Families, teachers speak out at Oakland school board meeting

On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, parents, students, teachers, and community members protested at the Oakland Unified School District school board meeting held at La Escuelita. 

Teachers criticized the board for school closures that harm Oakland children.

“Achieving OUSD mission is not just a question of money, actions taken by the district in recent years have undercut our commitment to equity,” president of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) Keith Brown said. “I’m talking about school closures that purposely harm black and brown students.”

Mr. Brown also said that OUSD is not respecting their agreement of hiring more psychologists, speech therapists, support staff and regarding their health care. In March, after a seven-day strike, teachers approved a four-year agreement with the district that included class size reduction, expanding support services to students, and a living wage. 

 “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do,” Brown said.

Next, a parent approached the podium and as she started talking, acting school board President Jody London told her she could not speak because the board was on another agenda item. Organizers with the Black Organizing Project joined her and the rest of the public chanted, “Let her speak!” multiple times. The parent continued her speech, but the microphone was turned off.

“Pay attention to what people are asking, please take the police out of our school,” a member of BOP said. The group has been working to remove police from OUSD schools for close to a decade.

The public continued to speak during public comment. London repeatedly replied, “This is not the agenda item.”

Protesters turned their backs on the OUSD Board, joining the “People’s Board” at the back of La Escuelita Great room, on Nov. 13, 2019. (Photo by Yadira Cervantes)

Community members expressed pain and distrust with the school board. One person said, “At Elmhurst United, we are doing our best to heal from the disappointment and sense of loss that we have inherited from these disaster policies of yours.” Another said, “you have eliminated public access and public comment from your meetings, which is illegal.”

During a board recess, many community members expressed concerns about privatization, school closures, and public access to meetings. 

  • “Out for the privatized school Board” 
  • “The blueprint process puts our communities against each other
  • “put students first” 
  • “eliminate the Oakland police department by 2020”
  • “Was there any money saved by Closing or emerging our schools?”

During the October 23 meeting, Oakland Schools police arrested six people. including Saru Jayaraman, who said four officers dragged her to the floor, injured her knee, meniscus and ligaments. The injuries required surgery and she will be incapacitated for nine months.  

After Ms. Jayamaran’s speech, all attendees turned their backs on the board and joined the “People’s Board” at the back of the room. While turning their back, the audience chanted “No School Closures” “Oakland is not for Sale”. The Board left the Great Room of La Escuelita. 

The school board continued to meet upstairs, but members of the public and most media could not access the meeting. The meeting was only accessible through the OUSD website. 

The “People’s Board”, a group of OUSD students, replaced the Board members at the dais.

Standing by a closed door, to the left of the dais, Mrs. Saru questioned OUSD public information officer John Sasaki, “You told everyone that no parent asked for care, when you took me to the emergency room. Why did you lie?” John Sasaki listened but did not respond. 

Before the meeting, Superintendent Johnson-Trammell said, “We will be launching an inquiry by an independent third party into the response by the police and safety officers to the protest on October 23rd.”

The meeting began with the Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell’s report, honoring Shamonica Clark and Juan Ramires for their leadership and service. 

Chanting “No School Closures” and “Oakland is Not for Sale”, members of the Oakland community turned their backs on the OUSD School Board. Nov. 13, 2019. (Photo by Yadira Cervantes)

The school board consists of eight elected community members and two student directors: Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, president Aimee Sueko Eng, vice president Jody London, Director Gary Lee Yee, director Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Director Roseann Torres, Director Shanthi Gonzales, Director James Harris, student directors Denilson Garibo and Mica Smith-Dahl.

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