On Friday, April 29, the Oakland Education Association held a one-day strike to protest the Oakland Unified School District’s lack of an engagement process prior to deciding to permanently close eight schools and truncate two others over the next two years.
The day was filled with picket lines at schools throughout the district, followed by rallies at Lake Merritt, Frank Ogawa Plaza, and in front of OUSD headquarters. Afterwards, activists also picketed at the Port of Oakland and shut it down as well.
Over the past month, rank and file Oakland educators have teamed up with longshore workers from ILWU Local 10 and other labor and community allies to create a coalition called Schools and Labor Against Privatization. The coalition started when longshore workers wanted to show solidarity with OUSD teachers over the issue of school closures, and has quickly grown through in-person meetings and on zoom. Longshore workers are organizing against the baseball stadium and luxury condo development plans at the Port of Oakland, and they highlight the connection between their anti-privatization struggle and the teachers’ struggle against the privatization of public schools.
Oakland Voices spoke with people on the picket lines at the schools targeted for closure and at the rallies.
Tiffany McDermott, Brookfield Elementary School Parent
“I think they need to leave this school alone.”
Corrin Haskell, Brookfield Elementary School Teacher
“We’re tired of it. They use our school to show off when we’re doing all the good work that we’re doing here. The media comes out, the mayor comes out, ‘Brookfield is doing all this great work, but we’re still going to close it.’ It’s been going on for years now, and I’m tired of it. So we’re out here to kind of push back on that, get the community support, and do what we gotta do to save our school.”
Azlinah Tambu, Parker Elementary School Parent
“I’m very hurt, and my children are very hurt by the school closures and being displaced by OUSD, being expected to walk to welcoming schools over 25 blocks away. Me, our teachers, our community members, and our laborers of Oakland have stood up together to say that we are keeping this campus, and OUSD will not come into our neighborhoods and close our schools.”
Elisabeth Bailey Barnett, Community Day Teacher
“I’ve been working for OUSD in different roles for about 11 or 12 years, and I’ve learned along the way that this is a constant thing, shutting down schools. I’ve met teachers who have had their own school shut down three times, and relocated, and then that school got shut down, then the next one, and that school got shut down, and they’re all…the majority of them are operating now under a different name, under a charter. So it’s like, you’re going to siphon students out to charters, get our schools under-enrolled, and then use that as an excuse to further shut down schools and give the property to charters? Something’s got to give.”
Coriander Melious, Kristen Zimmerman, Graham Harper, Alan Pursell, Jonah Zimmerman-Bloch, Community Advisory Committee for Special Education members
“We call on the leaders of the School Board, County, and State to immediately rescind the planned closure of schools in OUSD to prevent irreparable damage to disabled students, Black students, and other students of color. In doing so, they will protect school communities with a demonstrated history of embracing and supporting the most vulnerable of disabled students in OUSD.” – from their petition for OUSD School Board to protect dis/abled students by rescinding school closures
Max Orozco, La Escuelita Parent
“We’re out here fighting to keep all these schools open. Personally, I’m also fighting for La Escuelita middle school. It’s been marked for closure. So we want to keep La Escuelita K-8 open.”
Jack Heyman, ILWU Local 10 Retiree
“The longshore union is mobilizing to support the Oakland teachers. We have a common struggle against capitalist privatization. They’re trying to close the schools and privatize them with charter schools, and John Fisher, the owner of the Gap, is trying to privatize the port by building an A’s stadium in the port. So the two unions came together, bonded by our common fight against privatization.”
Brandon Dawkins, SEIU 1021, Oakland Parent
“We’re calling b.s. on these school closures because Oakland Unified is in the best financial situation that they’ve ever been in in quite a while, so there’s no reason financially for them to close any of these schools. So that’s why we’re here.”
Benny Rosales, ILWU Local 10
“The teachers are the most important, along with mothers. Teachers are the nurturers. They nurture the children. They share so much. Their contributions are great. It’s just capitalism, man. Capitalism. You know, the people with all the dough, they need more dough. They’re clueless to the importance of all the people, starting with all the children.”