Board Watch: February 13th

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

1. The Community of Schools Citywide Plan – OUSD’s plan for “ensuring that there is a high quality, sustainable school offering the types of programs our families want in every neighborhood”

2. OUSD’s 3rd Budget Update and Revision of 18-19 – OUSD’s financial standing as of January 31st, 2019

3. The “Opportunity Ticket”- OUSD enrollment policy for students from closed schools

For more than just three big things, click here for the full agenda.

1st BIG THING: The Community of Schools Citywide Plan (item #19-0160)

Last June, the Board of Education passed the Community of Schools Policy, which directed Superintendent Johnson-Trammell to develop a Citywide Plan to increase the number of high-quality public school options in Oakland. The policy directs the Superintendent and her team to address five specific issues in the plan: facilities, enrollment and transportation, charter authorization, sharing best practices, and defined autonomies.

The five-year Citywide Plan – which will be presented at Wednesday’s meeting – is focused on improving the quality of education provided across the city, striving to ensure equity for all students and framed within our fiscal realities of needing to produce an education model that is sustainable. The Superintendent explains that this work is intended to: “invest more in our schools so they are properly resourced and staffed AND to re-imagine our school programming options requires us to engage in the tough and painful work of both right-sizing our school district–getting to fewer schools, of a sustainable size, with more resources–WHILE re-imagining the type of school programs we offer.”

Slide 3 of OUSD’s OUSD’s Community of Schools – Citywide Plan Presentation (2/13/19)

GO’s Perspective
In the midst of extraordinary complexity and challenge, this comprehensive and thoughtful Citywide Plan lays the groundwork for addressing the issues facing Oakland’s public schools. If it is executed courageously, we believe that this plan has the potential to move our district toward greater quality, equity, and stability. There is no doubt that the road the Citywide Plan lays out will be difficult. But when it is realized, this plan will bring meaningful change in the lives of Oakland’s students, families, and school communities.

2nd BIG THING: OUSD’s 3rd Budget Update and Revision of 18-19 (item #19-0158)

This will be the third time this year the OUSD staff presents a budget update to the school board and community. This is an increased effort from previous years to help monitor OUSD’s revenue, expenses and bottom line.

Since the last budget update to the board, dated 10/31/19, some updates include:

  • A slight increase in OUSD’s reserve from 2.25% to 2.56%
  • An enrollment decrease of 240 students, resulting in a decrease of $1,736,700 in LCFF funding
  • ​No new information on the district’s multi-year projections, such as the latest figures for the district’s projected structural deficit.​

GO’s Perspective
GO applauds the OUSD staff for providing regular updates on the state of the district’s budget at a time when they are exploring making $20-$30 million in budget cuts. This is a clear step towards improved budget accounting and in building trust with the community.

For Oaklanders who are not experienced in the budgeting process, this presentation and others preceding it do not provide a clear explanation of the district’s decisions. We would hope that updates like this and the 2nd interim budget report coming this March would include the following:

  • Highlight multi-year projections. Any budget update should help the community understand what is potential good or bad news and overall implications for our long term bottom line.
  • Explain the implications for our projected structural deficit. OUSD should break down exactly what the structural deficit and the root cause of the problem are for the community to be able to make sense of the problem and potential solutions.
  • Remove any jargon. The executive summary references audits, increases and decreases to different funds without a glossary or explanation. To leverage the presentation as a communications opportunity, the language must be broken down to help the community understand what is happening and why.

3rd BIG THING: “Opportunity Ticket”- OUSD enrollment policy for students of closed schools (item #18-2725)

“The Opportunity Ticket” looks to change OUSD’s enrollment policy to prioritize students of closing schools. The policy states: “Previously, prioritization in the enrollment process was limited to siblings and neighborhood residents. There was an absence in prioritization for families impacted by closing schools and schools where families will need to move to a new location. The Opportunity Ticket gives these families will be granted enrollment priority in selecting a new school that they deem suitable for their children.”

A thorough look at the entire policy and proposed revisions can be found here.

GO’s Perspective
We know that school closures and consolidations can cause trauma and pain for entire school communities. GO believes it is important that OUSD prioritize access to quality schools for students coming from closing schools. According to aStanford CREDO study in 2017, the quality of the school a student ends up in after a closure has a significant impact on their academic outcomes. This policy will help ensure that students are actually placed in better schools.

To learn more about the community advocacy in favor of the opportunity ticket, get to know the parents of The Oakland Reach.

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