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.
OUSD SPENDS 591% OF THE STATEWIDE AVERAGE ON CENTRAL SUPERVISORY SALARIES
Oakland voters have had a bad habit of electing Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) school board members who are endorsed by past board members (or in the case of Gary Yee – re-electing them) who then continue to make the same top-heavy, fiscally irresponsible decisions about the budget and policy that have gotten us into trouble in the past. This year, we must make better choices and elect a new kind of board member who is ready to challenge that top-heavy structure so that we are putting money into classrooms and not into what the Alameda County Grand Jury defined as a “broken administrative culture.”
Way too much money has been spent in Oakland to elect (and re-elect) school board members who continue to overspend centrally and underinvest at school sites and protect the status quo of the “Broken Administrative Culture”. Past members endorsing the next members and billionaires from out of town including Michael Bloomberg, Big Oil heiress Stacy Schusterman, Arthur Rock and former mayor Jerry Brown dumping money into PACs to flood our mailboxes with glossy fliers have resulting in us repeating the mistakes of the past over and over again. A misleadingly named PAC pretending to be Oakland’s teachers has spent nearly $130,000 in the last week alone to push just two candidates, who also happen to be the candidates endorsed by all of these board members responsible for the Broken Administrative Culture.
We cannot afford more of the same, we need to elect candidates NOT endorsed by the former candidates who have done so much harm to our students. These are the revolving door candidates who are on the ballot this year to continue the wasteful policies of the past:
Instead of making the same mistakes, vote with actual Oakland Teachers!
On May 2, 2022, Oakland was taken by surprise when Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) Board Director Shanthi Gonzales suddenly resigned with 8 months left in her term, leaving a legacy of draconian school closures and disdain for parents and teachers. It was clear that certain members of the Board were not as surprised as we were, but it wasn’t immediately clear how coordinated and undemocratic the process was going to be. Now, thanks to an ethics complaint filed by a District 6 voter, the depth of the deception undertaken by this OUSD School Board is becoming clear, as laid out in an article in the Oakland Post yesterday. https://www.postnewsgroup.com/questions-about-contributions-to-kyra-mungias-district-6-school-board-campaign/
Ultimately, the Board conducted a charade of an appointment process, forcing community members who were willing to step into the void left by Director Gonzales’ resignation to go through a lengthy process that was never going to result in any other outcome than the one that ultimately did – the anointing of a successor to Director Gonzales, hand-picked BY Director Gonzales and her allies, to continue her legacy of destruction for the remainder of her term, and if they could manipulate it, the four years after. And so the board appointed Kyra Mungia who works in the Oakland Mayor’s Office of Education through a variety of fellowships paid through the Oakland Education Fund. A tangled mess of privatization entities that will create (and actually have already created) conflicts for Ms Mungia as a board member who also has interest in entities coming before the board. The Oakland Post dug into those privatization connections here: School Board Candidate is Mayor’s Staffer with Privatizer Connections | Post News Group
School Board President Gary Yee admitted in a board meeting on June 14, 2022 when he was defending Director Gonzales against claims that she had abandoned her responsibilities that Director Gonzales had already bought a house outside of Oakland and that “she actually stayed on in her house [in Oakland] for an extra month so we could prepare for this process [of appointing a new school board member].” What exactly was President Yee hinting at? A look at the timeline of the events might help.
Approximately April 1st, Shanthi notifies at least President Yee of her intention to resign her position and agrees to stay an additional month to help the board “prepare for the process” of appointing a successor (per President Yee’s comments on June 14).
April 21, 2022: Kyra Mungia files her Candidate Intention Form to run in District 6.
