Board Watch: June 19, 2019

The two big things on the agenda for this week’s Special Oakland School Board are:

  1. OUSD explores how to improve their approach in school re-configuration
  2. After a year of big cuts, OUSD’s financial future is still uncertain

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

1st BIG THING: OUSD explores how to improve their approach in school re-configuration (item #19-448)

The Blueprint for Quality Schools (OUSD’s initiative to meet the changing facility, program and educational needs of the district, including school mergers and closures) has completed the first cohort of schools (page 10) as part of the Community of Schools Citywide Plan.

OUSD outlined areas that need improvement for the next cohort including:

  • Providing counseling and emotional support for impacted students
  • Providing opportunities for site leaders to collaborate and support one another
  • Aligning central office departments to support Blueprint work
  • Needing more accurate cost analysis for the school closures and mergers

As a part of the process of evaluating the Blueprint process thus far, the Blueprint Ad Hoc committee has outlined four areas in need of revision as future cohorts move through this process. These areas include:​

  1. Work Plan phases – added a pre-selection phase to address general community education and a post-implementation phase to evaluate schools’ progress.
  2. Data used for selecting schools – now includes considerations of the California data dashboard and CORE growth data, collecting “lived experience” data through interviews and/or observations at school sites, and considering “environmental stress factors” related to students’ safety and mental health needs.
  3. Guiding principles – language has been added to explicitly include the intent to protect and expand high quality schools.  
  4. Engagement –  language has been added to explicitly include community engagement (in addition to central office data reviews) to inform any school changes in the district.

GO’s Perspective

The Blueprint Ad Hoc Committee has clearly helped district leaders add more transparency and community engagement to the process, these are two values that are core to 1Oakland and have been lifted up time and time again by the broader community.

The selection criteria for Blueprint cohorts have previously been confusing, and we believe that making the “guiding questions” for data considerations public is one clear step towards transparency. Additionally, the new pre-selection and post-implementation work plan phases and added consideration of “lived experience data” embed learning from school communities into the Blueprint process and show a clear shift towards valuing community engagement and leadership.

In the presentation on what they’ve learned through Blueprint Cohort 1, it states that OUSD needs to better understand the costs of the work required to effectively make these mergers, closures, and expansions successful. We agree with this and urge the district’s financial office to make this work a priority and present sound data when the board is asked to vote on which schools will take part in Blueprint Cohort 2 in August.

2nd BIG THING: After a year of big cuts, OUSD’s financial future is still uncertain(item#19-1242)

Every year, the Oakland School Board must formally adopt the budget for the upcoming school year. OUSD staff will be presenting their 2019-2020 budget for adoption that includes:

  • $567,633,550* in revenue and  
  • $567,142,331* in expenditures  

Based on the district’s multi-year projections of their budget, this budget means the district will slowly deplete their reserve (aka rainy day fund). This will lead to over $20 million in more cuts in the next few years which will be required to avoid bankruptcy and state takeover.

*All numbers cited are taken from OUSD’s Board Presentation but they do not completely match up with the State Accounting Forms (SACs) report, we hope this discrepancy is cleared up by district staff or the board at the meeting.

GO’s Perspective

Big picture, there are more cuts looming in OUSD’s future. The district is projecting to overspend by $7M in 20-21, and $17M in 21-22.

GO’s budget advocacy continues to demand that the school district:

  • Keep cuts as far away from students as possible
  • Redesign the central office, by engaging in transparent trade-off conversations about what the district may need to cut and how those decisions will be made
  • Implement “Smarter Spending” national best practices to reduce wasteful spending and ensure that every dollar is maximizing impact for students

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

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