Parents United Endorses Kharyshi Wiginton in District 3

kharyshiIn this Presidential election year, there has been a great focus on getting big money out of politics in recognition of the negative impact it has on our democracy. Here in Oakland, over the last handful of years, an unprecedented amount of money has poured into our local school board elections from largely out of town big money donors. The majority of the current members of the OUSD Board of Education were elected with contributions from corporate interests, and those board members have consistently voted in ways that reflect those interests. Parents United for Public Schools believes that our public schools need strong leaders on the school board who are free from the influence of Wall Street billionaires and corporations who have an agenda to privatize our public school system.

In District 3, we believe that Kharyshi Wiginton will be just that type of strong independent leader who will fight for the public schools that all our students deserve. Kharyshi – affectionately called “Ms. K” by the students and families at McClymonds High School in West Oakland where she works – has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from GO Public Schools, the California Charter School Association, and other corporate interests focused on replacing our public school system with a private top-down business model of education.

When you meet Kharyshi, you can’t help but be drawn-in by her enthusiasm and passion for her students and her West Oakland community. Ms. K runs the after school program at McClymonds, where she is involved in multiple aspects of the school, including as a member of the Intensive Support re-design team. Through her involvement, Kharyshi has seen first-hand how OUSD fails to authentically engage the community about the direction of our District, instead making decisions behind closed doors or in secret committees, and then attempting to sell major changes to the community as community engagement after the fact.

Kharyshi believes in a model of pro-active community engagement that really listens to students, parents and the community – especially those on the margins, including families of color, working class families, and special education families. Kharyshi has pledged that when she is elected, these stakeholders will have a permanent seat at the table, leading to true community-led reform. With a strong community service orientation, she views a position on the School Board as “The People’s Seat,” and vows to “grow leadership” from within  her district if elected.

Kharyshi believes in the community school model, saying, “a true community school model will see the student as an entire being and work to develop her/him holistically as opposed to just focusing on academic achievement. This includes providing programs and supports for the family as well.” Kharyshi and Parents United believe that expanding that model is a critical step in strengthening all Oakland public schools.

Kharyshi is also committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, getting police out of our schools and training more school-site staff in restorative justice practices, including School Security Officers.

d3-side-by-side

For all these reasons, and more, Parents United believes that Kharyshi Wiginton is the right leader to represent Oakland public schools in District 3, and we are proud to endorse her for School Board.

Because Ms. K doesn’t have the kinds of corporate-backed support that the incumbent does, it is important that she gets the grassroots community support that can win this election. Volunteers are knocking on doors in District 3 every Saturday from 10-12, meeting at Ms K’s campaign headquarters at 1523 Myrtle St. You can email khayastar@gmail.com for more information on door knocking, phone banking, and event support.

You can read Kharyshi’s complete answers to our candidate questionnaire here.


WONDERING HOW TO VOTE IN RANKED-CHOICE VOTING?

Because the Oakland Board of Education race is decided using ranked-choice voting, and there are multiple candidates on the ballot in District 3, Parents United encourages you to make your other choices for candidates that are supported by and funded by the community, and not Wall Street billionaires and other corporate interests focused on the privatization of our public schools.

Therefore, we recommend that you DO NOT USE ANY OF YOUR VOTES for incumbent Board member Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, who has consistently been endorsed and funded by GO Public Schools and the California Charter School Association, and has voted in line with those interests.

Director Hinton-Hodge acknowledged receipt of our questionnaire but did not respond, despite being given extra time to do so.

Parents United sent out its questionnaire to all three active candidates in District 3. You can see the answers to our candidate questionnaire from Ben Lang, another District 3 candidate who has also committed to reject corporate funding and expand community schools, on our website.

 

#OneWestlake

Photo of student from letter with Mr KThe letter below was written by a former Westlake Middle School student about Mr. K, Westlake’s Principal, who is being removed from the community he has led for the last 15 years. Mr. K is a visionary leader who has the full support of the Westlake community. It is widely believed that Mr. K is “being punished for not keeping a lid on parent and teacher protests last June, when the district unsuccessfully tried to force the school to ‘co-locate’ a charter high school at the site.” This former student’s words show why Westlake needs Mr. K, and why our District’s leadership needs to support the Westlake community, not tear it apart. #OneWestlake

A Commitment to Excellence

I remember back when V and I (who took his own life after eighteen years on this Earth) would make the journey down to Laney College after school on Wednesdays in hopes that we’d come up on an iPod or a nice watch. I remember when R, J, and I would go down to MacArthur and pick up an ounce from Marv for $20, in hopes of flipping it on the block after school got out on minimum days. I remember M catching his cousin after school down the street from Whole Foods and stomping him out on the curb for stealing a TV from their grandma’s house. I remember B pulling a gun on my little brother.

