Editor’s note: This was originally published as an opinion piece in the October 19-25 print edition of the Oakland Post.
By Robert Wilkins
There is no doubt today that students in Oakland are making meaningful progress. Graduation rates for all students are increasing, with African Americans, Latinos, and students with special-needs making the greatest improvements. Also, more students are graduating from high school college and career ready. While these are promising gains, there is more work to be done to maintain and accelerate the progress that our students are making.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship, that it has been made more elusive for [African-Americans] than many other rights.” That is the reason who will lead the school board is such an important question before voters right now. At stake in this election is the civil rights of our students.
The leaders who we elect to the Oakland school board will oversee nearly every aspect of our children’s education – everything from how students are prepared for college and careers, and where the Oakland Unified School District puts its limited funds, to the future of school discipline policies, and what supports will be available for teachers and principals.
When it comes to supporting students’ civil rights, four school board candidates stand out from the rest: Jody London in District 1, Jumoke Hinton-Hodge in District 3, Huber Trenado in District 5 and James Harris in District 7.
It is under the leadership of Jody, Jumoke and James, that we have seen improvements in the graduation rate, an additional $120 million for college access and preparation, and the highest raise in teacher salaries in over a decade.
Jumoke has a proven track record. She was the leading school board advocate for the Department of African American Male Achievement to help underserved and students of color succeed. She also championed school discipline policies which have led to a decline of nearly 50 percent in suspensions of all students, contributing to juvenile felony arrests going down by 73 percent.
Huber, an East Oakland native, graduate of OUSD and UC Berkeley and public school teacher, has been dedicated to supporting students, even starting a summer program to help his students stay on track academically.
I urge you to cast your ballot for these leaders who will work hard to ensure all students have access to the high-quality education.
Robert Wilkins is the President and CEO, YMCA of the East Bay.