Is this who should be shaping the strategic future of our schools?

IT IS TIME for Superintendent Johnson-Trammell to live up to her stated values of TRANSPARENT AND HONEST COMMUNICATION and explain HOW relying on a consultant who is named as a defendant in an alleged immigration controversy, was accused by Black students of ignoring their concerns about racial harassment and of referring students to police for minor infractions, and has a billionaire-backed agenda, is putting students at the center of our Sanctuary District. At a time when OUSD is declaring #BlackLivesMatter and we are on the verge of getting police OUT of our schools, having Dr. Tommy Chang shape our strategic plan for the next three years is totally inappropriate.


When Superintendent Antwan Wilson resigned and the full scope of the trauma caused by his mismanagement and overspending became clear, Parents United believed that we had a “unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past, and select a new leader who is committed to making a difference in our students’ lives and who will stay in Oakland long enough to see those changes through.”  In the 16 years leading up to that point, OUSD had a revolving door of 9 superintendents, half of which were Broad Academy Graduates, a billionaire-funded institution where churn and burn is a prominent feature. Administrative salaries in OUSD ballooned while students suffered, and the Oakland community demanded a change: a local superintendent who is invested in Oakland and not beholden to billionaire special interests. 

The Black Organizing Project (“BOP”) made clear that OUSD needed to divest from the Broad Academy: 

The Broad Urban Superintendents Academy is financed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.5 Eli is a billionaire real estate developer from Los Angeles who has ambitions to completely “remake” public education. According to an article by the New York Times “His foundation has pumped $144 million into charter schools across the country, is embroiled in a battle to expand the number of charters in his home city, and has issued a handbook on how to close troubled public schools.”6 The corporate interests and consistent ties with OUSD is a cause for concern. Are corporate billionaires, who are interested in how to expand their capital, really concerned about the education of underserved Black and Brown students? The answer is simple. No! We do not need anymore superintendents with corporate connections and affiliations. Oakland students do not need corporate candidates, with corporate aspirations to lead their school district. We need educators and leaders who are truly invested in the success of Oakland students. We need the community. (bolded emphasis added).

The mandate was clear. Center our most vulnerable students. Be inclusive of student and parent voices. Be transparent. Reject the misguided policies of previous administrations which undermined our public schools and failed our students. 

OUSD has too many consultants – according to the Alameda County Grand Jury three times the state average. You would expect, then, that the administration, and the Board of Education, would scrutinize potential consultants to ensure that they are qualified, necessary and in keeping with the values of our district. So WHY has OUSD hired a consultant who was forced to resign from his last Superintendent job just one week after being accused of disclosing student discipline records to local police and ICE, allegedly resulting in at least one student deportation? OUSD is a Sanctuary District [at least regarding immigration – as Black students, BOP, and others have rightfully pointed out in recent weeks, OUSD is not a sanctuary from police terror for our students], and our students deserve to have that value reflected in the people that are hired to shape and execute district policy. 

Buried in the consent agenda for the board meeting on November 13, 2019 was a no-bid contract with Tommy Chang of Chula Vista to provide “support for strategic planning.” The board approved 6 to 0 (with one absence) the consent agenda after retreating to a private room upstairs while the community protested the board’s lack of transparency and responsiveness to their concerns. There was no discussion, no questions by board members, just one vote on all 67 items in the consent agenda.

According to the contract attached to the agenda, Tommy Chang is tasked with:

  • Refining communications
  • Publishing an updated Strategic Plan 
  • Participating in Senior Leadership Team meetings and decision making
  • Making recommendations for potential organizational redesign
  • Driving and refining the Superintendent’s work plan

The “Specific Outcomes” for this contract are identified as follows: “These contractor services will result in a new district strategic plan; augmented and enhanced strategic communications to transparently and effectively engage and communicate with stakeholders about district priorities and direction; increased central office leadership capacity; and recommendations and plans for continued movement toward coherent and effective central office.” The contract is to run from November 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 for a total amount of $78,000.00.

However, according to documents received pursuant to a Public Records Request  Dr. Chang’s work was already underway on September 5th, 2019, some two months prior to the date of the contract approved by the board. According to that email (which you can read in its entirety below) Superintendent Johnson-Trammell is “working closely” with this consultant to “reshape” the Superintendent’s work plan, provide communication strategy and support the Superintendent in the development of a new 5 year Strategic Plan.

