Board Watch: May 22, 2019

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

  1. What is the state of OUSD’s finances?  – a look at the 3rd interim budget report 
  2. OUSD’s central office is getting a re-design  a look at the approach and goals for the district’s central office 
  3. OUSD pays millions in rent for their downtown offices; a look at other options – the district explores options for relocating their central offices 

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

1st BIG THING: What is the state of OUSD’s finances? (item # 19-0994)

OUSD manages a budget of over $600 million and three times a year they do official “interim” reports that look at how much money has come into the district and how much money the district is spending. These reports also look at future year “projected” revenue and spending to help the district plan for their financial future.

By the numbers, things look relatively stable with OUSD’s budget – revenue expenses dropped slightly, and the reserve (the important “rainy day fund” to ensure stability) dropped slightly from 2.75% to 2.70%.

GO’s Perspective

The numbers looked relatively stable, and for a district that has had wild swings in what they expect to spend and what they actually spend – this stability is great news. The bigger concerns at this point are that OUSD is ending this school year, once again, without a Chief Business Office or a Chief Financial Officer.

While any potential negative impacts of these vacancies are not immediately clear, this third interim report was less specific and transparent than previous reports. This report fails to mention the district’s current and projected reserve levels, as well as separate the district finances into restricted and unrestricted.

As OUSD navigates staff transitions and intensive support from Alameda County, it is critical that they engage the community with increased transparency, not less.

2nd BIG THING: OUSD’s central office is getting a re-design (item #19-0727)

The central office redesign is happening because of ~$17M in central office budget cuts for next year, efforts to align the organization with the Superintendent’s Citywide Plan and the need to improve central office’s work in service of schools and students. The current draft of the work defines the central office’s work into four areas: Academics, Operations, Fiscal and District Strategy.

This slide is from the District’s Central Office Redesign Presentation (5/22/19)

GO’s Perspective

It is very promising to see that the Superintendent’s Citywide Plan is serving as a key driver in the consideration for what the central office needs to be in order to serve all Oakland students. It is less clear if the redesign addresses the management model the district will adopt. Will OUSD’s central office operate in a top-down management structure focused on school compliance? Or will the central office cede that power to school sites and work in service of site-based innovation and autonomy through the local control of parents, teachers, and principals? A successful redesign will explicitly answer this question and continue to ground the work in the strategic work of the  Citywide Plan.

3rd BIG THING: OUSD pays millions in rent for their downtown offices; a look at other options (item# 19-0901)

In 2013, OUSD’s central administration building at 1025 2nd Avenue was flooded out and today, more than six years later, the district is still trying to figure out the plans for a permanent central office location. (Click here for the full history)

OUSD staff is recommending a multi-year transition of the district central office to 1011 Union Street, the former site of Cole School in West Oakland. Staff’s assessment includes pros and cons to various options and an acknowledgment that during the transition, the cost to stay in their downtown offices will cost OUSD about $3 million a year.

This slide is from the District Central Administration Housing Presentation (5/22/19)

GO’s Perspective

OUSD is one of the largest landowners in Oakland and spending over $3 million annually in rent for their central office has been an unacceptable expense given that this money could go to pay for more strategic things like compensation for our teachers and ensuring adequate materials exist in classrooms. It is critical that the district make a decision and move forward with a plan that reduces this unnecessary annual expenditure and ensures housing for central offices that will become a new go-to landmark in Oakland.

Join the conversation about this school board meeting on Twitter using the hashtag #oaksbmtg.

Thanks for reading and please let me know how I can keep improving GO’s Board Watch to make it a must-read for you every two weeks.

PRIVACY POLICY site design by twiststudio