely come at the expense of the enrollment at the nearby OUSD public schools over which our OUSD board has direct control², especially its West Oakland neighbors Hoover, MLK and Prescott elementaries. This is absolutely outrageous and the OUSD Board should demand that another candidate for that position is put in place instead. 

To be clear, Vincent Academy needs help in other areas besides marketing. Vincent has had steadily declining enrollment over the last few years, down 25% since 2015.³ And while we do not believe test scores to be a great indicator of the quality of a school, the charter schools rely on them as the primary measure of success; Vincent Academy’s test scores in both math and english are the lowest of all elementary schools in West Oakland, and further, they have decreased by an average of 25% over the last five years, including a 36% decrease in math. Instead of appointing someone who might help those test scores improve, OUSD’s Charter Office has decided to help prop up Vincent’s declining enrollment with a marketing expert to help them better market their school (and fund raise to cover the cost). 

OUSD schools don’t have a marketing department to help them – especially not those schools in West Oakland. Why on earth would OUSD give a charter school access to that which our own schools do not have? It’s not about the “quality” of the school – if measured by the test scores that the charter industry likes to focus on. It is to help them with their declining enrollment³. That is NOT what our district should be in the business of supporting.

Please call or email the charter office and board members (see contact information below) and demand that they immediately withdraw Mr Huang’s name from consideration for appointment to the Vincent Board and instead appoint a board member who will perform the accountability function that Board Resolution 18-0559 envisioned without harm to the OUSD schools over which our board has direct control. 

Director of Enrollment and Charter Schools:  Sonali.Murarka@ousd.org or 510-879-1677
OUSD Board of Directors:
Jody.London@ousd.org or 510-879-2161
Aimee.Eng@ousd.org or 510-879-2162
Jumoke.HintonHodge@ousd.org or 510-879-2163
Gary.Yee@ousd.org or 510-879-2164
Roseann.Torres@ousd.org or 510-879-2165
Shanthi.Gonzales@ousd.org or 510-879-2166
James.Harris@ousd.org or 510-879-2167
¹The positions of the Director of the Charter School Office and the Executive Director of OUSD Enrollment were consolidated into one position in August, 2019. The inherent conflict of interest in this move is outrageous, and will be addressed later in a separate blog post.
²Interestingly, the chairman of the OUSD Board Charters Committee is James Harris, and he owns his own brand development and marketing company – perhaps he should be bringing that expertise to the OUSD board, because OUSD public schools, over which this board actually has control, could definitely use some marketing help.
³According to OUSD records, Vincent Academy’s enrollment is down 25% over the last few years, from a height of 288 in 2016-17 to 217 in September 2019. https://dashboards.ousd.org/views/Enrollment/Historic?%3Aembed=y&%3AshowShareOptions=true&%3Adisplay_count=no&%3AshowVizHome=no&%3Arender=false#7

Last week, while the crowd shouted “No School Closures” in the La Escuelita Great Room, the OUSD School Board was upstairs expressing majority support to close 10-15 schools next year.

Last Wednesday, after members of the public shut down the public school board meeting with their chanting of “NO SCHOOL CLOSURES,” and the school board moved their Picture3meeting upstairs to a room with no members of the public in attendance, the board had a four hour discussion about a proposed $21 million budget reduction that ended with 4 of 7 members of the board expressing an willingness to closing between 10 and 15 OUSD schools at the end of this school year. They may vote on these closures in the next month.

WE WILL REPEAT: without a single member of the public in attendance, the OUSD school board discussed a plan to vote next month to close between 10 and 15 public schools as part of the budget reduction process. The school board is loving these disruptions, as they are now free to move forward with their school closure plans in their “secure location” without interruption and without anyone watching what they are doing.

Here’s what we missed: multiple members of the board are pushing the Superintendent to “rip off the band-aid” and abandon the incremental Blueprint for Quality Schools approach to school closures – allowing schools  a planning year to prepare – and instead close 10 to 15 schools effective next year as a cost cutting measure (don’t believe us? watch our grainy video clips here).1 This approach was fully supported by Directors London, Hinton-Hodge and Harris, and Director Yee with the condition that staff could show the board that these closures will have a real impact on OUSD’s finances. This board majority of four members have now instructed the Superintendent to assess the cost savings provided by firing principals and attendance clerks and custodians who become superfluous at the 10 to 15 closed schools, and if it saves enough money, they will vote to tear off that band-aid and just like that, it will be done.

Just a year ago, our teachers were on strike, supported by 95% of OUSD students and their families.  The overwhelming success of that strike resulted in the Board adopting Picture2Resolution 1819-0718  mandating a full planning year for all school closures and such changes – a promise to fully engage the community prior to any of the massive changes now being contemplated by the Board. Closing 10 to 15 schools effective in August is not just another broken promise to our community, it is a violation of the agreement that they made with our teachers in order to end the strike, and contrary to their own policy.