Email obtained via a Public Records Act Request from OUSD:

chang redone final

The Superintendent provided a partial introduction to this consultant, Dr. Tommy Chang, in the above letter to her Senior Leadership Team, but she left out key details which should be noted:

  1. Tommy Chang is a graduate of the Broad Academy,¹ class of 2014-15 (just a year after former OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson).
  2. He is also a member of Chiefs for Change, class of 2016 (again, just a year after former Superintendent Wilson) – Chiefs for Change was founded by Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Educational Excellence – with board member Betsy DeVos.
  3. Dr Chang recently became affiliated with Great Public Schools Now, an organization funded by Eli Broad with the mission of doubling the number of charter schools in LAUSD. 
  4. Dr Chang was the Regional Director for Advocacy and Policy for the California Charter School Association in Southern California before being hand picked by the new Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) Superintendent John Deasy (a fellow Broad Academy graduate) to act as his Chief of Staff. Superintendent Deasy was forced to resign in disgrace, followed soon after by the resignation or demotion of most of the high ranking senior staff he had appointed, including Dr. Chang.
  5. Dr Chang was indeed the Superintendent of Boston Public Schools (“BPS”), but he himself was forced to resign halfway through his contract just one week after being named in a lawsuit alleging that BPS had provided student information to ICE – the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency – which allegedly resulted in at least one student being deported to El Salvador and threatened hundreds more. Superintendent Johnson-Trammell claims that Dr Chang “shares our collective values” – but documents recently obtained in Boston show that Dr Chang allowed “a greater cooperation between BPS and ICE than Chang had previously admitted” which is most certainly not in line with OUSD’s Sanctuary Policy. The lawsuit is still pending, and Dr Chang has denied any wrongdoing, but it is an affront to our students, and our district’s stated values, that the person who is acting as a shadow Superintendent shaping the future of our Sanctuary District is possibly connected to Trump’s abhorrent anti-immigrant policies.
  6. Dr. Chang has also been criticized for ignoring the concerns of Black students at the elite Boston Latin School, an exclusive “exam” school (meaning you must pass an academic test to attend) with an African American population of just 8% in a district that is 35% Black. Dr Chang stood behind the Principal of Boston Latin who Black students accused of ignoring threats of lynching and racial harrassment which resulted in an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. Dr Chang “cavalierly” refused to reopen an investigation and was not responsive to the concerns of the Black community
  7. In addition, Boston Public Schools under Dr Chang’s leadership routinely forwarded school police reports on students to the Boston Police Department for petty incidents including spray-painting graffiti and multiple times where students were stopped and frisked for weapons, but none were found. This kind of over-policing of our students is something that students, parents and the Black Organizing Project have been concerned about for years.
  8. Parents also accused Superintendent Chang of undermining the needs of students of color, saying that: “choosing to cut $32 million from a budget that serves mostly students of color is institutional racism” and would “widen, rather than close, the achievement gap.” 
  9. Further, he was criticized for not restoring $5 million previously cut to special education for children with autism, emotional impairments and other disabilities. All of this in a budget that Dr Chang said represented the district’s values of “equity, coherence and innovation.”
  10. Dr Chang’s leadership and administrative capabilities were also questioned. After his abrupt departure from Boston, a city official stated that: ““The superintendent had an inability to communicate effectively with families in the district and with his own team,” said Annissa Essaibi-George, a city councilor who heads the education committee and who formerly taught in the city schools. “He wasn’t able to motivate individuals to get the job done” (emphasis added). Concerns about a lack of transparency were also raised. This is who the Superintendent has chosen to mentor her in a time of upheaval and distress in our district, when families and teachers are crying out for transparent and effective communication about school closures: a man who was forced out of his last district because of a lack of transparency and an inability to communicate with families or motivate staff, as well as a history of uncertain leadership. 

So, assuming that we actually need ANOTHER consultant to guide us, is Dr Chang the right person for the job? The answer is a resounding “hell no”. The fact that Dr Chang is credibly accused of providing student incident reports to ICE, putting students at risk of deportation is enough reason to disqualify him. That he has a history of mistrust and over-policing in the African American community is enough. That he was forced to resign and described as “unable to communicate” effectively, not just with families but with members of his own team, and “wasn’t able to motivate people” makes him absolutely unqualified to “coach key leadership members” and bring about “organizational coherence”. That he is a Broad Academy trained disgraced former superintendent is enough. Dr Chang does not represent our values of sanctuary and equity, and he lacks the skills needed to undo years of dysfunction that have led us to this place. Dr. Chang should not be visioning the future of OUSD. 

1. The Broad Academy is funded by real estate billionaire Eli Broad to train superintendents how to run a public school system just like a business, with burn and churn being a prominent feature.


New report reveals that many of the nation’s charter schools are double dipping in public coronavirus aid


CONTACT: Jamie Horwitz 202-549-4921,

Joint Study by In the Public Interest and Parents United for Public Schools shows that in Oakland, Calif. alone 30 charter schools received nearly $19 million in federal PPP dollars meant for those in need, despite unchanged state public education funding.

OAKLAND – A new report released today shows that millions of dollars in federal relief funds intended for those in need have been siphoned off by public charter schools that have suffered no loss in state education funding while thousands of small businesses remain shuttered and their employees go without work due to the pandemic.

The report focuses on 43 charter schools located in Oakland where 70 percent of the publicly-funded but privately-managed charter schools within the boundaries of the Oakland Unified School District applied for and received federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) awards established by the federal CARES Act. Traditional public schools in Oakland and elsewhere are not eligible for PPP funding. The report, entitled Are Oakland Charter Schools Double Dipping?, was conducted by the Oakland-based Parents United for Public Schools and the non-profit research and policy center In the Public Interest.

