An Exciting Time for Enrollment in Oakland Public Schools

Enrollment can be a unsettling time for public school families here in Oakland. Part of the problem – perhaps the biggest part — is lack of quality options. Parents and guardians worry that their child won’t get into a school that would be a great fit for their needs. In the spring, the notifications often raise more questions. The whole process is a time-consuming and costly effort: hours of online research, time off to attend school tours, spreadsheets to keep track of options and deadlines. It can be a virtually impossible task for the many families in our city, especially those without English language proficiency, internet access, flexibility, transportation, and time.

Fortunately, this year will be better for families. Oakland public schools have begun to modernize the enrollment process to make it more accessible, transparent, and equitable. Here are some highlights:

  • OUSD Enrollment Online: OUSD has a significantly improved enrollment website with more information and a way to apply online to district-run schools this year. Check it out: ousd.org/enroll. There are also “Options Fairs” (the two remaining will happen early next year) where families can get a free computer!
  • Enroll Oakland Charters: Oakland’s charter schools have banded together to create a single application process, virtually eliminating the different deadlines and applications which were so confusing. Almost all the charters are part of this single application. Here’s the link: http://enrolloak.org.
  • School Finder Online: This new online tool has lots of useful information about both district and charter public schools so families can more easily find the schools that meet their children’s needs. The online application tools for District and charter schools are both integrated with it. (And I’m very proud to say Educate78 provided funding to help get this tool created.)
  • Oakland School Performance Framework: The “Oakland SPF” is a truly remarkable new source of useful, comprehensive, and comparable data on OUSD schools. It’s helpful for families (and for leaders trying to improve schools). Kudos to the OUSD team – they’ve created one of the best school quality frameworks in the country. Educate78 is working to make sure charters join next year as part of the Equity Pledge work we are supporting.

Families still have time to research and apply: the first deadline is January 20. For a good overview with all of the dates, GO Public Schools has put together this handy graphic. Please help us share out this information to EVERY parent, guardian, and educator in Oakland. Information is power!

Even with these new tools, however, we must remember that what’s really needed is more good schools for families to choose from. We’ve been pleased to see that that schools across Oakland are headed in the right direction with many schools “On the Rise,” some hidden gems, and a couple of high schools winning external recognition for closing the achievement gap. With our School Design Lab work, we are trying to do our part to accelerate the process. We also hope to continue supporting more improvements to Oakland public school enrollment going forward.

Good luck with your research and thanks again for spreading the word about this exciting time for Oakland public school enrollment!

Post-Election Reflections from Inside Oakland Public Education

No matter who is elected President, life in Oakland is not a reality show, especially when it comes to our public schools.

Our reality is that every day our system is failing thousands of children. Our reality is that resources are scarce and the list of needs is long. Our reality is that we have incredibly talented people – across the city – who work together every day on behalf of all students.

It’s times like this when I especially appreciate being part of our vibrant Oakland public education ecosystem, with so many like-minded souls. Since the election, when I’ve asked, “How are you doing, really?” people know exactly what I mean. In the hugs, tears, and conversations that have ensued, I have found inspiration and motivation from the wisdom of our community:

Deep love for our children. Every educator I’ve met has stories of children bursting into tears, worrying about themselves or a loved one being deported, or simply being genuinely confused about what the election says about classroom lessons on compassion and respect. I’ve seen or heard about teachers and school leaders across this city demonstrating incredible thoughtfulness and purpose, finding ways (in and out of the classroom) to show students they are cared for and protected. Our students protested peacefully, our Superintendent shared useful resources to support educators in talking to their students about the election, and teachers have been reaching out to families. The conversations have only begun, and we must foster these fertile discussions.

Empathy and selflessness in community. Around the city, I’ve seen countless individuals set aside their own emotions about the election to attend to the needs of others. Managers have jettisoned time-sensitive agendas to provide space for employees to reflect, and people have nurtured their colleagues and friends with hugs, humor, and food. The day after the election, here at the Impact Hub (the co-working space where Educate78 is based), the founders spontaneously organized a community conversation that culminated in each person talking with someone they didn’t already know to ask, “What do you need and how can I help?” In emails and on social media, I’ve even seen posts from Clinton supporters urging empathy with Trump supporters who voted the way they did because they have felt misunderstood, marginalized, and disenfranchised. It’s a good reminder to those of us working for more opportunity in urban areas: there are people who have been left behind in our society all over the country in places that look very different than here.