May 2, 2022: Shanthi Gonzales announces her resignation, effective immediately
May 11, 2022: Board votes to implement an appointment process for the vacancy
June 29, 2022: Board engages in performative selection process that results in the appointment of Kyra Mungia to the District 6 post
June 30, 2022: Kyra Mungia sends out a fundraising email using Shanthi Gonzales’ list of constituent email addresses which Ms Mungia acknowledges she was given by former Director Gonzales
So the extra time that Shanthi Gonzales gave the board was to cue up a candidate, seed her campaign, load her up with valuable constituent data and conduct a sham appointment process that resulted in the chosen candidate of Shanthi Gonzales being elevated to an incumbency to give her a leg up in the November election. That is NOT honoring the democratic process.
All of this extra support has given Ms Mungia a definite head start in the electoral process, but we now know that it has also given her a bit of an ethical problem. A concerned District 6 resident dug into this information and has filed an ethics complaint against Ms Mungia alleging a variety of possible ethical violations, the most obvious of which is her failure to declare in her own 460 filed on August 1st, 2022 the $1000 contribution from Shanthi Gonzales’ campaign funds. In addition to the cash contribution, Ms Mungia also received an “in kind” contribution from Ms Gonzales in the form of the constituent email list that Ms Mungia received from Ms Gonzales. Mailing/email lists are extremely valuable to candidates and Ms Mungia is required to declare that “thing of value” as an “in kind” or non-monetary contribution. FEC | Candidate | Types of contributions None of Ms Mungia’s filed 460s contain any contributions from either Ms Gonzales or Ms Gonzales’ campaign committee, which is a clear violation of state election law and which the Ethics Complainant suggests may have been done in order to hide the very clear coordination between Ms Mungia, Shanthi Gonzales and some sitting OUSD board members. As stated by the complainant in the Ethics complaint “The above chronology appears to be evidence of a pre-meditated coordinated campaign between Ms. Mungia and Ms. Gonzales, and her allies on the School Board, to offer incumbency advantage to their preferred candidate for the upcoming election for the D6 position, and to hide such pre-meditated coordination from public scrutiny.” Ms Mungia now claims that she didn’t “deposit” the check because she (mistakenly) believed it was over the limit, but there is no indication that she returned it to former Director Gonzales’s campaign account (which is now closed) so whether she cashed it or not is immaterial.
The most disturbing aspect of this whole thing is that it has been a carefully planned and surreptitiously executed attempt to manipulate the democratic process. This continues a long pattern in Oakland of not trusting Oakland’s parents and voters to make good choices but instead flooding those races with misleading campaign information supporting candidates hand-picked by board members and funded by billionaires Michael Bloomberg, Stacy Schusterman, former mayor Jerry Brown and others who do not care about what is best for Oakland’s kids, but about privatizing our district. Ms Mungia has already benefited from $63,300 in spending by Jerry Brown and Oklahoma Oil Billionaire Heiress Stacy Schusterman with a misleading Political Action Committee pretending to be our Oakland Teachers.
This must stop now. Ms Mungia should step down from her seat and cease her campaign for school board, but we know that won’t happen. Instead, it is up to the voters to hold Ms Mungia and the Board accountable by voting her OUT of the office she was manipulated into.
Two candidates are working overtime to trick voters by buying their way onto a slate of candidates and “endorsements” created by a staffer in the mayor’s office and that includes one candidate who has publicly called the slate out for misleading voters.
Both Nick Resnick (District 4) and Kyra Mungia (District 6) have paid to be included on the slate mailer put out by “East Bay Voter Guide for More Housing” that falsely implied shared values with Greg Hodge, but also explicitly calls for a “NO” vote on Measure W – “Fair Elections Act” which would limit candidate spending and provide voters with “Democracy Dollars” that they could use to support their candidates. This program has worked successfully in Seattle to increase candidate diversity and voter participation.
In addition to this fake Slate, both Resnick and Mungia are benefitting from a fake Union created to trick voters into believing that Resnick and Mungia are supported by our Oakland Teachers Union, which they are most certainly not. As we wrote earlier in our piece entitled “What does it mean to be a “charter candidate” our teachers are so popular, the charter industry created a PAC entitled “United Teachers of Oakland” entirely funded by charter leader and former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown in order to convince voters that Resnick and Mungia are backed by the union.
