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Financial Consultant Luz Cazares Will Earn $32,000 Per Month to Oversee School District Finances

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The Oakland Unified School District has extended the contract of school finance consultant Luz Cazares, who will serve as the districts ’s interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the rest of the school year at a cost to the district of $32,000 a month or $192,000 to the end of June.

The district has had to deal with financial instability, losing many of its key finance administrators in the past year, while at the same time facing huge parent and teacher protests over ongoing budget cuts and school closures. At present, the district is not saying how many schools it plans to close, though in the past officials estimated the number to be as high as 24. The Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) has urged the district to eliminate as many as 36 schools.

Cazares was originally hired for the first half of the school year, from July to December, for $176,000, according to a news report, making her total pay for the 2019-2020 school year $368,000.

“Ms. Cazares is a professional school finance consultant and is not available for hire, so we are fortunate that she has the availability to continue to serve OUSD for the remainder of the school year,” said District Spokesperson John Sasaki.

“The Board of Education has yet to approve the contract extension. The directors will vote on it next month,” he said.

Part of her salary, $120,000, will be offset “with private (philanthropic) dollars,” Sasaki said.

Cazares will lead the district’s budget, accounting, strategic reserves, payroll, procurement and accounts payable functions, according to Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, in a Dec. 19 internal memo to administrators.

“Luz brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in leading districts through deep financial challenges and developing budgets that reflect…. best budgeting practices that align to the district’s priorities,” said Johnson-Trammell.

Responding to news of Cazares’ new contract was parent advocate Mona Lisa Treviño, a member of the parent/student advisory committee of the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) committee.

“Many of us don’t make her monthly salary in a year. Who makes this kind of money in the district off of our kids? It’s an outrage,” she said.

Treviño criticized the district for lack of fiscal transparency, saying the administration keeps changing the budget numbers it uses to justify cuts, while the public is kept in the dark about the role of outside agencies that influence decision making: the County Office of Education and the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT).

“Policy after policy gets passed from up top, while the public and our schools are excluded from the plans, and still there’s no stability in sight,” she said.

“The public has the right to know who is mandating these expenditures, especially at a time when our school sites have faced and continue to face harmful cuts.”

Cazares is founder of Lucid Partnerships in Alameda, a consulting firm that specializes in school budget and management services. She has worked in Chicago Public School as a financial analyst, the Massachusetts Department of Education as a fiscal management supervisor, deputy superintendent of business services in Pleasanton Unified School district and CFO in Alameda City Unified.

She was hired in July with the idea that she would work alongside a new CFO, who would be hired in September, according to reports.  However, that did not happen.

“One of the key criteria is to get operations in a place in which somebody would come in and take over and kind of lead from that place,” said OUSD Chief Systems Service Officer Preston Thomas, who signed the contract in July with Cazares on behalf of the district.

Thomas, quoted in EdSource, said Cazares would help the district make a transition to a new finance chief, avoiding the “hard, abrupt stops” that have impacted the OUSD when other top financial administrators resigned. Thomas acknowledged that there exists only a small pool qualified finance officers, and the position may be difficult to fill.

According to Thomas, the Alameda County Office of Education has provided internal fiscal support to the district, at least through December. With Cazares on board, “OUSD is now leading the overall financial improvements with technical assistance from the county on key projects,” said Sasaki,

He said the money paid to the county for these services did not come directly from OUSD but rather through AB 1840 — a state law that provides some limited extra funding to OUSD in exchange for the district’s pledge to cut program costs and reduce the number of school sites through property sales, long term leases, closures/consolidations.

Going forward, Thomas will not have budget responsibilities, according to Supt. Johnson-Tramell.

“(He) will remain supervisor and leader of Nutrition Services, Instructional Technology, Warehouse, Duplication, Risk Management and Transportation,” she said.

“Now that the financial team has stabilized …. Thomas will be focused on other critical operations such as the highly anticipated start-up of the Central Kitchen,” added Sasaki.

Art

Marin Fair Competitive Exhibits Open for Entry

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

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Marin County Fair “So Happy Together!” returns June 30-July 4

Courtesy of Marin County

2022 Marin County Fair Poster depicting a variety of farm animals with the Marin County Civic Center and Marin Fairgrounds property in the background. San Rafael, California — With Marin County Fair’s June 30 opening day just around the corner, the Competitive Exhibits categories for the 2022 Fair are now available on the Fair’s website MarinFair.org.

The competitive exhibit program, which usually takes place indoors, will remain online for one more year and will include competitions such as fine art and photography, decorated cakes and cookies, wine and beer label design, clothing and textiles, cartoon art, exceptional art, poetry and creative writing, hobbies and crafts, and more. The Plein Air painting competition on the first day of the Fair will take place outdoors. The agriculture competitions will remain outdoors and will include poultry, rabbits, sheep dog trials, pocket pets, dog care and training, and small animal round robin showmanship, to name a few.

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

The full list of categories and entry guidelines is available online at MarinFair.org. Submissions will be accepted from May 6 to May 31 and winners will be announced online during Fair time.

The 2022 fair will also focus on outdoor entertainment including the headline concerts, performers roaming the grounds such as jugglers, unicyclists, and stilt walkers, and interactive art experiences for fans of all ages. Returning fair favorites will include traditional carnival rides, the Global Marketplace, the Barnyard, food and drinks, and fireworks every night over the Civic Center’s Lagoon Park.

Early bird tickets sold out within one day of release. Discounted Fair tickets are still available for adults and teens through June 29. The Fair is a one-price gate featuring 28 carnival rides, exciting exhibits, spectacular firework displays, first-rate concerts and exciting attractions are FREE with gate admission. Tickets are available online only at MarinFair.org.