Fierce determination and persistence. Many of my conversations with our elders, especially people of color who were active through the Civil Rights era, have been grounding. They have reminded me of our country’s history: progress followed by set-backs, forward movement followed by backlash (or “Whitelash” as Van Jones so eloquently put it), decisions to increase equity followed by injustice. They reinforced that over the long run, our country has grown into a better place for all racial, religious, and ethnic groups. They also reminded me of what it takes to ensure continued progress: all of us need to advocate for our principles, for greater justice and equity for all.  A friend reported that none other than Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can take a moment for tears, but then go get some rest and get back up in the morning and keep fighting for the children.” I heard versions of this from other elders in our community, and am inspired by their steely determination, continued commitment, and willingness to walk the talk their entire lives.

Optimism about local progress. Here in Oakland, we are also fortunate to have plenty of state and local wins to be grateful for: voters approved money for schools (CA Prop 51 and Prop 55, Oakland Measure G1) and reversed the ban on bilingual education. We elected a new state senator for our region, Nancy Skinner, a proven progressive with whom I look forward to working. The three Oakland housing affordability measures our Teacher Advisory Group members wrote about last week all passed with over 70% of the vote! We taxed sugary beverages; our kids’ teeth and overall health will benefit. And we re-elected the school board leaders that have been working towards a shared vision of quality education across Oakland’s 78 square miles.

Many of these local races were heated, I know, and it’s healthy that we don’t agree on everything here in Oakland; but overall this election was a reminder that we have much more in common than not: a shared commitment to move towards a more just community where all persons – regardless of zip code, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or disability – are treated with dignity and respect.

Whatever happens nationally, we are determined to continue to act locally: to support our educators, embrace our families, engage in respectful debate, and work together to ensure that every child in Oakland has access to a great public education. Our future depends on it.

Heroes Profile- Carmelita Reyes

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

I believe I have an obligation to provide access to education for the students of Oakland.

Carmelita Reyes

Co-Principal, Oakland International High School

Did you grow up in Oakland?

If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I came to Oakland because of the small school movement in 2001. I wanted to participate in creating new schools that would better serve urban students in Oakland Unified School District.

What is your connection to Oakland Education? How would you describe your role in the community?

I’ve worked in Oakland for 15 years. In 2007, I opened Oakland International High School which serves 400 newly arrived immigrants and refugees who are learning English. Our goal was to create a school that supported both the academic and social emotional needs of this vulnerable community. More recently, I’ve served on a lot of committees and forums in an effort to improve systems and conditions for students, teachers, and principals districtwide.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

My favorite aspect of my job is seeing transformation in kids. The most satisfying student to see graduate each year is inevitably the one who gave me the most grief in 9th and 10th grades. It is usually a boy who used to be pissy with teachers, opt out of doing his work, get into fights, and on occasion call me a four letter word. However, overtime the school pushes, prods, supports, and encourages him. At some point when no one is looking he comes to school one day acting like a civilized human being — participating, helping, and lecturing the younger kids on how to pull themselves together. I love that kid.

Share a highlight from your career.

I’ve been extremely fortunate working in OUSD. I’ve had the unique opportunity to help open two schools, Life Academy as a teacher and Oakland International High School as a principal.

 What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

My father is 87 years old. When he was growing up in Texas, schools were segregated and Mexican schools were far inferior to those of Anglos. Most Latinos never graduated from high school. However, my father and his 13 siblings all graduated from high school and college. My six aunts became teachers. Education and access to college were transformative for my family. I benefitted from their struggles, and I believe I have an obligation to provide access to education for the students of Oakland.

What is your best advice to young people?

Learn to read well and broadly. Recognize and apologize for your mistakes. Marry the right person. Be good to your family.

What motivates you?

I like hard, interesting work.

What do you like to do in your free time?

What free time? I’m a principal with a kindergartner and a 3-year-old.

What do you love most about Oakland?

I was born in Texas, and think y’all is a terrifically useful word that the rest of the country should adopt. When I arrived in Oakland 15 years ago, my y’all, y’all’s, and all y’all’s greatly humored my students. Reciprocity being important…. They taught me a terrific Oakland word, hella. It can be used as an adjective, adverb and exclamation … it is a hella useful word.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

There are a lot of things that I wish we could fix for kids. If I could only pick two things to focus on, they would be reading and conflict mediation. If students can read, they are forever empowered. If they can regulate their emotions and mediate conflicts, they will have successful relationships with community members, employers, friends, and family.

60 Seconds with Carmelita Reyes

Know any Oakland HEROES?

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Heroes Profile- Darius Aikens

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

I work to actively secure fairness and justice without discrimination based on race – that is the world we aspire to live in.

Darius Aikens

Student Director for the Board of Education, Oakland Unified School District

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I lived in Oakland during my early years in life. At the age of 5 my family and I moved to Hayward, California. But, I’ve always had a connection to Oakland due to frequent visits to relatives. What brought me back to Oakland after nine years was a tragic moment in my life. My mother revealed that she could no longer take care of me, and I moved in with relatives.

What is your connection to Oakland Education?

How would you describe your role in the community?