Nick Resnick and Kyra Mungia, and the charter backers that support them know that they cannot win if they play by the rules, so they are using misleading slates and pretend unions to defeat the ACTUAL candidates endorsed by our beloved teachers. Don’t be fooled, vote for these candidates #1 and #2 on your ballots.
There is a lot of talk right now in Oakland School Board Electoral Politics about what it means to be a “charter candidate”. Both Nick Resnick and Kyra Mungia proclaim that they are not “charter candidates” because they don’t support adding new charter schools, but despite that, they are supported by Charter School Leaders, Charter School Supporters, Charter School Funders, Charter Supporting PACs and, for Nick Resnick, out of town billionaires who support Charter Schools. And GO Public Schools donors. Not only are they directly funded by Charter School Supporters, they also are being supported by a new Political Action Committee (“PAC”) entirely funded by former Mayor/Governor Jerry Brown who started two high profile charter schools in Oakland and still sits as the Chairman of one of those charter schools (Oakland Military Institute “OMI”).
This PAC has not a single Oakland teacher associated with it, yet it is misnamed “United Teachers of Oakland supporting Resnick and Mungia” in hopes of tricking Oakland voters into thinking that these candidates are supported by Oakland’s beloved teachers, which they most certainly are not.
If your campaign is being pushed by all of these folks, you MUST be the charter candidate…
Don’t be tricked, choose the candidates who are ACTUALLY endorsed by Oakland’s Teachers. Make sure your vote counts by ranking BOTH of your chosen candidates #1 and #2, and not voting for Resnick and Mungia.
UPDATE: 8/10/2022 – OUSD has failed to respond to our concerns and tonight will vote, again without discussion, on a new data sharing agreement without concern for the safety and security of that data and the privacy of our students and families. Read the letter that we sent OUSD school board members today:
We are concerned about your continued silence on the issue we raised in our below letter, and about the presence of yet another data sharing agreement on the agenda for this evening (item V1.1, 22-1792, Agreement with the Education Superhighway) in the second consent agenda, which you no doubt expect to pass without discussion tonight. We once again urge you to halt the approval of all data sharing agreements immediately until such time as you have an up to date policy which protects student data from monetization, marketing and/or theft, and we have a comprehensive review of existing data sharing agreements to determine if they are necessary, secure and whether the contract underlying the data sharing agreement is effectively forwarding legitimate and necessary district goals. As you know, the use of data sharing agreements has exploded over the last few years in OUSD, and nationally the number of data breaches increased by 68% (Data breaches break record in 2021 – CNET).
We look forward to this item being pulled from consent and tabled until such time as you have done the due diligence to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our children. Now is the time for this board to take action to safeguard our children and families.
ORIGINAL POST: We all know how important it is to safeguard our personal and financial data, and to monitor our children’s safety when they use the internet, but can we be sure that our childrens’ privacy is being protected while they are learning at school and that our democratically elected school board is taking all steps necessary to understand what data is being shared and why, and whether the recipients are trusted? Turns out, maybe not, because the Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) Board doesn’t usually take the time to discuss and understand the many data sharing agreements that they approve. From 2005 through 2020, the OUSD Board approved an average of 2 data sharing agreements per year, but in 2021 that number soared to 23, and this year we have already approved 14 agreements and we are just halfway through the year.
In light of the approval by OUSD’s board of a data sharing agreement with Illuminate Education, which had a massive data breach earlier in the year, we have some serious questions about whether student data privacy is being adequately protected by our district. Given the explosion of ed tech use during the pandemic, now is the time for the OUSD board to take a hard look at who we are sharing data with, how effective those programs are in improving outcomes for kids and if that information is transparent so that parents can decide if they are comfortable having their child participate. Illuminate has not been forthcoming with information about the breach, so we don’t know that OUSD was impacted, but a serious data breach can cause financial and personal headaches for years to come. Now is the time to figure this all out, so Parents United sent the below letter to our school board members demanding that they act now to safeguard our children’s privacy.
