Board Watch January 23rd

Four big things on the agenda for this week’s Oakland School Board are:

1. OUSD Budget Cuts Update – A revised plan for up to $30M in budget cuts  
2. The “Opportunity Ticket” Update – Board vote on a policy allowing students from closing schools to get priority access to Oakland’s best schools
3. Roots International Academy School Closure – Board update  
4. OUSD’s Legislative Priorities and Principles – Board Vote

For more than just these four big things, click here for the full agenda

1st BIG THING: OUSD Budget Cuts Update (item #18-2727
The OUSD board will continue to discuss millions of dollars in budget reductions in preparation to approve budget cuts for the 2019-2020 school year. Here’s what we know about the cuts from the last board meeting:

  • Up to $30 million in cuts will happen in next year’s budget.
  • Of this, the vast majority of cuts would be from the central office staff and departments, with $3 million from school site budgets.
  • ​It is unclear what amount of teacher raise is assumed into the cuts presented.

GO’s Perspective:
We are concerned that this plan is not where it needs to be. OUSD must:


  • Prioritize funding school sites: Our community must see evidence that every possible dollar follows students. Keep cuts away from school site budgets.
  • Strategic redesign of the central office: Drive the redesign of the central office by limiting central office expenses to the areas that are 1) legally required, and 2) support a limited number of strategic central initiatives that have the greatest impact on students and schools.
  • Smarter spending practices: Impact on student outcomes should drive the rationale for future budget decisions. The current reality is that those systems and culture are not yet in place, but moving forward, the district must expect that all central office departments establish clear goals, measurable outcomes, and demonstrable impact on student outcomes.

Read my blog post from last week for more in-depth thoughts on each of these 3 demands, including why we think school site budget cuts might not need to happen at all.

2nd BIG THING:  The “Opportunity Ticket” (item #18-2725)
As OUSD moves forward with its plans to consider closing and consolidating schools, they will continue to discuss what will happen to the students at those schools. There will be a second read of a policy proposed by parent leaders of The Oakland REACH that states, “We know we need to provide these most impacted families with an opportunity that prioritizes their placement at the schools they deem most suitable for their children.”

The specifics of this plan include the OUSD enrollment team taking three steps:

1. Establish a new enrollment priority called “Opportunity Ticket” as a part of BP 5116.1 “Open Enrollment”.

2. Set aside a percentage of seats to accommodate the impacted students with Opportunity Ticket priority across all schools at the appropriate grade levels.

3. Set up pre-enrollment activities for impacted families, including counseling on school selection, expedited completion of required documents, and personalized communication of lottery results.

GO’s Perspective:
School closures are painful and disruptive. They should only happen when a clear plan exists for each and every child impacted to get access to a higher-quality school.  GO believes it is important that OUSD prioritize access to quality schools for students coming from closing schools. According to the Stanford CREDO studyin 2017, student outcomes will not be improved unless impacted students are able to then attend a higher-quality school.

3rd BIG THING: Roots International Academy School Closure Resolution (item #19-0095)
District staff will present the approach and rationale for the closure of Roots International Academy (6-8) and expansion of Coliseum College Prep Academy(CCPA) (6-12). It is proposed that this will be the last year Roots will operate as a middle school. Any current 5th graders who will be in 6th grade in 2019-2020, who would have attended Roots, will now have the opportunity to attend CCPA. The Roots students going into 7th and 8th grade in 2019-2020 will have priority placement at other schools.

The rationale for closing roots and expanding CCPA is broken down into four key areas: 1) Quality, 2) Equity, 3) Fiscal Sustainability, 4) Access. 

Slide 6: Presentation – Coliseum College Preparatory Academy Expansion/Roots International Academy Closure – Academic Year 2019-2020 (First Reading)

GO’s Perspective:
School closures are painful and disruptive. They should only happen when a clear plan exists for each and every child impacted to get access to a higher-quality school.

4th BIG THING: OUSD’s legislative priorities and principles (item #18-2494)
The OUSD school board has worked on developing 2019 state legislative principles and priorities. The purpose of establishing these priorities and principles is to provide guidance to OUSD’s lobbyists on what priorities they should pursue for state law in Sacramento. The school board will vote on principles and priorities in the areas of: School Finance; Human Resources; School Facilities; Charter Schools; Early Education; Career Technical Education; Educator Effectiveness; School Climate; and Accountability.

GO’s Perspective:
While the priorities include strong advocacy for students in areas like more overall education funding and prioritizing early education, there are areas of this legislative agenda that lack smart-policy. The agenda sometimes calls for solutions that would put schools at risk of breaking state law, and in other places calls for very specific solutions that don’t seem well thought-through. Additionally, the priorities regarding public charter schools are inconsistent with the Community of Schools policy passed last June. The Community of Schools policy made a commitment to developing a city-wide plan that looks for district and charter schools to work together to best serve all students. The priorities need more community engagement and more alignment to current board policy before they are ready to be approved.

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