The findings are significant because California’s open meetings laws require board meetings and the minutes of charter schools to be made public.. In most of the country, charter school finances are less transparent, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury has refused to release the names of recipients of PPP awards. The United States has 7,000 charter schools.

“This report shows the need for more oversight and transparency in the charter school sector,” said Clare Crawford, senior policy advisor with In the Public Interest. “It’s not right for charters to act like a business on Monday and a public school on Tuesday. Having it both ways leads to double dipping and unethical raids on the public till.  We deserve to have the full picture on how precious public dollars are being spent, especially now, during this time of need,” she said. “Every local public official and reporter should be asking if their charters took PPP money and how much.”

The New York Times cites the Oakland study in a story today, “Charter Schools, Some With Billionaire Benefactors, Tap Coronavirus Relief,” that finds further examples of double dipping by charter schools all across the nation and documents how the charter school industry has sought federal dollars intended for private business’ struggling due to the pandemic.

Some key elements of the Parents United for Public Schools/ In the Public Interest report  include:

  • Oakland charter schools have received a total of at least $18,909,300 in forgivable loans from the PPP.
  • Thirty charter schools have received PPP loans despite having no loss in public education funding.
  • Charter schools that received both PPP loans and CARES Act education relief funding received an average of $2,000 more per student than either Oakland Unifed School District public schools or charter schools that did not.

“It’s really concerning that so many charter schools are choosing to take these funds from local small businesses that employ Oakland families. If charter schools receive funds as a ‘public school,’ they should not then be eligible for small business loans intended to help keep families from being laid off,” said Kim Davis, a parent and co-founder of Parents United for Public Schools.

Charter schools are considered public schools under California law, as they are in many other states, yet they are also incorporated as nonprofit organizations. This has allowed them to access both public school funding and aid intended to support maintaining employment at small businesses and nonprofits.

Parents United for Public Schools is an independent, parent-led organization focused on building a strong parent voice on behalf of Oakland’s public schools. In the Public Interest is a nonprofit research and policy center that studies public goods and advocates for building popular support for public institutions that work for all of us.

Why is the OUSD Board planning to give a sweetheart 40 year lease to a large charter chain essentially rent free, giving up more than $17 million in unrestricted general fund revenue that our students desperately need?

oh yes its free

Earlier this month, our Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) Board voted to cut nearly $20 million from next year’s unrestricted general fund budget, eliminating restorative justice programs, foster youth case managers, shuttering libraries and laying off more than 100 people.¹ The Board is also moving forward with plans to close up to 24 schools as part of the Blueprint “Portfolio Plan” pushed by GO Public Schools (“GO”)², while at the same time using the 7-11 committee to declare some properties as “surplus” in an effort to generate unrestricted general fund revenues. So why is OUSD forgoing more than $17 million in funds which could be used to provide critically needed services to students?

Aspire Public schools is a  national charter school chain which operates 7 schools here in Oakland. When Golden Gate Elementary was closed by OUSD in June, 2005 for “underenrollment,” the campus was immediately taken over by Aspire Berkley Maynard t, and they have had a series of multi-year leases for the campus ever since. In the most recent lease, which expires on June 30, 2022, ASPIRE is paying up to $456,000 per year to use the facility. In addition, ASPIRE is responsible for performing upgrades to the site, including boiler and thermostat repair, fire system upgrades, bathrooms, water and plumbing replacement, exterior resurfacing, roof and window repair or replacement and removal of the old kindergarten playground equipment. This work was to be paid for by Aspire, with $1.5 million chipped in by OUSD via “rent credits” that are spread out over the life of the lease Under this lease, if continued, Aspire would pay OUSD a net amount of $17,618,997 over the forty year term of the lease.

Now, OUSD is proposing to offer to the charter chain a 40 year lease³ for a total lease payments of approximately $2.3 million, more than $17 million less than the current lease rate over the term of the lease! $17 million in UNRESTRICTED GENERAL FUND REVENUE that could provide years of critical services to OUSD students. This is simply unconscionable and must be rejected by the board.

There is a real question as to whether Aspire should be given a long term lease at all. OUSD staff recently gave Aspire Berkley Maynard an equity score of 2 out of 5, noting that it serves fewer low income, special education and English learners than OUSD schools – which begs the question why OUSD is planning to reward Aspire for not serving all kids with this extraordinary lease term. At the very least, OUSD should include in the lease a set of expectations and penalties for failing to serve high need students.

Aspire plans to “modernize” the property to “offer pride to the students, parents, faculty and staff” of its school – and they want OUSD to pay for it!

