Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year. A new school year means the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education will be meeting regularly again (approximately every two weeks). Our School Board Watch program provides an analysis of the most important items the board will be discussing, along with our perspective on why it matters.
The big items on this week’s agenda are: the 2019-20 Superintendent and Board Work Plans.
For more, click here for the full agenda.
Every year, the Board of Education develops and adopts a strategic work plan to identify priorities for the school year. This year, the Superintendent Work Plan and Board Work Plan align in order to build greater district coherence and to focus their attention on fewer priorities. The draft plans prioritize the following four areas:
- Quality Community Schools: The district aims to have quality schools where every student graduates prepared for college, career, and community success. This year they will primarily focus on student achievement for Latinos, African Americans, the Unhoused, English Language Learners and improving outcomes for students with disabilities. Some strategies include:
- defining a single measure for a Quality School to guide important decisions,
- increasing student engagement,
- and providing specific professional learning for on-site and central office staff on serving diverse learners.
- Fiscal Vitality: Given the district’s financial challenges, they are focusing on ensuring long-term financial sustainability by prioritizing the most impactful resources and services for students with the greatest needs by:
- implementing nationwide school district budgeting best practices that allow for smarter spending (GFOA),
- incorporating systems that increase the accuracy and timeliness of transactions and reporting,
- and completing the Facilities Masterplan to figure out how to best use their properties.
- Organizational Wellness: The district is also prioritizing an organizational culture of equity, care, support, and accountability for central office, school site employees, and board governance. Key strategies include:
- Creating departmental explainers that include the goals and budget of each department to improve transparency,
- creating an employee retention strategy,
- and forming an ad hoc Board governance team to increase board effectiveness and accountability.
Note: The goals listed under this area differ between the Superintendent and Board work plans. The board will further discuss this area at the August 20th Special Meeting on the Grand Jury Report.
- Community of Schools Citywide Plan: This 5-year plan integrates the three areas listed above and aims to ensure there is high quality, sustainable school options with the types of programs our families want in every Oakland neighborhood. Focus areas include:
- the Blueprint for Quality Schools Plan
- updating the Enrollment Policy to support equitable access to quality schools in neighborhood feeder patterns,
- fostering continued innovation within OUSD schools to increase the opportunities for school sites to make decisions about improving outcomes for students,
- developing a plan to best use their current facilities,
- and strengthening the district’s role in accountability of district-authorized charter schools.
It is very promising to see that the Superintendent’s Citywide Plan is serving as a key driver to ensure quality schools for all students, fiscal vitality, and organizational wellness. We are happy to see the board adopt many of the strategies that the GO community has been advocating for through our 1Oakland and Budgeting For Impact campaigns. It is encouraging to see a priority for the district will be approving a shared definition of school quality as the foundation of the work of the Citywide Plan, which will be used to guide fair decisions around charter renewals and long term leases, district school site autonomies, and expanding, merging, or closing schools.
It will be critical to continue to hold the board accountable to keep our community informed on the decision-making processes that will be driven by this definition. We also hope to see efforts to increase community empowerment and engagement as big decisions are being made, whether it’s community meetings around Blueprint Cohort selections, or forming committees that inform how they best use surplus property. We are excited to see that the district is increasing financial transparency by creating departmental budget summaries that will allow the community to be better informed. We will continue to advocate and monitor the implementation of key nationwide budgeting best practices that allow for smarter spending.
While this plan is a promising direction of the work that needs to happen, we hope that they these goals and strategies are executed equitably while keeping every Oakland student at the center. Stay the course and follow through. Our community will lose trust and hope in this bold plan if they don’t see results.
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.
Would love to see you in August at our Back to School Party on August 29th! RSVP here if you can make it.