Board Watch: April 10

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

  1. A proposal that puts OUSD’s finances in jeopardy – A reserve is a district’s financial safety net – what happens if that net disappears?
  2. Long term plans seek long term stability for Oakland students  – The Citywide Plan explores how OUSD facilities can best serve district and charter students.
  3. Get to know OUSD’s 7-11 Committee – A new committee with a familiar name is responsible for exploring OUSD’s approach to handling their surplus property.

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

1st BIG THING: A concerning proposal that puts OUSD’s finances in jeopardy (item #19-0643)

Best practice says that a district reserve (it’s “rainy day fund”) should be above 10% and this new proposal takes OUSD in the wrong direction. Last month, the school board made difficult budget reductions in part to increase their reserve to 3%. This proposal looks to slide the reserve back to 2.5%.

GO’s Perspective

Reducing the reserve is playing with fire, and OUSD has been burned by this practice before. If OUSD had a 10% reserve, the district could have completely avoided the mid-year budget cuts to schools that have happened more than once in the last five years. A healthy reserve provides room for error without entering the entire system into the crisis mode of unexpected lay-offs, school site budget reductions, and staff furlough days.

OUSD is currently transitioning out their Chief Business Officer and about to receive “intensive fiscal support” from the Alameda County Office of Education. These are not the signs of a fiscally healthy district; reducing the reserve is a risky practice that threatens the fiscal stability of the district.

2nd BIG THING: Long term plans seek long term stability for Oakland students (item # 18-2570)

Oakland’s district and charter schools co-exist, but to date, there has not been one overarching plan that provides clear intention for how the two systems will partner to best serve all students. Last month the school board made a historic decision to approve the Superintendent’s Citywide Community of Schools Plan – which includes an examination of the district providing long term leases to charters schools that align with the Superintendent’s Citywide Plan.

GO’s Perspective

Demonstrating a commitment to serving all Oakland public school students is a good thing. OUSD’s assets management policy outlines the district’s commitment to safe and stable learning environments for all students in both district and charter public schools.

Board Policy 7350, Facilities, Physical Assets Management, pg 1.

Establishing long term leases for Oakland charter schools is one strategy the district can use to leverage their assets in a student and family-centered manner. OUSD is establishing criteria for which schools would qualify by giving priority to schools that align with the Citywide Plan and that are providing excellent service to Oakland’s historically underserved students. OUSD is doubling down on the idea that long term stability, partnership, and continuous improvement are the way forward for all of our public schools.

3rd BIG THING: Get to know OUSD’s 7-11 Committee (item 19-0488)

The 7-11 committee will serve in an advisory role and with guidance from existing Board Policy 7350 on Asset Management which indicates a preference for long term lease over a sale. OUSD owns a significant amount of property in Oakland and the committee will be asked to, “best leverage vacant, underutilized and surplus properties and utilize facility use agreements to strategically engage all Oakland public schools.”

This list of recommended members of the committee will be discussed and voted for approval at the board meeting. For background information on nominated members and a full list of applicants click here.

GO’s Perspective

OUSD’s property offers a tremendous opportunity for the district to address current revenue challenges and to align their decisions with the Citywide Plan. Leveraging assets to address current challenges and opportunities will be the central theme of this committee’s work. It is equally important that any decisions made to address OUSD’s current reality also take into consideration the long-term impact on all children in our city for years to come.

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