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New Board Members Seek Increased Community Influence in School District Decisions




District 3 OUSD Trustee VanCedric Williams.


District 1 OUSD Trustee Sam Davis.

There are high hopes in the community for a newly energized school board as four new members set to take office in January pledging to disentangle the multiple crises facing the Oakland Unified School District  (OUSD), including shuttered classrooms and COVID-19 enforced distance learning, ongoing threats of austerity-driven budget cuts and state-enforced demands to close more neighborhood schools.

This week, the Oakland Post interviews two new board members, Sam Davis and VanCedric Williams. Last week, the Post published interviews with Mike Hutchinson (D-5) and Clifford Thompson (D-7).

Davis, who represents District 1, worked as a teacher and family outreach coordinator in Oakland schools for 10 years. Originally from Queens, New York, he has lived in Oakland since 2001. He has a son in the 9th grade at Oakland Technical High School.

Looking at hopes for recovery this year from the impact of the pandemic, he says he is aware of the huge controversy surrounding the reopening schools.  “Now, we’re going to have a vaccine, (ands) kids are dying for some interaction.” (Yet) a lot of families have serious concerns (about safety) …(while) some people want to open schools immediately.”

Once the schools are reopened, he said, one of the biggest questions will be whether “there is going to be money for summer schools for the kids who have the most need,” Davis said.

He sees mixed indicators on the district’s financial condition. “The good news is that we have much stronger financial management within the district (now),” he said. Because of the pandemic there are a lot of state and federal emergency funds coming into the district, but at the same time there is a high risk of recession in the coming year.

Though there is a high level of mistrust in the community of district leadership, residents continue to strongly embrace the public schools and in November passed Measure Y, a school bond measure to repair and renovate schools across Oakland. Among other projects, the bond will improve school ventilation systems — needed to protect teachers and children from COVID  in tight spaces — and also to protect air quality during fire season.  The funding will also help the district move out of its downtown Oakland offices, which at present costs several millions of dollars a year to lease.

To come to grips with the looming challenges, the district needs to improve its approach to interacting with the public, he said.  “OUSD has a history of “last-minute public engagements,” organized as “afterthoughts,” creating the impression that community engagement is being done in a “perfunctory way.”

Davis says his first step as a board member will be create an advisory group of family and teachers and school site staff “that will help me stay rooted in their concerns.”

“As a board member, you hear a lot from senior leaders,” he said. He says the advisory group will provide “balance,” which will “help me keep my feet on the ground.”

Williams, who represents District 3, has lived in Oakland for 12 years. He has been an educator for 17 years, teaching high school social studies including ethnic studies and honors U.S. history. He currently is treasurer of the San Francisco teachers’ union, on release as a union representative. He has lived in San Diego and was born in West Covina in Southern California.

Williams says his immediate goals are to start conversations with parents and students in District 3 schools and has already met with Black students.  “I’m reaching out to each of the District 3 school sites,” he said. “It is very important to market and showcase the schools and the District 3 neighborhoods, to build trust and engage the community.”

A top priority is to strengthen the feeder-school system, which functioned in the past but has decayed, so neighborhood elementary schools again will lead students to neighborhood middle schools and from there to neighborhood high schools.

“I’m a big proponent of neighborhood schools, sustainable community schools,” he said. “Kids in a neighborhood will go to a (nearby) school, building the feeder system.  The school choice system has not been helpful to neighborhood schools. We have to move to sustain District 3 enrollment, to keep more students in District 3.”

Williams will hold a town hall meeting in January, to talk to the community “about their perspectives, what they’d like to see,” and to answer the question, “What is it going to take to make the schools competitive?”

Getting the schools reopened will require labor negotiations, he said. “Labor is asking for protection for their members: testing, contact tracing, a formula for what happens if a student comes in and is found to have COVID. There are lots of parts that have to be negotiated.”

