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Op-Ed: Setting the Record Straight on OUSD Principal Transitions

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By Supt. Antwan Wilson

 

 

Last week this paper ran a story entitled “Oakland Schools in Turmoil as District Threatens to Remove 17 Principals.” This is completely false, and this number was not confirmed with us before publishing. I was shocked and dismayed to see it reported – incorrectly – that we, OUSD, are planning to remove 17 principals. I am writing to set the record straight and provide some context for the real challenges we need to face together.

 

 

For next year, there are 5 official principals who received a notice of possible reassignment, nowhere near 17. The notices referred to in the article are something required by state law to be provided every year by March 15 to any leadership potentially reassigned. For comparison, the year before I came to Oakland, there were 20 such notices given to principals. These numbers demonstrate that we have not engaged in massive reassignment of principals as suggested in last week’s article.

 

 

Principal turnover is an issue that is of concern to us in the district and me specifically. We want to minimize turnover as much as possible. We also recognize that there will be factors that lead to us losing leaders, some out of our control and others related to systems that we are in the process of improving, such as operational systems that have been an issue for decades.

 

 

I’m proud to work with our many great school leaders. We are committed to working with new leaders by growing with them and investing in their leadership. The changes we seek require strong leaders and leadership teams made up of principals, assistant principals (when applicable), teacher leaders, parent and community leaders, and student leaders. There will be times we have to make changes to school leadership. When that happens, we will work to make sure we are lifting up the needs of the students and what’s best for the district. It is important that as we do this work that we provide accurate information about what we are doing and how.

 

 

As a former principal myself, I know how important school leaders are. I also know how pivotal they can be when we need to turn-around our schools. We need to do this in multiple schools across the District. In places where change is under way, we are giving principals more supports and resources to produce Continued from page 1 some results before considering any leadership changes.

 

 

Finally, to mix in the issue of Proposition 39 offers of unused or underutilized public school space to public charter schools is unfair and inappropriate. The Prop. 39 process tends to coincide every year with the March 15 legal deadline for noticing certificated leadership of potential reassignment or removal. There’s no connection, other than circumstantial. Also, it is true that where schools have been underperforming for years, students and parents are likely voting with their feet and taking kids to other District, private, or charter schools, often thereby creating a bunch of empty classrooms that we then, by law, must offer to charter schools that request space. The cause and effect, however, are the reverse of what was insinuated in the article.

 

 

We face challenges every year as we try to change course by providing high quality education to ensure that Every Student Thrives. If you know of any great potential school leaders out there, please send them our way!

 

Business

100 Diverse-Owned Oakland Businesses Could Receive a $10,000 Grant from Comcast

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland can apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue 100 grants for a total of $1 million.

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Comcast RISE/Courtesy of Comcast

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland can apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue 100 grants for a total of $1 million.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

• Have established business operations for 3 or more years

• Have one to 25 employees

• Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is the latest extension of Comcast RISE – which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment – a multiyear, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide people of color-owned small businesses the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 228 businesses in California have been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“Like many others, my small business was impacted by the pandemic. Thanks to the Comcast RISE program, I can reach new audiences,” said Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Oakland resident. She has benefited from the program twice, once with the production and placement of a TV commercial and then with a technology makeover.

“The application process was much more straight forward than other grants. I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant and the other benefits.” To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded a $50,000 grant to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

“The economic effects of the global pandemic have been felt worldwide, including significant impacts here in Oakland,” said Barbara Leslie, President & CEO, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. We know that our small, local, woman-owned and Black, Indigenous and People Of Color businesses – who are responsible for creating the beautiful tapestry we call home – have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. We applaud Comcast’s vision, through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, to ensure that small businesses that exist today can be a part of Oakland’s economic and social fabric both tomorrow and for many years to come.”

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last year. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable. Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from October 1 through October 14, 2021 for one of the 100 $10,000 grants. More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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Community

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.

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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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Community

Longtime Landlords to Pay City $3.9 Million for Tenants’ Rights Violations

Parker’s office said the Manns subjected tenants at the six properties to serious health and safety risks. The defendants rented properties in substandard condition, including properties neither intended nor approved for housing, the city attorney’s office said.  

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Permanent Supportive Housing for former homeless people in San Francisco.

Two rental property owners and/or their companies will pay the city of Oakland more than $3.9 million for violating the rights of tenants, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s Office announced Monday.

The city of Oakland sued Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder Mann and two of their companies Dodg Corporation and Sbmann2, LLC, according to court documents in the matter.

An Alameda County Superior Court decision September 1 following a trial, forces the defendants to also provide relocation payments to tenants displaced unlawfully from six rental properties, which were at issue in the case brought by the city.

Parker’s office said the Manns subjected tenants at the six properties to serious health and safety risks. The defendants rented properties in substandard condition, including properties neither intended nor approved for housing, the city attorney’s office said.

The defendants rented the six properties to people who were predominantly low-income immigrants and some who did not speak English as their first language, according to Parker’s office.

But following a trial that started in April and the judge’s September 1 decision, the Manns now must comply with health, safety, and tenant protection laws regarding all their properties and pay the city and former tenants, Parker’s office said.

“Victory in this case means that tenants in Oakland do not have to choose between their fundamental rights and having a roof over their head at any cost,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement.

“Tenants’ rights do matter–to the city, to the people, and to the courts,” Parker said. “No longer will businesses like Dodg. Corporation be able to run roughshod over the people relying on them for shelter, and no longer will landlords feel the same impunity to outright ignore their legal obligations under our local laws.”

The Manns for years owned and operated about 60 residential rental properties in Oakland and owned 70 or more other properties in the city, according to Parker’s office.

City attorneys said the model used by the Manns and at least two of their companies allowed them to profit through renting dilapidated and uninhabitable units to people who were desperate for affordable housing and would be unable to defend their rights as tenants.

The fire risk in some units was severe and imminent, according to the City Attorney’s office.
Parker’s office said the Manns violated the law even further by failing to make relocation payments to tenants who were displaced because their units were unsafe to live in.

Judge Brad Seligman held in his State of Decision, that the Manns and their companies named in the lawsuit, violated Oakland’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, did so in bad faith, and created a public nuisance, according to Parker’s office.

Three attempts to reach Baljit Singh Mann on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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