Brookfield students showed up for the vote to keep their school open! Photo credit to Corrin Haskell
On Wednesday night, in the first official act of the new progressive majority, the Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) Board of Directors voted to rescind planned closures of 5 elementary schools and 1 middle school program at the end of this school year. Students, parents, educators and community were on hand to witness newly elected board members Jennifer Brouhard and Valarie Bachelor join with sitting directors VanCedric Williams and Mike Hutchinson to fulfill the mandate of the 67% of voters who supported their platform of ending school closures which target schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods and destroy communities while fueling the gentrification of Oakland.
The fight is not over. No sooner was the vote complete than the Alameda County trustee Luz Cazares, appointed to oversee OUSD’s finances, informed OUSD that they reserved the right to stay and rescind the board’s action to end school closures, because OUSD did not provide a Fiscal Impact Analysis as required by its own board bylaws prior to the vote.
District staff should have prepared that Analysis as soon as the matter was introduced by Director (now President) Hutchinson on November 30th, but failed to do so, and it appears that both Director Sam Davis and Director Hutchinson, who had each declared their intention to become board President, allowed staff to delay the Fiscal Impact Analysis until January 25th. This was done despite the urgency of needing to fix the enrollment system immediately to include the targeted schools and begin the budget development for school sites. That willingness to delay and worsen the harm to students led to Director Williams being elected president and immediately calling a special meeting for Wednesday, January 11th for a vote on the rescission resolution, which passed. President Williams’ decision to act immediately to help the targeted school communities jump start planning their futures was also a rebuke against the deliberate slow rolling by staff and politicking by board members. We are grateful for his leadership and for putting students first.
It is now up to District staff to prepare the necessary analysis so that we can avoid action by the County trustee and move on with the planning for how we support the targeted schools to repair the harm done by years of uncertainty and underinvestment. We must also rethink our solvency strategies to ensure we are no longer balancing our budget on the backs of our most vulnerable students. We must restructure our district from a top heavy, consultant-dependent “business model” to a district built from the bottom up, where we prioritize students and classrooms in true Community Schools. We must push our city, county and state leaders to support us in creating a district that serves the whole child, addressing community needs so that students are prepared to learn and excel in life. It is possible to educate students in equitably funded neighborhood public schools with staff who are valued and paid a living wage.
OUSD receives more money per student than almost any other large school district. It is time we invested those funds in the classrooms where they belong. Let’s get to work.
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters (“Registrar”) told the Board of Supervisors yesterday that it had incorrectly configured its electoral software and that when the software was properly configured, in accordance with the Oakland City Charter, Mike Hutchinson was the winner of the Oakland Unified School Board Election for District 4. Yet candidate Nick Resnick, who had previously been incorrectly certified as the winner of this seat before the error was identified, issued a statement making clear he does not accept the correct outcome and has hired an attorney to help him thwart the law and the will of the voters. Mr Resnick must put his personal interests aside and honor the vote of the people.
The Oakland Unified School Board has acknowledged that it has much work to do to build trust with the OUSD community. At a special new board member orientation this week, OUSD’s consultant Dr Franco talked about Ethical Leadership and Building Trust and said that key to building trust is to demonstrate “at all time qualities that will evoke confidence and trust.” If candidate Resnick insists on being seated on the OUSD school board when everyone in the community knows that he was only certified due to a technicality he will undermine rather than evoke confidence and trust. For the good of our community, candidate Resnick must work with the rightful winner, Mike Hutchinson, to ensure that the legal winner is seated as the next District 4 school board member, much as Director Hutchinson congratulated candidate Resnick when the result was incorrectly certified, despite having apparently lost by only 42 votes. As urged by Dr Franco, candidate Resnick must “let right be done.”
Every child in elementary school will learn a fundamental rule about the order of operations in mathematics: PEMDAS. When given a set of numbers, you must follow the PEMDAS Order of Operations to find the correct answer, and if you fail to use PEMDAS using those same set of numbers, your answer will be incorrect. Every math teacher (even former ones) understand this basic concept and every child will learn it over the course of their studies.
When setting up the software for this election, the Registrar’s office forgot about the Order of Operations – the “PEMDAS” in this situation. They failed to apply the rule (as codified in the Oakland City Charter) which determines how you tabulate the results, so that when they finished counting all of the votes and applied the Order of Operations, they got the wrong answer. Once the correct Order of Operations was applied, the correct answer was revealed and we all now understand that was a majority of votes for Mike Hutchinson. It’s that simple.
Candidate Resnick wants the Registrar to pretend that no mistake was made
The disappointment that Candidate Resnick must feel is understandable, and the fact that this preventable error was not discovered earlier needs to be investigated fully and appropriate action taken to ensure that it never happens again. But doing what is right is more important than Mr. Resnick’s disappointment, and it is clear that by law Mike Hutchinson received a majority of votes and should be seated as the next school board director in District 4.