Parents United for Public Schools has repeatedly raised concerns about the number, scope and recipients of data sharing agreements that Oakland Unified enters into and have requested that this Board demand a comprehensive audit of those agreements to ensure transparency and the safety of our student data. Director Williams has also requested information about these agreements. Yet this Board continues to approve these agreements without discussion and without any real understanding of what is contained within them. After years of approving an average of 2 data sharing agreements per year, this Board approved 23 agreements in 2021 and has already approved 14 agreements in 2022 with half of the year to go. OUSD has a responsibility to students and families to evaluate these agreements in a comprehensive way, and so we raise this issue once again.
On June 29, 2022, this Board renewed a contract with Illuminate Education which includes a data sharing agreement going back a number of years allowing the sharing (without notice to families and caregivers) of some or all of the following:
Name, address, email and phone number
disability information and IEP/504 plan information
State identification numbers
medical information and
data about whether student is unhoused or in foster care
This is sensitive data that parents/caregivers are not informed is being shared, and which must be protected carefully and shared sparingly.
Yet at the time that OUSD renewed the Illuminate Education contract there was easily available information about a “massive” data breach in January, 2022 of Illuminate data sources, impacting hundreds of thousands of students nationally, something that has been written about, reported on television and has resulted in multiple class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of students. Chalkbeat published an article March 29th, 2022 informing caregivers what steps to take to protect their child, and their own, privacy. ( NYC student data breach: How to protect your family online – Chalkbeat New York). The New York Department of Education in May, 2022 banned its schools from using any Illuminate products as a result of the breach (NYC schools ban use of Illuminate Education products after massive data breach (nypost.com), saying that it was not a decision that they made lightly and that “DOE made this decision after extensive investigation and deliberation, and based on our deep commitment to protecting the privacy of our families and students.” OUSD should not value its students any less. Students should not be forced to give up their privacy in order to learn, and by entering into this and all of the other data sharing agreements currently in place, without review or discussion, OUSD is not being responsible stewards of student privacy. You are not doing even a basic due diligence dive into the need for and safety of these contracts. This Board approved the Illuminate contract as part of the Consent Agenda, without discussion, on June 29, 2022 when a very simple google search could have identified these significant privacy concerns. This is unconscionable.
Therefore, we are renewing our call for an audit of all data sharing agreements, with an analysis of the necessity and security of the agreement, as well as whether the contract underlying the data sharing agreement is effectively forwarding legitimate and necessary district goals. In addition, we call for this board to review and revise all Board Policies (and attendant Administrative Regulations) relating to data sharing agreements and student data privacy, including but not limited to Board policy 5022 (“Student and Family Privacy Rights” amended 2005), Board Policy 5125 (“Student records” amended 2018) and Board Policy 5125.1 (“Release of Directory Information” amended 2005) to ensure that the policies are up to date given the huge increase in ed-tech use since the pandemic. According to a July, 2022 report issued by the Human Rights Watch, 89% of all ed tech products they reviewed allowed companies to surveil students in class and at home. “We think our kids are safe in school online. But many of them are being surveilled, and parents have often been kept in the dark. Kids are priceless, not products. Children, parents, and teachers were largely kept in the dark about the data surveillance practices we uncovered in children’s online classrooms,” said Hye Jung Han, a children’s rights and technology researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “By understanding how these online learning tools handled their child’s privacy, people can more effectively demand protection for children online.” Online Learning Products Enabled Surveillance of Children | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)
According to the legislative information center, you already have a data sharing agreement on the schedule for August (EducationSuperHighway, funded by the Walton and Gates foundations, among others) and so this matter cannot wait. We look forward to your immediate action on this important issue prior to approving another potentially harmful data sharing agreement.