On May 24, 2017, the OUSD Board agreed to allow Aspire to seek “Prop 51” funds⁴ to modernize the Golden Gate campus “at no cost to the District.” no cost

Since that time, Aspire has had $900,000 in rent credits to make improvements and upgrades to the site, but is now seeking up to an additional $20 million in Prop 51 funds to make bigger improvements for their own students who will occupy the school for the next 40 years.  This includes some of the same items they were already allowed $900,000 in rent credits for, plus ADA upgrades, repaving the parking lot and playground, upgrading Information Technology and plumbing systems and installing a new playground.

In the first fifteen years of the lease, Aspire will pay OUSD about $40,000 per year to use the facility, one tenth of what they would be paying under the existing lease, after the rent credits are used up. OUSD staff claims that this is necessary because Aspire will be making payments on the loan at the same time⁶. Yet even after the loan will be paid off (30 years)⁷, Aspire will only be paying $130,000 per year, some $350,000 less than they would be under the existing lease, and less than half of what we would be entitled to collect under the bare minimum Prop 39 rate – which is structured, in theory – based on the actual facilities costs⁸.

In addition, Aspire is a large charter chain with substantial “philanthropic” resources which could and should be tapped to cover the cost of this upgrade. According to the Aspire website, they have the following “generous” donors:

aspire donors
From the Aspire Public Schools website:

Why are OUSD students being forced to pay for the upgrades to the Aspire charter chain campus when Aspire has such incredible wealth available to it?

OUSD Claims that we should pay for these upgrades because ultimately the property will revert to us forty years in the future – as a 40 year old building!

When OUSD gave Aspire permission to seek out the Prop 51 funds, it was clear that it would be Aspire’s responsibility to pay for them – “at no cost to the District.” Now Aspire and OUSD staff claim that this obscenely low facilities use fee is appropriate because OUSD will maintain ownership of the facility, and in 40 years we will benefit from the increased value of the property. The problem with that argument, however, is that at the end of the lease (whether in 40 or more years, if extended) OUSD will end up with an outdated building that it has already determined it does not need⁹.

The “useful” life for a school building is between 30 and 40 years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics¹⁰. New playground structures last 15 to 20 years. A roof might last 40 or 50 years. If Aspire upgrades and modernizes the facility in 2025, by the time OUSD gets it back, the “upgrades” will be 35 years old! This is exactly why our Board told Aspire in 2017 that any facilities upgrades will be “at no cost to the District.” These upgrades do not substantially increase the value of the property at the end of the lease term – they add value at the time and in the 20 to 30 years after they are made, time in which only Aspire will benefit from those improvements! It makes no sense for OUSD students to be paying for them by OUSD failing to charge a reasonable facilities fee throughout the term of the lease¹¹.

It is incredibly offensive that at the same time that our school board is slashing the budgets of school sites by half and eliminating critical student services, they are considering offering a sweetheart deal to a huge charter chain which results in the loss of $400,000 per year to OUSD kids. This school should not even be considered as a candidate for a long term lease given their poor record of serving vulnerable students. If the board ignores its own policy and moves forward with this long term lease, the board must ensure that it is, in fact, “no cost to the District” by charging a reasonable facilities use fee for the entire lease term.


  1. The one thing the board did NOT agree to do was to eliminate the OUSD Police, something that the Black Organizing Project and the community have been advocating for years.
  2. Read more about this here:
  3. The lease consists of a 15 year initial term and two unilaterally executable options of 15 and 10 years, for a total of 40 years.
  4. Prop 51, the California School Facilities Program, provides funds for modernization of school properties through a combination of grants (which do not need to be repaid) and loans
  5. Even the existing lease is a bargain – if Aspire were to rent the same space on the open market they could expect to pay more than $2.5 million per year instead of under $450,000.
  6. Interestingly, the low rent begins immediately, even though the Aspire staff admitted recently that they will not immediately begin loan repayment.
  7. Aspire says that it needs a minimum 40 year lease in order to qualify for a 30 year loan repayment.
  8. Director Gonzales has expressed concern that OUSD might be on the hook for loan repayment in the event that Aspire closes the school and walks away from the loan – after not receiving rent, OUSD could possibly have to pay off a loan for a school that they say they don’t actually need.
  9. If student populations change over the next 40 years, this campus will not be available for growth, so OUSD will have to repurpose or construct other buildings to house any increased enrollment.
  11. Another issue with the lease as written is that it does not increase the facilities fee in the event that Aspire decides not to seek the entire $10 million loan


OUSD’s new “Equity Index” Excludes Black Students

equity-lensAt tonight’s special meeting, the OUSD board will be voting to cut $21 million from next year’s budget, including 50% in inequitable “across the board” cuts to all schools regardless of the school’s ability to absorb those losses. In addition, OUSD has changed the way it allocates the concentration dollars which go to our highest need students, creating an “Equity Index” to allocate those dollars. In order to qualify for these dollars, you must meet a minimum on the index. While we believe the Equity Index was an attempt to address some problems with the former “Z score” analysis, the impact of this new Equity Index is that it excludes every single school with a majority black student population.  The loss of between $25,000 and $100,000 per school on top of the across the board 50% cuts is simply devastating for those schools. The board must restore those funds to these majority African American schools and reverse the anti-black impact of this inequitable “Equity Index.”