In a statement posted on Candidate Resnick’s campaign facebook page he makes a variety of anti-democratic objections to the correction of the results, none of which addresses the simple fact that using the correct “order of operations” means that Mike Hutchinson is the rightful winner:
“We question the authority of the Registrar to conduct a re-tabulation” – in other words, once the Registrar became aware that a mistake was made, they shouldn’t have investigated to see if it impacted the outcomes of our election. Winning is everything for candidate Resnick (who lost another election in 2016 for community college board), even if it is on a technicality which deprives voters of the legitimate result.
“There was no proper public oversight of the Registrar’s process, which by their own admission was initially flawed. A recount includes a more thorough review of all ballots and not just the ballots the Registrar chooses to include, as was done here.” Candidate Resnick admits that the process that resulted in his certification as the winner was “flawed” and claims that public oversight of a “recount” is required. To be clear, this is not a recount of ballots, they have been publicly counted in accordance with the law. This is taking those same votes cast and applying the correct order of operations to get the correct result.
“We question the validity and integrity of the revised results provided by the Registrar. If there were mistakes the first time, there is also a chance there are mistakes the second time.” The Registrar has already admitted that a mistake was made in certifying candidate Resnick as the winner because the tabulation wasn’t done in accordance with the Oakland city charter. Applying the proper “order of operations” ensures that no mistake is made the second time. The Registrar made clear on Thursday there were only two choices for how to tabulate the “suspended” ballots at issue here and the first choice was wrong. There is no question about whether the retabulation is correct and questioning the “validity and integrity” of the results is outrageous.
“This unfortunate situation brings to light the errors that can happen in any election race where rank choice voting is utilized and I want to ensure that our election processes are fair.” To be clear, candidate Resnick was certified as the winner because of Ranked Choice Voting that he now claims to be error-filled and unfair. Mr Resnick received less than 40% of the first-place votes, before the application of ranked choice voting. He is only now complaining that the result is not “fair” because the correct Ranked Choice Vote result is not in his favor.
“We question whether the new results accurately reflect the intent of the voters who filled out the ballots in question.” The process for determining how “suspended” ballots are tabulated is set forth in the Oakland City Charter, but now candidate Resnick wants to substitute his judgment for the law.
“Registrar unilaterally moved up” and “second guessed” voter intention. Wrong. The corrected result was based on the clear and unambiguous intent set forth in the Oakland City Charter, and while the Registrar has much to account for, he is not substituting his judgment for that of the voters in the way that candidate Resnick has done.
“When voters are confused about the voting process or when the process isn’t transparent, voters lose faith in the results and mistrust the process.” There is no indication that voters were confused, and the Registrar of Voters was very transparent in explaining the process at yesterday’s meeting. In our “stop the steal” electoral environment, it is irresponsible for candidate Resnick to stoke the flames of distrust when in reality he just doesn’t like the outcome.
This entire incident has been painful and confusing and should never have happened. Those who made this mistake have acknowledged that fact and are correcting the mistake by making this information public once it was determined that applying the law properly would have resulted in a different outcome. Certainly, it would have been easier and less embarrassing for the Registrar’s Office to have just ignored it altogether, and to use the excuses that candidate Resnick is proposing to allow an anti-democratic outcome to this election. Instead, we know what we know, and we must do the right thing.
Mr. Resnick must let right be done
This was always going to be an historic election, regardless of the outcome. On the ballot were a trans-identified parent and two Black candidates. Whoever won would be a first for District 4, which is majority white and more conservative than other districts in Oakland and which has never elected either a Black candidate nor an openly trans-identified elected official, to our knowledge. According to an article in the Bay Area Reporter (Ballot count blunder means trans dad didn’t win Oakland school board seat :: Bay Area Reporter (ebar.com)), candidate Resnick’s “status as the Oakland Unified School District’s boardmember-elect for the District 4 seat meant Resnick was set to become the first transgender person elected to oversee a K-12 public school district in California. And it made him only the second trans man elected to an education post in the Golden State.” District 4 and Oakland should take great pride in this accomplishment.
But as instructed by Dr Franco in her training about “ethical governance” it is time for us all to “let right be done.” Under the Oakland City Charter and the order of operations specified therein, Mike Hutchinson has won this election and Nick Resnick must honor the outcome as corrected. Parents United urges the following actions:
Mr. Resnick should immediately notify the Registrar of Voters, Mr. Hutchinson and the Superior Court in which Mr. Hutchinson has been forced to file a complaint that he acknowledges Mr. Hutchinson is the duly elected District 4 School Board representative and will support the recertification of this election in Mr. Hutchinson’s favor;
Mr. Resnick should decline to take the Oath of Office set to be administered on Monday, January 9th;
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters as a Real Party in Interest to the complaint must ask the Superior Court to recertify the election with Mr. Hutchinson as the winner; and
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors must vote to pay the costs and attorney’s fees incurred by Mr. Hutchinson in challenging the certification which was necessitated by the mistake of the Registrar.
We look forward to Mr. Resnick, and all interested parties, doing the right thing.