Wednesday was the last day of school for students in the Oakland Unified School District, but the school board’s work for the year is far from done.
By the end of June, the council will need to finalize the current year’s budget, adopt a new budget for next year, and appoint a new council member in District 6 to replace Shanthi Gonzales, who recently resigned.
Wednesday’s school board meeting was poorly attended. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell was absent at a graduation ceremony, Chairman of the Board Gary Yee stayed home while recovering from COVID, and District 5 Superintendent Mike Hutchinson left the meeting early to protest the permanent closures of Parker K-8 and Community Day, which held their last day of school on Wednesday.
The other five board members had to tackle a packed agenda that included a plan to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds, a Measure N package tax report, presentations on the special education budget, the naming of a new amalgamated school and a vote on charter school facilities.
OUSD approaches universal traditional knowledge
Christie Herrera, OUSD’s executive director of early learning, presented an update on the district’s plan to expand transitional kindergarten, an optional grade level for children who reach age 5 between September and December, narrowly missing the age limit for kindergarten. The gradual expansion of TK at OUSD and other California districts is supported by a Multi-year investment of $2.7 billion by the state. By the 2025-2026 school year, all four-year-olds in California will be able to enroll in TK, regardless of their birthday.
The main barriers to expansion of OUSD are expected to be teacher staffing and classroom space. To accommodate the additional students, OUSD applied for a grant of nearly $500 million to upgrade its pre-kindergarten, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten facilities.
“What we’re seeing in other large school districts that have implemented universal TK, like San Diego, is that they’ve introduced TK into their early years sites,” Herrera said, referring to the district. early childhood education, or “pre-K” programs. “So you might consider creating hybrid classrooms, bringing pre-K and TK together.”
Statewide, 10,000 to 12,000 new teachers could be hired, according to EdSource. Starting in August 2023, transitional kindergarten teachers will also be required to have completed early childhood education courses, in addition to the credentials they already have.
Oakland Unified currently serves approximately 585 transitional kindergarten students. Next year this number is expected to increase to around 800 students and the following year to around 1,200 students. In the fall, OUSD will add five new transitional kindergarten classes to Oakland Academy of Knowledge, Korematsu Discovery Academy, Bridges Academy at Melrose, Sankofa United and Kaiser Early Childhood Center, which was previously an elementary school.
The OUSD board also voted for the first time to adopt a transitional kindergarten program recommended by a committee of educators, administrators and a researcher. Implementing the program will cost OUSD approximately $350,000.
In the absence of Superintendent Johnson-Trammell, OUSD High Schools Superintendent Matin Abdel-Qawi spoke to the board about Measure N, a 10-year package tax that generates about $12 million a year. for career and technical education teachers, college counselors, co-ordinator trainees, field trips, and other real-world experiences for students. Measure N also supports the district’s Academic Pathway Program, which provides high school students with training and exposure to career fields such as law, public health, education, and visual arts.
In April and May, 1,800 seniors from 10 OUSD secondary schools submitted final projects addressing an issue in their school’s chosen subject area. Jasmene Miranda, an alumnus of Fremont High School who is now the director of the school’s media academy, shared how Measure N has helped the school hire more case managers and reach more students.
“Before Measure N funding, there was severe inequity on many high school campuses,” Miranda said. “Yes [career and technical education] routes, but there was not enough funding to reach everyone.
The board is expected to put Measure N back on the ballot in November or 2024. Some officials, like Superintendent Mike Hutchinson, believe the district should find a way to support OUSD lanes using its own budget, at least instead of relying on a special bond. which requires voter approval.
Other parts of the superintendent’s report, including proposals on how to reallocate closed school buildings, were not discussed and may be raised at a future meeting.
Increase opportunities for students in special education
Jenn Blake, Executive Director of Special Education at OUSD, presented her department’s budget and service plan, which has a budget of approximately $125 million, most of which is local funding. . Federal and state funding represent approximately 6% and 23% of the special education budget, respectively.
One of the department’s focus areas is to increase support for students transitioning to adulthood, including establishing a paid internship program. Encouraging more special education students to enroll in OUSD college streams is also a priority, Blake said. Pathway enrollment for students with mild to moderate disabilities has increased, but enrollment rates for students with more severe needs may improve, she said.
Wednesday was the last day of school for Parker K-8 and Community Day School, both of which will be permanently closed this summer. La Escuelita, formerly a K-8 school, will become an elementary school. Director Mike Hutchinson, who has opposed school closures for more than a decade, left Wednesday’s meeting early to protest the closures. At the same time the council members were meeting, a group of families met in Parker and said they planned to live and sleep at the school until the council reversed its decision.
As part of OUSD’s closure plan, RISE Community School and New Highland Academy in East Oakland will be merged into one school this year. The board on Wednesday approved a new name for the merged school, New Highland Academy.
Next year, five more schools will close: Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, Grass Valley Elementary and Horace Mann Elementary. Hillcrest K-8 will shrink to an elementary school.
Cox Academy seeking renovation funds
The board on Wednesday approved a request from Cox Academy, a charter school, to apply for public funds that would allow it to renovate its building. Cox Academy is on OUSD property and shares a campus with REACH Academy in East Oakland. The state grant, if received, would provide half of the funds needed to renovate the campus, and the school would provide the remaining amount.
Board members raised questions about whether campus upgrades could benefit both Cox Academy and REACH Academy students, but state funds would be limited to campus-side improvements. campus charter school. Board trustees also questioned whether OUSD could claw back the vacant Cox Academy space if enrollment at the school dwindled. Kelly Krag-Arnold, the new director of the charter school office, added that her office may consider establishing minimum enrollments for charter schools to occupy OUSD facilities.
OUSD Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Update
The district leaders reported on where OUSD would invest more next school year based on LCAP, a plan that California school districts create every three years to improve student achievement. For the 2022-2023 school year, OUSD LCAP will add specific support for Black students, English language learners, and homeless students.
The district LCAP, which was developed in 2021 and will continue through 2024, has five primary focus areas: college and career readiness, closing the equity gap, student and family engagement, high quality and diverse staff, and resources to fight COVID-19.
The LCAP Parent-Student Advisory Committee meets once a month to monitor the district’s progress against these goals. Meetings are open to the public and are held virtually.
Important Dates and Upcoming OUSD Board Meetings
Next week, the board will hold a special meeting on June 1 to review the current year’s budget and projections for future years. The last interim report was in March, and Lisa Grant-Dawson, Chief Commercial Officer of OUSD, shared that projections for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years show surpluses of around $4 million and $9 million. dollars, respectively, in unrestricted funds.
The board still has three regular meetings before the summer break: June 8, 22 and 29. At the June 8 meeting, district staff are expected to introduce a resolution on reauthorizing the Measure N package tax. The board could vote to place the tax on the November ballot or wait until 2024.
On June 14, the board will hold a special session to consider nominations for the vacant District 6 seat. Former board director Shanthi Gonzales resigned her position on May 2 and the remaining directors have voted to nominate someone for the remainder of his term, which ends Jan. 2. Interested persons must be 18 or older, live in District 6, and be a registered voter to apply. Completed applications are due by 5 p.m. June 1 and should be emailed to [email protected] We wrote last week about what this job entails and how to apply.
Wednesday’s meeting ended on a somber note, in memory of Jim Mordecai, a longtime educator and activist from Oakland, who died earlier this month. The meeting was also closed in memory of the victims of the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, where a a gunman killed 10 black people in a grocery store on May 14, and Uvalde, Texas, where on Tuesday a gunman ambushed an elementary school and killed 19 students and two adults.