Headline concerts will soon be announced, and reserved gold circle tickets will go on sale May 16. Reserved concert seating in a special section is $60 per person and includes Fair admission.

Special Admission Days:
Kids Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Children 12 and under are FREE on Thursday, June 30.
Senior Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Seniors 65+ are admitted FREE

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Activism

Installation Invoking Black Struggle for Justice in Opens May 14 at Oakland City Hall

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism. This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing. 

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Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
View of ‘Society’s Cage,’ an immersive exhibit at Oakland City Hall. Photo courtesy of the organizers.

By Randolph Belle

A traveling exhibit that invokes the history of repression of Blacks in the United States arrived in Oakland for installation this week at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Support Oakland Artists, an Oakland based 501(C)3, partnered with Society’s Cage to bring the acclaimed social justice art installation as a feature in front of Oakland City Hall from May 9-30, 2022.

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism.

This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing.

The designers, Dayton Schroeter, Julian Arrington, Monteil Crawley and Ivan O’Garro, created the installation to contextualize the contemporary phenomenon of police killings of Black Americans within the 400+ year continuum of racialized state violence in the United States.

It is a data-driven installation shaped in response to the question “What is the value of Black life in America?”

The Oakland installation will be the first on the West Coast as it travels nationally to sites of symbolic power related to justice, freedom & democracy. Originating in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall in response to the 2020 murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Society’s Cage has continued its journey as an interpretive lens highlighting the historic forces of racialized state violence in the United States.

Other sites have included War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland, and the site of the Vernon AME Chapel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street.

Oakland is an ideal host site for the installation as the home of the Black Panther Party, which was founded to combat the legacy of police oppression, inequitable incarceration practices, and remnants of slavery in the form of state-sponsored terrorism against Black people.

In 2009, the killing of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old, unarmed Black transit rider by the BART police in Oakland set off local and regional organized protests that catalyzed a national movement.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“We were inspired to create the installation as a response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” explains Dayton Schroeter, lead designer of Society’s Cage and design director at SmithGroup, which has offices in San Francisco. “The pavilion is a real and raw reflection of the conversations about racism happening now. It’s a physical manifestation of the institutional structures that have undermined the progress of Black Americans over the history of this country.

“The name Society’s Cage refers to the societal constraints that limit the prosperity of the Black community,” says Julian Arrington, who led the design with Schroeter, and is an associate at SmithGroup. “The pavilion creates an experience to help visitors understand and acknowledge these impacts of racism and be moved to create change.”

 

 

 

“It only took an instant for me to commit to this project,” said Randolph Belle, executive director of Support Oakland Artists. “In my over 30 years in Oakland as an artist and community developer, I’ve strived to utilize the arts to engage the public in thoughtful ways around important and timely topics. This project, this site, and these times are an unprecedented example of that.”

Visitors are encouraged to participate in a shared experience upon entering the pavilion. After holding their breath for as long as they can, evoking the common plea among victims of police killings, “I can’t breathe,” visitors then post a video reflection of their experience on social media using the hashtag #SocietysCage. This exercise is meant not only to build empathy but expand the installation’s impact online to allow anyone to participate in this shared exercise.

The pavilion was fabricated by Gronning Design + Manufacturing LLC in Washington, D.C., and Mejia Ironworks in Hyattsville, Maryland. A soundscape was commissioned from a pair of composers, Raney Antoine Jr. and Lovell “U-P” Cooper.

Comprised of four pieces, each eight minutes and 46 seconds in length in recognition of the time George Floyd suffered under the knee of police, they are themed to reflect each of the four institutional forces that sculpted the pavilion’s interior — mass incarceration, police terrorism, capital punishment and racist lynchings.

Early sponsors who have made the hosting of the Society’s Cage Oakland installation possible include the Akonadi Foundation, Tarbell Family Foundation, individual sponsors including principals from SmithGroup’s San Francisco office, corporate sponsorship including SmithGroup and many community partners including BIG Oakland.

Jeremy Crandall and Emax Exhibits were the Oakland Installation team.

A public unveiling is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 11 a.m., and a programmed event featuring local cultural artists is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2022, at 7 p.m. Participating individuals and organizations include original members of the Black Panther Party, the Black Cultural Zone, HipHopTV, and a host of local artists.

For more information, visit www.societyscage.com to find a link to the donation site. Additional donations will assist with programming and documentation related to the Oakland activation.

Randolph Belle is the executive director of Support Oakland Artists and RBA Creative studio in Oakland.

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Arts and Culture

Four Seasons Arts Honors Founder Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams with Annual Concert

Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams was one of the first African American presenters of a major classical music concert series in the United States. Dr. Williams presented artists of all races and organized racially diverse audiences, and for over 40-plus years in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, he introduced to the world some of the finest musicians of our time.

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Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.
Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.

On Saturday, May 7 at 3 p.m., Four Seasons Arts will honor Founder Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams with a piano recital by Dr. Rochelle Sennet. The concert takes place at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. in Berkeley.

Sennet’s May 7 program, entitled “Bach to Black,” features two Partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Four Dances for Boris” by African-American composer Jeffrey Mumford (b. 1955) and “In the Bottoms” Suite by African-American composer R. Nathaniel Dett.

Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams led the concert organization from its beginning in 1958 until his death in 1999, and it is because of his vision that the concert series continues.

Dr. Williams was one of the first African American presenters of a major classical music concert series in the United States. Dr. Williams presented artists of all races and organized racially diverse audiences, and for over 40-plus years in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, he introduced to the world some of the finest musicians of our time.

Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.

Free tickets to this event are available by emailing fsa.info@fsarts.org, calling 510-845-4444 or clicking the “Get Free Tickets” button at www.fsarts.org/2022-founders-concert/.

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