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Black Legislator Under Fire for Legislation Capping Charter Schools



A fight is on and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) should be concerned, charter school leaders and advocates say.

About 6,000 supporters showed up at the state Capitol in Sacramento recently to rally against four pieces of unfriendly charter school legislation, one co-sponsored by McCarty. If passed, school choice advocates say the bills could curb the growth of charter schools in California. They also fear the proposals could begin the dismantling of the existing 1,323 taxpayer-funded independent schools in the state.

“There is a package of bills, that has been introduced by various Assemblymembers, including our own Kevin McCarty, also a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), which taken together amount to a ban on charter schools,” said Margaret Fortune, President and CEO of Fortune School. “We’re here to let the Legislature know we’re going to hold them accountable for standing up for all of our kids.”

McCarty, who is African American, represents California’s 7th Assembly District, which includes Sacramento. He currently serves as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance.

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) hosted the “Stand for All Students Rally” held on the grounds outside the Capitol. A number of speakers took to the stage to make their case against the charter school proposals and take aim at McCarty and the California Teachers Association (CTA) for sponsoring the bills.

“Stand up, fight back,” a crowd of Fortune charter school students walked the hallways and chanted outside of McCarty’s office in the Capitol, expressing their concerns about his intentions to modify the way charter schools work.

“Imposing a cap, not a moratorium, will be beneficial for communities,” McCarty defended the bills in a written response to CBM. “The current method has been unregulated for far too long, allowing charter schools to open without considering financial concerns. We should not have more charter schools than school districts in the state.”

McCarty’s critics say the lawmaker did not greet or speak with the protesting students on the day of the rally.  He later praised the students for being engaged but said he had a prior commitment.  Charter school advocates also point out that the McCarty never met with operators or supporters of charter schools to ask for their perspective before sponsoring the bills.

“They have to impact this building, They have to penetrate this building and make sure that the legislators in here know that they are not playing with them – that this is not a game,” said Steve Perry, an author and nationally known educator who founded his own charter school in Connecticut. “Let the legislators know that they want access to quality education, they want access to school choice or else they’re taking their jobs.”

Former State Sen. Gary Hart, a Democrat who represented Santa Barbara in both the Assembly and Senate, authored California’s Charter School bill. It passed in 1992.  He drafted it, partly, as an alternative to Prop. 174 which proposed giving all parents in California the option to use vouchers for tuition at private or church schools. Voters rejected that measure in the 1993 general election.

Today, about 660,000 students are enrolled in the state’s charter schools. That number represents about 10 percent of the total public school population. According to the CCSA, Charter schools in the state enroll a larger percentage of African-American students at  8 percent than district schools, which matriculate five percent.

The package of bills Fortune refers to and the ones CCSA opposes include AB 1506, which is sponsored by McCarty and Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach). The others are AB 1505, AB 1507 and AB 1508.

AB 1505, also authored by O’Donnell, would eliminate all charter appeals and allow school districts broad discretion to deny a new or renewing charter. AB 1507 prohibits any charter school site from being established outside of its authorizing district. AB 1508 intends to allow school districts the ability to deny new charter petitions based on the fiscal, academic reasons and even the facilities of new charter schools.

Officials from CCSA say the bills are “misleading, divisive, and premature.” CCSA’s President and CEO Myrna Castrejón suggests that legislation should be introduced to “benefit both sides,” public schools and charter schools.

“No matter where you are in this great state, when you talk to families, what they want is a great school,” Castrejón said. “In the end, we have to be willing to say that our schools that are delivering good results for our students, whether they are district operated or independent charter schools, they deserve support.”

McCarty insists the bills are not designed to shut down charter schools.

“The current method has been unregulated for far too long, allowing charter schools to open without considering financial concerns,” McCarty said in an email to CBM. “Our goal is not to shut down schools, but institute reforms to best serve all students.”

Getting ahead of the 4 bills, sponsored by the California Teachers Association, the CSSA is also sponsoring two bills aimed at achieving better results for Black students. The first is AB 575, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), and the other is Senate Bill 614 or SB 614, introduced by state Sen. Susan Rubio, (D-Baldwin Park).

AB 575 would increase funding and require greater accountability for the education of African-American students, specifically the lowest performers. SB 614, the Child Care and Development Act, would expand programs that offer services to students with disabilities.

Fortune says her network of schools in Sacramento were created to address and close the African-American achievement gap, referring to the well-documented racial disparity in academic performance between White and African-American children. The controversial 1966 Coleman report, mandated by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, first revealed the stark racially-based differences in the country’s education system.

“Schools that prepare kids for college starting in kindergarten would be shut down within two years,” she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is also keeping his eye on the future of public education in the state and his ears open to the ongoing conversations.  He recently passed a bill into law requiring more transparency and accountability in charter school operations. He also charged Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to lead an 11-member Charter Task Force to look into the details of charter schools financing.

CBM reached out to the California Teachers Association for comment on the bill package but they did not respond as of press time.


Trustees of Mills College Approve Merger with Northeastern University    

Mills College in Oakland is merging with Northeastern University following approval Tuesday by the Mills College board of trustees.