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Karen Monroe paid up to $22,500 each in Covid related stipends to some of her highest paid managers and political contributors. That’s a problem.
In a fascinating series of meetings by the Alameda County Board of Education (ACBOE), we have learned that Alameda County Superintendent of Schools (Superintendent) L. K. Monroe’s office quietly, and without informing the ACBOE as required by law, paid $527,800 in Covid related stipends to employees, more than half of which went to 16 managers in amounts ranging from $15,000 to $22,500. Further, we learned that the Superintendent’s office has resisted publicly accounting for these expenditures, which the Superintendent now says were a “mistake,” to the ACBOE as required by Ed Code section 1302. That is very troubling, and we should be very concerned about this misuse of taxpayer dollars and hold Superintendent Monroe accountable for this failure by voting in the upcoming June election and NOT rewarding her with another term in office.
The County Superintendent position is an elected office, unlike what we have in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) where our elected school board hires (and can fire) the superintendent. Superintendent Monroe is currently running for re-election in Alameda County on the June ballot, and unlike her last re-election campaign where she ran unopposed, she is now forced to actively campaign against a very strong challenger, Alysse Castro. This all comes at a very bad time for Superintendent Monroe, which may explain why these payments were not brought before the ACBOE in the first place, and why it has been so difficult for the ACBOE to get the answers needed to understand who decided to make these exorbitant payments to upper managers instead of those educators and staff who work with students directly.
Now that Superintendent Monroe finally provided the list of staffers who received these exorbitant payments and the amounts, we can dig a little deeper and when we did, we discovered that at least half of these staffers who received large Covid stipends ALSO contributed to Monroe’s re-election campaign. In all, 11 ACOE employees made political contributions to Monroe’s campaign, and she awarded 9 of them this enormous discretionary stipend. That is simply shocking.
Superintendent Monroe also oversees OUSD’s budget, demanding OUSD close schools instead of rightsizing its own bloated administration. That’s also a problem.
The Alameda County Office of Education also oversees the Oakland Unified’s budget and has required OUSD to move forward with school closures that disproportionately harm Black students in a process that is flawed, discriminatory and possibly illegal. Superintendent Monroe threatened to withhold approval of OUSD’s budget and block access to additional state funds if OUSD didn’t execute this plan, claiming she is all about fiscal transparency and accountability. We now know that is not what she is all about.
In fact, Superintendent Monroe has been approving OUSD’s budgets since she was first elected in 2014, during a time when OUSD’s administrative office grew by 550%; when OUSD paid a consultant $30,000 a month to oversee his own contract; and when OUSD mismanaged funds, covered it up and faced criticism and more from the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the Alameda County Grand Jury. Superintendent Monroe continued to approve OUSD budgets during all of those times, yet threatened to withhold approval if OUSD didn’t continue its racially discriminatory plan to close schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Superintendent Monroe should be held to account for that as well.
OUSD continues to overspend on central administrators as compared to districts locally and statewide. In fact, if OUSD “rightsized” its administration the way that Karen Monroe demands that it rightsize the number of schools, OUSD could save in excess of $15 million per year. Yet Superintendent Monroe doesn’t demand that from OUSD. And now we know why – Superintendent Monroe suffers from the same philosophy as OUSD in imagining that central managers deserve more than the educators and staff who work directly with students.
It is time to hold Superintendent Monroe accountable for the misspending of Covid relief funds and the harm she has done while “overseeing” OUSD’s budget. Vote on (or by) June 7th.
How Does OUSD Compare to their Chosen Comparison Districts?
