Like many of you, we spent the Thanksgiving break reflecting on what we appreciate. Here are some of the people we must appreciate in Oakland public education – those who give us hope and inspire us.

 

#1: Inspirational Oakland Students

We appreciate the nearly 50,000 Oakland public school students across this amazingly diverse town. Lately we’ve been especially moved by stories like this one from a young woman who calls for a support system she can trust, this powerful poem from a student about the Oakland he knows, and this one about how a young scholar wants to learn not just memorize. These students are part of an initial cohort of a couple dozen Energy Convertor fellows who are using modern communications tools to voice their truth and keep us all focused on students.

 

 

#2: Powerful Oakland Parents

Parents are essential for the success of our students, schools, and the entire system. Groups like Oakland REACH, which is helping make the powerless parent powerful, hold us all accountable for making decisions that put students first. We celebrate all groups helping develop parent leadership, including long-standing groups like Oakland Community Organizations and yes, even ones we sometimes disagree with like OUSD Parents United, because we believe that healthy debate is critical for our democracy and that multiple perspectives can help us get to better solutions.

 

#3: Dedicated Oakland Teachers

Oakland public school teachers across our city bring their best every day. We appreciate them all for doing one of the most important jobs in the world. We offer a special shout out to those who are actively engaged in making our city a great place to teach – through our Teacher Advisory Group and Citywide teacher retention survey. We need to elevate, celebrate, and appreciate all who TeachOakland. (Thanks to the teachers and administration of OUSD’s Roosevelt Middle School, one of our #OakSDL grantees, for participating in this photo shoot, with photos by Oakland-based Tai Power Seeff.)

 

#4: Transformational Oakland School Leaders

Transformational Oakland school leaders like those who are participating in our Oakland School Design Lab are essential to creating a vibrant future for Oakland public education. We have to disrupt a system based on mid-19th century values and mid-20th century economics. To do so, we must transform our portfolio of schools into ones delivering student-centered education for the future.

 

#5: Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and her team

Kyla has arrived at an incredibly challenging time, inheriting nearly three decades of broken bureaucracy. She and the leaders around her – including the current school board – have the opportunity to fix things, finally. It won’t be easy – tough decisions have been kicked down the road for too long. Everyone will have to give a little to restore fiscal vitality to Oakland’s public education ecosystem. We especially appreciate her transparency through communications efforts like Connecting with Kyla.

 

#6: The Oakland Community

The Oakland community comes together to create and support so many amazing initiatives. Probably one of the best examples today is the Oakland Promise led by Mayor Libby Schaff to triple graduation rates over 10 years. We can’t let the promise be broken by systemic failure, so in the same way Oakland has come together for the Promise, we must unite to make the systemic improvements needed to deliver on the Promise.

 

#7: Everyone improving public school choice for Oakland families

Two years ago, to apply to Oakland district and charter public school options was a challenging paper-chase that disadvantaged low-income flatlands families the most. There were over 25 different applications and timelines, no online process, and few physical locations to get information. Now there is a one-stop-shop for families to explore and start applying to all Oakland public schools – EnrollOak.org. Explore all Oakland public school options using the Oakland School Finder, apply to 95% of charters with one application, and get connected to the District’s new and improved enrollment process for District schools. And the School Finder now includes the new Oakland Public School Report Card, with data on quality for every public school.

 

Every one of these is at the heart of a thriving Oakland public education ecosystem that serves all children well. What are you most thankful for this year in the world of Oakland public education?