I don’t recall these things with pride, or to scare away any family thinking of sending their children to Westlake—I attended Westlake seven years ago, and all of my experiences were the product of me actively looking for trouble. If I’d continued down the road I was headed in my preteen years, I would be writing this either from a jail cell or from the beyond. It was in my eighth grade year that I changed course, and I have Westlake Middle School to thank for my life; a Westlake Middle School under the leadership of Misha Karigaca.

When I was caught in the halls of Westlake in my final year, with more than a couple of dimes and intent to sell, it was Mr. K that gave me my wake up call.

“What do you see yourself doing in four years…?” He sat next to me. Even though he was much wiser than the students, he never made us feel small. I’ve dealt with my fair share of authority figures in Oakland, but Mr. K was one of the most successful because he treated each and every one of his students with respect. He knew our parents names, our aspirations (if we had any at that point), and what we intended to do about it. Each of us was a person; not just a student ID number in a computer that could affect the school’s funding.

“Well, I guess we’re supposed to go to college, right? But that’s done now.” My lip quivered. I’d just been caught with weed on me at school, all packaged up and ready to go. I was also thirteen. In that moment, I thought my life was effectively over.

“Why? Because you made a mistake?” He asked me. I nodded slowly. There was a window that looked out to the front yard in the front of the school. Some of my friends were watching me. I wasn’t gonna cry. “If you want to go to college, this isn’t gonna stop you. But what do you want to do?”

Mr. K, who is very open about his experiences growing up in Oakland Public Schools, has successfully (to my own understanding) and lovingly nourished an environment with resources that he had wished for and needed as a young black male in Oakland. Westlake is a place where young people from all racial and social backgrounds come to learn, to succeed, and to thrive. He’s made a commitment to excellence for all of his students, but I think his unique perspective on this is what makes him indispensable to Westlake.

Unlike many other teachers and principals I’ve encountered, Mr. K knew that in the diverse setting of an Oakland Public School, my excellence was not my peers excellence. He knew me as I was in my seventh and eighth grade years: cutting school so much that administration sat me down and had me draft a school law that prevented other students from abusing the middle school office bureaucracy the way I did. But he also remembered who I wanted to be—hanging out with my English teacher after school on Fridays because I didn’t want to go home, making spoofs of body wash commercials and writing poetry.

After being removed from Westlake classes with two months left until my promotion to ninth grade, I went on to become very involved in the arts. I got my diploma, took my SATs, got into college, and went in a different direction. At eighteen years old, I’m supporting myself while living in New York City—working to make ends meet while battling bipolar disorder and following my dreams. Mr. K created an environment that helped me find my calling, and gave me the ambition to pursue it. It was my experience in Westlake and the opportunity given to all students for unique self-searching and reflection that would later lead me to seek a diagnosis for my own quarrels with my mental health.

That understanding of the individuality of young people by an administrator and leader is crucial for individual and group success. If your definition of excellence is defined by your ability to breed cookie-cutter students that can recite helpful acronyms for standardized test-taking, and no outlet for their personal expression and experiences, perhaps Westlake would be better off with a principal that is not Misha Karigaca. That definition of success is a school that produces students that look good on paper—they get accepted into a very great University, where they have a wonderful dorm room with a nice window they can consider jumping out of during their first nervous breakdown halfway through their freshman year. I can’t promise I’ll be sending my children there.

However, if ever you are looking for a man who is committed to the individual excellence of young people, and strives to encourage each student’s specific interests, feel free to offer Mr. K his job back.

Serious Concerns From Tonight’s School Board Agenda

The following email was sent to OUSD’s Director’s this afternoon (2/24/16) regarding two very concerning items on this evening’s school board agenda:

  1. An item which will give all fiscal authority and staffing oversight over privately-financed OUSD funds to the private Oakland Public Education Fund, and pays the Ed Fund a 7% fee for it’s services. This item will take all spending of private funds out of the public’s eye and control, something parents should be very disturbed by. This item is a total abdication of the Board’s fiscal oversight of District funds.
  2. An item which requires certain charters that have opted-in to report additional pupil outcomes to the District. While good on face-value, the proposal does not include any indication that the District will take steps to assure that charter reporting is done on time or with accuracy, despite clear indications that these measures will be used to compare charter schools to District schools.