Mills College/Britannica

Mills College in Oakland is merging with Northeastern University following approval Tuesday by the Mills College board of trustees.

The merger is subject to regulatory and other approvals but is expected to be effective July 1 of next year. Mills College, once an all-women’s college, will then be gender-inclusive and known as Mills College at Northeastern University. 

The merger was prompted by financial troubles brought on by declining student enrollment, Mills College President Beth Hillman said. She said the merger provides excitement, relief, and a sense of hope for what’s going to come next. 

“This gives us short-term solutions, medium-term solutions and long-term solutions,” Hillman said of the merger. 

Faculty and staff will as a next step work together to develop the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate studies at Mills. Mills officials said the graduate and undergraduate programs will be relevant to employers and students.

Faculty and staff will also be collaborating on the development of a Mills Institute, which will promote women’s leadership and empower first-generation students, among others. 

College officials said until the merger is complete, Mills will continue to be an accredited degree-granting college led by the current administrators. They said Mills in the coming weeks will answer questions and provide more information about the merger. 

Northeastern and Mills will be working to tend to the financial needs of Mills, which may now be able to pay more competitive wages to faculty and staff.  

Students who finish at Mills before June 30, 2022, will be granted a degree from Mills College. Students who finish after that date will receive a degree from Mills College at Northeastern University. 

Faculty members who have tenure at Mills College will have tenure with Mills College at Northeastern University and the merged institution will be offering tenure-track and adjunct faculty positions. 

Staff who are employed at Mills College on June 30, 2022, will become employees of Northeastern University following that date.  

A judge last month blocked the merger between the two institutions and granted a Mills College alum and voting member of the board of trustees Viji Nakka-Cammauf access to information on the college’s financial condition. 

At a hearing Monday, the judge ruled Mills College complied with the court’s ruling and allowed the board of trustees to vote on the proposed merger. 

“Northeastern has consistently demonstrated that it respects and values the vital contributions that Mills offers, voicing strong support for integrating the powerful mission of Mills through the Northeastern network,” Board of Trustees Chair Katie Sanborn said in a statement. “The Board sees the merger as a positive step forward that will enable the legacy of Mills to endure.”

But Alexa Pagonas, vice president of the Board of Governors for the Alumnae Association of Mills College, said not everybody is happy with the decision. 

“Many Alumnae and those in the Mills community are disheartened that the trustees decided to forego their fiduciary duties by blindly voting to approve this merger without a full and clear picture of Mills’ financial situation or a finalized term sheet as it relates to the deal,” Pagonas said. 

“Dr. Viji Nakka-Cammauf will continue to do everything in her power to uphold her fiduciary duties to the entire Mills community and protect the legacy of the College,” Pagonas said.

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Dr. Kimberly Mayfield Named VP for External Relations at Holy Names University

Holy Names University (HNU) has appointed Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as vice president for External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. 



Dr. Kimberly Mayfield.

Holy Names University (HNU) has appointed Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as vice president for External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. 

In her new role, Dr. Mayfield will spearhead work to develop partnerships with elected officials and government offices, community-based organizations, businesses, and foundations that provide meaningful opportunities for students and employers while raising the profile of the university.

“We couldn’t have found a more capable leader in the areas of external relations and strategic partnerships than Dr. Mayfield,” said HNU President Mike Groener. “As an educator, administrator, and activist, she lives out our founding mission in her work every day and understands the importance of values-driven, authentic, relationship building.”

Said Mayfield, “I truly look forward to revealing the greatness of Holy Names University to more community members by telling our story, revitalizing relationships, and revolutionizing education by cultivating vibrant, innovative experiences for students.”

Mayfield has a 30-year history with Holy Names University that began as a student in the University’s Multiple-Subject Credential program. After teaching in the Oakland Unified School District for 11 years and earning her Education Specialist Credential, Master of Education degree, and Doctorate in Learning and Instruction from USF, she returned to HNU to teach as an adjunct professor.

She became a full-time professor in 2001 and Dean of the School of Education in 2017. In the summer of 2021, Mayfield was appointed to lead External Relations and Strategic Partnerships in addition to her role as Dean of the School of Education. 

Mayfield’s research interests and activism include creating a permanent diverse teaching force and addressing the disproportionate over-representation of African American males in special education.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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OUSD Ended Oakland High’s Onsite COVID Testing, Parents and Teachers Want It Back

Oakland High School students attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when they get off school around 1:30 p.m. This allows them one day a week in which they have enough time to get tested after school. When testing is onsite, students can get tested during the school day.



Oakland High School on September 13. Photo by Zack Haber.

On August 30, The Oakland Unified School District informed Oakland High School that they would stop providing onsite COVID-19 testing at the school, but many teachers and parents want the testing services to resume.

“If you don’t test for it, you don’t see that it’s there,” said Christy Mitchell, an Oakland High School teacher. She, and the other teacher who spoke to The Oakland Post for this article requested to use pseudonyms because they fear possible retaliation for speaking out.