The district has to be willing “to engage its labor partners with honest dialogue,” he said, “It’s a work in progress but it’s going slowly.”

One of the challenges the district faces is that Alameda County is “giving directives” on the pandemic and other basic decisions, cutting out the teachers and the local community.

“Overseeing the direction of the budget and overseeing the district, the county is going forth to give directives without providing OUSD with additional funds, the necessary resources to get it done,” he said.

“The district is squeezed between parents and Alameda County telling them what to do,” he said. But these are decisions that should be made, he said, with participation of parents and teachers.

Bay Area

What Oakland’s Homeless Audit Says About Evictions, Policing, and Fire

Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.




A tent in Oakland that serves as a home for a resident, October 2, 2019 Photo Credit: Zack Haber

On April 14, Oakland’s City Auditor Courtney Ruby released an audit of the city’s homeless encampment management interventions and activities for the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-2020. The 95-page report includes data and estimations about interventions, populations, costs, and availability of services related to homeless people and their communities. 

Claiming that the city “lacked an effective strategy…and did not provide sufficient policy direction or adequate funding,” Ruby also included recommendations for better addressing homeless communities. Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

Evictions and hygiene services

The audit’s data on evictions and hygiene services is limited to the 2018-19 fiscal year and the first eight months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, when the city suspended most homeless evictions and cleaning interventions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. During this timeframe, the city evicted 181 homeless communities. Of these evictions, 123, or about two-thirds of the total, were classified as “re-closures,” which the report defined as occurring “when homeless individuals return to a previously closed [homeless community].”  In the fiscal year 2018-19, about 60% of evictions were re-closures. From July 2019 through February 2020, this ratio increased, and about 77% of evictions were re-closures.

The audit reports 1,599 interventions classified as “hygiene and garbage services,” and defines such interventions as “providing portable toilets, hand-washing stations, regular garbage service, and/or traffic barriers.” For each of these services performed per homeless community, the audit counts one intervention. These interventions are lumped together and lack individual data, meaning that the audit did not report precise data on how often the city provided trash pick-up to homeless communities.

The audit reports that the city increased its hygiene and garbage interventions. From 2018-19, the city provided 797 such interventions, or about 66 per month. During the first eight months of 2019-2020, the city performed 802 such interventions, or about 100 per month. After March 2020, in response to COVID-19, the audit claims the city increased the number of homeless communities that receive hygiene interventions from 20 to 40, but the vast majority of homeless communities in Oakland still do not get hygiene and/or trash services with any regularity. The audit estimates that there are at least 140 homeless communities in Oakland but acknowledges “that this estimate may be conservative.”

Police response and costs

Data recorded in the audit shows police response to 911 calls in homeless communities was not timely. While over 99% of 911 calls were classified as “Priority 2,” which the audit claims “ideally should be responded to in 10 to 15 minutes,” data provided by OPD showed the median police response time to Priority 2 calls was two hours in 2018-19, while the mean response time was four hours. In 2019-20, response time slowed by about 50%, with the median response time being about three hours, while the mean response time was about six hours. Data OPD listed related to response time range show the department took over two days to respond to at least one 911 call in 2018-19 and over six days to respond to at least one other 911 call in 2019-20. Although OPD recorded 1,458 calls to homeless communities during the two years of the audit, the audit only analyzed 988 of these calls, claiming that “response data was incomplete” for 470 calls.

The audit records OPD using about $3.1 million in costs associated with homeless communities. But that $3.1 million does not include an accurate account of overtime pay. OPD only started recording overtime pay related to homeless communities in February 2020, just before the frequency of interventions, notably evictions, declined dramatically.

About $1.7 million, a slim majority of OPD’s recorded costs related to homeless communities, are recorded as labor costs that went to the three members of The Homeless Outreach Team. The Homeless Outreach Team consists of one sergeant and two officers who dedicate 100% of their time to homeless community work. 

