OCO Letter to OUSD Board re. Superintendent Search
Dear Oakland Unified School Board President James Harris, Vice President Nina Senn, and Board of Directors Jody London, Aimee Eng, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Roseann Torres, and Shanthi Gonzales:
Oakland is facing a fork in the road as it relates to the hiring of a new superintendent. Like the winding and dangerous Biblical road to Damascus, the journey is fraught with perils, challenges, and past failures, but also with tremendous hope and opportunity.
As a multi-faith, multi-racial, and multi-cultural organization, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) is deeply committed to dismantling structural racism in all arenas, including in our educational institutions. Our values lead us to organize and advocate in our schools, congregations, and across the city to ensure that every student receives the necessary resources and supports to realize their full potential - to be successful as lifelong learners in college, career, and community life. We know we share this vision with each of you, our committed partners in this journey.
As you search for our next district leader, we encourage you to look close to home first and uncover the talent that lies in our midst. Oakland needs a superintendent who is both a strong administrator and a collaborative leader. We need a superintendent with a long-term commitment to Oakland students, families, and educators.
Oakland has seen 8 leaders in the past 16 years. The revolving door of superintendents makes it almost impossible to build relational trust and an organizational culture to effectively inform what to prioritize, how to align resources, and to galvanize a schools-district team to implement strategic plans that lead to student success. We need someone with a long-term commitment, understanding, and belief in our community so we can hold ourselves accountable to our shared vision as a community-schools district with meaningful student, family and community partnerships, and an equitable distribution of resources.
We need a superintendent with a strong record of effectively managing resources and a process that includes and prioritizes those closest to students in schools (parents and caregivers, teachers, staff, students, principals, and community) in decisions related to programs and resources. We also need a leader who can support the crucial role central office partners play in creating effective budgetary and communications systems, leveraging shared learning opportunities, and supporting continuous improvement across our district.
In our discussions with school, community, and congregational leaders from across Oakland, several themes emerged, which we have divided into four categories:
1. We need a superintendent who shares the ideals and values of those at school sites, someone who prioritizes decision-making by school communities who are closest to students.
2. In a district as diverse and with as much inequity as Oakland, we need a superintendent who puts equity at the top of his or her agenda.
3. And, we need a superintendent who values honesty and transparency in district decision-making, especially in the budgeting process and in labor relations with district employees.
1. We have enough expertise and strong leadership here in Oakland to find a new excellent superintendent from among those with deep roots and experience in our diverse community. We encourage you to select someone who understands Oakland’s political history and context, including our unique history of success with small autonomous schools and the vital role played by local community organizations and unions that represent our valued employees.
2. Our new superintendent must also have experience effectively managing a large organization, engaging directly in our diverse schools and community with multiple racial and ethnic groups, and transforming schools that serve low-income students of color.
1. We need a superintendent who has demonstrated the ability to effectively, responsibly, and transparently manage a budget.
2. We also need a candidate who can use data as a tool to identify and remediate gaps in academic performance and social-emotional well-being, to improve student performance and eliminate disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, language, and economic background.
3. And, we need a leader who will ensure that budget, and school and district data are presented in a way that is clear, accessible, and in multiple languages so families, students and the public can understand it, and use it to support organizing to improve student outcomes.
1. We know that new superintendents often like to bring their people along with them, but we need a leader who will reduce layers of bureaucracy at the central office and prioritize resources for the school sites, as well as for our teachers and school staff to improve hiring and retention.
2. OUSD has a Strategic Plan for Community Schools, so our new superintendent should be aligned with implementing that plan, rather than needing to take time to develop and get buy-in on a new plan.
3. If our superintendent truly values equity, then he or she should have a vision for prioritizing transformation of schools, especially those in the flatlands and other schools serving high numbers of students with the greatest needs.
4. Finally, our superintendent must ensure that the District is accountable to Oakland voters and implement the goals and vision of Measure N and Linked Learning, as well as the more recently approved Measure G1.
In addition to the criteria above, the OCO Board of Directors and Education for Liberation Committee leaders from across Oakland feel strongly that the community needs to have a voice in the process of selecting the next superintendent of OUSD. For this reason, we ask the OUSD Board to:
1. Release the number of applicants and the states and districts where they currently work;
2. Hold a community forum with the 2-3 finalists;
3. Allow the public to submit questions before the forum; to fill out a short survey following it to gather feedback; and use this information to inform the final decision.
Oakland Community Organizations
Mireya Chavarria, OCO Board Co-Chair
Reverend Dr. George Cummings, OCO Board Co-Chair
Luz Alcaraz, OCO Board Director
Carlos Castro, OCO Board Director
Sam Davis, OCO Board Secretary
Pastor Jim Hopkins, OCO Clergy
Dr. Ida Oberman, OCO Board Director
OCO Education for Liberation Committee