Parents United has sent the below letter to the OUSD Board. The meeting is Wednesday, March 4th at 5:30 at La Escuelita, 1050 Second Avenue.


Dear Board Directors,

The Superintendent and her staff are presenting budget reductions to you for approval tonight which include an “across the board” 50% reduction in discretionary funding plus a new “Equity Index” for the distribution of Local Control Funding Formula (“LCFF”) concentration dollars which unfairly eliminates supports for our black students in OUSD. These cuts reflect an institutional bias against low income and African-American students in our district and must be rejected¹.

In 2016 this Board adopted Board Policy (“BP”) 5032 which states “The Governing Board seeks to understand and to interrupt patterns of institutional bias at all levels of the organization, whether conscious or unconscious, that results in predictably lower academic achievement most notably for students of color.” This Equity Policy was a recognition that we as a district have an obligation to center the needs of students of color, including and perhaps especially for our African American students who are subject to the particularly virulent anti-black racism that exists in this country. This Board has repeatedly instructed staff to apply an “equity lens” to budget reductions, recognizing that across the board budget reductions hurt some schools more than others, where more affluent, often white parents simply fund-raise or donate the difference. 

Instead of applying that “equity lens” to the cuts in discretionary funding, the staff has instead chosen to apply an across the board 50% reduction in this funding for every school, regardless of the ability to make up for that loss. This hardship is compounded because OUSD over-enrolls wealthier, whiter schools, contributing to declining enrollment at primarily low-income, non-white schools. For instance, Peralta elementary last year had 319 students which, according to the Jacobs report, was 139% of its capacity.  In other words, they were 40% above the building capacity. Yet Peralta’s projected enrollment increase for next year is 35 students MORE than this year, which will put it at 149% capacity and will contribute to declining enrollment at another school, which will then receive even less discretionary funding to meet student needs.

We are pleased to see that the Superintendent recognizes this problem and is proposing to cap enrollment at schools to ensure that students and funding are distributed more fairly.  Nonetheless, this does not undo the harm done by across the board cuts, and you should reject them and direct staff to apply an equity lens to these cuts immediately².

Applying an “Equity Index” to cuts makes sense, but the index must be calculated in a way that does not disproportionately harm African-American/Black students in this district. OUSD receives “Concentration” dollars from the state specifically for our “unduplicated³” low-income students, english learners and foster youth and is intended to provide targeted supports to students who need them most. OUSD developed a “Z score” to distribute those concentration dollars, taking into account various environmental factors that impact learning such as neighborhood crime and access to fresh foods, but which was centered on where the school was, not where the child lived. In an effort to change that focus, OUSD has for next year introduced an “Equity Index” which has the impact not of creating equity across the entirety of our district, but just shuffles funds from one group of high need student to another. As discussed above, that is not Equity.

More importantly, however, in reclassifying how concentration dollars are allocated, OUSD is discriminating against majority black schools and disproportionately harming the black students in those schools. The Equity Index is derived by using the DUPLICATED⁴ counts of LCFF categorized students (low-income, english learners and foster youth) plus some additional factors such as chronic absence and reading scores. Under this new Equity index, not a single school with more than a 50% Black student population makes the cut for ANY funding. The design of the index, while attempting to solve one problem, inadvertently creates another one. 

The harm to some black schools is catastrophic. Prescott School and McClymonds High School, both in West Oakland, each received $100,000 in concentration dollars this year and will receive $0 next year. For Prescott, coupled with the 50% cut to discretionary dollars, that means $981 fewer LCFF funds per pupil for next year, a nearly insurmountable loss.  Overall, the impact of the school site cuts hits majority black schools hard: an average of $272 per student lost in overall LCFF funding (discretionary, supplemental and concentration). Compare that with the loss felt by primarily white schools – just $70 per student. This is NOT EQUITY!

It is time for our district to live up to the ideals of its own Equity Policy and interrupt the pattern of anti-black racism that OUSD has engaged in forever. This should be a major focus of work going forward, but right now the district must:

  1. Eliminate the 50% across the board budget cuts and use an equity formula soften the blow of those cuts to schools that can least afford it;
  2. Revise the Equity Index to more accurately reflect an equitable allocation based on need that does not disproportionately harm black students; and 
  3. Restore the concentration dollars cut from schools with more than 50% black students⁵ for next year to allow for the development of a better system of allocation and to prevent disproportionate racialized impact on black students.