    The Abandoned Auto Unit incurred over $800,000 in labor costs to provide support at moderate to large homeless community evictions. They were responsible for “traffic control and tagging and towing vehicles at [homeless communities] when necessary.”  About $600,000 went to labor costs incurred by Patrol staff responding to 911 calls.

Fire Department response and costs

The audit reports that The Oakland Fire Department responded to 988 fires in homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-20, which is more than one a day. The data recorded shows that the OFD response times for such fires were timely, arriving in just over seven minutes and 50 seconds to over 90% of calls. Such responses were slightly faster than responses to non-homeless community related calls, which, in 90% of cases, OFD responded to in about eight minutes and 10 seconds. OFD has recorded no injuries to firefighters fighting fires at homeless communities. One homeless resident died in 2020 as a direct result of a fire. The audit did not record fire-related injuries to homeless people or their lost possessions.

OFD-related costs accounted for an estimated $1.8 million in funds related to homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-2020. About $676,000 went to “fire prevention labor,” which includes labor costs associated with fire hazard inspections, investigations related to fires, and removal of hazardous waste. Over $ million went to both labor and equipment costs related to “fire suppression.” Fire suppression costs include costs related to fighting fires and rescue activities. OFD costs related to homeless communities rose over 40% from 2018-19 to 2019-20 while total fires at homeless communities increased about 17% over these years.

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Marin City Gets Vaccinated

Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among African Americans are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 




Yes or no on vaccinations? Education and outreach are so important to share  about getting the #covid19vaccination.    See what happens when community leaders and local committed volunteers work with health officials! They not only wrapped their arms around Marin City to get #covid19vaccinations to those who want them and information to those who are nervous about getting vaccinated, they actually made sure they received their own vaccination to urge community residents to get theirs. 

The April 7 edition of the Marin Independent Journal report does a great job explaining the comprehensive approach. Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among  are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 

California has a program called “Together Toward Health,” which gave a grant to six local non-profit organizations –Performing Stars, First Missionary Baptist Church, Marin City Health and Wellness Center, Sausalito Marin City School District, Marin City Community Services District and Community Development Corporation and Marin County Health and Human Services — also provided additional  funds for outreach to low-income and multicultural communities.

If you are interested in getting your vaccine, contact Marin City Health and Wellness Center at 415-339-8813 or Performing Stars at 415-332-8316.

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Bay Area

Non-Profits, Faith-based Groups to Get Expert Advice on Re-Opening When COVID-19 Restrictions End




Ana-Marie Jones

The San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program the Master Class Series, 2021 draws on the knowledge of experts in their fields with decades of experience. Sessions will prepare nonprofit and faith-based leaders to navigate five key areas critical to more than surviving the season of COVID-19, by preparing for whatever comes next.  It’s time to THRIVE!

The second of the five interactive sessions,From the Experts – Rolling Out Your Reopening: The Right Way to the New Normal,” is scheduled for April 29, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This training addresses what faith and nonprofit organizations should consider, plan for, and do before re-opening. 

Master teacher Ana-Marie Jones, a nationally recognized expert in community readiness and resilience, will share concrete approaches and easy-to-implement solutions that will help keep congregations and communities safer throughout the reopening process. 

Jones will be joined by Master Teacher John McKnight a community branch manager for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Emergency Operations Center in response to COVID 19. Participants will learn:

The key considerations for reopening safely; the importance of maintaining diverse community contacts; effective partnering with public health entities; advice for managing staff, volunteer, consumer, and community expectations; how to make physical environments support new messaging, assigning new roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers; and how to best leverage available community resources such as updated health information, recommendations, and other free resources.

Future THRIVE! topics include – “Pivot into Tomorrow: Tech Savvy;” “Building a Strong Health Ministry or Department;” and “Where to Find COVID-19 Recovery Resources.”

To register, go to:

For more information contact: Michelle Myles Chambers at or (415) 733-8539

Or Sayron Stokes at  or (415) 635-3319.

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