Reflections: A Year of Struggle
This school year was a difficult one for all of us connected to Oakland education.
It seemed that challenge after challenge was coming our way. Our district budget process and cuts were difficult to follow and understand, while confusion around the Citywide Plan and Blueprint process complicated progress. All this compounded by a seven day teacher strike that strained relationships and underscored our state’s need to fully fund education.
In tough times like these, it’s not easy to stay hopeful, to make sense of it all, and figure out how we can work differently and more efficiently to ensure a quality education for all of Oakland’s students. Are we repeating the same mistakes? How did we end up here?
Lasting change has been elusive for us as we’ve spent years trying to tinker around the edges of the system. We’ve relied on a revolving door of leaders implementing top-down change when what we’ve needed all along is an approach that requires us all to build relationships with each other and interrogate our values, our roles, and our approaches to education.
We need to learn together, to grow together, to move forward together.
It is with this in mind that we hosted a 1Oakland community dialogue event last week. On June 3rd, over 80 parents, educators, and community leaders came together to engage in conversations about using a shared definition of school quality as the foundation of the work of the Citywide Plan. This meeting resulted from a loud-and-clear call from our community when we last came together in December.
During the event, we heard OUSD staff share about the current work of the Citywide Plan and the types of metrics that will make up our shared definition of school quality. They then joined the audience for discussions about how the shared definition of school quality will be used in decisions around charter renewals and long term leases, district school site autonomies, and expanding, merging, or closing schools.
Listening to the deep and passionate discussions among community members with quite diverse perspectives and experiences renewed my sense of hope for this work.
What emerged from these conversations resonates with two of the 1Oakland values: Transparency and Community.
Across all conversations, folks were grateful to have a shared definition of school quality lead the work, and now they want to know:
- The specific metrics that will be included in this definition.
- The decision-making processes that will be driven by this definition.
Participants said they want to understand what’s coming around the bend, to have the cards put on the table, and be approached as partners in the work.
As the audience shared out themes from their group conversations, it was clear that building and fostering community is of the utmost importance.
More specifically, they want:
- Our city’s education leaders to invest time and energy into creating more spaces like this where we can build relationships with people from different backgrounds with varying perspectives; hills and flats, district and charter-run schools, families, and educators.
- School communities to be pro-actively engaged, respected, and supported throughout the changes that may come from implementing the bold vision of the Citywide Plan.
A Future with Stability
We’re heartened by what we heard last week, as there is evidence that Supt Johnson-Trammell is beginning to emphasize the values of transparency and community in all of the district’s work. We now have regular Connecting with Kyla blogs and videos where she has begun to explain the complex problems our district is facing. This spring has also seen an emphasis on community engagement across the city – from family events hosted by the Oakland REACH, to official stakeholder groups on expanding, merging, or closing schools. There are beginning to be many opportunities for the broader community to learn about the important work ahead.
Electronic communications and events born from moments of crisis are a start – and in order to really learn and change together, we need to do more.
More learning, more growing, more collective problem-solving. Join us now:
- Over the next few months, we will be hosting 1Oakland discussions. To co-host a gathering for your network, email Daisy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Have a one-to-one conversation with a GO staff member about the 1Oakland campaign and how to get more involved. Reply to this email to get the ball rolling.
RSVP Now: for GO’s School Year Kickoff Party on Thursday, August 29th to raise a glass to another school year, hear what GO will be working on, and meet new GO team members.