Parents United for Public Schools

1 Parents United does not concede that ANY cuts to school site are necessary or prudent, and is not endorsing the making of these cuts. This board has not shown any willingness, however, to stop cuts to schools and so arguing that you do so seems futile. Given the board’s willingness to make cuts to school sites, these cuts MUST be done in a way that does the least harm to the most marginalized students.
2 President London recently argued that more affluent, whiter schools are hurt more by these across the board cuts to discretionary funding because they receive less supplemental and no concentration dollars. This misses the point – the reason that these schools receive less of those LCFF targeted dollars is because they have fewer students requiring the targeted services. The funds that their PTA’s raise generally go to pay for “extras” like art and music, not the kinds of academic and emotional supports funded by LCFF supplemental and concentration dollars.
“Unduplicated” means that a student is only counted once, even if they fit multiple categories.
4 Meaning that a child who is an english learner, a foster youth and low income is counted three times, whereas one who is not an english learner is counted just twice.
 5 McClymonds, Prescott, Parker and West Oakland Middle School totaling $275,000

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: or 510-879-1677
OUSD Board of Directors: or 510-879-2161 or 510-879-2162 or 510-879-2163 or 510-879-2164 or 510-879-2165 or 510-879-2166 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.

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:

Angela’s Facebook page is:


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.


Children Should be Learning in Classrooms, Not Closets.

What makes a good school? Lots of different things, of course, but there are some basics that most people would agree are needed: a well-equipped and safe facility, good teachers, a broad and engaging curriculum that includes not just reading, history, math and science, but also the arts and music, and a warm and welcoming environment. This is true no matter what kind of school we are talking about – private, public or charter. Of course we expect those things in private school, because you are paying for them. But what about in charter schools which are privately managed but paid for with public money. What do charter operators think is a baseline for their school?

A review of the Proposition 39¹ (“Prop 39”) Facilities Request Forms can help us answer this question. Charter schools that wish to occupy district school space must file a Prop 39 request by November 1st, and in Oakland Unified School District (“OUSD”) they are asked to indicate any “unique facilities-related requests based on the school’s educational programming”. Charter schools have responded with a laundry list of things that they expect for their students, and most end with the boiler plate language that “If the comparison schools have any other regular teaching space, specialized classroom space or non-teaching space not identified here, the Charter School expects that the District will provide it with a reasonably equivalent allocation” – basically, if district schools get a particular kind of space, charters want it too, even if it isn’t something they need for their program.²

Here’s what Oakland charter schools said they need from OUSD for next year: 


Let’s be clear – this is not an unreasonable list – there are a few pie in the sky ideas, but most of us would agree that the items on the list are not just “wish list” luxuries but absolute necessities. 

The problem is, of course, that our OUSD schools do not even have some of the most basic things on the list, and when a charter school asks for space in a District school, OUSD forces them to have even less. Here’s how.  

Proposition 39 and its regulations say that IF a charter school requests space in a district facility, the District MUST provide it. It does not say exactly where³, but it does require the district to compile a list of comparison district schools⁴, figure out how much space they are actually using per student, and offer the same amount for the “in  district” students⁵ of the charter school. In other words, charter schools are allocated space based on the way OUSD schools are actually used.

Prop 39 is silent, however, on how the district decides which schools to offer up to charter schools for occupation (by themselves) or co-location (with an existing district school)⁶. So rather than figuring out HOW a district school is using its specific space in service of students, OUSD has come up with a formula for how much space ANY district school is entitled to. They call it an “Estimate of Underutilization” formula and it goes like this:

  • One regular teaching station (600+ square foot classroom) for each 24/26/30 kids projected to enroll in the following year, depending on grade level;
  • A classroom for each Special Education Special Day Class (“SDC”) at the school
  • A classroom for each Preschool class at the school
  • A classroom for each Newcomer Program classroom at the school⁷
  • Any classrooms needed to fulfill A-G requirements (at the high school level only)
  • 1 “Flex” Space for every 8/10 regular classrooms allotted, depending on grade level, with a minimum of 2

That’s it. No allocation for Special Education Inclusion specialists or reading or math intervention. No allocation for mental health needs or restorative justice. No allocation for art or music. No allocation for afterschool programs or parent spaces to allow community building or continuing education courses. In other words, none of the specialized spaces that make a Community School. OUSD takes the total number of classrooms, subtracts all of the above, and whatever is leftover is underutilized space.

What it translates to in practice is that students — usually in schools with a high concentration of Black and Brown students, Newcomer, English learners, unsheltered and Special Education students — are being displaced to make room for a charter school which likely does not serve the same high needs population⁸ (although they still want a share of that space). It means services like reading intervention and mental health counseling are moved into closets or noisy rooms behind the cafeteria. It means Special Education students receive pull-out services in cramped and distracting shared offices. It means teachers have nowhere to eat their lunch or collaborate with colleagues⁹.

classrooms not closets IG (1) crop

So what if we apply the OUSD formula to the space given to charter schools? How does that impact the laundry list of things they need to operate their program? We thought it would be interesting to take a look, so we dug into the request from one school which is already occupying the entirety of an OUSD Facility to see how much space they would be allowed under the OUSD Estimated Underutilization Formula and compare it to their list.