This idea to close such a large number of schools at once is certainly is no surprise to the staff who have been considering it at least since November, 2019. In a document recently obtained by Parents United through a California Public Records Act request, members of the Senior Leadership Team were considering three possible timelines for school closures, two of which have the board voting on all 5 cohorts of closures by November, 2020:


That November, 2020 date is interesting – a decision to shove through school closures with a compliant board BEFORE 4 OF THE BOARD MEMBERS step down at the end of the year. As the staff document says, “it will perhaps be portrayed as a political move to take a vote right after the election before the old board members are out.”

While this information has not been disclosed to the OUSD public, charter schools apparently are already in on it – at a Facilities Committee meeting of Oakland charter school Francophone the day before the OUSD school board had this discussion, the Francophone Principal told his board that the “blueprint process will be finished before a new school board comes in” after the November, 2020 election..

So OUSD leadership has been secretly planning to accelerate the blueprint process to ensure that Jody London, Jumoke Hinton Hodge and James Harris, who have all said that they are not running again for school board, could vote to close up to 15 additional schools before a new school board — one possibly elected specifically to advocate against racist school closures which disproportionately harm black and brown communities — comes into power. And now the Board is putting that plan in motion, and seeking to accelerate it even further to save some money in next year’s budget.

You might have missed that amid the chants of “no school closures.”



  1. The grainy video clips are because the full board meeting video was not immediately uploaded to OUSD’s webpage. The full video is available now here, and this discussion begins at about 4:07:20.

Who is Being Hurt by Co-locations? Our Most Vulnerable Students.

Two years ago, we dug into the data for two co-located high schools in East Oakland to see who those schools, located on the same campus, were serving, and the results were startling. The two school populations were not even close to similar, despite, in theory, drawing from the same pool of students. If charter schools accept public money, shouldn’t they be serving all kids?

Serve all kids logo

Last year, we looked at all the schools that were offered to charter schools for co-locations to see which schools are targeted, and it was clear: OUSD schools with high populations of Black students and English Learners, vulnerable Special Education and Unhoused students, and low income students. These co-locations pushed students from classrooms into closets and disrupted the learning of OUSD students.

It is now Prop 39 season again, and like last year and the year before, charter schools who are or will be co-located with District schools do not serve the same student populations as the host district school. Comparing the data from OUSD schools to the charters reveals a stark pattern: charter schools serve far fewer in virtually every category of underserved student population group:


Just as when we compared the two co-located schools in East Oakland, the results are clear, and extremely concerning. Charter schools in Oakland, at least those in District facilities, are excluding certain students in ways that concentrate need in co-located district schools. At the most extreme, the population differences can be jaw-dropping. Brookfield serves 19% more special education students than Francophone, and likely a far greater percentage of moderate to severe disabilities. A recent report of special education in OUSD and other California Districts makes that clear:

State of denial about impairment differences


It is not just special education students that will be impacted by this co-location. According to District 7 Director James Harris, 40% of Brookfield’s children are experiencing housing insecurity. These children need the “underutilized” space for community services, not displacement by the far more affluent and privileged Francophone families. 

None of the potentially/already co-located charter schools are listed as serving foster youth, and only half of them have any unhoused students. At Castlemont, 13.3% of students were experiencing housing insecurity in 2018-19, and it is likely higher today.  Yet the long co-located LPS only shows 1.86% of students as unhoused, a truly heartbreaking 11.44% discrepancy. These two schools have been co-located for more than 15 years, yet Castlemont’s student population is one third African American and two-thirds Latino compared to 90% Latino for LPS, while Castlemont serves English Learners at a rate of 2 to 1 over LPS. Castlemont serves more Special Education students and Foster Youth than LPS. After 15 years in the same community, it is clear who is being chosen, and who is not. 

Charter schools like to refer to themselves as “Public Charter Schools” because they want us to believe that they are a public good in the same way our district schools are. The truth is, they are not serving all kids, and although they take public money, they are not public schools. The charter schools being offered space are on average whiter and more affluent than the District schools they are to occupy. They contribute to the pushout of African American students that is happening across our city. They do not serve foster youth, homeless students, English Learners or differently-abled students in large numbers, while District schools are serving all kids, regardless of need. The spaces that are being offered up as “underutilized” are in fact critical for educating kids in those district schools. I hope that the charter schools which have been offered space at our schools, charter schools which we know are NOT including all children, will not compound the inequities that failure to serve creates by taking away learning spaces 

charters choose disabilities lose

from district kids.

