Every two years, we elect people to the Oakland Board of Education – a group of seven adults who arguably hold the most power in our community to improve Oakland’s public schools. This November, Oakland voters will elect school board Directors in Districts 2, 4, and 6.
As Board Member David Kakishiba recently told GO Public Schools, “If you care about kids, you should run for school board.” Given Oakland’s affinity for democracy and activism, voters should be choosing from an amazing array of school board candidates. Oakland has no shortage of passionate leaders, well-qualified to be effective board members. Teachers, volunteers, nonprofit leaders, coaches, principals, after-school providers, neighborhood activists, and parents (only one sitting board member has children in OUSD schools) can all be candidates.
Compared to a city council race, running for school board in Oakland can be an inexpensive endeavor. If there are fundamental reasons that the position of School Board Director does not attract candidates, it is our responsibility as Oaklanders to change the job description and public perceptions of the board. To create a great system of public schools, we must elect a great school board.
Of the seven sitting Oakland School Board Directors, three ran unopposed. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are not good Directors. It just means there’s a lack of competition. Competition in school board races generates important ideas and critical conversations about our public schools. Voters are better able to hold school board members accountable. Board members better engage with their schools, parents, and students. Conflicts of interest are revealed. We spend public money conducting elections — competition helps ensure real engagement in return.
School Board Director is a very powerful position: the board directs hundreds of millions of dollars for Oakland’s 45,000 public school students, 95 campuses, 3,000 teachers, and 476 acres of land. The Board’s areas of influence are wide-ranging: teaching and teacher effectiveness, school facilities, parent engagement, collective bargaining, technology use, college and career readiness, budgeting and taxes, health, safety, and more.
Oakland Public Schools are the most improved in the State of California over the past five years. After five years of state receivership, we have local control back, the school board hired a promising new Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith, the Mayor hired Police Chief Dr. Tony Batts, and Oakland will likely have a new Mayor next year. The 2010 Board of Education election comes at a crucial time for our public schools.
If school board elections and OUSD decision-making got just a fraction of the attention the City Council gets from the media, advocacy groups and aspiring elected officials, our schools would make dramatic progress.
Our schools are our city. Oakland’s children are Oakland’s future. Great Oakland Public Schools believes that Oakland’s adults need to dramatically increase engagement with our Board of Education.
Decide how you will be a part of the Board of Education elections this year:
- RUN for the Board of Education. GO explains the basics of running for school board and about the Oakland Board of Education.
- CHALLENGE candidates about schools and education – including City Council and Mayoral candidates. GO has prepared a list of questions for Board of Education candidates.
- VOLUNTEER your time for a candidate you support.
- GIVE money to a candidate you support.
- VOTE — October 18th is the last day to register to vote, and vote-by-mail begins October 4th.
- ATTEND candidate forums and debates.
- SIGN UP and BE INFORMED via GO Public Schools’ regular election and education updates.
Great Oakland Public School Information Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the education reforms that have made the Oakland Unified School District the most successful large, urban district in the State of California for five years in a row. GO Public Schools Information Center provides the much needed avenue to increase your understanding of public school issues, facilitates participation in decision-making about our schools, and provides ways to volunteer to improve our schools. We invite you to be a part of our coalition. Visit us at www.gopublicschools.org today!