I proudly serve as a Student Director for the Board of Education representing the voices of all of Oakland Unified School District’s amazing scholars. Additionally, I am actively involved in my community through the best organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In that capacity, I serve as the 2nd Vice President and Juvenile Justice Chair of the Youth Council advocating for the rights of my fellow African Americans. We work to actively secure fairness and justice without discrimination based on race–that is the world we aspire to live in.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

My favorite aspect is that students have entrusted me with the responsibility of representing them. I am a voice for the voiceless.

What do you love most about Oakland?

I love the potential that Oakland has and the doors that it has personally unlocked for me. This is the city where I found God. Because of God first and this city, I was introduced to a me that I didn’t know was inside of me. In short, this is the land of opportunity, and new beginnings.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love going to church, and reading my Bible or just spending time with friends.

What motivates you?

God.

What is your best advice to young people?

Don’t become weary or faint because of what you are going through. Everything that you endure is strengthening you, and preparing you for greatness. Be cautious of what you allow your spirit to be exposed to because everything influences you whether it’s music, television, people, a billboard, or whatever- it all has an impact on your life. Don’t let other people’s “No” stop you from God’s “Yes”. Stay encouraged!

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

This would be a community where everyone learns and is held to high expectations that will lead them to do nothing but succeed in life. Ultimately, schools would become schools again.

60 Seconds with HEROES Darius Aikens

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

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HEROES Profile- Hope Settle

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

“… always believe in yourself, never stop learning and study your history.”

Hope Settle

Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. The beauty of California, family and the need for a new and meaningful challenge brought me to Oakland.

 

 

 

 

What is your connection to Oakland Education? How would you describe your role in the community?

Currently, I am a 4/5 teacher at Berkley Maynard Academy. My role in the community is to help to inspire young people to find their own constructive path by realizing their inner strength and beauty.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

Building relationships with the kids and watching them take ownership of their learning with vigor are the favorite aspects of my job.

Share one or two highlights from your career, in which you believe you made an impact.

One highlight is when I was asked to help start a First Lego League Robotics team at a Title 1 school where I was teaching in Texas. The girls and boys that joined were exposed to team building activities, programming and engineering design. They signed an agreement to keep their grades at a passing rate as well as upholding the values outlined in our behavior contract. As part of this team, not only did they win in two categories two years in a row, they became the super stars on campus. By the end of the school year the members of the team had a stronger desire to learn, moved with purpose and treated themselves and others with respect.

Another highlight for me is when the Galveston Ballet gave 15 of the elementary students a scholarship to not only to learn the art of ballet, but also to perform in their yearly production of The Nutcracker at the Galveston Opera House. I provided the students with background information on the history of ballet and how major athletic teams incorporate ballet as part as their strength training program. The strength training aspect of ballet resonated with one of my relatively quiet and reserved male students.

Although some of the boys laughed at the idea, by being in a safe learning environment he felt comfortable stepping out of his comfort zone and expressing an interest in an activity not traditionally an option for male students of color. He wrote the required essay, filled out the application and was accepted. Throughout the two months of after school and Saturday practice, there were transportation and scheduling issues. With all of those obstacles he never gave up. He enthusiastically learned his choreography. The day of the performance, he got there just in time to get dressed before his showcase. He entered the stage with his head held high as if everything were normal. He was amazing!

After that experience not only did he talk about how ballet increased his endurance and flexibility to improve his skills in soccer and football, he displayed a new sense of confidence in his schoolwork and his social interactions with his classmates. The Galveston Ballet Company offered him a scholarship to return the following year.

What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

My mom was an amazing teacher. At the end of each school year, she taught summer school. Sometimes the assignment was in the inner city of Richmond, but sometimes it was in a rural county. I would go with here to assist in the classroom where I took note of her calm and loving demeanor with the kids. Regardless of race or socio-economic background, she treated all of the kids with the same level of respect and high expectations. Squabbles and frustrations in the classroom were not only quickly deescalated, they were handled in a way that they too became part of the learning process.

What do you love most about Oakland?

I love the diversity of the city. There are so many cultural activities to take advantage of, an abundance of multi-cultural restaurants and green spaces where I can explore with my dog, Barney.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I like to cook, explore the outdoors, take photographs, spend time with family, and read.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by a desire to expose children to a world they think is unattainable and to teach them the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their dreams and succeed in everything they put their heart into.

What is your best advice to young people?

My best advice to young people is to always believe in yourself, never stop learning and study your history.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

My vision of education everywhere is one where all children have equal access to a wealth of information via computers, books, guest speakers, science laboratories, and field trips. I would like to see Oakland offer students an incentive to graduate college with the promise to return to teach in their community for at least 3 years to increase a more diverse teaching staff.

60 Seconds with Hope Settle

 

 

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

Contact us!