Per the school’s Facilities Request form for 2020-21 school year (filed by November 1, 2019) Achieve School, one of seven schools¹⁰ run by Education For Change (“EFC”), Oakland’s largest Charter chain, identifies the following list of site specific needs for their school:

EFC Achieve space needed (6)

In its Prop 39 request, EFC Achieve estimates an “in district” student population next year of 606 students in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through fifth grade and  2 special day classes. If EFC Achieve were a district school, that would translate to the following, under OUSD’s formula:

  • 25 regular teaching stations (which is what they asked for);
  • 2 classrooms for their SDC program
  • No specialized preschool classrooms¹¹
  • No specialized Newcomer classrooms
  • No classrooms needed to fulfill A-G requirements (because they are not a high school)
  • 4 Flex spaces: 1 for every 8 regular classrooms allotted, which in this case is 25 regular classrooms (as OUSD always rounds up).

So under the OUSD scenario, EFC Achieve is entitled to a total of 31 classrooms at the school, far less than what EFC Achieve says it needs to help children learn. This is what they identified as needing to support their program:

  • 25 classrooms for teaching stations (general education)
  • 2 SDCs 
  • 14 Flex spaces
    • 1 Restorative/Newcomer/PE Planning shared
    • 1 Mental Health space
    • 1 Intervention classroom
    • 2 dedicated science classrooms
    • 2 dedicated art classrooms
    • 1 instructional coach/intervention space
    • 1 health clinic
    • 2 Early childhood/after school classrooms
    • 1 Food bank/storage room
    • 1 staff lounge
    • 1 parent resource room

Obviously, the difference is in the Flex space allotment. Under the OUSD formula, EFC Achieve is entitled to 4 flex spaces based on a ratio of 1 flex room to every 8 general education classrooms. Under the EFC Achieve request, they are asking for 1 flex room to every 2 general education classrooms, four times more than what OUSD schools are allowed for their students! EFC Achieve occupies the entirety of the school, all of which they claim they need for their program, and have 10 Flex Spaces more than they would be entitled to at the site if they were an OUSD school. 

EFC Achieve has what they need to operate their program because they are given space based on “comparison schools”  and because they have the whole campus to themselves. An OUSD school subject to co-location with a charter school can be forced to give up what they need for their children under OUSD’s “underutilization” formula. Co-located OUSD schools are forced to give up art, science and music rooms. Children who need intervention, mental health and special education services are learning in closets, hallways and crowded shared offices, and that isn’t right. It is time for OUSD to stop using a formula to determine which schools to offer up for co-location, but instead, like they do when deciding how much space to give to charter schools under Prop 39, look at how schools are actually and reasonably used in service of children, especially high need students. OUSD must stop displacing vulnerable children from classrooms into closets.


Afterword about revising prop 13

1. Proposition 39 is codified as Ed. Code, § 47614 et seq.
2. Two-thirds of charter schools operating within Oakland either own their own facility or lease one from someone other than OUSD. 12 charters occupy by themselves the campuses of former OUSD schools
3.  Prop 39 only requires that the offered space be “near” where the charter school requests
4.  In the neighborhood where the charter students live, not necessarily where the school will be located.
5.  For charter schools with a significant population of students who do not live in Oakland, this means any non-Oakland students are crowded into just the classrooms assigned for Oakland resident kids, unless the District agrees to allocate them additional space, which the district can charge them for at market rate (but does not always do so – a blog post for another day).
6.  The District could also co-locate a charter school at another charter school using a district facility, but that does not generally happen, at least in recent years in Oakland.
7.  OUSD has a significant “Newcomer” population of students, and has a robust Newcomer program at multiple sites in addition to general Newcomer supports at all schools. Most if not all charter schools do not have a large enough population of newcomers to have these specialized classes.
8.  Parents United looked into these disparities last year; for deeper detail on disparities in special education, see State of Denial
9.  A charter parent recently argued that co-located charter school students are forced to receive small group help in the hallways because they also do not have enough room, and that is true. But at that school 35% of the students do not live in Oakland, and so the charter was cramming 35% more students into the allocated space. We are not arguing that Prop 39 works well for co-located charter schools, it doesn’t. It just hurts district students more.
10.  One of the seven schools, EPIC middle school, closed unexpectedly last fall and it is unclear if they are still a functioning charter school
11.  East Bay Agency for Children located onsite does offer early childhood services to children 0 to 5 not enrolled in preschool, but not a traditional preschool program such as OUSD identifies in its formula



DO ME A FAVOR: Serious ethical concerns raised by Yee’s choice of facilitators

Earlier this week, Director Gary Yee hosted a District 4 community engagement meeting to discuss OUSD’s Citywide Plan to close, merge or otherwise change up to 24 OUSD schools over the next few years. It’s about time. Public outcry at the lack of genuine community engagement has pushed OUSD to take the very minimal step of requiring each school board member to host one or more meetings in their district before rolling out Cohort 3 decisions on which schools will face closure, merger or other changes next.1

