The OUSD School Board plan to thwart democracy in District 6

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 3, 2022: Shanthi Gonzales contributes $1000 to Kyra Mungia’s campaign for School Board in District 6 and files an immediate form 460 reporting the contribution
  • 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.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Don’t be Fooled by Fake Unions and “paid for” Slates – support the candidates actually endorsed by our teachers and community orgs

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.



District 2: https://www.brouhard4ousd.com/ and https://maxorozcod2.com/

District 4: https://www.pecoliaforoakland.com/

District 6: https://www.val4oakland.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/joelvelasquezforOakland/about

Is our students’ private data safe with OUSD?

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:

Dear Directors,

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). 

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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.

2022 Data through July, remaining years are January through December

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.

Dear Directors,

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
  • Testing results
  • student attendance
  • behavioral data
  • course schedules
  • 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.

#ousd #datasharing #studentdata #studentprivacy

Why did Alameda County Superintendent Monroe reward managers with huge Covid stipends?

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.

#ACOE #OUSD #Budget #Covid #Transparency #Accountability #Vote

How does OUSD compare with other districts in upper administration spending?

How Does OUSD Compare to their Chosen Comparison Districts?

District# of students# Admin > $200k#Admin > $300k#Students/ >$200k AdminUPP %% Charter SchoolsRevenue per Student
Fontana35,461121295587none$14,626
Fremont35,1572401465271%$11,730
Fresno73,3812532935895%$15,122
Moreno Valley31,597231137484none$14,500
Oakland Unified35,4894727557627%$17,325
Riverside40,0832022004671.6%$13,399
Santa Ana46,5934211109885.7%$15,353
Stockton40,6276026778216.5%$15,148
AVERAGE42,299321.51659757.1%$14,652
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

        How Does OUSD Compare to Neighboring Districts?

District# of students# Admin > $200k# Admin > $300k#Students/ >$200k AdminUPP %% Charter SchoolsRevenue per Student
Alameda Unified9,3728011723517%$13,314
Berkeley 9,84460164130.68none$17,329
Fremont35,1572401465271%$11,730
Hayward19,80291220074.8211.3%$14,760
Oakland Unified35,4894747557627%$17,325
San Francisco52,77866580057.0813.5%$17,866
San Leandro9,06711182466.7none$13,352
West Contra Costa28,246121235471.1212.1%$14,214
AVERAGE24,969231.25142454.810.24%$14,986

Data Sources:

http://www.ed-data.org/

https://transparentcalifornia.com/ – 2020 data accessed 5/17/2022

https://medium.com/@CSBA/deep-pockets-spending-on-school-board-races-goes-national-f1dc5c6dbfb9

https://www.maplight.org/post/new-maplight-report-finds-oakland-elections-dominated-by-big-donors-and-outside-money

Tell OUSD to Install Outdoor Classrooms at ALL Oakland elementary schools immediately!

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.

From OUSD Superintendent presentation to the board April 28, 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.

https://covid-19.acgov.org/data accessed July 29, 2021 at 7:30 am

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

Data for the 20 elementary schools for the 2020-21 school year from OUSDData.org dashboard

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. 

Map created using information received from OUSD Staff July 20, 2021

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.

Per OUSD Staff via email dated July 20, 2021, the Outdoor Learning Spaces are allocated (# of pods per school in parentheses)