Back to School: Different Seat, Same Values

Sharing my Oakland Education Story

For as long as I can remember, summer has been about 10% recharging and 90% gearing up to launch the new school year. When I was younger, my sisters and I spent the time designing our own free summer camps (summer olympics in the backyard). As I grew older, it became about hanging out at UC Berkeley with other Bay Area public school first generation low-income students, previewing courses as part of college outreach programs. Once I became an adult and teacher, I utilized every ounce of relaxation time while simultaneously redesigning curriculum or a school master schedule. It didn’t matter if I was 8, 18, or 38, one common thread has always been true across my lifetime: summer quickly came to a close and soon enough, I was gearing up for the school year. 

So here I am in very new territory as the Director of Community Leadership with GO Public Schools Oakland. This is my first year since I was 4 years old, that I didn’t gear up for the first day of school as either a student, teacher, Assistant Principal, Head of School or Founding Principal. Gone are the days of the beginning of the year jitters and questions I asked myself around onboarding new staff, and supporting all students in my classrooms.

Instead, as a mom of 3 children in Oakland public schools I have many more questions than I’ve ever had before. “Will my children’s teachers prioritize developing deep relationships? Are my children on track for 3rd grade reading? Will my son’s Individualized Education Program team understand his strengths and growth areas? Will my school stand for love and justice as they serve my Nicaraguense/African-American children?” 

As GO’s Director of Community Leadership, I know that educators and students work tirelessly in the “arena” of school. While I am no longer directly in the arena, my focus is to be a tireless host of other allies committed to ensuring our schools have the best conditions to thrive.  

I have sat in the seat as a teacher, a founder, and a school leader in Oakland. I live in the seat as a mother, advocate of justice, and community member that works to support others to do their best work in service of our city. Improving the quality of education takes many allies, and I am one of many in Oakland.

I work at GO Public Schools Oakland because we believe that educational advocacy calls on our village of Oaklanders (families, educators, community leaders). While the voices closest to the work (students, families and educators) should lead the way, others must partner by “pushing in” to elevate their voices for systems level change because our students can’t wait.

At GO, we believe that solutions for educational equity requires that grasstops leaders are intimately connected with grassroots leaders. We believe that children, like mine and others, deserve high quality schools that create the conditions for students to realize their fullest potential.

My husband and I, both products of public schools in Oakland and Hayward, were not set up for success by our public school system. Our path to college and through college was a painful fight of admissions on appeals, returning home because money ran out, and being grossly academically underprepared. We deserved better decades ago, and our Oakland students and our own children still do too.

So while I am Back to School in a different seat, my values and passion are unwavering.  Our quality of schools must increase, we must have our eyes on increased funding and smarter spending, and we must be a part of the solution of moving beyond charter versus district divide to common grounds for ALL of our students.

Let’s continue this conversation. I hope you’ll join me to toast to the new school year, and talk about what I’ll be working on this year at GO’s Back to School party on August 29th at 5:30pm. RSVP here!

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