We encourage you to send your own email to them at the following addresses: james.harris@ousd.org, jody.london@ousd.org, aimee.eng@ousd.org, jumoke.hintonhodge@ousd.org, nina.senn@ousd.org, roseann.torres@ousd.org, shanthi.gonzales@ousd.org. Please copy us at ousdparentsunited@gmail.com.

OUSD PARENTS UNITED

Dear OUSD Directors:

We are writing with concern about two items on tonight’s Board agenda, but also with an overall concern about what seems to be an ongoing pattern of structuring Board meetings and discussions to discourage authentic public review and participation in the decision-making process.

While California open meetings rules require the District to provide a minimal notice of its board meeting agenda, that requirement is only a minimum, and you are permitted to provide a much longer notice. The board, however, consistently waits until the last possible minute to post board agendas, effectively limiting the public’s ability to fully understand, review and provide feedback on agenda items.

As we continue to hear from more OUSD parents who want to be informed, we’re concerned that last minute items without public engagement are a serious accessibility issue which doesn’t uphold the board’s values around equitable community participation. Especially in a week where the board has had two meetings, it is difficult for busy, working families to give the board’s work a thorough review.

While we have concerns about many of the items on your agenda for this evening, our two biggest concerns are as follows:

  • OAKLAND PUBLIC EDUCATION FUND AS FISCAL AGENT

 Our first item of concern is item 16-0357, “Charitable Fund Management Agreement.” We encourage you to reject this item. In addition to concerns about whether it is even a fiscally sound decision to pay 7% of District revenues to a private entity, and the fact that approving this item will result in the continued signing away the District’s oversight and control of projects to be carried out within District schools and other District operations, this item will:

  • Take all privately-funded work out of the public eye. The Ed Fund, as a private entity, is not covered by California’s public records laws or open meeting laws, making it impossible for members of the public – including you, parents, and students – to have ANY oversight over how these funds are distributed. This will make work being carried out within and on behalf of our District secret from the public – which is certainly not within the spirit of California’s public records and open meetings’ laws, if not an actual violation.
  • Make employees paid by these funds – including people working within District schools and administrative offices – employees of the Ed Fund, removing them from not just public oversight, but all rules and regulations that cover District employees. Having clear accountability and control over people working within our public school system should be of paramount concern to you all.
  • Sign-away all rights to intellectual property (such as copyrights) that could, in the future, be used to the benefit of the District.
  • Allows the Ed Fund to use the funds – funds intended to be used to carry out District programs and improvements – to lobby the District. The possibility that the Ed Fund will use District funds to lobby District officials is especially outrageous.
  • Allows the Ed Fund – in addition to the regular 7% administrative fee – to collect additional fees to provide additional services – yet these services are not spelled out in the agreement.

In fact, it seems clear that a vote for this item is such a clear abdication of your jobs as the fiscal oversight body of the District, that we could only take it as a sign that you do not want, or are not capable of, doing the work that you were elected to do by Oakland voters.

  • NEW CHARTER REQUIREMENTS RE: MEASURABLE PUPIL OUTCOMES

Our second item of concern is 16-0374, “Measurable Pupil Outcomes (MPO) Material Revisions – Alignment With Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Metrics and the District’s School Performance Framework – Named Charters.” While this item seems positive on face value – because it will require charter to comply with additional and more consistent reporting of educational outcomes – we have some concerns and encourage you to delay your vote on this item.

First and foremost – there has been no previous discussion of this item at Board meetings and the public has just now become aware of this proposal. We believe that parents, students and teachers deserve more time to consider these changes and understand how they will be carried out, and respectfully request that you delay this vote to allow time for stakeholders to better understand the proposal.

Additionally, because – as District staff has admitted repeatedly during the push for Common Enrollment – we all know that some (if not most) Oakland charters engage in practices prohibited by state law in regard to reporting (namely: “pushing out” of SpEd and other students around test-taking times, effectively manipulating their testing numbers), and our District currently does little to track those practices down and hold charters accountable, it seems questionable whether there is either the will or the means to hold charter accountable to this new reporting.

Further, the agenda item does not include any mention of how the District intends to ensure that this reporting – which will clearly be used to compare charter school performance to public school performance – is accurate. Surely any plan passed by the board should include a clear schedule for monitoring and comprehensive auditing (by qualified professionals) of all charter school reporting on these metrics.

Finally, it is important to understand why nearly a quarter of OUSD authorized charter schools refused to sign on to this. There is no discussion in the Staff Recommendation as to why these charters did not believe it to be in their best interests to agree to a shared metric for reporting charter school performance. At the very least, this information should be discussed prior to this vote.