Vote for Angela Normand, Not the Billionaires

On March 3rd, voters in Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Area 2, which represents Alameda and parts of Oakland (much of East Oakland and parts of Fruitvale, Chinatown, Downtown, and West Oakland) will have an important choice to make: to vote for the billionaire-backed status-quo or for real change for our students.

Angela Normand is a 13-year award-winning special education teacher.

The candidate for change is Angela Normand, a 13-year award-winning teacher of the year in Brentwood Unified School District who was born in East Oakland and now lives in Alameda. Angela is a retired Marine, a leader in her school district and her union, and a special education teacher who has a real foundation in service and has learned, through experience, how to fight for students.

Last February, when the whole Oakland community together stood on picket lines and marched through the streets to demand smaller class sizes, more supports for their students, and an end to the teacher retention crisis in Oakland, Angela stood by their side. As an advocate for students, those issues are her issues. This year, while the Alameda community is working to pass Measure A to keep experienced educators in their schools, Angela has been knocking on doors with them. As an educator and community member, those are also her issues.

Alameda County students in county, district and charter schools deserve an unapologetic advocate and experienced educator on the Alameda County Board of Education – someone who will represent all public school students and families, and not outside billionaires. That candidate for change is Angela Normand. Angela is endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic party, the Alameda Labor Council, the Oakland Education Association, the Alameda Education Association, Assembly Member Rob Bonta, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Senator Nancy Skinner, the Wellstone Democratic Club, East Bay Young Democrats, the Green party, and the Stonewall Democratic Club, among many others.

Angela is running against an incumbent who is backed by outside billionaires with their own agenda – to undermine and privatize our public school system. When Angela’s opponent was first elected to this position in 2016, over 90 percent of her campaign funding, totaling over $21,000, came from the charter school lobby — the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) — which also spent an additional $8,200 to support her through an independent expenditure (IE).

CCSA got their money’s worth. Far from an independent voice on the County Board of Education, from the incumbent’s first board meeting in July 2016 until today, she has voted on charter school issues 24 times1, and voted with the charter school industry on 23 of those votes.2 Here are two of these votes that were particularly troubling:

  • In December 2019, Yu Ming charter school — a school that is authorized by the Alameda County Board of Education and located in North Oakland — came before the board with a request to nearly triple its size. Yu Ming has been repeatedly Picture1chastised by the county board for its long exclusionary history of failing to enroll a student body reflective of Oakland’s children. Oakland public education advocates opposed the expansion, citing the school’s significant under-enrollment of African-American and Latino students, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. The Board of Education voted almost unanimously to reject the expansion, with the incumbent as one of only two votes for expansion, completely disregarding the charter school’s failure to serve all students.
  • In February 2013, Latitude charter school came to the Alameda County Board on appeal after the Oakland school board denied their petition because, in part, the
    Fremont High School students in OUSD opposed the Latitude petition

    proposed charter was merely a duplication of an existing program at OUSD’s Fremont High School, into which OUSD has recently made more than $150 million in facility investments. The OUSD board had multiple reasons to deny, as the district was already struggling under a $57 million annual cost of the previous unchecked growth of charter schools, and the charter school chain proposing Latitude was financially struggling to keep one of its other schools open. Parents, educators and students in Oakland organized strong opposition to this petition, including OUSD students who asked County Board members not undermine their schools. The incumbent was one of only two votes that ignored the community’s concerns and supported the charter school lobby’s position, voting for the school.

Charter school appeals are certainly not the only issues that come before the Alameda County Board of Education, but they are the reason why billionaires like the Walton Family (heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune), Netflix CEO (and financier of anti-choice lawmakers) Reed Hastings, Gap co-founder (and Dark Money donor) Doris Fisher, and the California charter school lobby are innundating Area 2 voters with mail, social media ads, and canvassers to re-elect their incumbent. However, as Oakland teachers taught us last year, BILLIONAIRES CAN’T TEACH OUR KIDS! Let’s unite with parents, families and educators to stop them. Vote for Angela Normand on March 3. 

Copy of Copy of Copy of Angela Normand blue back

Angela’s website is: http://www.AngelaNormand.com

Angela’s Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaNormand4ACBOE/


1 Appeals, material revisions (requests to expand, change enrollment requirements, change facilities, and other), and renewals
2  Review of Alameda County Board of Education meeting minutes, July 2016 to Present. The incumbent voted against the appeal for Hayward Collegiate Charter School on September 11, 2018. It is not entirely clear why the incumbent opposed the petition, but based on her comments during the public hearing, she seemed to be concerned about how the school would achieve the necessary enrollment to meet its financial obligations and be successful. This was not a concern raised by ACOE staff, or other trustees, and makes us wonder whether her concerns were shaped by the impact the opening of a new school would have on other charter schools in Hayward. However, we are counting this as a vote against the charter lobby’s wishes because the CCSA spoke in support of the petition.