# of students
# Admin > $200k
#Admin > $300k
#Students/ >$200k Admin
% Charter Schools
Revenue per Student
Districts chosen by OUSD as comparison districts in the report presented 2/8/2022 as part of the school closure resolution; dated updated 5/17/22
Things to notice:
Fresno has the highest need students (by UPP) but has 22 fewer high paid execs
If OUSD had the average number of highest paid execs, they would save nearly $4 million per year
The two districts with highest numbers of high paid execs have the highest degree of privatization, demonstrated by the number of charter schools
OUSD receives $2,673 more per student than average for these districts, that is $95 million more PER YEAR that OUSD receives compared to other districts of comparable size
Not coincidentally, Oakland also has the second highest amount of money spent in School Board elections in California, second only to the largest district (LAUSD – but only half as much per student was spent in that election) and nearly all of that spending (98%) came from outside of Oakland
Last spring, as part of its Covid-19 planning, OUSD announced that it would be installing temporary outdoor classrooms at every elementary school to enable students to learn outside where the risk of transmission of the virus is much lower. Along with upgrading ventilation systems, this was a key strategy for a safe return to school. This presentation from April 28th makes clear that ALL elementary schools were to receive these Outdoor Learning Spaces by the end of July, 2021.
Now, just two weeks before school is due to start on August 9th, as the delta variant is causing a spike in cases and parent and educator apprehension about returning to school is rising, we have learned that 20 schools still have not received their Outdoor Learning Spaces. Although staff has stated they are expected in the “next few weeks”, we are concerned that they will not be available for back to school on August 9th. Given that August weather is often sunny and hot, as well as the rise in cases in Alameda County and the greater risk of transmission with indoor contact, those Outdoor Learning Spaces are critical for student safety and comfort on day one.
OUSD prioritized schools serving white and affluent students while leaving our most vulnerable students without the outdoor classrooms needed for a safe return to school
97% of white OUSD elementary students attend schools that already have the outdoor classrooms in place, despite making up just 11% of our student population. Even more troubling is that students in East and West Oakland were left out of the original distribution, areas that historically have had the highest case rates and are likely to again as cases surge. While schools in the hills, North Oakland and around the lake already have those outdoor classrooms ready for day one, the mostly Black and Brown families in most of the East and all of the West are poised to start school in a few weeks without shaded outdoor spaces for children to learn more safely. This is not equity, nor is it good public health policy. It violates OUSD’s Reparations for Black students and Equity Policies, and it is simply unacceptable. OUSD needs to remedy this IMMEDIATELY, provide Outdoor Learning pods for all schools in Oakland, and to do it by the first day of school.
When systems and structures are built on white supremacy, we must act with intention to dismantle those structures. We understand that OUSD staff intended to provide shade structures first for those schools with higher enrollment and a higher intent to return last spring, which were largely the more affluent, whiter schools. Given the structural racism that underlies both of those conditions, any outcomes based on them were by definition inequitable and racist. This was a predictable outcome that OUSD should have avoided, but because we are a district steeped in white supremacy and anti-Black and Brown racism, we did not.
On top of the prioritization of white and affluent families in the rollout, OUSD has provided almost all of the most affluent hills schools with not one but two of the pods, while providing a single pod to most other sites, regardless of number of students enrolled or the concentration of Covid cases in the community. OUSD must provide a minimum of two pods to EVERY elementary site, and especially to those communities with high case incidence and limited community resources to privately fund shade structures and outdoor learning equipment.
Certainly, the failure to provide these Outdoor Learning Spaces to the remaining 20 schools, and the some 6500 non-white students that attend them, by August 9th will simply compound these inequities at a time when we need to be reassuring families that it is safe for their children to be back in school. Knowing that children can be learning outdoors, in shaded classroom pods, will help to ease parent concerns about whether it is safe to return to school. OUSD must do better, examining every decision for white supremacy bias and centering racial justice and equity every single time. They must act NOW to prevent further harm.
CONTACT THE SUPERINTENDENT AND BOARD MEMBERS TODAY!
Please take a minute to email Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and your school board director to demand that the remaining 20 schools receive their Outdoor Learning Spaces before August 9th, and that all schools be given two pods if they don’t already have them.