Mitchell thinks it is likely there have been COVID-19 cases present in the school that the district has not documented because student and staff’s ability to get tested was greatly reduced when consistent onsite testing left campus. She worries there could be people attending school who have COVID but are not showing symptoms and could unknowingly spread the virus.

Anya Burston, another Oakland High School teacher, was directed to other OUSD COVID sites when she wanted to get tested last week, but she found them inaccessible.

“They gave me the list of the other sites where we could get tested, but they’re only open from 8 to 4,” said Burston. “We work from 8:00 to 3:30.”

If one factors in commuting time, Burston claims, it’s effectively impossible for teachers to get tested at district sites if they are not at the school a teacher is already working at.

Oakland High School students attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when they get off school around 1:30 p.m. This allows them one day a week in which they have enough time to get tested after school. When testing is onsite, students can get tested during the school day.

According to OUSD Director of Communications John Sasaki, the district wants to bring back consistent testing to the site but is facing difficulties related to capacity. The district provided a one-day pop-up testing service on Wednesday, and said he said such a service possibly could happen again next week, too.

He encourages students and staff to pursue other testing options.

“We also encourage our students and staff to visit our regional testing hubs, take advantage of community clinics, or get tested by their healthcare provider,” Sasaki said. “Likewise, we have provided at-home tests at all of our schools for families and staff to take when needed. Students are not allowed to miss class for COVID testing.”

The take-home tests are rapid tests, which have a higher rate of false positives and negatives then CRP tests, which take longer to deliver their results. Burston said she asked for an at-home test after not being able to get tested at Oakland High School, but was told there were none available because the school had run out.

She was eventually able to get tested at the pop-up service on Wednesday, but she said when she accessed the service she saw only one other teacher getting tested. She thinks people missed out on utilizing the pop-up testing service because the district informed staff and students about the site less than 24 hours before it appeared.

Sasaki said the district stopped providing regular on-site testing to Oakland High School after the number of positive cases began to decline at the school. During the first week of school, the district has confirmed there were 22 positive cases among staff and students at Oakland High School. This number dropped to five cases during the schools’ second week and then dropped again to one case during the third week.

Oakland High School had the most positive cases of any public school in Oakland during the first week of school, which lead to an entire class of students going into quarantine. The school also had abundantly available testing at that time.

Mitchell and Burston said during the first week of school, when some Oakland High School teachers heard a student in their class had come into contact with a person who had tested positive for the virus, they would take their entire class to get tested on site. At almost all other district sites during this time, students and staff did not have onsite testing available.

“Obviously with that amount of testing you’re going to have a lot more cases coming up,” said Mitchell. “The more testing we did the more cases we found.”

By the second and third week of school, Mitchell and Burston said although tests were still provided onsite, the school would run out of them. When teachers would take their classes to get tested, sometimes there weren’t enough available for everyone.

As testing became less available, COVID-19 numbers went down. During the fourth week of school, when testing facilities had left the site, the district documented no COVID-19 cases at Oakland High School. Last week, the fifth week of school, there were two documented cases.

“I think the optics are a huge concern for the district,” Mitchell said. “But pretending it’s not happening while you’re not testing for it is very disingenuous.”

A group of Oakland High School teachers are working to change the situation and hoping to pressure the district to bring back onsite testing. A few days after they received official word that the district was removing onsite testing, they began talking with each other.

“Many of us are really frustrated and we collectively felt we had to do something if the school and the district isn’t doing anything,” said Burston.

The teachers decided to spread word about the issue through flyers they created demanding onsite testing every day at the school and other COVID-19 safety measures.

They printed 300 flyers they put on walls throughout school and about 1,600 smaller flyers that they distributed to parents and students. The flyers linked to an online petition, which over 150 teachers, students, educators and community members have signed. The petition has interactive elements, in that it asks if those signers would be interested in attending a parent/student/teacher safety meeting.

Jennifer, a parent of a student at Oakland High School, signed the petition. She asked to only be identified by her first name, as other members of her family work at OUSD and she fears they could be retaliated against in reaction to her speaking out. She works in an ER and sees devastation COVID causes first hand.

“I know there’s a lot of kids out there with COVID because our ERs are packed,” she said. “I always support the teachers and I think onsite testing is definitely a necessity.”

Mitchell said teachers are considering direct actions to work towards improving COVID-19 safety measures at Oakland High School.

If Oakland High School teachers were to take such actions, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent history they have done so. On December 10, of 2018, the vast majority of Oakland High School teachers called in sick en masse and rallied outside of Oakland’s City Hall to protest what they saw as low wages and ineffective tactics of the Oakland Education Association, their union.

On January 18, of 2019, they participated in a similar “sickout” action, but this time students and teachers from other schools joined them. Participants estimated over 300 people in total marched to support teacher demands. These actions came just before the Oakland Education Association sanctioned educator strike, which lasted from February 21 to March 1, 2019.

But Oakland High teachers say before they engage in an organized actions related to COVID-19 safety, parents first need to understand what they are working toward, and teachers need their support.

“I think it’s really vital for parents and teachers to be working hand in hand on this,” said Mitchell.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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