We hope that you will take our concerns seriously and vote against making the Oakland Public Education Fund the District’s Fiscal agent and delay your votes on the MPO reporting item to allow time for more meaningful public understanding of the District’s ability and intent in regards to accountability. Oakland parents and students deserve better than rushed votes on unwise and unclear proposals.

Sincerely,

OUSD Parents United Steering Committee Members

Tony Daquipa

Kim Davis

Ann Swinburn

Mona Treviño

Michael-David Sasson

We Need Enrollment Reform, Not Common Enrollment

OUSD is currently considering a proposal to significantly reshape our enrollment process. Most Oakland parents and teachers agree that we need to make our enrollment process accessible, transparent and fair for all Oakland families. There are a lot of good ideas on the table, including adding regional enrollment centers, providing online tools, and conducting greater outreach to families throughout the process. Oakland parents support enrollment reform.

However, Oakland parents are concerned that the Superintendent’s proposal to add privately-operated charter schools to our enrollment system could destabilize our district schools, leading to school closures and teacher layoffs. This is exactly what has happened in some other cities where this proposal has been pushed through.

What Can We Do?

The time for Oakland parents to weigh-in on this issue is limited as the Board currently plans to vote on Common Enrollment on January 27th. Email or call your Board member today and let them know that you want enrollment reform, not common enrollment. 

Oakland parents are hosting a series of house parties over the next month to come together and talk about what a Common Enrollment system would mean for Oakland families, and what we can do to fight for real enrollment reform that will make our schools stronger. Check here for a (growing) list of house parties, and email us for the address. If you are interested in hosting a house party, email us at ousdparentsunited@gmail.com.  

COMMON ENROLLMENT FACTS

Common Enrollment Will Not Hold Charter Schools Accountable for Selective Enrollment, “Creaming,” or Otherwise Pushing Out Students They Deem Undesirable:

Advocates of this proposal — which is being pushed by, and will be funded by, Wall Street-backed charter school advocates — say that adding charters will allow the District to hold charter schools more accountable to enrollment standards. However, nothing in the proposal will hold charters accountable – their participation is voluntary, they will continue to be allowed to set their own enrollment criteria, and the policy does not have any real enforcement mechanisms. In fact, at a recent school board meeting, Chief of Schools Allen Smith said that charters that don’t follow the new rules will be subject to “real conversations” with District staff. (video here – Smith speaks from 2:27:50 to 2:29:10) 

This is not real accountability. In fact, our OUSD Charter School Office already has data on the push-out patterns at Oakland charter schools – we could have “real conversations” right now without adding charters to our enrollment system.  

Common Enrollment Will Destabilize our District Run Schools for which our School Board is Responsible

Charter schools are not required to participate and, in fact, the Superintendent has previously said that he expects that there will be charters who will elect not to participate. The charter schools that are already content with their enrollment and student population will not participate because there is no reason for them to do so. Charter schools that are under-enrolled need more students to function, so they will participate in order to increase their enrollment – those students will necessarily come from our District Schools, thereby undermining the fiscal integrity of those District Schools.

Members of our School Board, which is charged with maintaining the financial well-being of our District Schools, have raised questions about the impact of Common Enrollment on our school system and rightly so. So far, District staff has not provided satisfactory answers to these questions. Some other Districts where this same Common Enrollment system has been pushed through have seen school closures, teacher and staff layoffs and greater instability of the District as a whole.

Common Enrollment is Not Necessary to Make Public School Enrollment More Stable:

Advocates of this proposal also say it is necessary to provide our public schools with more stability at the beginning of the school year when some parents hold seats in both public schools and charter schools, leading to enrollment uncertainties for some public schools. However, in addition to not being able to provide hard data on how often and at what schools this situation arises, the District has not tried other methods to help alleviate this, including shortening the date by which students must attend school in order to keep their seat or adding temporary staff (or volunteers) to help confirm families before the school year starts by phone or by knocking on doors. Ending waitlists at our public schools will certainly also help this problem – a piece of the current proposal that many parents support.  

Common Enrollment has not Increased Equity in Other Cities:

This very same common enrollment system has not resulted in more equitable schools in other Districts which have already adopted it. In Oakland, the majority of OUSD families don’t use the options process in the first round. In other cities, the switch to common enrollment hasn’t increased the participation rates of lower income parents of color, and in fact has primarily benefitted those who already benefit under our system: white middle class families. In Denver, students of color participate in the Common Enrollment process at rates of up to 20% less than their white counterparts, further widening the equity gap.

