At the first in-person school board meeting since August, Moses Omolade, one of the original hunger strikers protesting school closures in Oakland and a community services officer at Westlake Middle School, brought down home on April 13. Omolade dramatically turned his back on the Oakland School Board during the public comment segment and addressed the community directly: “We have the power! We have parents, we have students, we have teachers. Unite and strike. Needless to say, the audience cheered.
Students, teachers and the community had to fight to be heard at the school board meeting. School board president Gary Yee has sought every opportunity to shut down public comment, speaker after speaker, raking in most school board members for supporting school closures and mergers.
Later, the board tried again to shut down public commentary, but the avid students could not be silenced. When denied the microphone, the students used a megaphone.
A MetWest High School senior was scathing in her denunciation of the school board’s majority. “These school closures,” she said, “plus the fact that you’re not listening to students anyway, shows you don’t even really care about us.” Other MetWest students protested the firing of several teachers.
Ben “Coach” Tapscott, who began his teaching career at McClymonds High School, said: “These school closures are an attack on black and brown students. You are being paid by the rich to promote charter schools .
Megan Bumpus, a teacher at Reach Academy in far east Oakland, raised concerns about the safety of students about to be relocated with the closure of Parker Elementary. She challenged the board to listen to parents who worry about their children traveling long distances to get to their new school. Bumpus also chastised the board for trying again to silence student and community voices.
Teachers ready to strike
Omolade’s strike call echoed the call of many rank-and-file members of the Oakland Education Association, who voted overwhelmingly on April 11 to authorize the OAS executive board to plan a vote on holding a strike day on April 29. union members to get their support for this action. The legal justification for the strike is to support an unfair labor practice charge filed with the Public Employee Relations Commission for breach of contract regarding the issue of school closures.
OAS President Keith Brown, on behalf of the entire OAS Board of Trustees, supported the call for a one-day teacher strike.
OAS teachers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, students and parents of schools threatened with closure or merger, as well as community organizations and activists have been meeting for several weeks to plan this one-day strike action on April 29. headline: “Stop Privatizing Oakland!” Port Stop! School Shutdown” begin to invade the city. This new coalition, which has long-term plans after the strike, is called Schools and Labor Against Privatization (SLAP).
In this unique and emerging coalition, people unite to stop the rampant and racist gentrification of Oakland. Entry-level teachers and classified workers at Service Employees Union (SEIU) Local 1021 fought against the closure or merger of 11 schools on the East Oakland plain, primarily affecting black and brown students. At the same time, new charter schools continue to be approved by the school board and promised classrooms on public school campuses.
Local 10 members and other longshore workers are dealing with the closure of Howard Terminal, a major port area in Oakland. John Fisher, the owner of the Oakland A baseball team (and owner of several charter school companies, including Kipp Academy) is trying to move the stadium to the harbor and build a housing and shopping complex that will cost docker jobs and continue the gentrification of Oakland.
SLAP is organizing a one-day demonstration on April 29 that will begin with the teachers’ strike in the morning, with pickets at school sites and possible morning rallies at schools due to close at the end of this school year. . Then at 2 p.m., teachers, longshoremen, parents, students and the community will gather at the Oscar Grant Plaza. At 3 p.m., they will parade down Broadway, stopping first at the offices of David Shorenstein, one of Oakland’s biggest real estate developers, then ending at the empty offices of the Oakland Unified School District.
Protesters hope to paint a mural in the plaza outside OUSD, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic. The school district is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent for the empty building, but claims it has no money to keep neighborhood schools open.
Later in the afternoon, OAS members and SLAP activists will organize a car caravan to the Port of Oakland to picket several terminals and close the port, building support for this critical fight against the racist gentrification of this city.
For more information or to help prepare for the strike on April 29, go to slapbayarea.org