Former GO Public Schools employee, Mirella Rangel, facilitates OUSD Director Gary Yee’s District 4 community engagement meeting. (Photo from OPED)

What was shocking about this engagement was that Director Yee was joined by a consultant who until recently was a senior staff member of GO Public Schools, the Super PAC which spent nearly $150,000 of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s money (yes, THAT Michael Bloomberg) to buy Yee’s seat on the school board last year, outspending his opposition by 250%.2

According to correspondence obtained from the district, Director Yee sought OUSD funds to pay Mirella Rangel to facilitate his district 4 engagement via an email exchange with OUSD Director of Innovation Yvette Renteria:

Ms Renteria responded with the following:

Ms Renteria makes clear that there is no OUSD budget for this facilitation and that OUSD can only “provide some money to Mirella” by eliminating one or more future engagements, because the funds for childcare, translation and food would be diverted to pay for Ms Rangel. In other words, payment for this facilitation could only come at the expense of engagement with communities whose school is targeted for possible catastrophic changes including closure of their neighborhood school.

This is exactly why having out of town billionaires financing the election of our “democratically” elected school board is such a problem. Instead of being focused on what is best for our families, our board members instead are subject to political manipulation by individuals and organizations that got them elected in the first place. GO has spent more than $830,000 in big money contributions, largely from billionaires and the California Charter School Association, to ensure the election of this school board which the 2019 Grand Jury report found “has failed in its responsibilities to serve the students of Oakland.”3 GO isn’t just really bad at selecting school board members to finance – they are choosing exactly the members they need to execute the policies their funders demand, policies which undermine our public schools and our teachers and lead inevitably to the privatization of our public system.

GO Public Schools, and particularly Ms Rangel as the leader of GO’s 1Oakland campaign, is the architect of OUSD’s portfolio policy, adopted by the OUSD board as Board Policy 6006 “Community of Schools” policy. Not coincidentally, Director James Harris put forth BP 6006, originally identified as the “Quality Schools Portfolio Policy”, just six days after GO went live with their “System of Schools” 1Oakland initiative last year. Director Harris even changed the name of the policy to the “System of Schools” policy to coincide with the GO language.4 To be clear: Rangel’s work resulted in this policy, which mandates OUSD close district schools.

Three months after leaving GO5, Ms Rangel set up a consultant group called “Colibrí Collective” with Maddie Orenstein6, and in September sought a lucrative contract with OUSD which would have paid a total of $54,500 over 6 weeks to Colibri – that’s $1200 per day — including $190/hour for Ms Rangel’s work alone. This work involved the following components:

  • Healing Current Communities of Cohort 2 (including Sankofa/Kaiser and Frick/SOL), including developing a “communications and messaging plan for Colibri and connection to GO” – clearly they anticipate that this proposed contract will be a public relations nightmare;
  • Identify leaders and community in Cohort 2  who “should participate in the restorative conversations” – not everyone gets to be engaged;
  • Facilitate restorative conversations regarding Cohort 2, again not with everyone impacted but with hand selected “subsets of the community” and “key” community leaders; and
  • “Establish opportunities for larger communities outside of core design team to provide input and guidance” – in other words, make space for GO and billionaire funded privatization organizations to guide the process.

We do not know if OUSD staff ultimately accepted this offer, emails from Rangel ask to affirm that they have a “green light” to begin, but the district’s response to our Public Records Act request did not include responses from district staff.7 However, to find they did would reveal an  outrageous conflict in having the architect of the Citywide plan — which has caused such harm to public school students and communities — also being the person hired to heal those same communities.


Ms Rangel apparently then also turned to Director Yee, elected last year with GO’s money, to intervene with the district on her behalf.

When Ms Rangel showed up to facilitate a meeting seeking input from parents and teachers about the Citywide Plan, she was closing the circle on her work with GO and the System of Schools 1Oakland initiative: ensuring that public schools are closed and those facilities are then made available to charter schools in the “portfolio” of Oakland publicly funded schools. Ms Rangel, and OUSD, know that hiring GO directly is not possible – the public outcry would be immense. By calling in a favor from Director Yee, GO and Ms Rangel are continuing to push their own self-serving brand of  disaster capitalism – actively undermine public schools, to then swoop in with their market based solutions that they have given us no choice but to accept.

Click to watch video of Director Yee’s closing remarks with former GO Public Schools employee Mirella Rangel facilitating (Video from The Oakland Public Education Network – OPEN)


1.  It is important to note that this is also not meaningful community engagement, but is more an opportunity to say there is meaningful engagement, as there is no indication that the “engagement” will result in any changes to the Citywide plan.
2. Data from Open Oakland: Yee spending + GO spending = $185,199; Doutherd spending + OEA/CTA spending = $75,978.
3. Finding 19-15
4. More on this topic
5. Rangel announced her departure from GO on April 3, 2019
6. Orenstein is a former employee of Leadership Public Schools, where Yee’s long-time partner was – until earlier this year – the Superintendent.
7. A Public Records Act request for that information is pending.