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Debate Heats Up Over Five Oakland Schools – Superintendent Walks Out of Board Meeting



A conflict has broken out between Supt. Antwan Wilson and the majority on the Oakland Board of Education over the fate of five flatland public schools and the meaning of the policy governing the quality school improvement process that the superintendent is implementing.

Near midnight at the end of a tumultuous seven-hour school board meeting on Wednesday, the board voted 4-3 on an amendment to administrative regulations, affirming that the board would have the right to vote on the final proposals on what will happen to Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds High schools, along with Frick Middle and Brookfield Elementary schools.

The regulations will provide guidelines on how the district administration will move ahead to select the proposals that will totally transform these schools. The schools have been encouraged to submit proposals, as have had charter schools and other outside organizations.

Though several board members argued that the amendment was unnecessary since its substance had already been incorporated in the updated regulations, the motion passed with the support of Nina Senn, Shanthi Gonzales, Roseann Torres and Aimee Eng.

Opposed were Jumoke Hinton, Jody London and Board President James Harris.

Senn, the maker of the motion, said, “We’re all elected to represent our constituents. Obviously from all the different speakers (at the board meeting), there’s a lot of attention and focus on this work. So this is something that was important to clarify.”

Gonzales agreed. “There was a lot of confusion about it. (There) was a missing paragraph from the admin. regs. that was circulated quite widely. It seemed very important to reconfirm that this was everybody’s understanding.”

The problem was that the policy said one thing and the draft administrative regulations said another thing, Gonzales said. “If we actually changed the words in the admin. regs., then this is not necessary. But if we have not, then it is necessary.”

Responding at length, Supt. Wilson said, “I don’t have any problem with the board voting. (But) I will not be disrespected in Oakland…For me its less about the motion – it’s more about the discourse. It’s more about the way it feels. It feels disrespectful.”

Before coming to Oakland, Supt. Wilson read the district policies, which give him the power to do “what I deem necessary,” he said.

He said he is basing his decisions on policies that were passed by the Board of Education in 2013 and 2014, and now people are acting surprised by what he is doing. People are saying, “Now we can’t trust you,” he said.

However, he said he is willing to be open and take feedback. “I don’t see this as something (where) I’m drawing lines in the sand.”

After the motion passed, the superintendent stood up without saying a word and walked out of the meeting.

Asked why Supt. Wilson left the meeting, district spokesperson Troy Flint said, “The superintendent wants everyone’s time to be respected. That’s not happening when redundant motions do something that has already been accomplished and enshrined.”

Flint was asked to specify who was being disrespectful: teachers who came to the meeting demanding a new union contract; students who are demanding to have a voice in the transformation of their schools; community members opposed to their schools becoming charter schools; or board members who passed the motion clarifying the school redesign guidelines?

Declining to be specific, he referred to the board meeting in general, saying, “Seven hours of name calling, metaphorical bomb throwing, there was a certain pointlessness to it all.”

“I think we’ve done better this year than in last years,” Flint continued. “But we’re starting to relapse…(into) madness.

The superintendent operates from the point of view of “generosity of spirit,” he said. Progress cannot be made if there is an “assumption of malicious intent,” if everyone’s motives are questioned and maligned.

Shanthi Gonzales introduced a resolution at the end of the meeting calling for staff to review administrative regulations to be sure they are consistent with the quality school policy because “the policy is about the schools themselves building their capacity and creating a process based on the very specific needs of the individual school.”


Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year



Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.


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Young Adults Speak Out at Climate Adaptation Seminar

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.



From top left: Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Skyler Kriese, Moiz Mir, Catherine Foster (Photo by Godfrey Lee)

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.
ARCCA is a coalition of the Local Government Commission and represents leading collaborative networks from across California that strive to build regional resilience to climate impacts.  ARCCA members work to enhance public health, protect natural systems, build economies, and create resilient, livable communities throughout California. 

ARCCA members effectively bolster their individual and collective efforts by sharing best practices and resources, identifying strategies to overcome key barriers and challenges, and conducting joint campaigns and projects.

ARCCA believes that the youth have been under-represented in the climate initiative. “It has become more apparent over the years that the youth, with their activism and experience, can have a pivotal role to play in our adaption to climate change. It is the goal of ARRCA, in their work in climate change, to expand the youth’s participation in their projects and actively include them in our leadership phases and decision-making processes,” said Catherine Foster, the moderator of the seminar, and ARCCA’s Climate & Energy Project manager, LGC.

