My name is David Castillo, and I am voting for James Harris for Oakland school board District 7 on November 8, 2016. I am in support of James as both an East Oakland resident and principal. I have lived in District 7 for the past 10 years, and have worked in East Oakland public schools, both district and charter, for 15 years as a mentor, teacher, and currently, a school leader.
I was introduced to James during his 2012 school board campaign. He immediately struck me as a candidate running for the right reason — James had a deep commitment to his community, and wanted to work to see all students receive the best education possible. What stood out to me in our first conversations was James’s openness and directness. He was direct about the lack of opportunities for all Oakland students, and was open and eager to engage in dialogue around how to address. During his campaign, James was willing to enter into the tough conversations about how to make our schools better, even if controversial. He knew these conversations would ultimately push toward solutions for students.
On the board, James has continued to push conversations in service of students, continually keeping his eye toward the big picture and quality education for all Oakland students. And alongside those conversations, James is thoughtful and deliberate in his decisions. I greatly respect him for this.
“James has continued to push conversations in service of students, continually keeping his eye toward the big picture and quality education for all Oakland students. And alongside those conversations, James is thoughtful and deliberate in his decisions.”
For example, when I was working for a prior organization, we presented to the school board a charter school petition. After listening intently to our proposal and considering how this new school could impact the whole district, James decided to not vote to pass the petition. While disappointed, I fully respected James’s decision, recognizing that he was weighing the full needs of the district in his leadership role. James and I went into this proposal as friends and left as friends — and partners — in this work together for Oakland students.
What allows James to push the dialogue is the place from where he starts -– he is a listener. I have witnessed James gather in many rooms to discuss hard and complex problems, including conversations with parents, school leaders, and fellow school board members. He brings no preconceived notions, which comes back to his openness and focus on results for kids. He invests in building relationships and working across the school system to serve all students in all schools.
I am proud of the East Oakland community and committed to its continued progress to provide access to a quality education for all students. On behalf of all Oakland students, let’s re-elect James Harris to keep the progress moving and provide the exceptional educational experiences that all Oakland students deserve.
David Castillo is a longtime East Oakland resident and educator. He is currently Head of School at Urban Montessori Charter School. David serves a member of the GO Public Schools Oakland Advocates Leadership Council.