The Public Engagement Process Has Been Manipulated to Ensure a Predetermined Outcome:

The process to develop a Common Enrollment process for Oakland was designed by, pushed for and funded with private money from charter school advocates with a predetermined agenda to include charters in our enrollment system. The Steering Committee that created the proposal – composed primarily of charter supporters and the Superintendent’s staff – was created by invitation only, formed in secret and not open to all Oakland parents, teachers and students. “Parent Advisory Groups” were formed secretly, and not open to all OUSD parents. Public feedback sessions were not well-publicized or well-attended, they were stacked with staff from charter-supporting organizations (who often hid that fact from parents in the room) and public feedback collected was manipulated and misrepresented in reports. 

In addition, an online survey that the District and charter supporters claim shows widespread support for this proposal was only filled out by 500 participants, the majority of whom (61.7%) live in the two wealthiest school board districts. In addition, survey questions were designed to elicit responses favorable to adopting a common enrollment process, the survey was not controlled to assure that participants only submitted it one time or even that participants were actual OUSD parents. Finally, some parents (and school board members!) reported that they had trouble even taking the survey and Board members requested that the survey be redesigned and reissued to ensure representative results. 

 

HELPFUL LINKS

Community Objects to Privately-Funded OUSD Enrollment Reform,” Post News Group, 12/4/15.

Charter School Advocates Push Enrollment Shift in Oakland,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/1/15.

School Board Considers Options for Proposed Enrollment Policy,” Oakland North, 12/3/15.

Debate Grows Over OUSD Common Enrollment Proposal,” Post News Group, 11/27/15.

Teachers Say Common Enrollment Would Funnel More Students to Charters,” Post News Group, 11/20/15.

From Boston:Walsh Taking Heat Over School Agenda,” Boston Globe, 12/4/15.

From Boston: Public School Mama on “The Demands of Phantoms,” Blog post on the similarities between Boston and Oakland. 

From Newark: “Cami’s Newark Enrollment Plan Collapses in the Heat,” Blog post on the failures of Common Enrollment in Newark.

From Denver: CRPE Report “An Evaluation of Denver’s School Choice Process 2012-2014

Hold the OUSD Board Accountable

SIGN OUR PETITION TODAY!

OUSD Parents raised many important concerns with the OUSD Administration over the past year, hoping that the Superintendent would use his new position and new state money to make the attraction and retention of quality teachers a priority, thereby creating stronger, more stable schools for our children. We looked to members of the school board to ensure that our teachers receive a contract which makes that happen.

While the new contract for our teachers is a positive step in the right direction, it is clear that most of the issues parents have raised during this contract campaign remain unaddressed including, among other things:

  • Our teachers will still be underpaid compared to other school districts in the area, even under the new contract.
  • OUSD’s central office will still be full of “Chiefs” with newly created positions, some of whom followed the Superintendent here from Denver and all of whom are making excessive salaries, including: Allen Smith, the Chief of Schools ($175,000 salary + $15,000 to move from Denver); Yana Smith, Chief of Organizational Effectiveness & Culture ($155,000 + $12,500 to move from Denver); Devin Dillon, Chief Academic Officer ($175,000 + $11,000 to move from Los Angeles); and Bernard McCune, Deputy Chief of the Office of Post-Secondary Readiness ($157,000 + $17,000 to move from Denver).
  • The District will still be paying $30,000 per month ($360,000 per year) to Lance Jackson to oversee the District’s bond-funded construction programs, and the school board has not been allowed to vote on this excessive payment.
  • The District will still be proposing to spend $100 million+ on building an administrative complex which would present a sleek and stark contrast to the crumbling schools the Administration is supposed to serve.
  • The District will still be regularly out of compliance with federal special education requirements, refusing to agree to hard caps to protect some of our most vulnerable students because they would be too expensive. The District is now facing a class-action lawsuit over system-wide violation of the rights of special education students.
  • The District will still be opening up school communities in need of intensive support to a design process that encourages outside organizations and organizations hoping to make a profit off of our children to participate.
  • The School Board will still be largely inaccessible to parents, who often must wait hours to speak during public comment periods, often waiting with young, hungry children past their bedtimes.

Oakland parents, taxpayers and voters are tired of seeing our District’s leadership throw precious resources toward excessive executive pay (and now a sleek new administrative building), while not prioritizing classroom instruction. We are tired of our Superintendent bypassing the elected school board on crucial decisions. We are tired of having an elected board that is not accessible to its electorate.

Sign this petition by  OUSD Parents United to let the School Board know that Oakland parents will not go away. This time, we are here to stay. We will stay engaged, we will hold them accountable, we will continue to fight for the schools our students deserve!