Three college graduates who were involved in the environmental movement on their campuses spoke during the seminar.

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, and graduated as the first Black Valedictorian for the Class of 2021. She served and led many of the prominent campus environmental activism groups. “We all work with people who are different places, so recognize the gaps in your knowledge, and also what the other person does and does not know,” Wakeman said.

Skyler Kriese graduated from Santa Clara University in 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. She is a 2020-2021 CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow supporting Butte County Department of Development Services on three grant-funded, long-range planning projects. Following her service year, she will continue her studies at the University of Michigan, pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Kriese says that local governments need to identify environment justice communities and address environmental justice in their general plans. This is important so that processes and policies can begin to work and ultimately create healthier communities. 

Moiz Mir was the president of the Environmental Student Organization at California State University Sacramento from 2017–2019. As an intern at the Sacramento Mayor’s Office, he organized youth summits to include students’ voices in the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and served on the commission’s Community Health, Resiliency and Equity Technical Advisory Committees. 

Mir advocates building toward inclusivity, to reach out to a more diverse people in the work toward climate adaptation. 

For more information on ARCCA and their upcoming seminars, go to 

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California Top Educator Tony Thurmond Says State’s Schools on Track for Safe Reopening

“The CDC and the California Department of Public Health have already provided guidance that even as case rates increase, if everyone is wearing a mask and everyone who can get a vaccine gets one, we can keep our schools open safely,” Thurmond said.



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California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says school districts across the state are prepared to open safely in the fall even as COVID-19 cases surge in California and around the country. The new spike in COVID-19 positive rates across the state are driven by infections involving the more contagious Delta variant.

Thurmond was speaking online at a recent Safe Schools for All seminar featuring several California education experts. On the call, Thurmond gave parents a preview of what they will likely face when their children return to class in the fall.

He mentioned that he visited Camarena Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and that the school opened July 21 successfully implementing the new mask requirements. About 900 of the 1,000-member student body were present, he said.

“Everyone was wearing a mask,” he said. “Everyone was following protocol.”

On July, Thurmond visited a summer learning program at Monte Vista Elementary School in Los Angeles County.

“The CDC and the California Department of Public Health have already provided guidance that even as case rates increase, if everyone is wearing a mask and everyone who can get a vaccine gets one, we can keep our schools open safely,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond also said that vaccines were vital to returning to normal. He also reminded African Americans to make sure to get the vaccines. He noted that the Black community was lagging behind the state’s vaccination rate. As of July 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 4% of vaccinated people in California are Black. African Americans account for 6% of California’s population.

Vaccines are now available for children aged 12 to 18.

Thurmond also added that while many parents have complained about distance learning, some African American parents say they prefer it because their children don’t have to deal with bullying or harassment.

One of the featured speakers at the online seminar was Dr. Naomi Bardach, Safe Schools for All team lead. She gave a presentation on some important facts to know about the coronavirus and how it affects children.

Bardach reminded parents that scientists and medical professionals had gathered a lot more information about the coronavirus since it first hit America more than a year ago.

In 2020, schools closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and children transitioned to distance learning conducted mainly through online classes.

However, Bardach said parents have noticed that there are some downsides to this form of instruction. She said parents have observed that their children are experiencing emotional issues such as depression and sleeplessness. Some children are missing the social interaction of being in school.

Bardach also said medical research has shown that children are less likely to catch the coronavirus than older people.

According to her, most children contract the disease from a close relative, not from fellow students or school personnel.

However, there are things that adults can do to reduce the spread of the virus among children.

“Vaccines for adults are key to prevention in kids,” she said. “Vaccines mean kids can return to the things they enjoy.”

Schools plan to return to in-class education with a host of new weapons to fight the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bardach, some of the methods the schools will use to contain the virus are testing, masks, ventilation and increased sanitation.

“Masks are very effective in preventing transmission,” she said.

There are several ways to get vaccinated, such as at-school sites, health departments and pharmacies. Schools also offer testing. The state has provided schools with $5 million to pay for rapid testing.

Another recommendation to reduce the spread of the coronavirus is to make sure sick children remain at home, said Bardach.

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